25 February 2008

Welcome to My Nightmare

320 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. To be delivered to about 150 different houses.

21 February 2008

Oh the Weather Outside Is Frightful

But the cables are so delightful:

Sleet and freezing rain, the local schools are closing, our Girls Scout meeting has been cancelled (we still have to pick up over 300 boxes of cookies for delivery, but that's a problem for another day).

We have already brought firewood into the (attached) garage, since all this time reading Little House has taught us something.

And I am prepared to continue my cable obsession, which started with Twist.

This time I'm making a headband for one of the kids, using a pattern she selected from Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Patterns for Knitting. The white yarn is a provisional cast on; when I'm done I'll graft the 2 ends together to make a ring. Then I'll start another headband for the other child, using a different pattern.

This is the first time I've used this book, which I've had for 3 or 4 years. I was intimidated by the charts -- Lavold writes them a bit differently than the cable charts I'm used to. This time, though, I simply plunged in, got it wrong, ripped it out, tried again using the photograph as reference, ripped it out another time or 2, and now am happily working away. There's an explanation of how to use the charts in the book, of course, but that would've taken 5 minutes to read; I much prefer my helter-skelter method of beginning the project immediately, then taking an hour or so to fiddle with it since I was unprepared.

I rarely make gauge swatches, as you could probably guess.

Okay, I made and washed and blocked a gauge swatch for Twist, but my main thought upon doing it was " Gees, I'm really losing my edge," since it's so much more exciting to spend hours and hours making a sweater with only the vaguest idea of whether you're making it the right size. Making the swatch first just seemed so ... safe. When Twist turned out great it wasn't a surprise -- it was a great pattern made in the proper size, ho hum, yawn, of course it looks nice.

Favorite Twist anecdote: I knit on Twist quite a bit a dance class while talking to other moms. And last night I was at dance class knitting away on this headband, and got the question, "Whatever happened to that sweater you were knitting -- did you finish it?" "I'm wearing it now." Jaws drop, gasps. "THAT'S IT?" Then 10 minutes later someone else walks in, says, "Oh, what are you making now? Did you finish that sweater?" etc., etc. I assume they weren't expecting the final product to look so ... I don't know ... wearable.

18 February 2008

Me plus Twist equals Love

Finished product:

I love this sweater. I loved knitting it. I love wearing it. I'm wearing it now.

(Not my favorite photo, though, but the one Blogger would accept. Blogger and I have a very tenuous relationship, you know. But you'd think I could've gotten a better photo considering that I wore the sweater all day Sunday and all day Monday.)

Twist by Bonne Marie Burns, knit out of Cascade Superwash in offwhite, on sizes 5 and 6 needles. I cast on a couple of extra stitches in the back, an extra stitch on each side, and 2 more stitches on each sleeve to make up for the fact that my gauge was a bit off. And, no, I didn't worry about what happened when I bound those stitches back off at the top of the pieces -- I figured that the knitted fabric could be eased to fit (that's the seamstress in me -- you can cut out fabric a bit wonky and still sew it together okay).

I loved this pattern so much that it didn't bother me that I had to knit the left front nearly 3 times before I got the cables right. Well, it didn't bother me much.

And I was pleased to have it done on Saturday night, because

Knit Picks clearanced a bunch of yarn out of their shop right onto my doorstep Saturday afternoon.

The hat in the top photo is already done; socks have been cast on in the cocoa brown Essential ... oooh, I'm feeling productive these days! Except not so productive in the bathroom-cleaning department, sigh....


"What did you do this weekend?"

Oh, I'm so glad you asked.

Saturday we got up early, loaded dance paraphernalia into the car, and headed to the Ballpark Hilton for a day of feising at the Irish Arts Feis. MrV dropped us off at the door, and then drove off to find parking (since the valet parking was not only expensive, but also full; he eventually found a spot on the street a few blocks away; at least it wasn't as bad as last year when there were mounds of snow all over and virtually no parking anyway since the feis was on the same weekend as the Mardi Gras parade -- did you know the St. Louis Mardi Gras parade is the 2nd largest in the US? So, anyway, immediate grumpiness about the feis before we've even begun, due to crummy parking situation).

We went on in and I purchased a wristband, since this feis requires ALL non-dancers to pay $10 to watch the dancers. The dancers, of course, have paid $8 per dance to compete. The rest of us -- family, friends, curious people wandering by who wonder what an Irish dance competition looks like -- must each pay $10. Even the little 3 month old baby needs to pay for a wristband. Other feisanna in St. Louis don't do this -- you pay a flat fee online (maybe $10-$15 per family) for which you can bring every relative you have plus your entire neighborhood. So, second instance of grumpiness, and we haven't even gotten to our stages.

