Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Catch-up post

A quick rundown of what's been going on over the past week....

We were supposed to get 5 new windows put in last Wednesday morning (Energystar windows for the tax credit, replacing some of the windows that had broken sash cords and other issues), but the installer called and asked if he could put them in on Tuesday. So they showed up at 7:30am Tuesday, then tore out and installed 5 windows by lunch time. Woosh! So now we have blind-in windows in the kitchen bay window, which is so very nice. Nighttime shot:

And then it POURED rain on Wednesday morning, so they couldn't have installed the windows then, anyway. So that worked out well.

Wednesday was spent ... what did we do Wednesday? I'm blank on that. Oh, wait! The kids went to see Harry Potter in the morning with some friends -- $5 per ticket at the Creve Coeur AMC 12 for movies before noon. What a deal.

Then Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, was spent at Vi and Chelsea's, which was wonderful. We haven't done that for the past couple of years due to Oireachtas. As a matter of fact, one of the relatives mentioned that he had a coworker up in Chicago for some Irish Dance thing -- aha, that's Oireachtas! It turned out that our relative had sold our dance teacher a new car last month. Small world.

Friday we had Mark and Linda over for supper and then Monopoly. This was the game that gave us the phrase "pants cash" (Thalia hid $500 of her Monopoly money in her pants pocket, so when Rick thought she was short of cash and was charging her for something she just whipped it out, revealing that she didn't need to mortgage property), a phrase that has been used quite a lot in our household. Thus this photo of the historic occasion of the Birth of Pants Cash:

Saturday was spent putting up the Christmas lights. Rick stopped by the store and discovered that they had crab legs on sale, and decided we should have them for supper.

Some of us were hesitant about this.

Sunday at church another mom mentioned in passing that the kids in next week's musical needed to be in costume during that afternoon's rehearsal -- I thought they didn't need their costumes until Wednesday, so oops. And Annabeth's skirt needed to be finished. She's a lead, so the director wanted her all in white. We found a white satin shirt at the Goodwill, but hadn't come up with a skirt. So I had gotten some cheap white satin at Hobby Lobby on Saturday, along with some glitter tulle that was on sale. And made a new rendition of this skirt from 3 years ago, Ottobre 3/2006 #35:

3/2006 #35

Angelic version:

The glitter tulle is sort of sticky in that the other ruffles stick to it and make the hem length look wonky. But it's a nice touch of sparkle, and doesn't look too weird while she's moving around.

Or maybe the hem really IS that crooked -- now that I look at the close-up pictures it looks worse. But considering how quickly I slapped this together, it'll do. We've already turned out attention away from this (even though it hasn't happened yet) to the NEXT big productions -- we found out yesterday that Thalia will be Peppermint Patty in You're a Good Man Charlie Brown and Annabeth will be Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins. I think the performances are in June. Much blathering about rehearsals in the weeks to come.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weekend Update

Our weekend started out with a Fall Showcase of musical theatre and drama classes on Friday night.

Annabeth's class performed numbers from Newsies. We were all struck by how LOUD Annabeth is. Not a huge surprise if you know our families, but somehow hearing her belt it out on stage takes me off guard.

Thalia's class performed numbers from White Christmas -- this picture is from Snow:

Overall a pretty good show. Afterwards I brought home Annabeth and 2 of her Girl Scout/theatre friends -- one of the girls needed to finish her sewing badge, so we arranged a sleepover after the performance. And the other girl ... well, she was in Scouts and in the performance and a good friend, so why not make it a party? In the meantime, Rick took Thalia and one of HER friends (older sister of one of the Scouts) to a swing dance that was going on during the performance and running until about 10pm or so.

The sleepover crowd was awake by the time we got everyone home from the swing dance and headed to bed ourselves -- about midnight. And when I got up to let the cats out the next morning at 6am they were already up. Wow. So, after they finished up the sewing badge, played around, and we got everyone back to the appropriate parents (although NOT managing to get jackets and toothbrushes to the appropriate homes -- oops), Annabeth wanted to go see Harry Potter with a friend at the afternoon show. We nixed it, being mean parents.

She sat down to read a book instead ...

And spent about 2 hours there in the chair.

