Thursday, October 30, 2014

Using a metaphor, story, or visualization when trying to learn a concept is one of the best ways to remember and understand it. Welcome to the story of…
Sir Learn-a-Lot
Or: How to Defeat a Dragon and Gain Your Lady’s Love in a few Easy Steps

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there was a young knight named Sir Learn-a-Lot. Every time the local dragon captured a local lady, Sir Learn-a-lot would procrastinate and when at last he rode the rescue he was always just in time to be much too late. Needless to say, Sir Learn-a-Lot had a lot to learn.
The trick to beating procrastination is to realize that it has become a habit. There are four parts to habits: The Cue, The Routine, The Reward, The Belief. To change the habit, you must first change the reaction to the cue.
One day a wise old man came to visit Sir-Learn-a-Lot. He found him engaged in one of his favorite pastimes: surfing the interwoven webs of the enchanted palace spiders. He said to the young man, “My lord, have you heard that the dragon has stolen the blacksmith’s daughter?” On hearing these words, the young man felt a familiar sense of dread, and picking up a new surfboard, he was about to hop onto the web again, when the wise old man caught his arm. “Do you not desire to rescue the lady, my lord?” he queried.
“Of course!” the young man replied, “It won’t take long though—I can do it later. The dragon won’t eat her for at least another hour or so.”
“A wise learner doesn’t waste time,” the old man commented. The knight was on the verge of arguing when the old man reached into his satchel and brought out a parcel. “It is for you, Sir Learn-a-Lot,” said he.
Pleased at receiving an unexpected gift, the knight eagerly tore off the paper. He stared at it incredulously for a long moment. “It’s a tomato,” he said at last.
The Routine: make a plan, get rid of distractions, and focus.
“It’s a pomodoro,” the old man corrected.
“Oh. I knew that,” the knight said, blushing slightly beneath his helmet.
“You must focus on the process, not the destination,” the old man said, taking the pomodoro (which was in fact a magical timer) and setting it to twenty-five minutes. “If you will dive into the process of saving the lady, the dragon that you must face will not frighten you as much.” And with that he drew a knife and disconnected the interwoven net of webs so that the knight would not be tempted to avoid the rescue any longer.
“Well, all right,” Sir Learn-a-Lot said, “twenty-five minutes isn’t too bad, I suppose I could reach the cave by then.” He paused, “But what do I get out of all this? Even if I did like her, the blacksmith’s daughter is already engaged.”
The Reward: Have something to look forward to when you finish the task whether it’s the satisfaction of a job well done, drinking a latte, or watching a movie.
The wise old man smiled, “Have you met my daughter, Lady Luck?”
The knight’s eyes lit up with delight, “Ah, she is most wondrous fair! I would give anything to gain her favor!”
“Lady Luck favors those who try, my lord.”
The young man put on his armor with renewed alacrity and leapt upon his horse. As he was about to ride away he seemed suddenly struck with doubt. “Will it really work?” he asked the old man.
The Belief: Believe that your new system will work. Find like-minded people to keep you on track.
“It will, Sir Learn-a-Lot,” the wise man replied, “The blacksmith’s daughter is Lady Luck’s friend. Now hurry, you have only twenty minutes more, then you may pause to rest.” He pressed the weird ticking pomodoro into the knight’s shiny metal gauntlet.
The knight rode on and was so focused on the journey that he didn’t even notice when the timer ended for he now had a greater motivation. As he rode, he planned his mode of attack. He knew that he was prepared—he hadn’t spent all those years in dragon-fighting school for nothing. He could almost hear his teacher’s voice,
It’s often helpful to pretend you are the concept you are trying to understand.
“I am a dragon,” Sir Learn-a-Lot said to himself. “I am a dragon. I am a dragon. I am a dragon.” He could see it now: the dragon rearing up to roar and spew flames at him. In fact, he really could see it, and hear it as well, for he had just come upon the dragon’s lair. Suddenly he found himself understanding what the dragon would do next! He must act quickly. He leapt from his steed, drew his broad sword and slid the blade neatly into the dragon’s innards. The dragon fell over, dead, so Sir Learn-a-Lot scooped up the maiden (who was just inside the cave, petrified with fear) and galloped home. He met the wise old man waiting at the front door with his lovely daughter, Lady Luck.
Recall—after you’ve worked on something, practice remembering it. Especially in places outside of your regular learning space. This makes test taking easier as you won’t be thrown off by being in an unusual room.
Working together—when you study with friends, they can catch what you miss. Explaining what you’ve learned to someone else helps solidify it in your own mind.
Lady Luck invited Sir Learn-a-Lot to dinner, where he told her how her father had inspired him to rescue her friend. “It’s amazing, this little pomodoro,” he said, holding it out for her to examine, “Simply setting a timer and cutting down my web was all it took to get me started, and once I got started… well,” he looked smilingly around, “Having your father to keep me on track helped a lot too.”
Lady Luck was much impressed. They became engaged that evening and were married within the week.
The End

This was written as the Final Project for the class "Learning How to Learn:Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects" which is taught by Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski and is available on

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In which she tromps through the garden with a loaf of bread and a bottle of kombucha

I opened a bottle of strawberry kombucha this morning. The lid came off with a Bang! and the strawberries swam their way to freedom on a wave of foam. Fortunately a bowl waited in anticipation of their escape and caught them before they could make a swimming pool of the counter.

