Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hawaiian Dreams

Isn't that a beautiful picture?  I've decided this is my new blogging goal.  What, you may ask does blogging have to do with Hawaii?  Apparently lots my friends!  Yesterday, an article on successful female bloggers crossed my screen and apparently these ladies are making out like bandits with all-expense paid tours of Hawaii, computer and photography equipment, and apparently enough free kitchen gadgets to open their own restaurants.

Well.... I've decided I want in on this action.  I'm a lousy photographer, I have a computer and at the moment have no interest in any gadget that will require me to spend more than 5 minutes on a meal standing in front of the microwave.  What can I say -- I'm busy -- read my last post.

But this Hawaii gig? -- I'm all over that.  If any luxury, beachfront resort out there would like to sponsor a trip for me and my family to Hawaii -- let me just say now for the record -- I will write you a super-rockin' review!  For my homeschooling friends I'll cover all the amazing educational opportunities such a trip would provide.  For my knitting readers, I'll wax poetic on the glories of knitting on the beach -- and never even whisper a hint about the difficulties of the sand + wool mix.  Let me see, who else reads this blog -- ah, for my Facebook/Twitter followers  -- I promise to rhapsodize at length on the glorious luxury of this 5 star Hawaiian resort and I'm sure a stress-relieving (all expense paid) day (or 4) at your spa will inspire pages of compliments and the highest of recommendations.  Yes -- I vow to advertise for you (and your 5 star resort -- or heck, I'd even settle for 3 or 4 star joint) like never before.  Just set me on that plane.

So, if any of you kindly readers have connections to such things -- hook me up! :)

Time Travel

Yes... time travel -- this is a skill I need to acquire... now.  The next two weeks are going to be frantic, crazy, impossible weeks as I rush to publish 10 novels and 2 essay compilation books for my students, while maintaining a teaching schedule of 7 classes a week, tutoring, driving, theater rehearsals, meal prep, basic laundry necessities (at least clean underwear - for God's sake) + all the sundry activities involved in homeschooling my two kiddos.  HELP!  No, I mean it.... help.  Time travel is the only help that would be effective.  Nobody can really do all of these things for me (though child care would come in awfully handy), so the only way I think I can accomplish everything is if I finish today and then through the magic of time travel, manage to go back and get a repeat of the day "Groundhog Day"-style. Or no, let's choose a different movie/literary analogy -- how about a Time Turner.  Yes, that would do it.  The only other option I can think of is cloning.  If I clone 3 or 4 of myself, I might have a chance.

Of course, to handle the stress, I'm forced to resort to the only thing that really can relax me...
I have no idea how that Berroco Sox yarn managed to jump on those needles.  Really... I'm not procrastinating... I have a plan --- time travel!  Seriously - how do you think I managed to write this blog post???  ...perhaps I know more than I let on :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My Best Baby Booties

I'm not sure what else to say about these.  They speak for themselves.  They're just that crazy cute.  I think they are without a doubt the most adorable baby booties I've ever knit.  Wear them well Sleeping Beauty!

Pattern is Baby Merry-Janes -- Yarn is Knitpicks Stroll in Sport and Fingering -- too cute!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Knitted Cupcakes and Creatures

As you can see from the cupcake picture at the left -- we've chosen to spend our spring break with needles and yarn.  These are the creations of my 13yo daughter and they're so darn cute I can hardly stand it.  I need to get her a clear muffin pan to display them in because the gross one I use to cook actual muffins doesn't display the colorful bottoms.  

She's been on a knitting jag that seems unstoppable.  She's much more tolerant of fiddly patterns than I am and has managed to make a menagerie of knitted animals!
This darling fellow was designed to be a friend to her pink stuffed flamingo named "Floyd" (get it... Pink Floyd :)  Anyway, he's primarily purple and I am in awe!

I knit this elephant, but my daughter has taken on the task of designing his wardrobe... er... "her" wardrobe, I guess.
This is just a small battalion of the ARMY of piggies that have taken over my daughter's brain.  She's knitting this obsessively round the clock.  My favorite is the teeny, tiny one.  I'll try to get her to do a close up photo of that one, so you can see it's darlingness.
Here is this morning's addition -- just too sweet for words.  I think these will be popular among her friends.
This little duck needs a better photograph, but you get the idea.  Purple is popular lately!
And, just in time for Easter... her version of the colored egg... except these won't ever grow rotten -- I want a basket-full!
And I've saved the best for last.  This was her own design and I absolutely love it -- "A Useful Pot to Put Things In"  -- I want one of these too!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Baby Knits

Our family expanded by one darling, sweet girl today.  My newest niece was born this morning and she's a beauty.  I've been meaning to post pictures of the knitting I've been doing for her and today seems like the appropriate day.

First, a blanket... made from a superwash wool (must be kind to the Mama).  The pattern is the Shale Baby Blanket from Brooklyn Tweed.

