Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Part 2 -- Oireachtas!

We arrived in Columbus on Thursday afternoon and checked into the Holiday Inn, which had more dancers staying at it this year than we remember staying there last year. Annabeth thought it was because I blogged about it -- yeah, like thousands of people are hanging on to our every word here. Sorry to disillusion you, honey, but our readership consists of a handful of relatives, neighbors, and friends.

Anyway, we were in a large room, which was nice because we had plenty of room to spread out

except the hotel sort of got goofed up on what room we were actually in, so they didn't deliver a paper or have the maid change the towels. We thought we had it straightened out by Friday afternoon, but then a woman walked into our room and was quite surprised that it wasn't HERS. Very, very weird. We eventually figured out that she had gotten off the elevator on the wrong floor, and it just so happened that our door hadn't latched fully so she thought her keycard worked in it ... it turned into a running joke all weekend.

We had a lot of running jokes all weekend. Most of which fell into the "you had to be there" category -- things like the Talita "wet and cheesy" adventure, and our catch phrase of Just add it to the list!, etc.

So, anyway, Annabeth started her competitions at 8am Eastern on Friday, which meant we were at the Convention Center getting ready by about 6:30 am Eastern (which is the equivalent of 5:30am Central, which is the time zone in which we spend most of our lives). Yowza.

Since over 100 girls were competing, this is how Annabeth spent much of her time:

Reading a Maximum Ride book on the Kindle. This alternated with

Thalia using the Kindle. Actually, I also read about 4 of the Maximum Ride books over the weekend, partially because although I took yarn and needles, I forgot to take the knitting pattern I intended to cast on. By the way, how did Ari sign the name "Wolverine" to that kid's shirt in Disney World (was that book 2? -- they're sort of running together in my mind now) when he then admitted in the German castle dungeon in book 3 that he was totally illiterate and couldn't even write his name?

Anyway, Annabeth didn't recall in her dances (that is, score in the upper half), but she felt as though she had really done her best, and although disappointed, felt good about her efforts. And, hey, after the initial disappointment, you've gotta admit that not getting a recall is small potatoes in the scheme of things ... I was once again struck by the incongruity of the homeless people of downtown Columbus outside the Convention Center contrasted with the girls on the inside who are so incredibly pampered and wearing dresses that cost hundreds of dollars just so they can dance a few minutes. Rick gave a panhandler $20 and the guy lit up like it was the greatest thing ever; heck, that's not much more than the cost of a tube of the tanner our teacher wants the kids to use.

Okay, back off the soapbox and back to Irish Dance. In the afternoon the kids practiced for their various competitions on Saturday, then we dispersed for the evening. We went to get something to eat at one of the many restaurants on Stringtown Rd. (Thursday night -- Ruby Tuesdays, Friday night -- Olive Garden, Saturday night -- Smokey Bones), then Rick and Annabeth went to play in the hotel pool and otherwise goof around

while Thalia and I curled up with a good book (besides the Kindle Thalia had brought actual books printed on actual paper).

Saturday the kids didn't start competing until later in the morning. I happened to wake up at 5:30am, thought, "Ha, I don't have to get up!" and fell back asleep for 2 hours. Then back over to the Convention Center to get all fancied up again.

Thalia competed in Traditional Set, performing Job of Journeywork. She didn't recall, which was perplexing considering some of the people who did recall. Really the sort of thing that makes you go "hmmmm...."

Next up, Annabeth's ceili team competed. By the way, when you're running around in ghillies (soft shoes) in a carpeted area you need something over the ghillies so the bottoms don't get so slick (the shoes pick up gunk from the floor). Annabeth chose these socks from Ami:

The team danced very well. And, indeed, they recalled, and later that evening received their medals for 3rd place:

(They're to the right of the adult in the green shirt, with blue dresses on the girls.)

The team that won did an amazing job, by the way -- they danced Trip to the Cottage pretty much flawlessly.

So, then, back to the hotel, more playing in the pool, to bed, up early Sunday morning, and hop in the car for the 7 hour trip home.

Overall, we had a great time.


