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Back at Work

Monday, January 03, 2011

Over break, I discovered several books of fairly simple amigurumi (Japanese craft of knitting cute anthropomorphic animals) patterns. They looked like something my students might enjoy making. Over break, I knit 3 prototypes for the children to see and also to check out how easy they actually are and work out any bugs. I started with a Siamese kitten, then an orange striped kitty. Then an owl.

I brought them in this morning and the children were exited to start a knitting project. The children who already knit couldn't wait to get started and 7 children signed up to learn knitting.

One challenge I encountered was knitting styles. I use the German knitting technique and the children who already know how to knit have learned English knitting. While they knew how to knit, they didn't know how to purl. Thanks to You Tube, I was able to locate an instructional video, learn how to purl English style, and show them how to purl in the style they were already using. So today I learned something new, too.


This is definitely a fun way to go into the winter months!

As I mentioned in a short note, I had my 1st Sparkversary on December 19. I need to write a year in review blog, but I need a little time to pull that blog together. Soon, I hope.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

~MISS_TEA~ 1/13/2011 1:42PM

    THose are the cutest ever! WHere did you find the patterns I would love to get my hands on those :) What kind of school do you teach at where you can teach knitting? That is awesome! I hope you post some pictures of the kids finished projects! Love it!

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MEOWMAMA3 1/11/2011 7:14AM

    Adorable! Great project Chris! Enjoy!

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LAGREBE 1/11/2011 6:41AM

    That is so cool to teach your kids knitting!

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PUDLECRAZY 1/6/2011 3:33PM

    The children I teach are in 4th - 6th grade. I learned the German (Continental) style of knitting, but used You Tube to learn English style since it is a little easier for the children to learn.

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ASTABETH 1/6/2011 8:13AM

    Great! How old are your students? Later this semester I will be teaching 9-12 graders how to knit. A good source for knitting videos, with techniques in both types of knitting, is www.knitinghelp.com - they have 2 videos for most everything, one Continental, and one English.

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    emoticon They are really cute! My favorite is the owl.

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    Oh, the patience needed for such a project!
Good luck and have fun.

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OLDERDANDRT 1/4/2011 11:56AM

    Those are sooo cute!! Glad you've found a fun project to do with you students!

Happy Sparkversary! And Happy New year!! Please give Stella and the new kitty New Year loves and kisses for me!!


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MARY1313 1/4/2011 11:22AM

    How fun! My Grandy Girls crochet little stuffed animals for the children's hospital. and they crochet hats for those that are taking chemo. They love their project that their Grammy taught them! LOL

I remember in English class, In about 4th grade, I was so far ahead of the class and I was talking and out of order because I was bored. So My English teacher taught me how to knit with two pencils and some string. LOL it kept me quiet and busy.


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STARLASUE 1/4/2011 10:52AM

    If you figure the poodle out, you must share! LOL

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STARLASUE 1/4/2011 10:51AM

    You are just too cool Chris! Do you have any idea how many of these kids will be telling their grandchildren about one of the coolest teachers ever?!

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VALERIEMAHA 1/3/2011 11:06PM

    You chris, my gifted friend, are nothing short of AMAZING! The owl's my fav too.

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NANHBH 1/3/2011 10:18PM

    So cute! Those kids are really lucky to have you as a teacher!

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IUHRYTR 1/3/2011 9:31PM

    Another creative and imaginative project to engage the children. I am confident they will remember your class with fondness over the years. emoticon Lou

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0309COOKIE 1/3/2011 9:07PM

    You really do have the most fun projects. I love those little animals. How cute.

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CELLOSONG 1/3/2011 8:38PM

    Aw how cute! I want to go to your school...

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DOR2BFIT 1/3/2011 8:33PM

    P.S. I REALLY like the owl!!!

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DOR2BFIT 1/3/2011 8:31PM

    They are wonderful! A little bit of synchronicity- One of my Sunday school students knitted me a scarf for Christmas, and I told her we would set up a knitting station in the room. Unfortunately, I can just provide the materials- I could maybe knit a scarf, that's about it! I would love to learn how to make these animals! Maybe I'll check out You Tube myself! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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FT4EVR 1/3/2011 7:43PM

    What a great idea! My grandkids would love this project. Well....so would this grandma!

