Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Best of Indy Awards

This has been an up-and-down year for adult continuing education in Indianapolis. I had lots of great class experiences (see below), but I also had a lot of duds, such as no-show instructors, over-priced classes and closed venues.

This coming year, I resolve to take even more classes -- such as that blacksmithing class I've been putting off -- and to keep learning new things.

And now, the winners of the 2010 That'll Teach Me "Best of Indy" awards:

Best class -- Hands down, this award goes to the new Wine and Canvas. The nomadic painting class, which meets at restaurants and its new studio, is a fun, low-commitment outing. Instructors walk through the painting process step by step, making the classes perfect for all skill levels (even my kindergarten-level art skills).

Best continuing education venue -- For the second year in a row, this award goes to IU's Mini University, a week-long "summer camp" of classes for adults. I had another phenomenal experience this past June, learning about such topics as stem-cell research, Bob Dylan and the exploration of Mars. With the thriving Bloomington restaurant scene and the beautiful campus, I can't think of a better way to spend a week.

Best instructor -- As it turns out, playing the blues harmonica isn't really my thing. But instructor Allen Stratyner, who teaches the class through the IUPUI Community Learning Network and the JCC, was a methodical and patient instructor. He set clear goals for each class, gave us useful homework assignments and -- most important -- communicated his passion for the blues.

As always, let's take a moment to mourn our losses this year: chiefly, the cooking classes at Frasier's Gourmet Foods. We wish the owners a wonderful retirement!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Farewell to Frasier's

When Joy and Byron Frasier lock the doors at Frasier's Gourmet Foods today, it will be for the last time. After decades of serving the Fishers foodie community, the Frasiers are retiring, with plans to travel and spend more time with their grandchildren.

I'm happy for the Frasiers, but I'm also mourning the loss of a great class venue. Over the years, I've taken perhaps a dozen classes at Frasier's, with great chefs like Erin Kem and the late Joseph Allford. I've explored the canning process, learned cake decorating, discovered the wonders of ingredients like quinoa and vanilla, and tasted lots of delicious food along the way.

For foodies in the Fishers area, a new shop called Tasteful Times will fill the need for gourmet groceries. That shop doesn't offer classes, though, so the educational void remains.

Best wishes to the Frasiers, and thanks for the outstanding learning opportunities! And, to everyone, happy holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

IUPUI Releases New Catalog

For the first time in several semesters, I'm excited about the new schedule at the IUPUI Community Learning Network. There's a whole new section of cooking classes, and all of my favorites are there: flower arranging with Sara Thompson, blues harmonica with Allen Stratyner and more.

One class that sounds especially intriguing is "A History of Jazz," which includes field trips to the Chatterbox on Mass Ave. Students watch the performance and then chat with the musicians afterward, so they get real-world experience to boost classroom discussions. What a fun model for a class!

The same is true of "How to Hike the Appalachian Trail," which includes day hikes and one overnight trip. I've just finished Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, so of course now I have this feverish notion of hiking the trail, too. This class could get me started -- or, more likely, it would demonstrate that hiking 2,000 miles isn't really something I want to do. Lesson learned.

As usual, you'll also find a broad mix of dance and fitness classes, musical training, photography, languages, and professional-development opportunities, including lots of new business-oriented classes. It's such a cliche, but there really is something for everyone.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Art Center Announces Spring Schedule

Usually, the Indianapolis Art Center posts its schedule online a few days (or weeks) before the printed catalog is sent. So, I was surprised when the catalog arrived in the mail yesterday. There's still no mention of the spring schedule on the center's home page, which seems odd, since registration opens Dec. 1.

In the catalog, you'll find the usual mix of classes in ceramics, glass, sculpture, drawing and painting, jewelry, photography and more. If you're looking for serious artistic study, the Art Center is still the best option in town.

And yet, I confess that I'm disappointed in the schedule (and have been for the previous few semesters, too). Perhaps my impression is incorrect, but the Art Center seems to offer fewer weekend workshops and "light" class options these days -- the very things that might attract a new student. I used to circle a class on every page and have to make hard choices about which classes to take. The number of classes I want to take next spring = zero.

Perhaps the Art Center is choosing to focus on more serious, long-term students. Obviously, the center is doing a great job with that population. But, when it comes to classes, I'm usually neither serious nor long-term. I need to find a new place for random learning experiences that don't require investing in a studio full of equipment.

Another complaint: I detest the way the catalog is organized. Classes are listed based on the day they are offered (Mondays, Tuesdays, etc.). So, if you want to find a 15-week intermediate drawing class, for example, you have to read the entire section. Why not organize classes by length (seven weeks vs. 15 weeks) or by skill level within each category? I do not say, "I want to take a class on Tuesdays." I say, "I want to take an intermediate class on PMC." Oh, look, there it is on Wednesdays. If there were a 15-week class on the same topic, it might be listed on an entirely different page. That makes absolutely no sense.

As it stands, I'll be handing off the catalog to a friend of mine, who is very much enjoying her seven-week painting class this semester. She is serious about improving her painting skills, so I'm sure she'll find something in the spring catalog to interest her. Meanwhile, I'll be searching for other options.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wine and Canvas Opens Studio

A few weeks ago, I wrote a story for the Indianapolis Star about Wine and Canvas, the nomadic painting class that sets up shop in restaurants and bars all over the city.

Now, W&C has some more exciting news: a studio of its own, where it can offer programs on weekends (when restaurant space is hard to find) and art classes for children (called Cookies and Canvas).

The grand opening of the Wine and Canvas Studio, 3600 E. 86th St., is Nov. 12, and sessions that weekend are discounted to just $25 from the regular $35-40. Stop by to check out the new space, sign up for a class and get ready for a fun girls' night out!

Spirit and Place Kicks Off Today

The 15th annual Spirit and Place Festival begins today, with 40 events in 10 days related to the theme of "Food for Thought." As a bonus, most of the events are free. For festival highlights, check out my story in this week's Metromix or visit the festival website.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Upcoming Jewelry Classes

The Fountain Square saga continues. Jari Sheese, the former owner of Boca Loca Beads, has re-named her year-old glass studio, formerly known as Fuego Loco. The new incarnation, Indy Flame Art, celebrates its grand opening during the upcoming First Friday Art Walk, 6-9 p.m., Nov. 5, at the Circle City Industrial Complex, 1125 Brookside, Suite C15. Stop by to see glass artists in action, and sign up for one of the many upcoming classes in bead-making, marble-making and more.

Meanwhile, the former home of Boca Loca -- now called Heirloom Classics -- is offering classes in wire-working, beading and silver-smithing. I look an introductory beading class at the former Boca Loca, so I'm interested in seeing how his class compares. Has anyone taken a class here? If so, let us know how it went!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Follow the North Star is Back!

This outstanding program at Conner Prairie puts you in the shoes of a runaway slave on the Underground Railroad. It is an emotional challenge but memorable and immensely educational, and I walked away with a new understanding of the slavery experience.

