Sunday, July 31, 2011

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Thalia auditioned for Wizard of Oz with hopes of being cast as the Wicked Witch. The director said she might need her for a singing role (since Thalia can actually sing, yet the Wicked Witch does not), but when the cast was announced she got the part!

Thalia sort of hoped she could have her own personal witch costume. The director noted that the witch costumes are crazily expensive, so if we wanted to be in charge of getting our own, she was fine with it. That way we could keep it when the show's over.

So I discussed what the costume should look like with the director. Simplicity 4136 is the official movie knockoff. But we both liked the idea of a skirt and top combo so she could wear the skirt at Miss Gultch and then simply slip on a different top as the Wicked Witch. She wanted a high neck, buttons down the front, and more of a pointed bottom to the bodice -- more like Elphaba in Wicked. Also, puff-top sleeves "like Anne wanted in Anne of Green Gables". The fabric would be some sort of dull black bottom weight.

So I picked up a copy of Simplicity 4136 at the handily-timed sale Hancock Fabrics had on Simplicity patterns ($1.99 each). And got to work.

First step -- cut out skirt and probably just add a waist band. Except, wow, there is ONE skirt pattern piece for all sizes (envelope has sizes 6-12 in it) and all views. And that piece as gobs of fabric around the waist. That's great for Glinda and probably okay for lightweight gingham-wearing Dorothy, but it's waaaaay too much fabric for a witch skirt in a bottom weight (possibly a cheapy costume satin would work, but that's not what we'd decided on). Thalia is using the largest size, size 12, which fits her 26.5 inch waist -- I can't imagine how that would work for a tiny little size 6 with a 23 inch waist -- they'd be swamped in fabric.

You cut out 3 iterations of the skirt piece, each of which is about 37 inches across the waist, as I recall .... I decided to whack it down to 3 times Thalia's waist size plus ease of 1 inch plus seam allowances by making the waist pattern 26.5 inches (the size of her waist) plus the extra I needed for seams plus ease. The bottom edge of the skirt is 48 inches across. Really, you could just draw a trapezoid on the fabric and not bother with the pattern. Here I'm working on it on folded fabric

with my little helper.

"I love this color!"

Now that the waist was 3 times Thalia's, I could use box pleats to draw the fabric in nice and neatly, since box pleats have a 3x ratio from beginning width to finished width. Also, I could fudge them around a little since I did massive amounts of rounding as I did the math for my finished width. I didn't press them into knife pleats -- just sewed them along the upper seam line sans any sort of pressing

added a 7" zipper to the back, then stuck on a simple rectangular waist band. Large trouser hook in the back to close the waistband, a hem, et voila

A skirt that be worn by either Miss Gultch

or a witch. (We're experimenting with hats trying to figure out what might work. The shirt is from the men's section of the Goodwill, purchased for a play a couple of years ago.)

For the bodice I used the Feis Dress pattern I was messing around with last year. I'd made the princess seam version into a drop waist with a V front, and made it it's own separate entity with a separating back zipper. (The director okayed using zippers in all the costumes.)

I deepened the armscye a bit to accommodate the Simplicity sleeve; Feis Dress has an extremely fitted armscye, and Simplicity's is HUGE. I stuck more towards the fitted, since I think it works better in this type of top. And used the Simplicity collar, which I had to make longer to fit around the Feis Dress neckline. And, finally, loosened the entire thing a bit since she isn't in an Irish Dance competition so it doesn't need to fit like a glove.

Front, pre-buttons:


The sleeves ended up way too short, probably partially because the Feis Dress shoulders aren't so baggy (dumpy) as the Simplicity shoulders, so I added a cuff.

Then, that special coating of black fur

"Why they want a dorky dog in this show when they could have a quality character like me, I don't know. But it saves me the work of showing up and having to deal with my adoring public."

Just add black boots, black gloves, and green skin:

Still to come: temporary black hair dye. I hope it rinses out better than the red "temporary" dye she used for Peppermint Patty, which is still in her hair all these months later.

And in the meantime, I'm moving on to white fabric:

Friday, July 29, 2011

More Lunches

The kids are in the midst of a 3 week Musical Theater camp. It was originally scheduled for MWF, but then was announced that kids ages 11 and up could come to work days on TTh to help build sets (I'm pretty sure the age was set at 11 to accommodate Annabeth). So, of course, they're going 5 days a week now. And also talking about how much they want to take a class in technical theater during the school year.

