Monthly Archives: May 2008

The Web Page is up!

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Well, with the help of my husband, I got something up!  Go to www.maison-celeste.com!

Today was the last day of post-planning.  I found out yesterday that, as the 8th grade ESOL teacher, I will be expected to teach using the Read 180 program.  I already anticipated that, but I also found out that will need to move from my big, spacious room (never actually used as a classroom, BTW, as I taught most everything in the computer lab) to the smaller room next door that is wired for the five computers that the program requires.

I have sent an e-mail to the Techies at our school, asking if it would be possible to connect the two computers that my classroom cannot accommodate to the internet via wi fi – I think we have that!  If it is a possibility, I might ask my principal to let me stay in my room.  Probably, he will say no, but I can try.

Tomorrow, we are headed for Asheville.  We are going to stay in an old-fashioned motel that has log cabins, so we can try and leave Lupita in there when we go out to eat.  She is a barker – we figure that she will be a little less annoying if we don’t share walls with another guest.  Keep your fingers crossed!

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CSI Dog

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I was just sitting on my back deck, talking to my Dad on the phone, when my dog came around the corner with a knife in her mouth!!!!!

Okay, let me back up a little.  Our townhouse is in the middle of two other townhomes on a cul-de-sac of our neighborhood.  We share a common back yard with those two houses, and – in theory – with all of the people in our community.  To our left is the back of an apartment complex, and to our right, the parking lot of an industrial park.

For a while, we had Latin American guys using our back yard as a short cut between the two places, sliding under the other fences and walking across.  Our home association put in black hurricane fencing about 3 years ago – so that doesn’t happen any more.  But there are parts of the fence that do not meet the ground, allowing enough space for a dog to get back there.  Connolly, my other dog, had found that out pretty early and we had to keep an eye on her to keep her from wandering off.

Behind our house, on the other side of the fence, is a thickly forested triangle of very rugged terrain and possessing a lovely swamp area when it rains.  I only tried to walk back there once, and found it too much of a pain to traverse.  The dogs seem to love it, though.  Lupita found her way back there earlier this year.

I suppose that you have guessed by now that I am one of those people that lets her dog out in the yard without a leash.  Yes, I am lazy.

So, today, she came trotting alongside the opposite side of the fence, holding something in her mouth.  I walked down with my cell phone to have a closer look.  She had dropped the object a couple of times and picked it up again, and I saw that she was carrying a steak knife by it’s handle!!!!.  I rang off and started escorting her to the place in the fence where I know she exits to return to our yard.  Halfwy along, she dropped it.

She doesn’t seem to have anything wrong with her mouth, so I called Dad back and went back to where she dropped the knife.  It was just within reach, so I put my right hand through one of the fence squares and pulled it close, bringing it the rest of the way with my left.  I brought it into the house to show my husband, who wondered aloud if it could be a murder weapon.  We have obviously been watching too much CSI: Miami.  But still…

Oh, we are going to run the knife through our dishwasher to sterilize it and keep it – it’s a pretty good knife!  Now, I wonder if she could bring me some nice flatwear.

Holy Molas!

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This past week, I have been doing more web surfing than writing. I have been gathering images and websites as references for my folders of Mexican and Latin American crafts and lesson plans. I found so many samples of mola art that I was able to make a deck of Loteria cards strictly from mola images. That was fun.

I have been playing around with ideas for using student-created Loteria cards as review or assessment tools in Language Arts and Reading. The Mola Loteria is just lagniappe. I set some ground rules first. I found as many images that fit the traditional Loteria cards as possible. There were plenty of those. I also was able to learn a bit about the Kuna Indian culture by looking at the molas depicting everyday life and ceremonies. I adapted my loteria to reflect that culture as much as possible, such as using the Kuna version of their flag for La Bandera.

For the cards that I could not find, I replaced them with items from the Kuna culture. I found breadfruit, a washboard, chicha, curanderos, and the harpy eagle (national bird of Panama). If students (taking Spanish?) were to do a project on a Spanish-speaking country, they could adapt the Loteria to their subject. I made a deck of 54 cards, but the teacher could limit the deck to 30 or whatever number they feel is appropriate.

