Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ozark Mountain Feis

Our original plan was for me to take the kids to the Ozark Mountain Feis in Branson by myself while Rick stayed here and did guy-type things.

But Thursday night we decided that wasn't going to happen due to weather. Heck, people from Arkansas weren't even showing up at the Arkansas basketball game on Thursday night, which was practically a sign of the Apocalypse. So Rick arranged to take a half-day off of work on Friday and drive with us in his 4-wheel drive, assuming we actually went at all.

We spent Friday morning checking the weather, checking Modot road reports, and I called McCafferty (the school hosting the feis) to ask if they were still planning to have it. The word was yes, it's going to happen -- we later found out that McCafferty people went up to Branson on Thursday night to make sure they could get there.

We left at about 2pm, got there just as it was getting really dark around 6pm (which was about the heaviest part of the snowstorm).

The town was practically shut down. It was amazing. Rick drove past our hotel and did a U-turn on the main strip at 6pm on a Friday night -- folks, you don't do a U-turn on the Branson strip on Friday night because the traffic is too heavy. But, really, practically no one was around. Most restaurants were closed. We ended up eating at the Rib Crib because it was pretty much the only choice other than Taco Bell (Wendy's and McDonald's were closed) or the food selections at Walmart.

We did stop by Walmart to get microwave popcorn and look at a snow shovel for the car, since we'd forgotten to bring one. This is the crowd at Walmart:

Pretty much had the place to ourselves -- there were hardly any employees in the place, let alone customers.

Anyway, Rib Crib is a great place to eat. We'll be back there. The waitress commented that they had wanted to close at 7pm so they could all try to get home, but people started coming in just then.

We stayed at Holiday Inn Express. I think there were maybe 3 or 4 families in the entire hotel -- I know 2 other families stayed there for the feis. Since the hotel was so deserted they gave us an upgrade to a king suite with a whirlpool in the room:

Much discussion ensued about how cool it would be to have a Jacuzzi in our house. (Yes, they're wearing swimsuits in the whirlpool.)

The next morning we headed over to the Convention Center for the feis. The feis was in a huge room:

But of course hardly anyone was there because Arkansas (or parts thereof) had declared a state of emergency.

The bad part of the large area with few people in it was that it was really COLD. The worst of it was next to the giant roller door behind the stages. AnnaBeth spent much of her time offstage bundled up:

(I just got the piece of fleece from Hancock's Friday night and haven't had time to figure out what I'm going to make out of it -- looks like it may turn into a blanket.)

Thalia spent her offstage time as the feis version of Fang from the Maximum Ride series. ( I was directed to take this photo so she could send it to a friend who is also a FanGirl.)

Okay, other than the weather and the weird behavior of our kids, how was the feis? Great. The competitions whipped along at an amazing pace, we loved having all the competitions right there together (no worry about missing a dance going on in another room because ALL the dances were right there together).

We felt bad for the kids whose 1st place medals and trophies didn't really "count" because they didn't have enough dancers show up -- it's apparently really, really tough to merge things on the fly when you discover that a bunch of competitors couldn't make it. They tried to do it with a couple of groups, and it apparently resulted in so much confusion about who was supposed to be on which stage when that, given that they were short volunteers to run the stages anyway, it was logistically difficult.

Our 2 dancers did come home with some medals, and even a trophy, both having managed to get a coveted 1st place score. That made a lot of the hardship of the trip seem a little more worthwhile.

One bad spot (other than how cold the place was during the morning, although it started warming up by noon) was that the concessions were really marginal. The people running the concessions were great -- very friendly and helpful. But the food? Well, we didn't die from it, and I'd like to think there were supply problems due to the weather.

