Monthly Archives: March 2007

Vamos a Mexico!


Well, I have received a Fund for Teachers Grant! I found out about it this past Tuesday by mail. I didn’t think I would hear anything until today or later. As far as I know, I am the only person in our school system that applied for a grant. Here is my project description:

“I would like to travel to Central Mexico for five weeks this summer. I will study Spanish for four weeks at the Baden-Powell Institute in Morelia, Mexico. There, I will enroll in one-on-one instruction for 20 hours a week. I have chosen a private course because it is more intensive. Individual instruction will allow me to tailor my course, including asking to learn the vocabulary necessary for conducting interviews in Spanish on the various topics I have chosen.

I will rent an apartment in Morelia for one month instead of opting for a homestay. Apartment rental will allow me wireless Internet access and the space to plan. I will also have the space I need to practice crafts projects and to organize my notes without disturbing a family household. A rental is much less expensive than a hotel stay. I will also have the ability to come and go as my project demands and an apartment will provide secure storage of my laptop computer, camcorder, and other equipment.

When I am not in class, I will visit Morelia and nearby towns to research the state of Michoacan, which is famed for its arts and crafts. In Morelia, I plan to visit the Museum of Arts and Culture, which houses displays of craft specialties from all towns in the region. I will also visit the Mask Museum and the Museum of Sweets, which is a museum of Morelia’s candy-making legacy. I will visit the Government Palace, which houses three murals painted by Michoacan artist Alfredo Zalce, with portray different periods in the history of Mexico. Morelia is also known for its ice cream. I will visit La Michoacana, one of many of a popular chain of ice cream parlors, to write an article on ice cream.

I plan to visit Patzcuaro on two different weekends, as there is so much to see and do in the area. Patzcuaro is the center of craft making in Michoacan. I will visit The House of the 11 Patios, which is a former 17th century convent now converted into a regional center offering high quality craftwork. I plan to interview and videotape the artisans at work. I will also record and document the “Dance of the Old Men”, a spectacle which is performed daily. I hope to interview some of the dancers who are the same age as my students. Patzcuaro is home to the statue of Don Vasco de Quiroga, the Catholic priest who organized a plan for the indigenous people to learn a craft so that villages could support themselves. Another opportunity for research is the Juan O’Gorman mural in the town library.

From Patzcuaro, I will visit the surrounding villages with Francisco Castilleja, a professional tour guide. Francisco specializes in eco-tourism, and knows a lot of interesting information about the geography and ecology of the Patzcuaro Lake area. He and his wife support the arts and agriculture among the citizens of the surrounding villages. Their mission there includes teaching arts and crafts to the local children. With Francisco, I will visit the home of a mask maker in Tocuaro. I will also see the ancient monastery and the Aztec ruins in Tzintzuntzan, a town know for its wood carving and straw crafts. Santa Clara del Cobre is where copper craft is practiced, and Paracho is the guitar making center of the state. In Uruapan, lacquer bowls and boxes are painted. I plan on documenting and purchasing examples of these crafts. If there is tiime, I would like to visit Janitzio, an island in the middle of Lake Patzcuaro that is famous for its Day of the Dead celebration.

I plan to visit the city of Guadalajara for a weekend. This city in the state of Jalisco is famous for its music and dancing. I would like to research the Jarabe Tapatio – a famous regional dance and to videotape a group of dancers during a performance. Mariachi music is also from the state of Jalisco. I would like to videotape a band of mariachis, and to write an informative piece that describes the various instruments used by the band members.

After my language course in Morelia is finished, I will visit the state of Puebla. I have friends that own a large house in Atlixco, which is a town not far from the city of Puebla. For that week, I will be staying with them and using Atlixco as a base for further research. While visiting my friends in Atlixco, I will have the unique opportunity to tour my friends’ home, which is a former hacienda and working flour mill. I would like to photograph the hacienda grounds and interior. I would also like to interview my hostess, who is a strong advocate for historical preservation in the area.

Puebla is another Mexican state rich in art and culture. It is the center of the Talavera pottery industry. There, I will research the craft and collect samples of local work. There are also many retablo artists in the area. Retablos are primitive paintings illustrating and giving thanks for miracles or grace, with a short narrative of the event at the bottom of the painting. I plan on utilizing retablo art in my program, so I would like to meet an artist and to purchase samples of the paintings.

