30 July 2008

Work in Progress Wednesday

My sore throat seems to come and go. The past couple of days have seen me mostly languishing, moaning and complaining (although in a whisper, since it hurt to talk).

Since I've been sitting around, I've spent some time knitting on the Aleita shell:

It would be done if the SciFi network had followed their schedule of showing reruns of Star Trek Enterprise on Tuesday night. I was all ready to hunker down for an evening of Star Trek, knitting and self pity (have I mentioned I had a sore throat?), but they were showing something else. Bah. I made jerky instead. Hey, that's something else that's in progress here today -- it's till dehydrating.

I began the week with good intentions to make a top for myself. This is how far I've gotten:

Kwik Sew 3199. I'll make the short sleeve version. Some day.

While I was finding the pattern to take this picture I discovered that I'd also purchased a dress pattern that I'd totally forgotten about. Which is sort of disturbing considering that I just purchased these patterns about 2 weeks ago. I really need to clean up all of this sewing mess and get a grip on what's in these piles. The situation is becoming critical. Also, I'm using the dining room as a sewing room, and we have company coming over -- the kind of company that involves using the dining room for pastimes like "eating" and "socializing" and exotic stuff like that.

Okay. I just ate some chopped up raw garlic stuck in a blob of Really Raw Honey. My throat is feeling better already! Perhaps because my body is in fear that I'm going to repeat that -- it was touch-and-go on whether I was going to keep it down, and my breath is startlingly strong now. I think I'm ready to tackle the day, finish up these projects, and move on with life.

28 July 2008


Here's what I'm looking forward to this week: that it won't be last week. Not that last week was bad, but I'd rather cover some fresh ground, know what I mean?

Last week featured Vacation Bible School for Annabeth. I didn't help out with it, except that I did get her there early every day and then turned around almost immediately and picked her back up.

It also featured a trip for MrV which involved dropping him off and picking him up at various local airports since his travel plans are quirky that way. Not Scott AFB, though, in reference to Julie's comment.

The black linen blend capris are done. They are successful, other than the fact that I decided I hated all of the buttons I own and just sort of slapped a couple of dark ones on that don't particularly match the fabric. I think I've figured out how to stabilize the waistband on linen-blend enough that it doesn't stretch out hideously by the end of the day. Not that it matters, since the rest of the pants stretch out to Queen Baggy Bottom proportions by the end of the day (linen relaxes and streeeeeeetches as you wear it, if you have't worked with or worn it before, so even if the item fits like a glove at 7am it will be a totally different size, notably in the butt region, by 9pm).

Well, actually I don't know if they are truly successful. They fit nicely by the end of last week. I had spent several days not really eating last week, so I think I probably lost some weight. At the beginning of the week I had some stomach thing going -- I thought it was mild food poisoning (calling it "mild" since I didn't die from it, although I emptied out everything I'd consumed, if you know what I mean) but maybe it was a virus. And followed that with a gawdawful sore throat that made it painful to swallow (by Wednesday night after dance class when Thalia complained her feet hurt I replied, "I can't even FEEL my feet -- my head, throat and ears hurt so much I don't know if my feet even still exist." Then I went and put several blankets on the bed since I was FREEZING, crawled in, and just wallowed in pain until the fever broke and the headache went away. Although the sore throat still comes and goes.).

When not driving family members thither and yon, nor moaning in self-pity about my various ailments, I got back to work on Aleita shell:

I was zipping through this thing earlier in the month, then reached the point where I was supposed to divide for the armholes and Just. Didn't. Want. To. So I didn't -- I just let it sit for a week or so. This week I picked it up again and started working on the fronts. I think I've got about 3-5 rows to go, then I'll do the back, block, and be done. It's an easy knit, and fairly fun (except for binding off the armhole stitches, apparently). But mostly I want it done so I can enter the Ravelympics with a clear conscious and no UFO languishing in the corner.

