Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of Indy Awards 2009

Yes, my friends, it's time once again to recognize our city's best classes, best educational venues and best teachers. The envelope, please ...

Best class -- The IUPUI Community Learning Network offers scads of great classes, but my favorite this year was the Immersion Spanish Institute, taught by Amy Bomke-Keating. The class, which runs for a full week, offers almost 40 hours of intense Spanish instruction, and yet it manages to be fun and engaging. Now, I can finally hold a conversation in Spanish, instead of just asking where the bathroom is.

Best continuing education venue -- This year's undisputed winner is the IU Mini University program, hands down one of the best educational experiences of my life. In a single week, I learned about piracy, Shakespeare, great hoaxes, the history of puzzles and so much more. It's summer camp for grown-ups, and I can't wait until next year!

Best instructor -- Instead of honoring an individual teacher, this year's award goes to the entire "cast" of Conner Prairie's annual Conner Prairie by Candlelight event. As participants travel from house to house in the pioneer village, these actors tell stories of their families' holiday traditions. They're always ready with answers to guests' questions, and they do a wonderful job of fostering holiday spirit. This year, my husband and I stood out in the cold on purpose, just to sing a few more carols with these skilled "pioneers."

Strangest class topic -- The Eiteljorg Museum wins again, this time for a birch-biting workshop with artist-in-residence Kelly Church. The gist of the class: Create designs (such as turtles, butterflies and dragonflies) in birch bark ... with your teeth. It may be an artistic tradition, but to me it sounds pretty unsanitary.

Just as they do at the Academy Awards, let's take a moment to remember the losses in our educational family this year. The most difficult is the death of Joseph Allford, who taught at Frasier's Gourmet Foods and took home last year's award for best class. I think of him every time I scrape a vanilla bean or make raspberry fool with his recipe.

The other loss is the closing of Lawrence Township Community Education, where I learned to read tarot cards, make mosaics, and cook the world's best biscuits. I'm going to miss this venue's eclectic mix of inexpensive classes.

Finally, I owe a thank you to the thousands of readers who have made this blog so successful. Here's to another exciting, educational year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

DIY Upholstery Classes

Sure, you'd like to re-use Grandma's favorite chair, but the brown-and-mustard plaid upholstery just doesn't work with your decor. Or, maybe you want to refurbish that unique thrift-store find. Either way, Shelly Leer, owner of Flipt Studio, has a class for you.

Start with "Beginning Upholstery for the DIY-er," where you'll focus on a side chair. Cost is $150, including materials (but not fabric or foam). Here's the schedule:

Mondays: Jan. 11 - Feb. 22, 7-9 p.m.
Tuesdays: Jan. 12 - Feb. 23, 1-3 p.m.
Wednesdays: Jan. 13 - Feb. 24, 7-9 p.m.
Thursdays: Jan. 14 - Feb. 25, 1-3 p.m.

Or, try a one-day workshop on sewing basics (Jan. 16) or pillow-making (Jan. 30). Classes run from 10 a.m. to noon and cost $45.

E-mail Shelly to register for any of these classes, and you'll learn to make something new from something old. Grandma would approve.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Quick Updates

Whew! Thanks to my giant pile of end-of-semester grading, I'm a bit behind on posts. Here's a quick round-up of some tidbits I've missed:
  • The December issue of Indianapolis Monthly includes an article on Joseph Allford, the pastry chef and cooking teacher who died earlier this year. One of Allford's classes at Frasier's Gourmet Foods took home our Best of Indy award last year, and I had looked forward to taking many more of his classes.
  • Last night we enjoyed another wonderful experience at Conner Prairie by Candlelight. In 1836 Prairietown, we learned about historical holiday traditions, sang carols, and snacked on cookies and hot chocolate. It's truly a magical experience, and it's the perfect reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.
  • I just read a great article in Travel + Leisure about the School of Artisan Food in Nottinghamshire, U.K. One-day courses include "Artisan Cheesemaking Fundamentals," "Artisan Chocolate Making" and "Artisan French Baking." Pardon me while I drool ...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lecture: Offensive Art

The virgin Mary decorated with elephant dung. Crucifixes submerged in jars of urine. This Sunday, a lecture at the IMA will explore the power -- and cultural impact -- of such blasphemous art.

The lecturer is S. Brent Rodriguez Plate, author of Blasphemy: Art That Offends. The book includes images of the most notorious blasphemous art of our time -- probably not your best choice for a holiday stocking stuffer.

The lecture takes place at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The event is free, but registration is required.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sale: Boca Loca Lampworking Class

Black Friday may be over, but Boca Loca Beads is still offering discounts! The introductory crash course in lampworking, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Sunday, will cost you just $100. You'll learn about safety procedures and lampworking tools before getting started on your own projects. Boca Loca bills it as "a perfect way to get started in the magical world of melting glass."

Boca Loca is also holding a holiday open house from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday. You'll find demonstrations, make-it-take-it projects and some yummy holiday goodies.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

December Cooking Classes

Soups, roasts, holiday cookies: This month's cooking classes are all about comfort foods and holiday fun. Here's a quick look at the highlights:
  • Clark's Appliance is offering a Culinary Foundations class on soups and stews. In the two-hour class, you'll make a basic stock from scratch, then transition to French onion soup, New England clam chowder, and beef and Guinness stew.
  • As always, Kiss Z Cook has a huge variety of classes on offer, from "Updated Traditions" to "Holiday Brunch" to "Party Planning for the New Year." For a fun family activity, try the bake-and-take cookie class Dec. 12; for a decidedly non-family activity, try the "Girls' Night Out - Holiday Style" class Dec. 9.
  • Oddly, the only December class at the Chef's Academy is knife skills. Doesn't that seem kind of Grinchy? Well, maybe you'll be able to make cocktail-party canapes more quickly.
  • At Chef JJ's in Broad Ripple, classes include holiday appetizers and side dishes, soups, ribs, and special holiday proteins.

Before you ask, I didn't forget Frasier's Gourmet Foods. The shop does a metric ton of holiday gift-basket business in December, so the classroom space gets co-opted. Don't worry: Good things are coming next year!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eiteljorg Welcomes Artist in Residence

The Eiteljorg's current artist in residence is Kelly Church, a member of the Grand Traverse band of Ottawa Chippewa Indians. Church is a fifth-generation basket weaver, and she's made baskets out of everything from copper to vinyl blinds.

Church is also a birch bark biter ... which is exactly what it sounds like. At a workshop Nov. 27 ($10), she'll demonstrate how to create turtle, butterfly and dragonfly designs on the bark, and then let you try it for yourself. She'll also discuss the history of birch biting and some background about her tribe. (Ladies and gentlemen, presenting a strong contender for the annual Strangest Class Topic award.)

For something slightly less bizarre, try Church's classes on basket weaving (this Saturday, $40) and bookmark-making (Nov. 28, $10). To register, call (317) 636-9378.

Reminder: Conner Prairie by Candlelight

Have you signed up yet for Conner Prairie by Candlelight? It runs the first three weekends in December, and it is -- hands down -- my favorite holiday activity in Indianapolis. Even better, it's educational! To order tickets ($12), check the Web site or call (317) 776-6006.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Back to School: Spring Schedule

Target and Macy's may be ready for Christmas, but here at That'll Teach Me we're in back-to-school mode. Yes, dear readers, it's time to sign up for spring classes!

First out of the gate, as always, is the Indianapolis Art Center, where registration begins Dec. 2. My first impression of the schedule: It's the usual mix of great classes in a wide variety of media, with a few new topics thrown in to keep things interesting.

