Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bonus Day

Right now we should be loading into the car to drive to Holiday World to spend a couple of days having fun and eating food that does not contain seven allergens (I've yet to find a list of what the seven allergens are, but, wow, are these people big on mentioning allergens).

But as we were bustling around getting ready yesterday Thalia was getting sicker and sicker. By last night she had a fever, and was piled up with blankets.

So Rick went in to work today, and here I am with the laundry done, the lawn mowed, and a refrigerator full of grapes (great snack for a car trip, plus they don't contain seven allergens). A bonus day with nothing scheduled,

Other than sewing a sleeve in a sweater and maybe reading a chapter of a book, what shall we do today?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Birthday Cake

The kids decided to make a cake for my birthday. It was reasonably cool out, we had a sparkly new oven to bake it in, and it's always fun to bake a cake.

They decided to use a box mix instead of baking from scratch. This allowed them to focus more on the all-important task of decorating the cake.

"If we had white frosting we could write on it: 'Happy Birthday Mommy, Now You're an Old Fart'. "

Finished product:

and action shot:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

An Samhra Feis


Annabeth has her traditional honking huge blister that she gets before just about every feis -- this will lead to limping around in pain by the end of the feis day. We try to brainstorm new ways to heal this up.

In the meantime, every time I turn my head I feel an odd little sensation of dizziness. When Thalia and I get home from her last dance class of the day I curl up with a book and a hot cup of tea. During the night I get up to use the bathroom. My teeth are chattering with the cold. Odd -- St. Louis in July usually isn't so cold that I shiver.


My temperature when I got up was 100.5F. I don't remember much else about this day -- I spent it covered in blankets and cats. The kids polished their shoes, located clean socks, and generally got everything organized. Rick took them to the store to buy appropriate snacks for the feis. In the evening I felt well enough to accompany them to check in to the feis, which is simply a matter of going to the hotel where it's being held and picking up their numbers. We fixed lunches to take along with us the next day, then went to bed. (Actually the feis site has a bunch of restaurants, but we've decided it's easier to just take something along.)


Up early to load things into the car, put Annabeth's wig on her, and thoroughly empty my digestive track (ahem -- trying to be delicate here). My temperature was now 99.2F, which was close enough to pretend I'm healthy. I took a wool sweater along, though, because sitting in a cool hotel with a fever really is not fun.

We arrived at the feis site, the Sheraton West Port Chalet at about 7am, and began preparing. I put Thalia's wig on her, and both girls started putting on makeup ... or something. Okay, really, I don't remember. It's all sort of a blur. I went to an orientation meeting about the job for which I volunteered, which sounded complex (I had to look at the numbers pinned on the dancers who show up for competition, and check those numbers off against a printed list ... umm, it seemed really formidable at the time, which should tell you my state of mind ).

Thalia and Annabeth danced their team dances. Eh. Nothing exciting to report there.

Then we settled in to wait for solos. Amazingly, both girls are dancing on the same stage. This has never happened before. So we can all sit together and wait.

Oh, oops, honey, there was too much flash near your face there. Mind if I try again?

Okay, apparently you do mind.

Anyway, we watched the First Feis dancers, who are adorable. Thalia knows several of them because she's been helping with some of the Beginner classes. And I sort of drifted off into my own world. Really, no clue what else happened.

By 11am the Beginners were all done and our competitions were underway. I saw the soft shoe competitions, then went to be a stage assistant in a different area.

And that area was very, very cold. And I rejoiced in having my wool sweater with me to help fend off the cold. I later told Rick: "You know when people fall through the ice and they don't drown because the water was so cold? It was sort of like that."

Our stage had some PC (Preliminary Champion) competitions on it. PC is the level right before the top level of OC (Open Champion), so these are the kids toiling away to try to get up that final rung. The competition is tough at this point, and they've been doing this Irish Dance thing for years. It's fun to watch them dance. But we had tremendously long breaks between competitions, during which the judges tended to go outside to the patio to warm up. Overall, I learned much more about the working of a feis, and had a chance to meet some new people who are associated with our school. Also, it was the first time I'd really observed judges doing their thing, and all the judges who came into our room were really great -- nice people, very professional. And our musician was amazing -- how he could sit there in the cold and play without freezing fingers is beyond me. When we were finished he went off to see where else he could help out.

Here's my tip of the day gleaned from working this stage: It's really clever to look at the computer monitors and/or stay within earshot of the stages so you can hear any announcements. That way you can keep track of what competitions are going on when. And then the stage managers don't have to search for missing dancers wandering about. Also, if we ever again decide to skip a dance (which happened last year at a different feis due to a honking huge blister) we're going to mention it to the people running the stage so they don't think we just absentmindedly wandered off for a minute.