We had scoped out the hotel the night before. The place is rather choppy, and currently worse due to some massive construction project. The feis volunteers had some confusing signs up as to where the various stages were, although that wasn't really their fault. It was impossible to NOT be confusing under the circumstances. And they tried to amend signs as they observed people wandering off in the wrong directions. Overall, I was glad I knew where to deposit the kids' dance bags.

Kid1 danced on stages 1 and 2, which were located in the same ballroom. Yay for not having to switch rooms. But the signs on the stages listing which dance competed when were rather tiny and poorly lit. Kid1 had some moments of panic when she realized she couldn't read them since she's nearsighted.

Kid2 was on stages 5 and 6 -- again, both in the same ballroom. Except you can't see the signs for who's "up" on stage 5 when you're at stage 6, and vice versa, which was a little annoying (I live in fear of totally missing a dance because we weren't paying attention).

Stages 1 and 2 started promptly at 8:30 with the singing of national anthems. They moved on to figure dances. Then ... stopped. Because all the figure dances have to be done on all stages before they can start the solo dances. So they then sat looking at an empty stage for about an hour. In the meantime, stages 5 and 6 sat empty for 20 to 30 minutes ... perhaps we were waiting for figure dancers on other stages to come and compete on ours? Who knows. You'd think they'd figure out who had to be where when, and tweak the schedule accordingly. Another grumpiness factor -- couldn't they be a bit more organized?

The figure dances on our stage were interesting. Most of the groups continued dancing long after the musician stopped (note: we had a single accordion player who had to play non-stop for hours, and yes, he did mess up more than once, including one time where he totally pooped out in the middle of a competition -- grumpiness about the musician situation is registered). The judge eventually told one group, "You need to stop dancing after xx bars." I heard the girls whispering, asking why their instructor didn't explain how long to dance.

Eventually, though, the solo competitions started. This was the first feis in which we competed at Beginner 2 level. I missed all of Kid1's dances. She reported that her worst dance was Treble Reel, as she didn't start correctly.

Kid2 seemed to do fine, although she was competing against a boatload of other girls. The way these competitions work at this level: everyone competing in a particular dance makes a long line across the back of the stage (sometimes it can be 2 lines), then the kids come out 2 at a time (other feisaenna sometimes have them dance 3 at a time) and dance their dance, they return to place, the next 2 are already poised to start immediately (as in on the very next beat of the music), and so on down the line. Then everyone bows and walks off. So if you have a large group to get through, it can take quite a while per dance. And it did. Kid1 was done long before Kid2, so she and MrV came into our ballroom to watch.

By the way, the stage manager on stage 6 (where Kid2 danced most of her dances) was excellent. He kept all these little girls organized, made sure kids from the same school didn't dance at the same time (each school has different choreography for each dance, so it's better to mix up the schools so you don't have 2 dancers doing the exact same thing at the same time). He was truly a bright spot in the day.

They arrive in plenty of time to see Kid2's Treble Reel. She had never competed it this dance before, and seemed tentative.

Soon we were finished with all the dances. The girls changed their clothing, MrV gave his wristband to someone else who wanted to see the feis (he had never actually attached it to his wrist, and this was his way of protesting the $10 admission), we took the dresses back to the car (parked several blocks away) and we went to buy a new wig, chat with some people from our school, then to look for the scores. Both kids placed 3rd in Treble Jig! Woohoo! The rest of their scores were 4th or lower, but the 3rd place meant that they each got a medal. But, oh, whoops, the hornpipe scores weren't up yet. Let's wait a few minutes ... a few more minutes ... by the way, where do you want to have lunch, since we barely ate breakfast and it's about noon ... more waiting ... ask the volunteer in charge of posting scores if he knows what may be going on ... he's quite testy, and says the judges sometimes don't get the scores to the stage runners promptly (hmmm, why is the burden on the judge? could it possibly be that the system for getting the scores into the hands of the stage runner could use some tweaking to help it flow more smoothly?) ... waiting ... waiting .... FINALLY! Okay, after an hour, the scores appear and we can head home. Another item of grumpiness -- how long it took for some of the scores to appear.

We will never attend this feis again. Don't like the venue (it's nice as a hotel, but not for a feis), don't think it's very organized, really really really don't like the wristband -- we shouldn't have to pay $10 a piece for something that seems slopped together.

The rest of the day: finish Twist, which consisted of knitting 4 more rows on the collar, steam blocking the collar and button bands, then sewing on the buttons (pictures to follow eventually). In the meantime, MrV took Kid1 to pick up her glasses.

