Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hardware Store Clinics

Warm weather is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it's great to spend time outdoors. But it's also time to stop procrastinating and get some home improvement projects done, like building a flower bed or redoing your master bathroom.

If you're not the handy type, the two major hardware store chains offer free in-store clinics to get you started. Both Lowe's and Home Depot post their clinic calendars online. While the Lowe's calendar is looking a bit paltry (some random wood-working projects), Home Depot is offering a few useful-looking classes in May. They include:
  • Container Gardening and Hanging Basket Arrangements (10 a.m. Saturdays)

  • Installing a Deck (1 p.m. Saturdays)

  • Tiling Floors and Walls (11 a.m. Saturdays)

  • Combining Annuals and Perennials in your Garden (1 p.m. Sundays)

Home Depot is also offering "Landscaping and Outdoor Water Conservation" as part of its Do-it-Herself series. The class meets at 7 p.m., Monday, May 19, at least in my ZIP code. Check the Web site to confirm the date and time at your nearest store.

I know, I know, I'm neglecting the many great non-chain hardware stores in town, but there are simply too many to call. Please send their class schedules along if you have them, and I will gladly post them.

Orchid Lecture in Zionsville

Do orchids seem way too exotic to handle? If you're intimidated by them but love how they look, try this upcoming orchid information session, at 7 p.m. on May 7 at the Zion Nature Center.

Presenter Michael Hinshaw, a member of the Central Indiana Orchid Society, will discuss how to select, pot and care for common orchid varieties, as well as how to prevent orchid diseases.

Monday, April 28, 2008

New Chef's Academy Classes

The Chef's Academy has announced its line-up of community classes for the next few months. As always, classes are $75 each and take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Here's the schedule:
  • May 10 - Fish identification and cookery.
  • May 24 - Marinades, BBQ, summer sauces and rubs.
  • June 14 - Hot and cold soups.
  • June 28 - Tapas and wine pairings.
  • Sept. 13 - Pasta series 1 (string pastas and sauces).
  • Sept. 27 - Pasta series 2 (stuffed pastas and sauces).

Has anybody taken one of these classes? I'd love to know how hands-on the classes are and what the takeaways include. Post a comment and let us know!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Review: Follow the North Star

At the beginning of last night's Follow the North Star program at Conner Prairie, the moderator said, "You're not here for fun. You're here for an experience." It was true. Nothing about the activity, which puts you in the shoes of an escaped slave in the 1830s, qualifies as fun. But as far as experiences go, it was eye-opening, unforgettable and unquestionably worthwhile.

One of the strongest elements of Follow the North Star is the uncertainty participants feel, so I don't want to reveal too much. You're not sure of your final destination and sometimes not even sure what you're supposed to do next. You're not sure which of the characters -- played to perfection by Conner Prairie interpreters -- will be willing to help you on your journey.

But I will tell you this. As the interactive portion of the program starts, you assume the role of a slave who is about to be sold to a new master. The first step is the slave sale, where you are belittled and verbally harassed by both your old and new masters. My first instinct was to raise my head and say, "Who do you think you are? You can't treat me like this!" But we had been admonished to try to "stay in character," so I didn't say that. I kept my head down, said "yes, sir" and "no, sir," and got my first taste of the power of this program. At several stages of the journey, I was fighting back tears.

Conner Prairie does have a safety net in place for participants who feel overwhelmed. We were each given strips of white fabric, which we could tie around our heads to become "invisible" to the interpreters. If we felt ready to participate again, we could take the strips off. Nobody in our group used the strips, but I came pretty close.
I went through the program with my husband, which made it all the more powerful. We were constantly being told to keep our eyes to the ground, so most of the time, we couldn't see what was happening to the other people in our group. Even though I knew, in the back of my mind, that everything was fake, it was horrifying not to know where my husband was or what was happening to him. It was the first time I had ever internalized the horror and grief the slaves must have experienced as their family members were sold away to other masters, never to be seen again.
That's the power of this program. It gives you a small taste of what those experiences must have felt like. And the dawning realization you'll have is that, no matter how scary the Follow the North Star experience is, it's nothing compared to what really happened.
Follow the North Star is offered in April and November, and the cost is $19 per person.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Audio Courses from the Teaching Company

What a crazy week! I had a tarot card class on Monday night (more on that later), the Frasier's cooking class on Tuesday night, and a flower-arranging class on Wednesday night. Tomorrow night, we're headed to Conner Prairie for Follow the North Star.