This year's program runs 6:30-8:30 p.m., the first three weekends in November, with groups starting every 15 minutes. (The program lasts 90 minutes.) Tickets are $20 for non-members or $17 for members. Reservations are required; call (317) 776-6006.

Although the program is outstanding, it's not for everyone. Take a look at the museum's disclaimer: "Follow the North Star is not for everyone. This program takes place outdoors in all weather conditions, and participants walk approximately one mile on rough terrain. The emotional effect of the program is intense, as participants are treated as slaves, being told to keep their eyes down and not to speak unless spoken to." Participants must be at least 12.

Photo courtesy Conner Prairie.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Closing: Frasier's Gourmet Foods

I stopped by Frasier's Gourmet Foods this weekend, in search of little chocolate cups for our annual Halloween party. The shelves seemed more bare than usual, and there were "30 percent off" signs on the cookware. It seemed ominous.

"Um, Joyce, why is everything 30 percent off?" I asked.

"Because we're retiring at Christmas," she replied.

[Insert one of those drawn-out movie screams of "Nooooooooooooooooo!" Next, in an intrigued voice, "Wait, so the Le Creuset stuff is 30 percent off? Excuse me while I shop."]

So, that's that. I'm losing the gourmet food store just minutes from my house, and we're losing one of the best adult education venues in the city. I'm taking a desserts class at Frasier's this evening, so maybe I'll get more details. Fingers crossed that someone will buy the store and keep things going.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Blues Harmonica Class at the JCC

Tonight, I'm attending the second of six blues harmonica classes taught by local musician Allen Stratyner. Regular readers know that I've been trying to schedule this class for about a year, ever since I wrote about it for Indianapolis Monthly. I'm thrilled to finally make the schedule work.

Our first class, held last Tuesday, consisted mostly of housekeeping: introductions, care instructions for our new harmonicas, and a short history of blues harmonica. Finally, at the end of the class, we got to "break in" our harmonicas and learned how to hold them properly (which was actually the most difficult part). Then we learned to mimic the sounds of a train, which we were supposed to practice as homework.

The class is held at the JCC and offered in conjunction with the IUPUI Community Learning Network. Our class has about 10 students, which is perfect -- small enough for individual attention but large enough to feel comfortable in the group.

During the class, we're going to learn how to play scales and individual notes, how to perform simple songs, and how to develop our individual harmonica styles. Perhaps, if I feel confident enough by the end of the class series, I'll post an audio file of my harmonica skills!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Irvington Skill Share Feastival

The Irvington Skill Share Feastival is coming up Nov. 7, promising "down to earth skills from garden to kitchen." Locals will share their experiences with canning, beekeeping, bread-baking, composting -- everything you need to know to have your own little urban homestead.

The event, which is part of the Spirit and Place Festival (more on that later), will be held from 1-5 p.m., Nov. 7, at Irvington United Methodist Church. I just put it on my Google calendar, so I'll see you there!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hoosier Harvest at Indiana State Museum

The harvest season is upon us, and the Indiana State Museum is celebrating with a variety of classes and activities.
  • Oct. 2-3 = Harvest Jubilee. Workshops include making gourd birdhouses, extending the growing season, and finding local food in Indianapolis. Don't miss the Hoosier Farmer's Breakfast at 9 a.m. Oct. 2 ($17).
  • Oct. 9-10 = Crocked, Sauced and Pickled. Learn how to make your own refrigerator pickles or create a fall wreath. Afterward, snack of local jams, jellies and preserves at the Farmer's High Tea, at 3 p.m. Oct. 9 ($12).
  • Oct. 16-17 = Urban Fresh. Workshops include composting 101, DIY rain barrels and spring garden planning. Celebrate with the Farmer's Chic Buffet, at 11 a.m. Oct. 16 ($17).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: Fondant Class at Frasier's Gourmet Foods

Cake decorating is not my thing. For one thing, I can't stand the taste of cake. If forced to choose between eating a cake or licking a tire, I would gratefully choose the tire.

Still, I signed up for today's fondant class at Frasier's Gourmet Foods because I wanted to learn something new, and because I'm enjoying the classes taught by chef Justin Miller. I'm starting to see a lot of the same people in each of his classes, and we're developing a nice camaraderie.

Today's class was limited to just eight people, which allowed for a hands-on lesson. It was a bit more expensive ($45 instead of the usual $35), but for a topic like this one, the practice was invaluable. Miller explained how to do a crumb coat, how to use butter-cream icing and fondant, and how to pipe a few basic designs.

I admit, a blind-folded monkey could probably beat me in a cake-decorating contest. But I had a good time tonight, even though I ate enough icing to make myself ill (or maybe because I ate that much icing).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Upcoming Upholstery Classes

These days, everything old is new again. I just received a note from Shelly Leer about upcoming upholstery classes at ModHomeEc -- a great way to reinvigorate a tired piece of furniture. Here's the info:

Intro to Upholstery Workshop: This is a two night class in which you will learn the very beginnings and basics about upholstery tools, measuring your furniture to determine fabric yardage, tear down, re-padding and upholstering a SIMPLE piece with fabric.

Suggested pieces: flat benches, slip seats or an easy side chair. Pre-approval needed.
I will show you how to tear down your piece, re-pad it or fluff up the old padding, cut new fabric, plan the layout of the fabric and upholstering your piece. We will do as much as we can during these two 2 ½ hour sessions. If you bring more chair seats than we can complete, you’ll know how to complete the rest of them at home.
New foam and fabric not included. Tools are available for you to use.

This class will give you the confidence to move on to a more detailed piece of furniture.

Monday September 13 and 20 7:00-9:30
Thursday September 16 and 23 7:00-9:30
Saturday September 25 and October 2 10:00-12:30

Monday October 4 and 11 7:00-9:30
Saturday October 23 and 30 10:00-12:30

Build Your Own Custom Ottoman: This is it! You will learn the basics of building a piece from the ground up in this one day, four hour class. We will be webbing a pre-made frame, cutting foam, applying the top layer of dacron padding and upholstering the ottoman with fabric. We will also be making welt cord to add to the bottom edge of the ottoman. You will need to purchase wood furniture legs to attach to your ottoman. (you can either bring your own or purchase a variety of legs from me.
Class: $90.00. Tools are available for you to use.
Kit (wood frame, webbing, foam and dacron) $30.00

Saturday September 18 1:00-4:00
Saturday October 16 1:00-4:00

Intermediate Upholstery: This is the next level for students who have learned the basics and are ready to tackle a more detailed piece of furniture. In this 6 week class we will hit the ground running to get your small upholstered chair completed in the 6 week time period. No wing chairs, lazy boys, big lounge chairs. You can learn all you need to know on a small upholstered piece. The skills you learn will translate to larger pieces.
Foam and fabric not included. We will work hard during the 2 ½ hour class in order to complete your projects. Tools are available for you to use. $175.00

Wednesday September 22 – October 27 7:00-9:30 SOLD OUT
Monday October 18 – October 22 7:00-9:30

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Art Center Holds Open House

Stop by the Indianapolis Art Center this Friday, 6-8 p.m., for the fall open house. Taste free samples from Yats, Qdoba and the Broad Ripple Ice Cream Station, and listen to a steel-drum performance by Tom Berich.

