Monday, December 22, 2008

Last-Minute Educational Gifts

Why buy a thing when you can give someone an experience? This holiday season, buy your loved one a gift certificate to one of Indy's many continuing education venues. Bonuses: no mall traffic, no gift wrap, no overnight shipping fees.

For Mom, try a gift certificate to Kiss Z Cook or Frasier's Gourmet Foods. You get bonus points if you attend the class with her.

For Dad, consider Conner Prairie, which offers classes on wood-working, blacksmithing, arms-making and more.

For the fitness buff in your life, consider Brick House Fitness, recently recognized by Indianapolis Monthly as the city's best venue for fitness classes.

For the loved one who has some creative flair, stop by Boca Loca Beads or the Indianapolis Art Center.

Need a gift for someone who lives out of town? Order a gift certificate from The Teaching Company, which offers a staggering selection of college-level audio courses.

And for the loved one who already has everything, order a gift certificate for the IUPUI Community Learning Network. The wide variety of classes -- from business training to flower arranging -- means there's truly something for everyone.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reader Recommendation: Photography Classes

I just received a note from a reader recommending the photography classes at Indy Photo Coach. She says: "I've taken one of their classes, and it's fantastic. The classes were small, the instructors were easy to relate to and very understanding, and it was inexpensive." It looks like IPC has several classes coming up in the spring for both beginners and intermediate photographers, and private lessons are also available. Thanks to Sally for the tip!

If you're interested in this topic, you can also enroll in the certificate program at the Indianapolis Art Center, or take classes via the IUPUI Community Learning Network.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008 Best of Indy Awards

Drum roll, please! It's time to present our 2008 That'll Teach Me Best of Indy Awards, recognizing the best continuing education classes, teachers and venues in the city.

Best class - The Summer Fruits cooking class at Frasier's Gourmet Foods. Taught by pastry chef Joseph Allford, this was the most educational -- and tasty -- two hours of my year. I still use several of the recipes Allford demonstrated, and I now know everything there is to know about vanilla harvesting.

Best continuing education venue - This was a close one, but the award goes to the IUPUI Community Learning Network for its tremendous variety of engaging, relevant classes (including the spectacular flower-arranging classes). Runner-up: The Indianapolis Art Center, which truly offers something for everyone.

Best instructor - I've taken several classes with floral designer Sara Thompson, and they are always a delight. Thompson is well prepared, attentive to her students, and skilled at fostering class camaraderie. My only disappointment: I've already taken every class she offers.

Best educational museum experience - No question about it: The winner here is the Follow the North Star program at Conner Prairie. The experience, which puts you in the shoes of a runaway slave, is memorable and powerful. It's not fun, but it's like nothing else you'll ever experience. Runner-up: Conner Prairie's delightful Conner Prairie by Candlelight holiday event.

Strangest class topic - We saw some bizarre classes this year: how to make your own canoe; how to build a dulcimer. But the wackiest of our Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Know feature was the series of birch bark art workshops at the Eiteljorg Museum, including how to make birch bark picture frames and how to do birch bark etching. To each his own.

Finally, thank you to the hundreds of readers who have made the first year of this blog so successful. It's been fun to share my learning experiences with you and build this community of like-minded people. I'm looking forward to an educational new year!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: Conner Prairie by Candlelight

Happy holidays! I've been so bogged down in buying, wrapping, baking and decorating that I haven't told you about our wonderful experience at Conner Prairie by Candlelight last Friday evening.

This is truly my favorite local holiday event. Wrapped in several layers to keep warm, my husband and I followed the candle-lit path through Conner Prairie's 1836 Prairie Town. At each house in town, we warmed up by the fire and heard an actor describe how his or her "family" celebrates the holidays. We learned about traditions from several religions and cultures, all in a magically authentic historical setting.

When we were finished, we explored the museum's gingerbread house exhibit. The gift shop is also open, and you can tack on a dinner at the museum restaurant, too.

If you go next year, remember to sign up early; the later time slots sell out quickly. And be sure to wear warm clothes and comfortable walking shoes. I spotted one woman in a short skirt and heels, and I'm sure she was miserable.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Classes: IUPUI Community Learning Network

Hooray! The IUPUI Community Learning Network has posted its schedule of winter classes. Why not chase away the winter doldrums by learning a new language, making jewelry, working out with zumba or studying classical Chinese philosophy?

All of the fantastic usual classes are there, but here's a quick look at what's new this season:
  • Light on Great Brightness: Arts of the Ming Dynasty, Then and Now
  • Modern Chinese Cinema and Chinese Culture
  • At Sarah's Table: A Lincoln Dining Experience
  • So You Want to Write a Book?
  • Waking Up to Spiritual Enlightenment
  • Decorating Kitchens and Baths
  • Nepal Himalaya: Trekking, Mountaineering and Culture of Nepal

Friday, December 5, 2008

Accepting Nominations: 2008 Best of Indy Awards

As we wrap up our first year together, it's time to start what I hope will become an annual tradition: the That'll Teach Me Best of Indy Awards. Let's recognize the best classes, instructors and venues -- the ones that have taught us something new and expanded our horizons.

Submit your nominations now in the following categories:
  • Best class
  • Best continuing education venue
  • Best instructor
  • Best educational museum experience
  • Best spot for cooking classes
  • Best spot for art/craft classes
  • Strangest class topic

Want to see a different category included? Just let me know!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Butler Lecture: Fossils and Mythology

In school, I was always the girl who loved English class and dreaded science and math. But, as odd as it seems, I just can't get enough of the J. James Woods science and math lecture series at Butler University.

Last year, the series brought us Michael Pollan, and the lecture topics never fail to intrigue me: the psychology of cognitive dissonance, the nature of dark matter, the forensics of evolution.

Last night's lecture didn't disappoint, either. Adrienne Mayor, a folklorist and historian of ancient science, discussed how early fossil finds influenced Greek mythology. After all, what were those ancient Greek farmers supposed to think when they plowed up gigantic bones? The largest animal they'd ever seen was a horse, so they naturally assumed the bones belonged to mythical gods and monsters.

One great example: the legendary griffin, with a lion's body and a bird's beak and wings, was probably inspired by a common dinosaur fossil in the area. Same goes for the Monster of Troy, which was painted in the image of another giant fossil.

What I really love about the Woods lecture series is this: You probably haven't spent much time thinking about ancient fossils, dark matter or cognitive dissonance. But this lecture series manages to make the topic not just interesting but also relevant to the way you view the world. Now, that's really something.

Next up: biologist and deep-sea explorer Edith Widder, who will discuss our methods of observing deep-sea environments (7:30 p.m., March 4).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Spring Classes: Stutz Artists Association

I adore the artistic community at the Stutz. There's nothing like those bleak, gritty industrial hallways to make you feel like you're on the cutting edge of the local arts scene.

Interested in stopping by? Check out the spring class schedule from the Stutz Artists Association. Next season's classes focus on painting, drawing, color mixing, precious metal clay and gelatin plate monoprinting.

Or, check out the silversmithing classes taught by Andre'a Jackson, a resident Stutz artist. I took one of her weekend workshops a few years ago, and I highly recommend it. She managed to cram many different techniques and projects into just one session, and I left with several pieces of wearable jewelry.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Indianapolis Monthly: Best of Indy

The December issue of Indianapolis Monthly recognizes some of the best things about Indianapolis: the corn puree soup at Meridian, the playground at Holliday Park, the bargain furniture at Homegoods. It also highlights a few of our favorite continuing education venues, such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Mass Ave. Knit Shop.

But here are a few highlights we haven't discussed much:
  • Best free film series: Lockerbie Central United Methodist Church offers left-leaning films about politics, the environment, social justice and other controversial topics. As a bonus, you can pick up a latte or green tea from Indy's only fair-trade, organic coffee shop.
  • Best unconventional workout: Confident Woman of Indy helps you get fit with the fine art of pole- and lap-dancing. Don't worry: Classes are for women only and are closed to spectators.
  • Best fitness classes: Brick House Fitness offers a huge range of classes, from dance to strength training. Today's schedule alone lists 17 options, running from 5 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Best music lessons: Arthur's Music Store, located in Fountain Square, provides the usual music lessons (guitar, piano) and some unconventional options (bagpipes, hammered dulcimer, mandolin).
  • Best welding classes (yes, really): The welding classes at Sutton-Garten are taught by a local metals artist, Chris Foster. The facility is now enrolling for December/January classes, which meet for five Monday evenings. Want to see what you can do with a little welding know-how? Check out Foster's online gallery.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Family Affair

Like most of you, I'm taking a few days off this week for Thanksgiving. But I'll still be learning -- about my family members and the stories of their lives.

