Thursday, August 28, 2008

Weekly Report -- August 28

Early report this week since we'll be driving to a feis on Friday.


Finished Analytical Grammar Season 1. It is DONE. Woohoo! She did a great job with this program. I'm amazed at her skill in parsing and diagramming. And I've gotta admit, part of the reason she does well with grammar is because of Latin.

Continues to work on Life of Fred Algebra.

Started to get back in the swing of Latin for Children. She loves this program.

Worked on drawing exercises from Mark Kistler's Draw Squad, and helped AnnaBeth work through them also.

Attended 1.5 hours of dance class; still has a ceili class and another solo class tonight, for a total of 3 more hours.


Worked on Level 2 week 1 of Writing With Ease.

Did a lesson each day out of First Language Lessons 3, bringing her up to lesson 34.

Began Ecoutez, Parlez, using both the CD and workbook.

Continued reading Minimus.

Has reached the point in RightStart C where they warn us that we only have 20 lessons until we start Level D. Wow! Most memorable math moment this week was when she had to measure the height of family members, and we discovered that Thalia is now 3 inches taller than I am.

Worked on drawing exercises from Mark Kistler's Draw Squad.

Attended ceili, 1.5 hours of solo class, and will have 1.5 or 2 hours of solo class tonight (the schedule is written very oddly, so we're not exactly sure how this will work tonight).


Listened to Story of the World 2 on CD.

Had a piano lesson then practiced every day.

Listened to various read-alouds, including The Little Duke, Burgess Animal Book, and Our Island Story. PLUS, we FINISHED These Happy Golden Years, meaning that we've made it all the way through Laura Ingalls Wilder (again) and have started Little House on Rocky Ridge (The Rose Years).

Picture of the week:

Thalia and AnnaBeth need to polish their dance shoes for the feis, and then put black duct tape on the hard shoes so they aren't as slippery on the wooden stages. Sometimes they get a little goofy while doing this.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Work in Progress Wednesday

Our house is filled with sewing activity.

I'm working on a pair of capris from Ottobre Woman 2/2007. It's design #17 "Outdoor Pants". I'm using stretch poplin. So far I've decided to leave off the side pockets, which I felt added nothing to the design. The bottoms are supposed to be drawn in with cord loops/cord stoppers at the bottom. We'll see how it looks when I get to that point.

Action shot before putting in zipper:

I'd like to have these done for the weekend. But, you know, I'm sharing the sewing machine with Thalia. She came to me yesterday with several fashion sketches and asked if I could help her make the garments pictured. Ummm. Gulp. Yeah, maybe. Then I realized the garments were for American Girl dolls. Oh, okay, doll stuff is easy.

Actually, she's not needed any help for the first design, which is a tiered skirt:

She had made a similar skirt for herself last summer, so she understood the construction. She's using white thread because she doesn't want to keep changing the machine from what I'm using. Although we have 2 sewing machines we both like to use the Viking that Grandma gave us last year.

In the meantime, AnnaBeth is busy filling up her new shelving unit. Featured in last week's WIP Wednesday, it's now painted and in her room. The dark pink backing behind the shelves matches one of the walls of the room.

In other WIP updates:

FiFi fizzled as a Ravelympics project. The main issue? I wasn't interested in knitting. Well, also I spent the first week of the Ravelympics crocheting collars. And as FiFi grew it became apparent that I needed a longer circular needle to hold all of the stitches. And I had an interesting book to read, and FiFi isn't a knit-and-read project (too much pattern work). And the weather was perfect for going swimming instead of knitting. Honestly, though, I could've avoided all of these problems if I'd wanted to knit. Which I didn't especially want to do.

Monday, August 25, 2008

100 Species Challenge

1. Strawberry

2. Black-eyed Susan

When I think of Black-eyed Susan I think of the Rudbeckia species. We've planted Black-eyed Susans in various gardens at various houses we've lived in, but these came up volunteer this year:

I was aware that Black-eyed Susans tend to prefer poor soil. I didn't realize until now that another common name for the plant is Poorland Daisy. There are several common names, as a matter of fact, probably because it's such a common wild flower, growing in most of North America.

I had also realized that it's related to Echinacea purpurea, and was vaguely aware that some of the parts can be used the same way. The wikipedia article on Black-eyed Susan (linked above) specifies that the roots are the part used.