I plan to write a profile of artist Amparin Serrano – founder of Distroller, a retail store that incorporates Mexican culture and religious icons in jewelry and fashion design. As part of my research, I will visit the Distroller store in Puebla. There are so many other possible subjects and places of interest to include in my visit. This is the home of “Cinco de Mayo” which is the annual commemoration of the Battle of Puebla. Puebla also has a popular Day of the Dead festival. The two volcanoes, Ixta and Popo, are nearby as well. From Puebla, I will return to Mexico City, where I will catch my return flight.”

Pretty impressive, huh? My husband is going with me. Maybe, the dog will go, too. The apartment we are renting allows pets. That is what I am trying to decide now. If we drive from Atlanta to Morelia, that will be about 5 days and 1800 miles – whew! When I was 12, my parents took us in a van from Lafayette, Louisiana to Mexico and we spent one month driving around the country. I know that it is do-able, but that will add 10 days to our already 5 week adventure!

If we fly, Delta won’t allow animals in cargo beyond May, so the dog probably can’t go with us. Then I have to decide whether to board her or ask someone to house-sit or whatever. I am sure it will all work out!

I started on Spring Break early yesterday with a teacher workday and a trip to IKEA. I am ready to get organized!!!



Swap Bot


I have had a pretty good week at school – we finally finished the abridged version of Tom Sawyer and I showed them the movie of Huckleberry Finn.  It was an old TV movie with Ron Howard as Huck Finn and Donny Most as Tom Sawyer.  They were a WHOLE lot bigger (older) than they were in the Tom Sawyer musical!  Although I assured my students that this was not a musical, there was a song called “Mississippi” that sounded like it was sung by Glenn Campbell.

Have I mentioned that I have yet to rid my brain of the Tom Sawyer music from the video I showed two weeks ago?  It’s pretty maddening.

I have spent my commutes listening to NPR and also to the cassette books on tape of the Magic Treehouse books I am thinking of springing on my students.  I find the voice assigned to the little sister very annoying, and I am not used to hearing “said” so many times, but I have to say that the stories are picking up in interest.  I am listening to Books 13 through 16, where Jack and Annie visit Ancient China (think terra cotta soldiers), Pompeii (just in time for the eruption of Vesuvius), and Ancient Greece (for the Olympics).  I still have to listen to the Viking story.  The annoying thing is that most of the cassettes are not properly rewound, so I am listening to the stories out of sequence.

I finally mailed off my contributions to the April Sampler, but almost forgot to put up my logo and blurb.  I sent 25 sets of two postcards each, and 25 Easter Bells.  Those took the longest time – although we are not allowed to send foodstuffs through the Sampler, I still felt like I needed to fill the bells with Easter grass and to pack them with cellophane and ribbon.  I printed out cards, packaged the things up in two shoeboxes, and left early Wednesday morning to mail them.

Last weekend, I got caught up with the Crafty Pod – Sister Diane’s podcast of all things crafty.  I was really excited to hear about a site called Swap Bot.  There, instead of searching the web for interesting exchanges of art, etc., you can browse the listings and decide which swaps you want to take part in.  It’s awesome!   There is a rating system out of 5, and apparently it is a difficult thing being a “newbie.”  I was already “banned” from a paper swap because I had not rating.  That’s there loss, because I have LOTS and LOTS of awesome papers.

I have signed up for an ATC (Artist Trading Card) swap, and I have two months to produce 20 cards to be distributed.  So I am going to find more swaps to do, in order to get a rep!  There is everything from penpal swaps to recipe swaps, to filled Easter Egg swaps, all sorts of swaps!!!  If I stick with it, I would like to organize a Loteria swap!

Yesterday, I spent a lot of time working on some digital collaging.  I am printing the results out in ATC size (2.5 by 3.5 inches) and am going to hand color them.  I really love my Guadalupe card, as well as the dragon card and peacock card I came up with.  I am about to go downstairs and watch a Bob Moog documentary with my husband, so coloring might just be the thing I need to do while doing that!

Easter Bells and The Sampler


This weekend has been a bust so far – well, work-wise, that is. I have slept until almost noon yesterday and today. Yesterday, my husband, the dog, and I drove to Dallas (GA) to visit our Brazilian friends. I brought cake and belated birthday gifts for the two youngest sons (Magic Treehouse and Time Warp Trio books, of course…). We stayed for a couple of hours, then drove back home.

That took up the whole afternoon. I really wanted to take a nap when we got home, but I had dinner, THEN went to bed to read the latest Prevention magazine. Even getting to bed as early as that, I slept late today! Man, I’m old!05c8d56d08.jpg

The weather today is gorgeous, as it was yesterday. I plan on doing some painting out on the back porch. I have two Blue Dog Shrines sold that I need to decorate, and I am also going to work on a set of samples to send to The Sampler. I haven’t done that in a couple of months, and it really is good exposure. I am sending 25 sets of Loteria Quilt postcards, 25 sets of recipe cards to promote my Pour Deux baker (photos coming soon), and 25 sets of wooden painted eggs and 25 decorated bells to promote my Easter Bells.

Cloches volantes or Flying Bells are another important part of the French Easter tradition. French Catholic have a tradition that on Good Friday all the church bells in France miraculously fly to the Vatican in Rome. They carry with them all the misery and grief of those who mourn Jesus’ crucifixion on that day. These flying French bells then return on Easter morning in time for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. They of course bring with them lots of chocolate and eggs which are left in yards for the children to collect in their baskets when they wake up in the morning. In keeping with the tradition, French church bells do not ring from Good Friday to Easter morning.

There is a great article by Susan Hermann Loomis (of On Rue Tatin fame) called Bells and Fishes that addresses this strange tradition.

Two years ago, I sold my bells filled with Hershey’s Kisses and wrapped in cellophane with irridescent Easter grass and colorful curling ribbon. I also included a card with an explanation of the tradition. I really need to move them – but first, I need to decorate them!

Typical Temptations


Today was an early release day – the kids left at 11:30. I had some research to do for the history/literature lesson plan I am doing, so I left early to do that. And, to have lunch with my mom – sushi at Ru San. After that, I went to a Barnes and Noble store to fill in the gaps of my research books and to buy a birthday gift for a friend’s kids.

I went to a lovely shopping center called The Forum – it’s one of those new shopping centers that has the outside of the stores facing a boulevard. As long as I was there, I decided to check out the Pier One Kids store. I had seen some table top croquet sets. I had bought some of those, along with the ring toss sets, a couple of years ago, but then I gave them away as gifts. Then, I decided to teach Alice in Wonderland to my class, and they didn’t know what croquet was. Of course, the only ones I could find online were ridiculously expensive. Now I have three and theymchelleframe were only $5 each.

While I was there, I spied the irresistable: a wooden frame with hinged doors. When I had the shrine frame drought, and before I ordered the ones from China, I was all over the internet looking for a substitute. And look at this: hand carved, with easel AND hanging brad, with louvers. Now, I will have to find a way to put a panel over the inside of the louvers, but it’s a cute outside. Now on sale for $5!!! Typical!

I bought all three that they had left, and also found out that they do not send their clearance items to the Pier 1 Imports Clearance Store (right around the corner from where I live). I went home and went online to see about ordering more. Of course, there are no more online, and no more at the only other Pier 1 Kids in the vicinity. I could start calling stores, but I am trying to get a grip. I put in a request to be alerted when they are available again online – but I will probably do a little calling around… It’s what I do. And on top of that, I had just paid off my Pier 1 Platinum card, only to charge more today!

Time to Organize (No, really, I mean it!)


I finally got in touch with one of my friends who has just sold her house. And now, she is coming to spend the night in my guest room on Tuesday night. My guestroom is also my studio. Let’s just say that, at the moment, it is in no condition to receive guests. In particular, my bathroom has paint stains in the sink, and boxes of skulls and coffins in the tub.

My husband and I have just about finished cleaning the middle floor, but I have only just begun to work on my office. For one thing, I decided to put together some left-over plastic shelving and put it in the room. Believe me – this is challenge. I currently have a large corner computer desk on one side of the room, flanked by a conglomeration of storage to the right. I have taken an old table/desk and stacked a 3 tier folding bookshelf on top of it. I also had two table/shelves from Pier One standing next to each other – each with another storage unit stacked on top. I do have one tall bookshelf, and a couple of tables – Oh, and the qu32663194_tp.jpgeen-sized sleeper sofa. So, space along the walls is tight.