Anyway, on MWF they'e been taking bento boxes, and on TTh just taking something fairly light since they've been working in triple-digit heat out on the asphalt behind the building. And I've discovered that it's really, really handy to have pictures of all of these lunches, since then I don't have to think about how to arrange them in boxes. I'm going back and tagging all the old posts on the subject so they're easier for me to find.

So here are a couple more lunches for my future reference:

Hotdog tulips with cucumber leaves set on lettuce leaves, mac-and-cheese balls from Trader Joe's frozen food section, some raw broccoli, extra hotdog slices in case Holly stays for lunch and tries to take some of Annabeth's lunch (Holly will be starring as Toto -- she and Annabeth hang out together MWF mornings, and hotdogs are one of her favorite foods), assorted fruit.

And lunch #2 is rice, orange slices, red pepper slices, teriyaki beef from the Trader Joe's beef skewer packs (also in the frozen food section -- the skewers didn't fit in the bento, so we got rid of them), snipped green onion. I think it probably needed more to give it some "pop", but at this point we're all sort of tired and just trying to get through the day.

One more week to go. Also, much sewing to accomplish before then. Eek!

Friday, July 15, 2011


9. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. This book wasn't on my list of sci fi to use for lit class -- I picked it up simply because I saw it mentioned in Melissa Wiley's blog and I have great confidence in Melissa Wiley's book recommendations. Sure enough, I enjoyed it immensely.

I had just finished reading Canticle for Leibowitz, with its intense scenes of a bombed out abbey and characters speaking in ecclesiastical Latin, before I started this book ... which began in a bombed out Coventry Cathedral, and turned out to have characters quoting Latin (although these were professors preferring Herodotus -- a background in, say, Henley Latin would be more to the point with this book). Of course, there the similarities end -- this book is a time travel/mystery/romp through the Victorian age, with WWII, 1930s mystery genre, and acres of Tennyson thrown in, to say nothing of the dog. And cats. So much fun, although the less you know about the cultural contexts the less fun (and more annoying) it has potential to be.

I'm glad I took a detour from my "official" sci fi book list to read this.

10. Enchantress From the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl. Another entry on my "official" sci fi list. I'd found it mentioned on the Well Trained Mind homeschooling forums, from whence I'd derived most of the list. It was tossed into the suggestion list as an accessible book by a female author. And I've gotta admit, it was a much quicker read than Frankenstein or Left Hand of Darkness, neither of which I've finished.

I'd never read nor heard of this book before, although while I was dragging it around various places over the past couple of days we ran into a high school student who recognized the cover and commented how much she enjoyed it. And I was absolutely enchanted by it. First of all, the main concept is that a group of people who have sort of Jedi-like power, but with less tendency to start whacking on each other with light sabers, is patrolling the universe, and they take the Prime Directive seriously, not just having it out there as a plot element that they violate at least once per season. Second, the story is told from 3 vantage points -- one is a very stylized fairy tale, one is more along the lines of, I don't know, early space heroes (I pictured this crowd looking like the gang back on Krypton during the original episode of the original Superman television series, although they sort of had a Romulan vibe going, too), and the third is a first person narrative of a teenage-ish girl. So, right there, fodder for much discussion in our future lit class about how the writer integrated these styles.

(Aside: Thinking of using different writing styles to help differentiate the different viewpoints of the characters, before I read Enchantress From the Stars I spent a day trying to read Albert Brooks' 2030. Everyone in the latter book sounds pretty much exactly the same, like a bunch of paper dolls drawn by a fairly unimaginative artist. It was, in a way, the opposite of what Engdahl did in Enchantress. It was also quite boring not to mention annoying, so I didn't bother finishing the book.)

10 BOOKS COMPLETED FOR SUMER READ. This is a first for me -- actually completing the program during the time allotment. Unfinished books still litter the house, as usual -- the 10 books finished are just a fraction of the books started during this time. Plus there are the various books started BEFORE this time that I read bits of during the past few weeks.

