Monday, January 31, 2011

Ozark Mountain Feis 2011

The Trip There

This part is for Aunt Elaine. Check out what we discovered when we stopped at the rest stop!

The art work below is supposed to be grade school renditions of Matisse. I'm not sure what this had to do with anything, other than adding to the general surrealism of the experience.

Okay, onward. We stayed at the same Holiday Inn Express as last year, but this year there were actually other people staying there because it wasn't snowy. As a matter of fact, the weather was gorgeous. It was sunny and in the 70s on Saturday, in spite of which the hall where the feis was held was still cold. But not as cold as last year.

The Feis

Much better attendance than last year (which featured a blizzard), but still not very crowded.

The kids had enough dancers in each of their competitions for them to "count" (you need at least 5 dancers in a competition for it to count towards advancement). As a matter of fact, Annabeth often had more dancers in her competition than listed in the schedule, which was sort of odd.

The big stage is divided into 3 sections for the grades, then lots and lots of chairs (wow, you usually don't have so many extra chairs at a feis -- it was amazing), then tables in the back. Plenty of room to move around. And the musician showed up -- woot! Overall, a well run feis, with only a couple of minor quibbles (quibble #1: all of Thalia's competitions had the same judge, so if the judge happened to prefer a different style of dance you were out of luck -- would've been nice to rotate the judges; quibble #2 -- the results were posted in a hodge podge on the wall -- couldn't they have color coded them? or posted them in numeric order?). We didn't purchase food this year, taking along our own, so I don't know if it improved since last year.

As for our personal results, Thalia got a 5th. She also got sicker and sicker as the day went along. By the time we left I thought she was maybe crying, but she said her eyes were watering and her nose was running not due to distress over the feis, since she'd long ceased to care about that, but because she needed to be home in bed. On the other hand, Annabeth danced her hornpipe in a lackluster fashion (Rick commented, "Wow, that was awful," when he saw it) and got a first in it.

They broke for lunch around 1pm, after hornpipe, before Traditional Sets. That allowed the people who don't do Trad Sets to pack up and leave without having to wait around. We stayed for Trad Sets, then packed up and left during non-champion Treble Reels. It was around 2:45pm.

The Trip Home

We stopped at an exit between Springfield and Rolla -- I think it was exit 161 -- to get something to eat and some gas. After we got back on highway 44 I commented to the kids that fiction writers often keep a notebook in which they jot down interesting things so they can use the ideas in stories ... and that exit was FULL of weirdness. The girl in Panera's with the nose stud, multi-colored hair, and fugly high heeled boots who zoomed into the restroom, dug through the (unused) disposable diapers in her purse to pull out a toothbrush, and announced to us that she was "kind of obsessed with tooth brushing." Rick's comment after exiting the men's room that he couldn't imagine how someone would manage to get poop on THAT part of a toilet. The semi driver what was standing outside of the cab of his truck at the gas station with his cat perched on his shoulder (and then got back into the truck cab by the time I got my camera out).

And Annabeth got a cookie to celebrate first place:

I'm not sure how she got the solid black background -- she was taking pictures in the backseat while we were driving home.

Anyway, a thumbs up for this feis again. More people should attend!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Recent Crafty Stuff

I finally finished my rendition of Selfish Seamstress's Envy Scarf. I used the exact same yarn she did (less need to think about the decision that way) -- Lang Jawoll color 99. Size 6 needles. Mine ended up about 8 feet long.

(If I were one of those arty bloggers I would've draped it over a tree branch in the snow, but I"m one of those lazy bloggers.)

I finally bound off when I had this much yarn left:

The decision being prompted more by the thought, "Okay, enough already -- I'm sick of this," than any design aesthetic. The other day someone emailed me to ask what cast on I use on hats, and I replied that I typically base most of those decisions on whim and chance. I'm a very moody crafter.

On the sewing front I made 3 more pairs of cords for Annabeth using our ever-popular rendition of Ottobre 6/2009 #17 "Neat Beat" pants, which we've made in all sorts of stretch and non-stretch fabrics, added pockets to, and changed the waistband of, and generally made about 10 pairs of so far. This time I added about an inch or so in length (she's in that pre-teen growth spurt) and about a quarter inch to the width of the legs (that was simply eyeballed as I was cutting them out).

After that I turned to a Sandra Betzina pattern I've been dying to make forever, except I discovered that it took me an entire day to shorten a piece by a centimeter, which was my clue that maybe I wasn't all that excited about it after all. So I pulled out another pants pattern for me, for which I had the fabric washed and ready ... still couldn't get the project off the ground.

