The Great Crochet Adventure

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The last time I tried to crochet, it did not go well. My mother tried to teach me how to make a granny square, but we quickly realized a right hander teaching a left hander is beyond tricky. On top of that, I had no real basis of understanding how crochet works, so a granny square was probably way beyond my skill level.

I was going to let crochet go until I decided to launch a major project at work. In response to students wanting to learn how to knit (several come to see me for help) and craft in general, I am organizing an after school program that teaches students crafting skills. In addition, our little collective is going to have a community service component. Some of what we make will go to charitable organizations. We’re going to make and donate everything from chemo caps to kennel blankets!

In the midst of organizing everything, I found out a lot of kids want to learn how to crochet. Yikes! It’s kind of hard to teach them how to crochet when I don’t have a clue. So, last week I set upon teaching myself some basic skills – things like how to hold the hook, the yarn, and some basic stitches.

Due to a weekend of no internet, I ended up teaching myself using an ancient Reader’s Digest book, The Complete Guide to Needlework. The pictures weren’t the best, but it was enough to get me started. Seeing as the last time my left-handedness was a major obstacle, I decided to try learning right-handed. After several hours of epic failure – my right hand was fighting me the whole way – I finally managed to make a little 4×4″ swatch using a single crochet stitch.

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Hooray!! The little victories are the best, aren’t they?

Emboldened by my tiny success, I decided to make a set of coasters as a means to practice the single crochet stitch and to find my groove in holding the hook and the work yarn. Like knitting, there is a method and rhythm to manipulating both the hook and yarn.

Just like the first go around, there was plenty of failure, (and hand cramping – my right hand does not like all this work!), but the repetitive nature of the project paid off. I ended up with a cute set of coasters and the “groove” is falling into place. My fingers are naturally finding their grip on the hook and I’m finally able to regulate tension on the yarn without overthinking it.

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Not bad for a few hours of self-instruction. Sometimes you just have to jump in and do it! Even if failure is a given. I’m not a genius at crochet, but I’ve at least got enough to be able to teach students the basics. As I learn, so will they. If anything we can laugh at our mistakes and cheer our victories together.

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c.b.w. 2016

Lighthouse Blog Award

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There’s nothing like the light of a Lighthouse Blog Award to brighten my day. Many thanks to Cat Lumb for nominating my blog for this lovely award. Her blog is a must for any writer as she documents the highs and lows of a writer’s life with charm and wit on her blog, The Struggle To Be A Writer.

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The Rules:

  • Display the Award Certificate on your blog.
  • Write a post and link back to the blogger that nominated you.
  • Share three ways that you like to help others.
  • Nominate as many bloggers as you like.
  • Inform your nominees of their award nominations.
  • Have fun!

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Three ways I help others:

1. I’m a teacher, so most of my day is devoted to helping my students learn World History and Art History. Aside from content, I’m helping them read, write, and become lifelong learners. Most of all, I’m helping them find confidence in their abilities and the courage to think for themselves.

2. On the last Friday of every month, I bake a treat for my co-workers. It’s a simple, little thing, but it really brightens everyone’s day. Teaching is a difficult job, so even the smallest bit of light goes a long way.

3. For me “others” also includes animals. I regularly collect things the Arizona Humane Society needs to care for the animals they shelter. Towels, food, collars, toys, beds, etc. are brought to my classroom by anyone willing to donate. When there’s enough to fill up my car, I pack it all up and drive to the shelter.

Just recently I looked into how my new obsession with knitting might be able to benefit homeless animals and I found The Snuggles Project. This organization facilitates the distribution of hand-knit blankets to animal shelters across the country. As it turns out, my local humane society shelter is on the list of facilities that accepts donations. I can’t wait to start knitting warm blankets for puppies, kittens, and animals suffering from trauma or recovering from surgery.

Nominations:

Random Acts of Writing + [art] – Beautiful photographs, gorgeous words, tasty recipes, and fantastic pieces of art await you on this blog!

Heart to Harp – Whether it’s mastering the playing of the harp, taking beautiful pictures, or knitting socks and sweaters, the writer of this blog is full of life.

Metaphors and Smiles – Words weave together with vivid imagery and imagination on this poetic blog.

Crowing Crone – Travel alongside Joss as she goes on the adventure of a lifetime through France.