Of course I had to add matching baby socks to keep those tiny tootsies cozy (I just winged this pattern):

...and a wee baby bonnet

And as I firmly believe that all new babies should be showered with hand knits, I added a few cardigans.  The first is the classic baby surprise jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman.  The matching hat is just a basic pattern with an extra frill at the base.  The main yarn is Cascade 220 Superwash Paints (#9938) and the contrast is just a brown Cascade 220 superwash.

The last little sweater cap set is made of Madelinetosh DK (Superwash) in "Corsage"

There's more (of course), but they are meant to be Easter surprises, so I'll have to wait a bit to show them.  Suffice it to say, this baby is not likely to be wool deprived.   Welcome sweet girl!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

DIY Education

"They raise chickens. They grow vegetables. They knit. Now a new generation of urban parents is even teaching their own kids."

OK, ok... I'll admit I've been known to grow a tomato or 2 (thousand), and well, there's no denying I knit obsessively --- but so far, no chickens.  Admittedly, I hang out with people who raise chickens -- but still.  So I guess I fit the above stereotype, sort of.  I most definitely don't live in an urban area and really, technically, tomatoes are fruit.  But, I teach my own kids and wouldn't have it any other way.

The above quote is from this week's Newsweek article on homeschooling entitled "Why Urban, Educated Parents are Turning to DIY Education."  Apparently, the powers that be are starting to notice... took em long enough.  

But, just as I only "sort of" fit the stereotype, I find that most homeschoolers I know are equally hard to pin down.  The closest pigeon hole you could probably stuff most of us into might be the "Do It Yourself" mentality.  The idea of handing my kids over to a school bureaucracy sounds like crazy-talk to me.  I'm far better equipped to know what my kids need and if I can't provide it myself, I can find people who can.  

So, for example,  I've got liberal arts subjects covered (in these areas, my education generally trumps most teachers -- so I have no insecurities there).  Science and math (above the elementary levels).... not so much.  But, so what?  I don't have to be master of all -- I just need to recognize the need.  Happily, my daughters are tutored in math by my stepfather (a retired HS math teacher), but even if I didn't have that connection, online math tutoring is readily available.  For science, my kids take classes as at a nearby learning center for homeschoolers (where I teach writing) and that serves the dual purpose of helping me cover areas of science I know little or nothing about (they start a marine biology class this Monday) and of providing a social outlet where they have a chance to learn in a group setting.  We go to a park day with the same group of kids and even camp with them each summer by the beach.  My kids love art and theater as well, so they also take art/drama at the learning center and are involved in a musical theater group.  Homeschoolers, at least the ones I'm around, aren't home often.  The world becomes our school and in my opinion makes homeschooled kids far more "socialized" than kids stuck in a classroom all day.  

But my point is, homeschoolers find creative and original ways to meet their kids' needs.  The defining point about them, if there is one, is that they each do it in unique ways.  We're hard to categorize because kids can't be stuffed into a "one size fits all" or even "one size fits most," style of education (and really no kid should be).  I suppose it would be simpler if we could streamline it all and make education resemble a factory-line.  But assembling widgets and assembling the needs of individuals are far different things.  It's time people began to re-think education and I think the evolution of the internet has sparked a mighty change in our educational paradigm.  The trend IS toward DIY Education and I'm happy that Newsweek noticed.  I think a revolution is afoot.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Few Spaces Left for "Write Your Own Novel" course at Huck!

Student Novels from Fall, 2010 Semester!
Our new semester at the Huckleberry Center for Creative Learning begins February 6th and I'll be offering six writing and literature courses for kids from the ages of 7-18!  Most classes are filled, but it's still a good idea to get on the waiting list as sometimes people's plans change.  There are still a few spaces left in my Creative Writing course -- "Outline your way to a Terrific Story" -- in which kids write a novel in a semester and publish it on Lulu.com.  This is a course for kids 12+ and more information can be found HERE and HERE!

This is a challenging course, but I've seen students really grow dramatically as writers when they take on a project like this.  The planning, organizing and critical thinking involved have lasting effects on their writing abilities in other classes as well. Students become very comfortable with writing tasks and far less intimidated by big projects.  I'd be happy to answer any questions you have and look forward to working with all my emerging writers next semester!

Class Project book from my course: "From Novels to Knowledge"

This semester I tried a new approach to teaching literature for kids ages 9-12 at the Huckleberry Center for Creative Learning.  We looked at Newbery Award winning novels as a way of understanding both literature and history through writing.  Students improved in all three subjects along the way and created a beautiful Guidebook tracing their journey.  We focused on American History from the time of the Civil War through the Vietnam War by reading The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg (an entertaining and educational look at life in Civil War America); The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (a "turn of the century" look at life in Texas as a young girl explores naturalism and Darwin's Origin of Species); Moon Over Manifest (the 2011 Newbery winner that focuses on life in a small Kansas town during WWI and the Great Depression); The Watsons Go to Birmingham (a hilarious book that deals sensitively with civil rights); and The Wednesday Wars (which focuses on a 7th grade boy in the 1960s New York, coming to grip with the issues of his day THROUGH Shakespeare -- yes, this was my favorite!).  For each of these novels, the students took on one of five roles (Historian, Character Analyst, Summarizer, Thematic Adviser or Passage Illuminator), switching for each novel, so that by the time the course was completed, everyone had a chance at each role.  They wrote an essay for each novel, based on their role and presented it to the class to help spark our discussion.  Along the way, they learned a lot about writing, history and literary analysis and this book (which contains all the essays, creative writing and drawings they did for their work on these novels) is a fitting tribute to all their efforts.  I couldn't be prouder of these kids!

