Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Kickoff!

Last week was cool (highs of 60F) and rainy. Okay, it was actually beyond "rainy" into "tornado-y". Much time spent in the basement, then back up the stairs, then back down.

The kids not only had their vocol recital, they also had a piano recital. A takeaway from the experience: if you have more than one recital in a week you sort of lose the performance adrenaline. Or maybe they've just been in so many productions this spring that they've become jaded. Anyway, in addition to the usual Clementi and Mozart, Annabeth played the theme from Star Wars, and Thalia closed the evening with Vince Guaraldi's Linus and Lucy. Which gave them, overall, the the Music Most People Wanted to Dance Around To spots for the recital.

Also, Annabeth spent part of the week doing the Iowa Test of Basic Skills here at home. In the meantime Thalia did Stanford Achievement Testing. We've never used the Stanford test before, but it was offered in a group setting so we signed up. And it seems clever to have her do some testing in a group setting to see what it's like before she starts taking the ACT, etc. Missouri doesn't require that we do any sort of testing of this sort -- we do it mostly so the kids learn how to take bubble tests.

The holiday weekend, then, was a change of pace. Much of it was spent outdoors (yardwork!). Much of it was HOT (90F!). The cicadas were going nuts. The kids went to a high school graduation party on Saturday, we all went to a huge birthday party at a county park on Monday. Thalia had a friend spend the night. We went to the local pool. We ate watermelon and strawberries. Also watched tons of movies -- Penelope, The Kings Speech, Wall Street 2, I Am Number Four, The Iron Giant (rather a mixed bag there).

And now the forecast is for more HOT days. We have watermelon left in the refrigerator. We have school work planned for the days ahead, but really, it feels like we've turned a corner here and are headed in a new direction.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We Are Lumberjacks and We're OK

The storm yesterday took out a large tree branch at the back of our yard. And the large tree branch stripped all the branches off of one side of a huge white pine. It all landed in a pile of forsythia and brush. We can now clearly see the house behind us, which is a new sensation.

So yesterday evening was spent getting out the smaller branches so we can see what to attack with a chainsaw. Lots of lopping off stuff one inch diameter and smaller, then pulling it out and throwing into a pile to be further chopped down and put out in yard waste trash pickup. Occasionally I was able to wrestle out a large branch, dragging it through all of the other branches to lay in the yard for further sawing -- I now understand the triumph the rats feel when they find something large and drag it back to the cage. Also, the faith the rats have that if they keep gnawing away a little at a time, they will eventually destroy whatever it is that they feel a need to destroy (like, say, the cable cord or a stray flip flop).

Today: more of the same.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Snazzy Jazz

Thalia and Annabeth's voice teacher likes to do a FANCY recital with a theme in the spring. We're new to all of this, so it was fun to see what she came up with.

Since she loves jazz she decided the theme would be "Snazzy Jazz", and would have sort of a 30s and 40s vibe. Lots of Gershwin and Cole Porter. She asked that the kids dress up for the occasion. Of course, we're all about the costuming:

(oh yes -- we used the spikes for those curls!)

Her vision was to transform the studio into a nightclub. She set up tables, hired a bass and drum as well as the piano (she provided some of the piano music; the rest was by her piano students, some of whom are really excellent both at playing solos and accompanying the voice students). Coffee and non-alcoholic drinks were served, as well as desserts. A sampling:

The lighting was low, candles on the decorated tables. She obviously had fun planning this. Then, on with the show!

Thalia sang a duet

as did Annabeth.

And they did group numbers with the kids all around the room, surrounding the audience:

And, yeah, some of it was sort of standard recital fare, but some of those kids are AMAZING! Fun evening all around. I hear next year's theme is going to be something to do with the movies -- can't wait to see what it's like!

Final Dress

Our Spring 2011 Dressmaking-palooza ended last week with Thalia's dress for the recital. She decided she wanted something similar to Annabeth's dress -- that is, princess seams, straps, satin. She also wanted to pay homage to Rosemary Clooney singing Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me in White Christmas. So we eventually found Kwik Sew 3294.

I LOVE THIS PATTERN! So easy. Of course, it helps that by this time I can slap together a bunch of satin, turn a couple of straps, throw in an invisible zipper, practically in my sleep. But really, this pattern was the fastest we've done this spring. Why didn't we choose it first, back at Mrs. Peacock and then just use it for everything?

Anyway, Thalia wanted shiny satin, which meant Hancock fabrics (their satin is shinier that JoAnn's). Hancock was out of the crepe-back satin (super-shiny stuff we used for Annabeth's dress) in black, so we got Monece satin instead. And for the gussets in the skirt (gotta do the gussets!) we got some sort of glitter dot from JoAnn:

Looks like if belongs on an Irish Dance solo dress, right? Fortunately the dots were widely spaced enough that I didn't have to worry much about gunking up the needle -- I could just sort of sew between them:

The fabric was so light and flimsy, though, that the seams wanted to roll towards the gussets. I was afraid to press very aggressively because I figured I'd melt the dots. Also, I decided most people wouldn't notice the difference, given the fullness of the skirt with the gussets.

