Tag Archives: holidays

The Toulouse Christmas Market Part 1

Stoney and I had been hearing a lot of good press for the Christmas marché in Toulouse; apparently it is a real shopping destination. What I did know was that evening traffic toward Toulouse was intimidating. We wanted to check it out, though, especially for unique gifts from France for the family. Considering the traffic and parking challenges on a normal day in Toulouse, we opted to try a new adventure for us all (though only partly for Stoney the Urban Commuter).

We rode the bus/metro into the Capitol station (gare?).

We took the 65 to the Aréne station mid-morning, and the bus wasn’t overfull on a Saturday. It went past the Hippodrome, which appeared to be set up for steeplechase, an event I’ve never seen. That might make a fun future field trip for me.

Leaning on ledge seats on the bus.

Leaning on ledge seats on the bus.

We disembarked at the metro station, where it became a new experience for all of us. The ticket machine was a little confusing, but a metro employee immediately recognized our naive ignorance and stepped up and converted the machine to English for us, asked in Franglaise whether we wanted tickets for the three of us just for today, and pointed out our best deal, which would not have been our first response. He was friendly and AWESOME! Frankly, the vast majority of Toulousains are delightful, helpful people. He made sure we headed in the right direction for our destination, and we tackled the next leg of our trip, the metro. Couldn’t have been easier.

My guys heading for street level after our metro ride.

My guys heading for street level after our metro ride.

Here is where we emerge from the metro at the Capitole station. Gorgeous view to welcome you, eh?

Here is where we emerge from the metro at the Capitole station. Gorgeous view to welcome you, eh?

We had lovely day at the Christmas market, which was actually smaller than we had expected. I also think the reason incoming traffic is crazy at night isn’t because the residents are off work and heading to the market, but because it is obvious the light show of the market will be Vegas-quality. We need to come back at night and compare! My next post will show scenes from the daytime Christmas market, but until then I just want to point out the safety, cleanliness and universal use (school kids to the elderly) of the Toulouse mass transit system. I am impressed.

Wish we had this in Wichita.

Wish we had this in Wichita.



Filed under France

Celebrating Holidays Far from Home

Yes, that’s right: the French do not celebrate Thanksgiving. I mean, really, why should they? Why do we in the US just assume that everyone shares every holiday we feast up? But still, I manage to need reminding that there is no official day of giving thanks here. I know this, but it slips my mind on occasion. But I give thanks for the fact that it still does not go overlooked.

The candy corn had to be imported from the States.

We did not celebrate the actual Thursday of Thanksgiving, other than taking chocolates to French class to share with my fellow students. Most are north African ladies, so it was a novel concept to them! We did, however, have a gracious invitation from a couple from church to celebrate with them Friday night. We were part of a party of 26, and it was so joyful! We brought sweet potato pie and roasted carrots. Our hostess, an American with a New Zealander spouse, roasted the largest turkey I have ever seen. It actually fed us all! My favorite part was the inclusion of two French couples whom the host and hostess had befriended some time ago back home in Washington, DC., who later moved to the Toulouse area, too. It is a small world with many intersections!

On a more mundane note, my sweet spouse has become a city commuter. To avoid traffic, parking nightmares, and to allow me transportation, he has become a bus rider. He leaves early in the morning to catch his bus, walking about 10 minutes to the stop. He often shares his dry wit in observations of his fellow French commuters on his facebook status. And I love that his stylin’ hat and scarf came from our own ville’s Dimanche Marché. I’m sending him off into the dark morning, and won’t see him again until the dark evening, though.

off to catch the bus

Maybe someday we’ll get to enjoy some of that relaxed French workweek.

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Filed under family, France

A Basket-less Easter

Yes, it’s true…this “supermom” broke a tradition of 22 years, and that’s if you don’t count the years of MY life from 1 through college. Our Easter had no. basket. No eggs with little symbols of the Resurrection Story either on or in them. I am thinking this might well mean I am overworked. Of course, a 13 and an 18 year old don’t necessarily need a basket of surprises in the morning, but it definitely leaves one feeling thought-of.

We were not entirely without thought, though. I had on the kitchen table for my daughter a pineapple cupcake mix to do together, and Reester bunnies. And for my son, a terra cotta bowl with the makings of a Resurrection Garden. (And a little Reester bunny. After all, Jesus can hardly be worshiped without chocolate.) The Easter garden turned out to be a good substitute for a basket, and better for time spent together.

the stone is rolled away!


but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.


He is risen!


The deviled eggs were just for fun, a Pinterest find.

It was a good Easter, all things considered. I mean, really, Easter can’t help but be good, no matter what, because it’s the Good News!


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Filed under celebration, faith, family

Troubles with “leaving” my work at work?