A few years ago, Real Simple magazine published a "family history worksheet" with questions to ask your loved ones. Here are a few of those questions. If nothing else, they'll make great conversation starters at the dinner table. Who knows what you might learn?
  • What was your childhood home like? Your neighborhood?
  • What was your parents' relationship like? To which parent were you closer?
  • Growing up, what was the biggest disagreement you had with your parents?
  • Outside of your family, who were the most important people in your life?
  • What were the happiest times of your childhood? The biggest disappointments?
  • Who is the first person you ever kissed? Describe your first serious romance.
  • What was your first job, and how did you get it? How did you decide which field to enter?
  • What was the most rewarding thing about raising kids? The toughest?
  • How would you define love? How has your definition changed over time?
  • How are you like your parents? How are you different?
  • What is the best trip you ever took? The most amazing place you've seen?
  • What are five things you couldn't live without?
  • What is the bravest thing you've ever done?
  • What were the best years of your life?
  • What was the hardest decision you've made?
  • If you could do anything over in your life, what would it be and what would you do differently?

December Classes at IMA

Lately, I'm impressed with the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It seems to be offering more classes, promoting more-interesting exhibits and generally doing a better job of connecting with the community. That's good news for continuing education fans!

Coming up in December are two classes of note:
  • Felting Featherweight Fashions -- creating wearable art using felt (three Thursday evenings, $70).
  • Colorful "Chain Mail" Jewelry -- creating jewelry with plastic and rubber O-rings (three Thursday evenings, $70).

I'm also intrigued by "Museums, Fame and Money," a lecture Dec. 7 about the commercialization of art museums and global competition for high-profile traveling exhibits. The lecturer is Axel Ruger, director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. (If you've ever backpacked through Europe, you'll remember the museum's ubiquitous poster tubes.) The lecture is free, but registration is required.

The museum is hosting Alice Waters, a chef and "eat local" advocate, on Dec. 2, but that lecture sold out long ago. Instead, head over to the newest high-profile exhibit, "Power and Glory: Court Arts of China's Ming Dynasty." It's open through Jan. 11.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Indianapolis Art Center Classes

In college, I was the dork who poured over the course catalog and signed up for my classes the exact second registration opened. So I get a bit overly excited when my continuing-education course catalogs arrive, as they have started doing recently.

As always, one of the first ones out is the Indianapolis Art Center catalog; registration opens Dec. 3.

This semester, you'll see new weekend workshops on how to make lace, felt hats and gourd art, as well as all the usual suspects. The Center seems to be trying to offer workshops with broader appeal, focusing on topics like interior decorating and closet organization. So, you have options even if you don't feel artistic.

In longer-term classes, you'll find the usual depth of classes in ceramics, photography, drawing, painting, textiles, glass, jewelry, sculpture and woodworking. I can personally recommend the basic ceramics, weaving and PMC jewelry classes, but I'm still trying to work up the nerve for steel sculpture.

I'll be keeping a close eye on the rest of the local catalog releases, so sit tight!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cooking Classes: Winter Comfort Foods

When the weather gets this nasty, I crave soup, hot chocolate and other winter comfort foods. But I also need some culinary inspiration, or I end up eating yet another batch of my fabulous Mr. Noodles raman noodles (bought by the case every time I go to Stratford).

A mid-winter grocery run to Canada is something I'd like to avoid, so here are a few culinary classes I'm considering:
  • Frasier's Gourmet Foods has a "Soup & Bread" class series coming up. Taught by chef Joseph Allford, the classes meet on Monday evenings in January and are likely to sell out.

  • Clark Appliance is offering a class called "Culinary Foundations: Soups and Stews." The class takes place Friday, Dec. 5, and costs $35. Recipes include basic stocks, wonton soup and Guinness stew.

  • The Chef's Academy is offering "Winter Comfort Foods" this coming Saturday, Nov. 22. Cost is $75.

  • Looking for something less traditional? Warm up despite the cold weather with a Brazilian cuisine "date night" at Kiss Z Cook this Friday. Cost is $125 per couple.

  • Do your comfort foods usually involve chocolate? Sign up for the "Chocolate Centerpieces" class through Lawrence Township Community Education. It meets the evening of Dec. 11 and costs $85.

Of course, if you need some serious cooking instruction -- like how to tell a parsnip from a rutabaga -- you have a few options. One is the "Have Fun Cooking" class, offered by the IUPUI Community Learning Network. Another is the Foundations series at Kiss Z Cook, which focuses on knife skills, soups, starches, meats and other food types. Frasier's also has a great Cooking 101 class series, but no dates are scheduled at the moment.

New Music Studio

If you live in the Geist/Fortville area, you have a new option for voice and music lessons: Sonata Studio. The studio, in one the area's many new strip malls, offers adult classes in piano, guitar, brass, percussion, woodwind and voice -- all at very reasonable rates. Maybe I'll finally get around to taking piano lessons again!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sampler Classes: Indianapolis Art Center

Registration for the Art Center's spring classes opens Dec. 3, but you can get a preview of your options Saturday, Nov. 22. The Center is hosting two-hour sampler classes on glass blowing, fiber arts and print-making.

Here's the schedule:
10 a.m. -- Glass blowing
1 p.m. -- Fiber arts
3 p.m. -- Print-making

The $28 cost includes all materials. Registration is required.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Update: Conner Prairie by Candlelight

I made our reservation for Conner Prairie by Candlelight yesterday, and reservation slots are filling up fast -- especially for the slots later in the evening. I wanted an 8 p.m. start time, but the best I could do was 7:20. If you'd like to attend this year, make your reservation soon!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Recycled Threads Fashion Show

Want to learn how to stretch your clothing budget? Our friends at Green Piece Indy are atwitter about the upcoming Recycled Threads fashion show, part of the Spirit and Place Festival.

Local fashion designers will present runway-worthy fashions made from cast-off, secondhand clothing. Categories include children's, teens', men's and women's fashions. (As Renee and Meghan point out, can't you just hear Tim Gunn saying "Make it work!"?)

The event takes place at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 14, at Epworth United Methodist Church, 6450 Allisonville Road. See you there!

Conner Prairie by Candlelight

Poor Thanksgiving. This year, we seem to have skipped it entirely, heading directly from Halloween to Christmas. Since we're already in the holiday mood, it's time to make your reservations for Conner Prairie by Candlelight, one of the city's best -- and most educational -- holiday events.

Attending Conner Prairie by Candlelight is like stepping back to a time when the holidays were simple, joyful family affairs. You'll stroll through the lantern-lit 1836 village, clutching your cup of hot cider or cocoa, and stop in at the houses along the way.

At each house, museum interpreters present a holiday tradition, such as a pioneer Christmas party or Hanukkah celebration. You can ask questions, sample foods from that time, sing carols and even get involved in the action. (Last year's "plot" for the evening involved some local boys barricading themselves in the schoolhouse to protest the classes scheduled for Christmas Day.)

Yes, it will be cold outside, but don't let that stop you. Each house along the way offers a roaring fire, and you can always warm up at the museum's gingerbread-house exhibit. It's a great way to get in the holiday spirit -- and remind yourself what the holiday spirit is really supposed to be.

Conner Prairie by Candlelight takes place from 5 to 8 p.m., Dec. 5-7 and 12-14. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for youth ages 2 to 12. Reservations are required: call (317) 776-6006.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Few Tidbits

Ack! I have neglected this blog for far too long. My apologies! Here are a few tidbits to keep you busy while I regroup:
  • Honor Moore, author of "The Bishop's Daughter," is speaking at 7:30 tonight at Butler.
  • We're about halfway through this year's Spirit and Place Festival, a project of the Polis Center. Still upcoming: "The Gospel According to Kurt Vonnegut," "The Problem of Religious Illiteracy in America," "Does God 'Swing'?" and more.
  • The IUPUI Community Learning Network has posted some of its late winter/early spring classes. A few to consider: "Mindfulness Meditation" and a literary discussion group focused on Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series. (I've already read those books about 2,000 times each, so I think I can skip the discussion group. Speaking of reasons I haven't been blogging ...)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lecture: WWII Internment Camps for Japanese-Americans

In college, the most horrifying class I took was "History of the Holocaust." As we learned about the Jewish concentration camps and Hitler's envisioned Final Solution, we struggled to understand how human beings could be so cruel to one another.

