Monthly Archives: August 2007

The Fleur de Lis


Now that I am teaching French, I am trying to find interesting things for my students to read about. Tonight, I am researching the Fleur de Lis. I may even have my students do some sort of coloring – maybe on a large blank fleur de lis.

Most of this information is gleaned from internet sources.  It would be up to me to outline and write my own little article.  I have no idea whether or not this will interest my students – they are very unpredictable.  Actually, some of my new students are New Orleans transplants – courtesy of Hurricane Katrina – so they should be familiar with the symbol.

The Fleur-de-Lis History
The English translation of “fleur-de-lis” (sometimes spelled “fleur-de-lys”) is “flower of the lily.” This symbol, depicting a stylized lily or lotus flower, has many meanings. Traditionally, it has been used to represent French royalty, and in that sense it is said to signify perfection, light, and life.
In the twelfth century, either King Louis VI or King Louis VII (sources disagree) became the first French monarch to use the fleur-de-lis on his shield. English kings later used the symbol on their coats of arms to emphasize their claims to the throne of France. In the 14th century, the fleur-de-lis was often incorporated into the family insignia that was sewn on the knight’s surcoat, thus the term, “coat of arms.”

This is from Fleur de Lis Creations, a jewelry and accessories website:

Fleur de Lis Facts
•The fleur de lis is the emblem for the city of New Orleans, with even more meaning now because of the rebuilding efforts of the people of the city since Hurricane Katrina.
•The fleur de lis is the emblem representing the New Orleans Saints Football Team.
Joan of Arc carried a white banner that showed God blessing the French royal emblem, the fleur-de-lis, when she led French troops to victory over the English in support of the Dauphin, Charles VII, in his quest for the French throne.
•The Roman Catholic Church ascribed the lily as the special emblem of the Virgin Mary.
•Due to its three “petals,” the fleur-de-lis has also been used to represent the Holy Trinity.
•Military units, including divisions of the United States Army, have used the symbol’s resemblance to a spearhead to identify martial power and strength.
•The fleur de lis is inseparable from the history of scouting.


Changing Gears


About a week ago today, I received some disturbing and upsetting news from my school administrators.  Believe it or not, our system’s numbers for ESOL students have dropped.  I don’t quite know the reasons for this, but I was aware that as of last week I had only 19 to 20 students in my classes (total).  I was NOT aware that there is a (new?) minimum class number that can be funded by Title III, which supports ESOL education.  That number is 7 – 20 divided by 4 is only 5.

Actually, I DO know that Cobb County has taken several actions to discourage immigrant populations from rising.  The local government is cracking down on day laborer pick up spots, deporting immigrants who have any kind of interaction within the legal system, limiting the number of occupants per house, etc.  Interestingly enough, developers in Marietta (and other cities in and around Atlanta) are buying up property and replacing single family homes and old apartments with townhome and craftsman communities where each residence sells for $300,000 to $500,000 per place.  Who can afford that?

As I mentioned in another blog post, our school system is currently working toward becoming a Middle Years Programme school, and all students now are required to take a foreign language.  Our school has hired another Spanish teacher to teach traditional Spanish, and another to man a language lab utilizing the Rosetta Stone software to teach languages.  At first, he was teaching all of the languages: Spanish and French (I think they will not get German until next year).  But class numbers got too out of control, so they decided to hire another Spanish teacher, as well as a French teacher to take over the Rosetta Stone for French students.

Guess who also has a certification in French, K-12?  You got it…

I am not going to belabor the subject, but is has taken a while to get over the shock of having to change teaching preps after two weeks of school have already passed.  I have a wonderful set of ESOL students, and we have already bonded a bit.  I held my first ever “birthday celebration” the week before last, passing out cupcakes I made for my students. I also received a belated gift from one of my students the day I found out that the change was a fait accompli.  I have moved into a new room, made plans to use my new SRA kit and laid the seeds for the new Autobiography Project.

Let’s not forget as well my summer spent in Mexico on a Fund for Teachers grant.  The purpose:  To learn better Spanish and to research Hispanic art forms to use in my ESOL classroom.  Fantastic.  I will now, instead, be teaching French mostly via computer program – in the computer lab.  But, the good news is that I don’t have to move out of my current classroom.  I also am supposed to be re-instated as an ESOL teacher next year.  We’ll see about that.