Even better, the classrooms will be packed with demonstrations and hands-on activities, including pottery-making, jewelry-making (fusing and forging metal) and print-making. You can even create your own watercolor painting with the help of an Art Center instructor.

Don't want to make your own art? Buy unique pieces at the gift shop sidewalk sale and browse creations by Art Center students and faculty members. Whatever you buy, the proceeds will support local artists and one of the city's best venues for lifelong artistic education.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

September Cooking Classes

Whew! After whirlwind trips to England and Canada, I'm back at home and ready to take some classes. The first priority, of course, is food, so here's a look at cooking classes on the September schedule.
  • Kiss Z Cook is launching another round of its Foundation Series I, an eight-week class covering knife skills, garde manger, sauces/stocks, soups, starches and proteins. The class is held on consecutive Thursday evenings starting Sept. 2. At $480, it's pricey but worthwhile. Also on the September schedule: pasta, Italian bread, prep cooking, creative vegetarian and more.
  • Chef JJ's is offering hearty grilling classes focused on pizza, steak, desserts and breads, and fish. Has anyone been to one of Chef JJ's classes? I really need to get over there!
  • Clark's Appliance has classes on tailgating (including a recipe for "the ultimate cheese ball") and the cuisine of Northern Italy.
I usually include Frasier's Gourmet Foods on this list, but all of its September classes are already sold out, including Cooking 101 and a class on rolled fondant. Sign up now for October classes on vegan cooking and party desserts.

While we're talking about food, keep in mind that it all starts with the farmers. Kelly Funk, owner of Seldom Seen Farm, was struck by lightening in July while working in her fields, and her recovery is expected to be long and slow. Slow Food Indy is collecting donations to help the family cover her many expenses. If you'd like to contribute, donate here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Pie Class at Frasier's Gourmet Foods

On Monday evening, I met up with a friend for a pie-baking class at Frasier's Gourmet Foods, and what a delicious evening we had. Chef Justin Miller, a culinary instructor at the Art Institute of Indianapolis, made an apple pie and a fruit tart, and he shared lots of great tips along the way.

Miller started the class with his recipe for vodka pie dough. (As the vodka evaporates during baking, it helps create those scrumptious flaky layers.) He wowed the crowd with a great shortcut: a pie top that looks like a tedious lattice but requires just a few quick knife slices. He also demonstrated a sweet tart dough, a more mealy and cookie-like dough for wetter fillings.

Into the tart crust Miller put a rich pastry cream topped with fresh fruit, which we were in charge of peeling and coring. Into the pie crust went a cinnamony apple mixture, which tasted fantastic with a small dash of orange juice.

My friend and I juiced a seemingly endless pile of lemons, but Miller ran out of time before demonstrating the promised lemon curd. He also had to skip the chocolate cream pie. Fortunately, we quickly got over our disappointment -- as soon as we bit into that heavenly apple pie.

These classes always have a friendly, chatty atmosphere, but one student was a complete mess. Her boyfriend's parents had given her the class as a gift, but she had to "repay" them by baking them a pie. She was frantic about doing a good job, and I could have done without her constant murmurs of alarm. It stressed me out, too! At the end of the class, we all promised to send happy baking thoughts her way: Stressed-out baking girl, wherever you are, I hope your pie was fabulous.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Art Center Releases Fall Calendar

The Indianapolis Art Center has released its fall calendar, this time in a fancy digital version. I'm not sold on the format; the class descriptions are accessible only via separate links, which makes the catalog very difficult to scan.

Another flaw: The weekend workshops are listed only within their categories, not in a separate section organized by date -- which used to be a great way to identify a class to take on a weekend you had free. That listing would only require one additional page, so I don't see why it would be omitted.

In terms of class offerings, you'll find all of the usual topics, with classes for beginning, intermediate and advanced students in everything from printmaking to steel sculpture. The depth of the schedule is impressive, even if most of the topics are ones we've seen before. Hey, these are tough times, and we can't fault the Art Center for sticking to tried-and-true classes that sell well.

On a personal note, I'm glad to see precious metal clay back on the schedule, for both a long-term class and a weekend workshop. Sign me up!

The catalog also includes listings for community events, such as the "Clay and Cocktails" events on several Friday evenings and "Community Nights at the Arts Center," the second Wednesday evening of each month. Topics include sugar skulls, animal clay sculptures, a powwow demonstration and sand painting, and fused glass.

I do think the Art Center is the best place in town to get good, solid artistic instruction, and I think it's doing the best it can in tough economic times. For the future, however, I hope for tweaks in the catalog design -- and a few new, unexpected class topics, too.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

IUPUI Releases Fall Calendar

The Indianapolis Art Center is usually the first to announce its schedule each season, but this time the IUPUI Community Learning Network is one step ahead. Its fall catalog is available online now and will appear in the Indianapolis Star Aug. 1.

Professional development classes abound, such as the free "Blueprint for Action" class for job seekers and a variety of classes in computers, health care and business.

What's new for personal development? Among others, there are classes on line editing for writers and editors, the uses of wild plants, tango and belly dancing, and finger-picking a folk guitar. Oldies but goodies include flower arranging, photography, and Allen Stratyner's blues harmonica class -- which I am finally, finally going to be able to take.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review: Sailing Lesson

Behold, the power of the Groupon. The Indianapolis Sailing Club recently offered a 61 percent off coupon for a three-hour introductory sailing lesson ($39 instead of $100), expecting about 50 participants. Instead it got 500 -- my husband and me included.

We registered for our session online, a fairly simple process, and soon afterward received an e-mail listing the items we should bring to our session (e.g., sunglasses, towels, changes of clothes). The part about bringing dry clothes sounded ominous, as did the waiver we had to sign when we arrived, promising not to "intentionally" bash the boat into something.

Once the paperwork was completed, we got a quick, fairly incomprehensible sailing overview, then hopped into the boat with our instructor, Zach. Once we got in the boat, the complicated sailing terms (e.g., tack, jib) became a bit more concrete. Zach started us off easy, giving us the job of managing the jib sail. (That's the little one in front.) Once we had mastered that, we took turns with just the tiller, and finally we were able to handle both the tiller and main sail at once.

The most difficult part of the lesson was tacking -- turning around. This requires some complicated maneuvering of the tiller and the rope controlling the main sail, and the boat tends to lean into the turn. If you drop the tiller (as I did once), you might panic and accidentally clothesline yourself with the line to the main sail. But, good news: These boats are remarkably hard to tip over.

Even if we had fallen into the water, the nearby safety boat would have rescued us. The Indianapolis Sailing Club conducts summer camps for kids and regularly offers lessons, so it takes all the right precautions.