Our stage wrapped up, we put away the bits we needed to put away, and I discovered that Thalia and Annabeth were also done with their competitions. So we all went to check results at the same time. (Note: the results room was next to the room I was in, and was at least 10 degrees warmer. Next year I'm volunteering for results.) And discovered that Annabeth got a 3rd and a 5th in her solos ... and Thalia got a FIRST! Which puts her in Open in that dance! Woohoo! She also got first in another dance, although there weren't enough dancers for it to count for placement into Open. According to the girls, though, Rick had said they could get a dog if she got a first in it. ??? Really? This was so weird. He explained that he was joking around (Rick doesn't like dogs, particularly since the neighbor's dog bit him). But, you know, I'm wondering if I should leave these 3 together much.

Then we headed home, with Rick refusing to turn on the a/c in the car until we'd all recovered from the a/c of the hotel. I think we could've driven to Atlanta before we really warmed up.

One of the snacks Rick had bought them before the feis was Doritos, although it was saved for apres-feis since the glop that gets on your hands would mess up the dresses at the feis.

Yet another odd thing. Since when do we buy Doritos? Have you ever read the ingredients? Ick. You can tell they're junky because the cat tried to get into them (she loves junky stuff). Again, the product of putting Rick and the girls together -- they not only spend their time discussing getting a dog in reward for dancing well, they buy Doritos. Hmmm. See if I get sick for a feis again -- no more dogs and Doritos, folks.

Later I ask Annabeth how she feels about her scores. Is she disappointed, does she want to try for a first next time, and if so, how can we help her? "No, mostly I want a dog."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

Inching along on getting projects done.

(I've spent most of the week so far in the car, driving/chauffeuring to dance classes, a dance performance, and also Vacation Bible School. Also, running errands. And, by the way, how is it that I've gone to Target 3 times this week so far, and just now realized that we're out of toilet paper?)

McCall's M5882 still needs a little hook at the top of the zipper, and a hem.

It also needs the entire waist tie ripped off and done another way, because doing it according to the instructions gave me a really, really dumpy product. It even looked dumpy on Thalia, who is tall and non-dumpy (I am precariously close to dumpiness at all times, but she isn't; that it looks bad on her tells me that it's the pattern's fault, not mine).

Also, the Mirabella Cardigan has all pieces knit. I did a 3 needle bind off on the shoulders. This isn't what the directions say to do, and possibly isn't the best way to do the shoulders. But I really dislike binding off in stairsteps and then sewing the shoulders together.

Also, the directions say to sew up all the seams before knitting the collar. I think I'd rather knit the collar now before it gets so heavy -- the sleeves aren't attached yet and the side seams aren't done. And I'm on a roll with ignoring directions anyway, so why not ignore these directions, too.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Porch Kitty

A couple of weeks ago a stray cat appeared under the neighbor's porch, meowing its head off.

We dubbed it Porch Kitty, and wondered where it came from. It was obviously someone's pet. You could tell by the way it behaved, and the fact that it was declawed.

We (various neighbors) discussed how to handle the situation. Thalia, Annabeth and I walked around looking for Lost Cat posters, particularly in the neighborhood behind ours. We discussed that it could possibly belong to the family that just moved in back there, except we hadn't heard them out calling for a cat EVER. And there was the house next to that had a bunch of cats, including Especially Annoying Cat None of Us Like, but again we had never heard that person calling for a missing cat, so we knew it wasn't theirs.

Let me pause here a moment to explain that I've lost a cat before. I walked miles and miles, calling calling calling for the cat, 7 months pregnant with Annabeth, dragging 3 year old Thalia with me. I knocked on stranger's doors and handed them pictures of the cat. It was traumatic, and I can understand how upsetting it is to lose an animal, and what the owner was possibly going through, and how they must be searching for it.

I posted its picture online a couple of places. And started figuring out how to make Found Cat fliers. We planned to hand them out in the nearby neighborhoods, skipping the houses (like those above) that we had ruled out.

Eventually Porch Kitty started wandering over to our house some of the time, possibly attracted by the cats and kids constantly coming and going. Also, Annabeth and Thalia kept going to visit it over at the neighbor's porch, and tried to coax it out to play.

And I seized the opportunity to grab it, put it in a carrier, and take it to the nearest vet to be scanned for a chip. I also gave the vet a Found Cat flier.

The cat did have a chip, but the vet couldn't immediately identify it. So we brought it back home, where it decided to await its identification in air conditioned comfort, sleeping on the kids' beds, being petted and fussed over. Sort of like a Feline Spa.

And today I got a phone call from a person who was delighted to discover that I had found her Tigger, which she had learned via the flier at the vet's office.

