24 November 2009

Music & the Trades

As our remodel project comes to a close (or, the part where we hire outsiders does), I feel like I've learned a bit about human nature.

For example, different house-building trades have different stereotype personalities, and listen to different music.

The framing carpenters were the tough but smart guys. They all smoked, and probably drink lots of beer (not on the job, though). They wanted to take home wood from a dead apple tree for smoking meat. They listened to country music. They wielded circular saws one handed, and could easily do fractional arithmetic.

Roofers are macho. We had them here on a hot summer day, and it seemed they were having a contest to see who could wear the least clothing and sweat the most. I took the kids to the pool that day.

Plumbers are smart, but narrow-minded. They'll plan out an entire house full of plumbing, doing complex heat loss calculations but don't realize they should not drill large holes through the giant wood beam holding up the back of the house. [Fortunately, we stopped them before the beam became swiss cheese.] Their radio played top 40.

We had one, older electrician. He started work late, left early, and moved slowly — but did an amazing amount of work. He was willing to let my husband and me help do the work, and he explained to my Mad Engineer how house wiring is different than wiring robots. He's also fully savvy about phone and internet wiring. He didn't bring a radio, and I like him a lot.

The insulation spray-er had fun in his protective gear (plastic coverall, full face mask and respirator) pretending to be a monster and trying to scare my 9 year old son. Fun.

Today, the sheet rock hangers are here. In the building industry, these guys are considered apes — they don't talk, just blast through screw guns a'blazing. They are a bit rough, but perfectly nice, though they are playing Christmas carols far too loudly.

Still to come are the plasterers and the wood floor installer.

I was told that these guys all were anti-social and didn't want to talk to the home owner. Not quite true ... though they would never win the Dale Carnegie award, they are polite, willing to answer simple questions about the work, and don't mind showing off their skill. It helped that I never looked down on them, but treated all as skilled workers who want to do good work for an appreciative home owner. And they are doing good work. The one truly anti-social guy, a plumber, was also incompetent, and we hired someone else as soon as we could.

26 September 2009

Sewing for Aspies?

As usual, I'm not posting enough.

On the heels of my last post, with bits of chain mail scattered throughout the house, I've gone back to an older hobby — garment sewing. Finally, Ocelot has decided it's time to learn to sew, so we're making a coat for her, using a sewing pattern. [Vogue 1069] We're making it unlined, out of the best bolt of black fleece I could find in the stupid-chain-but-only-fabric-store-for-miles. In addition to teaching Ocelot, I'm teaching myself to alter a commercial vest pattern for myself.

Ocelot is doing well, a little sloppy but she is 13 and this is her first major project. Her autism spectrum thing (used to be labeled NLD, until she did well on a visual memory evaluation, now it's PDD-NOS) is getting in the way a little, but she and I have learned over the years to work together. Me? I'm my usual, mildly Aspie perfectionistic (only on sewing projects, go figure) self.

As usual, I've been combing the cyber-world for useful info on sewing. As with the stupid-chain, there's precious little out there except for quilting and home desecration. But I finally found a blog that is so interesting I've gone back to the archives and I'm reading every post.

Fashion Incubator is the work of Kathleen Fasanella, a clothing industry master patternmaker. Her blog is not geared to home sewers, and she has some unkind things to say about home sewing "experts". Much of the information she posts is geared to small clothing manufacturers. But she has some incredible tutorials on industrial sewing methods that can be used by anyone, and some fascinating rants of sizing and the fashion industry.

Kathleen has Asperger's Syndrome too, and this colors her writing. I was also surprised to learn that few of the technical people in the fashion industry are fashionable people themselves, and a large number of them, possibly including some famous designers, had/have spectrum tendencies! I always thought fashion and Aspie didn't mix.

Each year, I seem to find a new area of research to study, and it looks like this year's will be the clothing industry.

01 August 2009

New Hobby ... Chainmail

I needed a new hobby like I needed a hole in my head. [My Dad used this saying a lot, but it never made sense to be because we already have holes in our heads.] But summer without air conditioning is too hot to knit, my woodworking takes up space we don't have until the remodel is done, and if I don't do something with my hands I go stir-crazy.

A friend was working on chainmail at some cons we both attended, and I was impressed at how cool it was. Finally, in April I took the plunge and ordered some pre-cut rings and pliers from The Ring Lord. They arrived a couple of weeks later (slow shipping from the wilds of Saskatchewan). I started linking the rings together, and I was hooked!

There's a lot more to chainmail (also called maille) than armor and exotic underwear. Using the same methods, one can make some incredible jewelry chains. Working with the rings is like solving a topology puzzle: can this size rings make that chain? How do I fit that ring in there? How can I hold it with the pliers to close the ring? I'm finding it good work for my brain as well as my hands.

I have another order of rings due to arrive soon. And I have a project list:
- a bronze vest, tailored style, for me
- chains to loop around Ocelot's black pants
- backpack zipper pulls in many colors (anodized aluminium) to sell at Climber's school's holiday marketplace

And some other rings to make some jewelry from. Who knows, maybe I'll go into business selling chainmail creations!

Remodeling Catch Up

It's been a while since I wrote about our big remodeling project — or about anything. In this post I'll do a catch up on the house.

When we last left the project, The Merry Men were beginning demolition. They finished that in short order, and began framing the new walls for the new space. At that point, the project came to a crashing halt.

Our architect had applied for the building permit, and we anticipated it would take about a week to go through town hall, gathering the required signatures along the way. Well, it took over a month! The Merry MEn had done everything they could do without a permit, so we were in Limbo (not for the last time).

Eventually the permit came through, and we were back in building mode. In about a week, we had the hole for the new foundation dug, the footings poured, the forms for the foundation set, and the foundation poured. The forms were stripped, the outside of the foundation waterproofed, and we were waiting for the building inspector to sign off on the foundation.

And waiting ... we were out of town, Tom Framer came out several times to check for the inspector's signature on the permit ... nothing. Finally, on Monday he called the town hall — the inspector had come by and approved the foundation, but forgot to sign the permit!

From there, the work proceeded quickly again. At least a lot went on during each work day — but there was so much rain that some days, more time was spent taking down tarps in the morning then replacing them when the mid-afternoon storms rolled in. Eventually, by mid-July, the framing was completed, with Tyvek on the walls and ice shield on the roof. It's a fantastic space, I've been taking a chair out there and reading, enjoying the view.

After putting on lots of bug spray ... we have huge holes where the windows and doors will be. Our architect took his time ordering the windows, and they are slow in arriving. We've been told "they'll be here by the end of the week 3 times now.

So here we sit, waiting for windows. Theoretically, we could begin the rough plumbing, but the plumber is on another job. This is a true-life example of the famous triangle principle: in building, you have 3 elements driving the process: (low) money, (high) quality, and (fast) time, and you may have any two, never all three. We don't have the money, so we decided to sacrifice time ... 

01 May 2009

May Day!

My 13 year old daughter, code named Ocelot, joined a Morris dance team, Banbury Cross Morris and Sword last fall. Since Morris dance traditionally welcomes summer, the big performance season is mid to late spring. May Day is traditionally the day Morris teams "dance up the dawn", dancing in downtown Cambridge, MA, USA, at ... yup, dawn.

Last week, Banbury Cross danced at NEFFA, and next weekend they have two gigs: Ginger Ale in downtown Boston and Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum. If you are in the Boston area, come watch!

Here are some videos of the team from this year's NEFFA.

My House is Coming Apart — and It's Good!

The remodeling saga continues ...

2 weeks ago, the plumber got started on replacing our boiler. We had been given bids from 3 plumbers, and 2 said they could do the job in one day. Hah! It took two plumbers 4 days to install the new boiler, make the plumbing connections, make the electrical connections, install the hot water storage tank, turn the whole thing on, then remove the old boiler. And they still have a full day left, to put in the new oil tank.

And Wednesday night, we got a call from the architect: "the framer wants to get started tomorrow." Tom (and his crew, dubbed the Merry Men, even though Framer is not named Robin) came at 7:30 Thursday and got busy.

And how! I left to walk Climber to school, when I got back at 8:45, they had moved the heavy junk out of the back work area, removed the ground-level deck, and had a fair number of the shingles stripped off. They discovered a concrete patio under the rotten ground-level deck. And by the time they broke for lunch at 10:45, they removed the rest of the shingles (where the addition will be) and the main level deck. An entire dumpster had come, been filled, and gone. The back yard was transformed.

[We were planning on removing the upper deck ourselves, and planned to have friends come and take an entire weekend. The Merry Men did the same work in about an hour. They are worth every penny of their wages.]

The rest of the day was spent in building a temporary wall in the basement (we get the relocated washer and dryer and a bit of storage space, they get the rest) removing back wall trim, and making the opened wall weather-proof.

Today they were back. They gutted their part of the basement, removed the bench seat from the kitchen, stood around while we watched a storage pod being delivered, and still were able to knock off early.