Of course, the Sailing Club is hoping that we'll fall madly in love with sailing and purchase a club membership, about $140 per quarter, which includes rental of the smaller boats. They're also hoping we'll enroll in the 22-hour certification class. I don't think that's in our future, but it was an interesting way to spend an afternoon (and a better workout than we anticipated). It could be fun, once every few months, to take another short lesson and get out on the water ... always making sure the safety boat is nearby.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July Cooking Classes

July is a time of farmers' market bounty, so you'll find many classes this month on using, grilling and preserving farm-to-table foods. And, for some reason, there are lots of dessert classes this month, too!

At Frasier's Gourmet Foods, you'll find two intriguing classes. On July 26, chef Justin Miller offers "Pies and Tarts." Recipes on the agenda include apple pie, chocolate cream pie, key lime tart, and fresh fruit tart. Miller will also share his secrets for vodka pie dough and sweet tart dough. Needless to say, I'm already signed up.

Next, on July 27, R Bistro sous chef Erin Kem will offer "Quebec Classics," such as meat pies and pudding chomeur. Kem often does classes inspired by her travels, and this is a type of ethnic food we don't usually consider.

Cooking Greek seems to have scaled back its schedule for the summer, but on most Sundays you'll still find classes on traditional Greek foods. (If you bought the Groupon a few weeks back, you must apply it to a special Groupon-only class on Wednesday or Thursday evenings.)

Chef JJ's in Broad Ripple, which has a well-designed new website, is offering two classes on backyard entertaining and one class on grilling "for ladies." (I bet $5 that the class focuses on chicken and low-calorie marinades.) This month's pizza class and a ribs class in August have already sold out, so make your reservations for other classes well in advance.

The class schedule is full at Kiss Z Cook, which continues its Friday date-night series and "girls' night out" classes and adds a "guys' night out" series. Some interesting one-shot classes on the schedule include "French Cuisine," "Grilling Ribs and Chops," "Breakfast for Dinner" and "Cooking with Chocolate."

You can also stop by Williams-Sonoma for free demonstration classes. Topics include "Farm to Table," about using fresh fruits, veggies and herbs (July 11); "Summer Sauces" (July 18); and "Saving Summer," about basic food preservation techniques (July 25). The classes are free, but reservations are required: (317) 816-4422.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: Canning Class at Frasier's Gourmet Foods

To me, canning has always seemed like mysterious alchemy. Using boiling water and a host of strange-looking tools, grandmothers everywhere monitor pectin levels and fend off evils like salmonella and botulism. With so much at stake, it's no surprise that I've never attempted the process.

Justin Miller's canning class has changed all that, demystifying the practice and establishing my canning confidence. After three hours in the Frasier's Gourmet Foods demonstration kitchen, I now understand the difference between jelly, jam, preserves and compote, and I can tell you which pectin to use for which purpose.

I also know that all of those fancy canning tools are completely unnecessary. All you really need is jars, lids, a pot for boiling water, and some tongs. Yep, that's it. For some reason I thought there was an autoclave involved.

At the end of the class, we took home a pile of instructions and four types of canned food: orange marmalade, three-berry preserves, rhubarb and strawberry compote, and hot pepper compote. They'll keep in my pantry for 12 to 18 months, but I guarantee they won't be around that long.

Interested in learning more about home food preservation? Miller recommends Pick Your Own, which has a section called "How to Can Anything."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wine and Canvas Posts July Schedule

Wine and Canvas is enjoying quite a vogue in my social circle, and my friends are all aflutter about the new July schedule, which introduces two new venues: Barcelona Tapas and Santorini Greek Kitchen. W&C has also filled in its schedule, with classes offered every night from Monday through Thursday, all month long.

The difficulty now is choosing a class. Should you paint the Beatles homage "Abbey Road" at Mass Ave Wine Shoppe, the minimalist "Cup of Joe" at Muldoon's, or the "Wine and Flowers" still life at La Mie Emilie?

Whatever you do, be sure to sign up for the W&C newsletter, which includes a $5 coupon for your next class.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mini University: Day 6

Do I really have to wait a whole year until another Mini University? Although there were a few bumps along the way, I had another wonderful "nerd vacation" this week, and I look forward to reading more throughout the year about the subjects that grabbed my interest.

We had one final class this morning, and I headed to a session on the gnostic gospel of Judas. It was a fascinating look at early Christian history, and a reminder that the Christianity we know today is just one of many viewpoints circulating in the early church. Our instructor was a great presenter, and it was a perfect capstone to a busy week.

Afterward, we convened for the commencement ceremony, complete with diplomas, the IU fight song and "Hail to Old IU." Sadly, Jessica lost the Green Beanie award to an enthusiastic freshman we call Pantsuit Jan.

If I have one criticism of Mini University, it's that the program focuses so heavily on retirees -- which, to be fair, make up the vast majority of participants. So many of the classes focused on issues of aging, and we weren't always successful in weeding out those sessions in our own schedules. I'd love to see Mini University put some effort -- and some marketing dollars -- into reinvigorating this program with young professionals. I still had a wonderful time, but I hate being the only 20-something in the room. When I'm still showing up in 30 years, will I be the only person in the room?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mini University: Day 5

We kept busy last night by devouring Irish Lion puffballs, drinking a beer at Bluebird, waiting an hour for an incorrect delivery of fresh-baked cookies from Baked, and waiting another hour for a correct delivery, but this morning we were up bright and early for our last full day of classes.

I started the morning with a class on the blues, taught by legendary professor David Baker. I was thrilled, because his classes are so popular at IU that, as a student, I always got wait-listed. He talked about the origins and evolution of the blues, and he played us lots of examples.

Funny story: He doesn't have any fancy PowerPoint with audio files. Oh, no. His wife came with him and sat at a stereo, inserting CDs on command. This guy really needs a student assistant, who could probably digitize his music collection in 43 seconds flat.

Despite that, the class was interesting, and it was a good jumping-off point for more in-depth research on the genre. I now have a list of songs and artists to explore more deeply, and I have a better understanding of how the blues influenced other genres of music, from jazz to rap.

After breakfast at Runcible Spoon, Jessica and I started the afternoon with a class called "Robots as Helpers and Companions: Social Challenges in Technology Design." We all got to play with Paro, a robotic seal used in pet therapy when children have allergies to real pets, and he was definitely the star of the show. But we also learned about current research in robotic design, and we talked about the potential ethical challenges of replacing real, human social interactions with robotic interactions. Unfortunately, it sounds like Rosie the housekeeper robot is still a few decades away.

My final class of the day was "Artists' Courtships and Early Marriages: A Time of Creative Inspiration," which discussed painters' portraits of their lovers. We discussed the context in which these were made, plus lots of romantic gossip about some of history's most famous artists. The paintings were beautiful, but the session was a tad bit dry.

Can you believe we have only one more class? I start tomorrow morning with "The Gospel of Judas: Introducing a New Discovery," but then it's time for our commencement ceremony (and the answer to this week's most pressing question: Will Jessica be named outstanding freshman and win the green beanie?).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mini University: Day 4

We finally got around to playing Sink the Biz at Nick's last night, but I swear I was totally alert when classes started at 9 a.m. today. And I'm glad I was, because my morning class was about the fall of Communism in Europe, a potentially dry subject that was presented in a fascinating way.

Our instructor discussed the ingredients that caused the Communist collapse of 1989, such as economic breakdown, human rights pressures from the West, changing consumer expectations, and Pope John Paul II's visit to Poland. He also discussed key events in the Communist downfall, such as the 1989 Polish elections (which took place on the same day as the Tienanmen Square massacre) and the Velvet Revolution in Prague.

Most interestingly, however, he addressed the question of why some former Soviet republics have succeeded as democracies while others are still struggling. The answer, he said, is that democratic traditions must be built over many years; in Poland, for example, the Solidarity movement practiced democratic principles such as election and compromise during its decade as a subversive, underground organization. When Communism fell, Solidarity members already knew how to run an organization. To really succeed, therefore, a new democracy needs a history of democratic grassroots activism -- not a good sign for fledgling democracies in places like Iraq.

My second class focused on the future of book publishing, but it was a real dud. Taught by Janet Rabinowitch, who runs Indiana University Press, the lecture focused entirely on university-based publishers. Rabinowitch had no information on commercial publishing, which meant she had to answer question after question with "I don't know." I wish she had done some background research or perhaps had a co-presenter from the commercial publishing industry.

My final class of the day was taught by Amy Cook, an assistant professor whose research is focused on why theater-goers react the way they do. Why do we cry when Cordelia is hanged, when we know perfectly well that it's all a performance? Cook's lecture today focused on the theory that performances activate something called mirror neurons, which fire when we perform an action but also when we watch that action being done by someone else. The lecture was a strange combination of scientific details and Hamlet clips, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mini University: Day 3

After a late night at Bear's Place (where I enjoyed Comedy Caravan but skipped the Hairy Bear) and a post-midnight order of Mad Mushroom cheese sticks, I might have been a bit sleepy when I strolled into my first class this morning, "Newspapers in a Paperless World." While it was engaging -- we watched a few journalism-related video clips and did a group activity -- the class wasn't what I had expected. As a freelance writer, I wanted to hear about the future of the newspaper industry; instead, we spent most of the session talking about the past.

To be fair, it wasn't really the presenter's fault. The primary population at Mini University is retirees, and almost all of them still hold subscriptions to their local papers. Many of them don't get their news online, and at least one class participant actively resents "online only" content. (She wanted to know whether such content is legal, since she pays for a subscription but doesn't receive 100 percent of the content that's produced.)

Obviously, this would have been a very different session had the primary audience been young professional freelancers with journalism degrees who are concerned about job security. While there were a few interesting historical nuggets, this session didn't really meet my needs, and I was disappointed.

My educational experience improved this afternoon. My first session was about jury selection in capital cases -- what criteria are used to select them, what biases and influences they have, etc. The presenter is working on the Capital Jury Project, which conducts surveys and in-depth interviews with former capital jurors, with many interesting results.

Fun fact of the day: In a capital case with a black defendant and a white victim, when there are no black men on the jury, the chance of the jury choosing the death penalty is 71.9 percent. But when just one black man is included on the jury, the likelihood of choosing the death penalty falls to 37.5 percent. So, about that whole racial bias thing ...

My last class of the day was a visit to the Kinsey Institute, where we heard an overview of current research projects and then toured the current gallery exhibition, a collection of erotica donated by a single collector. This class was more interesting than it was educational, but it's a good reminder of yet another world-class resource that calls IU home.

If I can crawl out of bed tomorrow after a few rounds of Sink the Biz, I will be starting the day with a class on the fall on Communism in Europe, then head to classes on the future of book publishing and the use of cognitive science in interpreting Shakespeare. One of the things I love about Mini University is that it engages so many different subjects and parts of my brain. We are having a wonderful nerd vacation!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mini University: Day 2

Today I remembered why I love Mini University. In one day, I learned about embryonic stem-cell research, the cross-influence of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, and the ethical and technical ramifications of Mars exploration. Plus, I got to wander around Bloomington, and later we're going to the Comedy Caravan at Mother Bear's. Really. Awesome. Day.

First off, embryonic stem cells: Our professor discussed the difference between embryonic stem cells and iPS stem cells, which are adapted from adult cells. (Summary: The iPS stem cells are not a good replacement for embryonic stem cells, even if they do solve some ethical dilemmas.) We also discussed whether stem cells will soon be used to cure diseases in humans. The answer: Although we're doing lots of basic research, we don't yet know how to integrate these cells into existing human tissues -- in other words, we can create the cells, but we don't know how to use them to cure disease.

After lunch, Jessica and I headed to Ballantine Hall for a class on the cross-influence of Bob Dylan and the Beatles. It was taught by legendary professor Glenn Gass, and I could have listened to him for a few more hours -- completely fascinating. Fun fact of the day: The Beatles named themselves in honor of Buddy Holly's band the Crickets. They wanted to be bugs, too.

I ended the day in a class about the technical and ethical implications of Mars exploration. We spent about fifteen minutes on upcoming Mars expeditions, including the Mars Science Lab rover that launches in 2011. Unfortunately, there are two main ethical issues with such projects. One, which I've considered, is the wisdom of spending so much money on Mars exploration when we haven't even cataloged all life on Earth. The other issue I never considered: If there is life on Mars, we are possibly contaminating the planet's ecosystem every time we conduct another mission. In other words, we're possibly damaging Martian life without realizing it. Of course, the professor felt that the potential value of the research outweighs those considerations -- but it's something important to think about.

Tomorrow is another big day: "Newspapers in a Paperless World," "Capital Jurors: Who Serves and How Do They Decide?" and "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex" (this one at the Kinsey Institute). Oh, how I [heart] Mini University.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mini University: Day 1

Last year, IU's Mini University received our Best of Indy award for best educational experience of the year -- so it's no surprise that I'm here again in Bloomington for another round. This time, rather than coming solo, I've brought my friends Stephanie and Jessica, who are equally excited about our summer "nerd vacation."

This afternoon, we attended an information session and then faced the most difficult task of the week: choosing our classes. Several of the time slots offered obvious choices; of course I'm going to take the classes about Shakespeare, the state of the newspaper industry, and the future of book publishing. In other time slots, however, I really struggled to choose: for the Monday morning time slot, should I take a class on Ernie Pyle, stem-cell research and human cloning, or dark matter in the universe? I finally settled on the cloning class, but I'm not sure I made the right choice.

The nice part about coming with friends is that we can divide and conquer, which means I can actually learn much more (and hopefully have some great discussions along the way). On the flip side, there's much more temptation to sneak away with the girls for a game of Sink the Biz at Nick's.

Mini University officially gets underway tomorrow morning and continues through the graduation ceremony Friday morning. Check back all week for updates on our nerdy adventures!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Today's Groupon: Cooking Greek

A few days ago, I mentioned Groupon, a daily e-mail coupon that often offers discounts on adult education opportunities. Lo and behold, today's Groupon offers a 50 percent discount at Cooking Greek, the new cooking school in Carmel. If you're interested, sign up now; the coupon expires at midnight tonight.

