Category Archives: Artists

Alebrijes and Oaxacan Woodcarving


I am a big fan of Oaxacan Woodcarving.  Good thing I’m going to Oaxaca!  Last year, I picked out a fabulous rabbit painted by Aurora Sosa of San Martin Tilcajete.  I think I ended up having my husband buy it for me for Christmas or my birthday or something.  It looks like the bunny on the left, only in the crouching position.

Over the years, I have purchased a couple of woodcarvings, but they are smaller and less detailed.  This was the first one I purchased as a collector – I just thought it was beautiful and I wanted it.  If I am lucky, maybe I will get to go to Aurora Sosa’s village and meet her.  Her father, Luis Sosa Calvo, is also a carver.

From Wikipedia:  Alebrijes originated in Mexico City in the 20th century.  The creation of the first alebrijes, as well as the name itself, is attributed to Pedro Linares, a Mixe Indian artisan from Arrazola, Oaxaca who made a living in Mexico City making piñatas, carnival masks and “Judas” figures from papier-mâché.   He sold these in markets in Mexico City in the 1930s.

When he was around thirty years old, Linares fell ill with a high fever which caused him to hallucinate.  He dreamed that he was in a forest with rocks and clouds, many of which turned into wild, unnaturally colored creatures, some with wings, horns, tails, fierce teeth and bulgy eyes.  While seeing the creatures, he heard a crowd of voices which repeated a nonsensical word that sounded like “alebrije.” After he recovered, he began to create the creatures he saw using papier-mâché and cardboard.

The descendents of Pedro Linares, many of whom live in Mexico City near the Sonora Market, carry on the tradition of making alebrijes and other figures from cardboard and papier-mâché.  Recently, there has been a yearly Parade of Alebrijes in Mexico City.

Here are some links about paper mache alebrijes and Pedro Linares:

History of Mexican Paper Mache Sculptures
Wild Dreams and Rainbow Faces – article about the Linares family on
Pedro Linares family website – has some glitches, but recounts Linares’ original “alebrije” dream.
Paper Mache Dragon by Joel Garcia Grande, who studied with Pedro Linares
The Skeleton at the Feast:  The Day of the Dead in Mexico
by Elizabeth Carmichael and Chloë Sayer – includes work of the Linares family
Exhibit in San Diego featuring Linares

More from Wikipedia on Wooden alebrijes (paraphrased):  “What are called “alebrijes” in Oaxaca is a marriage of native woodcarving traditions and influence from Pedro Linares’ work in Mexico City.  Pedro Linares was originally from Oaxaca, and during family visits to Arrazola, he demonstrated the designs he was making in Mexico City. The first to copy the fantastic forms and bright colors was Manuel Jiménez, who carved the figures in local copal wood rather than using paper.

Animal figures had always been carved in the central valleys area of Oaxaca by the Zapotecs since the pre-Hispanic period.  Totems of local animals were carved for luck or religious purposes as well as hunting decoys. Figures were also carved for children as toys, a tradition that continued well into the 20th century.  After the craft became popular in Arrazola, it spread to Tilcajete and from there to a number of other communities.

Now the three main communities are  San Antonino Arrazola, San Martin Tilcajete and La Union Tejalapam, each of which has developed its own style.  The carving of wood figures did not have a name, so the name “alebrije” eventually became adopted for any carved, brightly colored figure of copal wood, whether it is of a real animal or not.  To make the distinction, the carvings of fantastic creatures, closer to Linares’ alebrijes, are now sometimes called “marcianos” (martians).

Oaxacan alebrijes have eclipsed the Mexico City version, with a large number of stores in and around the city of Oaxaca selling the pieces and it is estimated that more than 150 families in the area make a living carving and painting the figures.  Many rural households in the Mexican state of Oaxaca have prospered over the past three decades through the sale of  these brightly painted, whimsical wood carvings.   They sell them to international tourists and the owners of ethnic arts shops in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Here are some books I found about Oaxacan Woodcarving:

Mexican Folk Art: From Oaxacan Artist Families by Arden Aibel Rothstein and Anya Leah Rothstein
Crafting Tradition: The Making and Marketing of Oaxacan Wood Carvings
by Michael Chibnik
Oaxacan Woodcarving: The Magic in the Trees by Shepard Barbash and Vicki Ragan  and the sequel:  Changing Dreams: A Generation of Oaxaca’s Woodcarvers

Dream Carver by Diana Cohn and illustrated by Amy Cordova – children’s book inspired by the story of Manuel Jimenez

Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan – the focus is on the Night of the Radishes, but Naomi is descended from a Oaxacan woodcarving family.