I am always amazed by the amount of money put into these competitions -- those outrageous wigs can cost about $100, and the garish dresses can easily cost over $1000. I don't mind spending money on sports equipment -- a friend's daughter skates competitively and her skates cost $500, which makes some sense because the skates can affect her performance (plus they hope to get a nice college scholarship for skating -- Irish Dancers aren't being recruited by any colleges I know of). On the other hand, the over-the-to accoutrements of Irish Dance really don't contribute to the performance of the dance. I'd rather spend that cash on extra lessons, coaching and training, should the Irish Dance community decides to continue to try to market this as a a "sport" rather than a bizarre off-shoot of beauty pageants. Plus, after being around 1400 kids dressed in such gaudy (and often unflattering) attire my eyeballs need a rest. And then to top it off I come home and read a NY Times article disclosing that 1 in 8 Americans are on food stamps and I sort of wonder where our priorities are.

So, not sure we'll try this sort of thing again. It's starting to be disillusioning on many, many levels, including the feeling that we're on some sort of weird reality TV show complete with trash-talking young kids. But, then again, time generally lends perspective to these things, and I'm sure I'll get over it, and maybe be back next year.

In the meantime, if these final comments upset you, sorry. Heck, you should see the thoughts I've deleted in the course of writing this post. Maybe a private invitation-only blog IS a good idea.

Thanksgiving Part 1

We left Wednesday morning for Grandma and Grandpa's house. Arrived in the afternoon, and all went out to eat at Christo's, along with Uncle David and Alex. Then back to Grandma and Grandpa's for dessert. It was a fun, relaxed evening.

Then up the next morning, and a big breakfast. Grandma had said she wanted a round of Scrabble before we left, but she and the kids ended up watching the Thanksgiving parade instead.

By noon of Thanksgiving Day we were on the road again, heading for our next stop -- Columbus, Ohio, and the Mid-America Oireachtas.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another quick post ....

because I wanted to record the corduroy pants I just made for Annabeth.

I used the same pattern as the last pair -- 6/2009 #17 134 length, somewhat less than 128 width. Except she wanted pockets, so I made the front yoke into a waistband and added pockets under it.

It took awhile to draw out a new pattern incorporating the alterations I made since the pattern had been to big around her waist, PLUS all the fiddling around making a new waistband and front, and making pattern pieces for pockets. But I got it done, and was sewing it all together in a sort of cloud of smugness (remember Jillian from Project Runway? I remember reading that the first thing she ever designed was a pair of pants) until I started to sew the side seams and realized that the front was about 2.5 centimeters longer than the back. Apparently I enter an alternate reality when I figured out the front pants piece. So I quickly re-drew it, cut off the excess up at the top (which seemed to be higher at the sides than in the middle), and sewed on a new waistband.

All of which means the pockets are a bit off -- the opening is a bit smaller. And they sort of gap a bit. But, you know, the pants fit and are soft and comfy, and she's happy with them.

I swear that every road trip we take, right before we leave we're in a whirl trying to come up with new pants for someone in this family. So now that little tradition has been carried out, and we can start packing. Maybe. Really, I have an almost overwhelming urge to alter Annabeth's school dress, which looks a bit short to me ....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Weekend Stuff

This weekend has included adventures such as:

Thalia used her new sight for archery, and it's really very, very different to shoot with a sight. Also, she's decided that it's a lot harder to shoot from the 20 yard line than the 10 yard line. She got less than 100 points. She speculates that if she hadn't been messing with the sight she would've gotten closer to 200. The teacher spent about an hour working with her -- very excited to have a student trying something new. Her teacher is amazing -- spending hours and hours patiently teaching these kids about archery with no loss of enthusiasm or patience as the day wears on. The woman truly loves inspiring the next generation of archers.

Both kids got the results of their choir auditions, and got the parts they wanted in the Christmas concert.

We went to another dinner party for which I once again needed to wear a dress because it was at the Saint Louis Club, which has a dress code. It was surprisingly okay for a social occasion in which a shy person (me) is forced to stand around chit chatting with people that person doesn't know well. The food was okay, the entertainment was entertaining, the people who sat at our table were charming, the gift bags handed out at the end of the evening were emblazoned with the Coach logo. A different slice of the socio-economic pie than I usually talk about here, but I've been thinking about one of the conversations all weekend, and it might turn into a blog post, so now you have a bit of back story.