Person: "Yes, I have X# cats and a dog, and I don't know how she got out ..."

Me (mentally): X# cats? Really? (Out loud): "Is this [Especially Annoying Cat None of Us Like]'s house?"

Person: "Yes ...."

Me (out loud)"Oh, we live right behind you. We looked over in your neighborhood but didn't see any Lost Cat posters." Mentally: We also NEVER HEARD YOU CALL FOR THE FRICKIN' CAT ONCE. And Annabeth was often toting it back and forth through the yard while the woman was standing there in her yard and could easily see the cat.

Me (out loud): "Well, if it shows up back over at our house again we'll know where it came from." (mentally): Also, maybe we should have pictures of all of your cats for the next time we find a stray, since you apparently don't have time to look for them yourself.

Huh. I'm half expecting it back over here next time it can make a break for it.r. As long as it doesn't bring Especially Annoying Cat along, we'll probably let it in. It's a sweet cat.

Or maybe we'll sneak over one fine evening and call softly through the window, "Porch Kitty, wanna come out and play? We can play string, we can eat rotisserie chicken, you can sleep on the pink blanket. Come on out, Porch Kitty!"

Edited to add: Okay, now I feel like a jerk. As soon as I published this, the owner called and said she'd been thinking about how attached Annabeth seemed to the cat, and wondered if we would like to adopt it. It's okay if we don't -- she's happy to keep it -- but she figures she has plenty of cats, and they obviously "got along okay without her" since the other cats all sort of hang out together and she's the odd cat out. Hmmm.....

Kitchen Update

Much flooring has been laid in the kitchen, although there are bits that still need to be done in the bay window. And all the finishing work still needs to be done. The little black squares here and there are blockers so the laminate doesn't butt up to the kick plate.

The flooring goes to the door of the laundry room

but the rest of the laundry room still needs to be done.

The countertops arrived this week, and were put on. They still need to be caulked.

The sink was installed. You know, I should put up Before and After photos of some of this stuff so everyone could marvel at how much better this sink is than the old one.

We had thought we could re-use the old range hood, but we ended up needing to get a new one. By the way, our stove isn't blue -- that's the protective film on it which I haven't removed yet since there's still stuff going on. For instance, installing the range hood involves moving the stove out and back in.

(Should the toaster oven go to the left or the right? Hmmm....)

They cut a hole in the wall so the hood now vents to the outside. Yay!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

Still slogging along on the Mirabella Cardigan. I set it aside for days at a time, then suddenly want to finish it IMMEDIATELY and zip out a bunch of knitting.

So far we have a back

2 fronts

and part of a sleeve.

Only one more sleeve to go, then blocking and putting together. And the button-buying. Ick, I forgot about that. I never can find the buttons I picture in my head. One of these days I'm going to start making my own buttons.

And, on the sewing front, I've been working on McCall's M5882 as a dress:

Actually, Thalia had purchased this pattern to make a top. I saw this fabric on sale at Hobby Lobby, though, and decided to use it to make a dress for myself. Slow progress, due to a remarkable lack of sewing time. But with luck I'll have it done before the weather turns too cool to wear it.

The Intersection of Girl Scouts and Irish Dance

This was going to be the summer that we did bunches of Girl Scout larks and camps (larks are one-day events). But, alas, neither Thalia nor Annabeth was interested in any camps/larks that met at a time they were free to go.

By an odd twist, though, we ended up at Girl Scout Day Camp one evening as part of the presentation on Ireland.

And even spent some time teaching campers how to do the Haymaker's Jig.

I'm pretty sure participating in this must count for something or other in a badge or leadership patch. Cool.

Edited to add: The event took place at Gov. Bates house in Faust Park.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

O is for Open Window

St. Louis in July is usually sweltering, so opening the windows is Big News.

She's looking at a cat that's out on the pavement. I think she's trying to use the force of her eyeballs to make it go away. She'd like to be a Sith Lord someday.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

More work on the Mirabella sweater. While waiting around for the awards ceremony at Nationals Sunday night I cast on the left front, and got quite a bit done before my hands got too sweaty to continue (put that many people in a room for that long and the room is going to get warm and humid).

I hadn't brought along any stitch markers, so I just cut off a bit of curling ribbon from a gift someone had given Annabeth and tied it into a little loop:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Slice of Nationals

We drove down to Nashville in the POURING RAIN Saturday morning, arriving at Gaylord Opryland, site of the 2009 North American Nationals (or NANs) of Irish Dance, in the afternoon.

The kids practiced their 8-hand.

And then we went our separate ways. We opted not to stay at Gaylord this year, wanting to get away from the hustle bustle of 3000-plus competitors (although it turned out there were other Irish Dancers in our hotel, which was a few miles away)

The next morning we arrived around 9:30 to start getting ready for our 11:45 competition.