So, we have our assignment for the weekend. We have to pack up the kitchen, dining room and part of the living room, so the Merry Men, with the help of the plumber and electrician can move our stove and sink counter into the living room. At that time, they'll board up the living-dining room opening, and put a door on the front hall - kitchen opening, and take over the entire back half of the house.

26 April 2009

My BIQ Talk

Last week, I gave a talk at BIQ Boston, on 2E kids in Public Schools. Though there weren't too many people attending (it was at 9:00 a.m. Sunday, a bit early), it was well received, and several people have asked that I post my handouts. So, here's the outline of the talk, with a few side comments.

For those who are new to my blog, Hello! I started this blog to post all sorts of thoughts, but I am not a blogger at heart — not surprising, as I could never keep a diary when I was little, either. Most of the posts here are related to our in-progress remodel.

2E in Public Schools — The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Liz Cademy Pfeffer & Carolyn K
BIQ Boston, April 2009

Liz (That's me)
Carolyn K www.hoagiesgifted.org

Definition of 2E
Gifted with some sort of disability
Often, but not always a Learning Disability
Special services &/or accommodations are necessary in school

(Here, Carolyn and I tell the stories of our 2E daughters, Chetah and Ocelot, and how the public schools did a good job with Ocelot and a phenomenally bad job with Cheetah)

The Law
All children have the right to an evaluation by the school
High IQ or good grades can not be used to avoid a necessary IEP
The Lillie/Felton Letter (This is case law specifying that kids can not be denied a special education evaluation because they are not failing school.)
Every state has laws that schools must follow
Parents are full members of the team
Most actions require parental consent in writing

The Special Education Process
1. “Child Study” Meetings
2. School Evaluation (or optional private evaluation)
3. Qualification Meeting
4. Write the Plan
5. Implement the Plan – Measurable Goals
6. Review Plan annually
7. Re-evaluate every 3 years

Using the Law
Document, document, document!
The Wright's Law website
Your state's special education website
Your school district's policies
How to Ask for an Evaluation
In writing, on paper
Facts only, no emotions

When to Give Up, and What to Do Afterwards, Part 1
Some schools are good, some are bad, and some are just clueless
Some schools are good, but don't have the money to do a good job
By law, lack of money does not allow the school to refuse services

When to Give Up, and What to Do Afterwards, Part 2
Warning Signs You May Have a Bad School
Staff does not know the law, and doesn't care
Staff tries to delay the process
Staff continually “loses” paperwork
Staff agrees verbally, nothing gets done
Or …

When to Give Up, and What to Do Afterwards
What To Do If You Have a Bad School
Give up (listed for completeness only)
Home School
Pay for alternate education
Fight school, student stays at school
Fight for alternate placement

16 March 2009

Dozukis and Sunbirds

I should post more often. There. Guilt trip over.

Two words for the day, completely unrelated except in my life.

A Dozuki is a Japanese woodworking saw, intended for cutting the joints that lock two pieces of wood together. Like all Japanese saws, it is frighteningly sharp.

I'm working on my first "real" woodworking project, a Shaker-inspired wall shelf with drawer. (Project plan at: http://www.popularwoodworking.com/article/shapely_shaker_shelf/ )I'm at the point where I need to cut the 1/4"plywood for the drawer bottom and back. My husband, the Mad Engineer, has set up a welding station in front of our bandsaw, the best power tool for the job. I tries the hand held jigsaw, but it has a case of palsy and couldn't settle down long enough to even begin the cut. So, in desperation, I got my dozuki out, expecting the 24" long cut to take an hour of push-pull, arm falling off sweaty hard labor.

In 3 minutes, I had a nice, straight cut, all the way through. Including set-up time, the dozuki was faster than the jigsaw. More fun, too.

Now, the next word of the day: Sunbird.

Sunbird is a calendar program, created by the Mozilla project, and available free for all major platforms.

In order to manage my family's busy schedule, I keep a series of Google calendar files, one for each person. For several years, I've been using GCal, an abandoned single-function browser that let me see my Google Calendar web page. But Google changed its log in page, and GCal no longer can get in to my calendars.

I first looked at software to make my own stand alone web page ... but I run Mac OS X 10.4.11, an old version, by choice, and the software won't run on my OS. I found a connector to let iCal, the built-in calendar program synch with Google calendar, but it is clunky, and I don't much like iCal anyway. Eventually, I found Sunbird.