A Green Education

Many thanks to Green Piece Indy for this tip: The Indiana Sustainable Living Fair takes place this Saturday at the Marion County Fairgrounds. Meets eco-friendly vendors, sit it on sustainability seminars and round-table discussions, and watch a variety of demonstrations -- all with the goal of reducing your carbon footprint.

(How big is your carbon footprint? Try this calculator developed by the Nature Conservancy.)

Demonstration topics include oil-seed pressing, sheep shearing, worm composting, cooking with solar ovens, preserving food (canning and freezing), identifying plants and weeds, building your own chicken coop, and making art from found objects.

In addition, here's the seminar schedule:

9:30 -- Why Biodiversity Matters
10:40 -- The ABCs of Producing Your Own Food
10:40 -- The Benefits of Raw Milk
1:30 -- Sustainability from the Ground Up
2:30 -- Who Should Control Our Food System?
2:30 -- Nourishing Our Children
3:30 -- Choices in Natural Healing
3:30 -- Unity Community Gardens
4:30 -- Cancer, Nutrition and Healing

Admission is $10/person at the gate; children younger than 12 are free (cash only).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Art Center Gift Shop Closes for Remodeling

The Indianapolis Art Center's gift shop is set to close June 26 for remodeling, so now's a great time to snap up sale-priced treasures and support both local artists and a superb adult-education venue. You'll find funky jewelry, colored-glass vases, thought-provoking paintings and much, much more.

Once the shop is closed, don't despair: You can still support local artists on Etsy, probably the best online source for handmade goods. To search for Indy artists, click the "buy" tab, then choose "shop local." At the moment, you'll find everything from personalized bookplates to hand-stitched throw pillows.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Update: Wine and Canvas

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Wine and Canvas, a great program that offers fun, relaxing painting classes in restaurants across the city. At that first class, about eight people showed up at Muldoon's, and we had a lovely time.

When I went again this week, this time to the Chateau Thomas Winery tasting room in Fishers, there were about 30 participants, and another W&T event that evening, at the Mass Ave Wine Shop, had sold out completely. Obviously the program has struck a chord, and I look forward to seeing how W&T handles its success. (Did you know they also do private events for bridal showers, baby showers, etc.?)

Pictured is the painting we did that evening. It was supposed to be painted in earth tones, but I rebelled. (Look, I'm becoming more artistic already! Now if only the "O" weren't so crooked.) I'm going again next week to a class at El Torito Grill; the painting is a Picasso-esque Cubist landscape. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Get Your Groupon

Have you signed up for Groupon? If not, do it now! You'll get a daily e-mail with a fantastic local bargain, such as restaurant coupons, massage deals, and entertainment specials.

About once a week, Groupon offers discounts on local classes. A few weeks ago, for example, they offered a discounted class at Kiss Z Cook ($35 instead of the normal $75), and another day they offered a discount on painting classes with Wine and Canvas. Today, the deal is 50 percent off flying lessons with Freedom Helicopters.

There is, of course, a catch: You have to commit to the deal right away, usually within 24 or 48 hours, and pay up front. In theory, the coupon doesn't activate until a certain number of people sign up (thus the name of the service), but I've never known that to be a problem.

And, if you decide to take those helicopter lessons, let me know! I'd love to hear how it goes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Introduction to Meditation

This month, the Dromtonpa Buddhist Center is partnering with Indy Parks & Recreation to offer "Introduction to Meditation," a six-week course with teacher Kathy Ryan. The class runs on Wednesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., from June 16 to July 21, at the Broad Ripple Parks and Family Center. To register, call (317) 327-7161 or send an e-mail.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

IMA Offers Artists' Forum

The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park opens June 20, and the IMA has scheduled a bazillion grand-opening events to celebrate the 100-acre project. Among them is the 100 Acres Artists' Forum, featuring the eight artists who created outdoor art installations for the park.

At 11 a.m., Saturday, June 19, the artists will discuss their work with the museum's CEO, curators of contemporary art, and other IMA staff involved in the park's development. The forum is free, but tickets are required.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

City Market Cooking Classes

If you work downtown, you can get an education fix during your lunch hour: City Market is offering demonstration-style cooking classes each Wednesday from noon to 1:30 p.m., now through the end of October. The classes are free and no reservation is required, and each class is repeated every week of the month -- so, if that conference call runs longer than expected, no worries!

Here's the schedule of this year's topics:
  • June -- Food allergies: gluten-free grains and baking
  • July -- Heart disease: high-soluble fiber, low-sodium and low-fat options
  • August -- Vegan and vegetarian cuisine
  • September -- Diabetes: cooking with whole grains and legumes, healthy snacks and omega-3s
  • October -- Cancer: cooking with colors (natural plant pigments), organic and soy options, using herbs and spices

Sunday, May 30, 2010

June Cooking Classes

Just when I was starting to get the summer education blues, I noticed a new cooking school offering classes in Carmel: Cooking Greek, which specializes in (obviously) Greek cuisine. Four-hour classes are offered at 2:30 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday at Alice's Catering in Carmel, but the menu varies each weekend.

Here are a few examples:
  • June 5-6 -- Greek salad, pastitsio (Greek lasagna) with green beans, and loukoumades (Green honey dough balls) ($80)
  • June 12-13 -- Saganaki (flaming cheese), mousaka with horiatiki salata (country salad), and almond rolls ($90)
It sounds delicious, but it seems a bit pricey. Included are recipes, take-home containers and all the food you make, which Cooking Greek claims is enough for two to three people.

In other news, Chef JJ's is offering classes this month on vegetarian grilling, steak and East Coast seafood, all starting at 6:15 on Tuesday evenings. And Frasier's Gourmet Foods is offering "Cooking with Lavender," a unique topic from R Bistro sous chef Erin Kem (June 22).

Finally, stop by Maggiano's Little Italy at 10 a.m., June 5, for a class on Texas BBQ ($25). What this has to do with Italian food, I really couldn't say.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Wine and Canvas

As much as I'd love to be artistic, my drawing and painting skills are on par with your average kindergartner's. Nevertheless, I had a great time last night at Wine and Canvas, a painting class held in restaurants and wine shops around town.

Last night's event was held at Muldoon's, where we had a quiet corner to ourselves. When we arrived, our easels, canvases, brushes and paint palettes were already set up, and we put on aprons to keep the paint off of our work clothes.

Once we were settled (and had ordered our drinks, of course), the instructor led us through the steps to create our "Cosmo" paintings. She explained the basics, but she also suggested changes we could make to individualize our work -- such as the curvy, slightly crooked stem on my glass.

My painting isn't museum quality, but I like it anyway. I learned a few things about how to paint, and I had a great time doing it. Even better, Wine and Canvas handles all the clean-up. What a relaxing way to wrap up a busy day!