The leaves are tapering off, and only required a couple of hours of work. Amazing!

I read a book on Kindle (Maximum Ride, which Thalia had a hold on at the library and was dying to read, and it was a free download, so we decided to give it a whirl). As I suspected, it really bugged me to read the pages sequentially, which is how a Kindle works (you know -- first you read page 1, then page 2, etc. until you get to the final page). I'd rather skip around, fan through pages and pause to skim bits, and generally not feel constrained by someone else's concept of how books are to be read. Other than that, though, it was a fun book and the presentation was pleasant -- the screen is easy on the eyes, the weight and shape is easy to carry. We had been given a cover for it, so it's pretty easy to through in a bag on the way out the door to archery or choir, so that's nice.

We cooked a turkey breast since Thanksgiving Day is going to be weird ... I thought maybe we could get sick of turkey now, and avoid the last-minute rush of waiting until Thanksgiving to decide we've had enough for the year. One of the cats is in heaven, as Large Dead Bird is his favorite food; he's refusing to eat the turkey-flavored canned catfood and holding out for the real thing.

And we put up some of the outdoor Christmas lights. The weather is nice, and it seemed like a clever thing to do. We won't turn them on until Advent, but at least we're ready for a flick of the switch no matter what the weather. Usually we do this in the dark and snow and ice, all shivering and wet.

And now we launch ourselves into a particularly hectic week. Not sure when we'll have a moment to post again, or how coherent it will be if we do ....

Friday, November 20, 2009

Quite unexpectedly ...

We now own a Kindle.

Rick was given this yesterday, but when we registered it the words "Gail's Kindle" magically appeared, which I took as a sign that the mystical powers of the universe intended this to be MINE. It helps that our account is in my name, but I prefer believing that it's magic.

Although, as you can see, others seem to think it belongs to THEM. (Note how it looks like a pad from Star Trek. Very cool.)

It has come to my attention that a lot of classic books -- the sort of thing you'd like to entice your kids to read -- are available as free Kindle downloads. A cunning plan is forming in my mind.

So far the only item we've paid for is the 15 book Frank L. Baum/Oz collection for 99 cents, which seemed like a decent deal for a series that Thalia enjoys and we don't own.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting Stuff Done

Enter orders for 2 Girl Scout troops for Fall Nut Sales? DONE

Spend day at learning co-op as supervisor? DONE

Watch Star Trek DVD on the day it was released? DONE (and currently watching it again)

Call guy about adopting rats? DONE

Slap together a pair of pants when I suddenly notice that all of Annabeth's are too short? DONE

Ottobre 6/2009 #17 "Neat Beat" slim fit pants, out of light-to mid-weight stretch denim (2% lycra) from JoAnns.

In spite of the slim fit I ended up tracing 134 length and 128 width ... and the waist was still too big. I took it in about a centimeter on each side, and took about 1.5 to 2 cms off the length of the elastic. This is why we didn't rush out and buy new pants, by the way -- the ones in the store won't fit, so why bother.

I faced the yoke with some cotton left over from another project -- I thought it would be smoother on her skin.

The next pair will be out of corduroy. And she'd like pockets.

Monday, November 16, 2009

More Busy-ness

I haven't answered a bunch of emails, and I haven't been keeping up with blogs and such because we're entering the busiest 2 week stretch of the year.

Aside from driving to Fort Smith and back this weekend, we also got up a boatload of leaves before it started raining last night/today.

And I'm in charge of the Fall Nut Sales for 2 Girl Scout troops. I need to enter the orders today, although I notice at least 3 people haven't sent me an order nor told me that they weren't participating. I'm fine with people not participating, but now I have to call people and find out if that's really the case, or if they just forgot to send in their order. Then I have to organize it all and enter it. Not terribly difficult, but tedious and time-consuming.

Also, I'm supposed to do my workday for the co-op this week. So I have to find the directions for what all I'm supposed to do while I'm there. I threw the folder somewhere back in August and haven't looked at it since.

And Annabeth is sick, so part of yesterday was spent contacting various teachers and saying she wouldn't be wherever she's supposed to be for the next couple of days. This involved rescheduling an audition.