One (somewhat bizarre) addition this season is a series of willow workshops. Working with artisan Bim Willow (yes, really), you'll construct garden benches, trellises, bent willow chairs or "sassy chairs."

A few other new options this spring:
  • Retro-Clay-O: A seven-week course focusing on vintage-inspired pottery forms and techniques.
  • Jewelry Smorgasbord: A feast of options for those who can't commit to one set of jewelry-making techniques.
  • GarageBand Hero 1.0 or Laptop Hero 1.0: A weekend workshop on turning your Mac or PC into a portable recording studio.
The Friday night "Clay & Cocktails" classes will be held Feb. 26, March 26 and April 16. If you're interested, sign up soon, as these have a tendency to sell out.

My only disappointment this season is the absence of a weekend PMC (precious metal clay) workshop; I like to take one every now and then to refresh my skills -- especially since I've finally decided to set up a home PMC studio. (That reminds me: If you're buying me a Christmas present, I really need a kiln. And a tumbler. And some burnishers. And ...)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: Immersion Spanish Institute

Lately, the classes in which I enroll are more likely to be canceled than to actually run. Folks aren't signing up for classes these days; when they do, they often have to cancel because of H1N1 or other illnesses.

So, I wasn't surprised a few weeks ago to get an e-mail from Nancy Ciskowski, director of IUPUI Community Learning Network's continuing education program, informing me that a class I planned to take was in danger of being canceled. (Several people had backed out at the last minute.)

The Immersion Spanish Institute runs for a full week, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Obviously, some students make special arrangements or take vacation time in order to attend. It's not the kind of class you want to cancel at the last minute.

Fortunately, Nancy didn't want to cancel the class. Instead, she suggested a revised schedule: meeting from 9 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. for four days. We'd still get through the material, she said, because the conversation practice wouldn't take as long with fewer students. She gave us a choice: accept the revised schedule, or get a full refund and take the class later.

All three of us accepted the revised schedule, and the class proceeded just as Nancy had promised. We got through all of the material, had a great sense of camaraderie and learned a lot. By the end of the week, I was actually thinking in Spanish (to the chagrin of the students in my evening English classes).

I've already enrolled in the level-three class, so obviously I found the experience worthwhile. More than that, however, I appreciated IUPUI's flexibility. All of us had our reasons for wanting to learn Spanish now rather than later, and I'm grateful that Nancy understands -- and respects -- the needs of her students.

Moving on Up

The That'll Teach Me blog is moving! We now have our very own Web address, If you subscribe via e-mail or an RSS reader, no worries. You'll automatically be switched to the new address.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 1: Immersion Spanish Institute

In January, I'm headed to Peru for three months, where I'll be teaching English with Projects Abroad. Naturally, I have quite a few things on my to-do list: getting vaccinations, booking my flights and -- perhaps most important -- dusting off my Spanish skills.

This week, I'm participating in the Immersion Spanish Institute offered by the IUPUI Community Learning Network. Each of the three levels offers a full week of intense, Spanish-only language instruction, with lots of conversation practice along the way.

Because I took Spanish in high school and college, I signed up for level two. I was nervous about that decision, but it was definitely the right choice. We focused today on common present-tense verbs, both regular and irregular, and learned a metric ton of vocabulary. (I see flashcards in my future.) But the instructor was easy to understand, and we had plenty of opportunities to practice using the vocabulary.

After day one, my impression is overwhelmingly positive. I expected to feel burnt out after a full day of Spanish immersion, but the day flew by. I'm eager to go back tomorrow and to keep practicing what I've learned. Que sorpresa!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Birthday Wishes

Happy birthday to me! Today is my golden birthday: 29 on Oct. 29. In honor of the occasion, I've been making a wish list of classes I'd love to see offered in Indy.

First: a series of Shakespeare workshops and/or discussion groups. I just can't get enough of the Bard, and I really miss those undergraduate English classes. But, short of actually auditing a class, I don't have many options.

Second: cool circus-act classes, such as trapeze artistry and tight-rope walking. Doesn't that sound like so much fun? These types of classes are offered elsewhere in the country, but not here. Ditto for classes on flying hot-air balloons, which I've been thinking about ever since the Balloon Boy incident.

Third: a cheese 101 class. The recent Cafe Patachou cheese boot camp sold out in about four nanoseconds, and I can't find anything else. I'd really like to know the difference between Stilton and Munster.

Finally: grown-up summer camp. IU's Mini University comes close, but I'm talking about sleeping in cabins, making s'mores and going on hikes. Now, picture all of that, combined with a great mix of classes on art, crafts, literature, history, the sciences, personal development, music and more. I'm practically drooling just thinking about it.

That's my list. Anything you'd like to add?

Friday, October 23, 2009

November Cooking Classes

It's lunchtime, and -- as Pooh would say -- I have a rumbly in my tumbly. Of course, I'd rather drool over cooking classes than actually make myself lunch, so here's a look at what's coming up in November.

Frasier's Gourmet Foods has several great classes scheduled, including another round of the celebrated Cooking 101 series. You'll also find classes on knife skills, make-ahead entrees and party desserts. And, chef Erin Kem of R Bistro will teach you how to cook with great Hoosier microbrews, from breweries such as Three Floyds and Barley Island.

Kiss Z Cook is continuing its popular Friday-evening date-night series, with classes on kicked-up Thanksgiving, couples' entertaining and bistro tasting menus. November's Girls' Night Out theme is sushi, and the Chef Study is Wolfgang Puck. Other random options: vegetarian cooking; roasting and braising; poaching and steaming; party favorites; and healthy food for kids.

The Chef's Academy has two Saturday classes (Nov. 7 and 21) focused on Thanksgiving meals. Likewise, Chef JJ's is offering a class on grilled turkey and unusual side dishes (plus classes on vegetarian grilling and steak and chili).

Finally, To the Last Drop in Zionsville is offering several classes focused on Thanksgiving prep, but enroll at your own risk.

Well, that's that, but I'm still hungry. Off to Rabbit's for a pot of honey ...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Roller Derby Crash Course

The Naptown Roller Girls are gearing up for Nov. 15 tryouts, and Touretta Lynn is once again offering her pre-tryout School of Hard Knocks. It's a complimentary, two-hour lesson focusing on the rules and strategies of roller derby.

If you go, go armed with skates and safety equipment, including knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, a mouth guard and a helmet. It's the most fun you'll ever have in head-to-toe safety gear.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Need Your Help!

Show your support for That'll Teach Me! Nominate us for Indiana's Top 50 Blogs, a contest engineered by several local marketing agencies. Let's make sure the thinkers and learners of the city are represented on that list!

The nomination process takes 30 seconds, and here's all you need to know:

Name of blog: That'll Teach Me
Why this blog deserves to be on the Top 50 list: [insert your own glowing comments here]

Thanks in advance for your support! You guys are the best readers ever.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day of the Dead Workshops

While you're buying pumpkins and orange mums for Halloween, folks in Mexico are making sugar skulls and decorating altars to celebrate the Day of the Dead, which takes place Nov. 1. Locally, the Indianapolis Art Center will celebrate El Dia de los Muertos with a variety of activities, including art workshops, cooking demonstrations and gallery exhibits.

For example, chef Othono Angel (of Adobo) is offering a one-time class on Mexican cuisine, 6 p.m., Oct. 29 ($50/one or $75/two). After the demonstration, you'll get to enjoy dinner and margaritas.

Likewise, the Art Center is offering workshops on sugar skulls, amate picado (art using paper cut-outs) and artist Frida Kahlo, although the latter class is for teens only.