Also, as a bonus, I've used this SummerRead program to read and re-read several of the books we'll be using in our sci fi lit class during the coming school year. Now to read the rest of THAT stack, as well as the stack I've compiled for teaching 3rd-5th grade science at co-op.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Stunning Cluelessness of Homeschoolers

The title of this post was taken from a google search that led someone to my blog. Doesn't it grab your attention? I love it because it gives such latitude for speculation. For example, is the person who typed it in aware that google searches for words rather than concepts? So, unless someone posted something along the lines of "Gosh, I, a homeschooler, just did something stunningly clueless," or unless someone else compiled anecdotes or data on the subject, it's rather a pointless search. (Digression: Dinner table discussion last night was on the idea that "the plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'", which phrase should preferably be delivered in a scathing tone of voice.)

So, you know, I find myself contemplating The Stunning Cluelessness of People Using Google.

It also takes me back to the years I spent helping out at the reference desk at a university library, trying to explain how to search the computerized card catalog. No matter how explicitly we explained that the typed search was going to take the exact string of letters typed in and attempt to match it to the same exact string of letters in the cataloged information (that is, the title, the Library of Congress subject headings, perhaps a brief description), there were plenty of students who just Did Not Get It. They thought if they typed in "learning" they should get books that had the word "education" in the title, because, hey, it's sort of the same idea. Yeah, like a small public university library in the early 90s suddenly came up with a computer system that used fuzzy logic. These were usually Elementary Ed majors (hence the example of "learning" and "education"). I had a theory that they chose to major in El Ed because they hoped small children would be stupider than they were. I also have a (more optimistic) theory that most of them did not get jobs in their chosen field. I've no idea if either of these theories are correct. So, file all of that under The Stunning Cluelessness of Many Elementary Ed Majors at a Certain University.

But perhaps it was entered by a youngish teenager. It really does sound like something Thalia would type in just because she could. It definitely sounds like something she would say. So it might have been typed by someone who just wanted the thrill of typing in that phrase, someone not worried about the viability of the search.

Which reminds me, we got Annabeth's ITBS scores back. Her lowest score was in Reference Materials -- things like using the library card catalog, searching for information, etc. She only scored as well as an 8th grader on those questions. I'm not too worried about that. I mean, she's just finished 5th grade, and I'm not too sure the ITBS really tests one's conceptual understanding of how to gather information. I wonder how our Stunning Cluelessness (Stunningly Clueless?) googler would've scored on that section of the test.

For the record, most of the searches leading to my blog have to do with Girl Scout badges. Most often people are looking for information on how to earn the badges, but occasionally someone is searching for information on all the badges being discontinued. If you came here on that sort of search, they ARE all being discontinued, by the way. But I'm not surprised you did random google searches rather than using the GSUSA website, since it's a mess (google The Stunning Cluelessness of GS for further information).Which reminds me of yet another thing, that today I came up with a really cool idea on how GSUSA should've been running their website and badge program -- assuming they were actually interested in having girls and leaders join and stay with the program, and not just interested in selling more books and junk. But that's another story.

By the way, the Stunning Cluelessness search led to a post about Thalia's theatre class putting on Clue. And we're homeschoolers. And I overuse the word "stunning", particularly in tandem with comments about Swarovsky crystals, which is an Irish Dance joke. So it all adds up to our family being the go-to people regarding The Stunning Cluelessness of Homeschoolers.


Up at 5am, and the temperature out is 80F. The windows are steamed up -- condensation on the outside due to the relative cool inside the house.

Yesterday we went to the pool when it opened at noon. It was lovely to be in the still water, but as it got more crowded the kids asked to leave. They said it was too hot and sweaty to swim laps. Yes, the water was that warm. So we came home and ate watermelon that had been kept in the refrigerator icy cold.

Later we discussed how lovely it would be to have some ice cream bars, but it was too hot to go to the store.

This is summer in St. Louis. Just a few months ago it was so cold school was cancelled due to safety concerns for children going out in the cold wind. Now we have heat advisories.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Little Mermaid at the Muny

As a lead in to going to see the show, Thalia's Girl Scout troop took a backstage tour of the set on Wednesday. No photos allowed backstage, but here they are on stage. If you look above the guy's head you'll see a little green sign (next to a red arrow) that says "B3". That's where our seats are.

Wednesday was opening night, so they were doing some sort of television news interview while we were there. This shot is probably "wrong" in that it shows part of the scrim, and also back out in the wings you can see part of King Triton's palace, which was purply-pink and very glittery.

On Friday night we went to the actual show, arriving early enough to have a picnic in Forest Park. Annabeth practiced her mermaid poses before the show.

I was really glad we went early, since the place was PACKED and the traffic got progressively weirder as showtime approached. The show started late, presumably because so many people were still trying to park and get in at the actual start time. But we were already in our seats, frozen lemonades in hand.

The show was attended by a large number of little girls in princess outfits, as you can imagine. Although the lady in front of us was apparently a Sebastian fan.

(Every one of the empty seats you're seeing in these photos was filled by showtime, by the way.)

Gorgeous weather. Great show. The kids came home and watched the movie; in general, we think we like the musical better than the movie. You should go see it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Okay, actually "Book" since I only completed reading one book this week, another SciFi classic,

8. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller. I had read this years ago, and remembered it as a fairly dark, depressing novel. Re-reading after several decades, though, I found a lot of humor in it. I also found it much easier to read.

For one thing, in the intervening years I've learned some Latin -- the book is full of Latin quotes, although if you've worked through Latina Christiana you'll be comfortable with it, since the quotes are typically liturgical. Also, while looking up the word "grex" online I discovered entire web pages of Latin translations for this book. Having a clue what the Latin is about sped up the reading since I wasn't left wondering if I'd missed out on something.

Also, through the years I've gotten lots more comfortable with the idea that people aren't necessarily the "good guys" or the "bad guys", and that life has much vague, grey area. And I've read, discussed, and thought about enough theology and philosophy to make those discussions familiar territory. Overall, growing up and getting older made it a simpler book, although I don't think I would've understood that back when I was in my late teens (or whenever I read it before).

I liked the book quite a lot this time through. It was humorous, ingenious, and thought-provoking.

Okay, 2 books to go by Aug. 8, and I'm midway through another scifi book and have started 2 others. However, my attention is starting to drift -- I've other things I'd like to accomplish this month other than reading, and I have less time to read at the moment. We'll see.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Long Holiday Weekend

Our Fourth of July Weekend lasted until last night -- Rick took the day off yesterday. So we're just getting back to the swing of things today.

Over the weekend ...

-- I sewed a sleeveless dress using Simplicity 3775, which I've sewn a couple of times before. This time I left off the ruching around the waist since I thought it would be too hot. The fabric is some 4-way stretch knit from joAnn.

The plan was to whip this together to wear to the Muny Friday night, since Friday was hot and a sleeveless dress sounded cool. But I decided it would be really quick to just zip it up on the serger ... fail. The threads tangled repeatedly, the needle broke, the blade stopped cutting all the layers of fabric (I suspect it's dull). I felt like the serger and I were doing battle. And eventually finished the dress Saturday night.

-- We went to the Muny to see Kiss Me Kate. It was hot out, the male lead was average, the female lead was quite good, the gangsters were excellent. The dancing was the best we've ever seen at the Muny, which was a nice surprise. The girls and I had watched the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton version of Taming of the Shrew earlier in the week as a lead in, which I appreciated while watching the musical as it really was easier to follow. And we went with friends who really like Cole Porter (who wrote the musical), so it was a fun evening.

-- We went to Aunt Vi and Uncle C's to swim quite a bit.

-- We also made it to the public pool, although you can't try such crazy things off the diving board there, like jumping onto rafts, doing backbends off the board into the water, etc. etc.

-- We went to the fireworks with a friend.

We decided not to go to the Arch, choosing a more low key celebration out in the county in a park (but this year we had a better idea of where to sit and where to park).

The kids spent time waiting for the fireworks taking dozens of pictures of each other

and also took dozens of pictures of the fireworks.

-- We stayed up late and watched Galaxy Quest, which I'd never seen before. Actually, we ended up watching it twice since Rick skipped it the first time because he wanted to get to bed (although between Thalia dropping the large metal popcorn bowl on the wooden floor -- which made an unbelievably loud ring -- and the major cat fight about 45 minutes later in the upstairs hall he didn't get any extra sleep anyway).

-- We also went to see Green Lantern, which was really fun -- great space opera. Thalia noted that the Lanterns were inspired by the Lensmen. We spent much of the rest of the weekend discussing how much we wanted a green ring and a lantern.

And also the usual grilling, sleeping in late (like, you know, 7:30am), reading, etc. Overall good, busy weekend.