The rest of the weekend was spent dealing with leaves, which is always our November crisis. And practicing for auditions on Monday night -- Thalia's age group is putting on You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Annabeth's is doing some sort of rendition of Mary Poppins (oddly, the musical theatre group Annabeth was in last spring also did a version of Mary Poppins). Thalia sang One Life to Live from Lady in the Dark -- her vocal teacher had recommended it as being appropriate for a Charlie Brown audition since the words and music sort of "fit" the characters of Charlie Brown (also, we've noticed the vocal teacher has a thing for Gershwin). She performed the same monologue she had done during the musical theatre summer camp this past summer. And Annabeth sang Wendy from Peter Pan, which I thought sounded alot like It's a Jolly Holiday with Mary from Mary Poppins.

Auditions were last night (Monday night). We spent the day at various classes, did the auditions, and then scrambled to get ready for the contractor to show up in about 20 minutes to install new windows this morning -- it was supposed to be Wednesday, but he had an cancellation, so we bumped it up a day. Speaking of which, I should probably be getting organized for that, seeing as they're going to take over the kitchen in just a few minutes ....

Thursday, November 18, 2010


This week in knitting class we talked about:

Kitchener stitch. I just showed them the example so they'd know it exists, and discussed applications. I never can remember how to do it without looking at directions, so I'm certainly not going to ask anyone else to memorize it. Please rest assured that I don't typically use violently contrasting yarn in these applications, but thought it made it easier to see what's going on.

Matress stitch. This one IS worth knowing off the top of your head, since it comes up so much, plus it's so easy once you see it. I went over it with a few students one-on-one -- people who were going to be using it in their projects.

And three needle bindoff, which is another easy-peasy way to join 2 pieces, although these would be 2 pieces butting up against each other. Again, I discussed some applications, drifting into my sewing mode to talk about the importance of having structure at a shoulder seam (I refrained from mentioning that I thought knitwear designers who avoid shoulder seams for the sake of avoiding seaming, choosing instead something like grafting, are obviously clueless about garment construction ... but I thought it strongly).

I'm not sure -- is this enough about joining? I hit some of the major highlights. I don't want to overburden them, but want them to be aware of the possibilities, so they don't have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, when making their own design decisions.

Frankly, the main projects right now are scarves and fingerless mitts, neither of which need seaming. Two sisters whipped up a couple of eyelash yarn scarves for a craft fair last week, and were excited to report they actually sold one! Whoot!

As for me, my current projects are also scarves. I've finished the One Row Lace Scarf out of the 2 skeins of Seduce I bought last summer whilst going nuts crocheting all of the Choreography Team collars:

Using size 8 needles, it ended up 5 and a half feet long, which is a great size for me.

And now I've started the Missoni knock-off scarf, using the exact same yarn Selfish Seamstress used (which I supposed makes it a SelfishSeamstress knock-off scarf, yes?). Although I'm using smaller needles due to my eternally looser gauge, which I assume is looser than hers. Not that I would've swatched even if she HAD provided a gauge.

Eventually I'll get around to posting about homeschool again. Really. It does go on here now and then. It's just so ... daily. It doesn't have nice, neat starts and finishes like knitting projects or feisseanna. Or Girl Scout badges (which are, frankly, the most popular posts I write). Until then, you might want to check out the amazing new discovery I've made: you can read much of the Jedi Apprentice series (apparently out-of-print) free online. I'll let you have the pleasure of figuring out where to find it, since I know you'll feel as clever as I did when it works.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

River Valley Feis

How can I begin to tell you about this feis? There was the feis itself (a typical McCafferty feis, which is to say it was well-run and fun, although the music could've been better). And there was our experience of the feis.

Our experience started on Tuesday, when Annabeth tried on her school dress (in which she competes) and discovered it was waaaay too small. Small beyond our ability to alter. Which had to happen eventually, since she's been wearing this same dress for nearly 3 years.

So, her teacher said to stop by the studio on Wednesday night to see if there were any viable dresses. Which we did. And most of the ones her size were ... lacking. We finally settled on one that was too big. And I spent Thursday altering it. It's still too big, but she probably won't wear it again for a couple of months, during which time she'll probably grow. Anyway, it took all day Thursday to shorten it (and also take it in a smidge -- it still needs to be taken in lots more). And we planned to leave for the feis on Friday morning -- the plan was for me to drive the kids to Ft. Smith and meet Rick there, since he was already at the feis hotel on business.

Late Thursday night we did the only sensible thing -- stopped getting ready for the feis or doing anything constructive whatsoever, and concentrated on making an acrostic of a friend's name. I think the inspiration was someone realizing that N could stand for Norwegian Christmas Elf and H could stand for Hefty, which was so charming that the kids felt they had to continue. Annabeth insisted that the W should stand for Wafty; I insisted that wasn't a word. I googled it to prove my point. And, guess what -- it IS a word. And instantly became our favorite word, and the theme for the feis and the weekend in general.