So, this should be an interesting year.  I have not taught French in 6 years – and that was an exploratory program.  I have already started looking for projects for my students to do to explore French culture.  Luckily, I kept my folders on heraldry (the language of heraldry is derived from French), French fairy tales, and Louisiana’s French heritage.  I also have all of those Easter bells that we can make in the spring.  I am looking for webquests and anything else that my students can access online and work on from a computer.  I may go back to E-Pals, and have classes correspond with Francophone classrooms around the world.  I also will have them use Power Point and maybe Publisher (if we have it) to create presentations.  Oh, and I think we have Timeliner as well.  Oh, and I just bought a book about interesting ideas for country projects.  I’m sure everything will work out fine.

Here is a version of the famous jeu de l’oie (goose game) in honor of this event:  More on that later!


My newest creation


I was in JoAnn Fabrics and looking through the dollar bins at the cassquidpuzzleamall.jpgh register.  I had seen these little mazes before, but yesterday I had an idea.  I first bought one, brought it home and checked to see if the plastic cover would pop off.  It did, with the help of a finger nail file. Then I went back to JoAnn’s and bought more.

I was prepared to pay $1 each for them, but I noticed as the cashier was ringing them up that some were $1 and some were 50 cents.  So I stopped her to see what the difference was.  The ones that were $1 were safari animals and were the newer design, but they were mixed with the “summer” themed mazes, which were going for half off.  I had her take the $1 ones off of my bill, then went over and sorted the puzzles, buying 83 of the 50 cent ones.  Luckily, it was a weekday morning, so I didn’t hold many people up!

Now I have made them into mini shrines!  I had a lot of dismembered (or should I say, incomplete) Virgins of Guadalupe from the edges of my Alexander Henry fabric that I use for a lot of my shrines and other projects.  I hate to throw away scraps, because you never know when you can use those little pieces. I had already cut around the head of one of the scraps and used that to put in a shadowbox.  So I went through and found any spare Virgin faces and I cut those out and put them in the boxes.

blueguadalupeminishrineforinternet.jpgThe boxes are painted and I have used a variety of colors. Of course, I added the obligatory glitter, then I put some mini paper roses that I had lying around inside and put the plastic cover back on. The only thing added since I took the photo below are a few more glitter glue dots on the outside of the frame – oh, and I will varnish them, too.

I decided to put something on the backs of the shrines, so that they could stand alone.  The back is cut from a holographic folder, one of many I bought at WalMart for use “someday”.  My challenge was to not put too much in the shrines, as they are so small.  I have tons of sequins, and may make sequin flowers later if I cannot buy more of the tiny paper ones.  I remember buying them on sale at Hobby Lobby, so they may be discontinued.

I have been wanting to take part in the Art-O-Mat project for ages, and I think this will be just the ticket.  I will sign and number them, of course.  At 2 1/8th inch squared and 5/8ths inch deep, it fits into the regulation box (since they use recycled cigarette machines, the box has to be that size.).  It is a tiny bit snug on the sides, but I will make it work.  People purchase the art with a token worth $5 and I will get 1/2 of that.

It will also be good publicity.  My name will be up on the Art-O-Mat contributors site. I will also put some literature with it in the box so that the buyer can be referred to my other websites.  It could be really to get accepted, I have to send in a prototype, boxed and wrapped in cellophane. There’s also an application to fill out.

The Art-O-Mat site tells you to wait to make more, but I am also going to sell them on E-Bay and Etsy.  I plan to sign the ones I make for those sites, but I will make a limited number for the Art-O-Mat and sign and number them.  I don’t know how many I will make – the minimum is 50.  I am supposed to receive checks quarterly, I think, but I am not really doing it for the income.  I think it is an awesome project.  We have only one here in Atlanta – at Whole Foods on Briarcliff.  I believe I wrote a blog entry about it a couple of months ago.

Book and Video Shopping Sprees!


Recent book and video purchases for my classroom:  I know I have seemed to go a bit nuts, but I take time to figure out whether or not to buy the books second hand.  Amazon Shops usually charge $3.99 for shipping.

Petty Crimes by Gary Soto
101 Spanish Proverbs by Eduardo Aparicio
The Day it Snowed Tortillas: Folktales told in Spanish and English by Joe Hayes
Creepy Creatures and other Cucuys by Xavier Garza
See What You Say: English and Spanish Idioms by Nancy Maria Grande Tabor
Fiesta Feminina: Celebrating Women in Mexican Folktale by Mary-Joan Gerson
Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask by Xavier Garza
Crossing the Wire by Will Hobbs
Directory of Grants for Crafts and How to Write a Winning Proposal by James Dillehay
Horse Hooves and Chicken Feet: Mexican Folktales by Neil Philip
In Few Words: A Compendium of Latino Folk Wit and Wisdom by Jose Antonio Burciaga
Family Pictures by Carmen Lomas Garza
Neighborhood Odes by Gary Soto
Orange Candy Slices and Other Secret Tales by Viola Canales
Truth and Salsa by Linda Lowery
Folk Wisdom of Mexico by Gary Soto
Roni’s Sweet Fifteen by Janet Quin-Harkin
First Crossing: Stories about Teen Immigrants by Donald R. Gallo