The Art Center takes this holiday very seriously (I don't quite understand why), and it's developed a dedicated micro-site with a full schedule of activities. Check the site for more details about the Day of the Dead Party (noon to 5 p.m., Nov. 1), presentations and more.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Update: To the Last Drop

For those of you who read yesterday's rant, here's an update: To the Last Drop owner Claudia Pierson called me back yesterday. Apparently, several students canceled at the last minute due to illness, and -- not having her class list at home -- she thought that everyone had canceled. That's why she didn't show up for class or call me about the cancellation.

She offered me a prompt refund, and she offered to let me bring a friend, at no charge, to the Nov. 5 class on dips and salsas, in which I was already enrolled. That seemed fair, and I was satisfied: I got a refund and a genuine apology, and I only had to wait a few more weeks to deliver a real review about this venue.

But a few minutes later, I got an e-mail from Claudia saying that the Nov. 5 class has been ... wait for it ... canceled. (Don't worry; she's refunding my full $100.) So, if you're keeping score, I have enrolled in four classes at To the Last Drop, all four of which have been canceled (only three of them with advance notice).

At this point, I can't recommend taking a class here. We have schedules. We make plans. In our very busy lives, we carve out two or three hours to take a class, where we hope to learn something new or build an existing skill. When you enroll in a class at To the Last Drop, however, it seems you're more likely to end up with a hole in your schedule.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Review: To the Last Drop

So, I think my class reviews are pretty generous. Even when I think a class is horrible (which is rare), I try to find something nice to say. And I have never gone on a full-blown rant -- until now.

For about a year, I've been trying to schedule a class at To The Last Drop in Zionsville. I know how you guys love cooking classes, and I wanted to give you a peek at this venue. But it just never seemed to work out. The classes are only offered on Thursdays, so I often had scheduling conflicts. And, when I did enroll in a class, it was canceled due to low enrollment -- twice.

Finally, this morning, I was scheduled to attend the "Veggies!" cooking class. I enrolled back in September and prepaid the $50 by check (which was cashed Sept. 11). I exchanged e-mails with Claudia Pierson, who responded with a breezy "See you in October!"

Today, I showed up promptly at 10 a.m., only to find the building locked and deserted. No people. No lights. Nothing.

At first, I assumed I had made a mistake. I pulled out my trusty iPhone (whose name is Gigi) and double-checked the online schedule. I checked my old e-mails, to make sure I had actually signed up for the class. I triple-checked the online schedule. I called To the Last Drop's phone number. I banged on the door. I quadruple-checked the online schedule.


I am more than a little bit irritated. If a venue cancels a class, it has a responsibility to inform the students enrolled in that class -- especially when those students have already paid. I shouldn't have to ask To The Last Drop for a refund after showing up at an empty building; the refund should have been offered to me as soon as the class was canceled.

I'm honestly wondering how this place stays in business. I've been actively trying to take a class there for a year now, and it still hasn't worked out.

I have left both e-mail and phone messages for Claudia, asking whether the class was canceled without my knowledge (and asking for a refund). When I hear from her, I'll be sure to give you an update. And if I don't hear from her, I'll really be giving you an update.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chef JJ's Grilling Classes

Think grilling season is over? Think again. At Chef JJ's Backyard in Broad Ripple, you can enroll in a wide range of grilling classes, from "South American Favorites" to "Desserts and the Grill."

These are some of the most interesting grilling classes I've seen, and they're reasonably priced at only $25-40 per class (which includes drinks and lots of samples).

Classes are taught by chef J.J. Boston, who serves local, sustainable foods and is passionate about the idea of outdoor living. His goal: Helping you create the perfect outdoor kitchen, and then teaching you how to use it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

That'll Teach Me Ethics Policy

A few recent e-mails have reminded me that it's time to formally post my ethics policy for this blog. I am a trained journalist at heart, and I approach this blog with a desire for journalistic accuracy and integrity. So:

  1. I do not accept free or discounted classes. This is one of the oldest rules in the journalism book -- no freebies. It probably wouldn't influence my review, but it would create an appearance or possibility of influence, and I want to deliver the most accurate, fair class reviews possible.
  2. I only take classes that are available to anyone -- no one-shot preview classes designed just for the media. An important element of any class is the classroom dynamics, and I can only observe that by taking a real class.
I think that clears up the major issues; I may add to this policy over time. In the meantime, I'll keep bringing you news and reviews of all the great educational opportunities Indy has to offer!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reserve Now: Follow the North Star

Make your reservations now for Follow the North Star, Conner Prairie's outstanding program that simulates the journey of runaway slaves. Upcoming dates are Nov. 5-7, 12-14 and 19-21.

I reviewed the program last April; it's not exactly a fun way to spend the evening, but it is certainly eye-opening and worthwhile. You'll experience shame, uncertainty and fear, but you'll also meet friendly people who are willing to help you on your way. Will your group successfully escape, or will you be returned to the harsh slave traders from whom you fled? You'll have to go to find out.

(Photo provided by Conner Prairie. Thanks!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Shakespeare: American Players Theatre

One of these days, I'm going to start a separate blog about Shakespeare-related road trips. After all, this blog is supposed to be about classes in Indianapolis, not theater gems like the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. For the moment, however, please bear with me.

This past weekend, I checked another theater company off of my list: the American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin. This is a unique outdoor venue, situated on top of a heavily wooded hill in the Wisconsin River Valley. Here, you can watch Shakespeare under the stars while listening to the crickets and sipping hot chocolate spiked with peppermint schnapps.

Even better, each weekend you can catch a lecture in the Bard Talks series, which is all about understanding, acting and directing Shakespeare's work.

I saw all three of the company's Shakespeare plays for the season: "A Winter's Tale," "Henry V" and "Comedy of Errors." All three were very well done, although I must admit that I prefer the "Comedy of Errors" done in Stratford two seasons ago.

Spring Green truly has something for everyone, from outdoor activities like canoeing to one of the world's craziest tourist traps. The area is also home to architectural gems like Taliesen, the home of Frank Lloyd Wright. Or, you can tour one of the dozens of dairies and wineries in the area, such as the Wollersheim Winery near Prairie du Sac. My husband killed some time at the local batting cages, and he's planning to play some golf on our next visit.

The APT attracts a lot of repeat business, and it was difficult to find a hotel room on short notice. So, I'm planning ahead for next year, and I'll be making a hotel reservation as soon as the 2010 season schedule is announced. Spring Green isn't as enchanting as Stratford; it lacks the cute boutiques and incredible restaurants. But the theater itself is worth the drive, and I'm looking forward to being there again.

WTHR Teacher Profile

WTHR is running a profile about Bonnie Ramirez, the welding instructor at Boca Loca Beads. It seems that her interest in welding was sparked by a community-education class, so she's one of us! Learn more about the self-proclaimed "Torch Queen" on her Web site, or visit Boca Loca for a schedule of upcoming welding classes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Open House: Boca Loca Beads

I promised you an update on Boca Loca's 20th anniversary party, and here it is. I'm going to let owner Jari Sheese tell you about the event in her own words:

I opened Boca Loca Beads in the summer of 1989. My daughter, Bianca, was two months old. There is something to be said for being young and not knowing any better. Luckily I had the cutest baby in the world and didn't mind asking my customers, "Do you mind holding my baby so I can count your beads?" Now my baby is 20 years old and so is Boca Loca Beads.