In the next couple of hours makeup was applied.

Hair was poofed by one of the Masters of the Poof

So I now know how to do this better, except I think I left my rattail comb in the Gaylord lobby.

The dancers warmed up, and did some last-minute practicing.

Then the call came that it was time to dance! Everyone zoomed down the hall to the proper competition room, hearts racing.

Our team is the first dancing in this particular competition, which might be a slight disadvantage, but they're pumped up and ready to go.

And then ...




Oh, oops, we're going to wait on this particular competition until another competition in another room is finished.

The judges and musicians disappear.

We're left waiting, with no word on when to expect our competition to resume. It's lunch time -- do we have time to eat something? Who knows, so we better not leave.



The older girls try to help our team stay focussed and ready to compete.

You know how sometimes a timeout will be called for the express purpose of throwing the opposing team off stride? It was sort of like that, but multiplied by AN HOUR. With young kids.

Finally, the announcement (an hour later) that they should line up for the competition to begin.

Except the judges still aren't in the room, so more waiting by the side of the stage.

Finally, they get to dance. And they did a great job, and appeared to enjoy it. Sorry, no pictures of that -- photos aren't allowed during the competition.

Then back down the hall to change out of the dresses and get something to eat.

(Ami,I'm putting in the above photo just for you -- Annabeth says their wigs looks like worms in this photo.)

Lunch. Then waiting around for results.

All teams in their competition recalled, so all teams needed to attend the awards ceremony. This was a loooooong event that started at least 2 hours late, with Mr. Whiney Pants running the show. (Several hundred people waiting in the auditorium to see the awards, and *gasp* actually chatting with each other to pass the time since the Powers That Be are apparently incapable of running efficiently and on time. And this guy says in a tone of voice that is typically reserved for Disney Channel caricatures of The Teacher the Kids Don't Respect, "You must not want to really hear the results because you're not being quiet." Seriously. What a twit.) It was nearly 8pm before our competition results were announced.

The kids were brought on stage, and were awarded 4th place. Out of 4 teams.

Sort of disappointing, but I honestly think they were at a disadvantage dancing first after a long, unexpected break. And, hey, at least they got medals.

And on the way out the door we saw John Carey, who has worked with our team to get them ready for this event.

Annabeth was pleased to get a medal, and overall had a pretty good time. Which counts for a lot.

Monday, July 6, 2009

N is for ...

North American
Nationals in 

More later, when we recover.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

When Geeks Buy Appliances

"Wow, check out the inside of this dishwasher! It looks like the interior of a Borg cube!"

"Nope, definitely Star Wars. You can just picture the droids hanging off this little thing."

Only Whirlpool knows for sure.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

Burda 8218 in a lime-sherbet-colored eyelet purchased fairly cheaply at JoAnn's in preparation for doing it in a nicer fabric once I figure out how to make it fit.

I don't recall ever using a Burda pattern before. It went together well, but the armholes gaped. I ended up taking the underarm in about half an inch, tapering to the waist. I should also let out the hips a bit. And I'll finish the seams differently next time.

I think next time I'll do the Palmer Pletsch alterations before I cut it out, and it would fit better. Under the circumstances (sewing without a sewing area, alternating sewing with helping lay laminate flooring, pausing sewing to allow contractors to install plumbing/electrical/gas lines directly over the basement area I was using) I'm okay with how it turned out.

And, I also picked the Mirabella Cardigan back up yesterday.

and started zipping along on the right front. I like KM's idea of seeing if I can finish it before the kitchen is done. The counters won't be in for another 2 weeks (!), during which we have a road trip, so it's entirely possible I'll get it done.

M is for Muny

Every summer since we moved here we've said, "We should really go to the Muny," but every summer we decided not to because ... it's too hot, the shows are so late at night, blah blah blah.

Rick used to go when he was little, but I'd never been, nor had the girls. And it's such a St. Louis thing to do -- the Muny is as St. Louis as the Arch or the Cardinals or Ted Drewes (Ted Drewes has a website? Since when?).

But our dance teacher got a block of 80 tickets to see Annie, and Thalia, Annabeth and I decided to go. Rick declined since it was on a Monday night and he had to get up early the next day.

We got there early and had a picnic supper in Forest Park:

The weather was gorgeous. The food was provided by St. Louis Bread Co.(better known as Panera).

Then into the theatre to find our seats:

Except everyone kept switching around within the block in order to sit with friends

and by the end of the musical we had sat in about 5 different places.

Overall, a great experience. We'd love to go back, especially to see the Music Man. Especially if the weather is as good.