Category Archives: Blogging

The First Steps – A New Beginning

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the first step quote

I am using this quote to kick off a new era of Maison Celeste. It has been so long since I have blogged regularly. I am learning that there have been so many improvements in the land of blogging and website building. I planned on getting started sooner, but life has intervened. The divorce took so much longer to finalize than I had anticipated, and it was a very expensive and soul crushing process. It was a move that was vital for my mental well being, but it cost me a lot.

Part of the reason I have not written is that I was having a hard time thinking of positive things to write about. I was told by my creativity coach, Kathy Cano-Murillo, to keep posts upbeat. I was not feeling upbeat. As usual, I began the school year thinking that I knew what I would be teaching. And, as happened every year since 2008, there has been a change to my teaching schedule. I am obviously over certified. So, school was not feeding my inspiration as it has in the past.

The big bright spot in all of this is that I have become reacquainted with the place where I consider my hometown. That would be Lafayette, Louisiana. I visited every month for the past few years, with trips to New Orleans interspersed between those trips. I have fallen in love again with the culture of Acadiana. Lafayette has changed so much since I lived there in 1997. Since then, it has been awarded The South’s Tastiest Town, The Best Food Town, and The Best Overall City in America… Business is booming and Cajun cuisine is getting the recognition it deserves. And it’s not too far from New Orleans!

I wanted to move back to Lafayette over the summer, but circumstances made that impossible. So, now I am announcing my intention to move there this summer. There is so much to do. I plan to put my townhouse on the market, but not until I have vacated it, save for some of the large furnishings. In order to do that, I need to pack up or use up or get rid of a LOT of stuff. I have been accumulating art and craft supplies for years, and many of those are unused and in my garage and studio.

The other challenge is that the townhouse I plan to share with my new guy is much smaller than the one I live in now. So that doubles the need to lighten up. The plan, as I proposed it to Kathy last summer, is to write about the items I have. I want to revisit the moment when I though it was a good idea to buy 200 paper mache bells (they were 8 cents apiece…) or 500 mini photo albums with NASCAR drivers on them (10 cents apiece…). I will then decide if the project I planned with those things can come to fruition in the present. If so, I will make things and sell them on my Etsy site. If not, I will get rid of them.

I know this was a bit choppy, but I just needed to write something. This is the first step.

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A Long Absence

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I have not written in my blog in ages – I think the last entry was at the end of July, from Oaxaca.  So, obviously, I am not in the running to be one of those people who make money or generate thousands of followers with my blog.  Oh, well.

I am sitting at the Toyota Service Center – a really nice place, actually.  There is everything one could need for survival: tables, comfortable chairs, wi-fi, coke machines, a bathroom.  I may stay until my car is ready or call my husband to pick me up and come back later.  At the moment, I am cool.

Before I came, I went by the Georgia Bakery and picked up a chicken and pesto sandwich on French c0untry whole wheat and an almond croissant.  Despite its name, it is really a French bakery, and the proprietor, Olivier hails from France.  He makes his own bread and pastries, and has a great selection of sanwiches, panini, and ready-made quiches and savory pies available.

So, now I am checked in, settled in and eating my brunch.  I had planned on waking up at 8AM and coming up here earlier, but it is REALLY difficult for me to get up before 10AM on a weekend morning.  So I had to wait for a while to get checked in.  No problem – I’ve got time.

Lately, I have been busy with school, thinking about lesson plans to follow up my National Endowment of the Humanities Mesoamerican Institute in Oaxaca, and when I haven’t been busy with those things, I have been going out to eat too much and sleeping or napping when I can.

This year, to our surprise, we have twice the number of ESOL students than we had anticipated.  Pretty impressive, considering the measures that Cobb County is taking to scare immigrants off from our neck of the woods.  Actually, a small number of our students are new immigrants.  Unfortunately many of them have been in the United States for a very long time, which begs the question: why are they still in ESOL?

If there are any ESOL teachers reading this, it may not surprise them at all that a student can be a U.S. citizen, educated from kindergarten in the U.S. school system, and still be in the program.  Increasingly, the role of the ESOL teacher is becoming one of school detective and site interventionist.  I have been looking through files, requesting student files from other schools, and speaking directly with whomever I can to get a clue.

Several students have been in our school system since kindergarten, yet their ACCESS scores are below a 5 on the scale.  This means that teachers are reluctant to exit them from the program.  It is both a legalistic move and one that is made for self-preservation.  The fact is that with all of the “Reduction in Force” in school systems last year, the ESOL program lost a lot of teachers.

