Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Channeling Project Runway

We're leaving for Oireachtas tomorrow (well, Oireachtas by way of Grandma's house for Thanksgiving), and I'm trying to throw together 2 dress covers. And I've never sewn a dress cover, and don't have a pattern.

One done, in fabric to match the dress bag (gosh, it would've been convenient if I'd known we were going to make something else out of this so I would've purchased an appropriate amount at the time).

I wish I had more of the pink binding to go around the sleeves. And I wish I had time to sew it to the neck better, but that's not currently an option. For that matter, I wish I'd designed the front panel a differently, to give it more swing when it's worn over the dress, but I think I might be overthinking this -- it's supposed to be simply a bathrobe-type garment to protect the dress, not a fashion statement in its own right.

I took inspiration from an Ottobre pattern -- the double-breasted coats in issue 6/2008. I love the seams down the front, although they're swallowed up in the busy-ness of this fabric. Okay, yeah, Project Runway contestants don't get to crib from Ottobre, but they don't have to interrupt their sewing to go get their Girl Scout troop's Fall Product order, or clean out all of the litter boxes before they leave on a trip, or take a kid to the orthodontist to pick up retainers, so it all evens out.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Please, Mr./Ms. Oireachtas Judge,

Do I hafta wear white poodle socks to compete?

Because my friend just gave me these really cool blue tie-dyed socks

and I want to wear them every single day forever and ever.

Along with my cool new team t-shirt (that has a picture of the entire team) and my team necklace.

And I promise to turn out my back foot better next time. Honest. But mostly I was trying to show off the socks in this picture.


I'm trying to develop a habit of carrying a camera around. One of my friends does this and gets some great shots that way.

This involves remembering to keep the battery charged, remembering to take the camera along, and remembering to actually take it out and use it.

We were at a potluck this weekend, and I took the camera along. And when we went through the food line Thalia and AnnaBeth started laughing when they saw the green bean casseroles side by side on the table. "Oh, look, Mommy, it's green bean casseroles!" (The hilarity of green bean casseroles at a potluck had been revealed to them by this story.)

So I whipped out my camera and took pictures:

Not much in the way of composition, and the casseroles actually came out looking more like guacamole or maybe spinach dip, but I had over a hundred people behind me in line while I was merrily snapping pictures (it later occurred to me that the people directly behind me probably have real questions about my mental stability after this episode).

But it takes several weeks to establish a new habit -- a handful of casserole pictures isn't enough to turn me into a constant photographer. We'll see what else this week brings.

In the meantime, Thalia and AnnaBeth displayed one of their habits this weekend:

Choir concert. Over 50 kids on stage, ranging in age from 3rd grade to 12th grade.

(Fuzzed out in case someone doesn't want their child's picture on the Internet.)

As the kids were standing there waiting to sing their next song, the lights were lowered and a film clip was played on screens to the right and left. The clip was several minutes long, and was something everyone's seen before. Every person on that stage craned around to try to watch the clip, twisting and turning to get a better view ... even adults on the stage ... well, every person except two. Yes, there were 2 kids up there who are so used to having to wait patiently to perform, who have spent much time in a competition line in front of a judge waiting for their turn without daring a single fidget or frown, that they have a habit of not trying to twist and turn to watch. And those 2 kids stood patiently, arms down at their sides, pleasant expression plastered on their faces, waiting, waiting, waiting. Guess who.

Hey, most Irish Dancers would've done the exact same thing, too. It's drilled into them to Stand Still. Unexpected benefit of Irish Dance: Ability to Not Fidget.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Team Work

AnnaBeth has finished the scrunchies for her dance team.

After she finished and I was tidying up the sewing area I found the blue thread I'd purchased specifically for this project. It was purchased during the half-price thread sale at JoAnn's, and I'd forgotten I'd bought it in the mass of spools of thread I selected. Oh well. The dark blue she used looks black, but it isn't very noticeable due to the scrunchiness of the scrunchie.