You are warmly invited to celebrate this momentous occasion on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Share in the festivities with good food, drink and fellowship. The teaching studios will be open, the torches will be fired up with local lampworkers. This special night will feature a bead bazaar highlighting the talent of the many local lampworkers. Come and shop for these one of a kind art glass beads.

In addition, come and meet our wonderful instructors, Jerry Day, our talented silversmithing teacher, and Bonnie Ramirez, our wild and crazy welder instructor. Bonnie is to be featured on Channel 13 WTHR's special program, "Women You Should Know." It is to air on Wednesday, Sept. 9, at 5:30 p.m.

I have met so many wonderful people over the last 20 years, many of whom have become my dear friends. I have traveled to more than 20 different countries in search of unique treasure for my special customers. I have tried very hard to offer unique beads over these last 20 years. Times are hard, and I am glad to have made it this long. Please come, I want to tell you all how much I have appreciated you and your support.

Much love,

Monday, September 7, 2009

Art Center Open House

When I'm in Wisconsin this weekend, I'll be missing what might be the busiest weekend ever for Indy's arts scene.

Among the events I'm missing is the Indianapolis Arts Center's open house, which sounds like an incredible event. From 6-8 p.m. Friday, the center's classrooms will be abuzz with demonstrations and opportunities for hands-on projects.

Among the activities: creating a print in the print-making studio, painting with watercolors, fusing and forging a piece of jewelry, and making a ceramic piece in the pottery studio.

Of course, if you don't want to make art, you can buy it instead. Student-made ceramic bowls (filled with fresh Yats chili) will be sold for just $5 (or $10 for faculty-made bowls). You can also order a custom purse, purchase a variety of student and faculty artwork, and browse discounted items in the center's gift shop.

I'm pretty excited about seeing some Shakespeare at the American Players Theatre in Wisconsin, but missing this event is a heavy price to pay. If you go, please send a comment and let us know what you thought!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Washington Township Community Education

Since the recent demise of Lawrence Township Community Education, I've been looking more closely at Washington Township's adult-education program. The fall 2009/spring 2010 catalog is now available, and it contains a wide range of classes.

In the arts category, you can choose classes on precious metal clay, painting, drawing, photography, knitting and jewelry making. You'll also find a wide range of fitness and aquatics classes, and the usual offerings in the computers and business categories.

I'm sure that some of these classes are worthwhile, but none of them are unique. The beauty of Lawrence Township Community Education in its heyday was that it offered classes no one else in town offered (like that tarot-card reading class). In contrast, every class on Washington Township's list is also offered somewhere else in town, and in most cases I'd prefer the alternative. (If I want to learn to knit, for example, I'll head to the Knit Stop or Mass Ave Knit Shop.)

On the plus side, if you live in Washington Township, you're probably closer to the J. Everett Light Career Center than to alternative venues. At the moment, that's the only argument I can muster in favor of Washington Township's program.

It's true that I'm probably being too hard on the program. I'm in mourning for LCTE, and I expect the surviving school-district programs to fill the gap of vibrant, ever-changing, always-surprising programming. So far, Washington Township isn't doing it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A That'll Teach Me Milestone

Big news! A few weeks ago, when I wasn't paying attention, That'll Teach Me found its 5,000th reader. Thanks to all of you who continue to send tips, ask questions, post comments and otherwise make this blog so successful. I'm having tons of fun, and I hope you are, too!

Some Pretty Cheesy Classes

If you've ever read my blogger bio (it's over there on the right), you know I love four things: alphabet flashcards, my hometown of Indianapolis, Shakespeare and cheese. So, I was pretty excited when Indianapolis Monthly's Dish newsletter included an article on upcoming cheese classes.

The first class mentioned -- a cheese boot camp at Petite Chou -- is already sold out. Drat.

For a more serious cheese education, you can sign up for Capriole Farm's farmstead cheese workshop on Oct. 9. The full-day class will cover milking, cheese-making and business planning; a farm tour and lunch are included. Drawbacks: You'll have to drive to Greenville, and the class will set you back $550.

I'm not really satisfied with those options, so I've been hunting for an alternative. My first guess was the Cheese Shop in the Fashion Mall, but it doesn't offer classes (which makes absolutely no sense). I also checked Vine & Table, Goose the Market and all of the usual cooking-class spots -- no upcoming cheese classes. There's nothing at Traders Point Creamery, either, although you can always stop by in the afternoon to watch the milking.

Unfortunately, I'm out of ideas. I'll just settle into a comfy chair with Steven Jenkins' Cheese Primer and try not to get too hungry.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Conner Prairie's Arts & Arms-making Workshop

Fall is a busy time at Conner Prairie: the Headless Horseman is roaming the village, the Apple Store is selling those yummy cider slushies, and some of the nation's best craftsmen are gathering for the annual Arts & Arms-making Workshop.

This year's workshop, Oct. 10-16, marks the 20th anniversary of this unique education vacation. You can register for five-day classes, half-week classes or weekend workshops in a variety of disciplines, from "Knife and Axe Making" to "Coopering" to "Basket Making."

The weekend classes (Oct. 10-11) seem to be the most accessible for casual students. Would you like to learn the art of hearth cooking? Silver wire inlay? Basic blacksmithing? I must admit, I think it would be really satisfying to make my own fireplace poker.

A few one-shot evening classes are also available, including "Spinning Basics" (6-9 p.m., Oct. 8, $40) and "Pottery Decorative Techniques for Redware" (7-9 p.m., Oct. 12, $60).

(Photo supplied by Conner Prairie. Thanks!)

Tree Identification Class

The Indianapolis Museum of Art offers a wealth of horticulture classes, but they're usually a bit beyond my skill level. ("Luscious Landscaping with Fruiting Plants"? I'm lucky if I remember to water my house plants.)

On Sept. 26, however, the museum will offer a class that's more my speed: "Tree Identification." According to the museum's class description, you'll learn to "distinguish an oak from a maple, or a pine from a spruce." I spend enough time in Canada to know what a maple leaf looks like, but that's where my tree knowledge ends.

The three-hour class includes a lecture and a tour of the IMA gardens. Cost is $50, and registration is requested by Sept. 12.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Schedule Posted: Faith Learning Initiative

Christian Theological Seminary has posted the fall calendar for its Faith Learning Initiative, which offers a variety of classes on (not necessarily Christian) spirituality.

A sampling of the season:
  • How Men Pray
  • A Taste of Islam
  • Meditation Practices in Modern Life
  • Exploring the Gospel of Luke
In conjunction with the International Interfaith Initiative, CTS is also offering tours of Indiana's sacred places. Stops include Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Masjid Al-Fajr, and the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington. Central Indiana is home to a diverse community of faiths, and this is your chance to explore that rich culture.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Schedule Posted: Indy Parks & Rec

Indy Parks and Recreation has released its Fall Fun Guide, and it's a doozy: 55 pages of art classes, fitness activities, family events and more.

This season, class offerings are listed by park rather than topic, so it's easy to find a class close to home. At Broad Ripple Park, for example, you can learn ballroom dancing, make a basket or pottery piece, or explore fitness activities like fencing and belly-dancing.

Unfortunately, the new listing format has its downside. If you want to take a drawing class, for example, you have to read through every single park listing until you find the park where drawing is offered (the Garfield Park Arts Center). And, you have to comb the list carefully to find the quirky stuff, like the knot-tying workshop at Holliday Park in December.