I won’t go off on my soapbox (or is that “get up on my soapbox” OR “go off”?) about how I feel about keeping students in the program past their “prime”.  I has been happening since I switched over to teaching ESOL 8 years ago.  The practices back then, when we were administering a placement test called the LAB were a little more open to interpretation.  I and other teachers could make the call as to whether a student still needed to be in the program, or needed to be exited for his or her own good.

There are basically three reasons why students do not make significant progress after being in ESOL for over 3 or 4 years.

  • Reason 1:  Lack of motivation – the fact is that they are comfortable with their friends and the perceived easier curriculum (Yes, it IS possible to fail a placement test on purpose).
  • Reason 2:  Truancy or excessive moving around – since they are forced to follow the cheaper rental rate or the more lucrative job market, immigrant families ten to move around a lot.
  • Reason 3:  Undiagnosed learning disabilities – some students may NEVER pass the ESOL program exit criteria, OR the ITBS, OR the CRCT.  Keeping them in the ESOL program often means that these problems are classified as “Limited English” problems.

And so it goes.  Now, I am not at all enthusiastic about there being a dearth of students for me to teach.  This might mean that I will have to go back to teaching French – in the MYP program, all students are required to take a foreign language.  Or, I could be called upon to employ one of my other certifications:  Middle Grades Language Arts and/or my “magically” appearing certification in Middle Grades Social Studies.  This means that I would have to cope with 4 times the student load, with the accompanying organizational and discipline challenges.

But, on the other hand, is it really fair to hold children back from getting the education and help that they really need – just to hang on to my job?  I don’t think so.  I am not trained to diagnose and accommodate Special Ed. students, and those students need to be identified and sent on to other people who can help them.

Also, with the big emphasis on student performance, I understand why many regular ed teachers would prefer NOT to have more unmotivated students in their classroom.  It’s easier to blame the problem on language acquisition.  I don’t know what the solution is – this is just what I happened to be able to write about today.

My Maneki Neko

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Pink brings fortune in love. Southpaw attracts customers.

This next image from my Artist’s Journal is a collage piece that I did when I was in full Maison Celeste mode.  It is a maneki neko, or lucky cat – the kind you see in all sorts of sushi and other Japanese restaurants.  The cat looks like it’s waving, but the Japanese hand gesture to beckon someone is the opposite of the Western one.

There is a story or legend behind the cat – the most common was about a poor monk in the Edo period.  His cat attracts a warlord to get out of the rain in the temple rather than under a tree.  Then the tree is struck by lightning.  The warlord showers the monk with money and gets people to go to his temple, so he is no longer poor.  When the cat died, he was buried in a special cemetery, and a little statue of a cat with his paw raised was put on his grave.

When I started this journal, I painted a couple of pages first.  I started this page out by using my favorite paint color of all time – Color & Co(mpany)’s cerise. It is the most intense fuschia pink you will ever find.  It’s kind of a shame that it’s a tempera paint, because it might run if I tried to shellac over it, but I love it anyway.  I painted the center, then I blended it in with orange and then yellow, filling the whole page.

Before I put the cat on the page, I did some freehand drawings of flowers, leaves, and vines with two different sized Sharpie markers. It’s the first time I’ve tried that and I think it came out great.  I think it stayed that way for a little while as I tried to think of what to put in the middle of the page.

I found this coloring page and printed it out.  I could have taken the trouble to draw it freehand or trace it, but it is a collage piece, so I just left it like it was.  I thought that I would go ahead and color it using oil pastels.  I chose pink to go with the background, shading the outside of the figure in orange.  The ears, claws, and nose are yellow.  Like most maneki neko statues, this one has a collar, bib and bell.  This article says that cats were rare, hence the collar and bell to find them if they were lost.  This website says that the bib and bell stand for wealthiness and material abundance.

I glued him down over my background, accepting that she was going to cover some of the flowers.  Then, I went for total over-the-top glitter, accenting cat and koban (the oval coin that she is holding) with glitter glue.  It buckled a bit, but has flattened out over time.  As a side note, maneki neko can hold other things beside a big gold coin.  This website by Sushi Cat has a great illustration of the lexicon.

