Category Archives: Uncategorized

Countdown Calendar


I cannot be more happy that the school year is almost over. This has been a really rough year – teaching and divorce-wise. So, I am not going to dwell on that. I am going to look to the future!!!! Since I do not use my classroom for teaching any more, it is now my sanctuary. I have this big expanse of bulletin board and decided to put it to use. I covered most of it with this craft paper I got at Ikea – sort of newsprint, but smoother. Then, I purchased a whole variety of large, lined Post-It notes and made a three-month calendar.

I put the months from right to left, I know. I put a lot of thought into the layout. The month of March was extended day month. Because of the days we missed because of the freakish snow and ice storms, we had to add an hour to the school day on Monday through Thursday. Fridays, we used our “normal” schedule. I used four different colors of turquoise blue to differentiate between A Days, B Days, Fridays, and weekends and holidays.


As I cleared out my classroom, I put up pictures and other ephemera to brighten things up. Yes, color also played a part in the choice. There is the faculty group picture, the mission statement, and some origami circles I made. I found the “tie-dye” paper in a science book.

1-IMG_5742I loved April – it began with Spring Break!!! It was a tough month after that, though, with CRCT testing – I got to spend 4 1/2 hours a day with my advisement class AND keep them quiet during and after testing. I used one of a gorgeous packet of napkins that I could not resist buying at Party City. It is mostly covered up now, but the green and purple in the flowers were perfect. I also put my Distroller notebook cover and bookmark up there, along with my Marietta bumper sticker and covers from catalogs.1-IMG_5743 Now it is MAY!!! Finally!!!! I love my bright sunny colors. The napkin in the bottom right is also an acquisition from Party City. It has my favorite colors and roses! The Kind Heart is from the Penzey’s catalog, the loteria cards are from my Zarela collection, and the balloon, I had been keeping around for a long time and finally used it. I put up BAM! and Taste Life, because my reward for making it through this hellish year is Memorial Day weekend in NEW ORLEANS!!!!

P.S. – I also made a Post-It calendar and put it up on the wall of my bathroom – one month at a time. I record my weight each day and make notes of anything I need to remember. It’s a little bit humid in there, but things stayed up just fine.


Recycled Wooden Puzzle Mini Shrines


Image One of the goals I have made is to use as many as possible of the arts and crafts supplies that I have accumulated in the past 10 years. I began making things and selling them around 2003 or 2004, when I would stop by the Pier One Clearance store on my way home fromwork. There, I amassed a large inventory of frames and coasters and other clearance itemImages to recycle. From there, I made regular stops at Hobby Lobby, JoAnn Fabrics, Walmart, and Party City.

One day, I was in JoAnn Fabrics and looking through the dollar bins at the cash register.  I had seen these little mazes before, but that day I had an idea.  First, I bought one, brought it home and checked to see if the plastic cover would pop off.  It did, with the help of a finger nail file. So, I went back to JoAnn’s and bought more. They were 50 cents apiece. There were some with safari animals on them, but they were still $1.00 each. So I spent a bit of time sorting through the puzzles and bought 83 of them.

The project I had in mind was to make them into mini shrines!  I had saved a lot of scraps from the Alexander Henry fabric I use to make into larger shrines and crosses. I hate to throw away scraps, because you never know when you can use those little pieces. I measured and cut around the head of one of the Guadalupes to use in the boxes.  First step was to asImagesign each Virgin head to a puzzle. Then, I painted the boxes in a variety of colors, each matching the Guadalupe inside.

I used two coats of paint, and when the mini shrines had dried, I glued the fabric to the puzzle, and went over the images with Mod Podge. I used glitter glue to line the image, and to keep any stray threads down. Then I put some mini paper roses at the base of the picture and let the whole thing dry. I put the plastic cover back on them, which was not as difficult as popping them off. The only thing added since I took the photo above are a few more glitter glue dots on the outside of the frame – it looked like it needed something.

I decided to put something on the backs of the shrines, so that they could stand alone.  The Imagebacks were cut from a holographic folder, one of many I bought at WalMart for use “someday”.  My challenge was to not put too much in the shrines, as they are so small. I am not sure about the holographic paper on the back – I may skip that in the future. Finally, I put clear glossy Mod Podge on the outside to protect the paint.