We kept the dress length just as drafted on the pattern, which came to just above Thalia's ankles -- she's 5'8". Actually, we kept everything almost exactly as drafted on the pattern except for taking in a smidge at the bust.

Fits like a dream.

Love this pattern, and plan to make it again. Once I can face making another dress, that is. I'm really DONE with the dresses for awhile.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Iliad Book 18

Having slogged through 17 books of various disembowelings, woundings, and generally gory, bloody deaths, interspersed with random sex scenes, we reach the scene where the Nereids come rushing up to Achilles to comfort him after Patroclus' death.

We're listening to the Derek Jacobi reading from the Fagles translation. Thalia is following in Fagles, I'm following in a translation by Ian Johnston I found free on the internet. And my translation names the Nereids by their typical Greek names, names such as Actaia, Limnoreia, Melite, Iaera, etc. etc. But Fagles? Fagles translates the names. To names like Glitter and Glimmer and Sparkler. They sound like a bunch of My Little Ponies.

The incongruity is stunning.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

One Down, One to Go

Okay, once I had a day with nothing else to do (except school with the kids, fix meals, run 2 or 3 errands, mow the lawn, take Thalia to drama class) I was FINALLY able to finish this dress:

Butterick 4385 in crepe-back satin from the BFF collection at Hancock's. I was surprised how easy this fabric is to work with, plus it's washable. On the other hand, it's so shiny it's hard to photograph.

Also, when cut on the bias, as it is for that upper band, it's super stretchy. The zipper is supposed to come up all the way to the top of the dress in the back, but it stretched the band out too much to do that -- it looked like a tea cup. So I moved the zipper down and made covered buttons for the band.

I've never made covered buttons before. Here's a tip -- it's really stupid to start your covered-button-making career by making buttons with slick fabric on tiny buttons, especially when you're feeling pressured about time. These sort of turned out with points on either side -- Annabeth said they look like lemons. But, hey, actually she's going to be wearing something over her shoulders, so they won't show. And the something-over-her-shoulders will also cover the not-so-great button loops made by zigzagging over round elastic cord (again, no clue what I was doing there).

In other areas of not-knowing-what-the-heck-I'm-doing, Annabeth really really REALLY objected to the net ruffle that's supposed to go between the lining and dress to give the dress some oomph there at the bottom. Even though it wouldn't touch her skin or show at all, the existence of the ruffle was objectionable. And, you know, I have better things to do than psychoanalyze this (plus, frankly, I don't like making ruffles) so I decided to put horsehair braid at the bottom. Which was exciting for a couple of moments until I explained that it wasn't really horsehair, but is just called that. Anyway, since I've never put horsehair braid in a hem and am profoundly clueless about this, I wasn't sure if I should put it in the lining hem or the dress hem. I decided on the dress hem. It sort of makes a weird ledge in the hem

but on the other hand I like the weight it added to the bottom of the dress, which now hangs better when it's on her. And it gives it sort of a solo dress (Irish Dance) vibe, if you ask me.

And then I was free to hem the lining with a 3-thread narrow hem on the serger, which is wicked quick to do:

This I DID know how to do, having discovered it last week while making some organdy curtains, and having instantly decided to use it whenever possible as a quick, lightweight hem.

So, pictures later on-the-body. I hope. It took awhile to get the pattern to fit, since patternmakers seem to consistently believe that princess seamed dresses in a child's size 7 or 8 (which would fit a typical 7 or 8 year old) need to be drafted to accommodate AT LEAST an A cup bust line. Which is ... bizarre. But, really, this has happened with various patterns from Big 4 companies -- it isn't an isolated incident. Anyway, it fits now and will continue to fit until she grows out of it, which will probably be sometime in June or July at the rate we're going.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What I Haven't Been Working On

What I've needed to be working on is this dress for Annabeth for the Snazzy Jazz vocal recital next Sunday:

except Rick took the day off work Friday and took the kids to the zoo, so I couldn't try it on her.

Then Thalia wanted to go to one of the homeschool graduations taking place on Saturday:

so I needed to drive her. It was actually not that bad, mostly because there weren't too many kids in this group so it didn't drag on forever, plus they got an excellent speaker for the commencement address. (Some of the various homeschool organizations around town have commencement for their members, and at least 2 of them were this last Saturday. They typically feature a reception afterwards with CAKE. Which is a step up from public school graduation, if you ask me.)

And in the midst of all of this for 2 days we were driving around looking at bathroom vanities for the upstairs bathroom. Sheesh, it always takes so long to figure out cabinets. And they're so astonishingly expensive.