All of which is backstory to tell you why the word "wafty" will be appearing several times in this blog entry.

We arrived Friday afternoon (directions from St. Louis to Ft. Smith -- drive west on Interstate 44, and hang a left at Joplin, Missouri). Rick was already checked into the Holiday Inn City Center, which is a very nice Holiday Inn in downtown Ft. Smith, and attached to the Convention Center in which the feis took place. It has pull out beds that actually work, for example. And a giant waterfall in the lobby.

With plenty of room at the bottom to play Monopoly.

The hotel once again offered a free breakfast for feis-goers, which included custom omelettes. Digression: Last year the breakfast was pandemonium because the kitchen and dining room was understaffed and unprepared for the number of people who showed up. This year while Rick as staying at the hotel he mentioned that the same event was coming up on Saturday. The kitchen/dining room staff said they had no notice from management that it was going on -- none at all. But they called in extra help based on Rick's comment. The breakfast flowed much more smoothly because of it -- and the employees commented to Rick that management never did give them an inkling that it was going to be anything but a normal sleepy morning. Wow.

Anyway, after breakfast we headed over to the Convention Center, which looks like this:

Very spacious. We missed most of the 3hands and group dances this year. Last year there were some very cool ones -- family teams, mixed adult ceilis. No clue if that went on this year.

The feis had a single musician, who had problems making his connecting flights from Ohio to Ft. Smith via Dallas, and thus missed the form dances. The Powers That Be used recordings for the ceilis (which works out okay). The musician showed up sometime during the reels.

In the meantime, we shopped for gaudy earrings to match Thalia's dress. Amazing that you can hit every store in a St. Louis mall and not find a single pair of red earrings, but come to a feis and you have multiple choices.

Also, general goofing around, and acting wafty. I think she was trying to look like a traffic cone. Or maybe a feis-style interpretation of The Mad Hatter.

One of the judges had a wafty pink shirt. I was sorely tempted to sneak up behind him so I could point it out to Annabeth, who was up on stage in front of him. But I didn't, simply taking weird pictures instead (and believe me, you're just getting a teensy peek at the weird pictures taken this feis).

Of course, it wasn't all about waftiness and gaudy jewelry -- the day had a strong KNITTING theme. I was working on a scarf, and wearing a silk Moebius I'd made a few years ago. It turned out many knitters were in attendance, some knitting, some just wearing some of their pieces. I LOVED this sweater -- she got the pattern in Ireland a few years ago:

Around 2pm one of the PTB got up to announce that the feis was running AHEAD OF SCHEDULE, and would be commencing the PC/OC championship dances earlier than the expected 3pm. Can you imagine? Folks, if a feis runs ON TIME you consider it miraculous and are mightily impressed that they made it through the grades and treble reels by 3:30-ish. Running ahead of schedule is unheard of. We were easily home in St. Louis by 9:30pm.

As for actual results (you know, the reason you supposedly show up at these things -- not to be silly or play Monopoly or eat omlettes or discuss knitting, but to compete in dances), our dancers didn't rise above 3rd place. But we still had a great time, and plan to go back. We hope to hit all the McCaffery feisseanna this year -- they tend to have a nice atmosphere. My only quibble is that I wish they had more than one musician, because if something happens to that single musician you're stuck.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Weekend So Far

Thalia went to a formal dance -- her first one. We found a dress at Macy's, but the color needed some punch, so I made a wrap using Vogue 7161 and some cranberry satin that was on sale at JoAnn's. The cutting clerk and I were discussing that it would be a nice wrap for the Christmas season. The c.c. commented that she (Thalia, who was also there) could wear it with a little black dress. I said she didn't HAVE a little black dress.

C.C.: Oh, everyone needs a little black dress.
Me: She doesn't -- she's only 15.
C.C.: Well, she looks older. She should have one.
Me: That's the problem. We'd like her to look her age.

Anyway, I though the stole looked rather like a planaria when it was done.

By sheer luck, it ended up being an okay length -- it didn't occur to me that it could've ended up to be longer than the dress. Also, Thalia took a camera and got nary a single full-length photo of ANYONE (she had gotten ready at a friend's house, so we saw her leave in tshirt and jeans, and didn't see her again until midnight), but someone took this photo which I swiped off of Facebook:

Actually, it was the same mom who also attended the swing dance the next night, and got a photo of a bunch of them right before they left the dance (but before Thalia put her shoes on, obviously):

So, 2 nights of dancing, plus a birthday party for Thalia. In the meantime, Rick took Annabeth Rat Shopping, and they ended up adopting another rat, so we are back to being a 2 rat family. Which is really good, since solo rats tend to be depressed. They also spent hours and hours playing Monopoly.