It wasn’t until after I colored him pink that I decided to do a little bit of research on the symbolism behind the statue.  Honestly, I didn’t even think that there were pink cats around. I found out that there are meanings associated with the color of the cat and also the beckoning paw.  A left-handed cat (southpaw, like me) is supposed to attract customers and the pink cat brings fortune and love.  Perfect!

After I scanned the picture into Photoshop, I played around with some effects.  I may put one of them up in my CafePress.com shop.

Of course, because I have been reading so many picture books with great art, I thought briefly that the  story of the Maneki Neko would make a great children’s book.  Of course, there are no new ideas, it seems.  I found four of them:

Maneki Neko, The Tale of the Beckoning Cat by Susan Lendroth, illustrated by Kathryn Otoshi – This is the most recent (out last month) and stays faithful to the tale of the monk and his cat.

The Beckoning Cat: Based on a Japanese Folktale by Koko Nishizuka, illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger – This book tells a different story – about a poor fisher boy and his cat who attracts customers.

Tama the Cat: The Story of the Maneki Neko, the Beckoning Cat
by Robert Ogden, illustrated by Julia Preston – not available on Amazon.com, but you can order it from the U.K., along with prints from the book.

The Tale of the Lucky Cat by Sunny Seki – in this story, a toymaker is saved by a cat – beautiful illustrations, with text in Japanese and English.

So, if I want to do a children’s book, there are two possible legends to milk (from Wikipedia):

The Courtesan: A courtesan named Usugumo, living in Yoshiwara, in eastern Tokyo, kept a cat, much beloved by her.  One night, the cat began tugging at her kimono.  No matter what she did, the cat persisted. The owner of the brothel saw this, and believing the cat bewitched, cut its head off. The cat’s head then flew to the ceiling where it killed a snake, ready at any moment to strike. Usugumo was devastated by the death of her companion. To cheer her up, one of her customers made her a wooden likeness of her cat as a gift. This cat image then became popular as the Maneki Neko.

(doesn’t that one sound heart-warming and child-friendly?)

The Old Woman: An old woman living in Imado (eastern Tokyo) was forced to sell her cat due to extreme poverty. Soon afterwards the cat appeared to her in a dream. The cat told her to make its image in clay. She did as instructed, and soon afterward sold the statue. She then made more, and people bought them as well. They were so popular she soon became prosperous and wealthy.

(That one is also known as the George Rodrigue Blue Dog story – LOL)

Some fun links:

Canon Paper Craft Website – so awesome, and what a great idea!  17 pages of high output ink that you cut apart and put together. Instructions on assemblage are on a separate PDF.  There is a black maneki neko, a white maneki neko, and a calico maneki neko to print out.

ActionCat.com – there are lucky cat e-cards, plus you can design your own cat to print out or for screen capture.

Maneki Neko by Sushi Cat
– great site with all sorts of information, also maneki grams, puzzles and games – children will love it!

Lucky Cat Museum – online collection of lucky cats.

There is also Lucky Cat Fabric – I did not post a link, but there are a couple of Etsy.com shops that sell fabric.  Those links become obsolete when they get sold, but just do a search for all sorts of products.  Try quilting fabric sites for other options.

Cover of my artist’s journal

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Everybody seems to be into artist journals.  With a blog, a journal that I keep when I go to restaurants (mostly), and art that consists of collages, it’s hard to justify using collage papers on something that I am not going to sell or frame.  I do tape and glue little things in my written journal, like tickets, good horoscopes, fortune cookie papers, etc., and lord knows when I plan on scrapbooking to keep the other memorabilia.  Probably never.

But I decided to give it a go – maybe last year – and got the cover done, one collage done, and painted a couple of pages in preparation for more.  I do see it as a great place to really go wild – in my collage work, I do not use glitter or sequins.  Neither can I use a lot of the images I used on this cover, for example.  The major image is cut out from an awesome book on the Virgin of Guadalupe, called Guadalupe, Body and Soul by Marie-Pierre Colle.

Guadalupe looks good on the mosaic table!

I also used some fun glitter sticker letters – the message “Rock The Art World” was possible to make after I did my name in the center!  And, of course, I do want to one day rock!

I love Chupa Chups!

A lot of the hearts and roses are also cut from the cover of the Guadalupe book – I hate to waste bright images.  BTW, the hard cover of the book has the same image as the paper cover – I am not really one to jacket books.  The Chupa Chups logo was designed by Salvador Dali – did you know that?  I don’t love the suckers themselves as much as the wrappers.