Overall, a productive, if not entirely happy, non-grumpy day.

14 February 2008


So I'm trying to make wholesome, nourishing food for my family, homeschool, make some of our clothing, keep the house reasonably clean, and I'm wondering how the heck did Ma Ingalls juggle all of this stuff?

Like, right now I've got more bone broth started, which I did in between lessons this morning. I want to start some lacto-ferment ginger ale but need time to chop up the ginger, except we need to leave to take Kid1 to a Valentine's party for her Scout troop, at which time the leader will probably try to flag me down to ask what exactly we're doing for the theatre badge I'm supposed to lead in March. And I still haven't finished that sweater (although every night at dance I knit on the button band, then unravel it again when I decide I don't like it -- I'm getting really, really good at knitting buttonholes, by the way, having done 21 of them in the past 2 days). And sewing? Umm, no, not lately. Same with cleaning the bathrooms.

Of course, part of it is that Ma Ingalls wasn't hauling kids to dance and Scouts and piano and choir and the library.

Also, it occurs to me that Ma Ingalls life really sucked, when you get down to it. I mean, we've read these books over and over, and a lot of it is pretty bleak. (Side note: today we were in Silver Lake, and read the part where the moved into the surveyor's house, and Pa got out his fiddle to play jigs and reels and hornpipes, and we were all impressed that we know exactly what is meant by each of those terms ... except then we had an argument break out about the time signature for a hornpipe, which I suspect wasn't really the point of that passage.).

(By the way, don't be thinking that the problem with making a lot of your own clothes is that we expect to own a larger wardrobe these days. You're talking to a woman who can (and has) gone months at a time owning only 3 pairs of pants, 1 of which wasn't fit to wear out of the house. That was back in 2007, of course, and I have 2 more pairs now. And in 2006 I wore the same skirt to church pretty much every week -- as opposed to the 3 years before when I'd alternate between 2. Overall, I have a smaller than average wardrobe, it seems. I probably have fewer yards of fabric in my total wardrobe than did Ma Ingalls.)

Must go do something or other....

12 February 2008


Beet Kvass.

I don't care so much about its medicinal qualities. I think it's pretty. And I really, really like beets.

I also don't care so much about Project Spectrum, since arbitrarily assigning colors to months doesn't really inspire me, but it's a nice excuse to show this photo. So, this is my bow to Project Spectrum 2008. There may be others, if I randomly happen to be doing something in the appropriate color.

Really, right now I'm working more in blue:

Fuzzy Feet. Dance class was cancelled last night, I think due to weather. So they will debut tonight.

In order to felt them I threw them in the front load washer with a load of towels. One foot is a bit larger than the other. I might throw them in again with another load of laundry, just to see if they'll even up.

I also got some royal blue PUL yesterday to make dress shields for use in our blue school dresses (Irish dance dresses can't be tossed in the laundry after a show or feis, so we have to invent other ways to keep the sweat off). Not too inspiring as a craft project ... unless you're in Irish Dance. Honestly, I wonder why I've never seen anyone suggest making dress shields out of materials that match the dress? Maybe I'll find out what's wrong with this idea when it all ends in disaster at the feis this weekend. Or maybe I'll be hailed as a hero.

11 February 2008

Panic Knitting

I've been working fairly steadily on Twist, hoping to have it done by the Irish Arts Feis this Saturday. First of all, I think it looks like something you should wear to a feis -- cables, but not too-too, you know? Sort of an "okay, I'm into this Celtic thing, but I'm not so into it that I brought my bagpipes" vibe. Second, I told the all-but-kitchenered lady at dance class that I planned to have it done by the feis, so I feel a sense of obligation; she did comment a couple of weeks later that she wasn't holding me to that (wonder if she reads this blog).

It needs a button band and collar. Oh, and buttons, which I haven't shopped for yet. And I love it, and have enjoyed knitting it so very much that I'm almost sad to see it end.



And we have dance class 3 nights this week. And the studio thermostat is set at Arctic Wasteland, which is great if you're dancing, but really really stinks if you're sitting around waiting for your child to finish up.

There are 2 areas in which you can wait: There's the outer waiting room next to the door -- that would be the outside door that the dancers leave open for long periods as they leave and enter the studio, and generally let 12F breezes blow in. Or, there's the changing room down the hall, which has benches for the dancers to use while changing shoes (although, of course, everyone sits on the floor to change their shoes -- I think that's some sort of Dancer Code of Conduct that you have to plop in the middle of the floor to change shoes and simultaneously stretch and chatter). The changing room is slightly warmer than the outer waiting room, except that you must take off your street shoes from off your feet as though you are entering holy ground, mostly because your street shoes have all sorts of icky crud on the bottom that shouldn't be tracked into the studio proper due to its fancy, springy floor.