ABeCedarios: Mexican Folk Art ABCs in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill.  The carvings were made by Moisés Jiménez and Armando Jiménez and photographed by K.B. Basseches. Cynthia Weill also wrote Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish with carvings by Martín Santiago and Quirino Santiago.  She also has a new book coming out called Colores de la Vida: Mexican Folk Art Colors in English and Spanish (First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art) – there is no mention of who the carvers are.

Lesson Plans:

Wood Animalitos:  alebrijes made from pieces of wood

Woodsies Extraordinaire – could be adapted to Oaxacan Wood Animals

Texture Critters – a drawing project inspired by Oaxacan art

Mythical Beasts – can be adapted – students create  a mythical beast and write a story about it

Mexican Animalitos – these are made from paper mache

Whimsical Oaxacan Animals – made from paper clay

Alebrije Painting Lesson based on a  book based on a Zapotec legend called Rabbit and Coyote by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Drawing Oaxacan Alebrijes – from

Here is a 9 week art unit on Mexico for sixth grade

Here is a lesson plan where students  construct a fantasy animal of paper and plaster (for 3rd or 4th grade)

Alebrijes: Fantasy Animals – 3rd grade Spanish animal unit with links to Activity Sheets in English and Spanish – very well thought out.

Websites with examples of Oaxacan Woodcarvings:
El Caracol Zapoteca – beautiful photographs – my favorite!
La Fuente Imports – photos also very well done
Solmar Imports – more examples, along with other folk art

Port Wahakaa’s website, The Art of Oaxacan Woodcarving has an excellent gallery with articles on copal trees, the styles of woodcarving villages, animals in myth and nature.  There are three galleries illustrating the work of many carvers, with short comments on each artist.  There is also a “Rough Guide” describing various styles with an examples from the same artists described in the gallery.

Articles about Artists and the art of woodcarving:

Here is an article on Gabino Reyes and Eloy Santiago
Crizmac Article on Zeny Fuentes
Website of Jacobo and Maria Angeles Ojeda – own a gallery and restaurant in Tilcajete article on how woodcarvings are made
Oaxacan Woodcarving: Innovation Meets Tradition – this is a DVD featuring Zeny Fuentes offered by CrizmacEl Caracol Zapoteca offers articles on woodcarving and artists

From – here is a reading in English and Spanish about alebrijes, with a recording of the Spanish reading – there is also a long version for more advanced students.

Finally, here is a clipping I got a while back from the Crizmac website (click on the image for full size).

Oaxaca Projects, Part One

I made this map to include in my students’ Mayan codices. It looks great laser printed on brown craft paper.  You have to cut the paper to size, however.

At the moment, I have to say that I am maxing out my loafing potential as Summer Vacation begins.  I have all sorts of ideas and projects, but at the moment, I can’t seem to be bothered much.  So… in an attempt to focus, I am looking back at my application for the National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Institute that is four short weeks away.

In order to be considered for the Institute, I had to write an essay of no more than 4 pages, double spaced.  I tried hard not to play with the margins too much, but I had so much I wanted to say.  The excerpt below is the part where I explain what I would like to do while I am down in Oaxaca.  Yes, there will be tours, and lectures, and all sorts of interesting things to see, but the main idea of getting a bunch of teachers together is to create lesson plans that will use the resources we will learn about – as well as any others we can bring to the table.

Here goes – of course, I’ve added notes as I am thinking of them now:

If I am fortunate enough to be chosen to participate in this Summer Institute, I have some specific ideas of what I would like to pursue.  First of all, I am interested in expanding upon my lesson plans on the Mayan Civilization, which is one of the standards that I must teach in sixth grade Social Studies.  I would like to take the idea of creating a Mayan codex (which I did as an accordion book out of cardboard and brown paper this past year) and add more elements to that book.

Glyph with Mayan Long Count Birthdate

This will be a challenge – but I think that my students already have some experience with “creative” spelling.  It may not be as difficult as I envision.