The next image is a sticker from Punch Studio that I superimposed over a tequila bottle label – Jose Cuervo.  The colors of the agave fields were perfect against the Virgin.  I also had another candy wrapper (from a Lindor truffle) to add to the mix.

No, I don't just believe in chocolate and tequila...

I am constantly buying books for my classroom.  I love to collect folk tales, fairy tales, and picture books that have great art.  There is a series of books by an author named Monica Brown – the three I’m talking about are biographies for children.  There is one about Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gabriela Mistral, and even Pelé (must be newer), but the one I got the picture from is called My Name is Celia/Me Llamo Celia – about Celia Cruz.  The illustrations are by Rafael Lopez and they won a Pura Belpre Award.  One day, I would like to write a book – either a Young Adult novel or an art picture book, so that is why I also attached the “Latina Book Award Winner” medallion.

In my collage materials, I have a finite number of Peter Max hearts from a run of wrapping paper that he designed for Target years ago.  I went back to the store when the displays were being taken down to ask for them – they were awesome big hearts – but they said no.  Before one of them got put in the recycling bin, my sister managed to obtain one of them (is it really stealing if they are going to throw it away?), which hangs on my studio wall.

Another element I use often – especially in my Blue Dog Shrines, is a wrapping paper by Caspari – a gold background with painted squares.  Whenever I use it, people always think that I painted it myself.  Nope!  Nel Whatmore did.  Here’s a Virgin of Guadalupe shrine that I did – gave it to a friend of mine for her birthday – I might need to remove it from my Etsy shop.

At the bottom of my Virgin, of course, is the little angel that holds her half moon up.  Since my name is Celeste (which means “blue sky” or “heavenly”), I like to hope that angels are watching over (out for?) me!

Angels watching over me...

King Cake, anyone?

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roscas at the bakery

I am thinking about finding or making a king cake to bring to school on Wednesday.  It is Epiphany.  I remember well my different encounters with King Cake.  I am from Lafayette, Louisiana, so I have had all sorts of New Orleans style king cakes.  Being a gourmand, I have to admit that my favorite kind has always been one with as much cream cheese, fruit filling and icing as possible.

When I was living in France, I got turned on to the galette des rois, which is a puff pastry confection with frangipane inside.  Frangipane is a type of almond paste – coarser and more natural than marzipan.  I think it is also put in almond croissants.

When I came to Georgia, I had a great time sharing the king cake tradition with my students and friends.  I even would go all the way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras “just” to bring back kings cakes for my high school French students.  I know, the sacrifices we teachers have to make…  The most notable year was when I transported the aforementioned loaded cakes home and forgot to keep them horizontal.  Can I just say that we had a major collapse on our hands?

I used to have dinner parties in January, and I was so excited to find a bakery in Atlanta that made the frangipane filled cakes.  They were more expensive, so I was loathe to get those for my 6th graders that I taught at the time.  But I did buy a couple for one of my dinner parties.  My French friend clucked disapprovingly at my addition of a raspberry coulis, but I thought it went very well with the cake.

I only recently became familiar with the Mexican version of the king cake, called a rosca de reyes.  It is a relatively plain concoction – a yeast bread with fruit and maybe some nuts that is garnished with candied fruit.  I just happened to be driving home one January 6th when I passed a panaderia in Marietta.  They were making hundreds of roscas, and they were selling like, um, well – hotcakes.

I purchased a couple – one to share with my colleagues at school and a smaller one for my students.  I think they were pretty expensive:  $20 for the small one and $30 for the larger one.  Before I went home that night, for some reason I stopped by my favorite taqueria to have a couple of tacos de lengua.  I happened to mention to the proprietor that I had snagged these cakes on the other side of town, and she ended up buying one from me.

I was looking for recipes online and found this little group forum invitation.  You may go to the website, but here is the deal:

How to participate:
Please read and follow the instructions below. King Cake 2009

  • Bake or buy a King Cake, take pictures (if possible) and blog about the cake and your family tradition and don’t forget to mention who was the “crowned” king
  • Please link back to this announcement in your post, and eventually to the roundup.
  • Fill in the form below and your post will be listed in the roundup.
  • Last day of submission is January 8

If you click on the link to the right and look at last year’s contributors, you will see that there are all sorts of cake traditions for Epiphany.  I just read that even panettone – that Italian fruitcake that is on sale now everywhere – has been used for king’s cake as well.