What's this 100 Species Challenge about? See post here to find out more; click on the label "100 Species" to see all posts on this subject.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Gateway Feis

This was our first time competing at the Gateway Feis. Last year at this time we were still new to the feis scene and, frankly, didn't want to mess with it. Now, though, we've reached the point where we go to enough feisseanna that we recognized the adjudicators at this feis.

As the name implies, the Gateway Feis is held here in St. Louis. It isn't very big, and the venue was certainly adequate for the number of competitors. Everything we needed was in a fairly compact area. Four stages were designated for Beginners through Open -- the higher echelon of competitors were up on the 12th floor, and we never ventured up there. Someone had the forethought to designate the closest men's restroom as a women's restroom, which was clever given that the attendees were female by a ratio of approximately 10 to 1. Almost all of AnnaBeth's dances were on one stage, all of Thalia's were on another stage, and all of Neighbor-Best-Friend Who-Needs-a-Clever-BlogName were on another. Too bad they were in 3 separate rooms, but we managed to see each dance some.

The food sold in the concession area was at a fairly reasonable price, which was sort of startling. Also, there was an adequate amount of seating for many people to eat lunch quickly at nearly the same time.

Several signs adorned the hallway proclaiming "No Camping". In feis-speak this means that people were not to dump their dress bags, wig cases, shoe bags, snack bags, etc. etc. in piles on blankets right there in the hallway. I wish I could've taken a picture, since every sign was right above a massive amount of dress bags, wig cases, shoe bags, snack bags, etc. etc piled on blankets. Irish Dance involves toting around masses of flotsam, and you've gotta put it somewhere -- this feis didn't provide an "official" camping area, so people did the best they could.

I couldn't get a picture of the camping because I let the camera batteries run down the night before. Oops. I did manage to get a picture of AnnaBeth before she started dancing :

No make up, but check out that wig! Wow, we got some height to it this time! We use big scrunchies; other dancers have been rumored to use a sock.

AnnaBeth medalled in 5 of her 6 dances. She was delighted by this. She had hoped to medal in 1 or 2. Our lesson for the summer competitions has been "dignified defeat" so it was sort of nice for her to have a chance to be a gracious winner for a change of pace. Thalia also medalled in 5 of her 6 dances, but that's become her standard -- actually, her placement was a bit lower this time than in feisseanna earlier in the summer.

The feis started at 8:30a.m. and we were calling "see you next week" to the dancers from Kansas City as we loaded up the car at 2p.m., which was a fairly short day compared to some of the other competitions we've been to. Heck, we had time to go to the pool and pretend we have a normal life that evening.

Will we be back? Probably -- it's in town, nicely laid out for our level of dancing, and was over relatively quickly. The fact that AnnaBeth managed to get several medals added to the charm, of course.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Weekly Report -- August 22

So, off to a slow start for the new school year.


Thalia is finishing up Analytical Grammar. She didn't quite make it through all 5 lessons this week, so will finish it up next week. She is then Officially Done with Season 1 of the program, and will do small reviews until starting Season 2.

In the meantime, AnnaBeth got back in the swing of First Language Lessons. She has started memorizing the first 3 stanza of I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth, and also worked on some oral usage skills. I gave her a placement test in Writing With Ease, and decided she needs more work at Level 2. She needs to work on narration a bit, as she doesn't much care for the idea of distilling an entire passage into 2 or 3 pithy sentences -- she'd rather embroider and expand rather than summarize. Also, when it comes to dictation she'd rather put things in her own words instead of writing down what was actually said.


Thalia is somewhere in Chapter 2 of Life of Fred Algebra. She feels that some of the explanations could be better, particularly the explanation of why multiplying 2 negative numbers gives a positive. Other than that, though, she really likes the program. I'd like to get another math text for her to refer to when she'd like another viewpoint; maybe the library has something we could look over. I hate to spend the big bucks for a book we might end up disliking.

AnnaBeth spent the week reviewing multiplication. We'll move forward in RightStart C next week.


Minimus has been working well as far as holding AnnaBeth's interest, but it's pretty obvious that the vocabulary she knows was learned in Prima Latina. Too bad Prima Latina is so soul-deadeningly dry.