All of that learning makes me want to curl up in a big chair with my iPod and shut out the world. But that reminds me! We haven't talked about the Great Courses series offered by the Teaching Company. The company produces audio courses on every topic you can imagine, from history and science to art and literature. If you can take a college class on the topic, you can take a Teaching Company class -- and there's not much difference between the two.

My first Teaching Company class was "History of Ancient Egypt," a fascinating class that I listened to, oddly enough, on a 6,000-mile Route 66 road trip. If you're even vaguely interested in the topic, this is the course for you. The professor walks through Egyptian history pharaoh by pharaoh during 48 30-minute lectures. If you're doing the math, that's 24 hours of lecture time for just $65 (the current sale price for the digital download).

I'm now halfway through "History of the English Language" and getting ready to start "Shakespeare's Tragedies." Also sitting in my Teaching Company download queue are "No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life," "Great Ideas of Philosophy" and "People and Cultures of the World."

I have so many classes in my queue because I buy them as they go on sale. Every class goes on sale at least once a year, and the discount is significant. For example, that $65 Egyptian history class is regularly $250. The Teaching Company classes are also available on CD, DVD and tape, but the digital download is cheapest.
Interested? The current sale continues through mid-May, and it's a big one -- everything from "Beethoven's Piano Sonatas" to "Earth's Changing Climate." Imagine auditing a full semester of an interesting college class, with one of the best university professors in the nation, for less than $100 a pop. What a deal.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Author Lecture: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Who doesn't love "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"? That little guy ate through "one piece of chocolate cake, one ice-cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake and one slice of watermelon," all in one day. Everybody can relate to that.

Want to learn more about everybody's favorite caterpillar? The book's author, Eric Carle, will speak at 7 p.m. Friday at North Central High School. The talk is sponsored by the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library; for more details, call (317) 275-4099 or visit the library's events page. The lecture is free.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Biscuit Making at Lawrence Township

It's not too late to sign up for "The Art of Biscuit Making," a class offered through Lawrence Township Community Education. I took the class earlier this year, and it was a delight, despite the meager home-ec class setting. Teacher Sherry Harris provides a biscuit recipe, then walks you through the details, such as how to cut in the butter and roll out the dough. It's appropriate for the beginning or intermediate baker.

The class meets 6:30-8:30 p.m., May 13. Cost is $25, but you'll take home a full tray of buttery, flaky biscuits.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Summer Language Classes

While I was on a short vacation this weekend, my husband was busy doing my research for me! He dug up information about the Indy Foreign Language Academy, which offers summer language classes for adults. It's a perfect choice if you're planning to travel to a foreign country, have international business dealings or just want to be able to understand what your kids are saying when they use their high-school foreign language skills to insult you. (My siblings and I used to do that, but my parents finally figured out what "loco" meant.)

The registration deadline for the first summer session (May-June) is April 28. Each class costs $180 plus the cost of a textbook. Available languages include:
  • American Sign Language
  • Arabic
  • English (accent reduction and TOEFL prep)
  • French
  • German
  • Italian (beginning, intermediate and advanced)
  • Japanese
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Portuguese (beginning and intermediate)
  • Russian
  • Spanish (regular and intensive courses at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels)
  • World languages (an overview of Spanish, French, German and Italian)

The school also offers private instruction in the language of your choice, and it will conduct a class at the location of your choice if you can assemble at least three students.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Foundation Series at Kiss Z Cook

Need to learn some cooking basics? Kiss Z Cook is offering its foundation series, which meets on eight Wednesday evenings, 6:30-8:30, starting May 14. Kiss Z Cook bills itself as a cooking school for the home cook, so the classes should be easy to understand. The full series is $480, or pick and choose for $75 apiece.

Here's the schedule:
  • May 14 - Knife skills

  • May 21 - Garde manger (prepping fruits and vegetables)

  • May 28 - Sauces

  • June 4 - Soups

  • June 11 - Starches

  • June 18 - Meats

  • June 25 - Poultry

  • July 2 - Seafood

The school also has "date night" cooking classes at 7 p.m. Fridays, mostly with ethnic cooking themes. Some other interesting one-shot classes coming up include:

  • Breakfast in Bed for Mom (2-4 p.m., May 3, $75)

  • Stuffed Pasta and Gnocchi (6:30-8:30 p.m., May 5, $75)

  • Veggie and Vegan Cooking (6:30-8:30 p.m., May 12, $75)

  • Tailgating Tastes (6:30-8:30 p.m., May 19, $75)

Kiss Z Cook is relatively new, so I haven't taken a class there yet. If you have, please tell us about your experience!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Know

Have you ever wondered how a dug-out canoe was made? Did you ever think to yourself, "I wonder when the dug-out canoe was first used, and by whom?" You're in luck.