And I didn't even try to knit during the An Samhra Feis this weekend. I've learned that I don't get much good knitting done at feiseanna. MrV, though, took his laptop and got tons of work done. We were there at 7am to start getting the girls ready. Thalia danced in an 8 hand, 4 hand, and 3 hand; Annabeth was in an 8 hand and a 3 hand. Figure dances started at 8am, and Thalia dearly wanted to review the 4 hand with her team, hence the early start.

Both Thalia and Annabeth danced 7 solo dances. Thalia had already placed in everything except Single Jig; she once again placed in everything except Single Jig. Sigh. Her Single Jig competition was a merged competition -- in other words, they put 2 age groups together. This was done because there weren't enough entrants; you need 5 dancers to compete in order to have results worth considering. Annabeth placed in Reel. She didn't melt down about not placing in anything else, thankfully. She has now placed in Reel, Treble Jig and Slip Jig in various feiseanna. Also, her 3 hand got a second place, beating other 3 hands with more experienced dancers, so that was an ego boost.

As for me, I helped out some with the Preliminary Champion stage. This was a whole new world for me, as I've never been in PC-land before. For the record, Preliminary Champions (PC) are competing to enter Open Champion (OC), which is the top of the heap. The stage is large, the musicians really good, they have 3 judges analyzing all of their moves. They dance 2 at a time. Each girl is dancing different choreography -- they are not synchronized in any way, each is simply dancing her school's dance. Each girl has her arms held down straight to her sides, her shoulders squared, her head and eyes always pointing straight ahead, her expression not wavering. They're zipping around the stage, zig zagging, kicking HARD (these kids have incredibly powerful legs since they can't use their arms for balance or propulsion), often nearly knocking into each other, but never acknowledging those near-misses with so much as a blink of an eye. It looked like a giant game of chicken! Except in sparkly outfits.

Overall it was an okay feis. There were a couple of places where we had to changes stages rather than just stay on the same stage for the entire day. The stage managers were nice about re-shuffling the order of the dances so competitors could make it from stage to stage. At one point an entire stage was moved in an attempt to speed things up; the stage managers were very diligent about trying to find a little girl who seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

And this week? NO DANCE CLASSES! Can you believe it? It's almost like having a normal life.

17 July 2008

Home Alone

The kids have been gone all day every day this week, and I'm just now getting into the swing of being home alone. At the beginning of the week I was running errands and doing housework while they were gone. Today I just came home and started sewing, slapping together a sandwich when I was hungry, and eating it while reading the computer. The dishes are piled high, and I just got around to making the bed.

I have descended into sloth.

I wonder what would happen if they were gone all day every day all school year long. Sort of a frightening thought.

But I have accomplished something, you know. I have turned fabric into a wearable garment, which is always a nice feeling.

I was going to make another pair of pants, but was seized by the sudden desire to make a skirt. No problem -- I had purchased a floral print, lining, zipper and petersham last summer in order to make a multi-gored skirt from Ottobre. But, alas, no matter how I fussed at the pattern pieces, I couldn't get them all to fit on the fabric. Hmmm....

But, aha, plan B. I had purchased some fabric for a blouse several months ago. Before I started cutting into it, though, I paused. Mostly I paused because I realized that I couldn't find my tape measure, but it also gave me time to think, "If I make this particular blouse, what am I going to wear it with?" And realized that I wanted to wear it with black linen, either a skirt or pants.

So, how about another go round with that capri pattern I'm trying to perfect? Off I went to JoAnn's to see if there was any black linen-blend in their 60% off section. There was. I also picked up a new tape measure, although I suspect the old one is somewhere in Thalia's room.

And there, back over near the tape measures, I discovered that juvenile prints are currently 50% off. And some of these are really, really cute. So I piled a bunch in my cart, figuring I'd use them someday for ... something. Except this one:

I wanted for a skirt for me.

When I got home, Thalia wanted it, too. Too bad she wasn't here, and it's already sewn up in my size. Well, actually, we're about the same size. But that's beside the point. It's mine.

Pattern is Ottobre 5/2007, #4 (also #3, #9, and #18, depending on whether you cut it bias, add pockets, add a sash, etc.).