Plus both kids were just invited to audition for something else. And I still need to see about signing up for that Shakespeare class. And the rats -- I haven't been back in touch with the guy about the rats (Annabeth really wants pet rats, and someone needs a new home for 2 females, and it does seem pretty ideal, except that it involves organizing the transfer, and then several days getting the rats and cats to calm down about their new living situation).

Yesterday I did manage to contact the person I needed to talk to about the Troop talent show this week. So that one can be crossed off the list.

And other stuff ... there's always other stuff going on. Stuff I'm blocking out of my mind, or simply forget.

Okay, part one -- figure out who sent their nut order, then figure out who I need to call ....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

River Valley Feis

A few weeks ago Rick was down in Fort Smith, Arkansas staying at the downtown Holiday Inn on business, and discovered that, first of all, it's a fairly nice hotel in a fairly nice town, and second of all, it's about the same distance from St. Louis as Dayton. So he suggested we try out the River Valley Feis.

It happened that Rick had another business trip to the area, so we drove down on Friday and met him in Fort Smith.

The Holiday Inn was indeed nice. We had a huge room, they brought a refrigerator up to our room when we requested it, they had a free buffet breakfast for feis-goers (including custom omelets) ...

BUT they had only one working elevator on Saturday morning, and no alternative staircase. Two hundred feis-goers trying to get to breakfast, get back to their rooms to get those bulky dresses, then back to the feis, all at pretty much the exact same time. It wasn't pretty.

But somehow we all made it to the feis. Well, all except the musician. I wasn't around for the announcement, but apparently there was some sort of problem with transportation, and the sole musician they were planning on using didn't show up. They started out using CDs, which was okay for the ceilis, but got a little weird for the solos -- for one thing, the CD track would sometimes end while kids were dancing, and for another thing it got really, really tedious listening to the same track over and over and over again a hundred times. In the afternoon one of the judges started playing accordian -- I don't know if they had taken that long to find a 3rd judge to fill in for him while he was a musician, or how they managed to finagle this. It was a relief, though, to get back to "normal".

The feis took place in the Ft. Smith Convention Center, which is attached to the Holiday Inn. A huge stage had been erected on one end of the room; the stage was divided into three sections, with railings along the back. In front of that were about 90-100 chairs for people to sit in, and then there were numerous round tables for people to put their stuff on. This is what it looked like from the doorway (about the midway point in the room) looking towards the stage -- click to make bigger, if interested:

They had put cards around to mention the various schools. We found a table that had our school's name on it, and claimed it as our table:

The day started with ceilis. Including an adult mixed ceili that did 3 Tunes! Wow, they looked like they had so much fun. I talked to a couple of the people on the team afterwards, and they said they just do that one for fun, although they also have a Ladies Ceili team that competes at the Southern Oireachtas. If you don't know what 3 Tunes is, here's a YouTube of it, done by a different group:

I'd sign up for a ceili group that did that one!

They also had a bunch of family groups, like this family of 4 that danced together:

Anyway, once all of the ceilis were out of the way, we settled down and danced some solos. Our objectives at this feis were:
Thalia get a 1st in Jig and/or Traditional Set
Annabeth get a 1st in any dance
Thalia dance a couple of dances in Open.

The only one we achieved was that Thalia danced a couple of dances in Open, sigh. She got 3rd in each one, which was pretty cool. But those 1st place medals were still elusive; Thalia got a 1st in Treble Jig, but she's done that before so she didn't really care.

Lunch was provided by the Holiday Inn for a reasonable price. Action shot of Annabeth eating lunch:

Action shot of Annabeth being annoyed that I'm taking pictures of everything:

Rick was delighted that he was able to go online to keep listen to the Purdue-Michigan State game during the feis (another dad was envious of his setup).


When if came time to collect medals, the dancers simply showed their number to a person who had a laptop. The person enetered the number in, and voila, all of their awards were displayed. No paging through various folders to verify which medal went with which dance. It took about 10 seconds per dancer, and was soooo nice -- every feis should do this!

Overall, we give this feis a thumbs up!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

Wow, we're busy right now -- dance, co-op, Scouts, piano and choir all have major stuff going on. I need to get the oil changed in the car, and also get a haircut, but I just don't have time. Also, I really, really need to get to the store for food, notably cat food, but when can I get there? Too much else to do!

