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!