Crocheted Kids’ Trick-or-Treat Bags for Halloween

For the last two months, I have been working on a lengthy crochet project. I wanted to make a trick-or-treat bag for every child in my life. Between my closest friends back at home, I have seven little nieces (and no nephews, but that’s okay. I am digging the feminine energy).

Anyway, my goal was to start them now and finish over the coming months. Then, when I go home (YAY!) next summer, I’ll mail these to my friends’ children before Halloween.

Here’s what I’ve got so far …

candy corn crochet trick or treat bag

The candy corn is my favorite. I followed this pattern, though I modified it a bit. I didn’t chain 2 at the beginning of each row, because that caused huge gaps to appear in the bag.

pumpkin crochet trick or treat bag

I made this pumpkin by free-wheeling it. It is pretty small, and would be best for a baby or toddler. (My mom insisted I add a Jack-O-Lantern face, but after several failed attempts, I quit.)

frankenstein crochet trick or treat bag

I made Frankie by following this very easy pattern, which I have used many times before, and just adding my own embellishments. He turned out okay … he’s not my favorite.

crochet trick or treat bag monster 1
All the better to see you with …

crochet trick or treat bag monster 2

I made this mummy/monster without a pattern. I just took a few ideas I saw on Pinterest (chain handle, wrapped eye, dangling eyeball) and combined them into one thing. This may be too creepy for a little girl … though I think I would have liked it as a kid.

I made a minion.

minion crochet kids trick or treat bag.JPG

I think the minion is so cute that I may scrap the idea of making each girl a unique bag, and just making them all minions. (Isn’t that what a minion is, anyway? One of many?)

I don’t know … would anyone like to share an opinion? Which do you like best?

Happy Halloween! I watched The Shining and The Sixth Sense this weekend with some friends … both excellent movies I hadn’t seen in a long time. 🙂 I hope you are having fun celebrating!

Friday Gratitude: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Anyone who knows me knows I love autumn and Halloween! 🙂

I played Halloween Bingo with my students, which was naturally a big hit. We used craft googly eyes as place markers. Halloween is celebrated here in Kosovo, but not as widely as in the U.S.

Halloween Bingo with googly eyes.JPG

Media Consumption this week:

  • My friend, Katie, had suggested I try reading Daniel Silva. I finished the second book in his series, The English Assassin. Silva’s books are spy thrillers set in cities all over Europe. Very fun reading.
  • I watched a little Broad City and, after about a million recommendations, finally watched a few episodes of Master of None. It is funny. 🙂

There is a stray cat I keep seeing in our yard. I was finally able to get close enough to pet him. He drooled. (I have that affect on everyone.) 🙂

cat Kosovo mace 1
Mew mew
cat kosovo mace 2
Nice eyeliner, cat

Wednesday was the “fest for family,” which means my host family had a big dinner. I don’t know if this is something Kosovo-wide, or maybe it just happens in the Catholic communities. I know I ragged on the food here a bit in Monday’s post. However, the desserts are spot on. This week, I had baklava (people seemed shocked to know I’ve had it in the U.S.) and tre leches cake (which my host mother made after I requested it.) 🙂

baklava kosovo dessert

I am spending the weekend in Pristina with some friends. We are going to binge-watch Halloween movies and eat a home-cooked meal. 🙂

Happy Weekend! Enjoy the weather and your Halloween prep.

P.S. Monday’s blog post will be a fun one … stay tuned! 🙂

My 5-Day Food Diary

Last week, I decided to keep a 5-day food diary to give you an idea of what it is like to live and eat in Kosovo.

(Note: At times, I am posting old photos or photos from other sites. I didn’t want to weird out my host mother by taking pictures of the meals she cooked.)

Also, I didn’t include snacks. I eat chocolate. A lot of it.