So, of course, the only sensible thing to do is to decide to sew a new wardrobe. Well, actually, all I've done so far is work on this pair of pants that's been cut out and plopped on a chair for the past month:

Ottobre Woman 2/2006 #11, Fitted Basic Pants. I've made these before, although I'd failed to alter the pattern to reflect the fact that I needed to take in the center back 1.5cm. Also, I'd failed to notice before that the back waistband is actually in 2 pieces with a seam up the center (which, by the way, makes it easier to correct the fitting mistake). All I've got to do now is make the buttonhole, sew on the button, and hem them. Then they're done. Which should happen later today.

BUT, while going to the store to get a button, all the wool is on sale, and we could make our own COATS! And those rayon knits are on sale! And the decorator fabrics -- we still need valances, you know. And you should see the cotton knit I found for $2.50/yd ... and I have a coupon for 10% off my entire purchase.

So, finally sew up one piece of fabric this week (the pants), buy about 6 more.

Also poised to be finished today, the toe of sock #2 of the Nine-to-Five socks:

That will be done during drama class, which for some reason is the most tedious waiting period of the week.

And, of course, there's the ongoing Leaf Crisis. The backyard is pretty much done -- the maples and the oaks have shed most of their leaves (the maples are taller than our 2 story house, and the oaks dwarf the maples). We spent Monday afternoon getting the leaves up so I could mow on Tuesday ... but by Tuesday morning so many more had fallen that I had to bag the clippings.

Anyway, now we still have the front to deal with, with the dreaded Sweet Gum trees, my least favorite tree in the world. I loathe Sweet Gums, and think they are proof that we live in a fallen world -- those stupid seed pods are obvious evidence of our expulsion from the Garden. "Thou shalt earn thy bread by the sweat of thy brow, and also I'm going to give Sweet Gums really annoying spiny seed pods that are almost impossible to get up out of the yard. Yea, thou shalt wail and gnash thy teeth when the seeds of the Sweet Gum fall, for thou shalt know it will be weeks before thou canst again walk through the front yard without nearly twisting thy ankle."

Last year the leaves just turned "dead colored" and fell off (along with a bazillion seed pods, which, by the way, the trees try to injure me with -- they bonk me on the head when I walk through the yard, and I slipped on a huge pile of them over at the Fransiscan Sisters of Mary convent -- yes, right in the middle of the convent the damn things tried to break my leg!). BUT, this year the foliage is gorgeous:

I may cease my continuous prayers that these trees be struck by lightening and obliterated. Well, maybe not. But it's okay if they aren't obliterated this week.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Weekend

A quick rundown of what happened around here this weekend:


Cleaning up sewing stuff, during which is occurred to me that the best way to tidy up some of the things I'd cut out was to go ahead and sew things up. So I've been working on a pair of pants.

On the other hand, a 20%-off-total-purchase coupon arrived from JoAnn fabrics, which was only good for Friday through Sunday (it came in the Saturday afternoon mail). So Sunday I got even more fabric. But it hasn't been cut out yet, so it still looks nice and neat.

Archery started. Thalia is on the 20 yard line. She was pleased to even be hitting the target from way back there. She's decided she wants to start using a sight.


Extra dance rehearsals for the team. Every single time the teacher proposes for extra rehearsals we have a conflict. Fun fun fun.

The weather is gorgeous -- sunny and in the 70s.

Friday, November 6, 2009


A couple of things we finished this week, which are pretty much unrelated to each other:

RightStart D:

AnnaBeth has finished this particular book, and we're both so glad. I'd gotten it a few years ago for Thalia, and this particular edition had numerous typos. In many places the 7s are switched with 3s.

Overall, I like RightStart. I think that, overall, the concepts are good, and I've learned a lot about teaching math from using these books. Of course, there are things I don't like about the overall program (for instance, that Yellow Is the Sun song is a total loser that no one should bother teaching a child), but I like more things than I dislike. But, wow, I wouldn't even give this particular book away to someone, there are so many typos. So, into the trash it goes. I'd rather burn it, but don't feel like expending that much effort.

