Monthly Archives: February 2009

Peruvian Yellow Beans


The other day, I stopped by my local Latino supermercado to look for tostadas and left with beans.  See, I was planning to play Loteria with my students, and beans are traditionally used as bingo markers in Mexico.  There were big bags of Peruvian Beans, which are yellowish.  I decided to buy some and cook them.  Although I used the slow cooker, I went ahead and soaked them (2 pounds) over night.  When I woke up the next morning, they were TWICE their dry size.  At first, I hesitated to put them all in even my large slow cooker, but went ahead and did it anyway.

I added 6 cups of chicken broth, 3 smoked turkey necks, a bit of olive oil, and a chunk of ham bouillon.  For flavor, I tossed in some Goya recaito (a unique cilantro-based seasoning. Goya sautés cilantro, green pepper, onion and garlic in olive oil to create this rich, thick base that enhances the flavor of your beans, rice, soups and stews).  Then, I decided to use this Peruvian seasoning that I had been hoarding.  It’s called Palillo Curcuma, and I had been waiting for the right time to use it.  Turns out, it’s turmeric!  A Peruvian version, yes, but still, turmeric.

They turned out great!  We had them for dinner tonight.  I went ahead and sauteed some turkey kielbasa to serve with them, even though I had shredded the smoked turkey neck and reincorporated them into the beans.  I was going to serve them with rice, but I am on Weight Watchers and that would have added points that could be spent elsewhere.  Besides, a cup of the those beans were quite filling already.

“Interestingly, when you put them in the fridge, the cooking liquid becomes gelatinous like a good chicken stock; it does not remain like a water like pintos or blacks. Use them whole or refried as you would pinto beans.”  That was a quote from Chowhound and it’s true!


Christmas Goose


I have already done at least one post on the Game of the GooseLast year, I img_0308planned on having my French students make a large goose game but didn’t go through with it.  In that plan, I made a bulletin board with a poster-sized game in black and white (I enlarged it in Microsoft Publisher, printed it out on my laser printer and painstakingly taped it together. I had the rules (in English) posted in the center of the game. I addressed the circumstances of each special field by copying and pasting it onto a separate document with the rule next to it.

I did allow my students to play the game, and used flat glass pebbles as the markers.  I printed out paper dice for them to use so they would not swipe them.  They enjoyed playing the game, but after thinking through several strategies, I could not really justify the game in my lesson plans. I was planning on printing out coloring pages for the students to color – mainly the flags of all of the Francophone countries – and different crowns to replace the ubiquitous goose.  I may do that again one day if I ever teach French or Spanish again, but I would need to have some task to do that has to do with the target language – like vocabulary memorization or something like that.

Anyway, while I was on that kick, I painstakingly laid out two of my own versions of a blank grid to be filled in one day by a class. I also cleaned up a scan of a goose game (juego de la oca) I bought in Mexico and translated the directions into English. All three are available at my CafePress Shop in different sizes and formats.

I had one blank customizable goose game lying around when I packed to go to Louisiana for Christmas.  On the off chance that it might be an entertaining family project, I packed it up with a box of Sharpie markers and brought it along.  I laid it out during the Christmas Eve party at my sister’s in-laws and it was a hit. Here are some pictures from the party.img_0285

This is my niece and her cousins working on the board.  Yes, the little one contributed as well!

The boys were not left out!  This is my giant nephew and another cousin of his doing their part for art!

I drew in the special fields, like the well and the bridge.  My mother was in charge of inserting the Fleur de Lis.  The FDL is a big thing over down New Orleans way, so it was the perfect emblem to replace the goose.  I still have some finishing touches to put on the game, then I will upload it to my site and make it available for my sister and her in laws to buy at cost.  It will be a great memory of a Christmas spent together.

The game still has a lot of possibilities for using as a response to literature.  I am planning a similar exercise using a personalized Loteria game.  It really is all about knowing about and using analogies.  The students must think about the story and customize the game to match the theme and major characters and plot points and settings in the story. They would also replace the goose with a symbol that represents the story.  The original “Special Fields” are:

6 The Bridge — If you land on 6, advance immediately to field 12.
19 The Inn — The good food and drink makes you sleepy, and you lose I turn. (Exception: if another player lands at the Inn within the same turn, you change places and you go back to the space that player just came from.)
31 The Well — If you fall in the Well, lose 2 turns—unless another player landing there releases you sooner, sending you back to the field that player just arrived from.
42 The Maze — You get lost and go back to field 30.
52 The Prison — If you land in prison, you stay there until another player landing there relieves you and you go back to that player’s last field.
58 Death — Your goose is cooked. Go back to the beginning and start all over.

For example, if we were to do a House of the Scorpion theme, we would use scorpions in place of the geese.  The “prison” might be a room filled with sawdust (making reference to Matt’s imprisonment when he was only six).  The Inn could be the Convent where Maria is staying or it could be the orphanage, or you could include both.  It makes the students think about what they have been reading and to show that they can synthesize that information and interprete it in a different form.

I would welcome any input that readers might have for using this in a reading or social studies class.

Music mentioned in House of the Scorpion


Lately, I have been researching the music mentioned in Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion.  I didn’t use much of it this year, but have always played a sound file of the call of the Inca Dove – more on that below.

Two or more references are made to the Catholic hymn “Buenos Dias, Paloma Blanca.”  This is a hymn or song to the Virgin of Guadalupe.  Matt sings it to himself in “Prison” (page 44), while caressing a dove’s feather he found.  Celia sings it to him on page 60, to sooth him when he becomes difficult.  Finally, Matt weaves the song into the story he is telling Fidelito a story of Maria’s life in the convent (page 346).

Buenos Dias Paloma Blanca – lyrics and sound file.  My husband and I found an MP3 ranchera version on ITunes – I will include the link later.  Be careful, there are a lot of songs with “paloma blanca” in them, but there is only one hymn.   Here are the lyrics – I cannot seem to find the English translation:

Buenos días, Paloma Blanca
Hoy te vengo a saludar.
Saludando tu belleza
En tu trono celestial.
Eres Madre del creador
Y a mi corazón encantas
Grácias te doy con amor
Buenos días, Paloma Blanca.

Niña linda, niña santa
Tu dulce nombre alabar.
Porque eres tan sacrosanta
Hoy te vengo a saludar.
Reluciente como el alba
Pura, sencilla y sin mancha
Qué gusto recibe mi alma!
Buenos días, Paloma Blanca.

Que linda está la mañana
El aroma de las flores.
Despiden suaves olores
Antes de romper el alba.
Mi pecho con voz ufana
Grácias te da, Madre mía
En este dichoso día
Antes de romper el alba.

Cielo azul yo te convido
En este dichoso día.
A que prestes tu hermosura
A las flores de María.
Madre mía de Guadalupe
Dáme ya tu bendición
Recibe éstas mañanitas
De un humilde corazón.

Reference is also made to the call of a dove – both times during El Patron’s recounting of his childhood story.  The first time is, I think, during El Patron’s first meeting with Matt, and the second is during his last visit before he dies.  Both times, the effect is of a Greek chorus – at the same point in the story, the dove call sounds like someone saying “no hope, no hope”.  I did a little research and there is a breed of dove found in the southern United States called the Inca Dove – I believe that’s the dove in the story.  Here is a sound file with the bird’s call.  Here is another where the descriptor mentions that it can sound like “no hope.”

In the middle of the book – I’ll find the page number later – Matt sits at the piano and plays a thundering rendition of  The Turkish March by Mozart.  Here is a link to a sound bite – I had to go through a lot of them to find something that didn’t sound too wussy.  It is supposed to be an angry rendition – Matt is frustrated when he plays it.

Finally, in Chapter 38, Matt plays the Adagio from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 upon his return to Opium.  I think that it is supposed to be the “calm” before the stormy story Celia and the others have to tell about the downfall of Opium.

Finally, there’s The Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly.  This is chosen as funereal music by El Patron and is sung by a choir of eejits, bringing people to tears.  Celia says, “He was an evil man, but the music would break your heart.”  So, although El Patron was too busy being a gangster to learn to play music, he still is portrayed as a connoisseur.  It was not easy to find a free version of this that was not a YouTube video and also sounded appropriately “haunting” – here is one.

A bit of trivia – I found that it was also used in the final murder scene of Heavenly Creatures .  Pretty chilling in that context.

I am having my husband burn a copy of these sounds to a disc so that I can have it handy for future lesson plans.

I am a white person…


If there was any doubt, I now know that I am white person.  I am listening to a book on CD based on the book gleaned from the blog Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander.  I am up to #74 – Oscar Parties.  So now I know that I am in no way unique – as many of the stereotypes describe my life and I wasn’t even aware of it!  I …

Okay, that’s enough for now.  Now, I have to surf the internet for more opportunities to travel abroad at the expense of some non-profit organization.  Ha Ha!

Loteria Cupcake Picks


img_0382I made these cupcake picks a couple of months ago, but wanted to wait until I had the pictures just right to put them up on my blog.  That meant making cupcakes, of course.  Last time, I made green lime jello cakes with coconut icing – I knew that it would look great with the picks.  But, alas, I didn’t set up the camera in time and they got eaten! 😉

I made pina colada cupcakes this time.  They turned out a little pudding-y because they collapsed, but I filled it in with icing and coconut.  They taste fine, too.  Then, I did the photo shoot up right, setting up the background, and using the tripod for the camera.  At least I got something done this weekend!

So, how did I make them?  I came up with the idea because I thought they would look cute at a Loteria-themed party.  I have all sizes of Loteria games, from the giant size to the regular size to the mini pinata filler kind.  I also have Loteria wrapping paper with regular-sized images and also with mini images.  In the end, I decided to use the loteria piñatera.  I figured out that I could make at least 18 two-sided picks with the small images in the set.


Here is what you will need:

  • 1 loteria piñatera game
  • brightly colored card stock
  • toothpicks or small skewers
  • brightly colored plastic beads
  • decorative cutting scissors
  • regular scissors
  • craft glue

1.  Open the loteria game and separate the mini loteria tablas from the mini card deck.  Cut all of the smaller images apart and pair them up.  Each pick will need two images.

(Note:  you don’t have to use the same image on both sides of the pick, but I did it that way)

2.  Cut out the card stock as shown below.  You can eyeball the measurements by placing one of the Loteria images in the center of your piece of cardstock and cutting around enough to fold it in two.


3.  I used a set of border patterned scissors, like the type used for scrapbooking, to cut around the diablito card.  You may have to practice because it’s pretty small.  Don’t glue the images on until you have the border you want.

4. Glue the Loteria images to each of the backgrounds.  Allow them to dry.

5.  When they are dry, sandwich the skewers or toothpicks between the two pieces of paper and glue it all together.  Make sure that you use enough glue to make sure the toothpick stays put.

6.  To finish, take some plastic beads and thread them onto the toothpick or skewer so that they touch the bottom of the loteria decoration.  Again, make sure you used enough glue to keep the beads from coming loose.

Now, you are done!


Because these picks contain small pieces, I don’t think they would be appropriate for small children’s birthday parties.

I tried to make Loteria cupcake papers, but that may be beyond my expertise.