This is a feis we will attend again. Frankly, we plan to attend all the McCafferty school feiseanna. Although 2 of them aren't in our region (and therefore don't count for Oireachtas qualification) they seem to be well-run feiseanna. The people in charge seem to be able to deal with the oddities that arise on feis-day with grace, such as when the musician didn't show up at the River Valley feis. I wish we could package some of that common sense and knowhow to take with us to some future feisanna, if you know what I mean ....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Some Things Going on Around Here

I thought that after the holidays we'd be able to settle down into a tranquil routine.

Instead, we've been busy with that creepy basement bathroom, which has now been gutted

and is gradually being transformed into a non-creepy, usable bathroom.

The kids have been ice skating several times this week. The helmet in this photo is thanks to one of the Girl Scout leaders, who insisted on helmets for all the kids (her kids play hockey).

I finished Simplicity 2603 and wore it to a dinner party Saturday night.

And again on Sunday. And Monday. I made the sleeves a little wider so it would go on over a long-sleeved top. And didn't hem it.

Patched up the rat furnishings.

"Do you think they understand that they're sawing off the branch they're standing on?"


Made an alternate set (in girly pinks) so we could wash the first set.

As for school, it's been mostly math and science. Still slogging through the Civil War. Latin has hit the skids. Maybe once the bathroom is done we'll have a return to tranquility and get some other subjects done.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Home Dec Sewing

The other evening I was in Hancock Fabrics to pick up some patterns on sale (McCall's 5 for $5, Vogue $3.99) and spied this piece of fleece in the Manager's Special Fleece Remnants Must Buy Full Piece bin:

which is, of course, right on trend for spring 2010 according to Pantone. And, oh looky, it coordinates with this cotton fabric that I had at home, which has even more of the Pantone spring 2010 palette in this lovely Cheerio-esque motif:

What an opportunity to do some re-decorating with our little fashion conscious, Cheerio-snarfing rats.

I used this tutorial to start on a cube. Well, actually I read the first couple of paragraphs, got to the point about how to sew the first seam, then just did what seemed appropriate for the rest.

I made 2 entrances, having observed that our rats are prone to chew their own second entrance in things. And I used fleece selvage for the hanging strips, figuring that the rats would chew them up anyway so why not go totally cheapo.

This got nearly instant approval by the new owners

so on to the next item -- a miniature dog bed, big enough for a rat to sleep in.

Rats like to pile up together to sleep, so I thought this might work out nicely -- fleecy, filled with stuffing, like having an extra rat around. My vision was to put it in a box and have a rat sleep in it

but the rats thought it would be even better if they both stuffed themselves in the box and on the bed. Note that the box is so stuffed full of fleece bed plus rats that it is not longer setting on the floor of the cage.

Next up, a hammock with tunnel, suspended with shower curtain rings (as are all of these items):

Actually, they don't care about this (don't give a rat's ass, one might say), but they appreciate having it to run under on their way from the shelf entrance to the cube.

And, finally, a hammock to act as a safety net if they fall off the top shelf:

This is what started the whole rat-decor frenzy -- trying to come up with something they could land on if they fell. In this case, a fleece/cotton hammock with an extra fleece layer they can hide under if they so desire. The extra layer is bordered with the cotton print, which was not made with bias strips (I figure they're going to eat the entire thing anyway, so why bother making bias strips).

Coming up soon, another set in different fabrics so these can be tossed in the wash during the weekly cage cleaning.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Go Date

January 16 at 9am was Go Date for Girl Scout cookie sales around here.

Amazingly, the weather wasn't horrible.

Originally both kids had a goal of selling 60 boxes. However, Annabeth's troop announced that they would like each girl to sell 110 boxes in order to meet their troop goal.

We organized our spreadsheets on Friday night (we enter data on customers every year -- how many boxes purchased, whether they supported our charity donations to the homeless shelter, whether they bought from both girls or just one). And off they went soon after 9am.