Bought with grant money:
Hands On Latin America: Art Activities for All Ages by Yvonne Y. Merrill
The Well of Sacrifice by Chris Eboch
Infinitas Gracias: Contemporary Mexican Votive Painting by Alfredo Vilchis Roque
Maya Designs (Coloring Book) by Wilson G. Turner
Rain Player by David Wisniewski
Ancient Mexican Designs Coloring Book (Dover Coloring Book) by Marty Noble
A Coloring Book of Incas, Aztecs and Mayas by Bellerophon Books
Decorative Tile Designs Coloring Book by Marty Noble
My First Book of Proverbs/Mi primer libro de dichos by Ralfka Gonzalez
Dichos: Proverbs and Sayings from the Spanish by Charles Aranda
Heart of a Jaguar by Marc Talbert
25 Latino Craft Projects (Celebrating Culture in Your Library Series) by Ana-Elba Pavon and Diana Borrego
Artesania Mexicana/The Mexican Craft Book: inspirations, Designs and step by step Projects by Tracy Marsh
Mexico: 40 Activities to Experience Mexico Past & Present (Kaleidoscope Kids) by Susan Milord
Life in Ancient Mexico Coloring Book (Dover Pictorial Archive Series) by John Green
Refranes y Dichos Mexicanos (Vagones)
Spanish Tile Designs in Full Color (Dover Pictorial Archives) By: Carol Belanger Grafton
Ancient Mexican Designs CD-ROM and Book (Dover Pictorial Archives)
Family Pictures, 15th Anniversary Edition / Cuadros de Familia, Edición Quinceañera by Pat Mora and Carmen Lomas Garza
Santos of Spanish New Mexico Coloring Book: English and Spanish Text by Al Chapman
Our Lady of Guadalupe(Coloring Book) by Mary Fabyan Windeatt
Mexico and Central America: A Fiesta of Cultures, Crafts, and Activities for Ages 8-12 by Mary C. Turck
Secrets of Ancient Cultures: The Maya–Activities and Crafts from a Mysterious Land by Arlette N. Braman
Calavera Abecedario: A Day of the Dead Alphabet Book by Jeanette Winter
Arts and Crafts of Mexico by Chloe Sayer
Making Magic Windows: Creating Cut-Paper Art With Carmen Lomas Garza
Now, I have to go home and make sure I received all of those books!

With Gov. Perdue’s card (teachers in GA now get a $100 credit card at the beginning of the year to buy classroom supplies):
Anne of Green Gables (DVD)
Treasure Island (DVD)
It’s All In The Frijoles: 100 Famous Latinos Share Real Life Stories, Time-Tested Dichos, and Favorite Folktales by Yolanda Nava
Short Reading Passages & Graphic Organizers to Build Comprehension: Grades 4 – 5 by Linda Ward Beech
La Llorona / The Weeping Woman by Joe Hayes
Little Women (DVD – Collector’s Edition)
A Little Princess (DVD)
Arabian Nights (DVD)
Black Beauty (DVD)

The DVD’s are to support the Oxford Bookworms Classics Texts that I have in my classroom!

Retablos and Tres Leches


I think that I have been on my new diet for almost a month.  I have not been perfect, but this morning I weighed in at 6 pounds lighter!  Let’s see if we can make it last!  Of course, I have been obsessively going to websites that offer nutritional information for frozen entrees (that’s what the diet revolves around – sort of a home-made Jenny Craig thing).  Anyone who has read my blog knows that I love to cook, but I am trying to refrain from too much food obsession.  I know that all of the frozen entree info collection seems like obsession, but at least it’s diet related!  😉

My birthday is coming up on Tuesday, and I am wondering about doing a little celebration at school with my students.  I have been thinking of doing this ever since our school system started choosing earlier and earlier start dates – my birthday used to only run into pre-planning!  We have advisement for the next week every morning for half an hour and I am thinking of doing something then.  I have 14 of my (current number of) 20 students in my advisement, and I would just have to send for the 6 others.  I don’t know yet.

One thing it may give me a chance to do is to make cupcakes!  I don’t think any enabling family member will get me the Cupcake Courier mentioned in this blog entry, but I may try the chongos zamoranos experiment – I have the chongos… (I provided the link again, in case anyone thought that was a euphemism.)  I also found a great looking recipe for tres leches cupcakes – I would omit the rum, of course.  Check the recipe out – it looks yummy!

Today, I ran errands, then came home and decided to try and finish some of the story boxes I started a year or so ago.  They are all done with Teresa Villegas’ new loteria, and I just needed to add some trinkets and found objects to the insides and decorate and sign the outsides.   I also have two new boxes that I made before my trip to Mexico – I used the traditional loteria with those, and need to do the same with them.  I spent a lot of time last week or the weekend before last organizing all of my trinkets.  I hope that makes them easier to use!fuecir.jpg

Tonight I have been surfing E-Bay, collecting more Ex Votos.  There is one E-Bay seller (Madreselva’s Mexican Folk Art) that sells “faux” ex votos – “thanks” paintings featuring amusing or bizarre scenarios.  I think they are all done by the same artist.  They are awesome and very colorful.   I just bought one with some of my grant money.  It was not too easy to find ex-votos this time in country – I bought two small ones, but I wanted a large one, too.

I love the stories – this one is about a circus fire.  The one I just bought was a thank you to San Antonio for finding someone a husband.  San Antonio seems to be a big theme with me right now – no, I’m not looking for another husband!  He’s also supposed to help people find things… (No, I still haven’t found my passport.).  We also were in Morelia during the Fiesta de San Antonio, and we went to the Rincon de los Solteronas, where there are many, MANY statues and images of San Antonio.

I also just love the city of San Antonio.  If it weren’t for global warming, I might have moved there!  I can barely stand the heat wave we’re having in Georgia right now.  I don’t know how I lived in Louisiana all that time!



I don’t know if I have mentioned this lately, but I have a couple of auctions up on E-Bay. I purchased some pulspinkescapulariofront.jpgeras (bracelets) from a guy in Guadalajara – they are very much like the Distroller pulseras. I also bought a couple of leather bracelets and two types of scapulars.  I had also bought a couple of other brands in Guanajuato – Blessed Bands and Chic-Wave.

Apparently, these cloth ribbon bracelets are very popular in Mexico.  They have them advertising soccer teams, political candidates, towns and states…  I have a feeling I’ve said this before…  I bought a couple of San Antonio ones as souvenirs of our visit to the Rincon de las Solteronas at San Miguel restaurant in Morelia.  I wish that I had bought more at the flea market in Guanajuato – they were not as inexpensive a the Coolceras, but there were a lot of them!  Oh, well!

I have had two days of school so far.  I am doing okay, because I am assessing.  That means  that I am giving tests… Yesterday, redescapulariofront.jpgI had them write something.  Today, I gave them a listening test.  Tomorrow, it’s grammar.  If I can find a reading assessment, I will.  So far, they are very cute, and my numbers are low.  I wonder if that will change on Monday.  Maybe there are people who think school starts then.   It does in Gwinnett County.

This year, our school is enforcing a uniform dress code.  It is very interesting.  We teachers are rejoicing.  We are so tired of sagging pants and baggy t-shirts on boys and too short and too revealing clothes on girls.  One time, I almost made a boy and a girl exchange tops:  He was wearing a t-shirt that was way too long, and she was wearing one that was way too short.  The teachers have the option of dressing in uniform, or of wearing business dress.  Dress down Fridays still hold – I am going to have to smarten up my casual wardrobe.  I am one of those people who favors sweat pants…

I love my new classroom – it’s quite large.  I also got an extra sofa moved in and put my patchwork quilt on it.  I have covered the bulletin boards with colorful tie-dye flannel and with plastic shower curtains (dichos and loteria from Zarela).  Now I have to figure out what to put on them.  But I have been busy organizing my papers and my teaching materials.  Maybe one day I will have a filing cabinet to put them in…  Well, nothing’s perfect!

Artemio Rodriguez loteria and other possible gifts…


2007loteria1.jpgHere is a possibility for a birthday gift! I have been tooling around the internet on Google, checking for loteria decks. I just found this at Mexican Sugar I already have one of Artemio Rodriguez’s books – a collection of woodcuts, many of them loteria cards. Some of the designs are definitely R-rated.

Artemio Rodriguez was born in Tacambaro, Michoacan Mexico in 1972. He began by studying agronomy at the Universidad Autonomo Chapingo and was later introduced to art when he apprenticed and learned letterpress printing from Juan Pasco, a master print maker working out of the Taller San Martin pescadoer near Rodriguez’s hometown.

As a print maker who works primarily in black and white, Rodriguez’s signature style emphasizes simplicity and clarity. European medieval woodcuts and the great Mexican print arti2007loteria3.jpgsts such as Jose Guadalupe Posada have been influential in Rodriguez’s print making career. Though comfortable working in a wide variety of artistic media, Rodriguez regards his ten years as a print maker as the beginning of a long quest. His larger goal is to keep exploring and promoting printmaking until he feels he has contributed something important to the medium. He fully expects this to take a lifetime. In 2002 he founded La Mano Press in Los Angeles California. La Mano Press is an artist-run center dedicated to the promotion and appreciation of printmaking.

Rodriguez’s work has been featured in galleries in the United States and Mexico. He has also illustrated and published several books. A long time ago, I found a woodcut that he made for his son. It was called The King of Things/El Rey de las Cosas. Now it has been published! Here is a link to a review. And tonight, I realized that a loteria game has been produced. This would make a great birthday gift! Hint, Hint.

Another thing I want – I saw it in Oprah magazine. It’s called the Cupcake Courier – it carries 3 dozen cupcakes!!! I know what you are saying: Celeste, aren’t you ocake_main1_sml.jpgn a diet? Yes, but why should everyone else suffer? I have only postponed my experimentation with cupcakes. I am very inspired by blogs like Chockylit’s Bake Shop – she is truly thinking out of the box. Dig this recipe: chocolate cupcake stuffed with ginger caramel, frosted with mango ganache, and topped with a mango-Ginger won ton.  Isn’t that fabulous?  I also found this bakery in Oakland, CA called Whiskie Bits – awesome sounding flavors!  Soon, I plan on playing around with Mexican caramel and a dessert called Chongos Zamoranos – making them into cupcakes!  For my students…

I am trying to think of other things I want for my birthday.  My mother has already gotten me this really cool Talavera plate of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Wheat just bought me a work chair for my desk.  I was thinking of giving myself a party, but after this week of unpacking boxes and sitting in training classes, I am already tired.  I wonder if I will have the energy to party after one full week of teaching classes…  I’m so lame.

Back to School


I have been back to school for the past three days. Tuesday was a “voluntary” teacher training day – we had training for the Middle Years Programme that our school system is adopting. The deal is that we don’t have to come on Dec. 21st if we were present Tuesday. Wednesday was more of the same, but in different groups. Also, Wednesday was the system “kick off” for the teachers. I received my 10 year pin – I can’t believe it’s been that long!!!

It does seem like a long time, however, since the day I started back to teaching as a “traveling” French and Spanish Connections teacher at the original Sixth Grade Academy. After four years, that program was canceled, and I became an ESOL teacher. In the past 10 years, I have gone from having only a shared office to sharing a classroom to losing that classroom and going back to the office. Then, I was housed in a trailer – I really liked my trailer (I would go in on weekends with my dog, and the only thing I lacked was a convenient restroom!).

Since our move to the old high school, I have had 3 official classroom changes (the one last year didn’t take and I stayed in the same classroom). So far, I have had two years per classroom. My new classroom is large, but has no windows. On the pro side, it has a LOT of electrical outlets – my last one only had three. There are also built in cabinets, shelves, counters, and a large closet, so that I have plenty of shelving with the things I bought last year. I finally had a little time to survey my place, and have started moving furniture around.

Today, I plugged in my microwave and tried to heat up lunch, only to find that the oven no longer seems to be able to heat. It was made in 1994, so I guess it’s time to say “RIP, old microwave.” I will need to buy a new one, because I am spoiled. I also really want to replace my fridge. I inherited my brother-in-law’s college fridge, which is a good size – it’s about 3 feet high – not a little one like I had in college. Still, it is getting old, and I am really coveting one of those shiny stainless steel babies at Costco.

I really need these things to keep on the straight and narrow on my diet.  I had a slip-up yesterday (ate school food and went to On the Border for dinner).  Then my husband showed me some of the video footage he took of me in Mexico.  I definitely need to lose weight!!!  So, I don’t want to blow it.

I have been on a strange schedule, because I am still living the late night owl life – watching Letterman and surfing the internet until after midnight.  Then, I have to get up early (6:00) in the morning.  And it will only get earlier as the students approach!  So far, there has been one morning where I woke up at 5:30 and could not go back to sleep.  Then there was yesterday, when I didn’t want to get up!

I am in the middle of organizing my studio downstairs.  I have put like items in boxes and labeled them.  I have arranged things on shelves.   I have sorted beads, sequins and other elements into boxes.  I have done the same with loteria cards.  I am already brainstorming uses for many of the items I have been hoarding – some will be used for school projects, and others will be developed for Maison Celeste.  Stay tuned!