And so, if you sit there, your feet get mighty cold. Cold enough to need a pair of Fuzzy Feet

which are being knit in our dance school's color.

At some point I may even embroider our studio's logo on it. For now, though, I just want to get them knit and felted by class tonight. I'm shivering just thinking about it.

08 February 2008

Random Bits

It's been such a whirlwind around here, that I'm having trouble focusing on much of anything, including writing a coherent paragraph. So this will be just bits and pieces.

The cooking adventures from earlier in the week were a mixed bag. The broth is excellent. Some of it became chicken soup. It smells so heavenly that the cat wants to wallow in a vat of it. The kefir was a flop. I was using a powdered kefir which I think was too old. I had it in the refrigerator ... I have some in the freezer, and may try again with that. The whey has been separated from the yogurt, but still hasn't been combined with the beets to make the kvass. I suspect that it would help if I were actually home long enough to do something other than race through the house.

We've been busy with scouts. We've visited a new doctor for a well-child visit, where we learned that Kid1 is officially bigger than me -- both taller and heavier. We've gone to piano. We cleared all the scrapbooking stuff off the dining room table to replace it with sewing stuff (last week the kids were wild about scrapbooking; this week they're drafting patterns for doll clothes).

We went to see Bodyworlds, which is simply amazing.

It was really, really warm, and we were running around in shorts and T-shirts. Then it snowed a bunch, and the kids spent the day sledding. Then it got really, really warm again, and we put the T-shirts back on.

And then there's dance. Ceili class, dance class, another ceili class for the other child, dance performance, another dance class.... Yes, the kids have joined ceili teams. These are, well, they're dance teams. They do group dances that sometimes look like really fancy square dances. Kid1 is on a team that does performances but doesn't compete. She was place on this team basis her height, by the way, and is the youngest and possibly least-experienced. She adores it. And Kid2 ... has been asked to be on a team that is going to the national championships (one of the members who went to Oireachtas -- the regional championships -- dropped out). This is a Big Commitment, and I question our sanity about this daily. It involves lots of performances AND competitions. And workshops. And new shoes, and a new wig, and (most exciting by far) a new School Dress in which to dance.

I'm chugging along on my knitting. I had been doing some sewing, was almost done with the garment, hung it in the closet and forgot about it. I mean, I have maybe 5 more minutes of work for it to be officially done. There's probably some interesting psychological reason for not just Getting It Done. Or maybe I'm just sort of frazzled and disconnected, and forgot about it until now.

I need to go do ... something. Clean something? Organize some schoolwork? Get dressed? Umm, not sure. Maybe I'll just stare out the window and pet the cat.

04 February 2008


We continue to work our way through Ambleside Online Year One. We're on week 26, sort of. We've finished the Holling C. Holling book already (we had substituted Pagoo for Paddle to the Sea since we'd already read the latter). It has finally sunk in that I really don't like Holling C Holling books, so we whipped through it to get it over with.

In our perpetual Little House Marathon, we are now On the Shores of Silver Lake. This is our second trip through this particular segment of the Little House sequence, and it's striking me as a more depressing journey this time through. I keep noticing all the disasters that befall the family. Sheesh, they should've stayed in the Big Woods.

MrV is reading The LIghtning Thief aloud in the evenings.

Kid1 just finished Crispin for her Bravewriter Boomerang online discussion group (I would link to Boomerang, but Blogger isn't letting me, sigh). Honestly, I don't try to keep up with what all she's reading. She's also working through the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, which obviously has nothing to do with any schoolwork.

Kid2 is reading...well, I really don't know what the heck she's reading. I see her with books. I think she's reading one of the Girls of Many Lands series.

Due to bookstore giftcards, I've had a sudden influx of craft books to browse:

Sensual Crochet by Amy Swenson. Knitting Classic Style by Veronik Avery (if you're on Ravelry you can see all the items in the book there, which is a wicked cool feature of that website), and Designer Needle Felting by Terry Taylor.

I'm also reading Performance Without Pain by Kathryne Pirtle. It focusses on diet, particularly the type of diet promoted by the Weston A. Price organization. Her twist is that she was severely ill (undiagnosed celiac who had eaten wheat for over 40 years), and used concepts in Nourishing Traditions to help heal herself. This has inspired me to re-visit some of the food prep I've done before, so even as I type I have a bone broth simmering on the stove, whey separating out for future use in beet kvass, and some kefir cream soda brewing on the counter (actually I've never done the kefir thing before, and am hoping the whole jar doesn't explode -- stay tuned).