If possible, I would like to have clarification on how to calculate the dates in the Long Count calendar so that this could be aligned with the Mathematics curriculum.  I would also like to collect more specific information about the Mayan observatory – perhaps this information could be added to the Astronomy unit in the Earth Science curriculum.

To be honest, I found some excellent lesson plans, but the Mayan calendar in long count confuses me…  It is true, however, that we do study the planets in Earth Science – I just am not aware of any specific astronomical information in my Mayan resources.

In regards to teaching ESOL and reading, I have also located two young adult novels that portray young people living in Ancient Maya.  One of these books is called The Well of Sacrifice (by Chris Eboch) and the other is Heart of a Jaguar (by Marc Talbert).  The Well of Sacrifice has a female protagonist and Heart of a Jaguar has a young male protagonist.  I would like to organize a parallel book study where the students can identify with life in a Mayan village.  Both books portray vivid scenes of ritual sacrifice and I look forward to sharing ideas about teaching this sensitive subject.  I have supplemented my reading materials with books of Mayan folktales and legends and want to use those as resources, too.

I hate to sound jaded, but for most middle school students, the portrayal of blood and gore only seems to ENHANCE the reading experience.  Truth be told, I am having a hard time getting into these books, so I don’t know how that bodes for younger readers…  I forgot to mention that I DO use Me Oh Maya!, which is a Time Warp Trio series of books.  It’s pretty funny and is a good attention grabber.  In coordination with the new British series I found, it could be good.

In addition to these texts, I have found four texts that illustrate the modern world of the Maya and Mixtec people.  What the Moon Saw and Red Glass by Laura Resau involve heroines that voyage to Oaxaca and encounter curanderas, divination using corn kernels, and the Mixteca language.   Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Muñoz Ryan also involves a journey to Oaxaca, and highlights the woodcarving culture of the region.  Although Colibrí by Ann Cameron is set in Guatemala, many of the traditions and references are similar to those in my books about Oaxaca.  I would like to make the teaching of these texts in more depth possible by collecting information and real life examples and making them available to our school library – to generate interest and understanding in the subject matters and culture described so vividly in these books.

So, there.  I don’t know if I am going to do all of those things, or choose aspects of each.  I do want to do some advance preparations so that I have some idea of the lesson plans before I get to Mexico.  After I made the proposal, I came up with the idea of looking at my collection of folk tales – which is pretty extensive, and using those for a Language Arts lesson plan on elements of a folk tale.

On top of that, I have many interesting picture books about the area that can be appropriate for introducing the culture.  I have a book called Josefina by Jeannette Winter that is written about the artist Josefina Aguilar.  We don’t have a trip planned to Ocotlán, but I could go down there.  She and her family have a pottery studio there.  Dream Carver by Diana Cohn is said to be inspired by the real life of Oaxacan woodcarver Manuel Jimenez.  There is also a series of books by Cynthia Weill which include Oaxacan woodcarvings to illustrate the alphabet and opposites.

So, my problem is not with coming up with ideas – it is with narrowing down the possibilities for the four week Institute!

Raoul Dufy, continued.


I just realized I forgot to finish my blog post about my trip to Jackson to see the Raoul Dufy exhibit.  My mom and sister were supposed to meet me in Jackson on Sunday and we were going to go together to the exhibit.  That morning, I think, I got another call, saying that my nephew had advanced another level in his Little League tournament.  Therefore, he had another game that morning, at 9:30.  That meant that not only were my companions going to be leaving later, but they would be leaving from Carencro, LA – which is even farther away than Covington.

No problem.  I had already slept in, and made the decision to get up and go ahead of them.  That way, I would make sure I saw everything I wanted to, and then I could just follow them around when (or if) they got there.

I got my stuff together and drove to downtown Jackson and located the museum.  Since it didn’t open until noon, I went out to find a place to eat.  There’s not much in the way of restaurants in downtown Jackson, especially on a Sunday morning.  I drove around the HUGE Mississippi State Fairgrounds, and through a picturesque gentrifying neighborhood (Belhaven Heights) before finding a Waffle House and deciding to eat there.

Before my trip to Jackson, I had asked my father if he had any advice – he lived south of Jackson in a little town called Osyka.  So I figured he’d been to Jackson.  His advice was to approach the city with an armed contingent.  Apparently, my father thinks that Jackson is dangerous.  This from a man who has traveled all around New Orleans and Houston and Atlanta – all three cities much bigger than Jackson.  He just said to stay away from the bad parts of town after dark.