Here are some more:  The Bolo Rei – from Portugal, the Tortell from Catalonia, Vasilopita from Greece, Banitsa from Bulgaria, etc.

Maybe I’ll make my old cheap stand-by.  One year, I purchased cans and cans of pop and serve cinnamon rolls.  It was easy:  I just opened up the cans, separated the rolls, and arranged them in circles or ovals – just like a real king’s cake.  I made some extra icing and either colored the icing green, purple, and yellow (Mardi Gras colors) or used sprinkles in those colors on white icing.  It was pretty good, too.  I just waited to hide the token or baby until after the cakes were done.

Hey, I just found a similar recipe from Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade!   Here is another using crescent rolls and a filling…  I did NOT, however, find and “easy” rosca de reyes recipe.  Hmph.

Lazy Day…

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It hasn’t rained yet, but I am still in bed.  I know that I need to eat, and I will, sometime soon.  But I am sooooo tired.  It took me over an hour and a half to get home last night.  Next time, I just won’t listen to my GPS when she (her name is Garmina) tells me of alternate routes that involve two lane roads that are already known as alternates to others…

When I finally got back on track – back to I-285, about 3 or 4 miles past where I got off earlier – I had to stop at a restaurant for cheese dip, chips, and to write in my paper journal for a while.  I am seriously thinking of just staying at school until 6 or 7 PM – maybe walking the track, writing my novel, taking a nap in my classroom – until it is “safe” to go home.  Maybe this was just a bad week for traffic…

When I did try to get up around noon, I went downstairs and found out that someone had drunk my last Diet Coke.  That sent me back to bed pretty quickly.  When my husband got home from working out, he went and got me another 12-pack, so I have been up since.

I went down to check my e-mail and my FaceBook, and got this in my Daily OM Horoscope:

September 26, 2009
Staying Vital
Leo Daily Horoscope

You might feel tired today, especially if your work life and social activities have been hectic. You could feel a sense of burnout or weariness as a result, even if you have been enjoying yourself. Taking some time for yourself to rest and recharge could lift your mood and restore your energy again. Today would be a good day to engage in soothing or creative diversions like painting or crafts. You might also consider putting everything aside and doing nothing at all. While this may seem boring, allowing yourself a chance to sit in peaceful silence today so you can rest your mind and body could have incredible restorative power.

Engaging in relaxing activities can reduce stress, soothe our senses, and restore our energy so that we can enjoy our regular activities again. Stress and busyness tend to create a cumulative effect in our minds and bodies, so we might not initially notice that we are doing too much until we begin to lose our motivation. Once we become aware of our fatigue, we can simply choose to engage in restorative activities and regain our vitality. Even better, if we make these activities a regular part of our lives, we can avoid reaching the point of excessive fatigue. Giving yourself the gift of rest and relaxation today can help you release stress and stay energized.

Wow!  Permission to be a lazy person all day long… Just what I needed!  I may get up and go to see a movie – I haven’t seen the new Harry Potter yet…  But now, I am committed to doing as little as possible.  Maybe I’ll order a pizza.

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!

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!

Loteria Artesania, Part 2

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Sorry I missed a day – I thought I would be able to access the internet at Callaway Gardens, but I could not.  Still, I have had a pretty good run at NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month).

Here is the next group of Loteria images I found.  As you will see, even after so many hours of searching images (I’m embarrassed to tell you how many), I have some missing.  That means substitutions.  Let me explain:  the idea behind this Loteria exercise was to come up with a traditional number of cards – that would be 54.

So, while I could have approached it several ways, I was trying to stick with images as close to the names of the cards that I could.  And – they needed to be some form of Mexican Folk Art.la guitarra toy

17 El bandolón – I couldn’t find a sitar (or mandolin?), so I used la guitarra instead.

18 El violoncello (The Cello) – still looking.

19 La garza – I found this Oaxacan wood carving (alebrije).la mano nicho

20 El pájaro – I like this Otomi embroidery swatch, or this Talavera bird.

21 La manoThis milagro (but it’s not large) and this hand nicho – I like it because it’s unique.

22 La bota – It wasn’t easy, but I found these Virgin of Guadalupe boots.

23 La luna – I love this paper mache moon.el borracho pap mache

24 El cotorro – Here is a paper mache parrot.

25 El borrachoHere is a drunk man made from paper mache.

26 El negritoHere is a traditional wooden carved and painted mask called El Negrito.

27 El corazón – I have soooooo many kinds of hearts, but I like this one in wood with milagros.

28 La sandía – a lovely coconut shell mask with a watermelon on it.

el tambor huichol29 El tambora Huichol yarn picture.

