Saturday, February 26, 2011

Random Acts of Science

Last weekend every time we drove by the Science Center AnnaBeth asked if we could visit it (note to those who don't live here: the Science Center spans a major highway in town, so it's really hard to miss if you're anywhere near it).

Then, of course, this week was the blast off of the last mission for space shuttle Discovery , which we watched. And then sent a birthday card to Scott Kelly on the shuttle Friday. Then I asked, Do you want to go ice skating?" to which Annabeth replied, "I want to go to the planetarium."

Thalia decided to join our adventure, and thus the 3 of us found ourselves arriving at the planetarium in time to see the afternoon show on planets in our solar system, which was better than any of us remembered, possibly because this time we realized that the BEST answer when the lecturer asked , "What do you suppose these bodies are around Jupiter?" was to exclaim "Death stars?!" And,upon viewing the list of Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callista, Thalia announced, "that's what I'm going to name my children." Also, we decided the list of dwarf planets -- Pluto, Eris, Ceres -- needed the addition of a friend's last name (you know who we mean, right? Yes, HIM.)

After the lecture ended the kids practiced replacing the lithium oxide canisters to purify the air:

Annabeth pretended to wash her hands; the replica of the toilet next to it was pretty much impossible to pretend to use.

Thalia flew a simulation over the continent. Or something like that. Really, I'm not sure what the point of that particular display was.

Then we scurried over to the main science center to shop at the gift shop.

On the way back we discovered that someone had actually managed to put up the Arch (always worth a snap shot -- it fell over before they had a chance to take a picture themselves).

And stopped on those clear things that allow you to look down on the Interstate directly below your feet:

And isn't this the perfect outfit for visiting the science center -- Catbus hat, Oireachtas hoodie, Stormtrooper messenger bag, and, of course, Uggs

Mostly we stopped on all of the viewholes because they really disturb Thalia's BFF, and we wanted to take lots of disturbing pictures. Wish a car would've zoomed by when I clicked this:

Then home to eat our dehydrated ice cream we had purchased from the gift shop, which fulfills a Junior Girl Scout badge requirement (#8 Space Flight Spinoffs).

And, of course, we also completed #4 Think Sky High (visit an airport, an airplane cockpit, a control tower, a space center, an aerospace museum, or a planetarium) and #6 Shoot for the Stars (watch a space launch) in the midst of this, not to mention badge Sky Search #2 Constellations (learn to identify at least 5 constellations), #10 Mission: Space (learn about a current mission in space), and made a good start on #4 Planets (learn which planets are visible to the naked eye and locate at least one during a stargazing adventure -- we'll have to wait for some clear weather for that).

Plus, AnnaBeth has decided her new career path -- astrophysicist. Although I think she's simply attracted to the FIZZ of the word, and not the meaning.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Feis Doubleheader -- St. Louis Irish Arts and Winterfeis

Sorry for the delay in posting, but I was sick earlier in the week. On the bright side, the worst of it was on Tuesday, which is the day SyFy network runs a lot of Star Trek reruns, so that worked out well for languishing on the couch.

February always brings the St. Louis Irish Arts Feis to the Ballpark Hilton. And sometime in the past year or so it occurred to someone at Graham that the SLIA Feis was on President's Day weekend, President's Day is a day off for a lot of people, and wouldn't it be clever to run a feis on Sunday at the same hotel so that people could compete in 2 feiseanna for their travel time/dollar. Thus was born the St. Louis Winterfeis. (Full disclosure: Graham then merged with Clarkson, so to a certain extent this became our school's feis, but it was mostly the former Graham people running it, so I'm calling it a Graham feis.)

Things that were the same about both feiseanna:

Same hotel with same setup as to location of concessions and vendors.

Same stages, with our kids in Novice and Open assigned to the same stages both days.

Many of the same judges and musicians.

Cool feis tshirt available both days:

SLIA feis started at 8:30am on Saturday. SLIA has a history of interesting feiseanna (ahem), so we were interested to see how this would work out for us given that 3 days after I submitted our payment for competition we found out that Annabeth had a Mary Poppins rehearsal from 12:30 to 3pm that same day. It was entirely possible that she could make it through all of her soft shoe competition before leaving for the rehearsal, but, this being SLIA, we figured it would be improbable. And, indeed, she danced reel, lined up to dance slip jig (after several other slip jigs had danced), waited around, then was told she was dismissed for lunch at about 11:20, meaning that by the time the lunch break was over and they got reorganized for her competition she'd have to leave for rehearsal. So very annoying. So very typical of this feis.

The main problem was that we were on the stage with ALL of the First Feis and Beginner 1 competitions. Of course, this had some entertainment value (the little kids in First Feis are amazingly cute, wandering off stage to talk to friends right in the middle of the competition), but also took FOREVER.

After Annabeth left with Rick, I headed over to Thalia's stage, which had completed all soft shoe before lunch, and had been working their way through Treble Jig. Thalia's stages were in the Archview Ballroom. The last time we were in this ballroom the picture windows had been behind us and the stages against the opposite wall. This time the stages were against the windows, which yielded an amazing view

but was fairly glare-ish for viewing dancing.

I have no idea if the judges had problems with seeing what the heck was going on. The judges were rotated fairly often, so perhaps that helped. Oddly, Thalia was also rotated between group A and group B with every dance (I had assumed these things were decided by birthdate, but maybe they draw numbers out of a hat to decide who's in which group for which dance). That was sort of fiddly to keep track of. Overall, though, things in this ballroom proceeded smoothly (not to mention the higher quality of gossip obtainable from the other spectators); Thalia was done dancing by about 2:20pm and we headed down to results, not knowing what to expect after last year's result's room mayhem. But, WOW, they were using the feisworx computerized system, so it was just a matter of presenting the dancer's competition number and quickly, easily picking up the appropriate award. We were out of the building by 2:50pm. We figured Annabeth's stage was still on Hornpipe at that point.

Overall I'd have to say that SLIA feis has gotten better through the years, although they still have some areas for improvement. I think they had higher numbers of competitors this year than usual due to the double feis lineup, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Even though Annabeth only managed to dance one dance, she did get a 3rd in it; as her teacher pointed out, that was 100% of her dances.

The next day's Winterfeis started at 8am -- earlier start because Graham was totally focussed on getting through the day EARLY so people could make it home Sunday night. Our competitions (Novice and Open) were in the same rooms, but the Beginners were spread out more equitably (no clue on First Feis -- I think most of those were on Saturday, because once you dance in your first feis you're a beginner). This time the picture windows in Thalia's room had a scrim over them in the morning, although they raised it in the afternoon. Other than that, we were sitting in the same seats in the same place doing the same thing for the second day in a row.

Annabeth did her own poof, though, and thought it looked better:

I did hear people complain that they wished there was more room to put their stuff (dress bags, wig cases, etc. etc.) in the stage 3/4 ballroom, which was the same one we were in for last fall's Graham feis -- I pointed out to them that there was a large area across the hall that could be used to dump extra stuff and still have room for kids to practice (it's that big hallway with the baby grand piano and the elevators -- I keep thinking there should be restrooms and a drinking fountain back there, but I've yet to find them).

At about 1:15 Rick came over to our stage to watch Annabeth dance, but we were packing up our stuff, totally finished with all dances, they were running Treble Reels and announcing that they were swinging some PC competitions to that stage so they could zip through them more quickly (aren't PC stages usually bigger, though? No clue if that was an issue at all). We all tromped over to Thalia's stage, watched Traditional Sets, went to get tshirts and results while Rick finished watching the Purdue basketball game on his laptop (if you were there, he was the one who yelled during a lull in the dance competitions because someone missed a layup during the game). We were home by 2:30, once again skipping the Treble Reel competition.

Again, the Feisworx computer system was used for results. The feis had run out of the 4th place ribbons, so they started giving out the 3rd place medals in their place. Cool medals -- quarter included in the picture so you can see how big they were:

This turned out to be a good weekend of feissing. I hope they (we?) do this again next year. Our results were mediocre, but both feiseanna had a lot of competitors, and the competition was pretty good because of it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Junior Girl Scout Theater Badge

I had led the Theater Badge years ago for Thalia's Junior Girl Scout troop, and it was really fun. This time we had a bigger group with a wider age range, so we did it a little differently.

One of the most popular parts of the badge, both years ago and now, was making masks out of paper plates. We did this as a beginning activity while people were arriving. I provided paper plates, markers, crayons, construction paper, crepe paper streamers, scissors, glue stick, tape, yarn, and, most importantly, feathers. I asked Thalia and Annabeth if we really needed feathers this time around and they looked at me like I was nuts -- OF COURSE YOU NEED FEATHERS!

Years ago we were heavy on the crepe paper streamers, which served as hair:

This time, though, it was all about the feathers:

Although a couple of people did manage to do other things, like a horse:

After working on masks for a while, and discussing what character they would play using their masks, Thalia took over the badge.

I considered this a stroke of genius on my part. After all, she's taken all these Improv classes and at this point knows a ton of warmups and games. She did a few warmups with them, then played games like Zip Zap Zop, something that looked like a Word Association Conga Line (this really didn't work well at all -- some of the kids were clueless about the idea of quickly saying the first word that came to mind) and Mirror Mimic. She worked with them on projecting their voices; they also worked on showing different emotions with the phrase "I did it" as she assigned them different roles in which to say the phrase (eg, "your family is trying to figure out who left the back gate open and therefor let the dog out"). She had them do little Improv skits (they loved this). All in all she led them in at least 10 activities, some of which were based on activities in the badge book.

Afterwards we came home and both Thalia and Annabeth continued to make masks

And I wrote up an email for people who didn't attend the meeting who wanted to complete the badge at home. I suggested that, other than the How You Say It activity, they skip the games and do things like look up various types of theater around the world, go to a makeup counter or find a YouTube video on how to do makeup (actually we would've liked to do the makeup activity ourselves, but I was concerned about allergic reactions to makeup as well as needing a zillion applicators so the kids wouldn't be sharing makeup), going to a theatrical production, and MAKE MASKS!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Goings On

Here's what's been happening since the last time I posted: Cold. Cold with sleet. Sleet with snow. Extreme cold to the point that schools were cancelled. Ice piled up everywhere. More snow. Continuing cold. Much stuff cancelled all over the place.

Thalia was sick, but it didn't much matter because everything she would've gone to was cancelled.

And as the sleet began I decided to finish another Jalie 2212:

Except that when it came time to put the binding on the hems I realized I didn't have any, and by that time we had reached the point of "don't go out unless you absolutely have to". So I just did a 2 needle hem instead. Except my 2 needle set up wasn't working (I think the gigantic spools of black thread I buy when thread's on sale were the problem -- they're too big for the spindles) so I did a single needle hem twice. The fleece is so plushy you can't much see any of the topstitching anyway.

I wore this quite a bit in all of the ensuing cold weather.

Then I made Vogue 8634 in some rayon jersey I found in the closet. After I started cutting it out it occurred to me that the fabric was perfect for leggings for Annabeth. It's sort of mediocre for this top. This is the first try at this pattern, by the way. The cowl droops down to where my cleavage would be if I had cleavage, so it needs a tank top under it.

After that I was going to make another one out of grey sweaterknit, plus I started taking apart Annabeth's school dress (Irish Dance) in order to alter it, but before I could get very far with these projects ALL the sewing stuff had to be put away because company was coming for the weekend. This was a top secret affair that we couldn't mention until now -- a surprise party for my sister-in-law. We even imported guests from other states.

The guests arrived Friday night, which gave us Saturday morning to decorate

and make cake (the exact type of cake her mom used to make years and years ago)

She was really, really, REALLY surprised. It was sort of surprising how surprised she was, as a matter of fact.

So, anyway, that was sort of like having a 2 day pajama party at our house, punctuated by trying to scrape the ice off of our driveway and front walk, because even though it's now in the 50s the ice still clings to everything. And the neighbor came over because all the ice was melting INTO her garage because her garage sits lower than the street and over the years the concrete has settled so it doesn't drain quite as well; her back is bad so she can't shovel, blah blah blah .... So we ended up shoveling hers out, too ("we" includes my other sister-in-law who was here).

And somewhere in there Annabeth got sick, we worked on bunches of Girl Scout badges, an entire ice floe slid off the roof of my car onto the windshield just as I was about to turn onto Manchester (busy road) from dance class (these things always happen at dance class), Annabeth's musical theater group decided they need a make-up rehearsal on the same day as the next feis right after I made the non-refundable payment for the feis, Thalia committed to going on the choir tour to Colorado in June, and some cat keeps hanging around our house that might be a new pet in the neighborhood or might be a stray. Oh, and we got a new rat. And Rick nearly got stuck Arkansas for days and days during THEIR snowstorm last week.

So. Now. Back to sewing. And crocheting. And school.