Sunbird looks a lot like Firefox, which makes sense, since they are both Mozilla projects. Like Firefox, there are add-ons and themes to customize the calendars. I added one item that allows invisible two-way communication with my Google calendars. A little bit of color coding, and I'm all set.

Except I seem to be drawn to abandoned software ... Mozilla is planning to abandon Sunbird, for lack of user interest and a shortage of developers. So if you are intrested, wander over to http://www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/sunbird/ and download your own copy.

05 February 2009

A name is a name?

I've been interviewing various builders and subcontractors, in preparation for our remodel/addition. And I've noticed something interesting.

These guys don't have last names.

They never introduce themselves by last name. They routinely refer to each other by profession. Even our architect (who has been a builder and teacher) falls into this: "Liz, this is Tony the Plumber ... Jeff the Framer ... Paul the Electrician ..."

I feel like I'm living in a medieval English town, where Jeff Framer is hired by Liz Housewife, with Tony Plumber waiting his turn. Paul Electrician certainly wasn't around in 1309, but you get the idea.

We won't even go into why they all have the same middle name as Bullwinkle the Moose.

26 January 2009


Sometimes a thought comes into your head and you have to follow it, even when it takes you to places you don't need to go.

Last night, I suddenly decided I wanted to make a cartoon style avatar that looks like me. My daughter has a site where she can make cute, chibi-style avatars. (Chibi are the cute, oversized head people populating Japanese anime meant for kids.) But I wanted something a bit more lifelike and less cute.

So I typed "make an avatar" into Google, and found lots of information about rendering objects in 3 dimensions, and the anime series, Avatar. My kids are the anime fans, not me. But patient searching finally led me to a site that made chibi, but gave me plenty of customization options.

Otaku Avatar Maker lets you put together various features and clothing to make an avatar. Here's a sample:
Cute kid, no?

Fun, but not right for me. No middle aged options here.

However, at the bottom of that web page, are links to other avatar makers. The one that worked best for me is Portrait Illustration Maker. This can produce a drawing that, while cartoon-like is definitely recognizable as a real person:

I could play with this for hours ... and I did. You can tell by the mess in my kitchen.

OK, so what does she look like? We have a cute kid, and a man, but where's our blogger. Well, ... it still needs work, but you could use it to find me in an airport.

23 January 2009

New Remodeling Post

The best laid plans and all that ...

We didn't break ground last fall. In September, we sent out bids for the work, asking contractors to bid on the basic structure, including rough mechanicals, plaster walls and interior door installation, but no other finish work. The bids came in, with the cheapest one for 30% more than we planned to spend on the entire project! Things came to a crashing halt, and by the time we recovered from the sticker shock, it was too late to build.

We still need the space, so we're doing things differently. First, we're not using a general contractor. Instead, our architect will act as a construction consultant, finding subcontractors for us, preparing bids, and making sure the scheduling flows. This will cost us less than hiring a G.C., as Matt doesn't add an upcharge to material costs, and isn't concerned with tightly scheduling subcontractors. [We have time, so we don't mind if the plumber can't come for a week after the framing is done.] We can also choose the best sub for the job, and not get stuck with the G.C.'s best buddy.

Last week we had a framer (who also does foundations, roofs, and windows / exterior doors) come by, and a plumber who took a good look at our heating system (hot water, so a plumber does the work) and plumbing for the addition. So work is moving along, and we hope to break ground this spring.

Old Remodeling Post #6 — 26 July, 2008

The last of the old remodeling posts.


This is the house as it is today. It is to scale (well ... almost), so you can see how -- ahem -- compact the kitchen layout is. We added a 6 foot long office table near the benches, it serves as a storage space and extra counter. We have some shelves along the basement stairs, these are our pantry. Extra kitchen equipment is stored in the sunless room (why put a sunroom in the northeast corner?) or packed away in the basement.

I didn't draw in the dining table, with 4 chairs it takes up most of its room.

Enter the Architect

We decided to add 10 feet across the entire back wall of the house. Here's our first pass at how we'd use the space:

The major feature is the central "pod of space", housing some coat/backpack cubbies, a pantry, and a family desk/communication center. I hadn't thought of doing this, but it helps use the new space effectively. We'd be able to have an upright freezer (we don't have one and need it!), too.

We haven't done any designing with the family room or bathroom yet. DH wants a shower in there so we can have guests stay there.

The plan is good, but needs work. There's a lot of empty space in the work part of the kitchen, and no good place for guests to hang out. I want a built-in bench, there is none. So, more planning.

