Social outings

I just went onto my blog to see what I posted about last time and couldn’t believe that Chinese New Year was only last month. It feels like it was ages ago! How has only one month gone by?

I feel like I have a lot of things to write about, but can’t quite sit still long enough to do it. I finally took the Christmas tree down last week, so that’s something. The dog was sick for like two weeks – with open sores, throwing up, and diarrhea. The whole 9 yards, which was fun. And, my elementary school students had their last art show for the year recently. So, two art shows this year in October and February. And, now we – the art department, Makerspace, and music department – begin work on our Grade 1 – 5 musical.

While I have not had the chance to do a lot of traveling since living in Cambodia, I have done more reading and socializing than I did last year. And this is something that I was hoping for. Last year I was essentially trapped during the school year and unable to think outside of teaching and school-related things. This year I have been in a book club, gone to movies in theatres, and met people out for brunch. These are not earth-shaking things, but they can be life-altering. I think it’s really important to do things and have friends. I certainly don’t do all the things, but at least I do some of the things!

The books I have read since joining the book club are: Chilean Poet by Alejandro Zambra and Megan McDowell, Circe by Madeline Miller, Babel by R.F. Kuang, Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri, and I’m currently reading It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. During my time in between books, I am listening to Spare by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and reading China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan. My favorite genre to read or listen to are autobiographies or biographies. So, I am really enjoying Prince Harry’s book. But I also quite liked Whereabouts and Chilean Poet, mentioned above. Anything that allows me to travel to a new place or a foreign land, I will surely love.

Some friends and I went to see the 25th anniversary showing of the Titanic recently. We had our hair done in 1910 styles at a local salon and dressed the part. There were drinks served at the theatre, as well as food and unlimited popcorn. I even won the costume contest with my “unsinkable” cardboard ship hat. The theatre was amazing with reclinable cushy chairs, gold blankets, and lots of space for food and drinks and movement. It was an awesome theatre! But I had forgotten how sad that movie was, though. Except that in watching it this time around, I felt like Jack’s character was imaginary . . . That potentially Rose made up that character as a way for her to deal with her unhappiness in her relationship and at being trapped on the ship. Just a theory. I also saw Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania a few weeks later. It was fun to watch, although a bit hokey. I love Paul Rudd and will see most anything he’s in.

My friends and I seemingly keep showing up for brunch at Planta, a yummy restaurant in town. They do a cocktail, coffee/tea, and meal for $12.50. It’s such a deal and so much good food that it’s totally worth it! The first time I went, I had eggs benedict. My second time was a combination of coconut pancakes and a shared pizza. Third time was a giant serving of avocado toast, and finally this last weekend, a burger. My friend Jamie and I met a friend-of-a-friend there this past weekend. He was in town visiting and reached out. We also tend to hold book club meetings there a lot, as well.

Roughly three-and-a-half more months in the school year! A quick March break next week, and Khmer New Year for a week in April. And then summer will be here before we know it! Very much looking forward to summer break and seeing what comes next! More soon!

Happy February!

Hello, hello! The Year of the Rabbit is here!!!

I have had a hard time trying to sit down and write this post. My energy is low and I took the month of January to sort of ease into the year. The Year of the Tiger was brutal, ending with me getting my first batch of Covid right as Winter Break began in December.

There are lots of things happening, but I’m not sure how to write about them all. They seem connected, but also separate. I’m trying to sell my car. I’m paying for part of my mother’s assisted living. I’m working for Toddle writing lessons. I’m teaching 28 classes a week. I’m organizing art classes locally at Coconut Park, which is around the corner from my house. I’m moving to Beijing in July. I’m starting a Learning Experience Design program online at Brandeis University in October. I’m hoping for more classes at Takeo Orphanage. And my dog has alopecia due to environmental allergies. 

Basically my next several years are planned out for me. This is great because I certainly don’t have the time to do the planning myself. My hope is to stay in Beijing for as long as humanly possible or until I finish teaching, whichever comes first.

I’m not someone who glorifies being stretched thin or overly busy. I took on the extra jobs that I mentioned above because my salary in Cambodia is not what I had hoped and my finances have already taken a massive hit because of my move back to the States last year. Leaving China or moving to Connecticut – however you want to look at it – was a colossal mistake. I think this coming move to Beijing is going to be fantastic and I am so excited about it. 