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    I wish you had been my teacher!!! I'm just re-learning to knit (I only knew how to "knit" and not any other stitches... or how to read patterns... or do anything.....) and I'd LOVE to get those patterns from you!

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MCGS62 1/3/2011 7:36PM

    OMG! Those kids are soo good . You could have never handed me or my brothers knitting needles at that age. Probably not a great idea today either.
It is nice to know that knittin kittens are made by purling!
I can't wait to go to work tomorrow so I can call some one
an "anthropomorphic animal" then just leave the room to send them running for the dictionary. emoticon

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PUDLECRAZY 1/3/2011 7:07PM

    I think I can figure out a poodle version. One of the boys brought in his pet Guinea pig for a visit today, and I think I've figured out how to help him make a Guinea pig.

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    They are so cute!

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WATERMELLEN 1/3/2011 7:02PM

    These are so sweet -- makes me want to knit too (especially that striped kitty).

Here's hoping there's a poodle version!!

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KATYBUG48 1/3/2011 6:55PM

  What a cool thing to yeach the kids

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Happy Winter Solstice

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Nature chose for a tool, not the earthquake or lightning to rend and split asunder, not the stormy torrent or eroding rain, but the tender snow-flowers noiselessly falling through unnumbered centuries."
- John Muir

Happy Winter Solstice. emoticon

Winter has officially begun, ushered in by the total eclipse of bright, full, moon. A blanket of snow is covering this part of the country, giving it a fresh, clean look. Winter is a time to tuck in, but also a time to reflect and renew.

Enjoy the day and savor new beginnings.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KASEYCOFF 12/26/2010 4:29AM

    Stonehenge is 'closed off' now - people aren't allowed to touch or walk amongst the stones, only encircle them, following a path behind a low barrier. Twice each year, at the solstices, people - self-declared Wiccans and Druids and pagans of all sorts - are allowed thru the perimeter and can go inside the ancient circle. Summer solstice at Stonehenge is swamped. I keep saying one of these years I am going to drape myself in a multitude of diaphanous layers, paint my face, and go to Stonehenge on the 21st December (when it's perhaps not so crowded) and touch the very stones, walk among them, try to experience them the way they would have been experienced only a few decades ago before they were put 'off limits.' Alas, it will have to wait for a warmer winter than this one: the UK has had a record-breaking December, both in snowfall and temperature-wise. But one of these years--! :-D

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OLDERDANDRT 12/23/2010 12:17PM

    What an interesting Winter Solstice this year, too! A full moon! And a total lumar eclipse!! Did you get to see it? My DS and a friend tried, but it was too cloudy here.

Hope you have a great day!!!

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AQUAJANE 12/21/2010 11:19PM

    emoticon Winter sure feels here. Unfortunately, I slept through the lunar eclipse. emoticon

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MCGS62 12/21/2010 4:57PM


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NANHBH 12/21/2010 2:15PM

    Beautiful photo! Thanks for sharing this. I slept through the eclipse - pain meds following surgery knock me out. I heard it was supposed to be beautiful.

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VALERIEMAHA 12/21/2010 12:55PM

    Ahhh...love John Muir AND new beginnings...and HAPPY PERIHELION!
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NYT Editorial:

It is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. Winter, which begins Tuesday at 6:38 p.m. Eastern time, will get no darker than this. Slowly, inexorably, the days will begin to yawn wider and wider, and night will begin to contract. The change is just a few seconds at first — New Year’s Eve in Manhattan will be only 28 seconds longer than Christmas Eve. By mid-March, the days will be growing by some 2 minutes and 40 seconds apiece, and then the rate of change slows again until late June.

We come to the winter solstice with mixed feelings. It will be lovely to have more light in the day. But there’s something equally wonderful about these long hibernal nights. By 4:30 every day — just as the sun is disappearing — we start to feel a little ursine, ready to dig a hole and sleep away the winter. How different our species would be if only we’d learned that one great trick!

We are all deeply habituated, in this northern clime, to the annual accordioning of the day — so much so that an equatorial place like Quito, Ecuador, where the length of day changes only by a second from solstice to solstice, sounds almost like a city out of science fiction. In some ways, that daily constancy seems more disorienting here, where the length of day changes by almost six hours, than the reversal of seasons in the Southern Hemisphere, where Christmas comes in summer.