A long time ago, Target had a special Peter Max line of wrapping paper. I have been a fan of his for years and years, and I particularly loves the hearts. I bought up quite a bit of the wrapping paper, but my favorite is the one with small blocks made of his hearts. I have used them to decorate many things, but I still have quite a few left. Hoarding? I wouldn’t say that… I also have a wonderful cardboard panel that used to decorate the display. My sister acquired it for me when they were taking the display down. It is still up in my studio. For the moment, that is the closest I will come to owning a Peter Max…

ImageSpeaking of pop art… I have also been a fan of George Rodrigue and his Blue Dog. I come from Lafayette, and he was also from the area. He used to play bourre with my father, and when he opened his restaurant, The Blue Dog Cafe, my dad went and stood in line to have the limited edition “teddy bear” dog poster signed. My mother is an artist and was very active in the Lafayette Art Association. She was acquainted with George since he was painting Cajuns in front of oak trees. I was sad to hear of his passing, and happen to have a lot of his art… on note cards and calendar prints.

My favorite Blue Dog treasure story involved a trip to Montreal and Quebec with my mother. I believe it was in 1998 – right after I returned to Atlanta after living and going to grad school at ULL (University of Louisiana – Lafayette). I was walking down the street in Montreal and there was a sidewalk salesman selling large calendars with Blue Dog prints – I could not believe that I bought all 75 calendars for about $1.00 or $1.75 US dollars. I gave a lot of them to my Dad, who sold them. I gave one each to two of my friends. At the height of their popularity, they went for $350 on eBay. Amazing.

The little Blue Dog shrine above was made with an image cut from a note card I bought to frame. It was just an experiment. I do not plan on putting it up in my shop, but I might make some more. If you are interested in one, please contact me.

The First Steps – A New Beginning


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.

All the Books…


ImageI have spent the day walking up and down the stairs of my 3 story townhouse, moving books and other things around.  My goal for this year is to get everything where it should be, then to get rid of what is not necessary. I haven’t finished my mission statement yet, but I figured it couldn’t be “to get rid of all of the crap I have hoarded over the years.” But it actually is sort of going to be that… More later.

Right now, I am just corralling all of the things I have in separate areas. After I have done that, I am going to really get to work. The first thing I have done is to organize most of my books. I love books. I have kept books from childhood. I have bought books for projects, for my students to read, and for study. When I am in Mexico, I buy books. I have an Amazon Prime account, so you know I have a problem.

I have gotten a little bit better. I check books out at the library, and listen to books on CD in the car. But, sometimes, even though I am listening to that book, I have to buy it. Either I have to know what is going to happen next, and don’t want to drive around Atlanta one more time… Or I decide that the book is a keeper and I have to own it.

I have a couple of places where my books reside. One is a large armoire that has been in my family for years. It is a pain in the TAIL to move, especially to put together. This is a piece of furniture meant to be disassembled and reassembled for transport, so I don’t know why it is so difficult.

But it is beautiful, and it holds a lot of books. Mostly cookbooks and diet books. I am going to rid myself of many of those. I added one milk crate because there are a couple of gaps. There are knick knacks. I put some file boxes at the bottom. It looks good. Now I have room in other places for more stuff.

One other thing: the doors are not hung properly, and they don’t close. I solved that, finally.have 3 iron finials in the shape of fleur de lis. They are keeping it closed for Imagenow.

The other place I have books is in the closet of my upstairs guestroom. This is where I keep most of my children’s books. I have YA novels I bought to interest my older middle school students in reading. I have my collection of folk tales and all the story books I could find about La Llorona. I have books from my studies in Oaxaca, as well as picture books in Spanish and Mexican indigenous languages.

ImageTwo collections have not realised their potential as of yet. I have both the Magic Tree House and the Time Warp Trio Series, because I had an idea about using them to help my students do research. You would be surprised at how many of my ELL students favor these books. I usually encourage them to read something more age appropriate, but then I thought I might work with it. I was able to stop myself from buying all of the You Wouldn’t Want… Series from England, but only because I had not used the other books yet. The project has not happened yet.

I also have a dream about students researching famous Spanish-speaking people and creating a Day of the Dead shrine about them. I have a large collection of children’s books about people like Frida Kahlo, Antonio Gaudi, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, etc. that I have been keeping for that purpose. It hasn’t happened yet.

Both of those are things I plImagean to remedy this year. Wait and see.

Finally, I have a stair chest in my bathroom with a small collection of childhood favorites, such as my Marguerite Henry classics and my Trixie Belden series. I also have other books in there… And, yes, I have wondered if a bathroom is really a good place to keep books.

So, there you have it. I have come out of the closet about being a book nut. Interestingly enough, the books are back behind closed doors. Oh, I have another small collection of craft books and magazines in my studio downstairs, but they are not ready for prime time yet.

