Nurture Shock

Nurture Shock

Just finished reading “Nurture Shock”  by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.
This book is fascinating.
If you haven’t already, you really need to read this.
Sections I found especially relevant were the chapters on sleep, why kids lie and why, for adolescents, arguing with their parents can actually be a positive thing.
This week, I supplemented our family’s daily read aloud with also reading excerpts from this book.  I was excited to share what I was learning with my boys (9 and 11.5 years old).  I was also curious about how they would react to some of the rather surprising statistics and study results described in the book.  Our ensuing conversations were both eye-opening and hilarious.  My littler guy wants to hear more about Black Santa (chapter 2 – Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race).  My older guy jokes that this book messed up everything since I’m now clued into the fact that children do regularly lie to their parents… well, at least I think he’s mostly joking (chapter 4 – Why Kids Lie).
Topics, studies, statistics and interpretations presented in “Nurtures Shock” are so thought provoking that I’m going to have to read quite a few chapters over again.  
Are you a parent?  Do you work with kids?  Do you want to understand better how children learn and develop?  Then you really want to read this book.

Walkabout Inspiration

Walkabout Inspiration

Beautiful NYC neighborhoods book by Naomi Fertitta

I’ve been living in NYC for coming up on 20 years now.  Wow.  Never intended to stay so long.  Transferred here for work.  Married my honey (who moved for the same job).  Had 2 funny little boys.  Meant to return to CA eventually.  But all these years later we are still firmly ensconced in this city.

We were on a tight budget those early days.  Date night was a turkey burger deluxe at the local diner and a walk about the West Village.  Fancy date night was a marginally more upscale diner for pasta and a trip to TKTS to see if we could score discount tickets to a popular show. We walked just about everywhere.  I suffered the subways only if absolutely necessary, but we were too frugal to ever hail a cab.

Walking about NYC was a necessary thing… but it was also an awesome thing.  Walking meant we explored our new home block by block.  We felt like “real” New Yorkers striding from 42nd Street & Park Ave (work) to 18th Street & 1st Ave (first NYC home).  Sometimes, we’d take the train to a new neighborhood and then leisurely explore our way home.  I liked wandering and seeing and discovering.

Over the years, we stopped exploring our city.  I think it was the kids that did it.  Sure, why not, let’s blame the kids…  First cumbersome strollers.  Then little guys who had to pee all the time and my biggest concern became knowing where the clean bathrooms were.  I walked round and round our kid-friendly neighborhood for years.  Kind of like a giant hamster wheel.  They finally grew up enough to be more independent and too pee less frequently…  but now they have school, homework & sports.   Oh, and let’s not forget my most current venture/midsadventure this past year.  Six days a week in the studio means no time to go walkabout….

I suddenly have some unexpected free time.  Kids in school.  Spouse at work.  Forced to close studio... which was really not a nice thing… but do you see that same bright shining silvery lining I’m looking at folks?

I came across this gorgeous book describing the different enclaves throughout the five boroughs.  And am once again inspired to go walkabout the city.  Can’t wait to discover whatever it is I’ll discover and to share it with you after each walkabout adventure.  Stay tuned!

Cowl using only Half-Double Crochet

Cowl using only Half-Double Crochet

Here’s a cozy cowl I crocheted while en route to our vacation destination last month.  Loved this project since it met my preferred crocheting criteria:

  1. Meditatively mindless.  Sometimes I just don’t want to think about what my fingers are doing.  Sometimes I prefer plugging my mind into a movie and setting my hands into making mode.  After creating the foundation chain, the only stitch required to form this cowl was half-double crochet.  Perfect.
  2. Re-made from discarded materials.  Thank you to my buddy, Rachanee, for giving me her reject knitting project last year.  It took a little time to unwind the yarn, but the pretty, free yarn was worth it!
  3. Sharp looking results.  Ok, I do make a lot of things by hand… but this doesn’t mean I necessarily like the “homemade” look.  I like clean colors, simple lines and functional pieces.  This cowl is all three of these things.

      The instructions for this project comes from Marion Madel’s “The New Crochet.”  She has quite a few patterns I’d like to try (although not the giant oven-mitt-mittens).

      Crochet.  It’s really a very cool skill to have.  You can keep things simple (as I prefer) or get real fanciful with it.  And now, I believe that’s enough talking about crocheting & time to fetch my hooks and a skein of yarn.  It’s Sunday night.  It’s freezing out.  My boy is sitting next to me watching old Star Wars movies… feels like the perfect time to get crocheting!

      Inspired by The Perfect Peach

      Inspired by The Perfect Peach

      We’ve been hanging out at the public library a lot this summer.  My 10 year old figured out how to request books on line.  He now has a steady stream of books to pick up from the reserved section all week long.

      Once we’re in the library, the kids always want to sit and read a bit.  While they get their library fix, I’ve taken to browsing through the cook books.  Amazing how many cook books there are!  I love looking at the gorgeous food pictures and reading snippets about the cooks themselves.  I’m also always looking for inspiration on what I can cook next for my family.

      Last week I picked up The Perfect Peach by Marcy, Nikiko & David Mas Masumoto.  It’s a beautiful book.  Stories from the authors’ daily lives.  Recipes.  Pretty pictures.  And even a page on “How to prune and thin a tree” by Mas.

      This book inspired me to add some touches of peach to Saturday night’s dinner.  Here’s what I made:

      Spinach salad with peaches.  I botched their recipe for the peach vinaigrette (who messes up vinaigrette?!).  So we just used other dressings we had on hand.  Still, the salad went well with my favorite fried chicken and corn on the cob.

