Monthly Archives: August 2009

What I’m reading now

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I know it’s been a while since I have posted – I am trying to get used to a new school schedule, and to teaching a new thing.   Typical.  When I get home, I’m usually beat.  I haven’t done any art lately, either.

One thing I am doing right now is reading.  I have to be diligent about going to the library on Saturdays when I can, because the Gwinnett County Libraries are now closed on Sunday and Monday.  I have been going to two different branches lately:  the one nearer to me is okay, but the one nearer my gym is larger and has a better selection of books on CD.

I just got finished reading Duma Key by Stephen King.  I checked it out a week ago on CD and was so into it that I finally stopped by a Barnes and Noble and bought a copy of the book so that I could read it in bed at night.  I haven’t read a SK novel in a long time, and I thought was great.  I thought that the narrator on the CD was perfect.  It’s just that I HAD to find out what was going to happen.  I finished it last night at around 1:00 AM.

I was just looking at a message board on Stephen King.com and there was a discussion about who should be cast if there were a movie.  I think that James Remar would be perfect as Edgar – he’s about that age and has that upper middle class business man look about him.  He’s that guy that plays the dad on Dexter, but I forgot that he also was in Sex and the City.  I had not strong opinions about the other characters, but I think that the suggestion that Jeff Bridges play Wireman was a good one.

You’ll have to read the novel to see what I’m talking about!

I also checked out a Young Adult novel by Laura Resau called What the Moon Saw.  It’s about a half Mexican-American girl who goes down to boonies outside of Oaxaca to meet her grandparents.  It’s really good – and I will now finish it since I have completed Duma Key.

On CD, I am listening to The Chicken Dance by Jacques Couvillon.  It is set in Southwestern Louisiana and I had checked it out in the past but didn’t get a chance to read it.

Time for supper.

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Update on the Turkey Curry…

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It came out great! About 3 hours into the cooking, of course, I started fiddling with it a bit. I stirred it up and moved the turkey thighs closer to the bottom. I also added a little bit of coconut milk that I defrosted.

At around 5 hours, I pulled out the thighs and took the meat off of them (ouch!). I coarsely chopped the meat and put it back in the slow cooker to soak up more sauce.

I plan on serving it on brown rice. Give it a try! If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, please be wary of the red curry paste – it is way stronger than the TJ’s sauce, even cut with coconut milk.

Slow Cooker Turkey Curry

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Well, Friday afternoon, instead of battling traffic, I decided to go straight to the movie theater after school.  I was trying to wait to see Julia and Julie with my husband, but when I saw that there was going to be a thunderstorm in addition to Friday afternoon traffic, I tossed that notion and went to see it by myself.

I liked it fine, and even appreciated it from the Julie point of view.  Being a blogger myself, I could identify with the excitement of having someone actually respond to your writing… and the disappointment to find that it was only your mother writing in your guestbook.  Ha!

When I got home, I jokingly threatened to choose a cookbook and work my way through it in a year.  I told my husband I would maybe do the Cake Doctor’s first book.  Of course, my husband in gluten-intolerant, so that would leave me eating all the cakes…  That won’t do.

Anyway, as much as I admire Julia Child and the other chefs that approach cooking as a science (Alton Brown comes to mind), I have a hard time sticking to a recipe.  Just ask my mother…  I usually end up changing something, or substituting an ingredient.  Baking is different – I do try to stick to the directions there, even when the results are not as I would have hoped.

But for me, there’s nothing quite as much fun as throwing a bunch of things into a pot, adding spices or sauces, and seeing what happens.  I am a big collector of pre-packaged herb blends and sauces that I find at the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market – I am fascinated by moles from Mexico, curries from Thailand, Malaysia, India and the Philippines, stir fry sauces from Asia and Morocco.  Fun!

Today, I am experimenting with Trader Joe’s Red Curry Sauce (the Yellow Curry was fantastic – I think I used it with tuna filets).  Last night, I picked up two turkey thighs with skin and bone for $4.00 (about a pound).  Around noon, I looked through the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry to see what I could throw together.  Here goes…

Turkey Curry in a Crock Pot

2 turkey thighs (about 1 lb) with skin and bone
3 smallish potatoes (gold finns?), chopped
2 onions (Vidalia), chopped
baby carrots (about a cup), larger pieces chopped
1 red delicious apple, chopped
prunes, dried pitted
1 jar Trader Joe’s red curry sauce
2 tsp. Thai red curry paste
1 can petit diced tomatoes
2 roasted red peppers from a jar
2 cubes Dorot frozen cilantro
some flaked coconut
2/3 cup green peas, frozen

In the bottom of the slow cooker, I put in the onions, potatoes, carrots, and apple.  I scattered about 10-12 small dried prunes on that.

I washed the turkey thighs and put those on top of the vegetables.  Then, I poured the bottle of curry sauce on top of the thighs.  I added a little more water and the cilantro cubes and red curry paste and shook it up to get the dregs mixed in and poured that on top of the turkey.