Quote Generators


Quote from The Girl Who Owned A City

While I am getting back into the rhythm of writing in my blog, I am finding it difficult to figure out what to say, what to post, and how to post it. I invested in a consultation with Kathy Cano-Murillo (AKA The Crafty Chica) this month. I have wanted to get back into making things and selling them on the internet, and I so admire her style and her enterprise. So, when I saw that she was launching Crafty Chica Consulting, I signed up immediately. Even my horoscope reading that day was on board with the decision. I will be sharing more on that process as time goes by.

What I am here to write about today is the amazing world of quote generators. I, along with many others, am addicted to Pinterest. Among my several boards, I have one that stores inspirational quotes. While perusing them to come up with my mission statement, I found that a few of my favorites were missing. For the time being, I just wrote them down in my journal. The quotes are pretty obscure, so I figured I would never find them online.

The quotes of which I speak come from a book called The Girl Who Owned A City, written by O. T. Nelson. According to the Wikipedia article, it is “a post-apocalyptic book about leadership, survival, and ownership.” At the beginning of each of the three parts, there is a quote from Lisa, the heroine of the novel. I am fond of all three quotes, but the one in part three is the most compelling to me.


My first creation using a Quote Picture generator.


I have a copy of those words in my office, typed into Microsoft Word or PowerPoint and printed out. But, when trying to come up with an image to include with my post (a Crafty Chica recommendation), I wondered what to do. First, I tried the new “quote” option in the WordPress menu. That was unsatisfactory, but I didn’t know if I wanted to do a whole Photoshop project in order to make a quote poster.

So, good little Googl-er that I am, I just did a little searching. Sure enough, there’s an app for that. So, I spent (probably too much) time giving Lisa that quote space that she deserves, using There was a little bit of trial and error, and I haven’t added a watermark with my website on them yet, but I am working on that. In case you are interested, here are the Top 10 EASY ways to make picture quotes for Facebook and more

This morning, when I went to print the two I had made to tape into my paper journal, I was hit with an idea. This year, I will be teaching Language Arts again (6th grade ELL), and I am determined to hit the ground running with reading. I also will be teaching 6th grade social studies to my ELL students. I have already come up with several uses for these generators. Luckily for me, my school system has invested in color laser jet printers, which are shared by groups of teachers.

  • The first would be as an activity for students to complete when reading a novel or biography. Students would create a Quote Cover for their favorite quote from the novel. Of course, there would probably need to be a tutorial, a rubric, and an explanation of why they chose that quote. I feel that it is important for children to know that important lessons can be learned from reading. This could also be used when studying famous people in history.
  • I also like to teach idioms and sayings in my classroom. In Spanish, there is a whole series of sayings called dichos. Dichos are Spanish proverbs or sayings. They are similar to US proverbs in that they impart wisdom and express a common sense truth by revealing aspects of human nature and culture. I used to have a series of posters that I created using the book Folk Wisdom of Mexico/Proverbios y dichos mexicanos by Jeff Sellers. Students could make their own dicho posters, in Spanish and in English
  • Finally, I would like to kick start my writing program by using an old favorite: Get Ready to Write by Karen Blanchard and Christine Root. This book takes students through a series of writing exercises. The topics covered are about the student’s family, interests, activities, and life. By the end of the book, students will have created and published a book. I think that a personal statement or favorite quote would be a great addition to this exercise.

I had a lot of fun creating my quote posters using There are five different formats to choose from. I used the “Google+ cover” generator, and then I think I used the “E-card” format. I was not able to use the “For Prints” option. Once I chose a format, I stuck to the basic editor, which allows you to scroll through choices in text and color formats. I went a little bit farther, by changing the color schemes and playing with the line and dot pens. One thing I found frustrating was the inability to use my apostrophe key for contractions. Maybe that’s an incompatibility with Firefox.

Now, when I went to save my quotes, I found that the Google+ generator gave me a file to save that could not be opened with my computer. Instead, I used my SnagIt editor to download the graphic as a jpeg image. The E-card format was easier to download, but I used SnagIt as a backup anyway. My next task will be to create my third quote with a picture background. I will include that in my post as well.


Quote generated using one of my collage images as the background.


Please let me know if you have every used this tool in your classroom. I can already see myself making classroom rules posters for the beginning of the year…

NEH Grant to Oaxaca Summer Institute


At the beginning of this month, I found out that I was chosen to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute. The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the Federal Government. Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study humanities topics in a variety of Summer Seminars and Institutes.  It seems that the seminars are allowed fewer participants than the Institutes, but the topics of all are fascinating and inspiring.

I first caught sight of these offerings last year and really REALLY wanted to go to the one on St. Francis of Assisi and the 13th Century.  It was going to be held in Siena and Assisi for 6 weeks last summer, but it didn’t seem feasible to go.  Along with that, the only things I really had to put into my proposal letter were that St. Francis was my grandmother’s favorite patron saint.  There is also some reference to him in my favorite book, House of the Scorpion (by Nancy Farmer), but I didn’t think that it was enough to spend the whole summer studying about his life. (Sorry Gran – RIP!)

So, I was eagerly awaiting this years announcements, stalking the NEH Summer Institute page for weeks until they finally got this year’s offerings up!  At first, I was disappointed – last year, there had been offerings all over the world (Asia, Africa, Europe – my favorite was the South African one where they must have said at least 50 times that, if you were chosen to participate in their seminar, you had better be there NOT just to have fun and go to the beach… WOW, they sure know their school teachers! LOL).

I looked over the offerings, wondering why on EARTH anyone would want to spend 5 weeks in the summertime in MACON, GEORGIA  studying Cotton Culture in the South from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement (I should not be mean, but have you BEEN to South Georgia in the summertime?).  Because my husband is a musician, and I have never been to Germany, I considered making him attend classes for me in drag to participate in the Johann Sebastian Bach Institute in Eisenach, Leipzig, and Potsdam, Germany or for the Mozart Institute in Vienna, Austria.  I was less inclined to have him do this for the Dvořák Institute, as it only involved a trip to Pittsburgh.

Then, all kidding aside, I saw it:  Mesoamerican Cultures and Their Histories:  Spotlight on Oaxaca.  Instantly I felt a rush of excitement!  The last time I visited Oaxaca was in 2003, when I treated my husband and father to a trip to Mexico.  I wanted to return in the summer of 2007, when my husband and I went to Morelia for my Fund for Teachers Grant – but the logistics were not easy.  I love Mexico, and I knew that I could come up with many ideas for research and contribution here.

The only obstacle was that this institute will run up until August 7th, causing me to miss two pre-planning days.  It could have been worse:  I postponed any thought of applying until the school calendar had been set.  One of the calendar options started school at the beginning of that week, so that would have been a deal-breaker.  But, I think that it will work out okay for me now – it’s not like I am extending a trip to the beach, after all.

Here is a link to the Institute Overview and to the Syllabus. It is truly awesome.  Each of the four weeks of the Institute has a distinct theme:

  • Week 1:   Archaeology:  “Art and Architecture as Windows into Cultural Realities in Prehistory”
  • Week 2: Ethnohistory: “Seeking Indigenous Perspectives and Cultural Memories through Manuscript Studies”
  • Week 3: The Arts: “Cultural Continuity and Innovation in Music, Textiles, Pottery, and Photography”
  • Week 4: Film:  “Mesoamerican Histories through Film:  Representations of Cultures and Societies”

So far, I have already purchased airplane tickets for my husband and myself.  I have an apartment reserved for us at a place right around the corner from most of the class meeting sites.  It is called Casita Camila and the little one bedroom apartment looks great!  I found them on VRBO (Vacation rentals by owner), which was the source of our lovely yurt last summer.  My school system was kind enough to put a press release about my grant up on the system website – I am so excited!

I promise to get back to blogging – it’s going to be a truly wonderful experience, I am sure.  Here is a link to Moon Travel Guide’s section on Oaxaca – it has some great maps.  The institute has a page on BlogSpot for a group blog that you can peruse to see about the other participants.  Here is the link.  I am so thankful for this opportunity – can’t wait!!!!

My blog has a life of its own…


I haven’t posted anything in 4 weeks! One of the reasons is that I’ve been really busy, doing conferences and school stuff. Also, I’ve been wiped out from battling traffic home from work…

I still have to complete my post (part 2 or 3) on the Time Warp Trio vs. Magic Tree House books, one more on Aguas Frescas, and I want to do one on my Day of the Dead/Red Ribbon Week combined idea.

I’m also going to be participating in NaNoWriMo. I’m pretty sure. I have been researching for the past couple of months and came up with the idea for last year’s NaNoWriMo. I am just having a hard time seeing it.

More later.

And We’re Off!


Well, if you have been wondering where I’ve been…school’s started.  Enough said?

I returned to school, hoping to find some way to convince my administrators to let me keep my room.  You know, the room that I moved to last year and lovingly decorated and organized in anticipation of teaching ESOL?  Then, I was reassigned to a computer lab teaching Rosetta Stone French.  I got to keep my stuff in the room, but only used it to serve breakfast during advisement and as a refuge during my planning period.