Unfortunately, Americans have their own sad story from that war: Japanese-American internment camps. We don't hear much about them, but they were a very real prison for thousands of innocent Americans during that time.

If you'd like to learn more, attend the upcoming lecture at the Indiana Historical Society. The lecture is titled "World War II Experiences: Life in a Japanese-American Internment Camp," and takes place at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 5.

Not the most cheerful topic for a lunch break, I know, but worth hearing nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Santa Claus is Coming: Learning while Shopping

Halloween isn't even over yet, and retailers are already putting up the Christmas decorations. Does that mean it's time to start shopping for gifts? To make the experience more bearable, try combining your shopping trip with a continuing education opportunity.

Keystone at the Crossing makes it easy, because several of the mall's stores offer free classes. In the next month, for example, Pottery Barn will offer classes on window treatments, holiday decorating and holiday entertaining. Likewise, Williams-Sonoma offers seasonal cooking classes and technique demonstrations (and always has lots of yummy samples to try).

You can also combine shopping and learning at many local boutiques. At Artisan Masterpiece in Carmel, browse the cool artists' shop before heading upstairs for an art class. At Boca Loca Beads, use one of the fun beadwork classes to actually make a fabulous gift for a friend (and one for yourself, t00). At Frasier's Gourmet Foods in Fishers, pick up yummy foodie gifts, then take a class with one of the city's best chefs. (I recommend the upcoming "Candies and Pastries for the Holiday Season" with Joseph Allford.)

Finally, don't forget that many adult continuing education venues have fantastic gift shops. I'm thinking in particular of the Indianapolis Art Center, which always stocks its gift shop with unique finds (many produced by local artists). You'll also find great gift shops at Conner Prairie, the Indiana State Museum, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Children's Museum.

What if you prefer to shop online? Download an audio course from The Teaching Company and listen while you browse. Just think: While you're searching for the best deal on this year's hot Elmo toy, you can also be learning about the history of linguistics. Now that's convenient shopping.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Getting the Spooks

I'm cleaning up the debris from our annual Halloween party, and the holiday has me thinking a lot about the paranormal. (Okay, it might also be my current "Twilight" obsession.) Now, it's true that Indianapolis isn't exactly known for embracing such things, but you do have a few options if you'd like to expand your horizons.

One place to start is the local School of Metaphysics, which offers classes on dream interpretation, ghosts and visualization, among other topics.

Or, take a haunted tour of Indianapolis, with tour company Unseen Press. I did the walking tour of central downtown a few months ago, and it was suitably creepy. I'll never think of the Slippery Noodle in the same way again.

Want a less ghostly option? Stop by New Age People at 86th and Ditch for a palm reading, aura photograph or interesting class. You never know what you might unearth here.

If you're looking for a day trip or weekend getaway, head to Camp Chesterfield, "your gateway to the enlightenment of spiritualism." You can take your pick of classes here: runes, numerology, astrology, psychic readings, seances, crystals and everything else you can think of. There's a weekend retreat coming up in a few weeks, and a psychic fair the first Saturday of each month.
Happy haunting!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Welcome, New Readers!

In the past few weeks, we've doubled our number of readers to more than 2,000. Welcome, new readers! Many thanks to those of you who have spread the word about this blog. It's exciting to see so many Hoosiers committed to life-long learning!

Upcoming Lecture: Alice Waters

Local foodie blogs are atwitter about an upcoming speaker at the IMA: Alice Waters, a chef and one of the nation's foremost "eat local" advocates. Tickets for her talk, "Delicious Revolution," go on sale today and are expected to sell out quickly. (If it's going to be as popular as Michael Pollan's recent lecture, I'd suggest buying tickets today.)

Here's the event description:

"World-class chef, 'eat local' advocate, and food educator Alice Waters visits the IMA to ignite a conversation about learning, creative living, health and sustainability. As the founder of the Edible Schoolyard garden project in which students grow and prepare their own food, Waters shares her vision for 'a revolution in public education…When sustainability becomes the lens through which they see the world.' Savor Alice’s message of the pleasure, beauty and power of food. Before and after the talk, browse informational booths and enjoy tastes of local food provided by the students of Ivy Tech Community College."

The lecture takes place at 6:30 p.m., Dec. 2. Tickets are $10 for museum members and $15 for non-members. For tickets, visit the IMA Web site or call (317) 955-2339.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Upcoming Events at the JCC

My very first educational experience was preschool at the Bureau of Jewish Education, part of the JCC. (I'm not Jewish, but it was just around the corner from our house.) So it's nice to come full circle and talk about adult continuing education opportunities at the center.

First up: From Oct. 29 to Nov. 20, the JCC is hosting its annual Katz Festival of Books, with a number of guest speakers and authors. Highlights include David Matthews, Robin Gerber, Jennifer 8. Lee and Louis M. Profeta.

Also coming up: "A Cultural History of Colonial Mexico," with Professor Mel Bloom. He'll discuss music, plastic and visual arts, dance and politics. It's a two-part lecture, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on both Oct. 23 and 30.

I've also added the JCC events calendar to my list of calendars to check regularly, so look for regular updates from this point on.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lecture: Deepak Chopra

What is the meaning of life? Deepak Chopra apparently knows, and he's willing to tell you about it, for the low, low price of $30. Chopra is speaking Wednesday evening at Clowes Hall. There's also a VIP reception, if you're willing to fork over another $95. Here's the official event description:

"Deepak Chopra will address the deeper meaning of our existence, including:

What is our true nature?
What is the meaning and purpose of our existence?
How can I transform myself?
How can I make a better world?

Deepak explains how the greatest spiritual secrets are tied up in this simple answer. It takes a total shift in perception to realize that you are not in the world, the world is in you."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Re-thinking Quilting

I take it back. I don't hate quilting after all. I just hate the tools I was using.

At Wednesday's Quilts Plus University class, I discovered the joys of the rotary cutter, an improved stencil and better fabric-marking pens. It now takes about half the time to trace and cut out my pieces, which is the most grueling part of the process (so far).

Here's a quick look at my progress. Three squares down, one to go:

And here's my new rotary cutter. Don't quilt without it!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Free Audio Lectures

To celebrate election season, the Teaching Company has released two free audio lectures. The focus is great leaders, and the subjects are Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. The lectures are available through Election Day, so click the link for your free goodie.

Mid-term Review: Quilts 101 at Quilts Plus

I'm two sessions into a five-session quilting class at Quilts Plus, and it started out well. We learned about quilting terms and tools, discussed the basic process and spent a delightful evening picking out fabrics for our project, a four-square quilt. That was the good part.

A few nights ago, after tracing and cutting my five millionth quilt square, I thought, "What on earth am I doing in this class?" I do not enjoy cutting out the pieces or sewing them together, and I'm really dreading the actual quilting process -- all of those minute stitches that hold the layers together.

But here's where it gets really strange: I'm still enjoying the process. I think it's because our teacher, Connie, has created a positive, friendly class environment, where it's fun to hang out even when you hate the task at hand. And I'm still hoping that the end result -- that beautiful, hand-made quilt in fabrics I've chosen -- will be worth the effort. I'll report back in three weeks about that.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chocolate: The Exhibition

It's been a stressful week in my world, and chocolate is my first defense. Fortunately, I can combine the need for chocolate with a learning experience: "Chocolate: The Exhibition," now open at the Indiana State Museum. I saw this exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum a few years ago, and it was a fascinating journey through the history of the world's best food. Did you know cacao beans were often used as currency?

The exhibit runs at the museum through Jan. 4. I'm hoping my stress doesn't last until then.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Random Notes

A few miscellaneous schedule updates and reminders:
  • Boca Loca Beads in Fountain Square has posted its class schedule through December. Of particular interest is the Lampwork Boot Camp class in November.
  • The Chef's Academy has posted its class schedule through February. Improve your knife skills, sample winter comfort foods or explore the cuisines of Japan, Australia, Cuba or South Carolina.
  • Likewise, Frasier's Gourmet Foods has posted its class schedule through January. Sign up early for Joseph Allford's soup and bread series, which is sure to sell out.
  • Conner Prairie's Traditional Arts and Arms Making Workshop takes place next week, so sign up now if you're interested.