Other Stuff

Piano lessons, plus practice every day. Ceili practice for each, plus 1.5 hours solo dance class. A Girl Scout planning meeting that they were involved in. The season is starting to rev up.

Tonight AnnaBeth will have 2 more hours of dance, then we'll head out to check in for tomorrow's feis. It's here in town, but we like to check in ahead of time.

The Birthday Books

I had said I was going to spend some of my birthday money on books, and have finally gotten around to purchasing a few.

A package from arrived earlier in the week:

A Fine Fleece by Lisa Lloyd features several knitting patterns that use handspun yarns. Fortunately, she also includes information for using commercially available yarns in these gorgeous patterns -- some of us don't have the patience to a) learn to spin, and then b) spend a few years trying to produce enough yarn for an entire sweater. I had this book out of the library, and there were so many patterns that I wanted to knit that I decided it should be my birthday treat.

The Best Old Movies for Families by Ty Burr is a book I discovered while reading Tara's blog. Again, I checked it out of the library. It soon became apparent that Thalia wasn't going to let it go -- the only way we were going to get the book back to the library was if we had our own copy. So, here it is. Thalia continues to work on her list of Must Watch Movies, checking out DVDs from the library and keeping track of what's showing on TCM.

And, finally, Story of the World 2 on CD. Yes, we have the paperback, and I diligently read it to the kids and did the activities, maps, and supplementary reading suggested in the Activity Guide. BUT, I really enjoy listening to Jim Weiss. And, frankly, it's easier to pop in a CD and listen than for me to have to read it all aloud again. As to whether we'll color all of the maps and do all of the accompanying activities, well, it's hard to say. But at least we'll hear about the history of the Middle Ages this year.

I also ordered some items from Rainbow Resource earlier this week, and they had the package delivered at a startlingly fast pace:

I couldn't face another go-through of The Easy French, so when AnnaBeth announced Monday that she wants to start French lessons again I balked. Jessica had reviewed Ecoutez/Parlez and it sounded like a good alternative. So, here it is. We'll start next week and see how it goes.

And I thought I might as well order more curriculum for future use while shopping Rainbow Resources, so into the shopping cart went Artistic Pursuits Junior HIgh edition. Thalia has looked it over and decided that she doesn't want to start it right away. She'd rather finish working through Mark Kistler's Draw Squad first (Thalia likes to finish what she starts rather than hopping wildly from project to project -- she didn't inherit this trait from me).

An exciting week for book purchases at our house!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

100 Species Challenge

1. Strawberry

We have wild strawberries all around the edges of our yard. Years ago I learned that there's more than one type of wild strawberry -- there are those that taste like strawberries, and those that are tasteless. Also, there are those that have white flowers and those that have yellow flowers.

These are the tasteless kind. In the photo we can see some of the yellow blossoms this particular plant has. I think that puts these in the realm of Duchesnea indica (which has apparently changed its name to Potentilla indica -- who knew?). True strawberries are Fragaria (for some reason I had it in my head that they are Fraxis, but I don't think there's really anything by that name).

Here is a great page on wild strawberries by Steve Brill, who knows and shares tons of information about foraging wild edible plants. He calls these yellow-flowered tasteless strawberries "wood strawberries". On the other hand, other experts say that wood strawberries have white flowers and taste. This is the problem with common names -- they aren't really too precise. Of course, as we can see by this plant's name change, Latin names aren't exactly written in stone either. Perhaps the most pertinent piece of information on Steve Brill's page is that there are no poisonous species that look like a strawberry. The information on the wood strawberry is in about the middle of the page.

Here is a wikipedia article on the plant, also called Mock Strawberry or Indian Strawberry.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Work In Progress Wednesday

The work on the Ravelympics knitting project is not exactly spectacular. I didn't get a chance to cast on until Saturday, and I have had much time to knot since then. For example, last night we went to a baseball game -- saw the Cardinals loose and didn't get any knitting done. Okay, actually it was a perfect night for a baseball game, and we had fun, and we left after Pujols batted in the 8th inning (it went downhill from there), so I didn't really miss the knitting that much. But it was still an interruption to the flow of the knitting, so I"m claiming it as an excuse for lack of progress.

My Ravelympics project is FiFi in Rowan Calmer:

I'm on row 32. It's a top-down knit, so in other words I'm still on the upper yoke. Sigh.