I made it in size 38, since hope springs eternal that the size charts will be absolutely correct. I ended up taking in .5 inch at each side seam after I'd finished.

Goofy thing that went wrong:
Once again, the zipper. It's an invisible zipper, and somehow after sewing in one side I flipped the skirt totally around before sewing the other side. Sort of like when you're doing circular knitting and the directions say be careful not to twist work when casting on. That's pretty much exactly what I did with the skirt. Not precisely a moebius (since there were still 2 sides and 2 edges), but something a bit along those lines.

Music I associate with this:
I had Bungle in the Jungle running through my head the entire time. MrV had asked if I remembered who performed it, and I couldn't get it out of my head after that. Also, the fabric has a sort of animal skin background. By the way, there's a nice Youtube video of Bungle in the Jungle with pictures of tigers -- just google it.

I tried to drown it out by listening to The Teaching Company lecture on The History of the United States by Prof. Allen C Guelzo, and made it all the way through the slave trade by the time I finished the hem. But, still, it's Bungle in the Jungle that I associate with this, even though certain specific areas of the skirt remind me of The Massachusetts Bay Company.

Preferred snack of this project::
I have this thing about eating or drinking while sewing. I just gotta. I think it's something along the line of chewing a pencil during a math test or chewing your lip while thinking. Anyway, I polished off quite a lot of blueberries.

16 July 2008

Crazy Hair

The kids are going to day camp this week. Each day has a theme. For example, today is Crazy Hair Day.

"I look like a Who."

I skipped my yoga session this morning to help with this. But, according to Those Who Know, it's all yoga, right? Everything we do is part of the Practice, be it doing asanas or spraying neurotoxins all over our kids' heads. Or something like that.

I'm sure this left a trail of red and blue all over the shirts and floors and pretty much anything else they were near.

I saw some of the other kids arriving. There were some pretty original ideas. I hope the leaders took group photos.

The camp is a dance camp. As to why we're doing a dance camp the week after the kids attended a dance workshop, well, I am an idiot we didn't know about the workshop when we signed up for a camp.

You may argue that every day is Crazy Hair Day in Irish Dance, what with those wigs. You're right. But somehow this was more fun.

14 July 2008


We went to the Cardinals game the other evening. And Annabeth wanted to get nachos, so I went with her to get them.

On the way back to our seats I saw someone I sort of know, and stopped to chat for a minute. Except, gees, everyone in our section was yelling so loudly I could barely hear myself think, let alone carry on a conversation.

Annabeth and I got back to our seats, and I told MrV about our adventure.

Me: Oh, I saw so-and-so and he asked about yada yada yada ... hey, where'd you get the baseball?

MrV: I caught it.

Me: (Blank look while I absorb this information. How did he catch it? We are in the stands; the baseballs are down in the field. This does not make sense to me.)

MrV: When Pujols came up to bat I said, "He's gonna hit it up here and I'm gonna catch it," and that's what happened.

Me to Thalia: Did you see it?

Thalia: I ducked when I saw the ball coming.

For real he caught it. From the field to the stands.

11 July 2008

The Eternal Search for Pants That Fit

Now that the kids are done with the dance workshop you'd think they would eagerly jump into the opportunity to take pictures of me modeling sewing projects, but no. They're sleeping in and watching Leave It to Beaver. They didn't even bother going to the end-of-workshop pool party last night, citing extreme fatigue.

Which is all to say that I took pictures in the mirror again. The results were fuzzy. But they give a general idea of what I've been working on, which is pants.

Teri has assured me that if I ever get Ottobre pants to fit I will always be able to fit them, since Ottobre doesn't vary the fit, bless their souls. Last winter I worked on a pair of black dress pants which seemed to require acres of alterations and eventually got pitched. This summer I decided to try again, this time with a pattern for capris from issue 2/2007.

I started off by re-measuring myself, since I'm a growing girl (unfortunately in the wrong decades of life for that to be a compliment). The first thing I noticed is that I had cut out the winter pants in the wrong size, which would explain some of the problems I had with alterations. Doh. I'd made them a size too big.