Weekend in Review: Back "Home" Again in Stratford

This weekend, I made my final trip of the year to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario. I brought my mom along for the first time, and we saw three plays: the musical "Cabaret" and Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and "Hamlet." Yes, I know, we could have chosen at least one cheerful show.

All three shows were outstanding, as always, and we had a great time exploring the area, shopping and eating at some of my favorite Stratford restaurants, including Features, Fellini's, Balzac's Coffee, Tango, Bijou, Rundles, Pazzo and the Parlour.

During the next few weeks, the festival's shows will begin to close, but preparations are already underway for the 2009 season. Here's a sampling of what to expect next year:
  • Shakespeare: "Macbeth," "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Julius Caesar"

  • Musicals: "West Side Story" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"

  • Other shows I'll be seeing: "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Author Lecture: Frances Mayes

Italy holds a special place in my heart, and no author has captured its essence as well as Frances Mayes, author of "Under the Tuscan Sun" and several similar books. Want to learn more about Mayes and her Italian experiences? She's speaking at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the IUPUI Campus Center (420 University Blvd.). Her lecture is titled "Writing in Place: Travels with My Notebook." I'd be there in a heartbeat, but I'm already signed up for a quilting class. Drat.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Review: High Tea Class at Frasier's Gourmet

Alternate title: How not to behave in an adult continuing education class.

So, I'm just back from another cooking class at Frasier's Gourmet, this one focusing on the British tradition of high tea. Erin Kem, the sous chef at R Bistro, prepared finger sandwiches, cute little tarts, scones and several kinds of tea -- all authentic and delicious. The topic was inspired by Kem's recent trip to England, and I was looking forward to hearing the details of her trip.

The problem: The sold-out crowd included a mom's-night-out group of 10 women, who treated the event as their own private gathering. They gabbed about upcoming plans, their children, their husbands, their political views and their neighbors, drowning out everything Kem had to say. They were oblivious to Kem's attempts to talk louder and other students' requests for Kem to repeat things because they couldn't hear.

Even more frustrating, members of the group occasionally decided to pay attention, asking Kem questions about things she had already explained. That's just rude.

Don't get me wrong: I think taking a class together is a fabulous activity for a girls' night out, especially when it includes scones and cute little tarts.

But here's a new rule to add to my previous list: If you come to a class as a group, be respectful of the teacher and the other students. If you want to chat, get a martini afterward. At the class itself, no side conversations allowed. It's a rule most of us learned back in kindergarten.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Holcomb Observatory Open for the Season

Just a quick note: The Holcomb Observatory at Butler University has opened for its fall season of telescope viewing and planetarium shows. It's a fun and budget-friendly way to spend the evening!

Public tour dates are Oct. 3-4, 10-11 and 24-25. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., the planetarium show ($3) begins at 7:45 p.m., and telescope viewing (free!) is from 8:45 to 10 p.m.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Free Audio Lecture: What Killed the Dinosaurs?

To thank me for being a good customer, the Teaching Company recently e-mailed me a link to a free audio lecture. The topic is "The Search for What Killed the Dinosaurs," and it's given by leading paleontologist Peter Ward. The link is only active through Oct. 13, so click now for your free educational goodie!

Lecture: How to Build a Boat, Egyptian-style

They had me at "Egyptian." At 7 p.m. Sunday, the Children's Museum will present a free lecture on the art of Egyptian boat-building. The speaker is Cheryl Ward, who is billed as "the world's leading expert" on the topic. She recently finished a full-scale reconstruction of a punt ship from the time of Hatshepsut.

And here's a fun fact for you: The ancient Egyptians were terrible sailors, and they hated having to travel on the Mediterranean Sea. They were spoiled by the easy navigation of the Nile, where they simply had to float downstream or row upstream. So, when they had to go into the Mediterranean, they used the same basic techniques and stuck as close to the shoreline as possible. Funny, huh?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lecture: "Six Weeks in Iraq"

After more than five years, most of us have (admit it) started tuning out news about the war in Iraq. But we need to keep listening, because we need to understand what daily life is like for the Iraqi citizens and our soldiers. How else can we make decisions about our nation's future role in the war-torn country?

This Saturday, you can get a first-hand account, with a lecture titled "Six Weeks in Iraq." Indianapolis Star reporter Will Higgins and photographer Robert Scheer will discuss their own recent experiences in Iraq, where they were covering the experiences of Indiana soldiers.

The lecture takes place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, in the fourth-floor auditorium at Ivy Tech's North Meridian campus (Fall Creek and Meridian). It's free, but registration is required; contact Jackie Antis at (317) 921-4924 or

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fen Shui Lecture Today

This evening, Carmel Clay Public Library is offering a free lecture on fen shui, the ancient Chinese practice that can (supposedly) help improve your life. Lecturer Bela Florenthal, Ph.D., will explain how to integrate these ancient practices into modern life.

The lecture is part of the library's Off The Shelf program for people in their 20s and 30s (but I doubt they'll be checking IDs). It's free, but call (317) 844-3362 to register. The lecture begins at 6 p.m.

Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Know

Do you know how to weld? I learned the basics at a silver-smithing class once, and since then I've been thinking it might be fun to fuse together giant pieces of metal. Yes, I know, it's kind of strange.

My first choice would probably be one of the metal sculpture classes at the Indianapolis Art Center, but here's an alternative: Sutton-Garten, which sells welding supplies, also offers a five-week introductory welding class.

The next class meets from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays in October. Here's the course description from Sutton-Garten's Web site:

"Introductory course covering fundamentals of oxy-acetylene, stick, mig, tig and plasma cutting processes. Approximately 10% class time and 90% hands on lab work. Class includes equipment setup, filler metal selection, proper weld techniques, general fabrication and art projects. Classes are small to maximize your time with the instructor."

I don't know what half of that means, but doesn't it sound fun?

Cooking Classes for Couples

Need to spend more quality time with your sweetie? Mark your calendars for a couples' cooking classes at Kiss Z Cook, where you can learn something new, cook a meal together and then enjoy eating it. What a great date!

Classes are held at 6:30 on Friday evenings and cost $125 per couple (pricey, yes, but not any more costly than a nice meal at R Bistro or L'Ex). Here's the schedule:
  • Oct. 3: Oktoberfest.
  • Oct. 24: Dracula's Feast.
  • Nov. 7: Take a Bite of the Big Apple.
  • Nov. 21: Hot Salsa Nights in Brazil.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Week in Review

This was one of those good news, bad news weeks for continuing education.

In my Monday evening flower-arranging class, we learned a technique called hand weaving, a useful way to create an arrangement that holds together in a vase. (I practiced again later in the week, and it really does work.)

On the other hand, my Thursday evening chocolate confections class through Lawrence Township Community Education was canceled because of low enrollment. Really? It's a class about chocolate!

Oh, well. I no longer care, because on Saturday I attended a stress-relief meditation workshop at the Dromtonpa Buddhist Center in Fountain Square. The center isn't much to look at: You enter via the side door of an old house and climb some narrow stairs to the meeting rooms. To the right is the center's gift shop and reception area, and to the left is the meditation room (fully furnished with chairs, in case you were wondering).

This was my first meditation experience and my first up-close encounter with Buddhism, so I made the mistake of wearing my shoes into the meditation room. But, no worries! As soon as I noticed the many bare feet around me, I slipped out, took off my shoes and came back in -- no harm done (I hope).

The center's resident teacher, Alexis Salaman, started by leading us through a relaxation meditation, which I actually found to be bizarrely uncomfortable. (I'm still working on a theory to explain that.) Afterward, Salaman discussed the cause of stress (our reactions to external events) and the way to avoid stress (changing our reactions). Finally, she led us through a meditation in which we committed to changing our reactions (no physical discomfort this time).

Despite my initial, unexplained reaction to the meditation, I left the center feeling as relaxed as I usually feel after a full-body massage. For several hours, I was committed to being free of stress and generous of spirit. But, you know, that was yesterday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fall Schedule: Conner Prairie

Conner Prairie sure knows how to keep things interesting. Unlike some museums we're content to visit just once, on a fourth-grade field trip, Conner Prairie keeps us coming back for more -- especially where adult continuing education is concerned.