Other works in progress about the house:

Bison jerky:

I always dehydrate it in the oven. This has a few hours to go yet. I started it before we left for the game last night.

And we're finally getting a new shelving unit for AnnaBeth's room. We got it unfinished, and I just finished putting on a coat of primer yesterday afternoon (before making the jerky):

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

100 Species Challenge

This looks like a fun idea, and (theoretically) educational:

The 100-Species Challenge

1. Participants should include a copy of these rules and a link to this entry in their initial blog post about the challenge. I will make a sidebar list of anyone who notifies me that they are participating in the Challenge.

2. Participants should keep a list of all plant species they can name, either by common or scientific name, that are living within walking distance of the participant's home. The list should be numbered, and should appear in every blog entry about the challenge, or in a sidebar.

3. Participants are encouraged to give detailed information about the plants they can name in the first post in which that plant appears. My format will be as follows: the numbered list, with plants making their first appearance on the list in bold; each plant making its first appearance will then have a photograph taken by me, where possible, a list of information I already knew about the plant, and a list of information I learned subsequent to starting this challenge, and a list of information I'd like to know. (See below for an example.) This format is not obligatory, however, and participants can adapt this portion of the challenge to their needs and desires.

4. Participants are encouraged to make it possible for visitors to their blog to find easily all 100-Species-Challenge blog posts. This can be done either by tagging these posts, by ending every post on the challenge with a link to your previous post on the challenge, or by some method which surpasses my technological ability and creativity.

5. Participants may post pictures of plants they are unable to identify, or are unable to identify with precision. They should not include these plants in the numbered list until they are able to identify it with relative precision. Each participant shall determine the level of precision that is acceptable to her; however, being able to distinguish between plants that have different common names should be a bare minimum.

6. Different varieties of the same species shall not count as different entries (e.g., Celebrity Tomato and Roma Tomato should not be separate entries); however, different species which share a common name be separate if the participant is able to distinguish between them (e.g., camillia japonica and camillia sassanqua if the participant can distinguish the two--"camillia" if not).

7. Participants may take as long as they like to complete the challenge.  You can make it as quick or as detailed a project as you like.  I'm planning to blog a minimum of two plants per week, complete with pictures and descriptions as below, which could take me up to a year.  But you can do it in whatever level of detail you like.

The challenge was put together at scsours.. I read about it at Melissa Wiley's blog.

We (well, actually me, but I'll drag everyone else here into it) will be participating. I'd like to think I can bang this out fairly quickly -- surely I can already identify nearly 100 species of plants around here. Getting around to writing blog posts about them will be the challenge, of course. I mean, right now I'm looking out the window at some Black Eyed Susans that have sprung up volunteer, the yew bushes, the maple trees, we have gobs of violets and wild strawberries ... oh, so much flora to snap pictures of and to write about!

I'll tag each post with a "100 Species" tag that will link in the sidebar. And maybe figure out how to put Melissa Wiley's cool button in the sidebar, too.

First Day of School

Monday morning was back-to-school day for us.  We've taken about 6 weeks off, so it hasn't been a huge break.  And those weeks were busy ones, with dance camps, Vacation Bible School, illness (that business with the sore throats -- ugh), and even out-of-town visitors.

I thought we could get a gentle start in getting back into school mode.  I thought Thalia could finish up Analytical Grammar -- of the 10 week course, she had already completed 9.  And I thought AnnaBeth and I could work on either grammar or math.

Thalia pulled out her Analytical Grammar book and discovered that she'd never done the week 9 test.  I vaguely remember something about that -- was that the week she got sick, perhaps, back in June?  In any event, she took it yesterday and did an amazing job with it.  The only mistake in parsing the sentences was calling a proper name "noun" rather than "proper noun".  No  mistakes in the questions, and the sentence diagrams were all perfect.  I am impressed!

She also spent time with her Life of Fred Algebra 1 book, and reviewed Latin vocabulary.  After that she worked on piano -- Monday afternoon was our first lesson in over 2 months, and the piano has barely been touched in that time.