(AnnaBeth is dressed in grey in honor of a stray cat that had been roaming around here for several days. The neighborhood consensus was that we needed to round it up and get it to a shelter. Thalia and AnnaBeth wanted to be in on this, of course, and felt a need to dress for the occasion. When we got to the shelter it turned out she had an ID chip, so hopefully she's been reunited with her family already.)

Thalia is working on bunnies for her team.

They have that same dotted fabric on their bottoms, so she can use the blue thread for the hand sewing. Hurray!

Mid America Oireachtas Blog

Link to the Mid America Oireachtas 2008 blog.

Of course, this is only interesting if you're involved in Irish Dance and live in this region. Otherwise I think it would be crushingly boring.

I decided to try something new and follow this blog through Blogger instead of Bloglines (which is where I have the rest of my blog subscriptions). Bloglines sometimes drives me nuts, but I haven't had the inclination to figure out a new reader.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekly Report -- Nov. 21

This is our 13th weekly report, which means we're a quarter of the way through the year. Huh. Think of that. If we were the sort to measure our school by quarters, this would be significant. If I were the sort of homeschool mom who laid out a calendar for the year I might've even scheduled a break next week simply because it was the end of the quarter.

In reality, though, we are ready for a break simply because Thanksgiving is next week, and we have lots of non-school stuff to get done -- the kids have a major dance competition, a choir concert, and a piano recital in the next couple of weeks.

So, what did we do for our final week before taking a break?

Thalia has started working on factoring quadratic equations in Life of Fred Algebra 1. She thinks it's fun, but does get a little bogged down in the logic of what the significance of the numerical answer is -- sort of loses herself in the game of it all and forgets why she's playing the game. I've helped her with a few, and was interested to realize that I could pick this up and do it without any sort of review.

I suggested she work to a logical stopping place in the book, considering that she has until next Tuesday to reach that point.

She's wound up her Spanish for Children and Latin for Children studies. She's been working on making Spanish flashcards, having decided that Spanish for Children doesn't give enough vocabulary review within the book itself. And we discussed problems with the answer key -- she finds it annoying when they trade around English words for the Spanish. For example, are "lovely" and "beautiful" truly interchangeable as translations? Is this some subtlety that the authors are trying to get across? Or are they just blowing it? We used analogies to Latin, in which no book we've used (Prima Latina, Latina Christiana, Latin for Children, Henle) explained to us that forest is always plural (silvis),and the singular of silva is actually more along the lines of bush (I found this out from a random forum post at TWTM I happened to read).

We talked about getting some more done in science and Lightning Lit in the next few days, just to sort of get those things out of the way.

AnnaBeth did a review sheet (lesson 18) in RightStart D on Wednesday, and we decided that was a good place to stop for the week. This part of the book is focussed on fractions -- fractions of money, of time, of liquid measures, of musical notes. Practical and easy math.

In First Language Lessons she composed, copied, and mailed a letter. This mirrored the type of work in Writing With Ease so well (composition! copywork!) that we skipped the WWE lessons this week as being redundant.

She's coming down to the end of Ecoutez and Parlez, learning about words used to describe school. And in Minimus she's been working on the Latin version of direct objects.

Science for AnnaBeth took place at our Scout meeting, although it was actually a Try-It she had already earned at home.

We haven't done as much reading aloud this week. We'll continue Little Farm in the Ozarks, D'Aulaires' Norse Myths, Heidi, and The Phoenix and the Carpet as long as it takes to get them done. Even if we're on a so-called break the read alouds continue.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Work in Progress Wednesday, Thursday Edition

Yesterday (Wednesday) was sunny and relatively warm -- somewhere in the 50s. We spent the afternoon out raking leaves rather than inside blogging. But today is cold and dreary, so we're inside huddled around our warm computer and sewing machine.

This is how far I've gotten on my tan pants:

It's further than a couple of other sewing projects I need to get done this week, though, since I actually have the material purchased and laundered. I also checked out an audiobook of Emma to listen to while I do all of this sewing and crocheting, but I keep forgetting to listen to it.