Coming up this fall: the outstanding Follow the North Star program (weekends in November), the Traditional Arts and Arms-Making Workshop (Oct. 11-17) and a variety of adult classes, such as pottery, blacksmithing and weaving.

You can also attend one of the museum's On the Farm Experiences, which can last for a day or an entire weekend, depending on your tolerance for outhouses and chamber pots.

If you haven't attended Follow the North Star, make that your first priority. The experience, which re-creates the journey of an escaped slave (with you as the slave), is unsettling and incredibly powerful. I reviewed the program earlier this year, and I can't recommend it enough.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Upcoming Writing Conference

Are you hoping to become the next Great American Novelist? Well, who isn't? Here's a conference to get you on the right track: the Indy BookTalk Conference, Saturday, Oct. 11, at Lawrence North High School.

At sessions throughout the day, you'll learn how to improve your writing, get published or even just set up a great book club. General admission is $49, but there's a discount for groups of six or more, so get your whole book club signed up!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Week in Review

How much adult continuing education is too much? I might have hit the upper limit this week, but it sure was fun!

On Monday, I started my new flower-arranging class, "Centerpieces," offered by the IUPUI Community Learning Network. I'm once again with my favorite instructor, Sara Thompson, and the class is collaborative and fun. Our project: a tall, spiral arrangement with a dozen carnations. We also discussed other clever ways to use carnations, in case we're ever decorating on a budget (and who isn't?).

On Wednesday, I stopped by the Knit Stop for an introductory knitting lesson ($10 plus materials). My instructor, Kate, was pleasant and patient. Now I'm supposed to practice at home until I feel ready for my next lesson.

On Thursday evening, it was off to Frasier's for pastry chef Joseph Allford's class about vanilla beans. What a fascinating little ingredient! We watched Allford prepare pound cake, ice cream and shortbread cookies, all with heavy doses of vanilla. We also discussed the differences among types of vanilla and vanilla extracts. Very educational -- and delicious!

Finally, I attended the Saturday morning Art Jolt program at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The program offers a series of two-hour art-history classes, and this week's class focused on the Beat poets. It was almost too much information to cram into a two-hour period, but it did spark my memories of reading "On the Road" and "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" years ago. Even better, it inspired me to read them again. I think that counts as success.

Up next week: another trip to my flower-arranging class, a chocolate class at Frasier's and a meditation retreat at the Dromtonpa Buddhist Center in Fountain Square.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Open House: Indianapolis Art Center

Still thinking about signing up for a fall art class? Explore your options at this Friday's Indianapolis Art Center open house (6-9 p.m.). Catch an art demonstration in one of the studio classrooms, view exhibits of faculty and student work, listen to some music and snack on food from Yats. It's the perfect way to decide: glass blowing, figure drawing or steel sculpting?

Update: Elizabeth Gilbert Lecture

I just tried to get tickets for tonight's Elizabeth Gilbert lecture, and I'm sorry to report that it's sold out. Drat! I'll have to console myself with my previously scheduled knitting class at the Knit Stop.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fall Season: Butler University Cultural Calendar

I just flipped through Butler University's fall cultural calendar, and there are several intriguing lectures coming up this season. I'm most excited about several of the science lectures, but you may find something else that appeals to you. Here's the full schedule:
  • Sept. 16: "Darwinism, Natural Theology and Moral Values," with speaker Robert Richards.
  • Sept. 22: Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps and Sound Portraits.
  • Sept. 25: "Community-Centered Leadership: Leading from the Heart," with speaker Wilma Mankiller.
  • Oct. 21: "Darwinism and Political Thought," with speaker Carson Holloway.
  • Oct. 29: Daniel Pink, author of "A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future."
  • Nov. 10: "Caring About Our Communities: A Dialogue on Urban Renewal and Social Change in America," with Greg Ballard and several other mayors.
  • Nov. 13: Lee Keesler, president and CEO, Arts and Science Council (Charlotte, N.C.)

Here's the schedule for the Visiting Writers Series:

  • Sept. 16: Frank Bidart, poet.
  • Sept. 29: Sherman Alexie, author of "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian."
  • Oct. 8: Thomas Lux, poet.
  • Oct. 30: Lan Samantha Chang, author of "Hunger" and "Inheritance."
  • Nov. 10: Honor Moore, author of "The Bishop's Daughter."
  • Dec. 3: Chris Forhan, poet.

And, finally, here's the schedule for the J. James Woods Lectures in the Sciences and Mathematics:

  • Sept. 18: "Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)," with speaker Elliot Aronson, a psychologist best known for his work on cognitive dissonance and cooperative learning. The focus of his talk is his new book, "Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts."
  • Sept. 30: "A Naturalist and Other Beasts," with speaker George B. Schaller, a conservationist who will share his stories of trying to preserve endangered species.
  • Dec. 3: "Ancient Fossil Hunters: The Grifin and the Monster of Troy," with speaker Adrienne Mayor, a folklorist and historian of ancient science. She will discuss how ancient fossils influenced Greek and Roman myths.

Author Lecture: Elizabeth Gilbert

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the book I was reading at the time, "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. And guess what? She's in town tomorrow (Wednesday) for a lecture at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. The topic is "Divine Sanity -- Rethinking the Origins of Creativity." Now I have to decide whether to attend the lecture, which will require re-scheduling my introductory knitting class at Knit Stop ...

Here's the rest of the info: 7 p.m. Wednesday, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 100 W. 86th St., $20. Call (317) 846-3404 to reserve your spot.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Thank You, Readers!

More than 1,000 unique visitors have now explored this blog, and more keep coming every day. Thank you for your enthusiasm for this blog and your passion for learning. Together, we are raising the profile of adult continuing education opportunities in Indianapolis.

Upcoming Class: Predicting the Weather

Greetings from Hilton Head, where I'm spending a working vacation this week. Unfortunately, I'm spending more time filling water jugs and buying candles than actually working. For this Midwestern girl, hurricane preparations are quite a learning experience!

If you'd like to learn more about weather, the IUPUI Community Learning Network has a fall class on the topic. The class, which meets Sept. 24, is taught by Steve Bray, the chief meteorologist at WISH. According to the class description, Bray will dispel some weather myths and show you simple home experiments to help predict the weather. Could be fun!
Meanwhile, cross your fingers for Hanna to disappear somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean ...

Update: Tarot Classes

When I noticed the absence of the tarot class on this fall's Lawrence Township schedule, I e-mailed my instructor for an update. Maybe she was teaching the class elsewhere? Alas, she doesn't have room in her schedule, so there are no immediate plans to offer the class again. I heard from several of you who were interested in the topic, so I'll keep looking for a local alternative.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Canoe Lessons

As September looms, I'm mourning summer and -- for some inexplicable reason -- thinking a lot about going canoeing. I've spent many family reunions canoeing around a lake, so I'm pretty comfortable with a paddle. But if you don't know the paddle from the life preserver, Camptown has a solution.

Camptown's primary business is youth wilderness experiences. But coming up Sept. 6, the organization is offering a "Quickstart Your Canoe" class for adults. The $35 class focuses on basic canoe skills, water safety and trip planning, and you'll take a 5.5-mile guided trip down the White River.

If canoeing doesn't float your boat (sorry, I couldn't help myself), Camptown also offers introductory classes in hiking, biking and camping. What a great way to finish the summer!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Travel as a Learning Opportunity

Last night, I had drinks with a friend who just returned from two years in the Peace Corps. Talk about your adult continuing education experience! My friend, who was stationed in St. Lucia, is now well versed in how to farm sea moss, prepare breadfruit and even sleep through 3 a.m. rooster calls.

Okay, so maybe you can't commit 27 months of your life to the Peace Corps. But what if you had a couple of weeks? You can get a similar experience through a "voluntourism" trip that combines, you guessed it, volunteering and tourism. Local company Ambassadors for Children offers such trips, as do organizations like Cross-Cultural Solutions, the Global Citizens Network and Globe Aware.

I'd love to take one of Globe Aware's trips to Peru, which combines volunteering in Cuzco with a trek to Machu Picchu. Alas, I've spent all my discretionary income on this fall's slate of local continuing education classes. Well, life is full of choices.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Few Thoughts

At the moment, I'm reading "Eat Pray Love," about a woman who seeks spiritual renewal in Italy, India and Indonesia. It's a great read, but I do object to one thing. When the author decides to learn Italian, she enrolls in an evening class at a local continuing education program -- which she derisively refers to as "night school for divorced ladies." We know better, don't we?

If you're interested in following in her footsteps, check out the Italian classes through the IUPUI Community Learning Network or the Indy Foreign Language Academy.

In other news, last night I used one of the recipes from my recent Frasier's cooking class: raspberry fool. It's layers of macerated berries and fresh whipped cream, and it's absolutely divine. Who knew I could make such a fabulous dessert? I take back most (but not all) of the bad things I said about cooking classes at Frasier's Gourmet Foods.

Finally, I checked a few blog statistics yesterday, and we're rapidly approaching our 1,000th reader for this blog. Thank you so much for your interest and enthusiasm!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gardening Class at Smith & Hawken

It's hard to believe, but already it's time to start obeying school-zone speed limits and buying school supplies on clearance at Target. Based on my very limited gardening knowledge, it's also time to start planting flower bulbs. I think.

To learn more, try the "Landscaping with Bulbs" class this Saturday at Smith & Hawken (at Keystone at the Crossing). Topics include blooming times and planting techniques. The class starts at 2 p.m. and is free.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fall Classes: Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation

Carmel-Clay Parks & Recreation has posted its fall calendar. Sports are well represented, as you might imagine (although, is a cornhole league a sport?), but there are some other fun classes, too:
  • Beginning and advanced calligraphy classes.
  • A variety of painting and drawing classes.
  • Cooking classes, including making candy apples, dipping cookies and making candies.
  • Random classes on making wine, playing bridge, tracing your genealogy and de-cluttering your life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Know

I just picked up an interesting brochure at the Indiana State Fair: The Indiana State Beekeepers Association is offering a free Beekeeping for Beginners class. Maybe you can do your part to boost the declining bee population!

Here's the information: 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 6, Holliday Park Nature Center (6363 Spring Mill Road). To register, call (317) 327-7180.

Travel Journal: Stratford Shakespeare Festival

If you're a Shakespeare fan, nothing on this continent can match the experience of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. After a mere eight-hour drive, you'll find yourself in a quaint Ontario farming town that lives and breathes Shakespeare.

At the festival, you can see two shows per day (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.). The festival puts on about a dozen plays each season, about half of which are by Shakespeare. In between shows, get dinner at one of the town's fantastic restaurants, which are boosted by the talents of students from the local culinary school.

You can also take a backstage tour, explore the costume warehouse, attend lectures and discussion groups, or attend a performance about Shakespeare's life and times. And, if you get tired of learning, you can shop: Stratford is home to dozens of unique shops and boutiques.

Can you tell how much I love the place? This past weekend, on my annual pilgrimage, I squeezed in six shows in three days: "All's Well that Ends Well," "Love's Labour's Lost," "The Taming of the Shrew," "Romeo and Juliet," "Hamlet" and G.B. Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra." The performance of "Hamlet" was outstanding, so much so that I'm already itching to go see it again.

The festival runs through October, so there's still plenty of time to make a weekend trip. If you go, plan to leave early on Friday morning. That way, you can catch the 8 p.m. show on Friday and both shows on Saturday, then head back home on Sunday.

My favorite place to stay is Bentley's, which is freshly renovated and right on the main street downtown. If Bentley's is booked, look for any other hotel on or near Ontario Street downtown; you want to be able to walk to the restaurants and theaters.

Also make time for a few other great experiences: Getting a cup of coffee at Balzac's; strolling along the Avon River; browsing the town's outstanding bookstores; shopping for antiques in the nearby town of Shakespeare; and finding your inner child at several clever toy stores downtown.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Confucius Institute at IUPUI

Is the Olympic buzz stirring your interest in Chinese history and culture? Consider signing up for one of the many new classes at the Confucius Institute, a division of the IUPUI Community Learning Network. Here are the classes offered this fall:
  • Chinese Civilization.
  • Chinese Cooking.
  • Chinese Festivals and Customs.
  • Chinese Martial Arts.
  • Conversational Chinese.
  • Beginning Chinese.
  • Chinese Character Writing.

All classes are eight weeks long and are held one evening per week in September and October. Cost is $139 to $185 per class. (The exception is Chinese Character Writing, which is during the day on Thursdays in September and costs $79.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Topic Overview: Quilting

I know, I know: It's 90 degrees outside, and the last thing you're thinking about is snuggling up under a warm homemade quilt. But if you want your quilt to be ready when the cold weather arrives, you need to get started soon. Here's how:

At Quilts Plus, 1748 E. 86th St., you can enroll in Quilts Plus University, a series of ten classes that starts with Beginning Quilting and covers piecing, cutting, appliques, binding and popular patterns. Prices range from $15 to $45 per class.

If you live in or near Fishers, try Quiltmakers, on Allisonville Road just north of 116th Street. The shop offers an introductory Quilt Primer class ($30), plus a dozen other introductory classes for specific techniques and patterns.

If you're in the Carmel area, head to Quilt Quarters for its Beginning Nine-patch Quilt class ($45). When you've mastered the basics, you can take classes in specific patterns and techniques.

Another option is your nearest Jo-Ann Fabrics store, which offers Quilting 101, 201 and 301. At my nearest store (in Castleton), each class consists of two three-hour sessions and costs $60.

Happy quilting!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Weekend Roundup

First, some good news: I've just finished a massive, all-consuming work project. You can now expect more frequent postings and a return to my busy class-reviewing schedule! Here are a few tidbits to get us started:
  • If you prefer paper catalogs to online versions, the IUPUI Community Learning Network's fall calendar is in today's Star.
  • This month, Clark Appliances continues its series of cooking classes with topics such as Mexican cooking (vegetarian style), convection cooking, barbecuing ribs and making pizzas.
  • The J. Everett Light Career Center has released its fall calendar. It leans heavily toward GED and ESL programs, but there are a few fun classes tucked in there: drawing, painting, working with precious metal clay, languages, fitness and photography.
  • Want to learn more about rum? Vine & Table has a "Minister of Rum" class Aug. 13.
  • If you're planning to go star-gazing soon, note that the J.I. Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium at Butler is closed until mid-September for maintenance and repairs.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Welcome new readers!

Welcome to readers of Carmel Magazine! This month's issue includes my article about adult continuing education opportunities in Carmel. I profiled five Carmel women who took classes at the following venues:

Need some inspiration to sign up for a fall class? Check out the article to see how adult continuing education can enrich your life.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fall Schedule: Lawrence Township Community Education

Lawrence Township Community Education has posted its fall schedule. Some of you will be disappointed that tarot is not on the schedule this semester, but there are still plenty of interesting classes to consider.

In the cooking category, I can personally recommend Sherry Harris's one-night cobbler and biscuit classes. She's also teaching a new class on zucchini bread this semester, which promises to be just as tasty.

In addition, Allison Noa is back with her own series of cooking classes, including "Chocolate Confections for the Beginner," "Chocolate Centerpieces for the Holidays," "Creme Brulee" and "Fabulous Desserts for the Sugar Conscious."

Other categories include personal and professional development, fitness, computer training, music and dance (clogging, anyone?), spiritual development, languages, and arts and crafts. Don't want to spend your evening sitting in a classroom? Try one of the program's many online classes, which you can complete on your own time and at your own pace.

Review: "Summer Fruits" Cooking Class at Frasier's

After attending Thursday's "Summer Fruits" cooking class at Frasier's Gourmet Foods, I have to confess a few things.

First, I have a tiny crush on pastry chef Joseph Allford. How could I not? The former Peterson's pastry chef prepared three yummy dishes: blackberry fool, peach cobbler and blueberry jam. His ingredients were fresh from the farmers' market, the finished desserts were outstanding, and his commentary was fascinating.

The key: Allford went beyond recipe demonstration, sharing useful information about the ingredients and preparation methods. We discussed why vanilla beans are so expensive, learned how to whip cream without getting tired, examined the difference between factory and farm-fresh eggs, and even learned how to use different types of flour and sugar. I've never taken so many notes in a class.

Here's another confession: I have been hard on the cooking classes at Frasier's, but it seems they have potential after all. I might still argue that they should be called demonstrations, because there's no opportunity for hands-on learning. On the other hand, I learned quite a bit, so it's probably okay to call it a class.

Final confession: This review may be biased by the leftover peach cobbler I'm devouring right now. Wow, this stuff is yummy. Now, whether I can make it myself is another story ...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Update: Fall Classes

I just got an e-mail from the IUPUI Community Learning Network telling me to sign up for fall classes, and especially for its many new "green" classes. Some have been added since I checked last week, so here's a quick overview:
  • Sustainable Business Practices.
  • How to Become a Green Elder.
  • Creating Your Sustainable Home.
  • Kitchen Remodeling: Getting Started and "Green" Options.
  • Recycling and Energy and Water Conservation.
  • Reducing Your CO2 Footprint.

In other news, I've decided to give the cooking classes at Frasier's another try, so I've signed up for this Thursday's "Summer Fruits I" class. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fall Cooking Classes at Frasier's

Frasier's has released its fall class schedule, and it's chock-full of potentially fabulous classes. (I say "potentially" because, well, you know how I feel about these classes.) The fall offerings are taught either by Joseph Allford (former pastry chef at Peterson's) or Erin Kem (sous chef at R Bistro).

Here's a quick look at the highlights of the season:
  • Summer Fruits I (July 24).
  • Pasta Pasta Pasta (July 29).
  • Summer Fruits II (Aug. 7).
  • Pizza Pizza Pizza (Aug. 14).
  • Noodles (Aug. 21).
  • And More Tomatoes! (Aug. 26).
  • Sweet Corn (Sept. 4).
  • The Vanilla Bean (Sept. 11).
  • Orchard Fruits I (Sept. 18).
  • Orchard Fruits II (Sept. 25).
  • High Tea (Sept. 30).
  • Cookies (Oct. 2).

All classes begin at 6:30 p.m. and cost $35 (including samples of everything!).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fall Classes at Conner Prairie

As you map out your fall class schedule, remember to consider the classes at Conner Prairie. The pioneer living history museum offers classes in blacksmithing, weaving, pottery and other old-fashioned skills. The introductory weaving class I took there inspired me to take a whole series of weaving classes.

Now's also the time to sign up for the Follow the North Star program, which runs on weekends in November. The program, which puts you in the shoes of a runaway slave, is one of the most powerful ways I can imagine to understand the horrors of the slave trade. (Click here for my April review of the program.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Update: Educational Vacations

Here's one more educational opportunity to add to your list. The TraveLearn company offers guided tours accompanied by educational opportunities. You can choose the budget or first-class options. Would someone please loan me $2,000 for a trip to Egypt?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Update: Acting Classes

Still thinking about those acting classes? The Civic Theatre is accepting registrations for its basic acting class, with meets Monday evenings from Sept. 10 to Nov. 12. Cost is $150.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Educational Vacations

As excited as I am about the new fall class schedules, I must admit I'm not quite ready for summer to be over. Before I pack away my flip-flops, I'm pondering a last-minute vacation (with, of course, an educational component).

In the mood to get away from it all? Here are a few offbeat options:

Not your typical booze cruise: Semester at Sea, which offers an alternative to traditional study abroad programs for college students, also has adult enrichment programs. It's a cruise and a class in one! Upcoming voyages explore the Panama Canal and the Amazon.

Why drool over the baked goods in the Zingerman's catalog when you can enroll in the legendary deli's Bake-Cation program? Four full days of fantasy baking camp will set you back $1,000, but there are dozens of one-shot classes in the $100-$200 range. Now you just have to drive to Ann Arbor.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, runs through October. In addition to seeing a dozen plays (including five Shakespeare plays), you can listen to lectures, tour the costume warehouses, engage in literary discussions and enjoy a charmingly revitalized Canada town. Yes, it's a whole other country, but it's 10 hours away by car, which is closer than Florida. Go just once, and you'll never miss a season again.

Want to really get away from it all? St. Meinrad, a monastery in southern Indiana, offers both guided and individual spiritual retreats for just $60 a day (including room and board). Hey, soul-searching is educational, too. As an alternative, check out the retreats at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert (New Mexico), where your spiritual retreat goes hardcore with silence and manual labor.

Now, what I'd really like to see is a sleepaway summer camp for grown-ups that features a variety of educational programming. Anybody have any suggestions?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Upcoming Classes at the IMA

One more quick post about the IMA. In addition to the lectures and programs we've already discussed, there are a few upcoming classes:
  • Introduction to Printmaking (Thursday evenings in September).
  • Advanced Digital Photo: World Views (Saturday mornings in September).
  • From Idea to Sketchbook to Painting (Thursday evenings in October).
  • Beyond Glass and Clay: Introduction to Mosaics (Friday evenings in October).
  • Getting Started with Hypertufa (a lightweight material used to simulate natural stone) (Saturday, Oct. 18).

Finally, the next two-hour Art Jolt program focuses on the Beat Generation. Learn about the poetry, art and film of this period ($30, Sept. 13).

Review: Egyptian Lecture at IMA

I'm always impressed when someone can teach me something I don't know about ancient Egyptian culture, and that's exactly what happened at yesterday's lecture at the IMA. The sold-out lecture coincided with the opening of the IMA's new temporary exhibit, "To Live Forever."

The focus of the lecture was on the common man in ancient Egypt. How did he afford the numerous trappings of an ancient Egyptian burial? It turns out that some "recycled" old burial items, while others found clever ways to make fakes or repaired broken cast-offs from the wealthy. With so much focus on the treasures of royal burials, it was nice to see a different perspective.

"To Live Forever" is at the IMA through Sept. 7 (admission $12), and there are several other upcoming programs associated with the exhibit. There's a "Deciphering Egyptian Art" lecture Aug. 28 and a class on making your own Egyptian reliquary Aug. 7.

And, here's something clever: On Aug. 16 and 23, the IMA is offering a bus tour of Indianapolis focusing on Egyptian architectural influences. Highlights include the Murat's Egyptian Room and the Madame Walker Theater (cost: $60). Registration required.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Know

I think I need a new title for this category, because TYDKYWTK is a completely unpronounceable acronym. Any suggestions?

In the meantime, our featured class this week is today's Birch Bark Picture Framing Workshop at the Eiteljorg. It's taught by birch bark artist David Bridges (who knew there was such a thing?), and participants will learn about Passamaquoddy culture while they create their frames. Cost is $40; registration is required.

A few other upcoming Eiteljorg classes also fit this category. Take, for example, the Birch Bark Etching Workshop (July 23; same instructor) and the Drum-Making Workshop (Aug. 2).

There's also a community drumming circle from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. every Saturday this summer. It's billed as a good way to "find your path" and relieve stress. Hey, I'll buy that. Banging on something and making lots of noise seems like a good stress reliever to me.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Film Screening at Lockerbie Central UMC

Here's a tip from Meghan and Renee at Green Piece Indy: This Saturday, Lockerbie Central UMC will offer a screening of "FLOW: For Love of Water," a look at the condition of our world's water supply. The film was screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and won awards at several other international film festivals.

Lockerbie Central UMC is at 237 N. East St. The film begins at 8 p.m. There's a water awareness fair at 7 p.m., if you'd like to go early.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fall Classes at IUPUI Community Learning Network

The education gods are smiling on me this week! The IUPUI Community Learning Network has announced its fall class schedule. I've already secured my seat in the floral centerpieces class, but there are plenty of other great options to consider.

Topics include fitness, home and garden, photography, language, art, personal enrichment and more. Here are a few of the new offerings for fall:

Nutritional Wisdom and Fitness: A double-hitter that includes lectures on whole foods and group exercise activities.

Life Mapping for a Happier Future: This seems to involve creating a poster collage of your hopes and dreams. To each his own.

Creating Your Sustainable Home: How to incorporate eco-friendly materials and activities into your home and lifestyle.

The First 100 Years of Theatre in Indianapolis: A historical overview.

In addition to the new classes, many old favorites are back. Here are a few oldies but goodies you might want to consider.
  • Sterling Silver Jewelry I and II.

  • Beyond Glass and Clay: Introduction to Mosaics.

  • Beginning Calligraphy.

  • Introduction to Drawing.

  • Emotional Intelligence.

  • Ballet and Tummy Toning for Beginners.

  • Latin Dancing.