I have also found some lesson plans that teach how to make molas. They look like a lot of fun to make. One of my Spanish-teacher colleagues has a book of mola patterna that can be printed out and she had her students color them earlier in the year. We were discussing at lunch what she could do to make the molas look more authentic. The problem is that some students don’t follow the mola color scheme, which is generally a black or red foreground with other colors in layers. I suggested buying red and black Sharpie markers in bulk, then using markers, crayons, or colored pencils to fill in the other colors used.

I will try and upload my cards to Flickr – don’t know if I can do that from school. In the meantime, here are some web resources for researching Mola art and the Kuna indians of Panama.

History and Culture:

Galleries of Mola Art:

Lesson Plans:

Books:

Wikipedia-ing

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I just got back from seeing Baby Mama (don’t judge me!), and was looking for someone I thought I knew who was assistant director. That question has not been answered yet, but I then did searches on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Wikipedia is very interesting in that any word can be linked to another Wikipedia article on that word. Even a month or a date – or random words – it’s like a dictionary.

That gave me the idea to look up my day of birth – August 14th. I went in from Steve Martin’s profile. I knew that he has my birthday. I even got a chance to tell him when I waited on him at a store in Phipps Plaza. I wrapped up some soap for him. I didn’t want to blow his cover, so I didn’t start screaming when I saw him. I just mentioned the birthday thing. Whatever.

If you go to August 14 on Wikipedia, you will find a list of events that happened on that day: historical events, births, deaths, holidays, etc. I went down the list of people who share my birthday. There were some I knew already, like Steve, Halle Berry, and Magic Johnson. Here are some others:

Good night!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

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This past weekend, my sister and niece came into town.  Her birthday was on April 16, so we had a belated birthday party.  I asked my mom what kind of cake she thought my sis would want, and she said carrot cake.  I have never made a carrot cake before, so I immediately went to the internet.  I also looked at carrot cake cupcakes, as that is what I ended up making, of course.

The first recipe I found was from Cooks Illustrated – a fancy shmancy magazine that strives to create the “ultimate” recipe for everything.  When I saw the expression “aerate the flour” and saw the prep time, I looked for another.  This is the one I found in AllRecipes.com:

Carrot Cake III

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Icing ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

The great thing about those recipe sites is that often many other people have made it and have left input about what they did to alter the cake.  I read this one and printed it out to alter my recipe:

After reading through 4-5 pages of the reviews, I consolidated the most referred alterations to this recipe to: 1) using 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup white sugar 2) adding an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract 3) adding 1 8oz. can of crushed pineapple (I squeezed out most of the juice before adding it, I didn’t want any extra fluids in the cake) 4) Added 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg 5) added 1 extra teaspoon of cinnamon 6) used 3/4 cup canola oil and 1/2 cup applesauce. The result came out incredibly delicious – the cake was very flavorful and moist. For the frosting, I only used 3.5 cups of powdered sugar, and it was more than sweet enough, with a nicely balanced cream cheese vs. sweet flavor. If I would change anything again, I would use less pecans – it’s a bit too nutty for my personal tastes. Also, I followed another reviewer’s suggestion of grating the carrots with the large grater side (the one you use for cheese) so that you don’t end up with a bunch of carrot mush and juice that can’t be used. Will definitely make again! This is probably the best carrot cake I’ve ever had.   (Thanks, gneebeanie!)

This is what I ended up using:

Carrot Cake III

Ingredients for cake:

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple (squeeze out the juice)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Icing ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans (as garnish)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place cupcake liners in pan (I used 1 12 cup and 2 6 cup – it made 24 even cupcakes).
  2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, applesauce, brown and white sugars and 3 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into cupcake liners.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
  4. To Make Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cupcakes.  (I added red and orange food coloring to make a lovely pale orange color).  Sprinkle chopped pecans on top of cupcakes.

I will include a picture later.  The cupcakes were wonderful – I brought some to school to share, but ended up doling them out to myself over the school week.

On Sunday afternoon, I went with my niece and a friend to a pottery painting place in Virginia Highlands.  I painted my first plate.  I used one of my new tin ornament designs, painstakingly tracing it onto the plate.  I have to admit to some frustration – sometimes the paint was rather clumpy and the end result will not be as sharp as the drawing.  Somehow, I will deal.  I have to go and pick the items up this weekend.  I might paint again, as they allow dogs in the shop.  As nice as that seems, however, I don’t know how my dog will like just lying around while I paint.