I also got this interesting package:

It arrived while I was out of the house, so the kids had a while to ponder what it could be. I tried to pass it off as bagpipes, but they didn't believe me. Really, it's a bunch of fabric from Hancock's, from their online sale last week when they had 50% off and free shipping. Some of it is table cloth vinyl; they shipped that on the roll,then taped on the rest of the fabric in a lump.

(I'm not sure what's up with Thalia's hairstyle.)

I'm on the Very Last Collar, collar number 10. Woohoo! And I'm concentrating on the crocheting until it's done. No picture. If you've seen one you've seen 'em all.

In the meantime, AnnaBeth has started making gifts for her ceili team. The kids give each other small gifts or cards before big competitions like Oireachtas or Nationals. She's making hair scrunchies.

She had wanted to make 4 blue with white dots and 4 white with blue dots, but we couldn't find suitable fabric. So she's making 8 blue with white dots.

So far she's cut them all out

tacked the elastic in each one, and started seaming them.

We have the sewing machine set up on the dining room table. I sit in a chair and crochet while she sews.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sore knees, and thoughts on dance technique

Last night after dance AnnaBeth commented that her knee hurt, "but it's the other knee this time." She had had a sore knee and ankle after dance a few days ago.

It was good to know that it was the other knee, since it seems less likely that she's consistently doing something to hurt the knee or that there's a current structural problem with her leg.

We talked a bit about possible causes for sore knees after dance, and she stood up to show me her turnout. Her knee was turning out about 45 degrees, but her foot was turned out at about 80 to 85 degrees. Well, no wonder it hurt -- she was twisting the joints to achieve a turned out foot. Turnout in dance is a case where cheaters don't win -- cheaters end up injured. She experimented some with rotating from the hips, saying that certain things "felt better". She noted that it was easier with her knees bent than with them straight, which makes sense.

I'm sure it will be better by this morning. But with so many dance practices in the next week or so we'll have to be vigilant.

I imagine this is also why her ankles sometimes feel wobbly. When the turnout is coming through the knee and ankle, and the ankles aren't properly strengthened, you're more likely to twist an ankle while dancing around on demi-pointe.

I used to read a blog by a woman who was a dance physiologist who was involved in Irish Dance (she sews solo dresses ... and knits ... I was so enchanted with the combination that I was ready to go move in with her). She had excellent articles on the physiology of Irish Dance. But, alas, she has deleted her entire blog, so I'm having to scrounge elsewhere for information. Because I don't know about dance physiology, but I do know that bad habits can lead to injury, sometimes years and years later.

So this will be a depository for my links. If I were clever I'd make another page somewhere, but I'm not clever (and not patient enough to figure it out), so it's just a post that will be updated when I come up with something new.

Great book on turnout: Tune Up Your Turnout: a Dancer's Guide by Deborah Vogel. Explains the anatomy of turnout, how to truly test for turnout, and how to improve turnout (hint: pinching your bum muscles together doesn't do it).

The author has a website full of archived newsletters and information. I also subscribe to her blog, Teaching Smart. Much of the information is beyond me, or doesn't seem to pertain directly to Irish Dance, but little by little my brain is absorbing more and more information about how this stuff works, and I'm understanding more of the big picture of how this all goes together.

Another blog I subscribe to is Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes. Although the name is "ballet", turnout and working on pointe (or demi pointe, as is more common in Irish Dance) is the same for the various types of dance.

Thinking of pointe, another great resource is Lisa Howell. Tons of information on preparing your body for pointe work. The YouTube videos are wonderful -- she shows some of the same exercises Deborah Vogel describes, so you can sort of put together your own multi-media tutorial by searching these websites.

I downloaded Lisa Howell's ebook, The Perfect Pointe . Great information. Thalia has reached the age where she will be permitted to go on pointe in Irish Dance. BUT, are her feet ready? Irish Dance shoes have no support for pointe work, so the strength must be in the feet. The turnout information in The Perfect Pointe mirrors what Deborah Vogel explains in her book and website. I also get her emailed newsletters; again, not everything (not much!) pertains directly to Irish Dance, but it all increases my knowledge of how the body works in dance.