Another quirky tidbit: You'll also find information about the Indiana Master Naturalist program, which focuses on the state's natural resources and trains adults to volunteer at parks, conservation districts and similar organizations. Upon successful completion of the course, you'll receive a Master Naturalist pin and a one-year subscription to the Indiana Master Naturalist newsletter. Who knew?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Upcoming Classes: Boca Loca Beads

Boca Loca Beads -- one of my favorite spots for jewelry-making classes -- is celebrating its 20th anniversary in September. In honor of the occasion, the store is holding an open house and party on Saturday, Sept. 12. It's not on the store's calendar, but I've been instructed to watch my e-mail inbox for details, and I'll pass them along.

Meanwhile, take a minute to peruse the store's upcoming classes in glass, metal and silver. I took the beginning bead-stringing class back in April, and I actually wear the bracelets we made. Next up for me: creating my own glass beads in an introductory lamp-working class.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Out of Business: Lawrence Township Community Ed

For months now, I've been worried about Lawrence Township Community Education. First came the spring calendar earlier this year: Instead of the usual mix of interesting local classes, LTCE offered only online options -- the same ones you'll find through any continuing-education program.

Then, a few weeks ago, I noticed that the organization's Web site was down, at the very time when it should be posting its fall schedule.

So, I wasn't surprised today to hear that LTCE has closed its doors. It's unfortunate, because I've taken some really wonderful LTCE classes: biscuit making, cobbler making, tarot-card reading and more. I hope those instructors find homes with other programs, like MSD of Washington Township's community-ed classes at the J. Everett Light Career Center.

Kimberly Olive, the former LTCE director, attributes the closure to budget cuts in the Lawrence Township school district. This seems like only half an explanation, since a good community-education program can certainly manage to be self-supporting. Yes, people are cutting back on their discretionary spending, so it's harder for educational venues to survive. But I think LTCE was doomed when it released that online-only spring catalog. When you offer classes people don't want to take, you can't be surprised when nobody takes them.

New York Times Knowledge Network

Sunday morning is my favorite time of the week. I stay in bed, and my wonderful husband delivers breakfast and a pile of newspapers. So there I was yesterday morning, minding my own business, when I came across an insert about the New York Times Knowledge Network.

As it turns out, the nation's premiere newspaper offers a host of online classes in business, the arts, politics, religion, writing, film studies, law and much more. Some are taught by New York Times staffers, and others are taught in conjunction with university professors.

I am, needless to say, a bit gaga about the whole thing. Shall I take "How the Brain Works" or perhaps "Travel Writing 101"?

The Knowledge Network has something for every interest -- and every budget. While some classes are more than $500, others are free. Now, please excuse me while I go drool on the catalog again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Butler Releases Fall Cultural Calendar

A lot is happening at Butler University this fall: a performance of The Merchant of Venice, a tribute to composer Gustav Mahler (who turns 150 this year) and a host of other dance and musical performances.

On the lecture circuit, the university is offering two lectures about Jerusalem. One, on Sept. 15, explores the history of the nation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Another, on Oct. 20, focuses on Israeli culture, with an emphasis on its poetry.

The visiting writers this year include Andrew Levy (Sept. 9), Walter Mosley (Sept. 15), Jorie Graham (Sept. 23), C.J. Hribal (Oct. 6), Katie Ford (Oct. 19), Michelle Huneven (Oct. 28) and Nick Flynn (Nov. 11). I have to admit, I'm not wild about this list: It includes a lot of talented writers whose work I haven't actually read.

Finally, there's the J. James Wood Lectures in the Sciences and Mathematics, which always offer something interesting and unexpected. First up this year is Alison Gopnik (Oct. 5), who will discuss "The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us about Truth, Love and the Meaning of Life."

The next offering is Doug Tallamy (Nov. 3), who will focus on the importance of home gardening. Finally, we have Sandra Steingraber (Nov. 16), whose lecture is titled "Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment."

Butler certainly offers a rich, diverse cultural calendar -- and almost every event on the schedule is free of charge. That's priceless.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kiss Z Cook: New Foundations 2 Series

Are you looking to put your culinary skills to the test? If so, Kiss Z Cook has a class for you. Starting Sept. 5, the Carmel cooking school will offer Foundations 2, a continuation of its popular Foundations 1 course. The school promises longer classes, tougher recipes, and a stronger focus on plating and presentation.

Now, at $480, the Foundations 2 series is a pretty big investment in your culinary skills. So, I checked in with manager Jay Rivett to get more information about the series.

How many people have been through the Foundations 1 program? Do most people do the whole series, or do they tend to pick and choose the sessions they want?

Over the last year and a half, we have had 30+ people complete our Foundations 1 series! We typically have more people signed up for the first class (knife skills).

You say that Foundations 2 will "put your skills to the test." What types of techniques will people be learning?

Foundations Series 2 will focus more on presentation and plating, as well as more in-depth recipes. The classes will be two hours longer than the Foundations 1 classes to ensure plenty of time for the students to hone their skills on the techniques our chef will be showing them. Some of the techniques will include how to butcher your own meats and seafoods, pastry and bread making, and tourines and pates.

Can you give us a hint about what some of the recipes might be?

Unfortunately, I don't have any idea what the recipes will be. Our chef likes to wait until the last minute to include me in that information!

Aside from the Foundations series, which of your recent classes have been the most popular?

Our most popular classes have been our Date Night classes. We travel all over the world for those, so there is a different style of cuisine each time. That makes it fun for people to keep coming back to learn more about fun foods, as well as enjoy a great night out.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Conner Prairie: Crafts and Trades Weekend

Mark your calendar for Conner Prairie's Crafts and Trades Weekend, which takes place Sept. 5-7. Interpreters at the open-air museum will be demonstrating old-fashioned techniques for making pottery, working wood, weaving cloth and crafting leather. You can even try your hand at making a pottery piece to take home.

The event is free with general admission, and it's a good overview of the classes the museum offers. On the schedule for this fall are introductory classes in pottery, spinning, blacksmithing and weaving. I took the weaving class about two years ago, and I have a beautiful scarf to show for it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Instructors Wanted: "Green" Courses

When your friends need advice on green living, do they come to you for help? If so, the IUPUI Community Learning Network may have a job for you. The network is seeking instructors for a new series of classes on green living; you can even design your own class from scratch.

For more information or to apply, contact Nancy Ciskowski, director of continuing education programming, at

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Upcoming: Cooking Classes in August

Whenever I check my blog statistics, I notice that the most popular posts are the ones dealing with cooking classes. So, let's whet your appetite for learning with a quick look at cooking classes scheduled for August.
  • Frasier's Gourmet Foods is offering a "Wine Staycation" class with Brad Sullivan on Aug. 19 ($20). On Aug. 13, catch Brad Kline for a class on Indiana tomatoes; recipes will include gazpacho, sandwiches and soups ($35). And, on Aug. 25, chef Erin Kem of R Bistro will repeat her July class on Thai food ($35).
  • To the Last Drop in Zionsville also has a class on Thai food, this one scheduled for Aug. 20 ($50). Or, drop in for the sushi-making class on Aug. 27 ($60).
  • Kiss Z Cook has a full schedule in August. The eight-week Foundation Series begins Aug. 5 with a class on knife skills and continues through September ($480). If you're looking for a good date idea, try one of the Friday-evening couples' classes; themes include the foods of Paris (Aug. 14) and a rustic Montana picnic (Aug. 28) ($125/couple). On Aug. 17, Kiss Z Cook is launching an eight-week series of classes for stay-at-home parents, with classes offered at 10 a.m. Mondays ($480). And then there are the random one-off classes, like an Aug. 4 class on cooking with berries and an Aug. 20 class on 30-minute entrees ($75).
I'm still waiting on August schedules for Clark Appliances and the Chef's Academy. More info to come!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Upcoming Class: Learn to Meditate in Half a Day

Stressed out by the economy? Worried about your job? I can't give you job security, but I can tell you how to deal with the stress: by learning to relax.

