Sunday, February 28, 2010

Smile Found Here

I am off to my Practical Design workshop today... fun and inspiration!  Meanwhile, in case you need a smile:

Kodak 'It's Time to Smile' from Paranoid US on Vimeo.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Imaginary trip to Vancouver

Wishing you were in Vancouver to see the Olympics in person?  Take a look at this slideshow of pictures on Flickr in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics group pool ... You can pretend they're your very own vacation shots...

Thursday, February 25, 2010


It's kind of amazing how many different attitudes about school there are out there.  I've written here before about our explorations to see what options there are when your child doesn't travel the traditional institutional school path very easily.  As we are rapidly approaching the high school years, I've been doing a lot of research.

Lately, I've been reading a lot about the idea of "unschooling."  At its core, it's the philosophy that every child (and adult) is primed to learn naturally, and at an individual pace that may not match the pace of her buddies.  The idea, as I understand it, is that there's no real reason a child has to learn algebra at age 14 or physics at age 17 or multiplication tables at age 8.  One child may be ready for multiplication at age 6, another might not be ready until age 11.  And, the thinking goes, that maybe it's better for kids to learn more naturally, following their interests and curiosity the way adults do.  If a child is interested in outer space, say, she'll be inspired to want to read books about space, maybe learn about the planets and science of the universe, maybe even figure out the mathematical calculations of light years and the physics of projecting a rocket into space.  The theory is that people learn best when their learning is self-directed.

And yet most schools are structured to teach kids, grouped by age, in lock-step, giving the clear message that you are Different if you are interested in other things, learn at a different pace, or don't learn best from sitting at a desk reading a textbook.  I'm beginning to realize that a lot of folks who home-school their kids do so because they want the learning to follow their child's pace, not vice versa.  This article from Psychology Today has some very interesting thoughts about this. 

Once you start examining the idea that learning needs to be internally motivated, and not externally motivated,  it seems an obvious point.  Something I read gave this example:  Say your favorite thing in the world to do is knitting. But your husband tells you that you are only allowed to knit for one hour a day, and that you have to spend every afternoon out in the garage learning carpentry.  Even if you had a glimmer of interest in carpentry to begin with, having it imposed on you like that would probably make you dislike the process and maybe even make you hate going into the garage.  And  you would probably become obsessed with knitting, jealously guarding that hour and trying to add whatever minutes on that you could.

There are all sorts of reasons that imposing that externally motivated learning on kids is practical and efficient, even while it not be ideal for most kids.  Probably some kids fall in love with carpentry, and a lot of kids don't mind what they're doing as long as their friends are out there in the garage doing it alongside of them.  For those of us with kids who don't seem to thrive in that sort of learning environment, however, looking at school-teaching versus independent learning opens up a lot of fascinating possibilities.  

So as we are exploring options for our situation, we're learning more ourselves.

If you are interested in learning more about "unschooling," this site and this site have a lot of interesting information.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My personal olympic challenge: applique!

I can't believe it was four years ago that I joined Stephanie McPhee aka Yarn Harlot and entered the Knitting Olympics.  I never would have tried to knit a lace shawl if not for the enthusiasm she sparked, and trust me, I will never knit another lace shawl again.

So I only have myself to blame for my latest project.  Well, I'll assign a touch of blame to Kellie and her gorgeous blog "Don't Look Now" for enticing me toward hand applique as no other collection of quilts and patterns have ever managed to do.   I'd been marveling over the beauty of Kellie's "Joseph's Coat" quilt-along, but I'd resisted....until it occurred to me that it'd be quite nice to have a hand-sewing project to work on as I followed the Olympics.

And what better color to use than PINK?!  I pulled pinks out of my stash, and added a few more quarter-yard cuts to the collection...

and away I go.  I've finished ONE block so far.  It makes me very happy. 

There's no way this will be done by the end of the Olympics, but that's okay.  Working with these fabrics and colors is so cheering that I'm content to take this slowly. 

And if you're tempted, Kellie has the full directions on her blog so you can jump right in!

Monday, February 08, 2010


My MVP pick from Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl:  Chamomile, the boxer mix.  Just look at those blue eyes!

I'll watch frolicking puppies over football any day.  And the bunny cheerleaders were hilarious, if somewhat comatose.   If you missed it, you can watch highlights here.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Face It!

Yesterday, I finally found a bit of time to begin the steps of finishing the fuchsia quilt.  (Yeah, sorry, you're probably getting tired of seeing this...) First, squaring up -- there is something about the quilt blocks on two sides that creates an optical illusion of being out-of-square, and that stumped me for a while.  I kept measuring and marking.  I pulled out the Ricky Tims DVD on finishing techniques ("Grand Finale")  to remind myself about what HE does to square up quilts -- his finishing techniques are impeccable and I highly recommend the DVD.  More measuring, more marking, and finally I trimmed.  Sheesh. The quilt is actually square in this shot, although I think the photographic angle (necessitated by my shoving myself up against the closet door behind the sewing table to get an almost-straight-on shot of my teeny design wall behind the door) makes it look wonky. Oh, and after I took the shot, I trimmed a few inches off of the top edge, so the leaves feel more like they're at the top and not hanging there in the middle. Nothing like making precisely pieced blocks to hack them all off...

Then, I turned to my friend Brenda, who just happens to be an expert on finishing techniques!  I have a copy of her DVD on finishing techniques, so I popped that in to the computer to see her tips for making the best facing.  Excellent!  Brenda provides a free tutorial on her facing technique here, in case you need help as I did.

And that consumed my fabric-play time yesterday.  Sigh.  I am looking forward to sitting down with a movie and hand-sewing the facing, now.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Art, No Art, or All Art


I read something recently that I keep thinking about.  I read in the Balinese language, there is no word for "art" or "artist."  The reason, apparently, is that people in Bali view the creation of beautiful things as a natural part of life, and something that everyone does.  It is such a  part of every day activities that it's not necessary to have a special word for it. 

Isn't that lovely?  Makes me think that some of the "who is an artist" or "is quilting art or craft" discussions seem rather silly.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

What Have You Accomplished Today?


A few weeks ago, I entertained myself during some long driving trips by catching up on a few of Annie Smith's "Quilting Stash" podcasts. Listening to Annie is like listening to a dear friend (well, she IS a friend in real life now, but even before I knew her I felt that way) and it's fun to hear what quilty sorts of things she's been up to.

I listened to a not-very-recent podcast in which Annie interviewed a really interesting quilter named Gyleen Fitzgerald. I'd not encountered Gyleen before, but I was fascinated hearing about how her work as a defense department engineer informs the quilts she makes. But among the many interesting things Gyleen said in that interview, one particular point resonated with me. She mentioned that she always journals and writes poetry, and that her journals always include a list of what she has accomplished on any given day, no matter how small. She even added that she numbers her accomplishments (if I understood her correctly, starting at one when the new year starts and then numbering in sequence to the end of the calendar year) so she has an increasing sense of her accomplishments.

This resonated with something I saw on a PBS show recently, about the concept of positive psychology to focus in on doing work to learn to be happy and optimistic. Noticing the things that make you feel good, or that made you happy, is a big part of that.

So Gyleen's thought about noting accomplishments really struck me. I know I am not alone when I say that I have so many days where I was busy all day long and the day flew by but by the end, I can't really say what it was I was doing. (And I know I'm not alone because you all comment and tell me so when I post about days like that!) I also know that events in our family have put me in a funny phase right now, when my days are unpredictable and often feel like they are affected minute to minute by things I just can't control.

So, I've started a small journal and use it to list my accomplishments each day. I don't take "accomplishment" as a big thing -- I'm focusing on the small stuff because heck, those ARE the accomplishments I have.  Sometimes I can note pretty visible accompliments, large stuff like "cleaned the closet" (which, if you saw my closets, you'd know was a HUGE accomplishment.) Sometimes it's a minor moment, like "I didn't get upset when the dog tracked mud up the stairs." I'm taking my accomplishments were I can find them. Lately, on my new healthy eating plan, I consider what I DON'T put in my mouth to be some of my most significant accomplishments, too.  Hardly earth-shattering stuff, but it gives me a sense of peace and satisfaction at the end of the day to notice the things I did that I felt good about. 

And, just so you know, writing a blog entry counts as an accomplishment too, so score one for me already.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Monday Mis-steps

So, I spent last evening writing a long post listing the best books I've read over the last year, including plot summaries and links... And inexplicably, my computer shut down just as I reached the end. No worry, I thought -- Blogger does that auto save thing now! But when I rebooted, there was no saved message. It's disappeared. Rats rats rats. (That was not exactly what I said at the time.)

This morning, having awakened extra early for no apparent reason, I headed out to the health club to try out a Vinyasa Yoga class. And I remembered what it is I conclude every time I take a yoga class (every 5 years or so): I DON'T LIKE YOGA! I find it boring, frankly. I'd rather be jumping around and sweating and hurting than lying still in some pose and hurting.

After both of those experiences, I think I deserve a morning of quilt fun, don't you?