30 El camarón – haven’t found one yet.  I may replace it with this elefante (Oaxacan carving).  I have already asked for it for my birthday.

31 Las jaras (The Arrows) – Not yet.

32 El músicoa painted tin ornament of a musician.

33 La araña (The Spider) – Nothing yet.

More later!

NaBloPoMo, NaNoWriMo, SoFoBoMo… Say What?

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“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing noise they make as they pass by” -Douglas Adams

I currently have -what? 5 days left to participate in NaBloPoMo –  which stands for National Blog Posting Month.  According to the website, it “is the epicenter of daily blogging! People who want to set the habit of blogging by doing it every day for a month, including weekends, can come here for moral support, inspiration, and the camaraderie that only marathon blogging can provide.”

Now, I registered, but I haven’t really been to the central website.  I got pretty frustrated trying to make and download a badge for my website, so I gave up.  So far, I have only missed two days at the beginning when I didn’t know about the month.  And I wrote two extra entries to make up for that.

With five days left to go, and only 6 days left of summer vacation, I am sometimes fishing in vain for blog fodder.  Yesterday, I got involved in looking for similar contests that take place over a month, more or less.

I happened to come across SoFoBoMo, which is short for Solo Photo Book Month.  This is a group event where a bunch of photographers all make solo photo books start to finish, in 31 days, at more or less the same time. It’s modeled loosely on NaNoWriMo, where participating writers all write novels in a month, and NaSoAlMo, where musicians write and record solo albums in a month.  This time around, the fuzzy month is any 31 day period you please, provided that it starts no earlier than May 1, 2009, and ends no later than June 30, 2009, at midnight in your local time zone.

I, of course, have taken part in NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month,  which is in the month of November.  It is described as “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word – 1,700 words a day) novel by midnight, November 30.”

The think I like a lot about Chris Baty and the NaNoWriMo group is that they also have prepared lesson plans for teachers to encourage their students to participate as well.  Check out the Young Writers Program for lesson plans in three levels: Elementary, Middle School, and High School.

National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo) is “an online community of writers who, having written a novel, gather together every March for moral support in order to edit their work, whether for their own personal satisfaction or perhaps even for publishing. March is chosen primarily because National Novel Writing Month, which requires you to write a novel, is in November. Setting NoNoEdMo in March gives you a three month break from that novel so you have fresh eyes when you go back to edit it. Fifty hours is considered by some to be a minimum to substantially edit a novel of reasonable length.

While doing my research, I found out that right now is JulNoWriMo (July Novel Writing Month) is a writing contest identical to NaNoWriMo. (from the website) Why not just wait until November? – Simple answer: we can’t. For some of us, November was a hectic time and we never got the chance to write that story evolving in our brains! For the rest of us, we just crave to write more. We’re insane.

There are also two more Novel Writing Sites and both of those take place in January.  JanNoWriMo stands for January Novel Writing Month. Their site explains the difference:  “Well, firstly, we work in a different month. We also allow the continuation of previous novels. Finally, in addition to the site-wide goal of 50,000 words, we also have a system for personal goals lower than/higher than 50,000.”

This is not to be confused with JaNoWriMo: the community for January Novel Writing Month, which is “not affiliated with NaNoWriMo, but taking the ideas laid out there and in Chris Baty’s book No Plot, No Problem! this is a month-long project to write a 50,000 word novel in one month! “

They explain further: “A lot of people have a hard time with the official NaNoWriMo because it takes place in November. November has a lot of school commitments, Thanksgiving, elections, holiday shopping, and heaven help you if you work retail!

January, on the other hand, is a much better month for starting new challenges. You can even make “write a novel” one of your New Years Resolutions and be done before February 1! And most people are already awake at midnight on January 1st anyway! Plus, January has a whole extra day to finish your novel!

The rules are the same as NaNoWriMo– 50,000 words of a NEW novel. A “novel” is defined as a work of significant length of prose fiction. “New” means you didn’t write it before.

Then, there’s April Fools –  April Fools is “very much like NaNoWriMo but with some small, yet powerful differences.  April Fools is for writers who want to use that nano like energy to help them create a piece of writing in one month. The differences, however, are marked. You chose your own goal … 500 words or 200,000 words, or anything in between.”