Phil Hallenbeck, a volunteer interpreter with Mounds State Park, is offering a Dug-out Canoe Program, at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 19, at the Taylor Center of Natural History at Strawtown Koteewi Park (12308 Strawtown Ave., Noblesville). He'll discuss the historical significance of dug-out canoes and display an example found near the park.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Topic Overview: Weaving

Presenting the first installment of a new feature, topic overviews, which will focus on how to gain in-depth knowledge of a topic or skill. This week's feature: weaving.

Yes, there's more than one way to make a scarf. In fact, weaving allows you to make everything from scarves to tapestries to clothing fabric and gives you total control of the colors and pattern.

If you're interested, start with the two-day weaving workshop at Conner Prairie. You'll do a project (probably a scarf) from start to finish -- everything from choosing the yarn to cutting the fringe. The class is expensive, but you'll get a great overview of the weaving process. These people really know what they're doing; they weave all of the blankets and other fiber items on display in the living history areas of the museum.

Want to learn more? Sign up for the introductory weaving class at the Indianapolis Art Center. Instead of doing one project from start to finish, you'll focus on learning types of weaving patterns and making small samplers. (It's a good solution to the center's equipment problems; when I took the class about a year ago, there weren't enough looms to go around, and there were only four people in the class.)

Still interested? Make the drive to Arcadia, which is home to Tabby Tree Weaver. This is another chance to get a start-to-finish lesson in weaving, and there's plenty of personal attention. (I made a table runner.) When that project is finished, you can rent a loom for a low weekly rate to get even more practice.

That's where my personal experience with weaving ends, but there are lots of other options. Classes are offered at the Indiana Traditional Arts Center in Monrovia and the Weaver's Loft in Guilford. Or, get connected with a local weaving guild for advice and ideas.

A word of caution: No matter how much you enjoy that first Conner Prairie class, do not buy a loom until you've had more practice. You'll learn more as you go about what kind of loom you might like, and you'll find out whether you find the repetition involved in weaving to be soothing or tedious.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Flowers and More at IUPUI

IUPUI's summer community education calendar is out, and there are lots of fun classes to consider. Topics include art, jewelry, fitness, interior design, flower-arranging and photography. Here are a few I might take:
  • The Arts and Crafts Movement: A Cultural Review (6:30-8:30 p.m., three Thursdays, July 31-Aug. 14; $89)
  • Container Gardening Workshop (6 p.m., Tuesday, May 6; $24)
  • Ballet and Tummy Toning for Beginners (6-7 p.m., six Mondays, July 14-Aug. 18; $79)

IUPUI is also a great choice if you're interested in flower arranging. I'm almost finished with the school's home and garden certificate program, having taken beginning and intermediate flower arranging and beginning and intermediate wedding flowers. I start the advanced flower arranging class next week, and I will feel a bit lost when it's over. Going to class and playing with flowers once a week has been a welcome mini-retreat.

If you're interested, start with "Fundamentals of Flower Arranging," which meets on five Mondays in June. (Cost is $119, plus a $75 materials fee.) Instructor Sara Thompson, who handles weddings for McNamara, is a great teacher, and she uses her wholesale discount to get wonderful flowers for the class. She creates a friendly, collaborative atmosphere but also provides thoughtful critiques.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sign Language Class at Butler

Thanks to my most loyal reader (okay, it's my husband) for this tidbit. Butler University's Sign Language Club is hosting a "Sign Language for Dummies" class at 7 p.m. tonight in Jordan Hall, Room 307. Topics will include the alphabet, food, health care and education.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Astronomy Lecture at Butler

The last time I went to a lecture at Butler University, it was to see Michael Pollan, the author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food." We were pretty early, but we still got sent to the hastily (and very nicely) assembled overflow room ... which also overflowed.