Monday

Breakfast: banana + a cup of coffee

Lunch: 2 speca (peppers), two small tomatoes with salt, a big hunk of homemade cheese, several glasses of milk

Dinner: A bowl of pasule (traditional bean stew here in Kosovo) with white bread and one glass of milk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Pasule (Photo Credit: Albania Adventure)

Tuesday

Breakfast: banana +  a cup of coffee

Lunch: Two pieces of reheated dough filled with egg (leftover from Sunday breakfast) and two glasses of milk

Dinner: Two fried eggs, a hunk of homemade cheese, and several glasses of milk

Kosovo food 2
Lunch: Reheated dough and egg

Wednesday

Breakfast: a cup of dry Cheerios + a cup of coffee

Lunch: one speca (pepper), one bowl of leftover pasule, 2 glasses of milk

Dinner: one bowl of leftover pasule, 1 glass of milk

Thursday

Breakfast: a cup of dry Cheerios +  a cup of coffee

Lunch: I was in Pristina to work, which means I got to have a treat! I had a falafel sandwich from one of my favorite restaurants, Babaganoush. HEAVEN.

Dinner: Flia (traditional Kosovo food that’s just layers of dough cooked over an open flame)

Babaganoush Pristina Kosovo
Lunch at Babaganough. YUM!

#food #Kosovo #flia

A post shared by April Gardner (@hellofromkosovo) on

Friday

Breakfast: a cup of dry Cheerios +  a cup of coffee

Lunch: 1-1/2 (cold) fried eggs (ugh, couldn’t finish them), ½ of a tomato with salt, a piece of cheese, a piece of leftover flia, and a glass of milk

Dinner: penne pasta mixed with cheese and a glass of milk

Kosovo food 1
Lunch

Eating a healthy diet is something with which I struggle in Kosovo. I live on a mini-farm. All the produce and meat I eat is organic, so you think it would be healthy, right? Some problems are:

  • Kosovars consume a HUGE amount of white bread.
  • Food is prepared with a lot of oil. If I were going to scramble an egg at home, for example, I would use a tablespoon of olive oil. When my host mother makes eggs, she dumps about 1/3 of the bottle into the pan. (I am not exaggerating.)
  • Americans eat a lot of sugar, yours truly included. But the amount of sugar I’ve seen Kosovars consume is staggering. If you can out-sugar an American, you are eating way too much sugar.
  • I am not vegetarian, but I try to avoid meat as much as I can in Kosovo. I don’t like the way it is prepared. It manages to be stringy, overcooked, and greasy all at the same time.
  • I think of a “meal” as being protein + starch + vegetable, but I don’t consistently get all three.

I hate having so little control over what I eat and when I eat. But cooking for myself would be difficult because:

  • There is no grocery store in my village.
  • Meals are the only time I really spend with my host family.
  • I think my host mother would be offended if I stopped eating her food.
  • I am not allowed to use the electric stove (too expensive), the gas stove is broken, and I don’t know how to cook on a wood stove.

Grocery shopping and cooking have always been two chores I’ve hated. Now, however, I am looking forward to that day in the future when I finally live alone again (!!!) and can prepare a meal for myself. I’m gonna put Jose Gonzalez on the stereo, pour myself a glass of white wine, and weep for joy as I cook.

Friday Gratitude: And then there was a sheep …

“She left in the fall,
that’s her picture on the wall.
She always had that little drop of poison.” — Tom Waits

Because a barking dog and a crowing rooster weren’t enough … we had to add a bleating sheep to the mix. This is “Sheepie” (the name I use), who my host family purchased a few weeks ago. Don’t get too attached … Sheepie is scheduled to be slaughtered for some festival that’s happening December 5th.

sheep tractor kosovo

I finally stored away my summer clothes in order to create more space in my wardrobe. I didn’t bother doing that last fall, since I didn’t have a lot of clothing then. Since I’ve been living in Kosovo, I’ve purchased a few things, and I also brought back more clothes when I visited the U.S. I only have two shelves on which to store my clothes (the top shelf is for lines; the bottom for toiletries), so things were getting out of control. I feel much better now that things are thinned out and organized.

wardrobe

Media consumption this week …

  • I re-read The Time Traveler’s Wife, for the third time, I think. I was reading ferociously but then got stuck in the middle of a book I didn’t like and nothing seemed appealing. My goal is 52 books this year, so I’ve got to get back on it.
  • I finished the first season of Riviera. The ending was ridiculous.

Happy weekend!

Me, too

I’ve spent the last several days reading about Harvey Weinstein’s deplorable behavior and feeling sick to my stomach. As part of a larger social media movement, I shared a few examples of sexual harassment I’ve experienced to my Facebook page. I debated whether or not to share those stories here, but have decided against it because my blog is public. I don’t feel comfortable going into detail here. However, I do want to say I think the #metoo movement is an important one. I would encourage men who might be reading this to talk to the women in your lives, and ask if they will share their stories with you. Sexual harassment is something that happens to women all the time. In spite of some of the difficult stories I have read this week, I am happy they have opened a much-needed discussion.

Teaching Inspiration from the Best

This summer, I spent some time watching episodes of Sesame Street with my 12-year-old host cousin in order to help her with her English. It had been years since I’d seen the show (go figure). One interesting thing I observed is this: there is no common theme for each episode. Each skit operates as its own thing. I was starting to think of how I wanted to structure the English course I would be teaching at the orphanage in the fall, and this observation gave me hope.

I don’t love teaching. It’s okay. I can do it. But I don’t love it. I especially don’t love lesson planning (not that that really matters … lesson planning isn’t much of a thing here in Kosovo). I struggle to take one idea (for example: how to tell time) and stretch it into an entire class period with enough worksheets, games, etc. to keep students interested.
Sesame Street gave me an idea: since the course at the orphanage isn’t part of school (and I don’t have to follow a curriculum), why not structure it using a hodgepog of activities, rather than trying to commit to one theme every week?

But … what hodgepog of activities to do? I decided that each week would follow the same structure, but with each “lesson” being its own thing. I am now in my fourth week of teaching the course, and here is what I have been doing each week.

1. Each week, I pick 5-6 new flashcards to teach. We start each class by reviewing the flashcards from last week. We review them together, and then I go around the room and quiz each student.

beginning flashcards
Sesame Street flashcards

2. My friend, Sierra, put together this brilliant ABC booklet. A bunch of us have made copies of it. Each week, I give each student a different letter, and they have to practice writing it and then writing all the words they know that begin with that letter.

ABC
ABCs

a. (When we finish the alphabet, I plan to move on to the 50 states, using Xerox copies of an awesome workbook I bought at Target this summer when I was home.)

state worksheets
50 States

3. My mom had the awesome idea to send me a “Where’s Waldo?” book. I’ve copied several of the pictures. I hand them out to students and ask them to find different things in the pictures. “Find a man in a red hat.” “Find a woman in a green dress with a brown dog.” Etc.

waldo
Where’s Waldo?

4. I take out 5-6 new flashcards and we practice those as a group, and then individually.

5. I play a song for them twice in English. The first time, they just listen. The second time, I tell them to listen for a specific word or words, and count how many times it is repeated within the song. Songs I have played for them so far are: “Roar” by Katy Perry; “In My Room” by the Beach Boys; and “We are Family” by Sister Sledge. (Tomorrow’s song will be “Monster Mash.”)

jamberry speaker male-to-male plug
Trusty Jamberry speaker + iPhone

6. I read them a story from this easy reader I bought in the U.S. (I think it was at Five Below.) Then, I ask them follow-up questions about the story.

I have a tutoring background but no teaching background. I don’t know what the best pedagogical approaches are to teaching a new language. So, someone out there with more knowledge may argue in favor of a traditional, single-themed lesson plan. But, I’ve been having fun teaching in this more free-style way, and the students seem to like it, too.

SOS
Photo taken by the orphanage

I feel like I should clarify something: The orphanage where I volunteer has several locations, and the one where I teach is not a childcare facility. It is just an office. At our location, the organization focuses on family strengthening programs to keep at-risk families together. I refer to it as “the orphanage,” though, because I want to maintain privacy by not using the organization’s name.