Of course, I have Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, so I can write a book any time I want… in theory.  There is something nice about working with a group to keep you on track, however.  That is why her companion website has a message board that reviews the steps every month. You sign up for it when you buy the book.   If you are curious,  see this  Writer’s Digest Review , which has sample worksheets and chapters from the book.  I like it a lot, and plan to use it before or by NaNoWriMo.

Now, let’s say you’ve written your novel – what now?  Well, there’s  – wait for it! – National Novel Publishing Year!  NaNoPubYe “has been in existence since 2004, the brainchild of one of our own in search of a plan to follow after the craziness of NaNoWriMo. You’ll find support here for bringing your manuscript from rough draft to hauling the thing out the door to the post office. Our year-long plan offers support at each step of the way, and is flexible enough to mix and modify as fits your needs. Join PubYe today and become part of a community that supports you all the way to publication!

I didn’t see when it started – I would think it would be in January – or maybe after NaNoEdMo?  I’ll get back to you on that.

Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants take on the challenge of writing 100 pages (20,000 words?) of scripted material in the month of April. As part of a donation-funded nonprofit, Script Frenzy charges no fee to participate; there are also no valuable prizes awarded or “best” scripts singled out. Every writer who completes the goal of 100 pages is victorious and awe-inspiring and will receive a handsome Script Frenzy Winner’s Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact.

Script Frenzy, because it is also by Chris Baty and the NaNoWriMo people  – also has a young writers program… Great resources, including  how to write a comic book and workbooks for elementary, middle and high school students.

National Play Writing Month (NaPlWrMo – there really should be another “a” in there…) is a different challenge, and it takes place in November (not associated with NaNoWriMo, obviously).  This is from the website:

THE SEVEN RULES OF THE RHINO

1.Start writing at 12:00am on November 1st. *Not* before.

2.Stop writing by November 30th at 11:59pm at the latest.

3. Your play must be a brand new play ( no screenplay) ; ie: you can not work on a previously started draft. ( yes, we changed it this year, sorry)

4.Your draft has to be at least 75 pages. (we’re talking a standard script page such as this one, offered by The Playwriting Seminars site  or something close enough to that, with a font no larger than 12pt courier). 75 pages is what we consider good length for a full length play these days. You can write more of course but consider the life of your play after you’ve written it and consider that 75 page plays get produced a lot more frequently than 90 page plays or 5 act tragedies.

The Three Minute Film Festival, I think, was started by the same people as NaNoWriMo, but is now run separately.  Here, you have the month of July to make a finished 3 minute mini film – any medium, but must be burned on DVD.  They even have a gala showing on August 8 in San Francisco, where people dress up in black tie and watch (all???) the films.

For musicians there is the RPM Challenge, where participants record an album in a month (28 days).  Their requirement is 10 songs or 35 minutes of original material recorded during the month of February.  There is also February Album Writing Month where you write 14 songs in 28 days.  I don’t remember which one I heard about on NPR.

24 Hour Comics Day is an annual event where cartoonists around the world each try to create 24 pages of comics in 24 hours. Last year, over 1200 cartoonists took part at events in 17 countries. Sponsored by ComicsPRO, the website has lots of great resources for planning your own city’s celebration.  The next one is October 3rd, 2009.

I tried to go to the website(s?) of NaNoMangO, which seemed to have wrapped up in June.  The site seems to be in transition – the closest I could find was a LiveJournal Community on the event.  NaNoMangO is the cartoonist’s version of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. While the goal for NaNoWriMo is to write a 175-page novel in a month, the goal of the twice-yearly NaNoMangO is 30 pages of sequential art in thirty days.  I guess that means that the next one is in January?

The only thing that I looked up that didn’t seem to exist was a challenge for National Poetry Month in April.  Nope, there’s no writing contest yet, but you can have a poem sent to you every day for that month.

So, I’ve been thinking: lets start our own month of poetry!  In May, I really got into collecting poetry formats and I’ll bet there are enough activities for one month.  Scholastic has some great resources on writing poetry,
As Does Read-Write-Think.org.

Oh, I almost forgot:  November is National Lifewriting Month, “an opportunity to celebrate and share our personal and family stories. More and more ordinary people are discovering that memoirs make a meaningful legacy to leave to the next generation, and that writing them is a rewarding hobby with many benefits for families and communities, too.” There is a Table of Contents outlining the different memoir and scrapbooking activities to be found.