I spread a can of petit diced tomatoes around the edges of the curry sauce, to fill in the space where the sauce was not covering the thighs, then added chopped jarred red bell peppers and coconut (just because I had it) to the mix.

On top, I put the green peas.  I turned the slow cooker to High for 6 hours.

I just found some more coconut milk in the freezer, and may add that later.

Now, I want to make beans and greens soup.  I just need some canned white beans…  I’ll let you know how the curry turns out!

Is grad school really for me?

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Just recently, I sent an e-mail to a friend of mine about grad school.  I chose her for a couple of reasons – she has endured the grad school process, and I respect her opinion.  For some reason, I was considering it. For the most part, my attitude was that, if I was just looking for more money, I could make that happen with my art.

The last time I darkened a college classroom was maybe 12 or 13 years ago, when I returned to Louisiana to enroll in the Francophone Studies program at the University of Louisiana: Lafayette (back then it was USL – University of Southwestern Louisiana).  After one semester, I decided that this track was not for me, and was able to take Spanish, and some education courses.  That is how I got re-certified and returned to teaching.

I had looked into Arts Integration in the past, and the only place the offers a program is Towson University.  They offer what they call a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Arts Integration.  But it doesn’t look like AI has earned a place in degree-dom.  I do think that art is a very valuable tool in teaching – especially in teaching reading.  I was just looking for something “official” to take to back up that interest.

Last night, I did some research on degrees in Children’s Literature.  I took notes on Penn State, which has an online Master of Education and Curriculum – Children’s Literature.   That might be a possibility, but I have to be ready to spend what looks like $1900 per class.  Ouch!

Hollins University looked really attractive.  Here is the intro to their webpage on the Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature:

“Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature. One of the few in the country to offer humanities graduate degrees in children’s literature, we are, we believe, the only one to offer them in the study and writing of children’s literature.”

So, I could choose to study and/or write children’s literature.  But couldn’t I write on my own?  Summers in Roanoke might be fun.  Also, they seem to have an occasional trip to England for a summer class.  That would be fun!

I also really liked Simmons College’s program, as they offer an M.A or an M.F.A in Children’s Literature.  Here is a quote from their degree introduction:

The Center for the Study of Children’s Literature (CSCL) at Simmons College administers the nation’s first Master of Arts in Children’s Literature as well as a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Writing for Children. The CSCL provides a rigorous, disciplined study of children’s books for those who are — or who intend to be — involved in teaching, library services, publishing, writing, or related fields. To develop a critical vocabulary essential for appraising text and illustration, students apply a high level of scholarly analysis to children’s literature ranging from folklore and mythology to contemporary realistic fiction and nonfiction.

The only problem is that it looks like an all-year program, and it’s not online. I don’t think we can move to Boston at this time…

There were others, but they were mainly Education Degrees, or English Literature Degrees with a concentration in Children’s Literature.  Often, that meant only 3 classes – not a lot of depth, it seems.

So, the search goes on.  I still don’t know if grad school is for me, however.

House of the Scorpion Loteria Card 1

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The purple mountains of Durango...

The dusty cornfields and purple mountains of Durango...

Last year, after my classes finished reading House of the Scorpion (written by Nancy Farmer), I asked them to create loteria cards.  I asked them to draw images that were representations of characters, symbols, concepts, themes – anything relevant to the story.  This was very difficult for them, and a little tedious for me, because there were a lot of repeat cards.   I decided at the beginning of the assignment not to assign the student specific cards, hence the plethora of cups (poison wine), scorpions, and hearts.

To keep myself stimulated while this activity was going on, I decided to do some loteria cards of my own.  So far, I have 32 – each representing different aspects of the story.  I did try one exercise – I laid a card on each student’s desk, then asked the student to turn it over.  Then I asked that student to tell me why I chose that image for my loteria deck.  After some coaxing, my more reluctant students were able to say something.  I had some very sharp students last year that totally got it.

Now, to explain the above card (I am not sure yet if I will put a word on it…):

Durango is where El Patron, the original Matteo Alacran, was born.  His last name a tribute to the people of Durango, who are called “alacranes” or scorpions.  Celia, the cook, and Matt’s mother figure, is also from Durango.  She was saved from becoming an “eejit” because El Patron recognized her accent and kept her on to cook traditional dishes for him.

There is a very important story that El Patron tells four times in the novel.  The first time he tells it is when he and Matt meet for the first time (pp. 57-58).  There, he just provides the bare bones of the story:  that he was born in Durango (he always mentions the dusty cornfields and purple mountains – hence the image above), that his brothers died of various things before they had a chance to grow up, and his sisters died from typhoid.

Later on in the story, El Patron tells the story three more times:  at his birthday celebration (pp. 100-101), when he is in bed and sick for the first time (p. 200), and finally, when he wants to the ultimate sacrifice from Matt (pp. 232-233).  Each time he tells the story, we learn more details about the deaths of his brothers.  He also adds more detail to the fiesta where his sisters contracted typhoid.  It’s a masterful device, and I endeavored to point this out to my students.

I love this book so much – it is obvious that I’m a bit obsessed.  But, then again, I must have read it (okay, listened to it on CD) at least 30 or 40 times, because I also listen to it when my students are reading with the CD in class…  I never grow tired of it and always find something new to remark upon each time.

More Monthly or Daily Challenges

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A friend of mine on Facebook just posted that she was about to embark on “30 Days of…” exercise.  I don’t know if she got this idea from The Happiness Project or from somewhere else.  The idea is that, if you do something every day for thirty days, it will become a habit.  In theory, I should be doing that, too (exercise), but first, I will finish this post.

Here is a comment about it from the article posted above – it’s about exercising or doing something 4 days a week instead of every day:

“If I try to do something four days a week, I spend a lot of time arguing with myself about whether today is the day, or tomorrow, or the next day; did the week start on Sunday or Monday; etc.”

How TRUE that is!  I do that all the time!  Even now, I am thinking about writing my friend (who is feeling bad and doesn’t feel motivated to exercise today) to tell her that August has 31 days, so she has one day lee-way.  I’m such a good friend…  Or am I the DEVIL?

I have had a pretty good run doing the NaBloPoMo – I only missed one day after I knew about the challenge, and that’s only because I didn’t have access to the internet.  Now, am I going to continue to write in my blog every day?  Maybe, but probably not.  I am about to start school, and I may not have time every day.  But I am going to make a list of things that I still want to add to my blog and keep it handy for when I can’t think of something.

Here are some more ways to challenge yourself:

Thing a Day is during the month of February (apparently you must sign up between Jan. 26 and before midnight on Jan. 31 – the website says that there are no late sign-ups.)  Everyone is invited to sign up before February 1st and commit to make one new thing (project, sketch, exercise) per day and share it on this group blog.   They are pretty loose about what you can do, but they did state that all work should be from that month only – no recycled work.

Everyday by Tom Judd was a project that this British artist did for two years straight. “Everyday was a self-set project intended to keep me drawing on a regular basis. Each page represents a day of my life and was scanned and uploaded to my site. I completed 2 years of drawing Everyday.” If you go to his website, he has all of his 741 works up for you to browse.  Amazing!

A little bit closer to my heart (only because I have seen him play two times with Paul and Storm) is Jonathan Coulton.  He did something he called Thing a Week – Here is the description from Wikipedia:

“Thing a Week” is the name that Coulton gave to a creative experiment which ran from 16 September 2005 to 30 September 2006. In this project, Coulton undertook to record 52 musical pieces in the course of a year, one each week. This target was achieved.

Here is a link to the first entry of his Thing a Week challenge and here is the final entry for the challenge.  This is all part of his blog, of course, so there are also blog posts about other topics.  The Thing a Week project got him some press, and you can even buy CDs of his work during that time at Amazon.com.  Just search Thing a Week – and that link is only for Part ONE.

Can’t commit to a whole project or thing a day.  How about a Sentence A day?  Here is a link to the How to and Reasoning behind Gretchen Ruben’s One Sentence Journal.  It is not a blog, she hand-writes it on paper.

I decided to search for Haiku Blogs – talk about the art of keeping it simple!  Interestingly enough, both of the ones I found don’t have any recent entries.  One Haiku Every Day ended on February 11, 2009.  Haiku A Day had it’s last entry on December 23, 2008.  Of course, there are all sorts of haiku fan sites, too.

Here is the Cupcake a Day blog.  I had to look that up because, secretly, I wanted to do that one… This blog includes not only the author’s recipes, but links to other great recipes and I think I even saw a cupcake bakery featured.  I love it!

Now, with the movie Julie & Julia coming out, I could not NOT mention Julie Powell’s blog.  I first found this blog but I supposed the rest of the entries were used for her book (?).  I then found another, more recent-looking blog here.  Hey, she got a book and a movie out of her blog – what an inspiration!  Here’s an interview with Julie – and an blog entry I found about Julia Child’s opinion of the Julie/Julia Project.

Here’s another month-long project:  November is Art Every Day Month!  (Wow, what is it about November?)  Here is an explanation from the founder:

“I keep the rules for AEDM really simple and very loose. I encourage people to make something every day, but my goal is to foster more creativity, so if you make just one piece of art per week or just one for the whole month, that’s fine with me. The idea is to bring more creativity into your life, not to make you feel overwhelmed, pressured or guilt-stricken. Art is also loosely defined here. I mean art in the sense of anything creative, whether that be painting, drawing, knitting, sewing, cooking, decorating, writing, photography, clay, jewelry-making or whatever!”

She also has a blog and a Creative Every Day Year-long Challenge:

“Creativity is meant in the broadest sense, so it doesn’t have to be something art related. Your creative acts could be in cooking, taking pictures, knitting, doodling, writing, dancing, decorating, singing, playing with your kids, brainstorming ideas, gardening, or making art in the form of collage, paint, or clay…or whatever!”

Finally, I found Every Day Art – I think it started out as a college class assignment.  There are no participants at the moment, but all of the assignments are there for inspiration!