Another important astronomical holiday follows soon after the winter solstice (which included a lunar eclipse). At 2 p.m., New York time, on Jan. 3, the Earth reaches perihelion — the closest approach to the Sun in our elliptical orbit, a little more than 91 million miles away. For some reason, this is a moment that goes uncelebrated, entirely unheralded. So we say to you all, Merry Solstice and have a Happy Perihelion!

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Holiday Traditions/Missing My Mom

Monday, December 20, 2010

Making holiday cookies has become bittersweet for me. My mom, my sibs, and I always made dozens of cookies to share with neighbors, family, and friends as gifts at Christmas. Our cookie tradition was to make 3 kinds of festive cookies: spingerle, sugar cookies in the shape of circus animals and clowns, and gingerbread cookies.

The springerle cookies are labor intensive on the front end of cooking them:

Tools of the trade are a springerle mold or springerle rolling pin. I use both.

After making the dough and molding the cookies they need to sit for 24 hours, so I won't be baking these until tomorrow. I will begin making the sugar cookies tomorrow. The pictures on my wallpaper are the ones I made last year. We have been making these (as well as the springerles) in my family for over 65 years. I am planning to wait and make the gingerbread cookies when my granddaughter is here to cook with me. This will be our first time to cook together.

While it is fun to make these gifts to pass out to friends and family, it does make me miss my mother. We made these together for many years; this tradition is so much my mother's legacy.

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Here is a little history of springerle cookies:

"Springerle (SPRING-uhr-lee) - These have been and still are traditional Christmas cookies in Bavaria and Austria for centuries. Springerle are white, anise-flavored cookies, made from a simple egg-flour-sugar dough. Usually rectangular or circular in shape, they have a picture or design stamped on the top. The images are imprinted with specially carved rolling pins or flat molds (Springerle presses, or boards).

The name Springerle comes from an old German dialect and means "little knight" or "jumping horse." Historians trace these cookies back to the Julfest, a midwinter celebration of pagan Germanic tribes. Julfest ceremonies included the sacrificing of animals to the gods, in hope that such offerings would bring a mild winter and an early spring. Poor people who could not afford to kill any of their animals gave token sacrifices in the form of animal-shaped breads and cookies. Vestiges of these pagan practices survive in the baking of shaped-and-stamped German Christmas cookies such as Lebkuchen, Spekulatius, Frankfurter Brenten, and Springerle."

From: http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/Coo

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MEOWMAMA3 12/24/2010 10:28PM

    I remember reading about these cookies in a cookbook as a kid. I still have a fascination with reading old cookbooks and have collected a few. These are beautiful! Sorry you're missing your mom, I know the feeling and am glad I'm not alone! You'll pass on the joy of the cookie bonding to your granddaughter and to your students! Merry Christmas Miss Chris and a big old hug to Stella and Luna! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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MAWRTIAN 12/21/2010 9:32AM

    Wow! Thanks for the lesson, I had never heard of these!!

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KJE_3001 12/20/2010 11:44PM

    Those cookies are so delicate and beautiful looking. I'm sorry you miss your mom, but at least your memories with her are fond ones and include traditions you can carry with you the rest of your life!

Merry Christmas!

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WATERMELLEN 12/20/2010 8:44PM

    always floods of memories at special holiday times: thanks for sharing yours, together with the traditions that trigger them!

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IUHRYTR 12/20/2010 7:41PM

    I, too, miss my Mom who passed away on Dec. 21. She made what she called half-way cookies. Have you heard of them? Don't have a recipe but they were chocolate with a light brown coating on top and were sooo delicious. I enjoy seeing all of the creative designs you and your students come up with. Thanks for the history lesson. really interesting. -- Lou

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VALERIEMAHA 12/20/2010 7:18PM

    Wonderful story-telling; stunning works of edible art!
emoticonfor sharing!

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NANHBH 12/20/2010 7:07PM


Maybe that's why I've enjoyed making cookies with one of my girlfriends these last 3 years - memories of my baking with my mom! I haven't baked cookies in years, rather I enjoyed the fruits of my girlfriend's labor. Three years ago, I got divorced. I was saying "bah-humbug" to Christmas. My friend invited me to come over and bake cookies with her, and I've been hooked for 3 years doing this! Thanks for the memories!

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MCGS62 12/20/2010 7:06PM

    Those are beautiful cookies!! didn't know they had to sit over night. in the fridge?
Keep the tradition going!

