Monday, February 27, 2017

Spring is on the Way

It's that wonderfully hopeful in-between-winter-and-spring season in Jordan; it's still cold  and rainy on the winter-like days, and we're still wearing at least two layers of clothing in our 62 degree home, but it's also warm on sunny days, days on which you can see house windows opened wide, mattresses an blankets airing on rooftops, and people pulling up chairs in front of their homes or storefronts to soak up the warmth of the sun. And if one can escape the city, it's the season for watching the hills turn greener and greener by the day, and heading to lower elevations, enjoy the early spring wildflowers. 

Dear Husband and I began our almost-springtime pilgrimages to the countryside about a week ago, wandering around on backroads until we found this lovely view overlooking King Talal Dam, just outside of the village of Borma. It was one of those cold, sunny days, so there weren't any picnickers around. We pretty much had the area to ourselves.



We spotted some of the early blooming wildflowers:


Gagea


The ubiquitous Asphodel lily, which is now blooming around the country

And, I was happy to discover this new-to-me species of crocus making beautiful close-to-the-ground mini-bouquets. 


Colchium

We had few hours this past Saturday afternoon, so we again headed for lower elevation, this time towards the Jordan valley and found the almond trees  just beginning to bloom.


Almond


A particularly lovely mound of asphodels

The rockery was aflame with beautiful sedum.


Red Stonecrop
Sedum rubens I.


Senecio vernalis (yellow)
Silene aegyptiaca (purple)
Together, they make a beautiful spring bouquet.


Selfie in the wildflower



Grasses catching some afternoon sunrays


Silene


The souvenir rock Dear Husband found for our sun room collection of Jordan rocks


My favorite exploring partner

Friday, February 03, 2017

Creative Space

I was in the States for three and a half months this summer, and from about the third month on I began experiencing strong, recurring urges to create something with fabric. Alas, I had another month plus of transient, though delightful, living to endure before I would be reunited with my sewing machine, and so I just let myself enjoy the ideas swimming around in my head. I had found a plastic bag of denim scraps at a thrift store, already cut for a small quilt and costing under three dollars, so though they were a little heavy, I made sure to pack them in my carry-on. I knew this was a project that could go directly under my sewing machine needle when I arrived home. And so it did.


The laying-out stage is always a bit like putting together a puzzle


I ended up with this quilt top, along with the immense satisfaction received in just creating something. I wasn't yet sure what I would do with the quilt top, but it would make a nice picnic blanket sort of quilt when I could find some coordinating flannel to back it.


Soon to begin my month long intensive CELTA course, and knowing that all sewing would soon cease,  I hurried to sew this cashmere baby blanket for a dear friend's new baby boy.


And, some felted-wool potholders for Artist Son, who is living in a real apartment and cooking real meals for himself these days.


I also made a long longed-for ottoman/pouf/footstool  to use with my favorite reading chair. I used the basic pattern found on this site, though I modified it a bit. particularly by making it about 8 cm higher.

And then, CELTA. I lived in Amman during most of this month-long course and I had not a moment to sew during this time, let alone think of what I might want to sew. When I finished my course, I promptly got sick (no surprise given the stress and sleep deprivation) and then had "just life" to catch up on. I didn't do much sewing for Christmas, but I did manage to sew up about five of these denim-pocket purses for some sweet younger friends...


...a make-it-in-10-minutes gift card holder for Tayta...


...and I finally made a recycled linen dishcloth I was thinking about since a friend told me she had re-purposed linen in this way. This was a stocking gift for Tayta. My used clothing source marked their summer wear down to about $.75 per item in the early fall, so I stocked up on all the good linen I could find. I'm plotting pillow covers next.


While home for the holidays, Tayta spied my denim quilt top and shyly asked what I planned to do with it. It had crossed my mind earlier to give it to her, but I wasn't sure she'd like the colors, and that she might want the same style of denim picnic blanket I had made for her siblings. Turns out she didn't mind having something different, and she liked the colors, so my quilt top took on a purpose. Now to back it. We headed to the used clothes market and found five flannel shirts in somewhat coordinating colors. I showed Tayta my deconstruction procedure, so she did the hard part: cutting, and layout. I just sewed it up.