So I thought, hey, why not simply try cutting the correct size and see how far off it is:

These are out of a linen blend on sale at JoAnn's. Not bad, but still very baggy at first. I ended up taking a half inch off of each side, pulling it in from the back so I wouldn't totally mess up the front pockets.

So I thought I'd try again, using more cheap linen blend. This time I figured I'd go down yet another size, since the next size down is a bit more than an inch smaller than the one I'd made, and that would match my alterations so far:

Whoops, too tight. But part of that was from totally blowing the fly front zipper. I'd decided that since I'd just done this exact pattern a couple of weeks ago I didn't need to look at the directions. Also, my method was sort of a mix of the Ottobre directions and Sandra Betzina's, neither of which I was terribly fond of. Which is to say, I had sort of winged it and it came out just fine the first time; the second time I wasn't so lucky. So after the pants were done I redid the zipper, reflecting on the fact that if nothing else I was getting pretty comfortable with deconstructing and reconstructing finished garments.

They're usable now. Particularly since my life seems to consist of 1) taking kids to dance classes, 2) going to the grocery, and 3) picking up books at the library.

I also left off the belt loops on the green pair, having decided that I'd never wear a belt with these anyway.

Thalia had been quite charmed with that green linen when I bought it. On the way to dance yesterday she got in the car and said, "My. Those are really green, aren't they." So I've apparently also facilitated a lesson in color choices. Thalia happens to have good color sense already, so I like to think something will come of this.

Next up, I have some stretch poplin that was on sale at Hancock's. And, yes, I have enough of it for the "outdoor pants" from issue 2/2007, which is pretty much the same pattern as this but with more length, some elastic business at the bottom of the legs, and some extra pockets. This time I'll leave more room in the hips, lengthen the crotch a tad (it wants to dip at the back waist), and find better directions for the fly front. I need to do something different with the back darts. The waist is still a bit big, and every version is saggy in the seat, as are many readymade pants I own -- snug in the hips, yet saggy bottomed. I"m pretty sure I can find an article or book that explains a "fix" for that, at least somewhat. Eventually I'll get it. Hope springs eternal, yes?

10 July 2008

Knitting. Yawn.

Ribbon Shell in Blue Sky Alapcas Dyed Cotton:

I cast this on because I was bored and I had the yarn and pattern.

I wasn't sure I'd like it. I kept saying I felt sort of tepid about it, and everyone who saw it said, "Oh, that's gonna be so cute!" (Note that by everyone I actually mean people hanging around the dance studio, since those are the only people I see. Really. We went to a Girl Scout event a couple of days ago, and I was sort of stunned to see so many people who aren't in Irish Dance and probably don't care about Irish Dance. Also, I had just about forgotten everyone's name, and couldn't rely on the Irish Dance choices of Mary, some form of Catherine, or Colleen as being "best guesses".)

I LOVE this yarn. So soft. So nice. I want to pinch its cheek and tickle its tummy.

The pattern? Eh, not so much. It's blocky and dumpy. Too heavy for hot weather, too skimpy for cooler weather. My theory is that everyone's thought that it was cute because of the model's shoes, which I wouldn't be caught dead in. Or maybe the extreme negative ease. I knit the smallest size, and it just doesn't fit me like the picture. I added length to the armholes, as they were way too tight, but I think they're still too tight for use as a vest. I crocheted around the neckline and armholes rather than picking up stitches and knitting -- at the front neckline it's a bit wonky, and needs to be tighter or else finessed with some elastic. The lower edge ribbing could also use some finesse and elastic.

Part of me wants to alter it by revamping the side seams using the serger, just to see what happens. But I'm not quite sure how my serger would handle this fabric. And then I wouldn't be able to reclaim the lovely yarn for a better project.

09 July 2008

Wigs and Makeup

Several people have commented on the wigs and makeup. Here's what I know about them. Bear in mind that I'm not an authority, so I may be dead wrong about this.

Curly hair is popular in Irish Dance. The head of our school points out that the curls bounce when you jump, so it looks really bouncy and like you're jumping really high when you've got a head full of curls. If you've been in dance or theater much you know it's all about the illusion, right?