AnnaBeth announced that she wanted to work on French, and maybe Latin.  Huh?  Certainly not what I had in mind.  We pulled out the Minimus book for some Latin work, and tried to figure out where we left off.  Aha, we seemed to be at the end of chapter 3, and spent time discussing derivatives of scribit (he writes), spectat (he watches) and laborant (they work), among others.  She had been hopping around saying that she wanted to do some copywork or dictation, so I suggested she make some Latin flashcards.  This project seemed to take care of her need to write things out.  I also pointed out that she is welcome at any time to pick up a pen or pencil and start writing -- copy poetry or quotations, write stories, write a letter.

After Latin we worked on First Language Lessons Level 3, amid much gushing that she loves this curriculum (which is not at all what she was saying about it last spring, but absence makes the heart grow fonder).  She completed lesson 30, which featured sentence diagramming.

As for French, it will have to wait. I'd like to try a new program, so we'll have to order one.

We also got back into the swing of our numerous read alouds.  We are working our way through Ambleside Online Year 2.  We read about King Stephen, who reigned mid-12th century in Britain, in Our Island Story, and about Anselm, who was in Normandy and at Canterbury during the 11th century, in Trial And Triumph.  We also continued our perpetual reading of Little House books, which is currently towards the end of These Happy Golden Years.

Piano lesson was fun.  AnnaBeth commented that it seemed odd to be going to something that was not dance (we have been to many, many dance lessons this summer -- probably too many).   Aside from getting instruction and new lessons, we also re-acquainted ourselves with Mrs. Piano Teacher's dogs and cats -- always a good time.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Crochet Collar

I was all set last week to begin the Ravelympics -- an Olympic style event put on by an online knitting and crocheting community named Ravelry to which I belong.  I planned to knit a sweater over the time span of the Olympics as part of Team WTKnitters (Well Trained Knitters, a take-off of the name Well Trained Mind, which is a homeschool book and community).  

I had knit a couple of gauge swatches and had my pattern, needles and yarn at the ready.

But then on Thursday, right before the Olympics began, our Irish Dance teacher asked if I could reproduce the collars used on the school dresses.  The dressmaker was out of collars, and needed to make new dresses.  The teacher wasn't even sure if the woman who had crocheted the collars in past years was still alive.

Well, yes, I could do that.  Except it would take a little time, since I couldn't even identify all of the stitches.

This is the collar of Thalia's dress:

By the way, the collar of Thalia's dress is made a little differently than the collar of AnnaBeth's dress. Sort of adds to the excitement of trying to reproduce it, right? In any event, I couldn't figure out what those little blobby stitches in the medallions were.

I finally worked out that they were bullion stitch, which is also known as rolled stitch or rice stitch. But my bullions looked anemic compared to those on the original collars. After much experimentation (not to mention crocheting 2 complete collars that ended up looking sort of "eh"), I figured out that I needed to hold a round toothpick next to my crochet hook when I wrapped the crochet thread around the hood for the bullions. Then I pulled the toothpick out, pulled the thread through, and presto, a plump bullion:

So, a week later I managed to make a passable collar:

The collar itself just took a few hours to make, but the journey to completion took several days.

I handed it in to the teacher so they could look it over and decide if it's usable.

And now I can cast on my Ravelympics sweater, and see how far I get in the remaining 9 days of the contest.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Those who read blogs on a regular basis probably know how to post a comment; this how-to is for those readers who are new to the blog world.

At the bottom of this post should be the word "Comment".  It's in green to match the background that we've currently chosen -- I think the color will change if we change the background.  It's right next to the "Posted by Gail" and the time stamp.

It's actually a link to the comment page.  By clicking on it you're taken to a 2-column page.  The left column shows all of the comments that have been made so far.  The right side has a box that you can type in, surrounded by blue to show that it's something you can affect.   The computer cursor automatically goes to that box.  You type up your comment in the box.  Then you "Choose an identity".  If you don't have an account with any of the services listed, choose "Anonymous".  Then click the orange box that says "Publish Your Comment".  

After you click Publish, you'll see a tiny little message across the top that says something to the effect that your comment is being saved for blog owner approval.  I'll get a message that there's a comment awaiting approval, and I can check to see what it says before allowing it to post on the page.

By the way, when you're on the 2-column comment page there's a blue "Show Original Post" line up at the top.  If you click that link (things in blue are links!) it will show the words of the post, but no photos.  So, for example, if you click onto the comment page right now you could click "Show Original Post" and you'd have this entire post right beside the blue box that you type comments in.