I taught her how to yarn-tie the quilt and she did that too. (I just noticed her reflection in the mirror. Lol!)


I bound the quilt with left-over flannel scraps. Nice to have that one finished and out the door!


This pillow had been percolating in my mind for a few months as I had seen something kind of similar on Pinterest. Oldest Daughter has turned into a Cat Lady (of the best kind) and adores her two cats, Winter and Autumn. And her birthday was coming up.


I drew up a paper pattern for the felted wool pieces, and then appliqued them onto the red felted wool backround. This was my first attempt at wool-on-wool applique and I found it so easy and rewarding. I look forward to doing more. 


As I finished this wool project and the wheels of my creative brain began imagining my next project, and then the one after that, I became overwhelmed with what an unorganized and unworkable jumble my sewing room had become. I had about twenty plastic tubs, drawers, and cupboards stuffed with fabric, which meant that I couldn't really see what I had, except for some wool stacked on a shelf. That visual encouragement kept me going, but the rest was a mess. It was a new year and time to take action.

I told Dear Husband of my desire to purge and organize and since he was very agreeable to at least the purging part, he set out to help me. What I really wanted was to get everything out of tubs, where I could see it and keep it organized. He got on the IKEA site and figured out the most efficient and inexpensive system that would work for my space.


I absolutely love it! With such a great design upgrade, I am now referring to this room as my studio rather than my sewing room. The green table on the left is a left-over first kitchen table, which Dear Husband transformed into a changing table when Oldest Daughter was born. The children grew, we moved house, and it became a plant table. We moved again and it became a sort of catch-all table but I couldn't bare to part with it. I actually moved it out last week, but Dear Husband said he would put a small work surface on it and I can use it for cutting fabric. It is just the right height.


Cashmere on the left, cottons and linens on the right.


I just began a cashmere scarf for a friend, and it was so easy and enjoyable to consider the colors I might use as they were all right in front of me. Sometimes I stand in front of this shelf just to admire the colors and textures. And all recycled fabric.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

CELTA Certification -or- My Intense Back-to-School Experience

As I've thought about ways I'll like to engage with my society in Mafraq, ways I might contribute to development efforts of the refugees in our city, I began to focus in on teaching English. Learning English a felt need for Syrian refugees who are in the process of immigrating to the west, and a desire for personal development for those who plan to remain in the Middle East. And as I considered opportunities for my own personal development and instruction in this area, I applied to take the intensive CELTA course offered by Cambridge English and the British Council of Amman. Since I love to learn and enjoy teaching, it seemed the perfect fit.

The course in three adjectives: excellent, practical, and INTENSIVE. Friends who has taken the course had used these same adjectives to describe it to me, but you have to experience it to appreciate that they meant intensive in all caps. Of the sixteen trainees in our course, I was the oldest. The youngest was (nearly) twenty and the rest were somewhere in between, though mostly in their twenties and thirties.

The CELTA is a lot about methodology for communicative classroom teaching of English, so age and homeschooling experience were not necessarily helpful prerequisites. Indeed, my self-described weakness was overthinking things. Many of my co-trainees had classroom English teaching experience, but again, not a helpful prerequisite, as they had to break old habits and focus on learning and teaching the CELTA way. And, many of the trainees were not native English speakers--a growing trend in the ESL world. I was very impressed by the hard work and effort they put into this course. Did they ever know their grammar!

Practical should probably be put in all caps as well. The strength of the course (and the really hard part!) is that it has the trainees teaching real students on day two of the twenty day course: twenty minutes to start, and then forty minute lessons every other day throughout the course. All lessons are observed by other trainees, as well as one of the CELTA trainers, who is writing a thorough assessment of his or her observations. These are then discussed with the trainee teaching group each morning after classes are finished.

Here I am teaching the use of ago, since, and for with the present perfect and present perfect continuous. I'm glad to see that I look happy in this picture as it was my most difficult lesson of the course!


Afternoons were for input sessions, in which we were the students. Our trainers taught these sessions using CELTA methodology, of course, giving us example upon example of how this is done. 