Then I decided to go for more of an Instant Gratification project, Butterick 5247, which is touted as a 1 hour pattern (although whoever decided it only took an hour obviously didn't have a bored cat who comes running into the room as soon as she hears the sound of a pattern being opened). I used ponte roma from JoAnn Fabrics, and made view C which is supposed to be a tunic but fits me more like a dress:

It looks absolutely huge on me, but I think it'll be wearable with a belt and leggings. And it cleared the sewing cobwebs from my mind. Onward....

Monday, January 24, 2011

Homeschool Report


Thalia continues with Apologia Biology. Yawn.

Annabeth continues to do various projects from the Girl Scout Junior Badge book. Last week she worked on Science in Everyday Life activity #9 Here Today, Still Here Tomorrow in which she took a look at the history of the telephone, and thought about what a telephone might be like in about 25 years.

She also worked some more on the Water Wonders badge, doing acitivity #2 The Water You Drink, which focusses on where our drinking water comes from. Rick was able to give a rundown of water treatment (oh, the advantages of having a Chemical Engineer around!). And then we somehow got sidetracked with this video of desalination. Which had prompted an earlier discussion with Mr. ChemE about the strength of the bond between salt and water.


RIghtStart Geometry week for Annabeth. She hasn't been photocopying the worksheets before using them since we figure this is our last time to use them. Unfortunately, that means when she has to start over because she misunderstood the directions she either needs to erase or come up with another way to have a "new" copy.

Thalia has forged ahead in Jacob's Geometry, and is about a week ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, this means she does a boatload of assignments and then thrusts a pile at me all at once with the comment: "I need these graded so I can see if I'm ready to take the test." And, really, grading this stuff is tedious.


Thalia is supposed to be picking out a topic for a 10 page research paper. She's also been working on Analytical Grammar -- Shakespeare's Plays.

A friend invited her to Metro Theater's production of The Giver on Saturday night, so she read and we discussed the book before she went. It seemed like every library copy of the book in the entire metro area was checked out, so we ended up buying it on Kindle, and she read it on her iPod (honestly, it didn't even cross my mind to go to a bookstore to see if there were any copies there). Anyway, she said the performance was well done. They went to the cast party afterwards because the friend's mom knows the guy who was celebrating his 5000th performance.

And Annabeth worked on Junior Analytical Grammar.


The Drawing and Painting badge has an activity called In Shape that sounds like it's straight out of an Ed Emberley book. So I picked one up at the library, Annabeth glanced through it, and decided to draw the Enterprise.

She also spent quite a bit of time playing with Sumopaint, both with photographs and without. I'm pretty sure this counts towards a couple of other badges like Photography and Graphic Design -- I need to look up the requirements for those badges.

And Thalia attended her art class. Then was sitting in church with her friends, drawing on the bulletin during the service, when a retired high school art teacher happened to sit down next to her. Afterwards the woman GUSHED about Thalia's ability, and wanted to know where she went to school. It was weird. I was very impressed with the woman's metallic gold fingernail polish, though, and think I might've been missing the boat on that sort of thing.


Thalia baked cookies and asked if that could count as home ec. Really, no. She's also spent hours each week working out, which WILL count towards a PE credit. She lifts weights, rides a stationary bike, does Pilates, works on flexibility and dance technique.

Annabeth worked on another badge that counts towards geography -- Global Awareness. Activity #5 In the News had her looking at international news, #4 International Friendship gave us a reason to look up what sister cities St. Louis has around the world (there are 15) and how the sister cities program works, and #3 Show Your Colors prompted us to sutdy the flag of France. We also worked more on Money Sense by discussing activity #9 Money Doesn't Always Matter.

And dance class. And musical theater class. And drama class for Thalia. And voice lessons. We skipped piano lessons this week due to snow (somewhere around 6-8 inches -- all the schools were closed, many of them for 2 days due to the cold weather that followed the snow).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Homeschool Update -- what we're doing


Thalia is to Chapter 8 of Jacob's Geometry. We've reached the point of needing to sit down and discuss the answers to many of the assignments rather than simply checking off right or wrong answers. That's the nature of the subject, as far as I'm concerned -- various answers to the questions have varying degrees of rightness, and we need to discuss which answers are good, better and best. Which takes forever, but is a better learning experience, but is annoying, but is great that we have the opportunity to do this in a one-on-one environment, but... but... but....

Annabeth decided to use Life of Fred Fractions this week. She says that while working on RightStart Geometry she forgets all about what the Fraction book teaches, and while working on LoF she forgets what the Geometry book teaches. I think it might have more to do with the long, dramatic break in using LoF. We shall see how this works this spring -- Thalia said one of the problems she had with RightStart Geometry was that she had forgotten how to do fractions, decimals, and percents by the time she got to the end of it, and constant review would've helped.


Thalia had no Composition class this week due to snow. Theoretically we should've listened to The Iliad, but we didn't. She worked on Analytical Grammar High School Reinforcement, choosing to work on the Shakespeare volume.

Annabeth had her usual Creative Writing class. Since she claims that it is practically useless, I had her work on the Junior Girl Scout badge Write All About It. She did task #2, composing 3 story starters, then set a time for 15 minutes and did a free write on one of the starters. She also worked on Junior Analytical Grammar. We started this after Christmas, so she's only up to articles and adjectives.


Thalia's Biology class was cancelled, but they're forging ahead with the work. Over Christmas she grew radish seeds for an experiment. Apparently all they needed to do was see how many were yellow -- one batch was grown with natural light, the other was grown in darkness. It struck all of us as a sort of lame experiment -- so many cool things they could've discussed but didn't. What happened when the ones started in darkness were exposed to light? How quickly did that happen? Why do the seedlings tend to bend towards the light? Why does Mom keep using terms like "etiolated" and "auxin" when looking at these? (although I skipped the discussion of red and far red, because frankly I never liked that unit when I studied it way back when)

Annabeth also considers her science class a bit lame due to lack of homework (Annabeth, age 11, considers a lot of stuff lame). So we're supplementing with Junior Girl Scout badge work. We decided that Thalia's radish seed experiment counted towards the Science in Everyday Life badge as task #4, Forces of Nature (soak some bean seeds overnight and place them in a film canister, leave for a week and look at them).

We also worked on Making it Matter, making polymers out of Borax and glue plus various other additives. Borax, glue, plus table sugar is really runny, and remains soft and slightly slimy for hours:

while Borax, glue and baking soda sets up almost instantly:

We took a look at ball bearings using this idea, which is pretty much exactly what task #4 Moving Parts is trying to describe doing (a picture is worth a thousand words -- it would've been a heck of a lot easier to figure out what they were trying to accomplish if they'd included a drawing like that in the badge book). Except I simply stuck a chopstick to the top of the plastic lid using a piece of duct tape. We messed around a bit with various sizes of marbles to see what would happen. Annabeth found this fascinating.


Thalia is taking an art class at a co op.

Annabeth is working on various art badges in the Junior Girl Scout badge book. We've been using warm up exercises from Donna Young (the pdfs at the bottom). These remind me of Waldorf form drawings in a way. Then we work on whatever else strikes our fancy. So far we've worked on the Drawing and Painting badge item #7 How You Look at It by making a perspective drawing as explained in Mark Kistler'sDraw Squad. We've also worked on #4 of the same badge, What's Your Line, by making a rendition of this project from the amazing blog Art Projects for Kids.

Activity #4 requires 2 lines drawings, and I think it would be cool to make the second one something using black paper and white ink or pencil, but we'll see.


Thalia continues to read SWB's History of the Ancient World and continues to compare various civilizations to species on Star Trek. And we continue to read Story of the World 4 as a family, having completed the section on Martin Luther King, Jr. just in time for Monday.

Then, of course, we did dance, piano, musical theatre, drama class, voice lessons, had a snow day full of sledding, went ice skating, etc. And probably some other stuff I'm forgetting. Not bad for snowy, cold week.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Random Bits

Rick was gone over the weekend. Those of us at home worked on taking Christmas decorations down, but were distracted by a Star Trek movie marathon on Syfy. Thalia and Annabeth have now see Wrath of Khan, thank goodness -- I'd hate to think they went through life not understanding what people mean when they shout KHHAAAAANNN.

Also, Thalia made cookies with the leftover Christmas M&Ms (much batter was consumed during the Star Trek movies). She decided she didn't like the way the finished cookies tasted, though (too sweet), and spent Monday getting rid of them, giving them to various people. We also broke out the Easy Bake Oven and Annabeth made cakes from scratch. They were blue, and used various Cake Pop decorations.

Tuesday was a snow day (Thalia's babysitting job and learning center classes were cancelled, as were local schools). Thalia was the first person down The Neighborhood Hill in a sled -- very cool to see the powdery snow flying up around her as she went down. I spent the day shoveling our driveway, the 90 year old neighbors' driveway (although the wife caught me at it and insisted I not do the entire pad in the back since she thought I'd hurt my back) and the driveway of woman on the corner who has a bad back. Wow, I was so tired I could barely think after all of that. So I took a hot shower, took some Repair enzymes, and went to bed. And this morning have not even a twinge of sore muscles, so that's pretty cool.

Now, though, I must make up for my refusal to do anything mentally taxing last night -- time to grade all of the geometry homework Thalia cranked out on her day off. And clean up the Ooblek-type polymers Annbeth left on foil on the counter after working on a science badge for Girl Scouts.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cake Pops!

Aunt Elaine gave Annabeth Bakerella's book on Cake Pops for Christmas, after which Annabeth kept asking when oh when could we buy some cake mix and frosting and MAKE them.

So, when Michael's had coupons for New Year's day (50% off one item, 25% off your entire purchase) we were THERE purchasing candy melts, lollipop sticks, styrofoam blocks and sprinkles (also Sculpey, which was on sale, and n American Girl scrapbook we nabbed at 75% off -- wow, do we have some serious crafting to do in 2011).

And finally, FINALLY, we got around to making the cake, letting it cool, then mixing it with the frosting.

If you decide to make some of these I'd strongly recommend freezing at least half of the cake for later. It was really tedious to make the entire cake into shapes.

The more oblong ones are shaped like snowmen. True confession: half of these are still in the refrigerator uncoated.

The rest were dipped in melted candy melts

and sometimes sprinkled with sugar.

Then we switched colors:

Used both colors of melts on some

Tried out the sugar pearls on some. By the way, when you eat these the pearls pop off and go bouncing across the floor.

Got out the edible markers we bought at Michael's.

(The pink one is the first one Annabeth made -- she wanted it to be special.)

Hey, look -- it looks like a gathering of Andorians with skin problems, including a bunch of Aenar!

You know what?

After all of this we've decided that Cake Pops are an acquired taste. They look cool, it's an amazing project, but, wow, what a lot of sugar in a tiny little area. The fact that none of us really like candy melts takes away from the Cake Pops experience. In future batches we might try thinning the candy melts down so there's a smaller candy melt to cake ratio. Or have a well-defined plan for foisting the finished product off on other people.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Holiday Summary

Piano recital. I filmed the pieces the girls played, but Thalia's Chopin was 8 minutes long (played from memory) and I just haven't been able to face loading them all on YouTube.

Relatives visiting. Relatives staying at our house. Visiting relatives.

Chipping ice off the drives way so relatives don't slip and hurt themselves. Thalia, probably the most coordinated and able-to-balance of us all, slipped on the ice and injured her hand (a few hours before the recital), so it was really a mess out there.

Speed knitting due to sudden urge to make a scarf for someone's present.

Many gift baskets made and covered in shrinkwrap.

No Christmas cards sent, in spite of the fact that we had the coolest picture possible to use for the front. To make up for the fact that we didn't sent any out, I didn't bother reading most of the ones people sent us. So we're all even, right?

Santa picture:

Other people comment that they can't get their older kids to pose with Santa. It's an expectation at our house. And it's really cool to see the progression of pictures through the years. We have a photo album of all of Rick-and-siblings' Santa pictures from when they were growing up, so that helps show what we're aiming for here.

Having said all of that, this Santa was a little creepy looking. If you don't get the angle right in the photo it looks as though he has vampire fangs.

Sick rat -- URI (upper respiratory infection). We took her to the vet to get antibiotics. She seemed to be doing much better, but then we had to go out of town for a couple of days after Christmas to see relatives, and she never really recovered from missing the medicine doses/not having us here to care for her. She barely made it to 2011, and died during the night of Jan 1, curled up in her sleeping cube.

Watching Star Wars movies on Christmas Day. Watching Star Trek movies on New Year's Eve.

A visit from Santa. The traditional treasure hunt for the "big gifts". Much to my surprise, I also had a big gift at the end of the hunt -- an iPad.

Cookies made and left out for Santa. Missing from the picture are the redshirt being assimilated as a Borg:

Thalia and Annabeth saw Tron in 3D, and Tangled.

A friend from high school whom I haven't seen since graduation got in touch. Unexpected excitement there.

The remote on our stereo receiver went out -- the bulb is broken. Time spent trying to figure out which new one to get, since the old one was purchased in about 1985 and there are newer models available now. And if you're only going to purchase one of these once every 25 years you want to get the correct one.

Much time spent laughing. Also, crying. But more laughing, I think.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.