Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tiffany Bear

At last I can share one of my baby projects!

This afternoon was the baby shower for one of my sweetest and craftiest friends.  She loves this color, which she is trendy enough to call Tiffany Blue.  I would call it Robin's Egg blue myself, but either way, it is a bright shade of light blue.

Since this is a summer baby, I decided not to knit a blanket or sweater - the things I usually make for babies.  I am so glad I did!  I have never been to a shower where so many handmade gifts were given.  It was lovely.  Handmade blankets, changing pads, burp cloths (beautiful ones!), clothes, swaddling cloths, etc.   This baby is already so well loved.

As to my Tiffany Bear, I used a pattern by Susan B. Anderson in her Itty Bitty Toys book.  The pattern was written for sock yarn, and I used worsted, so he is considerably bigger than the bear in the book.  I didn't measure him, but he is a nice huggable size.  I used Red Heart Soft Baby Steps yarn.  It took one full skein.  I bought two, so you'll probably be seeing this color again.

Lumpy is sniffing his baby head.

thoughts on: Outliers

Outliers: The Story of SuccessOutliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell challenges our concept of the born-genuis and the self-made man.  He shows us that nobody rises to the top of their field unless they are helped along the way - by others, by timing, by opportunity, by cultural legacy, and by many, many hours of hard work. 

In looking at the combination of factors that leads to success, he argues for creating those conditions for more people.  No, we can't predict the timing of the next as-yet-unknown revolution.  We cannot replicate the peculiar conditions which have led to past success. 

We could, however, prepare more of our children to grasp hold of opportunities and succeed with improved educational methods, by extending the school year, by not relying so heavily on testing in the early grades, and by letting go of the notion that some people just aren't naturally good at math, reading, etc.  Imagine less emphasis on self esteem and more on working hard and not giving up.  Imagine that every child is capable; some just need more time to learn.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Things other than reading and knitting

Despite the looming due dates, I have not been knitting away at baby gifts, as I had intended to spend much of May. I've been sidetracked by this:

I got a new bike!  I've been riding more mornings than not, and occasional evenings, leading to being more tired.  I thought I lived in a flat area until I got my bike.  My thighs tell me that this is not true. 

Being that time of year, I've been gardening.  Weeding, weeding, weeding, but I also planted (meaning I asked my husband to dig the holes, and I put the plants in them) two new roses and some daisies in my front garden.  None of my pink tulips reappeared this spring, which was a great disappointment.  I'd never experienced that before, but after googling, I learned it is not uncommon.  I'm still disappointed.  The whole reason I plant bulbs is so they will be there forever.  It is not worth the effort for only one year of blooms.  This fall, grape hyacinths and daffodils.

Last week I painted a table.  I did not take pictures.  It is a round end table I bought last winter on Craigslist for $20.  It was creamy yellow, and I painted it white. 

I have also been spending probably too much time entering contests on Pinterest.  Choosing twenty images when I know they will be judged is quite different from pinning things when I happen to see them, only so I can remember them later.  As of today, I have not won anything, but hope springs eternal.   If I win a Vespa, you will hear all about it.

thoughts on: Midnight Rising

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil WarMidnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz

Unlike Horwitz's other books, Midnight Rising is a straight biography, no humorous modern day excursions as Horwitz follows a historic trail, and I admit that I picked it up thinking it would be like his earlier books.  I was familiar with John Brown and the raid on Harper's Ferry, and it was not the topic that drew me to the book.  It was Horwitz's name on the cover.

Once I began reading it, however, I found Brown a compelling subject.  Horwitz neither demonizes nor glorifies Brown.  Drawing on primary sources, using many of John Brown's own words, we see a complex man fixated on the greatest social injustice of his day.  Brown's radical views on equality were rooted in his conservative Calvinist Christianity and were much more liberal than even the outspoken, secularly driven abolitionists of his day.  This combination of deeply held orthodoxy leading to extreme liberality of thought so contradicts the mainstream bias of today, that the exploration of it fascinates.  I hope it challenges readers to confront their own assumptions about the interaction of religious faith and progressive thought.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

thoughts on: Almost French

Almost French: Love and a New Life in ParisAlmost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull

After reading Bringing Up Be'be', I wanted a more balanced look at adjusting to life in Paris, and I saw Almost French mentioned in another Goodreads review.  Fortunately, my library had a copy just waiting for me, so I was able to read it right away. 

Sarah Turnbull, an Australian journalist, shares the joys and perils of adjusting to life in Paris.  Primarily, she focuses on the differences in social interactions, and her own frustration as she slowly figures out the rules as she unwittingly breaks them.  Throughout, she gives the reader a glimpse into the mindset of the Parisians - what they value, what they don't, and a little bit of why. 

Being able to see the beauty of her adopted culture even while she struggled to adapt to it makes Turnbull's memoir a likable read.  It was also refreshing to read an Anglo-in-Paris memoir that occasionally steps outside of upper middle class Paris.  Seeing the differences, and similarities, between rural France and Paris, added a depth of understanding to the culture and its people, as did her descriptions of her quartier, which was on the cusp of gentrification as she wrote.