This Waffle House was on the periphery of the Downtown area, and I was joking around with my waitress (a college student) about my father’s pronouncement.  She said, “Oh, this area is fine in the daytime…”  Okay.  Not long after that, suddenly two men started yelling at each other – cursing and challenging each other to a fight.  The management got them settled down and send the angrier man outside, where he waited, furious, gesturing the other guy to come out and join him for a fight.  We really don’t know the cause of the disagreement, but my waitress said, “Well, now you have something to tell you dad about!”

From there, I returned to the peace and quiet of the Mississippi Museum of Art.  I paid my entry fee, and the kind people told me that I could leave and return if I wanted to without paying again for that day.  I really took my time – there are two ongoing exhibits at the museum as well as the Dufy exhibit.  I really enjoyed the Mississippi Story exhibit, which included works by Mississippi artists, as well as art about Mississippi.

I learned a lot about some artists that I had never heard of – I especially liked the work of Walter Anderson.  Apparently, there is a museum in Ocean Springs, MS, with his work and an entire room of his house with painted walls.  I will have to go there next time I’m in that area.  His work is fabulous, and he apparently worked in many media, including watercolor, linocut, and clay (?).

In addition to Walter Anderson’s work, I was flabbergasted at the larger-than-life representational works of Glenray Tutor.  It says on his site that he is a photorealist.  His still life works are filled with all sorts of beautiful ordinary things like firecracker wrappers, marbles, candy, toys, bottles, Mason Jars – you just have to go to his website to see it for yourself.

There was one work by Lea Barton called Yellow Dog – it was a mixed media collage and had a picture of Jesus on it, so of course it caught my attention.  It was inspirational to see because it was a large work, and I am trying to envision larger pieces for my own artwork.  I went to her website, where there is a YouTube interview with the artist.

By the time my mother and sister arrived, I had spent about 2 1/2 hours in the museum and was going through the gift shop.  I loved the Dufy exhibit – his body of work is so vast and colorful!  I especially loved his woodcuts from Bestiaire, by Guillaume Apollinaire.  I am definitely going to buy a copy!  He was also the illustrator for an Alphonse Daudet book called Les Aventures Prodigieuses de Tartarin de Tarascon (I think).  Here is a copy of an English translation of the book.  Here is where you can buy a French version.  Neither seem to have Dufy’s illustrations.  Apparently a copy of that would cost a LOT.

It’s 11:00 and time to get up and do stuff!

Raoul Dufy Exhibit in Jackson, Mississippi


Last weekend, I went to Jackson, Mississippi to see the Raoul Dufy exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Art.  I also invited my mom and my sister to come – kind of a girls’ weekend.  As usual, nothing could be that simple.  First of all, Mom decided to take advantage of some days off to precede the rendez-vous with a visit to my sister’s family in Covington, Louisiana.  That, in itself, is not a problem:  Covington is about 2 1/2 hours south of Jackson, so Mom and Sis could drive up and meet me, then I would take Mom back to Atlanta.

My husband, in the meantime, had an opportunity to go to NearFest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania that same weekend.  That meant coordinating dog boarding not only for my dog, Lupita, but also for my mother’s dog, Poppy, because we were also taking care of her while Mom was in Louisiana.  I keep Lupita at Man’s Best Friend up here in Norcross, so I just had to make sure her shots were up to date and drop her off.  Poppy was a bit more tricky.  She’s only about 7 months old and has never been boarded.  I had already made reservations at the Hilton Garden Inn in Madison, Mississippi and they do not accept pets.

I hesitated to also board Mom’s baby at MBF because they have a bit of paperwork to fill out.   Also, Poppy is only a 10 pound puppy (and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – princess…) and she could not just stay anywhere.  So, after a brief websearch, I found the Chateau La Pooch just down the road from the hotel in Madison.  Perfect solution!  So, Poppy was going to ride with me to Madison on Saturday and stay at the CLP for two nights, then ride home with Mom and me on Monday.