On Saturday, Aug. 22, the Dromtonpa Buddhist Center is offering a three-hour meditation crash course (which seems a bit ironic, if you ask me). Taught by a Buddhist nun, the workshop will feature guided meditation, an information session and an opportunity for Q&A.

At $20, the course fits nicely into a recession-conscious budget. For more info, visit the center's Web site.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Schedule Posted: IUPUI Community Learning Network

The IUPUI Community Learning Network has posted its fall calendar. I've taken a quick glance, and the network seems to be continuing its emphasis on employment. There are several classes each in both the Career Decisions and Job Search categories, including a new online "Setting Your Career Direction" course.

There are also several new classes on the business of motor sports, including "Race Team Management." And, as usual, there are plenty of professional development courses in computers, medical and life sciences, massage therapy, business and the like.

Now, don't get me wrong. Times are tough, and job seekers need all the help they can get. But for me, continuing education has always been a fun sort of escape. Sure, I could improve my networking skills, but I'd rather arrange flowers or string beads.

So, my focus is the Language, Arts & Culture and Life Skills categories. Here I find a plethora of language courses; the floral design, photography and interior design certificate programs; and lots of random, fun classes, like belly-dancing and blues harmonica.

If you need the job-search classes, by all means, take them. Otherwise, take a break from the economic gloom with a heart-pounding zumba class.

Monday, July 20, 2009

This Week's Classes

We've talked about education vacations, but what about education staycations? Here are a few class options if you're staying close to home this week:
  • Tuesday and Wednesday, 6-9 p.m. -- Visit Boca Loca Beads in Fountain Square for a two-night course on precious metal clay. This material has the consistency of clay but turns into pure silver when fired in a kiln. It's a perfect medium for jewelry making. ($110)
  • Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. -- Stop by Frasier's Gourmet Foods to explore two varietals of wine: pinot and chardonnay. The instructor is Brad Sullivan, from the Carroll Company. ($20)
  • Wednesday, 6:30-8:30 p.m. -- Learn the art of sandwich making at Kiss Z Cook. The class, taught by Dwight Simmons, will take you beyond deli meat and sliced cheese. ($75)
  • Friday, 6-8 p.m. -- Learn the techniques for buying, handling and grilling seafood at the Barbecue Maestro course at Clark's Appliances. ($55/person or $100/couple)
  • Friday, 7-8 p.m. -- Attend the Indianapolis Art Center's glass-making workshop and make your own glass flower. There are only a few spots left, so register soon. If you can't make it Friday, the class repeats 4-5 p.m., Aug. 1. ($26)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Schedule Posted: Indianapolis Art Center

One of my favorite things about college was registering for classes: the thrill of possibility, the challenge of arranging the best schedule. Yes, I'm just that cool.

So, I got a little thrill this morning when I noticed that the Indianapolis Art Center had posted its fall schedule. Early-bird registration begins July 29.

What's new this season? Try the "Make Your Own Cutting Board" workshop or the Day of the Dead workshops ("Masks and Margaritas" or "Sugar Skulls"). For an alternative to the weekend bar scene, try the series of Friday evening "Clay and Cocktails" pottery workshops.

The wackiness award definitely goes to "Exotic Animal Portraiture," which involves a series of field trips to the Indianapolis Zoo.

Also new this season: Many of the courses are marked with a friendly "beginner" symbol, so it's easier than ever to spot a class that's appropriate to your skill level.

Aside from that, you'll find the usual mix of classes at the beginning, intermediate and advanced levels in painting, drawing, glass, fiber, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, printmaking and more. As always, there are a few sampler classes, if you're not ready to commit to a full class.

My big decision is whether to enhance an existing skill (like precious metal clay) or do something completely new (like steel sculpture). At least I still have a few weeks to decide.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Upcoming: Indianapolis Art Center

The Indianapolis Art Center does such a good job of communicating with its students. This week, I received a flier highlighting a few important dates:
  • July 29: Early bird registration for fall classes begins. (Renew your membership at the same time to get a discount.)
  • Aug. 19: Regular registration for fall classes begins.
  • Aug. 31: Fall classes begin.
The IAC is always the first continuing-education venue to release its seasonal class schedule. That means we have a few more weeks to wait until the fall schedules start rolling in. But after a quiet summer, I'm eager to get back in the swing of things!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Upcoming: Roller Derby Workshops

Indianapolis is known as a haven for amateur sports, and the reputation is well deserved. Case in point: the outpouring of support for the Naptown Roller Girls, our local women's roller derby team. The team members have been featured in Indianapolis Monthly and pretty much every other local publication, and the matches often draw sold-out crowds of enthusiastic spectators.

But, what if you want to do more than sit on the sidelines? Here's your chance. The Naptown gals are offering a series of workshops on the basics of the sport. The classes are meant to prepare skaters for the team try-outs in August, but you can go just for fun or to vary your fitness routine.

Classes meet 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in July. The cost is $20, but you'll also need to invest in some safety equipment (quad skates, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, a mouth guard and a helmet). And, you might consider reviewing your health insurance, too.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Slow Food Indy: Urban Gardening and Local Foods

Slow Food Indy is taking reservations for an urban-gardening seminar and a related lecture titled "Staying Home for Dinner: Ruminations on Local Food in a Cosmopolitan Society."

Both events, with professor Lisa Heldke of Gustavus Adolphus College, are scheduled for Monday, Sept. 28, at IUPUI. If previous Slow Food events are any indication, this will sell out quickly, so claim your spot now if you're interested.

Friday, June 26, 2009

IU Mini University, Day 6 (The End)

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I'm a certified Shakespeare junkie. So, naturally, I loved my final class this morning at Mini University: "Early Modern Racism in the Works of Shakespeare."

We looked specifically at Othello and The Merchant of Venice, exploring the source materials for the plays and the cultural influences of the time. We also had some spirited discussion about whether Shakespeare's portrayals of Shylock and Othello were racist (and how to fairly evaluate that question, 400 years later). I have some new things to consider: the sure sign of a worthwhile class.

After the final class, we all gathered for the graduation ceremony -- complete with diplomas and "Hail to Old IU." I'm feeling all tingly with school spirit, and I'm happy to report that I was not awarded the green beanie.

My final evaluation of IU Mini University: For $250, this program is a steal. In a week, I took fifteen classes on a huge variety of topics, from sustainability to sex to stars. The program was well organized and efficiently run, and the faculty were outstanding. I learned a lot. I have new things to think about.

At the beginning of the week, I saw the people who had been coming every year for 35 years and thought, "Well, that's a bit excessive." Now, I know exactly where I'll be in 34 years.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled learning.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

IU Mini University, Day 5

It's hard to believe this week is almost over: Time flies when you're having fun and learning great things.

I had two stand-out classes today. One was "Religion and Sex in America," taught by Sylvester Johnson. We looked at three different religious groups with very different views of sex: the Shakers (no sex at all), the Oneida community (sexual freedom outside the confines of marriage) and the Mormons (regulated sex within polygamous marriages).

All three of these groups came to prominence in the mid-1800s, and all three groups were vilified (and sometimes physically attacked) for their views. No matter what you do, it seems, there will always be people who attack you for going outside the parameters of sex within a one man-one woman marriage. And here we are, 150 years later, still fighting the same kind of battle.

