Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School

Today is the first day of school in Chicago. A big shout-out to all my teacher friends and parent friends and student friends. You all lived through it!

Back to School has me thinking about goal-setting. I have been very lax about goal-setting in the past because I felt trapped by my personal circumstances. Now I have a clean slate, so it's time to put on my big-girl pants and set some goals.

I'm getting more and more concerned about the long-term health consequences of the excess weight that I carry around, so this week I'm starting the Flat Belly Diet. I had great success with it in 2010, before Michael's illness caused me to turn back to my emotional eating ways. It's a great eating plan. Four 400-calorie meals a day. Each meal includes a monounsaturated fat like olives or nuts or dark chocolate, plus lean proteins and fruits and vegetables. In 2010, I lost 11 pounds in the first two weeks. So Goal #1 is to Get Healthy.

I'm thinking and praying about participating in a craft show at the DuPage County fairgrounds in November. I'm thinking about it because it would be a lot of travel back and forth from Chicago for two days, and the small booths cost $150 for the two days. I'm also thinking and praying about creating my own craft show in Rogers Park sometime in December. Less travel, less cost. More name recognition for me. So Goal #2 is to Participate in a Craft Show.

 I'm delighted to be creating a home with my wonderful roommate (whose birthday is today), Ms. Sarah Bell. The past three weeks have been great fun deciding where things go and adding to the comfort of our domicile as we go. Sarah's most recent addition is a chalkboard wall in the kitchen for messages and doodling, which has been very fun so far. So Goal #3 is to Maintain a Comfortable Home.

 I'm becoming more and more aware of a horrible habit I have in my friendships, where I tend to take for granted that the people who are the most important to me will always be there when I need them, no matter how much or little attention I pay to them on a regular basis. So far, it's worked out for me -- a testament to my faithful friends, not the quality of relationship I offer. But this has recently become unacceptable to me. So Goal #4 is to Nurture My Friendships.

 I also really want to learn how to sew like a champ. It's a great skill to have as a creative outlet, and it will also serve me well professionally. So Goal #5 is to Really Learn to Sew.

In the past, I've alluded to my desire to take my crocheting to the next level and to create more daring designs. Let's make that a goal, shall we? Goal #6 is to Crochet More Difficult Stuff.

So these are my Back-to-School goals, friends. I share them with all of you in this public forum so that I will be held accountable for them. I'll post updates to let you know how I'm doing on all this stuff. Meanwhile, your prayers and positive thoughts would be appreciated!

That's the news for now, darlings. No Stitch 'n' Bitch tonight, as it is Sarah's birthday and she must be celebrated. So until next time, as always, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!! XOXOXO

Monday, August 19, 2013

Glenwood Avenue Arts Festival

This past weekend was my favorite weekend of the year in Rogers Park, the Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest. It's two and a half days of art and music and food and drink and vibrating energy. And it's literally right outside my door! From my living room sofa, I could hear the bands performing at the North Stage! How exciting!

The Fest gets bigger and better every year, and this year I was able to spend several hours each day exploring and experiencing. Yesterday my lovely and talented friend Yvette drove in from Countryside, Illinois, to fest with me, and we had a ball! Yvette decided that no Sunday will ever again be complete without Puppet Bike, Go-Go Dancers, and Buffalo fries.

I, too, am a huge fan of Puppet Bike. Jack, the puppeteer genius behind Puppet Bike, is a tireless performer who delights crowds and crowds of people every Chicago summer. He's legendary!

My absolute favorite experience of the Glenwood Fest was when artist Anna Todaro showed me her marvelous children's book, Everybody Hoops but Me...., and read the entire book to me as though I were five years old. She used voices too! I think she's amazing! I ended up going back to her tent later in the evening, expressing my delight at her having read me the book, and buying a copy of said book, which she graciously autographed for me!

My second favorite experience of the Fest was when I noticed that the artist studios on the second floor on Glenwood south of Morse were open. There's a violin-making shop that I've always wanted to visit. I've seen it from the El stop for years and have been DYING to see the inside! So I waltzed in the open door, marched up the stairs, and asserted myself onto the violin studio. It was a magical place. It's owned and run by Sean Colledge, a mutual friend of Jillian Frank's and mine. Once I dropped Jillian's name, I was an instant family member! Sean told me he'd been making violins for twelve years, that he'd pretty much designed his own curriculum through an apprenticeship he'd had. He also told me about his awesome Cajun band (whom I'd heard through my living room window, performing on the North Stage) and invited me to try some of his wife's delicious Crayfish Etoufe!

There was so much creative energy buzzing around my home all weekend long that I actually got out my sketchbook and pencils today and drew something for the first time in a year! I am inspired!! Speaking of inspiration, don't forget the Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood Bar at 7:00 tonight! And as always, my dear ones, til next time, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!!

Monday, August 12, 2013

What I Learned at Renaissance Camp

Today was the first day of Renaissance Camp, an all-day historical immersion camp for kids aged five to twelve, with the program where I teach. I am the art teacher, which means I get one hour with each of the four groups of children to create a Renaissance-inspired art project.

Today we made papier mache gargoyles. We talked about what gargoyles are and what their purpose on buildings is. Most kids said gargoyles were put on buildings to protect the buildings from demons. Some kids said gargoyles helped to siphon rain water from buildings. A couple of kids talked about rain water gargoyles being constructed so that it looked like they were peeing. Kids love bathroom humor. Of course, all the things they said were true.

We talked about papier mache and how the strips of paper dipped in the glue mixture (I used Mod Podge and water) can be used to attach pieces such as wings or heads together, or can be smoothed over crumpled newspaper to change the texture of the piece.

Kids will teach you things. I always learn great stuff from kids -- valuable life lessons. Today I learned that papier mache is a very difficult craft for a kid with OCD issues. I also learned that if you ask said kid with OCD issues HOW to help him, rather than forcing him into a papier mache cage, the kid can get through the art project without shedding a single tear. The tears were on the horizon, but we combatted them with empathy and active listening.

I learned the benefits of not getting angry at a six-year-old who tips over a bucket of Mod Podge and water, dousing herself and her neighbors. You see, the bucket was too tall and the six-year-olds too short to get the paper strips properly coated in mucilage. She was just trying to follow my instructions on getting the paper saturated. I also learned that resourceful six-year-olds will dip their paper strips in the spill on the table, thus soaking up the spilled glue while ensuring not to tip the bucket a second time.

I learned (on two occasions) that guessing someone's gender is sometimes a tricky endeavor, so it's probably better to ask the person's name before assigning them a gender. I erred on the side of caution and asked names first. Good thing I did -- my initial impulse was wrong on both counts!!

I learned that one back-up activity is not always enough. I dodged the heartache of trying to get a five-year-old to write in calligraphy by having some drawing paper and markers at the ready for free drawing.

But most importantly, I learned that the attention that I pay to children is often repaid with very sticky hugs and beautiful drawings for my refrigerator. I came home with two pieces of art for my personal collection!

It was a big day for me, education-wise. I wonder what those kids will teach me tomorrow.

That's all the news for now. I'm off to the Stitch 'n' Bitch at the Glenwood. You should come. It's Wally's last night. Until next time, my dear ones, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Coming Soon: Milking Goats and Making Cheese

It's two days before My Big Move. I should be packing boxes and cleaning. What am I doing? Registering for a cheese making class.

About a month ago, my wonderful Renaissance woman friend Angela asked me, "Hey, do you want to learn to make cheese with me?" It seems there's a place in the northwest suburbs, Angelic Organics Learning Center, that teaches classes on cheese making. It's the real deal -- we'll milk goats and make several kinds of soft cheeses on Saturday morning, then camp in Rock Cut State Park, where we'll drink wine and eat the soft cheeses we just made. Sunday we'll explore the town that is purportedly quaint and rustic, then return to the Learning Center Sunday afternoon for a class in hard cheeses. The hard cheeses have to age, so they'll mail them to me a couple of weeks after the class. Tada!! Here's a box of cheese that I made, right in my mailbox!!

And then I'll know how to make cheese. And you will invite me to every dinner party you have because you know in your heart of hearts that your host gift will be cheese, lovingly handmade by me!! I'll also know how to milk a goat, which probably won't get me invited to any extra parties.

I'm moving Saturday. Please pray/send positive thoughts/do what you do. I'll be much less stressed now that I'm registered to become a cheese-making aficionado. There is no Knit Night at Squiggly's tonight -- as a matter of fact, the store is going to be closed all weekend. I'll be back with all of you on Monday to tell you about The Move and, potentially, a Yarn Adventure with Dr. Emily. As always my darlings, Peace, (radical) Love, and Yarn!