The drive over was 6 1/2 hours – I had my trusty Garmin GPS to guide me.  I really only stopped a few times – picked up a book on CD at Cracker Barrel, and did drive-thru for lunch.  I didn’t want to leave Poppy in the car – even in the shade – for long because it was HOT!  This wasn’t a problem until I got to the Mississippi Tourist rest stop and decided I wanted to look at a map – one thing about the GPS is that it doesn’t give you the big picture.  Surely we were almost to Jackson!  So, after walking the dog, I picked her up and walked into the Welcome Center to find a Mississippi map.  After I did that, I walked back out.  Her feet never touched the ground, although I did try to get her to drink from the water fountain (which she declined to do…)

As I walked out, the kindly security guy came up to me and said, “Ma’am, we try to keep the dogs out on the grass…”  So, I looked at him pleasantly and explained my dilemma:  Leave a puppy in the car and have someone report me for animal cruelty, tie her outside (where someone might snatch her – I didn’t say that), or carry her in just for a moment to look at the map.  He told me that Jackson was not far away – I knew that already… and we said our good-byes.

After I dropped her off at the “chateau”, I went to the hotel.  Mom and Sis were not coming until Sunday, so I had the evening by myself.  I used my laptop to search for shopping options (if there’s a Hobby Lobby, JoAnn Fabrics, TJMaxx, or Tuesday Morning in the area, I like to check it out.), and drove out to shop.  I didn’t find too much, but stopped at a Stein Mart and bought a dress and a new top.  Then, after searching up and down the frontage road of I-55, I decided to try Raising Cane’s, a chicken finger restaurant.  Then, I went back to the hotel and went to sleep.

Part Two later!

Cordel Art of Brazil


I have recently gone on a Brazilian kick.  I almost bought a ticket to visit there, even.  On last Friday, I was doing a random check on airfare and found out it was only $525 RT to Sao Paolo!  I have friends who have relatives there, and was waiting to find out if anyone would be home.  (Interestingly enough, that was more important than waiting for the “go ahead” signal from my hubby…).  Alas, by the time I got an answer, the airfare had shot up to $760.  Dang!  You snooze, you lose.

So I have had to satisfy my urges by visiting my local Brazilian grocery.  There, I bought two savory pastries, one called coxinha and the other was a Brazilian kibbeh concoction called quibe.  I loved the former – a lovely chicken croquette with crispy bread crumbs on the outside (Here is a recipe link).  The kibbeh was too salty.  I also bought a square of orange colored cake with a cocoa icing.  I gave that to my Brazilian co-worker because I am supposed to be on a diet.

The main cultural aspect of Brazil that I have been researching is called cordel literature, or literatura de cordel. (from “Literatura de cordel” (string literature) are pamphlets or booklets that hang from a piece of string (cordel) in the places where they are sold. These are long, narrative poems with woodcut illustrations on the cover, often done by the poet himself. There are traditional themes (romances, fantastic stories, animal fables, religious traditions) and themes based on current events, famous people, life in the cities, etc.  Cordel literature can be hilarious and very racy, too.”

Here is an article on electronic cordel literature.

Here are photos of cordel displays in Brazil.

The poetry of d.s. levy, which follows the cordel form.

Article on literature de cordel on

Another piece on cordel literature.

Brazilian Collection and information site on Cordel Literature (in Portuguese).
Acrobat file on native poetry forms of the Americas – first page is on cordel literature.
Arizona State University professor’s article on his cordel collection.

Lesson Plan:  Stories on a String from

Article on a family day at a San Angelo Texas museum focusing on Brazilian culture.

Another Event: the Green Cordel Festival May 2009

Galleries with Brazilian Woodcuts:
Indigo Arts
A Hopeful Madness
Mariposa Arts
Tesoros Trading Company – You can even buy Cordel Literature by J. Borges

Books about Cordel Literature:
Lampion and his Bandits – English Version of Cordel literature legend, Lampion – a sort of Brazilian Robin Hood.
Stories on a String – by Candace Slater – very important resource.

Jorge Amado: New Critical Essays
Article in Callaloo Journal
The Cambridge History of Latin American Literature by Roberto González Echevarría, Enrique Pupo-Walker

That’s just the beginning.  One of the reasons I am going to the John C. Campbell School is to learn a bit about woodcut printing!

I’m into bookmaking!


I have to thank The Crafty Chica (Kathy Cano-Murillo)  for her awesome tutorial video on Making An Easy Gift Card Book!  I have been getting her Diary of a Crafty Chica e-mail updates, and this one really inspired me.  The first one I made was covered in fabric – I know, I can’t seem to just follow the directions before improvising!  Mom complains that I do the same thing with recipes.  But, I had all of these red gift envelopes saved and this new brocade with dragons, and, well…

Let me back up a bit.  If you are not interested in watching the tutorial – it’s only 7 minutes long – here’s a short explanation of the project.  You buy gift cards from various stores, but instead of just presenting them to the recipient in an envelope or one of those gift tins they now sell, you make a little 3 1/2 inch by 5 1/2 inch book with envelopes inside to put the gift cards in.  You stick the gift cards on little cut out tags that you make to match the book and envelopes.  I really loved the idea, and decided to make one each for my niece and nephews.  That’s 3 books.

Of course, Kathy does hers with 3 gift cards each, so on Saturday I spent some time going around to stores and buying gift cards.  I started out at Kroger, because they advertise that they have the best selection – over 200 gift cards!  Here’s the problem:  I did not find one that was under $25.  I did buy a 3 pack of $10 I-Tunes gift cards, so that was good.  My mother warned me about some news report she saw claiming that gift cards are risky because some stores may go out of business before the card can be used.  Scary!  But, I went to Target, Sports Authority, and TJMaxx – I think I’m safe.

So, as I was saying, I tried an Asian theme first.  I bound the bookcovers in red brocade with medallions and dragons on it.  Then, I made my first mistake – I covered the inside of the covers before gluing the accordion envelope holders onto the ends.  So I had to prize up the holographic cardstock – hot glue is NOT forgiving.  At that point, I decided to finish it, but to make it a “practic” book.  The second mistake I made was in my accordion folding.  I was about to go into a big detailed explanation (snooze) but let’s just say that I figured out an easier way to fold without measuring out the accordion fold lines.  Lastly, although I love my little Chinese red envelopes, they are quite a bit smaller than the book is – although the gift cards DO fit in them.  I finished off the outside binding with some floral foil I had.  So, it was a bit insubstantial, but it was good practice!

From there, I went on to make a really stunning book with an angel theme.  I used heavy scrapbook paper and some Punch Studio angel Christmas cards I had been hoarding.  It looks awesome!  Although it was not part of the tutorial, I had some gorgeous silk ribbon saved from my (OMG!) wedding shower 10 years ago.  I attached it to the front and back, covering the glued-on places with angel cut outs.  I will have my husband take a picture of it and post it.  I honestly don’t want to give it away…

So, now I want to give gift cards to everyone on my list!  I am working on a Loteria-themed booklet (natch!), and am going to do more…  First, I have to put a coat of varnish on my Blue Dog Shrine orders and mail them out!  I am really bad about that – I get my best ideas when I am supposed to be doing something else!

Cajeta Cupcakes with Membrillo Surprise


I finally made my cupcakes with cajeta. I had this recipe for cajeta poundcake that I found years ago and decided to try and use it for a base for cupcakes. I filled the cupcake cups almost half full, then put a slice of membrillo (quince paste) on top of that.  I then topped that with a little bit more of the dough.

The recipe made much more than a regular cupcake recipe – about 40 cupcakes in all.  Note:  the recipe calls for 2 cups of cajeta – that is actually one 23 oz bottle.  I put it in the microwave for 30 seconds to get the last 1/2 cup out.  Beware – the bottle WILL melt.

I decided in the end not to ice the cupcakes.  They were dense and chewy enough with the 3 cups of sugar and 2 cups of cajeta caramel.  I brought most of them to school – I still have leftover bread pudding that I am eating.  People really liked them – I had some of my Mexican students and one teacher from Nicaragua rave about them.  I personally thought them too heavy.  I may experiment with a regular Cake Mix Doctor Pound Cake recipe or just adding some cajeta to a cake mix.

Not now, though.  I think I have to stop with the cupcake making or my family may plan an intervention.

Last night, my husband had passes to go to the Jonathan Coulton show with Paul and Storm at the Five Spot in Little Five Points.  We got down there in time to eat a dinner of falafel before the show.  Both acts were awesome and funny.  The Jonathan Coulton phenomenon just shows the power of the internet and blogging.  He actually came to Atlanta just because enough fans promised to buy tickets to see him if he came! How can you not love a guy who writes a song about IKEA?

This has been a pretty tame day.  I woke up at 10:30 and took the dog to the polo fields over on the other side of town where I used to live.  It’s the only place I know of where I can let her off leash with no worries.  Then, I found a shady place to park so that she could wait for me in the car while I ate sushi at RuSan.  When I got home, I took a nap until it was time for my massage.

While I was napping, we had a phone call from my dad.  He called to tell us that, in case we were looking for him this weekend, he would be at the hospital.  What?!!!  My dad lives in a small town in Mississippi, about one hour north of my sister’s home in Covington, Louisiana.  He had a urinary tract infection last month, and it has gotten worse.  He got out of the hospital for an hour to make arrangements to have his dog taken care of, but he is staying in the hospital on an IV drip of antibiotics for a couple of days.  I hope he’s going to be okay.  My sister is going to check on him and pick up his dog tomorrow.

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!

The lost entry…


I knew that I had done this entry, but almost couldn’t locate it!

By the way – my husband is also keeping a blog on this trip. You can read it by going to and accessing the blog.
Day Two of Classes: I think I have everything worked out as far as payment and class schedule. Yesterday, after I took my pre-test at 9AM, I went to all four of my classes, and ended the morning at 2PM. I thought this was an exception because my husband’s schedule went from 9AM to 1PM. But no, they have me scheduled from 10AM to 2PM, so our schedule is staggered.

Here is my schedule – from 10 to 10:50, I take gramatica (grammar) with Rosy. Then I have practica (practice, right?) with Alejandro from 11:00 to 11:50, where I go over sentences using the grammar point taught in lesson one. We get a 20 minute break. At 12:10 I go to a class called “no verbo” taught by Lupita (yes, I told her that was my dog’s name). Finally, at 1:10, I go to conversation with Paloma.

Then the school Spanish director realized that I was signed up for 4 hours of classes, but only scheduled to pay for 3 hours. I figured that out last night, and was planning on going with it. That was before I found out that classes would last until 2PM. After going back and forth, I figured that either conversation would be dropped if I had 3 hours, or I would have a different conversation teacher at 9AM. I really like Paloma a lot – she knows all about arts in the area and has even inquired about opening a Distroller franchise, so she knew what I was talking about there. Therefore, I decided to let things stay the way they are.

Not that I will be sleeping late or anything. I am having some trouble sleeping because there is no air conditioning. Last time I stayed in Morelia this was no problem because the weather is very mild and comparatively cool at night. The problem is that I am now staying on an upper floor, and the air circulation to our bedroom is not ideal. So it is a little stuffy. I will get used to it – maybe I will buy a fan.

Although there are no early morning crowing roosters (thank God), at 7AM sharp the church bell begins ringing on the quarter hour. I don’t know what the system is – it will ring about 17 or more times each quarter hour. There is no way to tell time by the church bell – you have to have a point of reference first. Our alarm clock is set for 7:30, but I am pretty much just lying around before that. Pretty soon after the church bell rings, the boys come by to pick up the trash. They ring a bell constantly as they go along to let us know they are coming. Sometimes one boy follows another (or the same boy comes around again?) about 10 minutes later, then they come pretty often in the morning and in the evening.

Yesterday, we didn’t do much since we were tired from lessons. After a pretty bland dinner (Wheat was having a nausea problem), my husband and I went back to the school to use their internet connection. We were able to use Skype to call both my Dad and my Mother at about 2 cents a minute. It was pretty cool. Then, we did a little web surfing until the school closed at 9:00.

Today, after classes, we went out to eat at La Picola Italia. It was a neazalcemural.jpgt little place. I ordered a mushroom bruschetta appetizer, a Mediterranean salad, and pasta with eggplant and swordfish. I was going to share this with my husband, so I told the waiter. He ended up separating all of our food (except the bruschetta) into little individual plates. That was so awesome.

We then started our research by going to the government palace, where there are great murals. They were painted by Alfredo Zalce, one of the last great muralists in the tradition of Rivera, Orozco, and Siquieros. We spent long time photographing the murals, and we may do a videotape. One of the murals documents the history of Morelia (which used to be called Valladolid), with neatly lettered explanations of important events. I have some ideas for using murals in conjunction with teaching history and time sequence. The other mural is a tribute of the many types of people who make up the culture of Michoacan.

Finally, we located and visited the Mercado de Dulces and did a quick lap. I have been keeping my eye out for Loteria decks and games and I finally found my first on the trip. I bought two for 30 pesos and have already opened one of them. To my surprise and delight, it had a silvery backing. Apparently it was printed on unused Downy clothes washing detergent cartons! Obviously, it’s pirated. It has borrowed images from Don Clemente, as well as other pirated Loteria decks, but it has some unique images, like the “elk” and the “squirrel.”

I just got an e-mail from my mother with a report on the dog. We just spoke to her last night, and things were fine. Unfortunately, after she spoke to me, the neighbors petitioned her with a complaint. Apparently Lupita barks non-stop when Mom is out of the house and the neighbors can’t take it. So it’s off to doggie camp for her.

I may have to skip my paleta tonight. I plan on starting a “paleta of the day” commentary. Last night I had a cajeta paleta – it was good, but the stick was short. I am working on my scoring and will get back to you tomorrow

Last Day!


I have been doing a lot of research pre-trip on art topics, and have found some really interesting things. Yesterday, I found out about paño art, which is art done on handkerchiefs and other fabrics by Chicano prison inmates. An interesting connection I made was with one of my entries from the Hispanic Heritage Month Poster Contest I had last year. One of the entries was turned in on t-shirt fabric. It looks strangely similar to paño art. I wonder if it was really done by a boyfriend or relative…hopefully, not in prison. Although it will probably interest some of my students, I doubt that the administration will be into prison art…

That will be the challenge with preparing these lesson plans and projects. So many people are intolerant – you get flack for talking about the Virgin of Guadalupe and a lot of customs because it’s too religious. Then, other aspects, like gang stuff, are too controversial and most of my students are too immature to discuss them rationally.

I found a really cool website that exhibits children’s art called Artsonia. A lot of teachers have done retablos and other projects that are based on Mexican culture – it’s really neat. The retablos and ex-votos seemed really popular. I just typed in “Mexican” in the Search and all of these great examples of student project work came up!

Hubcap art has fascinated me since I found some assemblages using hubcamilagrohubcap-copy.jpgps on E-Bay a couple of years ago. I am always looking for “masculine” art projects to interest my students. Here is a site with hubcaps decorated by children for a garden project. And I found an awesome series called Hubcap Milagros by an artist named David Avalos. I am including an image of one of his creations here. I don’t think that the school will let us work with sawblades!

Today is the last day of school – yay. I still have a lot to do: I get to pack up my classroom, mainly. In theory, I didn’t really have to move last year – I was supposed to, and had already started, but that room sprung a leak and flooded. It is a challenge, finding enough boxes.

This week is also very busy socially. I went to a retirement party for a colleague last night, I am going to the graduation of one of my former students tonight, and tomorrow I am making a cake and taking it to a birthday party. The only complication to all of these things is that they are all the way on the opposite side of town from my home. Sunday, I will sleep. All day.

I have made some plans and reservations for the trip to Mexico. I should have been a travel agent. We will be staying in Morelia, but visiting a different place every weekend. The first weekend, we will stay in Patzcuaro, at the Mansion Iturbe. I’ve stayed there before, and it’s beautiful. There is also breakfast included. We will be visiting other towns, either by rental car or by paying a taxi driver. The second weekend we will go to Guanajuato and staying at the Posada Santa Fe. I plan to visit Dolores Hidalgo and try the weird ice cream flavors. The third weekend, we will be staying at the Hotel Morales in downtown Guadalajara. I want to go to Tlaquepaque to shop for crafts, and definitely check out the Distroller store there.

The week after classes, my mom will meet us in Puebla, and we will visit old friends in Atlixco. They are the ones who live in the really awesome ex-hacienda. I plan to visit another Distroller store in Puebla. I also have other ideas of crafts areas to visit. They make amate paper in one of the towns, I know.

Now, I have a little problem. In my proposal, I stated that I planned to do a profile of Amparin Serrano, of Distroller fame. I don’t necessarily have to meet with her face to face, but my husband says that it sounds like I am definitely doing that in my grant proposal and in the press release. What I said is that I HOPE to interview her. I have tried sending an e-mail to the information contact at the Distroller website, but of course I have heard nothing back. It’s really funny, too, because there is a whole discussion thread on one of my blog entries about the company. Some of those people sound like they think I have some sort of inside information, but I am just as clueless as everyone else.