      Summer sangria.  In my mind, the words “summer” and “sangria” are synonymous.  Of course I had to make the sangria.

      Peach crisp.  My littler boy, E, joined me to make this dessert.  It smelled so yummy he just had to sample a plate as soon as it came out of the oven.

      I chose three very basic recipes from their book.  I also must confess to buying my peaches at the grocery store – so much less satisfying after reading about peaches freshly harvested on the farm.  Sigh.  Still, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, had fun picking the peach recipes to try and was happy to dig into our peach-inspired meal.

      Would love to stay & chat some more, but I’ve got to fetch the boys from camp.  I believe Si has books waiting for him at the library – which means it’s time for me to look for more cooking inspiration!

      Stitching Lessons and Inspiration

      Stitching Lessons and Inspiration

      The more I dabble in stitching, the more I like it.  There is something so restful and meditative about working quietly with needle and thread in hand.

      True, the projects grow slowly.  But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  Embroider a vine and leaf today.  Add a flower tomorrow.  Enjoy the beauty of each individual addition.  Eventually, those small bits will weave together to become something really precious.

      I believe hand stitching is in my life to stay.  I want to learn more.  To get myself started, I’ve been referring to the following four books for instruction, tips and inspiration.

      Stitched Gifts by Jessica Marquez.

      Embroidered Effects by Jenny Hart.

      Handsewn by Margaret Rowan.

      All four books are gorgeously done.  I’ve spent hours poring over pictures of projects and perfect stitching.  The Handsewn book is strictly about different techniques.  The other three show a variety of projects that really let the personalities of the crafter-author’s shine through.  It’s also nice to have more than one book to refer to when I’m trying to learn a new stitch.
      So many stitches and techniques.  This will take a lot of time to learn them.  But no worries.  Because I’m planning to enjoy the process and celebrate every one of my beginner stitches.  Stitch by stitch.  Project by project.  This is going to be an adventure… a quiet one… but an adventure nonetheless.
      Amigurumi Fido

      Amigurumi Fido

      I’ve had enough with the knitting of hats and scarves for a while.  Also want to switch from knitting to crocheting.  From projects one can wear to projects one can play with.  Specifically, something my kids would enjoy playing with.

      Wanted to make something fun.  Something ridiculously cute.  Something… amigurimi.

      Followed the pattern to make “puppy and his daddy” from Amigurumi World by Ana Paula Rimoli.

      My crochet guy is the “daddy.”  But I’m just calling him “Fido.”  Making “Dido” (the puppy) next.

      Once I finished crocheting Fido, I thought he might enjoy a bone or two to gnaw on.

      Decided to needle felt the bones.  It’s a simple and fairly quick way to shape small woolen sculptures.  Just hold the wool roving in the desired shape and repeated stab the felting needle through the roving (making sure to use a felting foam underneath).

      My seven year old gave it a try too.  He didn’t have the patience to shape the bone from start to finish.  He did poke himself a few times with the needle.  But overall, he had a good time experimenting with it.

      If you want to give needle felting a try, just keep in mind a few things:

      • The felt shrinks down as it binds together.  So start with more volume of felt than what you ultimately want.  The more you work the wool, the more it will tighten and shrink down.
      • Keep your fingers tucked – like when you’re chopping vegetables.  Hopefully, this will lessen your chances of stabbing yourself.
      • Felting needles are sharp.  My kids are allowed to use them only under my supervision.
      • Felting needles can also be grouped in a special handle so you can work with multiple needles simultaneously.
      • Remember to use the felting foam under the roving as you work.

      My boys and I intend to put together a dog house for Fido.  In the meantime, I thought it’d be fun to make him a little basket to hang out in.

      I used a US L (8 mm) crochet hook and Patons Wool Roving yarn.  I worked with two strands of yarn to make the basket chunkier.  The pattern is essentially the same as my “Hurricane Baskets.”

      Use single crochet to form the base as follows:

      • Round 1:  Chain 2.  Single crochet 6 stitches into the second chain from the hook.  Slip stitch the round closed.  Chain 1.
      • Round 2:  Increase from 6 to 12 stitches (two single crochet in each stitch).  Slip stitch the round closed.  Chain 1.
      • Round 3:  Increase from 12 to 18 stitches (two single crochet every second stitch).  Slip stitch the round closed.  Chain 1.
      • Round 4:  Increase from 18 to 24 stitches (two single crochet in every third stitch).  Slip stitch the round closed.  Chain 1.
      • Round 5:  Increase from 24 to 30 stitches (two single crochet in every fourth stitch).  Slip stitch the round closed.  Chain 1.
      • Round 6:  Increase from 30 to 36 stitches (two single crochet in every fifth stitch).  Slip stitch the round closed.  Chain 1.

      To form the sides:

      • Round 7:  Single crochet 36.  Slip stitch the round closed.  Chain 1.
      • Round 8:  Half double crochet 36.  Slip stitch the round closed.  Chain 1.
      • Round 9:  Form the handles in the row.  Half double crochet 6.  Chain 6 (skip 6 stitches).  Half double crochet 12.  Chain 6 (skip 6 stitches).  Half double crochet 6.  Slip stitch the round closed.  Chain 1.
      • Round 10:  Single crochet every half double stitch from the previous row.  Single crochet 8 times over each handle.  Slip stitch the round closed.

        Have to say, I’m really digging the big headed amigurumi Fido.  There’s just something about this project that puts a smile on my face.  Not to mention, the kids love him.  They’ve already placed requests for more guys.  Prediction?  Lots more amigurumi in my crafting future!