I am also really pumped about Learning Experience Design at Brandeis. Not only is it an awesome school, but the program I am entering is going to help me take everything I have done with my educational life to the next level. I am going to be learning cutting edge approaches to education, game design theory, and how artificial intelligence can be used for development and learning. I am super enthusiastic about all of it and creating transformative educational experiences for my students. I think my background in art is going to play a HUGE role in setting me apart from the pack. I am thrilled about this direction!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! May you find endurance, prosperity, and peace in this magical Year of the Bun-Bun!

Out with the Old


2022 was not a good year. Part of me wants to say it was a waste of my time. But that’s never true. You always learn things regardless of the goodness – or lack of goodness – in anything. And just because it wasn’t good as a whole, doesn’t mean that fun and exciting things didn’t take place. There were a lot of fun moments to 2022. But here’s hoping 2023 is a better year!

Things I solidified about myself in 2022:

  • I love snow. 
  • Water is my most favorite drink, but I won’t turn down a Negroni or a glass of Shiraz.
  • I do not thrive in small places: small cities, small schools, small communities. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn!
  • All of my senses need to firing on high all the time. It’s exhausting, but it’s what feeds my soul.
  • I enjoy sleep way more than I used to and get close to 8 hours a night or through naps. That’s a whole 3 hours more than I used to get!
  • While I was not raised in Nashville, I feel like it has reared me as a human. I’m very thankful for this.
  • Elephant sisters are important to have.
  • My identity is wrapped tightly to my job. So if the job’s not a right fit or not going well, my entire life is out of whack.
  • Binging streaming shows is super fun, but it does nothing for my health. Turn off the boob tube and take a walk. I’ve cancelled all of my streaming channels except for one. This is huge!
  • Making art can come and go in my life and that’s okay. I’m still a very creative person.
  • I love learning new things all the time. This is also exhausting, but important to me.
  • I enjoy listening to books more than reading them. 
  • Friends that I still have from second grade continue to be some of the most wonderful people I have ever met.
  • Adventure is my life blood.
  • Usually people are mostly good, but there are some who are not. People show you who they are in the first couple of minutes that you know them. Listen and take notice. Also a tough lesson to learn!
  • I don’t like coffee. I keep trying, but it’s just not good to me. Goodbye coffee.
  • I enjoy independence and being by myself on most occasions. I’m grateful for characters like Miss Havisham, the grandma in Moana, and other eccentric ladies of advanced age.
  • My pets like being back in Asia where they are both from (cat is Qatari and dog is Chinese). I’m not sure how they recognize this, but my guess is there is a smell that they both pick up on. It’s fascinating to experience!
  • Community can be built anywhere that willingness exists.

New Things

Apartment

On the morning that I hosted Thanksgiving dinner in my old apartment, I moved into my new apartment. I changed house primarily because it was too difficult (and dangerous!!!!) to walk the dog where I used to live. And now I have a small park right outside my front door and a whole island full of large sidewalks and grassy areas. Plus, I am now along the riverfront, which is really nice! It’s gorgeous to watch the sky change color throughout the day over the river. And Beanie likes to watch the boats go by from the giant window next to my bed, occasionally barking if one is going too slow. 

My new apartment is very nice, but it feels like a hotel. I’ve hung up some things here and there, but it’s def a hotel vibe. The bed is incredible, though! I don’t think I have slept this well in years! The comforter is slightly weighted and the curtains are black-outs. It’s just amazing. Honestly! A good night’s sleep makes everything worthwhile!

I’m about a 4-minute walk to school and Beanie stays home most days (only going to House of Hounds for sleepaway camp when I am out of town.) I think he misses being picked up in the mornings, so we may start back to his daycare for a few days a week beginning in February. 

It only took two remork loads to move – that’s a feat, I tell you! A feat!

Toddle

As of November, I have been collecting and organizing arts-based units for Toddle. Toddle is one of my most favorite ed tech companies and teaching apps. I found them by attending one of their online Toddle TIES conferences back in 2020, when I was locked down in my apartment in Nantong, China. And the conference was so engaging and wonderfully organized and presented, that I had to figure out a way to connect up with them again. 

From Toddle’s website: “Toddle is a collaboration platform for IB PYP and MYP teachers, designed by IB teachers. Toddle seamlessly integrates curriculum planning, evidence collection, student portfolios, reporting, and parent communication – all from one beautiful interface – and helps teachers focus on the important things.”