Note: Kombucha devours berries, leaving them devoid of color and the fermenting tea full of bubbles.
Also note: Candied ginger and strawberry flavored kombucha is particularly tasty.

The planned fascination of the year was to be woodwork. Instead it is Turkish coffee, gardening, fermentation, and bread.
The Turkish coffee has yet to foam properly. Meanwhile traditional Arabic music improves the atmosphere.

I have read that gardening is a forgiving process but is it I or the carrots who are to do the forgiving if the seeds refuse to sprout? A maple tree and salvia bush have sprouted in the front yard without asking permission. 

As it happens, the carrots are the only shy ones thus far and the rest of the garden is behaving itself in a satisfactory, though not predictable fashion.

Young basil sprouts ready for planting

For the first time since I started baking bread, I heeded the instructions to dust the peel with rice flour. Ah, the joy! Ah, the understanding! when the dough slid easily off the slab of wood instead of holding on for dear life! I am a changed baker.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Books Christina Read in 2012

A list of books I read in 2012, with occasional frequent comments. 

The 100 Cupboards Trilogy (N.D.Wilson)
A fantasy trilogy set (mostly) in Kansas. It draws attention to the little things--that may not be so insignificant after all.

Dragon's Tooth (N.D.Wilson)
As much as I liked the 100 Cupboards, this one (in my opinion) is even better. The references to multiple historical and mythological figures successfully aroused my curiosity and sent me on a mission to know these fascinating people.

The Drowned Vault (N.D.Wilson)
*Warning: Spoilers* Why does the bad-guy get away? Now I have to read the next book!

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (Kate Wiggin)

Redwall (Brian Jaques)
I have to wonder why Jaques bothered to write about mice at all. They could very easily have been humans. This is not so true of the birds--I enjoyed the language he developed for them. 

The Black Tulip (Dumas)
I was surprised to find that this book really is about a black tulip. Or, more specifically, about the development of the black tulip, and a man who was thwarted in his attempt to do so. 

A Matter of Magic (Patricia C. Wrede)
Probably my favorite out of the books I read last year. I laughed almost as much as I would have with a Wodehouse, and the back-street London slang added a lot of character to the protagonist.

Very Good, Jeeves! (Wodehouse)

If I were You (Wodehouse)
Best thing ever! 

Stepping Heavenward (Elizabeth Prentiss)

French Lessons: Adventures with the Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew (Peter Mayle)
I shall certainly read more of Mayle's writings--food and a good deal of humor, what could be better?

Kim (Kipling)

Bonhoeffer: Paster, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Eric Metaxis)

The Tale of Despereaux (Kate DiKamillo)
A charming and heroic children's fairy tale... that is somewhat spoiled by swearing--in French, of course, but is there really a difference?

Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School (Kathleen Flinn)

The Final Problem (Doyle)

Snow White and Red Rose (Patricia C. Wrede)
I was curious about this story, and while it was fun to read, by the time I got to the end I had to ask the question: is 'Snow White' really worth being re-told? The answer is 'no'.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

13 books for 2013

 Christina's List

Ukridge (Wodehouse)

Wodehouse is always funny. I trust that this novel will not disappoint.

This will be my second Dickens novel.

A different Dumas, or more of the three musketeers? I will finish The Vicomte de Bragelonne and then decide. 

Treasure Island (Stevenson)

I purchased a copy of this book for $0.25--a good reason to read it even if I didn't already like Verne's writings.

Historical Fiction

I have long been curious about this story, and will now read it for myself.

The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne)

Philosophical Novel
The Brothers Karamazov  (Dostoevsky)

I've joined a group on goodreads that reads and discusses the classics together. This month's assignment is The Brothers Karamazov. 


Many false starts later, I will actually read--and finish this book!

Ethics (Bonhoeffer)

After recently finishing a biography of Bonhoeffer, I've been keen to read some of his works.



My sister mentioned this book in her list of books to read. Being a writer myself--how could I resist?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The sewing machine ate my homework....

Having been reunited with my sewing machine in February, we have since become good friends. In fact, as a result, the kitchen and I are now at some slight enmity (I think the bench scraper is jealous).

These are the creations that have been keeping me busy:

I've wanted to try crazy quilting for some time and finally decided to try the technique on a cushion.

Easy enough, though a tad time consuming. I arranged the scraps on a circle of interfacing and hand basted each piece before crazy stitching all over the whole piece.

Purses are also something I've been yearning to try my hand at. Inspiration struck, and this is the bag that was formed. The bottom section that was originally gathered merely for looks became a zippered pocket (zipper is positioned on the side), the perfect size for a small novel.

Later, I made a few alterations to the design (actually lining that zippered pocket was one of them), and created this--which happened, to my delight, to match the dress I wore on Resurrection Day.

I never know what to do with the back of a purse-- should it be plain, or decorated in some way? I envisioned a flower on the back of this one, so after sketching it on the fabric with a fabric marker, I back stitched it on. One of the few times something has turned out exactly the way I imagined it.

Embroidery is a skill I'd love to cultivate more. I got plenty of practice with the satin stitch on the following item.

I love that pillow. :)

I needed a gift for a friend of mine who recently had a birthday and so I made this mini clutch-like bag for her. It's about the perfect size for storing bookmarks (that's what I would use it for) or for storing a comb and other essentials inside a larger purse.

Friday, February 10, 2012

In Which my Sewing Machine and I are Reunited.

So. This is to catch up on a few sewing projects that are long overdue for a spot on this blog, as well as some newly finished items.

First, some stuffed animals made from recycled t-shirts, socks and other such things, hand- stitched last summer.

This is a frog made out of a t-shirt.

Ok. I know it doesn't look like a frog, but that's what it's supposed to be, and (if I recall correctly) it was the first project in the book, Sew Me, Love Me by Hsiu-Lan Kuei. I like the wobbly button-bead eyes.

The following adorable item is made from a pair of my brother's outgrown dress socks, a yellow camisole and some fabric from my stash.
SO soft and cuddly.

Then I made this doggie, the perfect addition to any tea party. The other side of her face (not pictured) has a wide awake beaded eye.

And now to more recent creations.
To be quite honest, I don't like this fabric at all. Rows of cats wearing sunglasses. Seriously? But my opinion of the fabric was improved a bit after said material was turned into an apron with green rickrack-lined pink insets and waistband. What dost thou think, my readers?

A recent trip to the library found me bringing home a massive stack of cookbooks, sewing books, and two classic novels, (A Tale of Two Cities and Nicholas Nickleby). Flipping through The Perfect Handmade Bag, this bucket shaped owl bag from the "kid's bags" section caught my eye and I fell in love.
The tree and leaves are appliqued on, leaving part of the hole open in which to insert the little owl.
I didn't actually have enough of any fabric to make the entire bag, so I pieced what I did have together, and am pleased with the result. (On examination you will see a seam across the middle of the bag, and another one through the tree.)

I wanted the inside to have a pocket, so I added one (pictured [not very well] below).

On of my favorite parts of making this bag, was realizing that homemade bags can have a cute little handmade tag. I was delighted with the idea of a little french-knotted tree on either side of the tag, and got started. Problem: No matter how I tried, I could not make a french knot. After much trial and error, aggravation, and looking at several books (all with different methods for accomplishing this feat of french knotting), my mommy sat me down and showed me one more time, slowly, the way to make a french knot. I'm afraid I cannot duplicate what she showed me in words, but all I know is that it worked. And the results? See for yourself.

The last feature of this bag before moving on to the final projects is the button on the back. The purpose? To make everything inside stay inside.

I was looking at Sew Sunny Homestyle (a book which, the more I look at it, the more I like the ideas inside it), and saw a pattern for some jewelry mannequins. I'd been looking for a new way to store jewelry-- it looks like this will be it.

My (very nice) older brother took some time from studying to make me the stands on which the mannequins are mounted.
Which is your favorite?

The first one is trimmed with a bit of "lace" from my collection and the second with some gathered ribbon.

On last thing: This is an owl I made when I was in Australia, visiting my sister and brother-in-law. My sweet sister gave me a little kit with felt, thread, buttons and a pattern for Sinterklaas Eve.
She found a picture on pinterest which led to the pattern, here.

And between uploading photos and writing I've just finished another one. :) Pictures later.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I recently went through an "apron phase" and thought I would share pictures of the aprons that I made. I will always love the way a pleated apron looks-- so crisp and smooth, yet with a feminine ruffle to it. This one was made with what scraps of fabric I had laying around (thus the unusual fabric combination).
Speaking of ruffles...
This light blue apron took a while to make because of the time it took to gather the ruffles, but I was pleased with the outcome.
This is my "hostess" apron. The lace encompassing the edges was tea-dyed to match the fabric.

I enjoy making half-aprons because they don't require any binding. The insets in this one give it more fullness.
One of my favorite features of this apron are the pockets (positioned at the top of each inset). Since they are made with the same fabric as the rest of the apron, they are rendered almost invisible.
And my favorite apron...
The fabric is so colorful that it matches anything! And it has rick-rack-- which is always fun. And paisleys. I love paisleys.

Thank you for reading! Which apron is your favorite?