Can an astronomy lecture attract the same crowd? We'll see. Robert Kirshner visits this coming Monday for a lecture titled, "The Extravagant Universe: Exploding Stars, Dark Energy and the Accelerating Cosmos" (also the title of his book). Kirshner teaches at Harvard, where his research focuses on dark energy and the accelerating expansion of the universe.

The event is at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Atherton Union Reilly Room (and maybe some other rooms, too).

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Wine 101 at Vine & Table

On the way to dinner in Carmel last night, we stopped by Vine & Table to stock up on our supply of the store's excellent hummus. At the register, we found something even more interesting: a flier for an "Intro to Wine" class series taking place from June to August. Here's the schedule.

Session 1: Intro to Wine
  • June 18: Wine 101.
  • July 2: Classic white grapes.
  • July 16: Classic red grapes.

Session 2: Beverage and the Dinner Table

  • July 30: Food and wine pairing 101.
  • Aug. 13: Classic aperitifs.
  • Aug. 27: Classic digestifs.
Classes are $30 each, which includes tastings; register for all six or just three. To register, call (317) 817-9463.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Navajo Day at the Eiteljorg

Haven't been to the Eiteljorg since a fourth-grade field trip? Maybe this will draw you in. Next Saturday, April 12, is Navajo Day at the museum. Activities include:
  • A Navajo rug trunk show.
  • Demonstrations of Navajo weaving, drum-making, sheep shearing and silver-smithing.
  • A cooking demonstration (Navajo fry bread).
  • Lectures on weaving and Navajo code talkers.
  • A tour of Navajo objects in the galleries.
  • Hands-on activities and several film showings.

Sounds like fun! I tried authentic fry bread on a trip out west last year, and it should be worth the visit to the museum on its own.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Know

Today, I'm presenting our first installment of the Things You Didn't Know You Wanted to Know feature. This week's topic: the "Build Your Own Dulcimer" workshop at the Indiana State Museum. Led by folk artist Cris Crismore, the five-day workshop (May 12-16) will teach students how to build and play their own dulcimers. The workshop is part of the Indiana Performing Arts Festival.

What the heck is a dulcimer, anyway? According to Wikipedia, it's a "fretted string instrument of the zither family," which clears things right up. Apparently I need to take this class.

Cost is $45 (or $25 for museum members), which includes materials. Reservations are required.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Update: Follow the North Star

We just received our tickets for Conner Prairie's "Follow the North Star" program, and guess what? They came with a disclaimer and liability release, which must be signed by all participants. Apparently the rumor I've heard about the program being "intense" is true. I'll let you all know how it goes!

Shakespeare in Cincinnati

I'm going to break a couple of rules here. This post isn't about Indianapolis, and it isn't about a learning opportunity, per se. But I think many of you might be interested, nonetheless.

The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company just announced its 2008-2009 season. We are huge fans of this group and make the two-hour drive to see every Shakespeare play the group performs. (They do a few non-Shakespeare plays, as well.) If you're a fan of Shakespeare, it's more than worth the trip. And adult tickets are a steal at only $26 apiece.

The new season includes:
  • Hamlet: Oct. 17 - Nov. 16, 2008
  • Twelfth Night: Dec. 5, 2008 - Jan. 4, 2009
  • Timon of Athens: Feb. 27 - March 22, 2009
  • The Comedy of Errors: April 3 - 26, 2009

Go ahead and order, because we already have our tickets reserved. Good old seats 7 and 8, right smack in the front row.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Chef's Academy Classes

The Chef's Academy has two community cooking classes coming up, both from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. I've never taken one of the Chef's Academy classes, mostly because they seem a bit pricey to me ($75 each). So if you end up taking one, let us know how it goes! It may be worth it.
  • April 12 -- Italian food -- Create a traditional five-course Italian meal featuring Northern Italian flavors.
  • April 26 -- Knife skills.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Visiting Writers

Two interesting events are coming up this month in Butler University's visiting writer series.

On April 9, the university is hosting Chris Abani, a Nigerian author who spent several years as a political prisoner in his war-torn country. His books include "Song for Night," "The Virgin of Flames" and "Becoming Abigail."

On April 16, Michael Chabon will be in town to discuss his books, which include "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," "Wonder Boys," "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" (which won the Pulitzer Prize) and "The Yiddish Policemen's Union."

Both lectures take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Atherton Union Reilly Room. Admission is free; no reservation required.