I've read that the long curls became popular during the Shirley Temple era and never really went out of style. You can acheive them by rolling the hair on spikes. You put glop on each strand of hair, roll it up, and leave it for about 24 hours:

There are various ways of doing this. Some people go for fewer spikes, and then separate the big, fat curls out into several smaller curls once it's set. i imagine some people use faster drying hair products.

And a closer look:

As you can imagine, it's not that comfortable to sleep in. It takes at least an hour per head, so if you have multiple kids you will spend multiple hours doing this. It rules out going to a swimming pool to relax and cool off before a competition. If it rains on the way to the feis (competition) you're out of luck. Also, if you go to register for a feis the night before, and it involves walking through an Irish festival, you can pretty much expect drunks to want to poke your child's head in fascination. Plus, girls with short hair are pretty much out of the running for obtaining curls. So, for team competitions, it's easier to get a uniform look by having everyone wear wigs.

Some teams wear bun wigs -- they pull their hair up into a bun, and then just have a little curly hairpiece on that. The winning team in Annabeth's division chose this look. It was very nice and neat. Individual competitors will sometimes wear their hair "soft", which is to say that they don't go for the tight curls. Again, that's harder to do for a team, since we have kids with all sorts of day-to-day hair styles.

I've heard that there are rumbles about rules that young beginners should not be allowed to wear wigs to compete. I happen to disagree with that idea. As long as the curls are popular, you should be able to achieve them however you please. Of course, we could just ditch the entire idea of the curls, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. In the meantime, those in favor of ruling out wigs for young girls are welcome to take their spike-wearing daughters into a crowd of drunks and think about what the anti-wig rule accomplishes.

Currently there are rules in place that a young beginner cannot wear makeup, nor can she wear the glittery solo dresses. Annabeth was allowed to wear makeup for this event since it wasn't a local feis. She isn't allowed to for a regular competition. In the case of our team, the thought was that everyone should match, so one mom did all of the makeup. This was a good idea, since my own personal makeup kit is limited to mascara and chapstick. When they told me to go to the MAC counter to get the lipstick, etc., I was totally blank. Mac? Huh? "M-A-C, MAC, go to a department store like Macy's or Nordstroms." Each dancer on our team had her own lipstick, lipliner, eyeliner, and mascara. The woman in charge of the makeup provided the base, eye shadow and highlighter for Annabeth, having sensed, perhaps, that I was already way outside my have-a-clue zone.

Again, I don't think the winning team in Annabeth's division wore much (or maybe any) makeup. I don't know that they used tanner on their legs -- that's another thing. Young beginners cannot wear tanner in ordinary competition; but for this Annabeth had 3 layers of Boots self-tanner, along with a coating of Rimmel leg makeup, as did everyone else on the team. I was talking about the tanner to my hair guy, and he commented, "I'm Irish, and I know that the Irish don't tan. You're either pale white or else you're red with sunburn." Yeah, well. A lot of Irish dance has sort of diverged from the Irish roots. I mean, look at the solo dresses -- does anyone really walk around looking like that in Ireland? No.

Overall, Irish dance competitions have rules in place to keep the young beginners from going too overboard with the "look". In the beginning they concentrate on the dance. But at special competitions they can go for the look. And, as they get older and compete at higher levels they are welcome to pile on enough wigs, makeup, and bling to look like the drag queen segment of a Gay Pride parade , look like a bunch of escaped circus clowns satisfy their need to dress up whenever they compete.

08 July 2008

I Got Tagged I Got Tagged I Got Tagged

Staci at Writing and Living tagged me for a meme, which sent me into flashbacks of playing tag as a child. Was it better to be the kid everyone wanted to tag, or was it better to be the kid who was ignored? Oh, the politics of tag -- how did we survive it all?

She tagged me yesterday, but I thought I'd wait until today to answer because that way I'd have slept more and be more coherent. Great plan, but it didn't pan out since Thalia had dance class until 10:30, so we didn't get home until really late. So don't hold me to any of these answers, 'kay?