Wine and Canvas has three to five events per week, most on weekday evenings. Locations include El Torito Grill, Chateau Thomas Winery's tasting room in Fishers, Muldoon's and Mass Ave Wine Shop. You can pick the location that works best for you, or you can choose the painting you like best. All classes cost $35-40.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Upcoming Classes: Indy Parks

Indy Parks has released its summer calendar, which covers June through September. For some reason, I have a bee in my bonnet about the Eagle Creek Park marina: Should I try a $75 sailing class or maybe one of the late-night canoe trips on the night of a full moon? Sometime during my crazy summer Shakespeare schedule, I'm hoping to do both.

As always, there are plenty of dance, fitness, arts and horticulture classes, concentrated at Broad Ripple Park, Garfield Park, Eagle Creek Park and Holliday Park.

Garfield Park Conservatory, for example, has classes such as All About Herbs (July 10 and Aug. 14), Beekeeping Basics (Aug. 1) and Butterfly Gardening (June 26). And, the arts center there has classes on jewelry-making, painting, print-making, poetry, drawing and more.

I've said this before, but I really hate the way the catalog is organized. Classes are listed by location, not topic or age group. So, if you want to find, say, an adult pottery class, you have to look through every darn page in the catalog, including page after page of toddler swimming classes. Are you listening, parks people?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cooking Classes at Joseph Decuis

One of Indiana's best restaurants, Joseph Decuis, is offering a series of cooking classes based on James Beard Award-winning chefs and their cookbooks. The restaurant is located in Roanoke, near Fort Wayne, so it's a bit of a drive from Indy -- but I'm sure it will be worth it.

Classes are $65 per person and take place at 1 p.m. Saturdays (and I strongly suggest staying afterward for dinner). Here's the schedule for the rest of the year:
  • May 15: The Sweet Spot by Pichet Ong
  • June 12: Burger Bar by Hubert Keller
  • July 10: Italian Grill by Mario Batali
  • Aug. 21: American Cookery by James Beard
  • Sept. 18: In the Greet Kitchen by Alice Waters
  • Oct. 23: Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
  • Nov. 13: Bouchon by Thomas Keller
  • Dec. 4: Cooking by James Peterson

Monday, May 10, 2010

New Project: Shakespeare in a Year

Along with adult education, I have three other passions: travel, cheese, and the works of William Shakespeare. So, today, I'm launching a new project: the Shakespeare in a Year Challenge. The new blog will cover my effort to read all 38 Shakespeare plays within a year -- and see as many of them performed as my budget and husband will allow.

Rest assured, the That'll Teach Me blog will continue as usual. But reading is an educational experience of its own, so I hope you'll stop by the new blog and participate in the debate (e.g., Falstaff: Love him or hate him? Personally, I hate him.).

I'll also be posting updates from my Shakespeare-related travels to Stratford, Ontario; England; and many of the Midwest's best Shakespeare experiences. (And, if I eat some cheese while I'm there, I'll be enjoying all of my passions at once. Talk about overload!)

As I wrote on the other blog, this project is going to challenge both my intellect and my schedule, but it's going to be an incredible journey. I hope you'll join me.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Shakespeare on the Sea

Looking for a summer vacation option? I just came across Insight Cruises, which offers intriguing continuing-education classes in between glamorous ports of call. All of the cruises are themed: space exploration, chess, quilting, Shakespeare, etc. See you on the next Shakespeare cruise!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Preview: Mini University

After last year's incredible experience, I eagerly enrolled in this year's Mini University, a program of the IU Alumni Association. I got my registration packet a few days ago, and already I'm drooling about the classes I'll be taking. Here are my top five picks:
  • Why Do People Spy? Motivations of Some of the Greatest Spies of the 20th Century
  • Newspapers in a Paperless World
  • Shakespeare: Theater and Cognitive Science
  • The Blues (with music professor David Baker)
  • Artists' Courtships and Early Marriages: A Time of Creative Inspiration
  • The Sustainable Table (with foodie, author and professor Christine Barbour)
What's that you say? I was supposed to choose my top five, but there are six classes on the list? Well, I couldn't choose. Which one sounds most interesting to you?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Upcoming IMA Lectures

During the summer doldrums, when other educational venues slow down, the Indianapolis Museum of Art gears up for a busy season. The big news, of course, is the hundred-acre Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, which opens June 20. (Isn't it too bad they didn't name it the Hundred Acre Wood?) In the meantime, the museum has several upcoming events.

Next week, landscape architect Richard Bisgrove will discuss Gertrude Jekyll and William Robinson, two English garden designers who were active in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The event is free, but registration is required (7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 13).

The following week, architect and author Sarah Susanka will discuss urban architecture -- essentially, the idea that larger houses are not only enlarging our carbon footprints and also weakening our families (7 p.m., May 20, $7). Click here to buy tickets.

And, although it's not really educational, don't forget the museum's wonderful Summer Nights film series, featuring movies on the terrace each Friday evening. Highlights include "Rebel Without a Cause," "A Fish Called Wanda," "The Muppets Take Manhattan" and two midnight shows, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Drool-worthy Class: The Oxford Experience

I'm always searching for summer camp programs for adults, but I've finally discovered the most tempting summer educational program on earth: The Oxford Experience. From early July to early August, participants move into Christ Church, Oxford, dorm rooms and take weekly classes such as "Riot and Rebellion in Shakespeare's London" and "History of the English Language."

As Liz Lemon would say (with a dazed expression), "I want to go to there."

Of course, it's not cheap: about 800 pounds per week, which is about $1,200. But I can't think of a better way to soak up knowledge about English literature, architecture, history and more. Someday ...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Jo-Ann Offers May/June Classes

Jo-Ann Fabrics has a new-and-improved website, thank goodness, so it's much easier to find the schedule for local classes. In May and June, the Castleton location is offering classes on sewing, quilting, cake decorating and scrapbooking.

A good friend of mine took the Wilton cake decorating series, and now she can make cute little gum paste animals for her kids' birthday cakes. The first course, Discover Cake Decorating, starts tomorrow, so sign up now if you're interested: (317) 585-9150.

Friday, April 30, 2010

May Cooking Classes

Are you ready for a serious culinary education? Kiss Z Cook has several long-term classes starting this month, including the scrumptious "Let's Bake" series, an outdoor grilling series, and level two of its foundation series for basic skills. Each series meets once per week for six or eight weeks.

The Carmel venue also has some great one-shot classes scheduled this month, such as "Cooking with Cheese" and "Outstanding Soups."

I'd sign up for "Let's Bake" in a heartbeat if it didn't conflict with several short trips I have planned ... and if my husband wouldn't kill me for spending $360 at once.

On the less expensive side, R Bistro chef Erin Kem continues her culinary wandering with a class on Middle Eastern cuisine at Frasier's Gourmet Foods ($35). Also on the schedule: a spring farm-market cooking class with chef Brad Kline.

At Chef JJ's in Broad Ripple, you'll find classes on sausages, pizza and ribs ... apparently they're working from a list of my husband's favorite foods.

