Big Bird Crochet Pillow

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This quick and easy project would make a perfect gift. It’s soft and cuddly and extremely satisfying to make.

Materials:

Two cakes of super thick chenille yarn of this type (200 gr total). I used black, grey and white variegated.

Odds and ends of black, white, brown, and dark brown worsted weight yarn.

Stuffing of your choice.

Start by crocheting two identical circles from the chenille yarn, using a 7mm hook.

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Assemble the eyes and beak. For the eyes, start making dc with the black worsted yarn from the center, using a 3.5mm hook. At the end of the round, slip stitch and join.

In the next round, use white worsted yarn and work 2dc in each dc of the previous round. Slip stitch and join.

In the third round, work sc using the dark brown yarn in the following pattern: 1 sc, 2 sc in the next stitch of the previous round, 1 sc, 2 sc, etc.

For the beak, make a triangle in sc using the light brown yarn. Instructions for making a crochet triangle can be found here.

Naturally, you can play with the colors however you like.

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Sew the eyes and beak onto one of the chenille circles using a tapestry needle and worsted weight yarn of the same color (light brown for the beak, dark brown for the eyes).

Join the front and back of the pillow together by slip stitching. I used black worsted weight yarn for this because I thought it would look better. The thinner yarn disappears between the threads of chenille and the join is very neat and almost completely invisible.

Once you have just a bit of the front and back left to join, stuff the pillow. I used old stockings, but you can use store-bought stuffing if you prefer.

When the pillow is stuffed enough to your liking, finish the slip stitch join, tie up the ends, and push them inside.

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Voila! The pillow is ready for squishing.

Just keep crafting

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Latest creation, just completed yesterday: a pineapple crochet top made with the help of a diagram found on Pinterest. I made it with the last batch of yarn I got in town before the pandemic hit hard (I do have more yarn in my stash, don’t worry). I haven’t saved the label but any thread yarn will work for these kinds of high-definition patterns.

Around here, the government is trying to get back to business as usual too quickly, IMHO. I think there has been a lot of pressure originated in the false sense of security due to the relatively low number of deaths in Israel (200 total, or thereabouts). Preschools and first to third grades are going to reopen part-time starting Sunday and I can’t think of a more reckless and pointless move with which to restart the economy.

Fact: young kids can’t really be trusted in matters of hygiene and social distancing.

Another fact: Because of lack of teachers (due to smaller classes and older and at-risk teachers still staying home), children won’t be in school enough hours per week to allow working parents to return to their jobs.

Conclusion: this arrangement is just enough to promote the spread of the virus but not to be of any practical help for the economy.

There is a lot of talk about how children “need” to be in a school setting, how it’s a matter of “mental health” to get them back into classrooms even part-time. This is simply the result of a rigid mindset that knows no different and doesn’t wish to think outside the box. Countless families around the globe homeschool. Their children do just fine academically and socially. I think our Ministry of Education should have considered that fact before pushing for such huge risks.

Yes, our children will be staying home anyway, but this means that we, too, are going to be at a higher risk of infection as everyone will be cross-contaminated through schools.

Change of Seasons shawl

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I made this shawl a while ago, but haven’t had the chance to share it yet. With its hues of green and brown, it reminds me of spring and fresh grass, so I called it Change of Seasons shawl.

Materials: one skein of Papatya Angora. I loved working with this yarn: very fine, soft and warm. The color gradient changed beautifully and there were no knots.

Pattern: Fall River Shawl by Katya Novikova (free)

I hope everyone is keeping well and safe. I had to make a trip to town today (not my choice) and it was eerie. Almost all the stores closed and everyone hurrying to do their business and go. A disturbing sight – but not nearly as disturbing as the news of our government caving in to pressure and agreeing to open businesses, preschools, and partially schools. I believe wise people will continue to shelter and minimize outside business whether the law compels them to do so or not.

Stay safe and healthy!

From our backyard

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The little quail pen. It’s easy to move so that they can dig in a fresh place from time to time.

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An inside shot of the quail: the darker one is the female. Raising them has been fun and I can’t wait to try hatching their eggs (which, by the way, make delicious tiny omelets).

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The upgraded chicken coop: now on a raised netting-covered platform. Most of the poop falls right through the netting, which reduces the mess and smell.

Clockwise: sage, mint, rosemary, lemon balm.

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Tomato seedlings are in the ground.

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Two of my favorite repotted geraniums. They are incredibly easy to propagate: just cut a piece, stick it in moist potting soil, and it will soon sprout roots. I’ve been making little plants to give to neighbors this way.

As you can see, we’ve been busy and enjoying the nice weather. I hope everyone is doing well and keeping safe.

School at home is pointless

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Starting from today, the Israeli ministry of education has come up with a model of long-distance lessons that will start in the morning and last into the afternoon, with obligatory participation for each student from kindergarten and up. There is also supposed to be homework, after-school activities, and parent meetings via Zoom.