I am really good at organizing things – when they are somewhere else. I have organized and coordinated all of the National Geographic books in our department – and there are about 300-600 of those. I have also organized and inventoried all of our readers and reading materials, and prepared some items to go to the high school. And, just this past week, I have sought out and made a list of all of the Time Warp Trio and Magic Treehouse series chapter books with the idea of using them in a project.

Yesterday, while at Goodwill (looking for books), the children’s books were in such chaos that I started to straighten them up – I had done two shelves, and then I saw a Goodwill worker start to straighten from the other side. He was wearing rubber gloves. I then started wondering where the little hands that handle the book had been… So I stopped, and went to wash my hands. I ended up leaving with a silk skirt from Nieman-Marcus, a Donna Buchman jacket (black lace over chartreuse fabric – pretty funky!), and a silk leopard print blouse. The skirt is too small, but I couldn’t resist – I will probably pass it on to my niece. It probably cost $100 or more at the store.

So, I have been wondering if maybe I should be a media specialist. I really do like finding materials and sharing them with colleagues – whether they want them or not… I like books, and I like buying books. I also like kids, but would not be sad to have a limited contact with them. The library ladies at our school always seem to be having a good time- and they don’t have to let a student in unless he has a pass. When classes are there, the teacher is supposed to be the disciplinarian. I think the only thing that would get me down is the graffiti and loss of books.

So, time to get to work! I also have some E-Bay sales to ship and some more items to put up for auction.

Title III Funds


But, first, a word from our sponsor:  Check out my E-Bay auctions!  I got all of last week’s orders off and feel all caught up – well, except for cleaning house, paying bills, etc.37162387_tp.jpg

Anyway… Last week, I was confronted with the ESOL teacher’s yearly dilemma:  Surprise! Title III funds!  These are government funds provided to schools to spend on special programs – to the best of my knowledge.  Apparently, ESOL is not the top priority, so what is left over after spending is offered to us – within a limited window of time.

Now, in the past, this window has been open for a couple of days – we would be informed that each of us had a certain amount to spend – I think that I once had $3000?  But if we didn’t get the purchase orders in at a specific time, then the funds disappeared – lost forever!

Well, I think it was Tuesday, I got an e-mail at 12:00 noon from the school secretary, informing me of the surprise money.   I and my colleague who teaches the 8th graders were offered $850 each to spend.  But THIS TIME, the orders had to be in by 2:00 PM. You heard me – TWO HOURS!  To make it even more complicated, my partner in spending was out for the day.  She almost came in, but she was on the other side of town – there was no way she would make it!  So I was put in charge of spending the whole $1700.

Now, lucky for me, I was prepared this year.  I had been eye-ing some items to order from Oxford University Press – I am really into their Bookworms series.  So, first of all, I ordered an SRA Reading Laboratory kit – some of you may remember doing SRA reading in grade school – they also have it for middle and high school.  That, right away, took care of half of the funding money – those kits are EXPENSIVE!

Then, I ordered class sets of the Oxford Bookworms Graded Readers that I had ordered sample copies of – it is tricky, because most of the books are aimed at college students with low reading levels.  I ended up getting Tom Sawyer, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, Dracula, and a few more.  Then I got some graphic novel type books – one of Mu-lan and one of Sinbad.  They are really cool.

Long story short – I made the deadline.  But it was close.  Now, I wonder how long it will take for the books to get here.  I’m still waiting for the Office Depot order I submitted in December…

This week, as you can tell, was pretty much a school-centered week.  As usually happens after vacation, I spent my Monday morning commute pondering the question, “What the HELL am I going to do with my students today?”  Since we had finished chapters 1-6 in Tom Sawyer (it’s another graded reader – the real Tom Sawyer is way too difficult for an ESOL student to read!) on the Friday before vacation, I decided to have my students re-read those chapters and summarize them.

This was not easy.  In fact, I altered the assignment several times during the week – because I was determined not to give up!  I went and spent $40 on color-coded Post-It Notes for students to do mini summaries of Chapter sections, only to encounter comments like:  “You mean, I have to write this TWICE? That’s a waste of time!” and “I don’t LIKE pink!”  But I forged on and most of my students were finished summarizing all 6 chapters by yesterday!

An added bonus was that my principal happened to be making the rounds, showing some dignitary the classrooms, and he came in while my students were busily writing on Post-It notes and color-coding things.  He was very impressed, I could tell.