Monthly Archives: March 2008

La Sirena and The Sea of Trolls

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lasirenaforwordpress.jpgThank God it’s Friday!!!  One more week until Spring Vacation!!!  Then, 6 weeks left until school ends!  That’s 35 days – 18 B-Days and 17 A-Days to go!!!

Not that I am counting…

I have another new Milagro design up at CafePress.  It’s called La Sirena.  I happen to have an image of La Sirena (The Mermaid) of the Loteria deck that has a shell bra on – just to keep it family friendly.  I worked hard to use a different color paletta for this design and to keep up a nautical/Latino them.  That is why there are milagros and fish and shells!  I like it a lot!  I plan on ordering something at the beginning of next month.

This week, I am listening to a book on CD.  I am a huge fan of Nancy Farmer’s book, House of the Scorpion – I must have listened to it about 20 times.  Mainly, this is because I taught it as part of my ESOL reading curriculum.  It is a book that touches many levels – the reading level is supposed to be 6th grade, but the variety of themes and concepts that she touches on is vast.  I usually create a bulletin board with everything from cloning to opium production to soccer houligans to the Virgin of Guadalupe and more.  Still, for my Latino students that are unmotivated readers, there is a lot of information that they can recognize from their culture.  I love that book!

My husband asked if I had read any of Nancy Farmer’s other books, and I have to say that I haven’t.  So that is why I am currently listening to The Sea of Trolls.  It is epic – it took me a while to get into it, but I like it.  I just found out that there is a sequel, so I will read that next.  Then I want to move on to The Chronicles of Narnia!

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Viva La Frida!

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wordpressfridaprimary.jpgI have been trying to offset the stress of teaching right now by working on more art.  I have done more cards using loteria images and pretty papers, but my husband has inadvertently stalled me.  Anticipating company last week, he took everything that was on the floor of my studio and stacked it in the garage.  I thought that the room was fine for sleeping – hey, the fold out sofa was clear…

So I cannot find my assortment of decorative pinking shears/scissors.  I will look for them this weekend.  In the meantime, I have been working on more designs based on tin ornaments.  Right now, they are in the shape of a heart – I have been collecting images for months.  The newest one is very simple in design – I put a picture of Frida Kahlo that I reworked with a gradient map in Adobe Photoshop.  I rather like it.

I have a couple of Frida Kahlo items in my CafePress shop – there is the Frida Kahlo Heart (part of my original Valentines designs), the Frida Milagro, and now the La Frida Kahlo.  I am having a great time with my toys: scanners, light box, and PhotoShop!

Brokeback Charro

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I am going to kesamplecharro.jpgep making that joke for as long as I think it’s funny.  I have taken an image of a Mexican cowboy and made a collage card with it.  The originals will be for sale on my Etsy site as soon as I can get it up there.  I have 4 originals.  The “El Charro” image is unique in that it is in the exact posture of the Loteria card “El Borracho.”  Instead of staggering against a wall and holding a bottle, the figure is in cowboy gear, twirling a lasso.  Genius!   The color scheme is my favorite part.  Although the charro is in gray, his background is pink and orange.  I could not resist putting a hot pink flowered background behind it.

He’s so cute!  I have uploaded two different versions of the card.  The one above is the loud version on a yellow background and issamplecharroshorts.jpg on cards and magnets and objects.  There is a more subdued version without the yellow background that I have uploaded for t-shirts and clothing.  Hey, it could become a gay icon!

I collect Loteria cards.  I also have a different version of El Valiente, who is an animal tamer in a red jacket instead of a guy holding a knife.  Lastly, there is a more politically correct version of El Negrito (Little Black Guy) – it is called El Bailarin and is a white guy in a natty suit.  Again, both of the above have the figures in the same pose, but the context is different.  I worked on cards with the El Valiente and El Alacran, using a set of blank colored note cards I purchased a long time ago.  I will put those up on Etsy, too.

Finally, I revised my altered Loteria Rooster card images on CafePress.com.  I uploaded different versionsamplerooster.jpgs of the artwork and re-tagged it with out using the Spanish word for rooster.  That was the controversy that I had last month about “trademarks.”  Apparently the wine company doesn’t want me to use that word, but I can still sell the image.  I think so, anyway.

I am about to go to bed.  I am watching Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel.  Apparently, it is only interesting to me – my husband mocks it.  Hey, it’s slim pickings until new sitcom episodes get written.

Sunday is Cooking Day

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I woke up this morning to go to my massage appointment.  I regularly get massages at the Atlanta School of Massage.  Student massages are $40 an hour.  There is also a “spa” program – the Atlanta School of Aesthetics – that offers facials, waxing, and other beauty treatments.  If you live in the Atlanta area, I highly recommend their services.  The students are overseen by instructors, and I have rarely had a bad massage there.

When I got home, I decided there was enough time to cook the corned beef brisket I bought last night.  I was in a St. Patrick’s Day slow cooking mood.  I used Lynn Alley’s recipe, but had to make a couple of changes.  We don’t drink beer, so I was not going to buy a six-pack of Guinness just for one cup of beer.  I used a cup of Old Milwaukee Non-Alcoholic beer instead – I know: horrors!  I also used chicken broth instead of the water (I had no beef broth handy).  Instead of the spices mentioned in the recipe, I went ahead and used the spice pack in the corned beef container.

After that, I made a recipe that I think I mentioned a couple of days ago:  Smoked Turkey, Black Bean, Bell Pepper, and Corn Salad.   I accidentally got roasted turkey that was not smoked, and I cooked the corn because I have no experience using raw corn kernels in stuff.  For the dressing, I just took a cup of Newman’s Own Light Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing (which, if truth be told, I think was actually half that and half Roasted Bell Pepper Dressing – I like to combine things to clean out the refrigerator…) and added cilantro, lime juice, roasted garlic, ancho chile powder, a little bit of KC Masterpiece Barbecue Sauce (for smoke), and some more olive oil and pureed it all in the blender.  I served it on spinach leaves with 1/4 chopped avocado on top.  It was good!

We ate the last of my home-made yogurt with mango and strawberries.  I got a yogurt maker for Christmas, after reading about making your own in French Women Don’t Get Fat.  I had to replace the first one because I thought it was broken.  In truth, I think I just needed to read the directions again for setting the timer.  Any-hoo….  The yogurt is a trial and error thing for me – so far, I am 2 batches good, 2 batches ruined.  Mainly, the ruining happens in the cooking stage.  I just scalded my milk a few minutes ago.  I may have to use the method of just leaving the milk out until it is room temperature.

Cleaning House

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Right now, I am working to organize my studio – I am also watching almost all of the available episodes of House on the Fox website.  I am really suffering withdrawal from new TV shows.  I was able to catch one episode repeat last night at 9PM, but it was interrupted by news of the tornado that hit downtown Atlanta.  I wish those news people would get their priorities straight.

Then, I found another episode on the USA Network at 11PM.  My husband walked in from his late evening nap and pronounced, “That’s the one where the kid has the radioactive keychain.”  He doesn’t understand why I like House, and knew I had already seen it.  By making this statement, he was trying to wrest the remote from my control.  The joke was on him, because there was no Letterman or Leno because of storm coverage.

I am making ready to finish the game board I made with my nephews’ Pokemon cards.  I had stopped working on it last week, partly because I was still sick and preferred to sleep when I got back home from school.  I also did not have enough sequined trim to use as an element in the game board.  Lucky for my, I found what I needed at JoAnn Fabrics last night.  I also found a bolt of Painted Desert Virgin of Guadalupe panels – I thought they were discontinued.  I bought two yards, but really wanted to buy the whole bolt.

So, I have finished my sandwich, and it’s time to go back to work.

Tech Support Will Cost You Extra

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It has been an interesting week.  I am feeling better, but my left ear is still a little stuffy.  I am still working out the details for my students’ pen pals (part 2).  And, on top of that, I was observed by a colleague (he was observing my “classroom management” – in other words, my being mean to my students – he needs to get meaner…).  I also was observed by my department head and one of my administrators.

Did they come at the beginning of the period, when I was overseeing the daily Rosetta Stone lesson?  No.  Did they come while I was having my students do a hands-on observation of the structure of the Goose Game board.  Nope.  They came at the end of class.  Some kids were working on catching up on their Rosetta Stone lessons (I set a goal each grading period).  Others had achieved that goal and were having some “free time on the internet.”

This is always a risky thing.  Yes, our school has a firewall, but there are ways of getting around those.  I also have the lovely Net Support School software, which – in theory – allows me to control all of the computers in my classroom.  I say – in theory – because for some time now, I have noticed that some of the computers in my classroom were no longer on my network.  I hadn’t the time to consult with the tech support at my school, so I just tried not to look.

While I was explaining what was going on in my classroom, one of my supervisors pointed to one of the computer games being played by my students.  He said, “Look – guns!”  Great.  I then went on as if this was normal and part of my “plan” for finding out the bad sites and blocking them.  Which is true – I once had a student repeatedly go to shoot-em-up websites, even after he knew I was blocking them as he found them!

I haven’t met for the follow up on that observation, but I spent two hours yesterday morning doing an inventory of the 26 computers in my lab.  I made a paper map of what number computer was actually in what space – for some reason, Computer 20 is in the front of the room, next to 14.  Also, one of my computers was in the lab next door – I had done that when one of my machines was not working.  I switched that one back, since it seemed to be working.

Then, I had to manually check to see which computers were blocked when I used that function.  That done, I had to figure out why I didn’t have control of those computers.  I figured out that they had somehow gotten deleted from my Lab A tab.  So I re-entered them.  Now, I was in business!

By the end of 2nd period yesterday, I had the internet effectively blocked, except for Wikipedia, Epals, Quia, and Funbrain.  The kids were not happy, but I just told the truth – sort of.  I said it was an “administrative directive.”

Since then, I have found more “Kid-Safe” sites to add:

  • Quia
  • ePals.com
  • Funbrain
  • Nickelodeon
  • Time for Kids
  • National Geographic
  • Discovery Kids
  • Cartoon Network
  • Lego
  • The Simpsons (I found that on a Kid-Friendly list, but still don’t know)
  • Book Adventure
  • Star Wars
  • Sports Illustrated Kids
Gotta go now – more kids to disappoint.

More Wackiness

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I am back to school, but cannot hear anything out of my left ear – it may take days or weeks to clear up.  Darned sinuses.  But I have been to the doctor – even though he’s not on my insurance plan.  He is the same doctor I go to every year for the sinus thing – whatever form it takes.  The wait is also shorter than at my new on-plan practitioner.

The being deaf thing is a pain – but sometimes it is advantageous.  I can pick and choose what I hear.  Most of my students mumble anyway, so I have gotten pretty good at reading lips.

Right now, we are nearing the due date for 3rd quarter report cards, so I am encouraging my students to make their “quota” of online lessons.   The Rosetta Stone program is supposed to be one where students “learn at their own pace.”  But, since the “pace” of some of my students is a slow crawl, I have to establish some boundaries.  There are 8 units in the French I segment, so I establish right away that if your idea of learning at your own pace is to start the first lesson of Unit One in August, and finish up Unit One, lesson 11 sometime in May – well, you are going to have problems.

At the same time, I am trying to keep up with my e-mail exchange via ePals.com.  My students wrote their letters almost a month ago.  Maybe 1/3 of them have received replies – short replies.  Then, today, I heard from a teacher that I corresponded with in December – she’s ready to exchange.  I may try and assign her students to those of mine that haven’t received a reply yet.  Oh, I also got an e-mail from a teacher in Burkina Faso who wants an exchange.  I think this is the first unsolicited e-mail I have received.

So, back to the charts and the drawing board of matching up students.

6 out of 8 of my classes have already played the original goose game.  Of course, after one game, some students asked if I had a deck of cards.  But some of them got into it, cursing the fate of the dice.  I am still working on the next step, where I have them view adapted games and deduce similarities and differences in those versions.

Sick – but still cooking…

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I have not overcome my illness.  After going to school Wednesday and Thursday, I got home yesterday with a headache. an earache (not good), and a sore throat.  And with no Thursday night shows to cheer me up.  I stayed home today, and will go to a nearby clinic if I don’t feel better.

Last night, I made some shrimp enchiladas verdes – I had the recipe printed out at school, so I stopped at a Kroger on the long way home (via Roswell) to get the rest of the ingredients.  Can you believe they did not have any fresh corn tortillas?  They had every other flatbread known to man, though.  Yuppy hangout.   I bought a package of guacamole and some sour cream to garnish.  I sent my husband to the Mexican grocery down the street for the tortillas.

This morning, I didn’t sleep very late – I had to get up and take a hot, steamy shower to try and get my sinuses to drain.  That’s all I will say.  To the doctor tomorrow.

I have all of this veal that I have been stockpiling since there was a sale on it at Publix.  I was saving it to make a Catalonian stew involving amaretto cookies.  This morning, the theme was “things we can cook with only what we have in the house.”  I dug out some coconut milk, beef broth, canned whole tomatoes in basil, two potatoes, one onion, two shallots, two bell pepper (1 yellow and one green), the bunch of cilantro from last night, two lime halves, celery, crystallized ginger, peanuts, red Thai paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, mango chutney (I didn’t have any tamarind), and rice.

So, I decided to make some sort of Thai beef stew.  First, to the internet for some inspiration.   Here’s one recipe.  Here’s another.  And finally, for good measure, a Vietnamese beef stew.

Then,  I just chopped up all of the ingredients, sauteed the veal, pureed the pastes and spices, and popped it all in the crock pot.  I added the peanuts later.  It’s been simmering away all day.  I am going to try it on rice.  It may be a little too spicy – it doesn’t take much curry paste to  blow you away.  Anyway, spicy soups are supposed to be good for a cold.

After a rest, I decided to make a dessert.  Last weekend, I discovered that baked goods could be made without a mix.  That’s bad news for my husband and me.  Normally I have to go to the store before I cook something.  But, you know what?  If you have eggs, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and other basic ingredients, things like brownies can be made at home.  That’s what I made last week.

Today, I discovered that I had all of the ingredients to make Cajeta Pound Cake.  Yes, including a bottle of cajeta (Mexican goat milk caramel).  Instead of making one big pound cake in a bundt pan, I decided to use the two small bundt pans I just bought, along with the double heart pan, a 6 cup muffin pan, and finally, one of my 6 inch cake pans.  This recipe makes a LOT of batter.

This time, I decided to try something different and follow the recipe as closely as possible.  That meant sifting flour (I never sift), using a hand mixer for almost 15 minutes (ouch, my shoulder), and preparing most of my ingredients ahead of time.  I did add something different to the recipe – 2 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder.

Everything came out pretty good – I may up the cinnamon next time.  I am working up the courage to try my beef stew.  It’s already hot where I am – we’ll see what happens.

The Project

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Okay, if you are a middle school teacher, you will probably relate. I have only 10 weeks and one day until the end of school (yes, I’m counting). And I am trying to have my students do a project.

It usually starts around the middle of the first semester. Kids start asking “When are we going to do a project?”

What they really mean is:

“When can we stop working and spend a week or two with our friends, basically doing nothing until the weekend before the project is due, wherein we try to throw something together – then try to get you to extend the deadline for the project until we beat you into submission and you forget about asking for our overdue project after a while.”

You get the point. I hate to sound so cynical, but – there it is.

So, I have been working on this idea using the Game of the Goose – I wrote a post about it in the past, in connection with my abrupt placement this year in French. I am interested in games and gameboards – not to play them necessarily, but to alter and use as an inspiration for art. I have been doing this with the Mexican Loteria for years. Now is the time for the Juego de la Oca. AKA Le Jeu de L’Oie, or The Royal Game of the Goose.

I will document in more detail the process – both hilarious and pathetic – of motivating my students to be creative.  Wish me luck.