Tonight: Start putting the Nut Orders in the online system. They aren't due until tomorrow, but I have NO spare time tomorrow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Junior Girl Scout Sewing Badge, Part 2 -- Finished!

Another whilrwind meeting, and we're done with this badge.

Each bag needed 4 yards of cord (2 pieces at 2 yards each). I ended up crocheting these since I couldn't find a decent price on cord I liked. I told people they could change that out when they got home, if desired. Annabeth has decided to crochet pink cords for her bag.

You wouldn't believe how long it took me to figure out how to make 20 cords the same length. Eventually I realized that I should cut a piece of bias tape the length I needed (2 yards), and use that to measure them. Sooooo much easier than toting around rulers and yardsticks, and trying to lay stuff out on the floor.

As I finished them I knotted them in pairs.

And today the Senior scout troop brought their sewing machines to help the Juniors learn to sew. First they practiced basic stitches (regular seaming, basting, zigzag) on some scrap twill I had brought. This fulfilled task #2 A Stitch in Time; plus it gave the older girls a chance to see how much help the younger girls were likely to need. I had suggested to the older girls ahead of time that they might consider drawing the seam lines on the fabric with a marker if it looked like the Junior they were working with was going to struggle with using the fabric guide on the machine.

One girl made an extra little bag for her dog with the practice piece:

Then they sewed up the bags. We pounded in grommets (well, I did), and the girls strung the cord through the bags.

I wish you could see the big grin on her face! They were so proud.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween 2010 -- Riverdance!

Last year, after their amazing success as The Bacteria Bunch, the kids immediately started plotting their next costumes. At the time we were living and breathing Irish Dance in preparation for Oireachtas 2009. So it seemed natural to say, "hey, how about being Irish Dancers?"

Of course, Oireachtas came and went, the kids (at least Thalia and Annabeth) discovered that performing musical theatre and Shakespeare was at least as fun, if not more so, than Irish Dance, and generally decided that they never cared to compete at a major Irish Dance competition again in their lives. And started kicking around different ideas for Halloween costumes, many of them based on Monty Python routines.

But when it came down to the wire, the only thing everyone could agree on was that Irish Dance would work. So I bought several yards of dark green gabardine (I'm pretty sure it's the exact same stuff that our school uses for these skirts), downloaded a copy of A Reel Around the Sun from iTunes, and found some cheap iPod speakers at Walmart.

Thalia choreographed the routine, basing it on the Clarkson school version of Riverdance along with some 3-hand ideas. They did it as a soft shoe -- well, actually a sneaker-shoe -- due to considerations such as "don't ruin the uber-expensive hardshoes by schlepping around the neighborhood all night in them", along with the fact that sometimes they were dancing in lawns and/or gravel (the original dance in Riverdance is a hardshoe, but the cool factor of hardshoe is lost if you can't hear the beats the shoes make on the dance surface).

And so, the afternoon of Halloween, they got together to put on feis makeup (but not the M.A.C. foundation, which looks like Oompa Loompa Orange, frankly):

Rehearsed a bit on the front porch:

And did the requisite picture posing:

Then off to start our rounds. Our premiere performance:

Then about 35-50 more houses (sometime we should actually count this out). Things we learned: 1. People remember us from year to year (although the kids weren't actually H1N1 last year, it was close enough, particularly since the lady who said it was waving around a camera and saying, "hold on, I have to film you!"); 2. There are an awful lot of Irish people in our neighborhood, some of whom have seen the kids perform in other venues, it turns out; 3. A lot of people can't clap in time to music (but we already knew that from other shows); 4. Most importantly, you can trick-or-treat waaay past acceptable age limits if you're willing to put a little work into your presentation -- this has sort of become HalloweenCon to us, with our own spin on cosplay.

And, by the time we got home a couple of hours later, the kids felt like they had the choreography down pretty well, having danced it in a wide variety of situations. They wanted another quick video, so here it is:

(Actually, we were all so sick of these 2 bars of A Reel Around the Sun by this time that I didn't think I'd be able to load these videos on YouTube without having my ears bleed; but then I realized that I could load them without actually watching them THANK GOD!)

And another lesson for you all -- if you put some effort into your trick-or-treat, you will be richly rewarded: