Wednesday, November 30, 2011

French paradox

I just made some Herbes de Provence. Well, I'm calling it faux herbes de provence, since I was low on basil, out of sage, and was missing the savory and lavender. It's basically not Herbes de Provence at all.

Which is a good thing, because apparently the recipe I chose has 1.6g of fat in it, or 21% of your daily value — and 3% saturated fat! However, I'm missing out on 43% of my dietary fiber.

I wasn't aware that oregano thyme and basil were so fattening. It must be the rosemary?

Something tells me there's a problem with their nutritional facts on this one.

Crafting Binge - Holiday pillow covers

I decided to stitch some fleece pillow covers for the pillows on our outdoor furniture. The 18" pillow inserts are from Ikea. I was inspired by modern felt Christmas stockings like these on Etsy, and of course the classic Crate and Barrel mod images we see every year.

The design was simple but MAN was it time-consuming! It probably took more than an hour to cut and applique each snowflake. I didn't think about the math of the distance around the edge of the snowflakes. But I like the design!

I made the red covers for our outdoor table and chairs, and the white ones for our front porch swing. Fleece is washable!

Each tree pillow has a slightly different design. I ran out of fleece, so I still have one more pillow to make.

I cut out the cardinal freehand, and you can see it took me a few tries!

Starboy helped me with the photos for the blog in our fake-o natural light studio. We're still working on the "light and shadow" chapter of his visual education!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Crafting Binge - tea and cookies

I've been binging on creativity! Our neighbor just turned two, so we gave her tea for two and some felt counting cookies!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why blocks are better than iPads

Yesterday I posted about a discussion on my email Mommy List, about whether or not the Feminist Pig should buy an iPad for her two-year-old son. Despite creating a ridiculously robust and rich environment for her child at home with her partner, my guess is that she felt she could further his education and understanding with a technological boost. Because More is Better, right?

Let's put the expense aside, or the idea that the $500 could be put to use feeding and building community, or accruing interest in a college fund. What's wrong with a little technology, here and there? Isn't it like having just a taste of cake, or just one cookie? Just a teeensy weeensy little dinner mint?

Well, as adults, our brains have finished their major growth. This wraps up around age 25. (Did you catch that? That experimentation in college maybe did cost you a few brain cells.) A little Cow Clicker isn't going to be as dangerous as it would be for a preschooler or toddler, whose brain is frenetically building neural roads for future commerce.

Before first grade, children learn by touching, feeling, experiencing and moving. Building with blocks, as the New York Times noted today builds excellent skills for problem-solving and processing previous experiences. Computers also don't allow children to develop their own rules about turn-taking, time spent, or being nice. These rules, called "executive functioning" skills, are a key predictor in academic and professional success.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Parenting and Technology are Complicated

photo ©Apple

First, let me point out the irony of blogging about screen-free parenting. It's a bit like "jumbo shrimp," or "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the war room!"

But this is where we are in 2011. Telling everyone about recycling on an expensive gadget that will end up in a landfill in short order. For example. Offering so many choices, that it's changing the landscape of our society, as Barry Schwartz wrote about choice-making here, as Gabriel Kahane talked about creative loss (at the end of the interview with Audie Cornish) here, as John Tierney wrote about decision fatigue here as Richard Louv wrote about here. And more, of course.

I participate in a Mommy listserv of at least 2000 local moms. It started as a breastfeeding support group, which over the years has morphed into a chat room of topics from babies to new apartments to great hostess gifts. Last week, someone posted: What's the best tablet I should put on my two-year-old darling's Christmas list? iPad, or can I save a few bucks on something else?

Come on, seriously?! An iPad for your two-year-old? Because his iPhone is boring him? Because his big-screen TV won't fit in the car? Because he needs to be online at all times to maintain his high score in Angry Birds?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Crafting binge - aprons, tablecloth, bunting

Happy Birthday, Mary Jane! The bunting now hangs on her bedroom wall so she can celebrate all year.

I forgot to make a nice photo of the tablecloth I made for Mary Jane's parents when they moved into their new house! It's intended to work for long folding tables, so I used about 2 1/2 yards of fabric in two styles. It covered a 10-foot folding banquet table easily! And it turns out their massive, mod kitchen table is about the same size, so they'll get a lot of use out of it!

For the striped fabric, I just slit it down the middle so I could use the selvedge without hemming. It doesn't look too bad.

Mary Jane's lavender gift bag

...Filled with one of Meg McElwee's aprons, which I hand-embroidered. I made the aprons earlier in the spring. Her second book has great projects in it!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Crafting Binge 2011

It's been a bit nutty around here for the last month or two, with the sewing machine finally clickiting away, and prepping for my moms club holiday party. My mother-in-law loaned me her machine when mine was in the shop, and hers is a steady workhorse! Combined with Starboy actually going to sleep before 9:00 some nights, I've been binging on creativity. Over the next several days, I will present you with the Parade of Projects!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Raccoon energy

John and Karen Hollingsworth photo

So I'm in the basement switching the laundry loads tonight and suddenly I see some movement near the doorway. Silently, a good-sized raccoon turned and glanced at me, as if to say, "Oh? Is this room busy?" And his pal, who was on his way into the other room, luckily changed tack and scooted back outside. The first guy had to think twice about it and receive an invitation back into the yard as I clapped my hands loudly.

My heart was pounding. Raccoons can be mean, right? And there were two of them between me and the way out, creeping in on nothingness and leaving on a whisper. Two, right? Two? Is that everybody? Everybody is out? They seemed fairly non-plussed, however. Not half as excited as the squirrel who came exploring into the living room one afternoon, through the front door.

I looked up the bandits in one of my animal medicine books since the encounter was so bold and direct.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What's Wrong with Testing? A quick summary. And related info.

The Washington Post's "The Answer Sheet" has run a guest column today by teacher curriculum designer Marion Brady, listing (again!) the trouble with Testing.
"Teachers oppose the tests because they’re at odds with deep-seated American values about individual differences and worth; undermine a fundamental democratic principle that those closest to and therefore most knowledgeable about problems are best positioned to deal with them; dump major public money into corporate coffers instead of classrooms.

"I, a retired teacher beyond the reach of today’s 'reformers,' oppose the tests for those reasons, and for the psychological damage they do to kids not yet able to cope. But my particular, personal beef is that the tests (and the Common Core State Standards on which they’re based) are blocking policymaker consideration of what I believe to be the most promising educational innovation in the last century — the use of general systems theory as it developed during World War II as a tool for reshaping and radically simplifying the 'core curriculum.'"
As a classroom teacher, I was surprised at how much time I had to spend focusing on prepping students for spring testing. It was weeks and weeks. Well—it was the whole year, really, because the principal and academic coaches use that data as a benchmark. I can't say it was without benefit—good educators use the data to target instruction, see where some strengths and weaknesses are. But the efforts are to the detriment of developing the whole child. Why should music education be limited to the students who are doing so well academically that they can miss class, for example?