By afternoon they had sold about 140 boxes total ... door-to-door sales in local neighborhoods. At one point they stopped by our house to take a break and strategize about where to go next, during which Rick flipped the television on to Shark Tank. I commented that, weirdly enough, they were preparing themselves for situations like Shark Tank by what they were doing -- going to house after house of people they didn't really know well and presenting the product over and over. In many ways the whole Girl Scout cookie thing gags me, but I've got to admit that Thalia and Annabeth have learned a bunch about sales and how to present themselves to the public.

At the moment Thalia is well past her goal, and Annabeth has exceeded her 110 box goal but is continuing to call on our repeat customers so that they remember that we are the family from whom they should expect to buy every year. She's thinking about going to the next level -- 160 boxes. The incentive at that level is a lunch bag (what does she need a lunch bag for?). It helps bring her troop average up, which is handy for the girls who perhaps didn't have a chance to sell so many boxes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

Swatching for February Lady Sweater using Rowan Cotton Jeans in Hessian.

Back story: I was purchasing a pattern from Jimmy Bean's Wool in anticipation of Vest-uary II, and noticed this yarn on sale. How could I resist? I mean, I was already ordering something.

Cutting out "Wraparound" pinafore tunic from Ottobre Woman 5/2009 (style #7) in a fabric that Thalia commented looked like something from the Delia's catalogue we just got in the mail. Which would have been okay if she hadn't been flipping through the catalogue saying, "Ew, that dress looks like it's for an old lady," and various other comments of that ilk.

Back story: Actually I wanted my next sewing project to be this Simplicity pattern and fabric (I think it's micropoly knit, but I don't recall)

but when I went downstairs to retrieve the fabric it had disappeared. So I figured that if I worked my way through all the knits, eventually it would turn up. I got out this piece, traced the pattern, tried pinning it out, discovered that the fabric had started some sort of a self-shibori and REFUSED to lay flat. So I re-washed it, then pinned it out flat.

In the meantime I found the fabric, but at this point I almost have this pattern wrestled to the ground (note that I'm laying it out in single layers). So I'll finish cutting this, then start on the Simplicity pattern.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Weekend Stuff

1. Another pair of corduroy pants from Ottobre 6/2009 #17 "Neat Beat":

Once again I made the front yoke into a waistband and added side pockets.

2. Girl Scout Cookie Rally. I guess these are relatively new around this Council. Thalia was a volunteer, AnnaBeth was an attendee. They have now seen the incentives and decided the stuffed panda looks sort of weird. Overall, though, a fun event.

3. Babysitting for 3 year old on Saturday afternoon. Much playing with Brio train set that is on long term loan from Aunt Elaine. Also, the Littlest Petshop house that Aunt Elaine gave AnnaBeth for Christmas was a big hit. Aunt Elaine has a gift for picking out cool toys.

4. Archery. I grabbed the Kindle on the way out the door, figuring I'd read one of the free books I've downloaded. In this case it was All God's Creatures, which is pretty good (not great, but entertaining) and now costs $6.40 to download. I've decided to keep downloading free books, because it's really handy to just grab the Kindle and know there's something or other entertaining on it.

5. Church

6. Visit a friend's house to try on used ice skates while their 12 week old pekingese ate Thalia's boots. What a cute little puppy -- so hard to be mad at!

7. Choir, etc, during which I worked on transforming a ball of Kidsilk Haze I've had in my sweater drawer for years into something:

I wasn't sure if I wanted to make Wisp from Knitty or simply an Infinity scarf. So I thought I'd do a provisional cast on so I could make Wisp INTO an Infinity scarf. Except I forgot to take the Wisp pattern along, so I'm just making up something as I go along.

8. Cut out a pair of fleece pants that AnnaBeth can pull on over other things (like her dance shorts) when it's bitterly cold.
Although it's already 30F today at 7am, which is warmer than it's been for days and days, and we'll probably be ready to run naked in the streets if it gets much warmer.

Just a few seams and these will be done, though, and we'll be ready for the next cold spell.