Then Sunday we attended the Russian Vespers put on by the Bach Society at St. Stanilaus Kostka (it occurs to me I've spent quite a lot of time in various churches this weekend). Two hours of a cappella music -- it was amazing. The acoustics of the church were phenomenal. It will be streamed next Sunday at 3 central on Classic99.com if you missed it. Ami, I think you might've liked it if you like classic choral music at all.

And since we went with Mrs. Piano Teacher and her husband it was sort of an "event", so we had to go out to eat afterwards, to the Tap Room (wasn't there a Clarkson show there over St. Patrick's Day? All these places sort of look the same to me anymore).

And then, since it was so cold and rainy over the weekend, when we got home we HAD to build a fire (have managed to avoid turning the furnace back on so far) and rented Tangled from Redbox, and spent a cozy evening lounging.

So. This morning. I may actually have a few hours where no one wants me to go do something else, and I have the correct fitting model here. Which would be really nice because after I finish this dress I have another one for Thalia.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Weekend 2011


And we had more Charlie Brown, including

Poor Sweet Baby from Snoopy, the Musical

Edgar Allan Poe from Snoopy, the Musical.

Grandparents at the show.

Consumption of cake pops (and other treats).

And put up the hammock.

Great way to spend a weekend.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Charlie Brown Opening Night

The director commented after dress rehearsal that she'd like stripes on Peppermint Patty's shirt, so Friday afternoon included running to JoAnn for Wright Iron-on Hem Tape, which we laid out on the shirt

ironed on while on the table with a towel underneath (I'm not including the step where the cat repeatedly got up and moved the stripes around)

and then quickly sew down the edges to make absolutely sure that they didn't come off during the performance.

So that's a quick look at how to make a Peppermint Patty shirt out of a man's large golf shirt from Walmart. Finished product:

And some other highlights of opening night:

which included some iconic moments from the strip

Edgar Allan Poe (which is actually from Snoopy, the Musical)
Please don't let her call on me today, please
Mentally I'm begging on my knees, please

Cake pops at the concessions!

And time spent with good friends

Another show again tonight at 7 at DeSmet. I was asking Thaiia who she had invited, and realized yesterday afternoon that she had been sort of lax about emailing and phoning people to let them know the showtimes. Sigh. So, sincere apologies if we didn't get the message to you.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rat News

Emily recently figured out that sometimes I set a book bag on the floor in the kitchen, and if she gets in it to rummage around she might find TREASURE

which can be dragged back to the cage.

But, alas, a cruel human (Annabeth) took the granola bar away. The rats now get a bit of it in the evening at bedtime.

In other busy-ness, they've been doing quite a bit of redecorating. Note that most of their cubes now have the new backdoor feature:

But, you know, that cube is so last year, so time for a new color scheme for hammocks

and cube

Sort of bland looking and utilitarian right now, but they'll get it peed on and ripped up into a homey little rat's nest in no time.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

This Was Going to be a Post With Pictures

Except the camera is missing. It was last seen with Annabeth, who probably left it upstairs somewhere after taking pictures of Thalia dying her hair red with Jazzing (using one of the somewhat normal colors -- she's going for the Peppermint Patty look for the moment). I checked the bathroom, but don't see it. Maybe it's in her room. Or maybe she left it outside. Who knows.

Okay, so if there were pictures you'd see stuff I'm sewing. I'm sewing stuff in an effort to clean up the dining room, and I thought I'd sew my way through some of the projects laying around it. We're cleaning the dining room because we have house guests coming tomorrow. They were going to come today, but then we realized that we're not going to be home much today, since we have various things that will involve taking pictures with the CAMERA.

Anyway, they're coming to see Thalia be Peppermint Patty in You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, which will be Friday and Saturday at 7pm at DeSmet (will need the camera for that, too!).

Between now and then we have Girl Scout Court of Awards (just finished making brownies for that), piano lesson, dress rehearsal, need to go to the grocery, finish pants, clean house, finish laundry, prepare meals early so we can get to the theatre on time, and FIND THE FLIPPIN' CAMERA!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Homeschool Prom

The prom dress. It was actually purple.

Sorry for the bizarro lighting, but this picture was taken at midnight, and I was TIRED. The picture was taken at midnight because the MO of homeschool prom is to go over to a friend's house to get ready, and carpool to the event, so I didn't actually see her prom-ready until after the event.

As a bonus, the skirt of the dress could come up as a hood,

so you could sing Mary Did You Know or otherwise act out dramas

And the black plastic glasses rims

were from punching out the lenses on the sunglasses given out as favors for the Splash of Color theme

I think the tendency to go with groups of friends rather than dates adds up to a more relaxing, fun evening. You can act sort of dorky, as someone claimed they did here:

(I countered that it wasn't that dorky, but my definition of dorky would've been more along the lines of wearing belts with their light sabers attached, so I apparently have a pretty high standard for these things)

get your picture taken with one of the waiters

and commemorate the restrooms.

If you've ever wondered what a homeschool prom would be like, now you know.