I am really excited about this project and working with Toddle to create these resources for art teachers worldwide. I will post links of my Toddle collections once they are complete and made public. 

Coconut Park

All of the art classes and workshops I was developing to teach where I used to live will now be available at Coconut Park, beginning in January. I am in the process of developing outlines and supply lists for each class, couple with descriptors and flyers. Coconut Park is just down the street from where I live, so this is really the perfect solution! Plus, it’s a gorgeous space with a restaurant and a playground and a pool! I am super excited to have the opportunity to share my love of artmaking with the students at Cocount Park!

From Coconut Park’s Facebook page: “Coconut Park is a large recreation and entertainment park for families, friends and kids of all ages. Whether you will be enjoying pizza or sushi at Penh at Coconut Park, or relaxing with a spa treatment at Jouvence Spa by Dara, your children will be enjoying our splash pad water park, the outdoor playgrounds and our lush garden spaces. For adventure, try out our mountain bike trails, or roller skate in the air-conditioned CIS Roller Dome. To complete your day, don’t forget to checkout the Ceramik Art Studio and the Makerspace to build our LEGO kits and other fun art activities. There is something for everyone at Coconut Park!”

Links to classes and how to sign up COMING SOON!

Good Art

Canadian International School of Phnom Penh’s 10th Anniversary Art Show

This past weekend the Canadian International School celebrated its 10th anniversary. There was a circus on campus and lots of food and ice cream, science experiments in the makerspace, musical performances, and a giant art show. Our kindergarten through grade 12 students showed art work in the downstairs gallery and on the 3rd floor, near the art rooms.

There were paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures on display. While the downstairs space took a while to come together, it looked amazing on Family Day. There were lots and lots of wonderful comments from parents and administration along with some happy tears! There were times when the space felt a bit overwhelming because so many people were inside and enjoying themselves, looking at artwork and talking about the variety of pieces being shown.

I think this may have been my most favorite show my students have taken part in, from any school I’ve worked at. (A close second coming in from my year at Brookwood, back in Georgia.) I think what helped make this show so special was the way that we divided up the space and hung things in unique and specialized ways: some things were mid-air from a wire, while other things were mounted on rolling gallery walls, some things were on tabletops or video screens or stapled directly (yes, stapled) into areas of the walls. It all made for such a nice and varied show. It’s still up now and will be for the remainder of the week.  

Schitt’s Creek

For the past several years, people have been telling me to watch Schitt’s Creek. A couple of times I started it, but the pilot seemed vacuous and I couldn’t get into it. Why do I care about these rich people who lose all of their money? Then I had dinner with a friend during my recent trip to Nashville, and she said to me: “You have to watch it. You will love it. It goes places.”

I moved to Cambodia about 10 days prior to orientation at my school. So I decided I could try again with Schitt’s Creek and see what happens. This time it stuck. I have never been more moved by a television show in my life. And as I was watching through the various seasons, particularly seasons 3 and 4, I started making a list on my phone. I realized that I was not only invested in this show’s storyline, I was invested in the character’s lives. I was invested in the goodness this show portrayed. I was invested emotionally. The list from my phone reads:

Goodness begets goodness.

Value in the everyday.

Empathy, resilience, love and caring.

Joy.

Inclusivity.

Hearts of gold. 

Envisioning a better world for everyone.

Simply the best.

Hilarious.

A safe space.

A positive light.

From about the middle to late part of season 2 until the very end of season 6, I cried tears of joy for this family, this community. The way the writers have snuck in these very intentional and thoughtful moments between each of the characters is remarkable. Each person in this show is completely authentic in their reactions to daily life, yet each one is not immune to change and growth. Their love and commitment to one another feels so real and unlike anything I have ever seen on television. 

Even now, days after I have finished the last season – for the 4th time – my eyes still well up when I think of particular scenes between Stevie and Moira or Patrick and David or Alexis and Ted or Johnny and Roland. How does someone write something that resonates so wonderfully with an audience? To me, this show feels like it is personal to my life and my experience. But, I am not alone in this. So, how do you make a show/a piece of art that relates to and completely transforms the audience?

I think about this show every day. It’s infectious and progressive and beautiful.

Patreon and Memberships

Exciting news!! I have started an arts-and-teaching-based membership program over on Patreon! Lots of fun giveaways and art experiences to be had and six different levels of participation available. So head on over to Patreon and have a look!!! It’s the very best combination of global community building and art experiences that I could ever possibly imagine! So exciting!!!