Finally, if you took April's Sushi 101 at the Chef's Academy, continue your education with Sushi 102, taking place May 8.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

IUPUI Announces Summer Schedule

The IUPUI Community Learning Network has posted its summer schedule, and -- as we've come to expect -- it's heavy on the professional-development options. But there are some fun personal-development options, too, including the usual offerings in writing, languages, music, floral design and photography.

I'm especially excited about the range of fitness classes being offered this summer, including a Saturday-morning fitness sampler and a hiking club (both $99 for six weekly sessions). Not your style? Try belly dancing, golf, tai chi, zumba, pilates and more.

And here's a fun tidbit: That'll Teach Me got a mention in the catalog. It includes our award for 2009 Class of the Year, which went to the outstanding Immersion Spanish Institute. It was an intense but fun class, and it prepared me well for three months in Peru!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Singing the Blues

It's back! Sign up quickly for Allen Stratyner's popular class, How to Play Blues Harmonica, offered at the JCC. In six one-hour sessions on Tuesday evenings (July 6-Aug. 10), he'll teach you both traditional and country harmonica styles, and he'll tell you what he knows about the history of blues ... which is a lot. Cost is $79; call the JCC at 251-9467 to register.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Everything's Coming Up Roses

The spring planting season is just beginning, but already it's time to consider what you'll actually do with those piles of tomatoes and zucchini. (Hey, you can only make so much pasta sauce.) Enter the ever-useful Purdue University Extension Office, which is offering several upcoming classes in its Master Food Preserving Program.

Classes include:
  • Food safety and freezing food (June 2)
  • Boiling water process (June 11)
  • Pressure canning (June 17)
  • Pickling and drying foods (June 21)
  • Jams and jellies (June 23)
Classes run 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Scott Hall on the Johnson County Fairgrounds. Cost is $150 (or $125 through May 3); the registration deadline is May 24. Individual classes are $30 each, but only if space is available after full-course registrations.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Boca Loca Closes, Fuego Loco Opens

While I was gone, the big news in Indy adult education was the closing of Boca Loca Beads. Owner Jari Sheese walked away from her Fountain Square institution and, along with several other creative women, opened Fuego Loco Studio -- where the focus is on classes rather than retail sales.

At the moment, Fuego Loco is offering several lampworking classes, including a $60 "Intro to Lampworking" option. I assume that co-owner Bonnie Ramirez, aka The Torch Queen, will also be offering welding classes, but I don't see them listed on the site yet.

Meanwhile, the former Boca Loca site is now Heirloom Classics, which will continue to focus on jewelry and beads. You can even take some basic jewelry-making classes, starting at $20, such as "Wire Working 101" and "Jewelry Making 101."

So, now we have two educational venues instead of one, which is good. On the other hand, Jari's bead shop is gone, which is bad. But don't despair: You can still buy her beautiful work on Etsy, possibly the Web's best home for independent artisans.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Register for Summer Art Classes

Registration is now open for the Indianapolis Art Center's summer classes.

On the plus side, you can try out the center's fancy-dancy new online registration system. On the negative side, the summer class offerings are ... shall we say, uninspired? If you want a basic class in painting, glassblowing and the like, you'll find it. If you're looking for something new and different, however, you'll have to cross your fingers for a better fall schedule.

On a personal note, I'm quite disappointed by the absence of PMC classes. I love playing with precious metal clay, and now that I have a little kiln at home, I want to refresh my skills. Oh, well -- crossing my fingers for a better fall schedule.

In the meantime, pick up tickets to the 40th anniversary Broad Ripple Art Fair, to be held May 15-16. Through next Friday, tickets are four for $40 (a savings of $20).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's Back: Follow the North Star

It's time once again for Conner Prairie's Follow the North Star program, which immerses participants in the experience of fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad. I've reviewed the program before -- it's not exactly fun, but it's incredibly powerful. For more information, watch Conner Prairie's promotional video, which still gives me chills.

Starting April 9, the program runs on Friday and Saturday evenings in April, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. The program lasts 90 minutes, and groups start every 15 minutes. Tickets are $19; make reservations at (317) 776-6006.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

And, We're Back!

After three incredible months in Peru, I'm back home in Indy -- and already plotting this year's educational adventures. Over the next few days, look for updates on April cooking classes, the new venture from Jari Sheese (former owner of Boca Loca Beads), and much more. It's great to be home!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Brief Hiatus

Readers, it's time for another adventure. I'm leaving today for Peru, where I'll be spending three months in the Sacred Valley region near Cusco. I'll be teaching English with an organization called Projects Abroad, and I'll also be working on my Spanish skills.

I return home March 30, but in the interim this blog will be on hiatus. If you want to follow my adventures, stop by my other blog, Wandering Ashley. In the meantime, keep learning! I look forward to jumping back into things as soon as I return.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Spring Schedule: IUPUI Community Learning Network

In today's Indianapolis Star, you'll find the catalog of spring classes at the IUPUI Community Learning Network. As in recent semesters, there's a heavy concentration of career-planning and professional-development classes. But, the network also has some interesting new classes to try.

As promised, you'll find lots of new green/sustainability classes. Among them are Landscaping with Native Plants, Sustainable Economics, Do-it-Yourself Home Energy Audits and a green remodeling workshop.

Another intriguing addition is the IUPUI Music Academy, which offers classes in guitar, piano and voice. The six-week and eight-week classes meet all over the city, from Carmel to downtown to Greenwood, so there's a convenient option for everyone.

And, of course, I highly recommend both the floral design classes and the Spanish Immersion Institute, both of which have taken home this blog's Best of Indy awards. Happy learning!

Upcoming Classes: Conner Prairie

If you think of Conner Prairie as a warm-weather destination, think again. The museum offers activities all year round, including a handful of January classes:
  • Basket-making -- Learn traditional techniques from Conner Prairie's basket expert, Louise Hoover, and make a basket to take home (9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Jan. 9, $75).
  • Leather-working -- Learn about leather-working tools and techniques and make your own Haversack, a single-strapped shoulder bag (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Jan. 16-17, $300).
  • Pottery Basics -- Get hands-on experience with wheel-thrown pottery and traditional glazing techniques (Tuesdays, 7-8:30 p.m., Jan. 19-Feb. 23, $170).
Or, for an interesting night out, try the museum's Hearthside Suppers, where you'll help prepare a multi-course meal the old-fashioned way. This year's menu includes cheese and crackers, pork roast, chicken fricassee, skillet cranberries, hearth bread, bread-and-butter pudding and more.

All classes and events require registration; call (317) 776-6006.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New You!

What's your educational resolution for 2010? Whatever it is, you'll find guidance in the January issue of Indianapolis Monthly, which has a great story about the best adult classes in Indy (written by yours truly and Alicia Garceau!).

You'll learn how to dice an onion, scuba dive, play a drum, quilt, and much, much more. The article also features profiles of some of Indy's best teachers, such as Erin Kem (cooking classes at Frasier's Gourmet) and Bonnie Ramirez (welding classes at Boca Loca Beads).

Also check out my contributor bio at the front of the magazine. Alas, the plug for That'll Teach Me got cut, but at least my hair looks fabulous!