Another great class today was "Star Cities of the Milky Way," taught by astronomer Catherine Pilachowski. Our focus was globular clusters -- giant balls containing hundreds of thousands of stars. There are about 200 of these clusters in the Milky Way galaxy.

Fun fact of the day: There are two types of globular clusters. The "blue" clusters are older and probably were formed at the same time as their galaxies. The "red" clusters, on the other hand, are younger and probably were formed during galaxy-merger events.

So, now what? I have a class tomorrow morning on anti-Semitism in the works of Shakespeare. Then, it's time for the graduation ceremony (where someone --hopefully not me -- will win the green beanie award for most-enthusiastic freshman).

In the meantime, I don't think I can leave Bloomington without ordering some Mad Mushroom cheesy bread. That sounds like a pretty nutritious dinner to me!

IU Mini University, Day 4

If you're looking for people with cool job titles, try Jillian Hinchliffe. The lucky lady works at the Lilly Library, where her enviable title is curator of puzzles. At this morning's Mini University session, she introduced us to the library's extensive puzzle collection, which contains everything from Rubik's cubes to interlocking magician rings.

After a brief overview of the collection, Hinchliffe narrowed her focus, discussing the use of puzzles as an advertising technique throughout history. We also looked at puzzles with political messages and wartime themes, then had time to play with a few puzzles. It was a fascinating session, but I think the most fascinating thing is that this person actually gets paid to play with puzzles and curate exhibits about brainteasers.

My next session of the day was a more serious topic: "The Impact of Race and Gender on News Coverage of Political Candidates," with journalism professor Lesa Hatley Major. No surprises here: Research shows that journalists inadvertently perpetuate race and gender stereotypes by covering stories and framing issues in certain ways. We had a pretty vigorous debate, especially about the coverage of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Next up was a session called "X Marks the Spot: The Archaeology of Piracy." This class focused on IU's recent excavation of Captain Kidd's pirate ship, discovered off the coast of the Dominican Republic. We learned about the captain (who wasn't actually a pirate at all, but who was convicted of piracy in a trumped-up trial). And, we learned about the researchers' efforts to turn the wreck into a conservation area and permanent dive site.

Today's sessions offered a good mix of the serious and the light-hearted, and I'm hoping for the same tomorrow. My schedule includes classes on old-world diseases in the new world, religion and sex in America, and "star cities" of the Milky Way.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

IU Mini University, Day 3

Let's start with a quote from T.H. White's The Once and Future King:

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then -- to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn."

One of my instructors shared that quote yesterday, and there certainly are "a lot of things" to learn here at Mini University.

I started the day with "Biological Indicators of our Future Condition on Earth," with professor Albert Ruesink. This was a fairly elementary introduction to the concept of sustainability, with a focus on population growth and food, water and energy supplies. If you've read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, you already know much of what we discussed today. Still, it was a good reminder that the choices we make -- individually and as a society -- have far-reaching consequences.

My next class was "The Literary Hoax," with professor Alyce Miller. She shared many examples of memoirs that were later revealed to be fiction -- James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, Forrest Carter's The Education of Little Tree and scores of fake Holocaust narratives (such as Fragments and Angel at the Fence).

The point of the class, however, was to consider this question: Where does an author cross the line and break faith with his or her readers? Does it still count as a "hoax" if the author tells the truth but embellishes some key details? What if the author "inhabits" the false persona as a kind of artistic expression? What if the author really comes to believe what he or she has written? What if an author writes a work of fiction, which the publisher then markets as memoir?

Those are difficult questions to answer, and the class didn't reach a consensus. It's always a pleasure to take a class that sparks thought and discussion in that way.

Now, if you've been paying attention, you know I had a third class on the schedule for this afternoon. Well, here's the confession: I played hooky. I needed a nap. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. Sometimes even the most dedicated students need a break.

But I promise to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for tomorrow's classes: puzzles in American history, the impact of race and gender on political coverage, and the archaeology of piracy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

IU Mini University, Day 2

Mini University started bright and early this morning with a welcome session and continental breakfast. At the session, the director recognized a handful of participants who had attended for more than 30 years in a row. Yes, some of these people have been attending Mini University every year since before I was born.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the freshmen like me (about 50 of the 505 participants). Our name tags are marked with green stars so that everyone knows to make us feel welcome. And we have an incentive to get to know people, too: At the graduation ceremony on Friday, one of us will win the coveted "green beanie" award, recognizing the most enthusiastic new participant.

This is, apparently, a very big deal. Campaigning has already begun, but I'm staying out of it.

After the welcome session, I headed to my first class: "How the Supreme Court Decides Cases ... and Why that Matters," with instructor Beth Cate. She discussed the different schools of thought on constitutional interpretation and walked through some key cases, then touched briefly on the upcoming confirmation hearings.

There were some great questions from the audience, as well: These people take their education vacation very seriously, as they should.

Next up, after lunch, was a session called "Famous and Imaginative Con Games by Spies, Crooks and Authors," with instructor Gene Coyle (who is apparently one of the more popular Mini University presenters). He essentially shared a greatest-hits collection of clever con games, ranging from ancient to modern times.

My favorite: The FBI set up a fake pawn shop and spread the word that the Gambino family was using it as a front to hire new thugs. Criminals came from across the nation to apply for the fake jobs, and they confessed to a wide range of crimes to prove they were tough enough for the jobs. And were promptly arrested, of course.

My final session of the day was "The Importance of Lifelong Learning for Adults," with presenter Frank DiSilvestro. The gist of the presentation: Lifelong learning leads to a healthier, happier, longer life. Well, you and I already knew that, didn't we?

Up tomorrow: sustainability, literary hoaxes and story-telling techniques.

Now, please excuse me while I go eat the fresh-baked cookies that Baked of Bloomington just delivered to my door.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

IU Mini University, Day 1

In the years since I graduated from IU-Bloomington, not much has changed. There's a new Honors College building across from the Indiana Memorial Union. And, there are a few new restaurants, shops and apartment buildings. But everything else looks pretty familiar, and being here feels like coming home.

So, I'm happy to be here for a week at IU Mini University -- a week-long "education vacation" sponsored each June by the alumni association and the continuing-studies department. (My husband might call it "Disney World for dorks.") I arrived this afternoon for registration and an orientation session, and classes get underway tomorrow morning.

As anticipated, I am the youngest participant by a full generation, if not two. The other participants probably suspect that I'm here to spend quality time with a grandparent. But I don't think it makes much difference, as I don't plan to take the classes about healthy aging or choosing the best hearing aid.

Several of the classes have limited enrollment, and slots are assigned on a lottery basis. So, I won't know my final schedule until tomorrow morning. On the preliminary schedule for tomorrow are classes on the Supreme Court's decision-making process, the importance of life-long learning for adults, and high-profile con games throughout history.

Check back each day this week for another update! Now, I'm off to dinner in Bloomington. Yum.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Greetings from Stratford, Part II

Stratford, Ontario, is my own personal miracle: a town full of people who not only appreciate Shakespeare but even depend on him for their way of life. On top of that, it's a haven for world-class independent restaurants and the epicenter of Canada's slow-food movement.

And, there are so many educational opportunities here: lectures on the plays, discussion groups, theater tours, acting classes and more. (Yesterday, I overheard a woman discussing her recent stage-fighting class. Now that sounds like fun!)

So, as promised, here's a quick photo tour of the city. First, here are the two largest of the four theaters. The Festival theater, at left, overlooks the River Avon (yes, really). The Avon theater is downtown.

Here are a few of the independent restaurants downtown. Both Tango and Bentley's have inns upstairs (which are both wonderful). Balzac's is the town's independent answer to Starbucks.

The city also has lots of green spaces, including a Shakespeare garden. On Saturdays, you can stop by Art in the Park (a mini Penrod) or head over to the year-round farmers' market, which is fully stocked with meats, cheeses, veggies, herbs and baked goods. Build your own picnic and head down to the water:

Intrigued? The festival runs each year from April to early November, so there's still time for a trip this year. Visit the festival Web site for more information, and shoot me an e-mail for tips about inns, restaurants and timing.

Classes This Week

Sad but true: Summer is always a quiet time for adult continuing-education classes. If you're desperately hunting for something to learn this week, here are a few options:
  • The IMCPL Glendale branch is offering a creative writing workshop, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. The instructor is Susan Lawson, a published writer. Call (317) 275-4410 to register. (If you can't make it this week, the class repeats on July 21, Aug. 18 and Sept. 15.)
  • The Indianapolis Art Center is offering several workshops this coming weekend. Topics include interior design, pastel painting, metal patinas and steel fabrication sculpture.
  • The Holcomb Observatory at Butler University is open this weekend for public tours. Don't miss the planetarium show, which focuses on the planet Saturn.
  • Kiss Z Cook will offer classes this week on cooking with fruit (6:30 p.m., Wednesday) and grilling seafood favorites (2 p.m., Saturday).
  • At Frasier's Gourmet Foods, chef Brad Kline will teach a class on summer soups (6:30 p.m., Thursday).
  • Boca Loca Beads is offering a mini lampworking session (6 p.m., Wednesday). You'll learn about safety precautions and the basics of glass before making a few glass beads of your own.
  • The IUPUI Community Learning Network is offering its one-week Spanish Immersion Institute (level one) this week, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Not bad for a quiet week, huh? I'm sure I've missed a few events, so feel free to send that information my way.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Greetings from Stratford, Ontario

Today's post comes to you from north of the border: I'm in Stratford, Ontario, for the annual Shakespeare Festival. Every time I come here, I'm reminded how incredible it is to visit a town that lives and breathes Shakespeare (and has a world-class culinary tradition, to boot).

Check back over the next few days for updates and photos of some of my favorite Stratford sites. (I know, this blog is supposed to be about Indianapolis. I'm cheating. Stratford is a quick seven-hour drive north--easy to accomplish in a long weekend--and there's really no other place on earth like this one.)

As a quick overview, here's my theater schedule for the weekend:

Friday, 8 p.m.: The Importance of Being Earnest
Saturday, 9 a.m.: Backstage tour
Saturday, 2 p.m.: Macbeth
Saturday, 8 p.m.: Julius Caesar (Wow, Saturday is going to be intense.)
Sunday, 2 p.m.: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

And, just for fun, let's conclude with my favorite quote from my favorite Shakespeare play (King Lear):

O reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.

Allow not nature more than nature needs,

Man's life is cheap as beast's.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Topic Overview: Brushing Up on Language Skills

On my recent jaunt through Egypt, I survived with an Arabic phrase book and a two-word vocabulary (the words for "no" and "thank you"). But to really experience a place and interact with the people, it's nice to be able to carry on a basic conversation in the native language.

If you need to brush up on your own language skills--to prepare for a trip or just for fun--you have a few options.

One of the most convenient options is the IUPUI Community Learning Network. Its broad range of classes includes Spanish (at several levels), French, Italian, Russian, German, Japanese, Chinese and Arabic.

Another option is the Indy Foreign Language Academy, which offers all of the above, plus American Sign Language and Portuguese. You can opt for group classes, private instruction or immersion programs. And, if you want to learn a more obscure language (like Finnish or Ukranian), they'll arrange a tutor for you.

If you want to brush up on your Spanish, you have a few extra options. The J. Everett Light Career Center has several levels of Spanish classes for adults, as does Lawrence Township Community Education.

But, if you can't find time to take a class, here's the back-up plan: Download a language tutorial to your iPod, and pick up a few basics during your flight. I like the Living Language In Flight series, available for download on iTunes.

One option I haven't tried--primarily because of its hefty price tag--is the Rosetta Stone series. If you've tried one of these programs, let us know whether you think it was worth the price.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Upcoming Class: Welding for Women

This summer, Boca Loca Beads is christening its new welding studio with a host of classes. Among them is a three-day workshop called "Welding 4 Women," taught by artist and welder Bonnie Ramirez.

Designed "for women who want to melt metal," the class will start with an overview of equipment function and safety requirements. Then, students will learn how to cut, melt, bend and twist metal into small sculptures. Whether you want to be a metal artist or just relieve some stress, it sounds like fun!

Boca Loca is offering two options for the class: June 12-14 or July 31-Aug. 2 (Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday). Cost is $250 and includes all materials.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Summer Camps for Adults's travel section has an interesting article today about adult summer camps. Instead of singing "Kum Ba Yah" around the campfire, you can pursue interests such as photography, acting, archaeology and music. (And, you don't have to stay in a tent, either.)

In a few weeks, I'll be heading to a similar experience: Mini University on the IU-Bloomington campus. The program has classes on everything from Shakespeare to sexuality--about three classes per day for a week.

As you might imagine, many of the classes at Mini University are geared toward retirees, who don't have to worry about using up a week of vacation. Thus, there's "Hypertension and Salt Intake" and "Rx for Watching Drug Ads on TV."

But there's plenty to keep younger campers engaged, too. I'm looking forward to "The Literary Hoax: Real Fakes and Inauthentic Others," "The Archaeology of Piracy," "Religion and Sex in America" and "Early Modern Racism (Or Not?) in the Plays of Shakespeare," among others.

Compared to other continuing education programs, IU Mini University is surprisingly affordable: only $250 per person for a full week of classes. You'll pay extra for accommodations and a few optional field trips and meals (unless, like me, you can just crash on your sister's couch).

Unfortunately, this summer's program is sold out (as usual). Registration usually begins in March for the coming summer; when I enrolled toward the middle of March, I snagged one of the last few spots. So, start planning ahead for next year. Meanwhile, look for my dispatches from Bloomington in a few weeks.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Loss in our Educational Family

Last July, I gushed about a cooking class at Frasier's Gourmet Foods, taught by local pastry chef Joseph Allford. Later, I gave that class the 2008 Best of Indy Award for the best class of the year. So, I've been looking forward to taking a few more of Allford's cooking classes (and visiting the new restaurant he said was in the works).

Unfortunately, Allford passed away at his home May 12. I'm still a bit stunned by the unexpected loss. He was a truly wonderful teacher, not just of continuing education classes but also at the Chef's Academy here in Indianapolis. For more information about Allford, visit the always wonderful Feed Me/Drink Me blog.

Meanwhile, classes at Frasier's Gourmet Foods will continue. Erin Kem, the sous chef at R Bistro, is offering classes on Thai food and hors d'oeuvres. And Brad Sullivan, of the Carroll Company, has a series of "Wine Staycation" classes starting next month.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Brief Hiatus

When I was 11 or 12, I read a Reader's Digest article about setting goals. Specifically, the article suggested making a list of 50 things you want to accomplish in your lifetime. I still have the list I made that day (with 28 of the 50 items checked), and now it's time for the next item on the list: going to Egypt.

I've always been fascinated by ancient Egyptian history and culture. Now, I'm going to see the ancient pyramids and temples for myself. Tomorrow, I'm hopping on a plane to Cairo, and I'll be gone through the end of the month.

In the meantime, you can explore summer class schedules (see the links at right), sign up for a class, and even consider submitting a review of your own. I'll be back soon!