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BELLASMOM8 12/20/2010 5:54PM

    Thanks for sharing, the cookies look amazing! Love family traditions and glad you are going to be able to start a tradition with your granddaughter. Grace

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BADASSBLONDIE 12/20/2010 5:51PM

    Those are absolutely stunning! :D

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HIKETOHEIGHTS 12/20/2010 5:41PM

    They look beautiful and its a lovely tradition to carry on in her name. Victoria

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BECKYLYNNE77 12/20/2010 5:37PM

    What a tribute to a family tradition

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A Poem For You This Sunday

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Cradle Song

Sweet dreams form a shade,
O'er my lovely infants head.
Sweet dreams of pleasant streams,
By happy silent moony beams

Sweet sleep with soft down.
Weave thy brows an infant crown.
Sweet sleep Angel mild,
Hover o'er my happy child.

Sweet smiles in the night,
Hover over my delight.
Sweet smiles Mothers smiles,
All the livelong night beguiles.

Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
Chase not slumber from thy eyes,
Sweet moans, sweeter smiles,
All the dovelike moans beguiles.

Sleep sleep happy child,
All creation slept and smil'd.
Sleep sleep, happy sleep.
While o'er thee thy mother weep

Sweet babe in thy face,
Holy image I can trace.
Sweet babe once like thee.
Thy maker lay and wept for me

Wept for me for thee for all,
When he was an infant small.
Thou his image ever see.
Heavenly face that smiles on thee,

Smiles on thee on me on all,
Who became an infant small,
Infant smiles are His own smiles,
Heaven & earth to peace beguiles.

William Blake

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VALERIEMAHA 12/20/2010 7:20PM

    Smiles on thee on me on all,
Who became an infant small,
Infant smiles are His own smiles,
Heaven & earth to peace beguiles.

Ahhhh...Blake, the mystic. Wonderful.

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NANHBH 12/20/2010 1:06AM

    Precious! Thanks for sharing this.

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MAWRTIAN 12/19/2010 2:23PM

    Big hugs sweetie!!! emoticon

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MCGS62 12/19/2010 2:12PM

    Memory's, of my beautiful child
all my love and hugs beguiled
wrap them up, throw them far
the little brat just wrecked my car
It might sound harsh or way too mean
But I'm sure Billy Blake wrote this
before his child's were teens

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JENSHAWN 12/19/2010 8:59AM

    What a nice poem. emoticon

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Photo Greeting From Stella and Me

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season!

Chris and Stella

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

STARLASUE 12/20/2010 10:10PM

    Merry Christmas! Thanks for the greetings!

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MARY1313 12/20/2010 7:20PM


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VALERIEMAHA 12/20/2010 7:19PM

    LOVE IT!!!
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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HIKETOHEIGHTS 12/20/2010 5:49PM

    awe, I need one of these with Boo. Stella looks gorgeous! emoticon

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HICKOK-HALEY 12/20/2010 1:48AM

    Too cute!

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NANHBH 12/20/2010 1:08AM

    How sweet! Poor Stella, has to put up with the kitty!

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BANKER-CHUCK 12/19/2010 8:05PM

    Great looking picture.

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PUDLECRAZY 12/19/2010 8:11AM

    Well, Stella asked Santa to take the kitty back, so I don't think she'll get everything she asked for. emoticon

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BELLASMOM8 12/19/2010 7:17AM

    What a wonderful picture, I hope Stella gets everything that she ask Santa for.

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KJE_3001 12/19/2010 12:52AM

    What a great picture with Santa!

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OLDERDANDRT 12/18/2010 8:06PM

    Thank you!!! She is so precious !! There was pics with Santa at our PetsMart when we were there today, but didn't have Bruno. Oh well, had fun watching all the other critters that came in for pics. So cute! But you know, none were nearly so wonderful as Stella! What a love.

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WATERMELLEN 12/18/2010 5:24PM

    What a treat for all of us!!

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MCSNYDER1 12/18/2010 4:06PM

    Love it!

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0309COOKIE 12/18/2010 3:39PM

    Stella looks so beautiful!

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    Thanks for sharing this! emoticon

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FT4EVR 12/18/2010 1:38PM

    Such a nice picture of Stella and santa! She is sitting so nice for the picture. Thanks for sharing it!

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