What was I doing 10 years ago?
Living in Dover, Delaware, and driving down to the beach every. single. weekend. Thalia was a toddler.

Five snacks I enjoy
Snapea Crisps.
Things involving peppermint.

Five things on my to-do list today
Take one or both kids to Reel/Treble Jig workshop.
Get everyone something to eat for lunch.
Go to Kit movie with Girl Scout troop.
Take Annabeth to ceili workshop.
Pick up Annabeth while dropping off Thalia for her ceili workshop.

Things I would do if I were a Billionaire
Replace the carpet here in the family room.
Hire a cat psychologist for Demon Kitty.
Buy really over-the-top Solo Dresses.

Five jobs I have had
Bookstore clerk.
Library clerk.
Librarian at law firm.
Interior landscaping.
General go-fer at landscaping firm.

Five of my Bad Habits
Cracking my toe knuckles.
Spending hours staring vacuously at the computer screen while surfing the Internet.
Running my fingers through my hair repeatedly, seeing if I can pull any hairs out.
Standing with my knees hyperextended.
Telling myself I'll floss "later".

Five places I have lived
Merrimack, NH
Millington, MD
Elkhart, IN
Evansville, IN
St. Louis, MO

Five random things about me
I have an acute sense of smell.
I think the concept of a grass lawn is overrated.
I like to kick my shoes off.
I can recite an amazing number of advertising jingles from the 1970s.
I'm too tired and vague to answer the part of this about what 5 people I'd like to know more about, probably because I'm nosy and don't want to limit it to 5 people. I think EVERYONE should answer these questions, and none of this namby-pamby "answer if you'd like" business either -- I think you should be forced to answer these questions so I can read what y'all write. After I take a nap, that is.

07 July 2008

Our Experience at Nationals

Annabeth's ceili team:

They didn't win their competition, BUT no one burst into tears, fell down, lost a shoe or wig during the performance, threw up, or otherwise fell apart during this very stressful event. So MrV and I considered that a "win". The team that got first place was breathtakingly good. Other teams were also very good. Some teams seemed worse than ours.

The upper 50 percent of the teams are given a recall, and their scores and places (first, second, third, etc.) are posted. The lower 50 percent of the competition are left with the illusion that they were the next best team. For example, 14 teams competed in the group that Annabeth's team was in; the top 7 know exactly how they scored. Teams that scored 8th through 14th place aren't posted, so every team can take heart and believe that really they were team number 8 (as opposed to getting last place, which would be icky). So. As far as I know, our team placed 8th, and we were only a point away from a recall. I love this scoring system.

The competition WAS nerve wracking -- up on top of a big stage in a big ballroom, with 3 judges analyzing every move, not to mention gobs of spectators.

The musicians were FANTASTIC. Gees, I felt like getting up on stage myself when I heard them play. Dean Crouch was on accordion. Someone said John Carey was in the audience (Thalia claimed she saw him walking around the hotel on Friday night, too).

The hotel itself -- Gaylord Opryland -- ummm. Well. I don't think we saw it at its best. The place was packed. Hundreds and hundreds of kids, most on a total adrenaline rush. Long lines for everything. It took an hour to check in. The swimming pools were crowded. Everything was crowded. And did I mention that all these swarms of people were totally wound up about the competition? Yowza, it was like nothing I've ever experienced before. I'm not sure it's something I ever want to experience again. Key learning: don't stay at the hotel that's hosting the event. Because even if it's huge and an amazing place, it's gonna be ... weird.

Anyway, overall it was a positive experience. And guess what we're doing today? Starting a dance workshop! I need to go sneak in a few hours of non-dance life before that starts ....

02 July 2008

What's It All About

At this time tomorrow we'll be headed to Nashville so Annabeth can dance this:

This isn't her team, but if you've seen one High Cauled Cap you've seen them all. Sort of. So, picture this with much shorter girls in poodle socks and stiffer dresses.

Must go finish sewing a pair of pants for me to wear, then clean the house and pack.