Moving away from feet and legs, Irish Dancers also need good core strength. Our favorite Pilates DVD so far has been Classical Pilates Technique: Exercises for Kids & Young Adults. I'm sure there are other good ones out there ... frankly, I'd love to know what they are, so we can have some variety.

As a matter of fact, I'm always looking for new material, new ways to people have expressed these same ideas, new exercises or routines that accomplish similar things. If you happen across something, please let me know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Oireachtas Preparations

Collars pressed, folded and placed in individual ziplocs:

Collars that have been rinsed, are currently drying, then will be pressed, folded and ziploced:

Two more to go, and this adventure is done.

AnnaBeth's dress bag:

Close up of fabric:

In 2 weeks this will all be over -- Oireachtas 2008 will be history, at least for our region. It's like a giant black blob looming on my mental horizon. I have a mental list of what needs to happen before Oireachtas, what needs to happen during Oireachtas, and then ... apres-Oireachtasis something I vaguely picture as full of rainbows and chirping birds and sunshine and maybe gamboling unicorns while I waltz around like a Disney princess who has been set free from some wicked enchantment.

In the meantime, more sewing to come. We still need dress covers, the kids want to make things for their ceili teams, and I could use another pair of pants. Not to mention that Thalia just came down in the outfit that she plans to wear for Sunday's choir concert, and it needs ... work. Possible alterations (which bother me much less than they used to, since they do not involve vinyl or topstitching or handles) and possible need for an entire new top.


When we moved into this house the family room was a cave.

The only window was behind where I'm standing to take this picture. It was tiny, had no screen, and was painted closed. It also had an insanely ugly window treatment, but that's beside the point. There was also a sliding glass door with no screen and ugly window treatment (notice a pattern here?).

The people who lived here before us put their (huge) television along the wall where we have our couch, and put the couch along the middle of the floor ... about where I'm standing to take this picture. It really chopped up the room.

First order of business was to cut a hole in the wall and put in windows.

We also replaced the other, painted-shut window with one of these. WOW! Light! It was an amazing transformation. Plus we could open the windows and get actually fresh air. (Our television is a flat screen on the bookcase just beyond the fireplace.)

It has proven quite popular through the years.

In case you wondered, the window to the right is the better one. We know this because the cats fight to sit in that one.

But we still had the woodwork that looked like it had been through 30 years of wear and tear (mostly because it had). And old, stripy vinyl wallpaper in bleh colors that was peeling off the walls.

This weekend Rick finished this part of the family room transformation process.

I tried to take a head-on photo to match the original, but the glare from the window obscures that we now have "quiet" walls, devoid of stripy vinyl that's full of old nail holes and peeling corners.

The room is so much lighter and cleaner looking that it's startling.

Still to come: new lighting and new flooring. That will be after Christmas, though.

As for me, I made a dress bag for AnnaBeth and crocheted another collar. More on that later.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Weekly Report -- Nov. 14

I'm here to tell you that this week we did science experiments. Yes, finally.

We finally did that experiment where you put different things on a person's tongue and see where they taste them. It's not the greatest experiment, partially because taste buds simply aren't that specialized, but it was in the Brownie Try-It book, and it was also in the Young Scientist Kit we got from Noeo science (although the only thing we ended up using from it was the cotton swabs and the sugar because it saved me the trouble of finding ours -- that kit is really sort of useless, but then again I think the entire Noeo BIology 1 is pretty useless, but that's another post for another day). AnnaBeth had really, really wanted to try it, and now we have.

And we managed to come up with fizzing antacid tablets (which we don't own) and steel wool-ish things for Thalia to do some experiments from the Prentice Hall Science Explorers. She was also supposed to put small pieces of limestone in water and in vinegar, but decided not to -- she pointed out that she knew exactly what was going to happen in that experiment. Coincidentally, I think there was something like it in the Junior Girl Scout badge book that I remember working on last year. (Interesting how handy those badge books can be -- too bad GSUSA has decided they aren't "hip" enough, or maybe, heaven forbid, involve too much perceived work on the part of the girls and leaders. But that, too, is another post.)