The Everyday Epic – Follow this blogger as she juggles the life of a teacher with the dream of seeing her novel published.

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c.b.w. 2014

Bookapalooza

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Every year, during the second weekend of February, something magical happens at the state fairgrounds.  Inside of the exhibition hall, thousands upon thousands of used books are unpacked and displayed on endless rows of tables.  As if the idea of thousands of books under one roof isn’t enough to make any bibliophile drool, they go ahead and price these books at unbelievably low prices.  A hardcover bestseller goes for about $4, while a paperback dons a $1 sticker.  Better still, on Sunday, everything (except rare books) is half off.  I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

For the last eight years, it’s been a family tradition to attend the VNSA Book Sale and replenish our stock of books.  This is the place to go for a truly amazing selection as they’ve got everything from fiction, literature, history, reference, poetry, art, suspense, YA, cookbooks, crafts, and about a million other genres!   Sunday morning we wake up bright and early, pack our large canvas bags, and practice using “Black Friday” elbows.  It gets pretty crowded with eager book shoppers all looking for a great deal.  If you don’t grab a book when you see it, someone else will swipe right out from under your nose!  Another thing to watch out for are the infamous “cart blockers,” who will use a shopping cart to block a section of a table to keep other shoppers from grabbing books.  Little do they know I have no problem moving their cart out of the way.  Only a newbie falls for that trick!

The entrance to Book Heaven

When the doors open at 8 a.m. the line streams into the exhibition building, with everyone running to their favorite section.  I always head straight for fiction first and spend at least an hour combing through every row and every box looking for favorite and new authors alike.  My Book Vibe goes into serious overdrive at this point, but it still steers me right every single year.  After fiction, I jet over to the craft section to check out needlework and sewing pattern books.  Then, its off cookbooks to see if I can find the ever elusive British recipe book.

In the Fiction Trenches

The family always regroups after an hour to check in and drop off books in the holding area before heading out for another hour (or more) of book hunting.  During the second phase, I head to classics to track down books that fall under the heading of, “books I should read, but haven’t gotten around to yet.”  After that, I hit the history section to expand my collection of Ancient Egyptian studies and the art section to see if there’s anything that includes my favorite artists.

This year’s haul was particularly good, as I brought home a wide range of books that should keep me busy for at least a few months.

The grand total: $57

My favorite finds for this year include:

The Impressionists and Their Legacy – This book has a price of $150 on the inside cover and I it got for $7.50.  It’s packed with brilliant color plates from of my favorite artists, (i.e. Monet, Cezanne, Pissaro, and Degas), as well as historical information about Impressionism.

Van Gogh by M.E. Thalbaut – I paid $4 for this book and I’m still shocked at what I got for the money.  The dust jacket may be torn, but the interior is pristine.  Color plates fill almost every page, along with reproductions of letters and sketches by Van Gogh.  His life is traced from start to finish with amazing insight.

British Grub by Brian Murphy – Hiding amid the far more popular Italian cookbooks, this British gem was just waiting for me to find it.  Recipes for traditional pub sandwiches, soups, and stews make this little book a huge find! And it was only 25¢!

Dusk by James Salter – I have a previous work by Salter, (Last Night), and always loved his writing, but finding his books in my area can be difficult.  I was delighted to find him hiding in one of the boxes beneath the tables.

Selected Tales of Guy de Maupassant – I already have a complete collection of Maupassant’s works, but this book was so beautiful with gold leafing and illustrations I had to have it!  At only $1, it was easy to justify buying a double.

The Britons Ed. by M.I. Ebbutt – This book was sitting on an end cap in a section where it didn’t belong and I’m so glad I noticed it. Rather than a dry history book, it’s a volume that covers early British history via traditional myths and lore.  I can’t wait to read it.

By the end of the morning, my arms burn from carrying my load of books, but its totally worth the work.  I go home and peel off all the stickers and clean all the covers, (these books sit in a warehouse all year and can get pretty dirty!), and then spend the next week trying to figure out how to fit them on my bookshelves.  For a book lover, this is a day well-spent!

The best part of the whole experience is knowing every dollar spent at the VNSA Book Sale goes to local charities.  This year, they raised $378,000!  The event is already set for next year and you can bet I’ll be there.

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c.b. 2012