If you'd like to see a preview of their Guidebook, it's Available HERE!  

Guidebook to Coming of Age Novels Published

This semester I taught a literature and writing class at the Huckleberry Center for Creative Learning (for kids between the ages of 12-16) and after a lot of hard work, the students completed their class project book, "The Read to Write Guide to Coming of Age Novels."  For the class we read Great Expectations, Siddhartha, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  For each of the novels, the students took on one of five roles (Historian/Biographer, Character Analyst, Thematic Adviser, Symbolist or Passage Illuminator), switching for each novel, so that by the time the course was completed, everyone had a chance at each role.  They wrote an essay for each novel, based on their role and presented it to the class to help spark our discussions.  The Guidebook pictured here is the result of all their hard work and effort.  This format worked beautifully this semester and the students' writing improved by leaps and bounds as they learned from each other in class.  I guided them and helped them develop, focus and organize their work, but the hard work they did on their own.  They learned a lot about literary analysis, writing and critical thinking this semester and I'm so proud of all of them!

If you'd like to see a preview of their Guidebook, it's Available HERE!

Short Story Anthology Published

After a semester of hard work, the students in my Short Story class at the Huckleberry Center for Creative Learning have their own Anthology to show for it.  These kids, ranging in age from 10-14, each wrote five original short stories for this anthology (basically one every two weeks or so).  In class we covered plot construction, point of view, dialogue, character development, details, hooks, mood, setting, conflict & tension, style (playing with literary language) and revision skills.  Along the way we read about a dozen classic short stories as well.  We had a busy and productive semester and I'm so pleased by all of their hard work.  It takes courage to come to class each week and take part in a round table writing workshop -- reading your work aloud and opening yourself up to the friendly critique of your classmates and teacher.  These students did a great job and I'm so very, very proud of them!

If you'd like to see a preview of their Anthology, it's available HERE!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Baby Surprise Jacket

Baby Surprise Jacket - Unfolded

Knitting ingenuity at its best!  Elizabeth Zimmerman has long been a favorite designer of mine.  I love her books, her newsletters and only wish I'd seen more of her original PBS show from the 70s.  One of the things I like best about her is that although she loves knitting, she's forthright about the parts that are a pain in the butt.  Happily, she and I generally agree on these parts, with seaming being at the top of the list.  I don't know why I waited so long to try her Baby Surprise Jacket, but having never made it for my own kiddos, I decided to try it out for my new niece -- scheduled to arrive sometime in March.

The brilliance of this design (as those familiar with it already know) is that it's knit flat in one piece and when you're done, you have only the tiniest bit of seaming to do on the sleeves.  The first time through is an act of faith that is generously rewarded.  As you can see from the picture above, when you're done knitting this one piece, you're left with an amorphous mass that most have difficulty folding into anything resembling a sweater.  It's fun to amaze your family and friends by challenging them with this misshapen, towel-like object.  Most give up and then stand in awe as you fold it up neatly into a sweet little sweater like this:
Baby Surprise Jacket - Folded into cardigan shape
I used Cascade 220 Paints #9938 (Superwash -- cause you know, I like this Mama-to be).  I striped occasionally with a chocolate Cascade 220 Superwash I had leftover from a sweater I made my brother for XMAS last month.  But, this being my first BSJ -- I made a rookie mistake and it's bugging me to no end.  I'm seriously considering ripping back to fix it.  I added a stripe one row after finishing the bind off on either side for the neck.  I just wasn't thinking.  Because you bind off the 1st 5 stitches on two consecutive rows, one side has an extra row and when I put in the next stripe (the one that runs along the bottom front and up the 2 front sides (near the button holes), it came out perfectly on one side and with extra space on the other.  As you look at the picture, it's the right side that has the extra space and now that I've pointed it out, I'm sure it's all anyone will ever see when they look at this sweet little sweater.  Now normally, I wouldn't think twice about ripping, but this is literally the only mistake I think I made on the sweater and I firmly believe every piece of knitting should have one good luck mistake.  I think this is called a "God's Eye" or a "Devil's Eye" -- it's one or the other and folk knitters who could easily produce perfect work would always add one mistake out of respect because perfection is the realm of God -- and only a devilish usurper would dare aspire to such lofty heights.  So, far be it from me to mess with such a tradition -- I guess the mistake stays and lovely little Aurora (my niece to be) will be free to be as perfectly gorgeous and talented as she's likely to be.  I've got her covered.