In the meantime, AnnaBeth is learning French words for school-related subjects in Ecoutez-Parlez. She has been learning about quarters and halves in RightStart D. She has been learning about direct quotations in First Language Lessons. She has been learning ... something ... in Minimus Latin. Somehow I've never been around for Minimus, and she's been working independently on that this week. She has narrated passages, done copywork and dictation from Nesbit's The Phoenix and the Carpet.

Thalia has been learning irregular verbs in Spanish for Children. She has been learning more about Latin pronouns in Latin for Children B -- the ever popular ille, illa -- as well as the various forms of present tense. In Lightning Lit 7 she's still exploring Lewis Carroll. And in Life of Fred I'm really not sure what's going on since she does that totally on her own (well, actually she does most stuff on her own, but I generally sort of have a clue what's happening). I do know that we've discussed the volume of a sphere more than once this week, and we discussed whether .5 pi over 3 is the same as pi over 6. You know, sort of veering off the subject (once again), I was thinking about getting the Teaching Company's DVD on Algebra 1 since it's on sale right now and it would give another view of the material.

Both have heard read alouds from Nesbit's Phoenix and the Carpet, Roger Lea MacBride's Little Farm in the Ozarks (Little House - the Rose years), Spyri's Heidi, and D'Aulaire's Norse Myths. I had purchased that last book years ago to read to Thalia when she was the appropriate age as per Waldorf schooling, had stuck it on the shelf (still in its plastic wrap) and forgotten about it. I was flipping through the latest edition of The Latin Centered Curriculum, looking for ideas for read alouds, and noticed it listed for Grade Two literature. Great! We're past grade 2, but that's okay -- we've read the grade 3 suggestions (Black Ships Before Troy and Wanderings of Odysseus) recently, so it seemed a good time to read this.

Mostly, though, the focus this week has been on counting down days and hours until later this morning when THE BRACES COME OFF. I don't expect to get any school-type-stuff done today, although I'm sure we'll all learn things, especially about brackets and teeth and gums.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Work in Progress Wednesday

When people see me crocheting they ask how many collars I have done so far, and I answer something along the lines of ,"I don't know, it's all a blur anymore."

I lined them up and discovered that I'm on number 4 of the new batch.

With the 2 I already have done, that makes 6. Only 4 more to go.

Piano equals .5 hour to crochet (other .5 hour for Latin).
Choir equals 1.5 hours to crochet (other .5 hour for Latin).
Archery equals 1.5 hours. to crochet.
Swimming equals 45 minutes to crochet.

I also managed some during last week's Girl Scout meeting, mostly by avoiding helping out with anything. I did spend time looking through the new Journeys material for the Senior Girl Scouts. It's really, really stupid, by the way, but that's another subject for another day.

While at home I've been at the sewing machine attempting to make a dress bag for Thalia's Irish dance dress.

She picked out some green fabric at Hancock's from the 60%-off table. I also purchased vinyl (on sale), batting (on sale, and probably stupid, as I'm wondering why I thought it would be clever to have padded sides), piping, quilt binding, 2 36inch zippers, some webbing for a strap, and a dowel. I still need to cut the dowel.

The flap really does fold over nice and neatly; I took this picture without zipping up the left zipper, though, so it looks wonky. It's been a real seat-of-the-pants operation, making this up as I go along. It's possibly an advantage that I have no clue what I'm doing, as I'm not hindered by the thought that I'm doing things quite incorrectly.

I need to figure out how to attach the webbing for carrying straps. And also make some sort of straps or something that will fasten down the foldover flap.

Then I need to get more fabric, etc., and make another one for AnnaBeth. And 2 dress covers. And 4 more collars.

Visit the Home of Work In Progress Wednesday at Mrs. H's blog.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weekly Report -- Nov. 7

What did we do? The usual stuff. Math. Latin. AnnaBeth did First Language Lessons and Writing With Ease (except on Thursday when the FLL assignment looked exactly like a WWE assignment, so she just did that). French and Spanish. Some science, but not enough. It's never enough science. Thalia worked on Lightning Lit 7.