Friday, January 8, 2010

General Whining About the Cold

1. Lately, when my hands get really cold my fingers hurt for a long time afterwards. I think there's a name for this (other than That Annoying Thing That's Happening to my Hands). I've started wearing Rick's big insulated gloves when I go out, except that I don't have any finger dexterity in those things.

2. I noticed it yesterday after shoveling the driveway. It lasted most of the rest of the day. And I never got around to helping the neighbors shovel their driveways, which is what I meant to do. But, sheesh, it was cold.

3. I was trying to use the snow blower and a) the wind kept blowing the snow right back in my face no matter which way I pointed it, and b) I couldn't move the electrical cord out of the way because of the heavy gloves that are actually too big meant that I couldn't pick up the cord.

4. Plus the cold seemed to have sapped any will to do anything constructive. I had 2 pairs of pants to sew yesterday, but I mostly sat around looking at knitting patterns online. Until evening, when sewing became an excuse to avoid washing dishes

5. Speaking of online knitting patterns, it really annoys me when someone mistakes a tube with a 360 degree twist in it for a moebius. They're 2 different things. I hope that knitters who claim they're making a moebius when actually they're just making a twisted tube aren't upset when someone compliments their sewing skills ... because mistaking sewing for knitting is about on par with mistaking a moebius for a twisted tube. (Actually, I'm less annoyed when someone calls my knitting "sewing", because I figure they haven't been around it much. But moebius strips are part of grade school math, for pete's sake.)

6. Some of the local schools are out again today because of the cold. This is also annoying because it means school age kids will be at the skating rink, particularly boys who have lots of pent up energy and are looking for someone to slam into (unlike that usual Friday daytime crowd that's mostly around 50-60 years old).

7. Both the cats and the rats are acting like they have serious cases of cabin fever. Which doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense because a) the rats stay indoors in a cage, and b) the cats run outside briefly in the morning and evening, then typically spend the other 99 percent of the day asleep. But all of them are running around for hours and hours like a pack of bored kindergartners looking for a way to let of steam or possibly drive us nuts.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Day

Scene at our house at 9:30am:

We were up early and out the door to walk over to the sledding hill!

Frankly, you have to get there early to have some fun before Those People show up. They drive over here from other areas, and apparently think that since it isn't their neighborhood it's okay to act like jerks. Sigh. What's really disturbing is the parents who drive their kids over, and then act even worse than the kids.

The temperatures seem to be dropping now, so we may have been out during the nicest part of the day anyway. Yay for us for getting up and out early!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

This week we are:


Which includes putting away the Christmas dishes.

The Christmas dishes are fun, but they are heavy and bulky; they never fit in the dishwasher or dish rack correctly. No wonder Pfaltzgraft stopped selling these.


Specifically, a DuneCraft "Plants that Work" kit that has stevia in it.

For the record, if you ever get one of these the directions don't tell you what to do with the little bag of gravel. It goes in the bottom of the pot underneath the soil.


Handbag by Thalia

with matching wallet. The little dots are made with a hole punch.

Pantone places turquoise high on the list of colors for Spring 2010. I wonder if there will be a run on this color of tape.

Monday, January 4, 2010


1. It is cold here.

2. The new kitchen passed through the holidays with flying colors. The holiday baking went well. We had a dinner with 4 cooks working in the kitchen -- no problem. We had 2 dozen people here for a potluck, and had plenty of room for all the food (plus enough outlets to plug in hot plates) and room for everyone to circulate.

3. With all the entertaining I didn't have time to sew, which was sad. Instead I spent my spare time reading, which was good. Plus reading doesn't generate such a mess when you're done.

4. We took down the outside Christmas lights yesterday. The cords were stiff from the cold; we dragged everything inside and let it warm up so we could wind up the cords for storage.

5. When people visit they tend to be fascinated by the rats. Except for people who grew up in situations with free-range rats and rodents; those people just think the entire situation is disgusting.