Then, I was told that (good news!) I would again be teaching ESOL (8th Grade), but I would need to move to the room that is set up with computers for the Read 180 program (don’t ask). I decided not to think about it for the summer time.  I had a plan to explain to my powers-that-be that my room would accommodate the Read 180 computers without any great expenditure by the school.  This plan worked, but not until half of my classroom had been moved next door…  After it was moved back (willy-nilly), I spent two days getting my room organized again.  It looks good!

Then, I had a training day and a half on MYP Assessment.  There was some worthwhile stuff there, but it was still too long for a training session.

Okay, they will always be too long.

Our new principal has actually been great about allowing us time to work in our classrooms.  We had an open house Wednesday afternoon so that the kids could locate their classrooms.  We got our rosters, and that was the first sign that the times they are a changin’.

You see, our school system just got approved to become a charter school system.  All of the positive angles were emphasized, and I was even motivated to read the charter proposal to make sure that tenure was still going to be honored (for what that’s worth).  Well, so far, I found out that being a charter school means that we don’t have to follow the state guidelines that limit the size of ESOL classrooms.  In the past, a class was limited to 11 students per teacher – 14 students if we had an aide in the classroom.  Well, I found out about the change last week and added 3 more desks to accommodate 15 students.  I just looked into I-Cue, and I have one class that could possibly have 19 students.  Great.

I also found out that I will be teaching Georgia History to the International Academy students.  The IA is for new arrivals, so their English is limited.  Very limited.  I have counted two so far that were unable to speak English at all.  I won’t go into how annoying it is to find out that, just because a random certification in Social Studies mysteriously appeared on my teaching certificate that doesn’t mean I am “highly qualified” to teach Georgia History (hello?  I am from Louisiana – give me LA history!).  It will all just have to work out.

So far, my kids are great.  I have more Brazilian students than I have had in a while, and two students from Africa (one from the Gambia and the other from Kenya).  I spent some time looking for Brazilian folk art and folk tale resources and found a few.

For the first two days, I gave my students writing, listening, and grammar assessments.  I need to find a reading assessment.  I also showed them how to fold an 8 page booklet from one piece of paper and had them fill it with anything they wanted.  Some wrote a story, some did a picture book, one did a dictionary – it was pretty cool.

The Figs are in!


Just off Main Street in the historic district of my town is a HUGE fig tree.  Let me just say that I have this thing for free fruit.  I love blackberries, and used to pick them religiously every summer (until I contracted a staph infection from a scratch or insect bite allegedly sustained while picking them in a neighboring vacant lot near my old apartment.)  Still, I remain vigilant and can spot a blackberry bush from the highway.

This fig tree may one day be leveled for development, but I hope that doesn’t happen.  I was driving by the other day when I noticed that there were some figs with the blush of ripeness on them.  Lucky for me, I had the plastic container we used for our dog’s watering bowl on a road trip handy.  Being careful to watch for wasps (I got a mean sting a couple of years ago), I filled the container – they are small, but I must have gotten about 50 of them.

I have this recipe that I whipped up in my slow cooker – I just happened to have blueberries handy, so it was serendipitous.

Fig and Blueberry Compote with Lime

2 pints fresh Brown Turkey Figs – about 50 small ones
1 pint of fresh blueberries
1 Persian lime
2 or 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

1.  Wash and drain figs and slice each in half.  If you are using store-bought figs, they may be larger, you may want to cut them in quarters.  Put the chopped figs in a medium-sized slow cooker.
2.  Wash and drain blueberries.  Pour them over the figs and toss.
3.  Slice lime in quarters and then slice the quarters into smaller slices.  Toss with figs and blueberries.
4.  Add brown sugar and cinnamon and toss one more time.
5.  Turn slow cooker on “high” for 1/2 hour or so, then lower the temperature to low.
6.  Allow mixture to simmer for 3-4 hours or more.  Mixture should look well cooked, and lime should be translucent when done.
7.  I like to leave the lime slices in – they should be cooked down enough not to be too strong.  Store it in the refrigerator.

I like serving this compote with slices of gingerbread, topped with a dollop of Cool Whip or whipped cream. Here are a couple of gingerbread recipe links, but I will probably use a boxed mix!

Home-Style Gingerbread

Old Fashioned Gingerbread
Betty Crocker Mix
Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Mix

There are also a couple of recipes on the Weight Watchers website I might try.  With any luck, I can keep it down to 4 WW Pts. for a slice and compote.