And read alouds. Five Children and It is done. Burgess Animal Book for Children is done. We are starting the next book in the Five Children trilogy, The Phoenix and The Carpet. We're also starting Heidi. I'm not sure why we're starting Heidi. I think we were discussing goats, and I realized the kids had never read it or heard it read, although they'd seen the end of the Shirley Temple version. Anyway, we're reading it. As we read it I can't help but think how different it would be if it were written today -- a contemporary author would have that little girl abused in no time flat because, you know, cruelty and despair is edgier. You know what I mean. Toni Morrison does Heidi. A disturbing thought.

And all the other stuff we do happened. Lots of other stuff. Piano. Archery. Choir. Dance. Scouts. Swimming. Orthodontist appointment, complete with the stunning news that Thalia gets her braces off next week!. Yes, after 16 months, off they come (her ortho uses SureSmile, which shortened the estimated time considerably). She is very happy that she didn't give the blow pops she got on Halloween to her sister, since soon she will be able to enjoy them herself.

Busy week. Little time for introspection or retrospection.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Work in Progress Wednesday

Quick entry, since I need to go rake leaves. And remove leaves from gutters. Yuck.

Rick is in the home stretch of painting the family room woodwork.

This is the corner where the computer desk belongs. I haven't been online much lately. Totally missed the sale at Gorgeous Fabrics yesterday, sigh.

And we're starting on Phase 2 of the project, the wallpaper ripping phase. This is the fun part.

Well, it's fun because the people who put up the wallpaper used stuff that tears down easily, and also put sizing on the wall. And didn't paint over the wallpaper afterwards.

These sins have all been committed in other areas of the house, though, so we still reserve the right to call them jerks for putting up so much wallpaper.

Sewing another pair of twill pants, which are ready for the waistband:

I'm using the same pattern as I did for the twill cargo crops, but lengthening it and leaving off many of the pockets. I thought I was using the same twill, but apparently picked up a different bolt at the fabric store this time. This stuff drapes about as well as 70# watercolor paper, and has about the same texture. Maybe it will soften up with a few more washings. I hope.

Knitting Chic Hoodie, which is under the arms and in the mindless stockinette phase:

I love the mindless stockinette phase, since it's so ... mindless. I knit on this yesterday while waiting in line to vote. I wasn't the only knitter in line, either. I hope I wasn't the only person in line to wear sunscreen, as it was sunny, in the 70s, and we were standing there about half an hour.

Sadly, I don't have much time to knit these days. Our dance teacher emailed the other day and requested 10 more crochet collars. She wants the for Oireachtas. Our Oireachtas is Thanksgiving weekend. Which gives me 3 weeks to zip those babies out. Which sort of crimps my plans to make dress bags and dress covers for AnnaBeth and Thalia by Oireachtas, especially since I need to make up the patterns for those items myself. Really, it sort of crimps my plans to do much of anything other than crochet, come to think of it.

Off to rake. And crochet. And tear down wallpaper.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Three Greek goddesses emerged from our house last night.

Thalia is Artemis, goddess of the hunt, with her bow, her quiver of arrows, and her deer. AnnaBeth is Demeter, with Spring hovering around her in the form of flowers, carrying her daughter Persephone.

Not pictured: Athena, bearing her sheild and her owl. I need to ask Athena's mom if her picture can be on here.

They were thrilled that someone actually identified Thalia as Diana, and forgave her the use of the Roman name.

They followed the old south St. Louis tradition of telling a joke or providing another entertainment at every house, This year they chose to perform a song. They piggybacked the camp song Black Socks (Black socks, they never get dirty, the longer you wear them the stronger they get. Sometimes I think I should wash them but something inside me keeps saying not yet.)

Black cats!
They're always so scary.
The longer you hold them the madder they get.

I think I should drop them,
but something inside me keeps saying "not yet".

And the alternate version:

Dead bats!
They never get dirty.
The longer you keep them the stronger they smell.

I think I should toss them,
But something inside me keeps saying, "Oh well."

(I sorta though that last part should be "oh hell", but that was a bit much for a bunch of kids.)

People responded well to having Halloween carolers appear at their doors, and dumped gobs of candy into their bags: