How to practice basic Ruby?

While learning a new language, I find it very boring to read again the same things like variable declaration, data types, loops etc. Somehow I just brushed up quickly from a basic Ruby programming book, I learn fast when I am working on a live project and read simultaneously.

With Ruby (and Python as well) there is a confusion for me. They don’t have a fixed IDE like Visual Studio for .NET. I am not dipping my hands in Rails at this time but want to write simple Windows apps. to learn the basic concepts. For this, I either need to learn wxRuby or FxRuby, which are third-party implementations.

Please let me know how to practice basic Ruby? What type of applications you wrote to practice and what topics you consider important before jumping to Rails?