Good riddance.

And, the dress:

I've noticed that I never take note of things I wish I'd jotted down, so here are some notes in case I have any questions later:

Simplicity 3775 in size 12. I guess you could say that it's view C, but with long sleeves. I used stretch velvet, which didn't have quite enough stretch for the pattern, so I made the dress a bit looser than I would for a lighter, stretchier fabric. Although the fabric said Dry Clean Only, I washed it in cold water on the "handwash" cycle before cutting, then dried on air fluff. It tends to collect lint like a microfiber dustcloth, so that's a consideration in future cleaning.

I lowered the neckline to the size 4 cutting line. That meant I had to lengthen the neckband, which I made the length of the neck opening minus 1 inch. I ignored the pattern directions for attaching the neckband, preferring a method more like this.

For the hem, I serged the edge, then used a narrow (about .5 on my machine) zigzag usig a roller foot. I just flipped the edge up while I sewed -- no pinning.

The shoulders are too wide, and if I make it again I need to take the pattern in there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday

Okay, I'd planned to get an early start on this post, but I kept getting the dreaded Error 400 whenever I tried to load pictures.

But, finally, we have those vital photos!


After days and days and days of rain, we had enough non-rainy weather to rake and gather leaves. And the lawn dried out enough (sort of) to mow. So, after 3 days of work we had this:

And within 24 hours we had this:

Because Maple B is starting to dump leaves:

The oaks and white pines are also getting in on the act.


We're supposed to go to a dinner, but get this, I found out a few days ago that men will be wearing coat-and-tie and ladies will be wearing dresses. Wow, my wardrobe reflects my lifestyle, which is mostly about raking leaves. No dresses.

So, I needed a quick dress. No time to make a muslin to test a pattern, which pretty much rules out the Big 4 pattern companies, given the inconsistent pattern-drafting. I started looking at Burda and Ottobre. Then I happened to notice the Must Have list on, which mentioned Simplicity 3775. And I discovered that someone had even made it in stretch velvet, which looked reasonably dressy.

Plus, bonus, there was stretch velvet on sale at JoAnns:

It's actually black, but who can photograph black?

Anyway, pattern on sale, fabric on sale, and we're off to the races, trying to get this done in time.

I lowered the neckline some. Also, since I'm quite shortwaisted, I shortened the waist piece.

Still have the hemming to do. So, more things I could add to this post, but I must go HEM.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Big Event

The 2009 Jack-o-Lantern collection (all carved by the kids):

And, presenting the 2009 costume concept -- The Bacteria Bunch

Left to right: Staphylococcus, Salmonella, and Shigella (a.k.a. Stomach-Ache). The general idea for the costumes came from Giant Microbes. Salmonella is holding one of their plushies in her left hand, while Shigella has a homemade knockoff stuck in the V of her shirt.

If Vogue ever does a spread on Salmonella, we're ready:

And it wouldn't be the weirdest thing we've seen in a fashion magazine.

Close up as Shigella, who is also having a Fashion Model Moment:

When I was buying the fleece for this the lady in front of me in the line asked what sort of costume I was making, probably thinking of something like a canary. I said, "A virus" (which was a lie, but sounded classier than a bacterium). She sort of blanched, but the lady behind me in line was very enthused. "Oh, how topical. Is someone being H1N1? IS this for a college kid?" Um, no and no -- it's for a 10 year old.

In keeping with the St. Louis tradition of telling a joke, reciting a poem, or singing a song (which I think is probably a holdover from the Martinmas celebrations in the German immigrant sections of the city, but who knows), The Bacteria Bunch sought to entertain at each and every house (in this one they whip around and face the camera, while I'm holding the phone for Aunt Donna to hear -- they had a lot of encore requests at the houses they went to so they could show multiple household members and guests their routine):

The routine:

Ring bell or knock. When the door is opened, shout: "Hi! We're the Bacteria Bunch!" followed by

"Find a host,
Find a host.
Infect! Make ill!
Infect! Make ill!
And party on the dance floor...."

Accept tons of candy from appreciative audience. Say thanks and go on to the next house. Repeat about 50 times.

The apres-Trick-or-Treat sorting:

They already have next year's costumes and routine in the planning stages.