  • Interior design: Introduction to Decorating; Concepts and Techniques in Interior Decorating; Mantle and Bookcase Decorating; Global Interiors; The Finishing Touch.

  • Floral design (beginning, intermediate and wedding flowers).

  • Awaken Your Intuition.

  • The Fundamentals of Investing.

  • Immersion Spanish Institute (Levels 1 and 2).
Happy enrolling!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lectures at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

If you've been paying attention, you know where to find me this coming Sunday afternoon: the Indianapolis Museum of Art's "Living Forever in Ancient Egypt" lecture. (Tickets for the lecture are free, but registration is required.) As the fall lecture season gets underway, that's not the only IMA event that looks intriguing.

Here's a quick look at the lectures the IMA has announced so far for its fall calendar.
  • Thursday, Aug. 28: Deciphering Egyptian Art.

  • Friday, Sept. 19: Image as Art/Image as History (with photographer Bill Foley).

  • Thursday, Oct. 2: Halston -- Making Fashion.

  • Sunday, Oct. 19: The Silent Theater of Edward Hopper.

  • Saturday, Oct. 25: Return to Dragon Mountain with Jonathan Spence (a look at life and art in the Ming dynasty).

  • Thursday, Oct. 30: After Memphis? Design in Europe Since 1990.

Fall Classes at the Art Center

Let planning for the fall class season begin! The Indianapolis Art Center has released its fall schedule, and registration begins July 23. Hooray!

It's impossible to list everything the Center will offer this fall. There are more than a dozen categories of classes, and 24 classes in the ceramics category alone. And that's not counting the 45 weekend workshops offered throughout the season. So, suffice it to say that there are basic, intermediate and advanced classes available in just about every art form you can think of.

Instead, let's take a look at what's new on the calendar this semester:
  • The Center is again offering its master series on precious metal clay (PMC). You can sign up for the entire series or just pick the topics of interest to you. I love this material; it's easy to work with, and it provides almost instant gratification!

  • Among the 40+ painting classes on the schedule is "Windows Into Heaven: Icon Painting."

  • Among the 20+ photography classes is "Exotic Animal Portraiture," which must come in handy when you run into a lion in your back yard.

  • In the special media category, you'll find classes on building guitars, writing Irish script and playing steel drums.

Not willing to make an expensive commitment to an unfamiliar art form? The Art Center offers "sampler" classes in printmaking, fiber and glass; for $30, you get two hours to try a project and decide whether you're interested in learning more.

Or, invest in a weekend workshop instead. It's more expensive than a sampler class, but you get a great overview of an art form for a manageable time commitment. Some of the more intriguing workshops coming up include:
  • Gourd Art.

  • Flamework: Glass Beads and More.

  • Fundamentals of Interior Design.

  • Copper Plate Etching.

  • Ornaments, Marbles and More (glass-making).

  • Furniture Refinishing Made Easy.

  • Botanical Illustration.

  • Steel Fabrication Sculpture.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Check out the schedule to see what intrigues you. I haven't made up my mind yet. I always love to play with PMC, but it might be time to try something new. My drawing skills could use some work, since the best thing I can draw is a cube. Maybe a snowman. It's a good thing the Center welcomes beginners!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Greetings from the Beach

Yes, I know, long time, no post. That's because I'm at the beach! But don't worry. I'm not abandoning my educational quest just because I'm on vacation. In fact, downtime can be the best time to learn something new.

You can even learn while you relax in your beach chair or sunbathe by the pool. First, remember that suncreen! Then, try one of these tips for education on the no-go.

  • Instead of reading a trashy romance novel, read that book you've always meant to try. "War and Peace" might not be traditional beach reading, but at least you'll have an excuse to stay by the pool for a few more minutes (or days).
  • Upload an audio course to your iPod and spend your sunbathing time learning about Greek history, Elizabethan literature, mathematical theories or whatever.
  • Instead of eating your meals at the hotel or a national chain, use your trip to educate yourself about the local foods of the region. Ask around and find out where the locals like to dine. (In Hilton Head, it's not the Salty Dog!)
  • Do you have a long drive home ahead of you? Buy language instruction CDs and use the long hours to learn the basics of a new language.
  • Take a walking tour of the city in which you're staying, or sign up for a boat tour of the area. Or, visit a museum about local history. Knowing more about your vacation destination gives your trip a richer context.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Barnes & Noble Portable Professor Series

Is summer construction lengthening your daily commute? Do you have a summer road trip coming up? If you haven't already purchased an audio course from the Teaching Company, an alternative is the Barnes & Noble Portable Professor Series.

These audio-course boxed sets include a batch of CDs and a mini-textbook. I'm almost finished with "The Seven Great Tragedies of Shakespeare," an outstanding course taught by none other than the legendary Harold Bloom.

Other enticing options include:
  • What Would Socrates Do? A History of Moral Thoughts and Ethics
  • Foundations of Western Thought: Hebrews, Greeks and Romans
  • Masters of Enterprise: How the Titans of American Business Shaped the U.S. Economy
  • Monsters, Gods and Heroes: The Epic in Literature
  • Six Months that Changed the World: The Treaty of Versailles and the Road to World War II
  • More than Mozart: Listening to and Appreciating Classical Music
  • When Gods Walked the Earth: Myths of Ancient Greece
  • Vault of the Heavens: Exploring the Solar System's Place in the Universe

I could go on. The topics are great, and the instructors are top-notch. Imagine passing that long commute without stewing about gas prices! The boxed sets are available online or at any Barnes & Noble location.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Killing Time in the Summer Doldrums

Oh, how I long for those fall class schedules to be released. They're like the school supply aisle at Target -- so full of possibility! I had a momentary thrill today when I visited the Indianapolis Art Center's site and accidentally read "full class schedule" as "fall class schedule." But, no, it is not even July. We will have to be patient.

In the meantime, it's not too late to sign up for late-summer classes at spots around town. The IUPUI Community Learning Network offers a number of classes that start in July, including fitness, art, and home and garden classes.

Upcoming workshops at the Indianapolis Art Center include silk painting, photography, goblet making, papermaking, jewelry design, painting, event planning, furniture refinishing and botanical illustration.

Kiss Z Cook has some mouth-watering cooking classes coming up in July, such as "Pies, Pies, Pies," "Cooking with Beer," "Belize Cuisine" and "Grindhouse Favorites."

And, of course, summer is a great time to take that historic ghost tour, visit the Holcomb Observatory or explore a museum you haven't seen since elementary school.

Meanwhile, I'll keep looking nostalgically at yellow pencils and gazing mournfully at outdated class schedules.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Cooking Classes at Oakley's Bistro

I just got an e-mail from Oakley's Bistro about its summer series of classes. What I really want to know is how to make the restaurant's decadent mac-n-goat-cheese side dish, but I'll settle for the following:

Monday, July 14: Seafood selection, storage, prep and cooking (11 a.m. to 1 p.m., $40).

Monday, July 28: Food and Wine Fare tasting event focusing on Spain, Chile and Argentina (6:30-8:30 p.m., $60).

Monday, Aug. 11: Working with Indiana produce (11 a.m. to 1 p.m., $40).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Off the Beaten Track: Museums and Historic Sites

Work has been crazy, so it's been a few days since my last blog. All work and no play makes this a dull blog.

Unfortunately, we're also in the summer doldrums where classes are concerned. That means it's time to take advantage of the year-round learning opportunities in Indianapolis, such as museums and historical sites.

You already know about the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Eiteljorg and the Indiana State Museum, of course, but here are a few you might not have considered:
  • The Morris-Butler House, a historic landmark, offers guided tours on the half hour Wednesday through Saturday ($5). The 1865 home is a window on the life of the upper-middle-class Victorian family who lived there.
  • Did you know there's a museum inside the Soldiers and Sailors Monument? The Col. Eli Lilly Civil War Museum highlights the war experiences of Indiana residents.
  • The Children's Museum of Indianapolis has several temporary exhibits you might find interesting, including one on the history of animation and one on comic-book heroes. (And I still think the museum is one of the best date spots in the city.)
  • Conner Prairie continues its series of one-day and overnight On the Farm Experiences this summer. Tend the garden, feed the livestock, make a meal the old-fashioned way ... in other words: work hard while you learn.
  • The President Benjamin Harrison Home showcases the life of Indiana's only president. Tours are available on the hour and half-hour (closed Sunday); cost is $8.

Now, back to work ...