Evenings, and yea, early mornings were for preparing lesson plans. For a few of my nine lessons, the pressure felt intense. Sleep hours were few and restless. A couple of trainees confessed to staying up the entire night to finish preparing for their lessons.

But we all went through it together, and we all survived.  All sixteen trainees passed the course! Below is a group shot of the trainees, trainers, and our wonderful students on the last day of the course. We had a party to celebrate (note some of the remaining food in the foreground of the photo) and many celebratory selfies were taken. Some of our students are shown here, holding their certificates. They were a joy to teach and were so appreciative and encouraging.


I returned to Mafraq last Thursday and promptly came down with a cold/flu on Saturday. I heard from a couple fellow-trainees that they were sick as well. I'm feeling better today and so I organized my CELTA notebook before putting it on my desk. A new cycle of English courses will begin in January at our church's community center, and I hope to be teaching one of them!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Summer's Main Event


The cancellation of my late afternoon appointment gave me an opportunity to finally spend some time sorting and uploading photos from the Main Event of our summer: the celebration of Active Son and New Bride's wedding. And mostly, if gave me an opportunity to remember what a wonderful day it was and to give God thanks, once again, for his faithfulness to our families. These images brought many smiles to my face this afternoon!

Our family arrived in Boise just under two weeks before the wedding, but since I was mother-of-groom, this was no problemo--Active Son, New Bride, and most especially, New Bride's fantastically talented mom had all the wedding details in hand. This was a whole different wedding-feel than when we celebrated Oldest Daughter and Music Man's wedding two summers ago!

Relaxed though we were on the Big Day, we still managed to generate a few stressful pre-ceremony moments: The borrowed car that Oldest Daughter drove to transport Tayta, a friend and herself, stalled on the way to the pre-ceremony photo-shoot. Next, I discovered a awkward tan line, acquired by not bringing sunscreen to Artist Son's sun-baked graduation ceremony two weeks earlier. My friend's tan-in-a-bottle lotion (sort of) helped with that. Finally, Dear Husband misplaced the keys to our get-me-to-the-church-on-time vehicle. It was no problem to borrow a friend's car, except that this vehicle sans keys was also to be the getaway car. We did end up borrowing a car so as to get to the photo-shoot on time, and our friends tracked down a second set of keys and brought the getaway car to the ceremony. Whew!

It was nice to have a few minutes with Active Son before the ceremony. He was so happy, calm, and so ready to get married. (Smile)



 Active Son and New Bride's first moments together at the wedding venue, Scentsy Commons in Meridian, Idaho.



((Smile))


 What a blessing these two are, to each other and to so many who love them. 


Active Son and his groomsmen and ring-bearer


...and with his Best Man, Artist Son


This is just one snapshot example of the deep and wide faith community which surrounds Active Son and New Bride. 



Our families, united by Love and Marriage


(((Smile)))



I couldn't be more thankful for the wonderful family that Active Son has married into, and for the new parents he has gained--not to mention four more brothers, sisters-in-law, a niece, a nephew, two more sets of grandparents and a whole bunch of uncles, aunts, and cousins.


Indeed, New Bride's mom has become an esteemed and treasured friend. New Bride's dad shot this candid picture of us before the ceremony. (((Smile)))


Dear Husband had the privilege and honor of officiating the ceremony and pronouncing the eager couple husband and wife--after a well placed pause. ((Smile)) 



We returned to our home church for the reception, the church I have attended since high school, the church where Dear Husband and I had our wedding reception, and the church where John and Lisa put down spiritual roots during their college years at Boise State.



(photo credit to Oldest Daughter for this favorite photo)


These two pictures show a just a little bit of New Bride's mom's baking and decorating talent...


...and how Active Son and New Bride love to have fun together.


We brought an Arab tradition to the reception: The bride and groom where hoisted into the air amidst clapping, drumming, and chants of blessing.


Congratulations, Active Son and New Bride on your marriage and the beginning of your new life together as man and wife. You're off to a fantastic start! And thanks be to God for expanding our family and our hearts yet again. We are blessed.


#manningupforlife 
#loveit #lovethem #soverythankful