And, while most of my felt orders are done via email, I have an Etsy shop (see below) where you can order most anything out of felt that I can hand sew. I started my Etsy shop while I was in Singapore and it just keeps on going! So if you are in need of a banner or some bunting or some fun ornaments, have a look! Everything is coming up colorful, y’all! YAY!

>> And if you missed my feature on Trey Mitchell’s podcast, you can check it out here! I talk about teaching and living overseas and all different kinds of things! It was so fun to reconnect with Trey and talk about all of the things I love!

The holidays ARE coming!!! Let’s celebrate!

Art Lesson: Butterfly Project

A lot of people inquired about the butterfly project I did with my Grade 3 students, so I thought I would write up this quick post!

At my new school we have the most beautiful butterfly sanctuary! It’s an enclosed space where one of the operations people raises butterflies for study. There is a special place for the caterpillars as they chew and eat leaves for growth and then there is this little closet space where they make their cocoons. And finally, there are hundreds of beautiful plants for the butterflies to hang out on once they emerge from their cocoons. It’s a beautiful little space with a fun beaded curtain to walk through. I go there sometimes during lunch or after school just to marvel at the butterflies and to contemplate things.

I decided to do butterflies with my Grade 3 students because I was inspired by our butterfly sanctuary, but I also thought it might be a good project to assess them with since we were just starting the school year. For assessments, I like to choose simple projects that include directions and steps. The most important thing for me is listening skills. Can my students listen and follow directions? If the answer is yes, then my students will be able to make anything!

For this project we used two colors of A3 paper (2 classes used black, 2 classes used white), oil pastels, chalk pastels, and tempera paint in black and white (classes with black paper used white paint and classes with white paper used black paint). I made two examples on my own first, so I could understand the process. And then I demoed the entire project for the students. We used one day for folding and printing and the second day for chalk and oil pastel application. It’s good to give two days for this project so that the butterflies are good and dry before adding the chalk and oil pastel decoration.

To start out, students need a piece of A3 paper and a pencil. I use a heavier weight paper like construction paper, but not as heavy as card stock paper. I don’t suggest using printer paper because it’s a bit flimsy. But, for the most part, this project will work with any kind of paper you have at school or around your house.

I have the students fold the paper in half (hamburger style) and make sure all of their corners touch and their fold is creased and sharp. Once the students do this, they can open back up their folded paper and lay it out in front of them, landscape. On the right-hand side of the A3 paper, starting at the center fold line, I have the students draw out their butterfly design. Remind the students that they are only doing one side of their butterfly during this step and to keep it simple! (When we get to the printing part of this, the paint can get cumbersome if there are too many tiny drawings and designs to trace.)

Next I help to trace with paint the pencil lines of the one side of their butterflies. I use tempera in squeezy bottles with a tiny opening so I can better control the paint. I helped my students do this step, but with Grade 4 and above students, they could do the paint tracing part on their own. Once the right-hand side of their butterfly is traced, I have the students fold the empty side of their paper onto the paint side and press down, rubbing their folded paper gently while whispering, “squishy, squishy, juicy, juicy.” This makes them laugh, which helps them to stay focused. After about 10 seconds of rubbing their folded paper, they open up their A3 paper to reveal their finished butterfly print.

Once the butterflies have dried overnight, the students can start working with oil and chalk pastels to add color to their butterflies. I set out all of our oil and chalk pastels on the table and give the students tiny trays. They can start out with 3 of each (oil and chalk) and then come back to the center table as often as they need to in order to switch out their colors. For the chalk pastels, I have them fill in the negative spaces on their paper. For the oil pastels, they can draw designs on the painted (or positive) areas of their butterfly. Remind the students that the goal is not to completely cover their painted space, but more enhance it with color. They can also add antennae with oil pastels whilst decorating their butterflies.

You can clearly see the positive and negative spaces in the above examples, prior to me adding color with chalk and oil pastels.

I love this project because each student makes something completely unique. No two butterflies are ever the same!

I made this project for the first time when I was little, maybe 6. I have never done this project again since then, thinking it might be too simple for my elementary students. But, they LOVED it! They had a blast making these butterflies. We will be hanging them up for all the school to see in the entryway to the cafeteria. I can’t wait to share with you how the finished display looks!

Please reach out with any questions and stay tuned for more fun projects and info coming soon!