Here's the second concept:

Here, we put in a second rectangular island for the prep area, instead on an L off the cook center. We'll have an overhang on this island, so the kids can sit and do homework, or guests can watch. We added a bench along the back wall, above will be a nice window. [We have woods behind our house, for a great view.]

This is what we have so far. We're still thinking about the exact placement of the appliances, but I think we have the beginnings of our final plan.

[That is, assuming we can afford it. ]

Plans created with Omni Graffle

Old Remodeling Post #5 — 24 July, 2008

This time with pictures!

Drowning in Designs

We're into the thick of it now!

Our timetable, as far as we can make one, has us doing the design work and finding a builder this summer, and building the structure this fall, through to the plaster, but no other finish work. [Here in New England, plaster costs the same as drywall. We have plaster walls in the rest of the house, so it would be silly to get drywall.] We expect to have heated unfinished space by the first snows. Then the builder goes away and DH and I finish the space, with help from friends and pros as needed.

So we've been busily working on kitchen designs (as well as the rest of the addition). We have a space about 20 feet by 15 feet for the kitchen, give or take.

I have to admit, I like working with M ... he brings up things like balance and proportion, and creating clear distinctions between working and non-working space. But he listens to me as I teach him about work centers, string diagrams, and motion-mindedness (not to mention the therblig). We're not paying attention to cost at this stage, but we both know the budget is tight.

I haven't posted any photos yet ... I just taught myself how. Here are some Before photos, of both the kitchen and the laundry dungeon, from the day of the house inspection.

This is the stove and sink corner

the rest of the kitchen

and the Laundry Dungeon
Sorry about the head-tipping ... does anyone know how to rotate photos?

Old Remodeling Post #4 — 16 June, 2008

And another ...

Back on Track

Well, after my surgery, DH's severe work stress, and our architect's personal issues, we're back on track. M (the architect) is coming over this afternoon to pick up the signed contract and the first (of far too many) checks.

In order to save money, we're keeping his involvement lean and mean. M will be our design consultant, helping make sure that what we come up with is sane, buildable, and within budget. He's helped with that already ... did you know that there's very little difference in building out 11 feet or 12 feet? Since most of the cost is labor, we shouldn't let the material cost compromise our space needs.

M will also help us get the shell of the new space up, and will bow out as soon as we have heated unfinished space. We will finish it ourselves: flooring, cabinetry, trimwork, other finish materials. If we need, M will continue to consult on design.

So right now, the timeline is to work on design all summer, while finding a builder, then start work just after the kids go back to school in late August. M thinks we'll have our heated shell before the first snows. I hope he's right.

Also part of the remodel will be adding insulation to the existing house, and replacing the 50 year old oil boiler. With the price of heating oil these days, I'm pushing we do the boiler replacement as soon as we finish the heat calculations.

Old Remodeling Post #3 — 25 February, 2008

Unedited post #3

Life Gets in the Way

January and February are busy here ... we are science fiction fans, and winter is con season. I was on 6 panels at Arisia (MLK Day weekend), and DH and I are on the exec. committee of Boskone (Prez Day weekend). So we were a little busy for that.

Then I had outpatient surgery in between the two ... recovery was quick, but did take some time.

Our architect has family health issues of his own ... I'd find someone else, but we really like him and feel we might not be able to find someone else to work with.

And last, DH found out the hard way that cast iron skillets and glass top stoves don't mix ... he was moving our 14" pan onto the stove to dry it, and dropped it — only a few inches, but we now have a cracked smooth top, and one highest power burner (though still wimpy) is DOA. We're going to try to muddle through with it for now, until we figure out what we want in our new kitchen. Maybe we will buy and set it up early.

Life. It does get in the way of remodeling, doesn't it?

Old Remodeling Post #2 — 16 January, 2008

Another unedited post.

Why an Architect?

As I mentioned in my last post, we are using an architect for our remodel.


Why spend the money, when you are doing a budget project?

Well, our project is fairly big. To get what we want, we'll be pushing the back of our house out about 8 - 10 feet, with shop/lab space for DH in the walk out basement (along with a new laundry room and kid hang-out space). The main floor will house the new kitchen, family room (finishing off the "sunless room"), half bath, and enough dining space for a small army. We won't add on upstairs, but we'll add an unheated mud room connecting to both the front door and garage. So this is a fairly major remodel.

We want to get the most from every square foot of new space, and we want it to look like a well-planned house. The right architect can help us figure out where it makes sense to save money, and where we want to pay for quality. He will check my designs and make sure they are build-able. He'll suggest tweaks to make the remodel look great.

And the architect we will use thinks the way we do. He was happy when I warned him that DH might debate concrete composition, and I'd happily tell him why I think kitchen triangles are silly (I'll tell you too, in a later post) . He wants clients who stay deeply involved in the project. He is a teacher at Yestermorrow, too.

I figure he'll save us far more money than we end up paying him, and the house will be better for it.

Old Remodeling Post #1 16 Jan 2008

NOTE: In order to get all my bloggish meanderings in one place, I'm porting over the beginnings of a blog I started a year ago on our remodel project. Here's the first in that series. I am not editing the posts, so note the date in the title and mentally adjust as needed.


I'm the chief cook and bottle washer for our family. The rest of us are:
DH, a Mad Engineer (not scientist), complete with a metal shop in the garage and woodworking tools stockpiled in the basement;
Me, a polymath (look it up) who excels in deciphering DIY instructions;
our 12 year old daughter, who has an opinion on everything;
our 7 year old son, who will politely drive you nuts with non-stop hugs.

We currently live in a small 1950s house in the Boston suburbs. We love the neighborhood, and have fantastic schools — but the house! When we bought it, we knew we'd have to remodel ... the dining room barely fits our table, we have a "sunroom" on the northeast side of the house, and the kitchen ... it would be fine, for a single person who didn't cook much.

But we all cook, including DS, who loves making popcorn and nachos. The living room is a sea of Lego and books, and we'd love to entertain more than 2 people at a time. Before Thanksgiving we had 12 people over, all in the kitchen at once, and I'm amazed we all fit.

So, DH has finally decided it's time to remodel. I've been working on plans since we moved in 3 years ago. We've talked to an architect, and will probably hire him. But our budget is marginal for what we want, so we'll have to find creative (a.k.a. cheap) ways to do things.

So, come join us on our descent (further) into chaos, as we expand our house. I welcome your constructive comments.

Let's Try This Again

Long time, no blog. Is anyone still here? [Was anyone ever reading this? Oh, well.]

I don't make New Year's Resolutions, but if I did, keeping this blog would be one. So with that, let me do a recap on what's been going on lately, neatly compartmentalized.

1. House Remodel For the past year, we've been working on (and off) with an architect, the goal being to make our too small 1950s "colonial" house work for us. After the first bids, for the shell and mechanicals only, were coming in at 30% over our entire budget, we re-thought the plan. So now we'll be doing our own contracting, with the architect assisting us by finding workers.

2. Odyssey of the Mind I'm coach of my son's team. I've coached OotM / DI teams before, so while this is a time sink, it's not much mental stress.

3. SF Fan This is the local con season. Arisia was last weekend; after a snafu I got Programming to reduce my workload to only 10 panels. Half were with kids — would have been more, if the head of the kid's program had asked me to work more instead of just changing my schedule without telling me.
Boskone is next month, as usual my husband-creature and I are running the Registration Desk. This is our third year of doing this, we have it down to a science and have enough trustworthy volunteers that we can enjoy the con too.

4. Knitting The shawl I was starting at my last blog post is still unfinished, but the end is near. I also just finished a Moebius scarf for my math-loving son, and am beginning a matching hat. I have a few little things on needles too. Taught knitting to kids and adults at Arisia (and taught my helpers how to teach).

5. Gifted Education First, a public call-out to my son's teacher this year. He's wonderful. Last year's teachers worked to put the brightest kids together in one classroom, and my boy now has both a teacher who gives hm challenging work and fellow students to learn with. It's a wonderful year. My daughter is having a tougher time, but mostly socially, as her good friends are in different schools this year.

6. Woodworking My new obsession. I've wanted to make furniture for decades, but never had the time, space, or money to set up a shop. I was also scared of tablesaws ... but the house remodel will demand my skills to do finish trim and built-in furniture. This past fall, I took a basic woodworking class at our local vo-tech school, and realized:
- I had more book learning than anyone but the teacher
- I'm enough of a perfectionist to do good work, even for a beginner
- There's a wealth of woodworking information on the Internet.
So I began "drinking from a fire hose", as I call my obsessive study of new material. And I learned even more:
- I prefer working with hand tools
- A tablesaur, as Alf the Cornish Woodworker calls it, is not essential.

So, I've been buying some hand tools, and learning to sharpen them. I'm also almost done with my first project, a hanging Shaker shelf with a drawer and coat hooks, in clear-finished maple. So far, it looks great.

Enough for now ... time to begin my morning chores with a brisk walk to my son's school to deliver him, then a contemplative walk home.