Predictably, many parents revolted against such a rigid plan, pointing out that 1. In most families except the more privileged ones, the ratio of children per computer/tablet isn’t 1:1 but more like 1:3; 2. The parents themselves often need the computer for work; 3. The heavy one-on-one tutoring the program assumes will take place is impossible with several children of different ages involved; and 4. Perhaps the most obvious one – it’s not realistic or even desirable to get children to sit in front of screens for 5-6 hours a day and actually retain anything they learn.

To me, the major flaw in this plan is pretty obvious: the ministry of education is essentially attempting to recreate school at home, with a set schedule, plenty of busywork, and a strict division between classes. There’s no doubt at all this is going to fail, and fast.

For someone who had homeschooled for a long time (our older girls are currently enrolled in a small private school that does not, thank goodness, insist on turning our living room into a fully equipped classroom), it was easy enough to fall back on our old homeschooling/unschooling tactics. I can tell you that we never have, and probably never will, start or end lessons at the same time of the day. I am sure countless parents all over the country are now making the same discovery as well.

Furthermore, as my two eldest are close in age, the only subject I have ever taught separately was math, and that with considerable overlaps. Everything else – reading comprehension, writing, science, English, etc, was taught together, but with slightly different expectations. In millions of homes, siblings with 1-2 years of difference are required to stay separate for lessons they could both learn with equal profit.

Third, and this is the key point here, our ministry of education and all the experts that advise it are focused on filling the children’s time – free time is seen as the enemy. It is not – it is an opportunity.

I can assure you that throughout elementary school at least, all the essentials can be safely covered in two hours daily, possibly split between morning and afternoon, and the rest of the time can be divided between free creative play and studying subjects that the children themselves are interested in (self-induced learning that requires very little effort on the parent’s part).

Take screens away (with the exception of some educational YouTube channels) and give children books, craft materials, dress-up play, and a patch of dirt to dig in, and you can accomplish great things.

Yes, I hear you. “Easy for you to say. You live in a house with a large yard and chickens. But most of Israel is urbanized. People are languishing, quarantined in tiny apartments.”

I get it. I do. But sticking children for 5-6 hours a day in front of Zoom still won’t work.

What the ministry of education should try, in my opinion, is a lot more hands-off approach. Give children flexible assignments they can complete at their leisure, and condense what can be condensed into programs siblings of various ages can do together. Then provide suggestions for elective classes/activities for children to do if they so choose – and put more trust in their creativity, flexibility and resilience.

This is an opportunity for all to try a whole new approach, one that may well serve us even after the pandemic is over. It would be a pity to miss it.

A beautiful walk (in total isolation)

Well, the final hectic rush of Passover prep and the seder night are behind us. It’s time to enjoy some well-deserved rest, and today the kids and I managed to sneak to the lovely, lonely fields near our house again. Of course, we strictly adhered to social distancing and saw nobody but this little agricultural aircraft which my children got very excited about:

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It was such a beautiful afternoon. It had rained all weekend and everything – the earth, the plants, the sky – was delightfully fresh and there was a smell of honey in the air. Thousands upon thousands of flowers swaying in the light pleasant breeze. It was like walking in the midst of a lovely fairytale.

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The ladybug season is here, too!

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They had such fun exploring. It was honestly one of the most beautiful afternoons of my life.

As the shadows were lengthening, we went home in a roundabout way, making sure not to run into anyone.

I hope we can make it out there again soon. Stay safe, everyone!

Last post before Pesach

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By this time, I have cleaned both my refrigerators and things are rising to the feverish pitch that will culminate in the Seder night on Wednesday, but we’ve still had some time to spend in the garden lately and I even sneaked in a couple of short walks with the children (strictly keeping to empty, lonely places). Last week we saw this flock of cranes right next to our house.

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These birds sure aren’t doing social distancing!

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One of our little house geckos. The kids love to play with them.

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Shira tried to make a smiley egg face here, but this didn’t quite work out. 🙂 I am so extremely grateful for our plentiful and healthy eggs these days. The stores are just empty of eggs at the moment, and I’ve read they are forced to import to meet demand – no knowing what the price or quality will be.

Overall, though we are holding up pretty well, there’s just no denying the situation in the world is kind of crazy right now. I’m so looking forward to the time when it’s possible to lift the quarantine at least a bit – I miss day trips, going to the library, and getting together with friends. There are so many people around the country, from Rehovot to Maalot and from the Shomron to Ramat Beit Shemesh, who are often in my thoughts, and though social media and email thankfully make it easy to keep in touch, nothing can replace a good ol’ cup of coffee together. So this is my post-quarantine resolution: make more time to visit with friends in person.

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and enjoying spring despite the necessary limitations. No better time to start a garden if you haven’t yet!

I’m off to take all the stove knobs apart and give it a good polish.