Perhaps it’s the way snowfall (even computer generated) makes everything seem so quiet and muffled, but it has definitely been quiet here on the ol’ blog. Mostly, this is because I have been crazy busy. I spent about 20 hours a week of my December wrapping gifts at an upscale department store. Combined with Bible Study Fellowship responsibilities and teaching art at school and to homeschoolers, I’ve been busy. The blog definitely took a back seat.

a home demonstration of my mad wrapping skills, from practicing 4-6 hours a day

My daughter noted that, in my increasingly busy state, I had overlooked posting her favorite fall project, the perspective blowing leaves. This was a project my third and fourth grades did, first practicing watercolor washes and applying their knowledge of horizon line. Then they were supposed to paint a branching tempera tree near their horizon line, although one table was obviously NOT listening as we went over this part. However, we got to do some problem-solving to still achieve the objective of the lesson the next class, and that was fun and helpful. At that class we added our painted leaves in tiny, medium, and large-and-running-off-the-page, with greater detail added to the largest leaves with Sharpie. Some students had very successful projects:

4th grader

I like the random scattered-ness of these leaves, though workmanship will have room to improve

4th grader

And some in spite of overcoming their tree right in foreground…

this third grader's leaves still seem close in spite of the proximity of the tree, as they fly off the page

Some students are still growing in their concept of space, of course.

third grader

third grader

Basically, and not surprisingly, more fourth graders “got” the concepts in the lesson than third graders. I introduce horizon line, relative size, and lower and higher on the page as space concepts in first and second grades, but we really work to incorporate it more, and get into the three grounds specifically, in third and fourth grades. By the end of the year, the students who don’t really “see” it now, likely will. I love watching them grow in their perception and application!

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Filed under Art, Teaching, Third/Fourth Grade

Christmas Cookie Plate workshop

With my focus this school year being art around the world, time for a ceramics unit for Christmas cookie plates just wasn’t in the schedule. Yet, I have been dying for a couple of years to do this project that I’ve seen on a couple of other art teachers’ blogs. My school was gracious enough to allow me to offer an after-school workshop, though, and I even had a couple of teachers participate! I think the results were adorable, and so I include them here. We looked at a variety of designs and brainstormed some of our own before each student tackled their own unique plate.

Classroom teacher designs! (So fun to have my coworkers in the mix!)

a sixth grader

My son's, also a sixth grader.

This boy’s plate was for his mom. The design was really detailed, and I loved the prickly texture of his tree. He also included ski marks in the snow, resulting in the crash exhibited by the upturned purple foot in the snowbank. We had underglazes issued in little condiment cups as they requested certain colors, and I suspect he was finishing off several surrounding cups he took to be white, as his snow exhibits three different underglazes! It is really cool, though, I think. I’m calling it “snowy bank at sunset.”

a fifth grader

fourth grader

another fourth grader

a very meticulous third grader

second grade

my youngest workshopper, a first grader

Students all kneaded and rolled out their own slabs by hand, and their only patterns were paper plates and cookie cutters (which some students opted out of). My own plate:

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With fun like this, who needs a war zone?

The Kansas phenomenon of personal pyromania still awes me, even on my fourth Independence Day celebrations here. I will admit that our first Kansas July found us completely disbelieving the signage at the fireworks CIRCUS TENTS (because back home in Texas, you have stands. Fireworks STANDS. Little shacks that sell what you otherwise have to go to the outlet factory warehouse to purchase). These signs reminded buyers that fireworks could only be bought and set off in the city limits. Yes, that word is IN. My husband and I actually sought out the city and state code online because this was so incomprehensible to us. Surely, there was a misprint? but no.

Everywhere else we’ve ever lived, cities ban you. If they could pat you down for artillery at the city limits, they would. Urban dwellers elsewhere have a healthy respect for the fire-starting properties of fireworks. My husband, the son of a volunteer county fireman, mostly has July memories of emergency calls to put out grassfires, lake drownings, and fireworks-induced bodily injuries. Most of our personal fireworks have been of small to moderate firepower, usually at a lake or over rocky escarpments. So now, picture our culture shock as we view the Kansas way:

First, the source:

a medium fireworks tent

These tents come in size medium, large and Barnum & Bailey circus. Too crowded at the first one? Move up the street a half-mile and try the next. No luck? St. Mary’s summer fundraiser is across the street another half mile. And so it goes, at least every half mile along major roads.

T preparing to celebrate the Fourth

Second, the proximity:

we live in a very suburban, cul-de-sac kind of neighborhood. Request a city barricade and you can fence off your whole street for your own personal ground zero. The center of our cul-de-sac becomes a show staging area for the circle’s half a dozen homes. Need I mention the importance of making sure your car is garaged during this week, rather than left curbside? Yes, I have seen Roman candles sparking their lovely colors across a street and right under a neighbor’s car.

sparklers writing in the night

Third, the Chill Factor:

no one thinks anything of letting kids (under the close supervision of well-lit adults) set off some serious artillery. Everyone is very laid back about the explosions and sparks, and the close proximity of VERY BIG fireworks right above your roof. ‘sall coool.

note the roof right below the sparkles


Fourth, the firepower:

we see not only fountains and hear the Black Cats, but we see crysanthemums and palms and other giant glittery overhead oohs and aaahs. And I mean right. over. head. Set off right in one’s own street. This year they just yesterday afternoon banned the fire lanterns, due to extremely dry conditions, but we still watched a literally-fire-powered paper-shaded cylinder float way up into the air above the neighborhood. Which begs a look at Kansas weather in general, which was unusually still yesterday, but is often very, VERY windy. This is little discouragement here, however, as folks are used to the gustiness. If you waited for still days, nothin’ would get done ’round here. My pastor calls his small town “Little Baghad” during this week, and looks forward to adding to the haze of artillery smoke (and I can’t deny we contribute, either!).

talk about front-row seats!

So what are July 4 celebrations like in your area?

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How Art History Teaches Peace on Earth

I really enjoy sharing the lessons the Lord is teaching me with others. Not only am I excited to tell folks what God is doing for me, but often I find they are lessons other people are learning or hope to experience themselves! Last night I was blessed to share with ladies from my church at our annual Ladies’ Ministry Christmas party. I love this event! It is always so warm and God-honoring! No sniping, gossipping ladies at any of these I have ever attended. What God is teaching me was well-received, so I thought I would post it here, not in small part to simply record for myself what God is doing for me. Consider this my little pile of altar stones. Continue reading

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Another Model

And have I mentioned that I LOVE the Christmas season? I have lots of ideas for art of my own, but can’t seem to sit down and get it done. Hope springs eternal, though.

This is the model for the poinsettia card the third and fourth grade class did, as described earlier. (I wish I could take sharper photos.) Their results in the lesson were much improved as far as finding changes in value, but it showed me we need more practice with watercolor as a medium. Some of them aren’t really grasping my mantra of “watercolor needs WATER.” They seek a tempera-like opaqueness and lay on a ton of pigment, and because they use plenty of water to do so, they think they are following my call. I’ll be thinking on how best to do this. Maybe a project that tackles the same simple subject in tempera, watercolor, AND acrylic, to get a feel for all three paints and their differences. Hmm.

A Christmas card for an unnamed someone

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Filed under Art, Teaching, Third/Fourth Grade

Victory! Plus a School Musical

I was so pleased with a few of the Byzantine Madonna and Child icons I have to share here! I think they are beautiful!

a fifth grader

a seventh grader

another 7th grader

Also, the whole school had a musical presentation of the true 12 days of Christmas. So well done!!

My boy is the one in the back partially obscured by the podium.

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Filed under Art, Teaching

We’re making progress

I’m halfway through the week, and I get to examine how the Tuesday lessons went, in light of my concern that I had bitten off more than the kids could chew. Biggest surprise of the day: after having the 7th graders examine their Warhols with their rubrics and color wheels in hand, the two students who had left out a color scheme DID NOT FIND IT. This leaves me with the dilemma of “do I grade it as is, or do I guide them to see their omission?” This IS their first year of formal art. They may be 7th graders, but they never heard of analagous colors before last month. In fact, they had never been introduced to a tertiary color wheel. I am inclined to make sure they find their omission and, with me, come up with a suitable correction, than consider it laziness and give them the grade. Everything else about these Warhols are fabulous, I think! The challenge then is the time: ARGH!

Everyone finished the Byzantine Madonnas. Most of the kids did pretty well, and a few did astoundingly. To me, anyway. I wish elementary had a mark for Exceeds Criteria. Can you believe the best I can give an outstanding work is an S+? I can hardly wait for them to come up on Artsonia! (link to the right)

Not surprisingly, but nonetheless disappointingly, the third and fourth grade Christmas cards will need to be abbreviated. They finished their value poinsettias, and all but one improved GREATLY in finding values of a color. Their little shape wise men were really good, too! Unfortunately, that card will only get the front cover tint and shade exercise. At the beginning of free art next week we can stencil the baby Jesus inside, just no cool glowing halo behind.

I still need to finish my own poinsettia card (I only did the model halfway so I could walk through parts actively with the kids). But here is the wise men tints and shades card:

inside reads “Still Seek Him”

Definitely check out the kids’ wise men! Their only problems were when the shades got too dark.


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Filed under Art, Seventh/Eighth Grade, Teaching, Third/Fourth Grade