THE LOST PHOTOGRAPHER

sketching in MadridA couple of nights ago I was taking a stroll through Plaza Santa Ana to meet up with some friends and saw this man sketching in the middle of the square. His work was beautiful and it was kind of hard to keep your eyes away from him and how it seemed he was completely isolated from the people around him, just sketching away. He is The Lost Photographer and walks the streets of Spain, goes on pilgrimages to earn money for charities, and earns a living by making beautiful sketches of Spanish cities, while entertaining passers by, who like me, can’t seem to look away.

street artHe has a blog where he writes about his experiences, the people he meets, the struggles of working as a street artist, the encounters with the police (like the one he apparently had on this day possibly minutes after I took these photographs!), and where he often posts links for people to purchase his drawings. I found his latest post about the police harassing him so sad. I was there on that day and all he did was sit there and sketch quietly, while all of us sat close by to watch him work. It is precisely moments like these that make me love Madrid  and I couldn’t wait to get home and write this post and share his blog and stories with you. I have to tell you that my favorite thing was the way he drew the people in the square, in constant movement, which is exactly what you feel when you stand still in Plaza Santa Ana, people passing you by, children playing, and a strange erie feeling of time standing still around this lost photographer.

I bet you want to see what he was sketching and of course I took a photo, so enjoy the West view of the square, and don’t miss The Lost Photographer’s Blog and meet this street artist from Birmingham, England. A man who has lived and worked in London, New York City and Berlin, transitioning from life in the advertising and marketing world to coloring the streets of Spain with his kraft paper and beautiful drawings.

Madrid Spain

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SUNDAY BEST

PinxtosIs it the fact that I’m doing these weekly posts or are the weeks flying by for everyone else too? The summer seems to be flying by without any warning, and in no time I’ll be hauling our winter clothes back up from the basement. It’s still summer though, so I guess we need to enjoy it as much as we can! In this week’s edition of Sunday best I have some great refreshing summer-lovin’ sites and blogs, and I thought I’d add a couple of extra features from my own experiences with some things I’ve been testing out. These Sunday posts are a peek into my lazy Sunday mornings, and these days, they come with a bit of experimenting in the kitchen, the garden, the studio, and everything else that comes with being a busy-bee like me.

Cooks, gardeners and fellow health nuts, you’ll love the whole food, natural cooking blog Good Things Grow, I found it a few days ago and I’m hooked! Great ideas for natural healthy cooking and you know what I love… some gorgeous photography to go with it.

For design and illustration fanatics, you’ll love meeting Amanda Wright, the gal behind Wit and Whistle, where she shares behind the scenes projects, beautiful photos and sketches. Stop by her shop as well while you’re there, her gift cards and stamps are a thing of beauty.

For all you fellow foodies out there, pay Matt a visit at Matt Bites, an amazing blog that will give you a wonderfully severe overdose of color and design through food and incredible photography.

Here’s a couple of things from me to round off our Sunday Best…

Best new flavor discovery: The itty bit of magic that happens when you combine tomatoes, feta cheese and strawberries… mouthwatering! I mixed these with some greens, drizzled olive oil and red wine vinegar on top, added salt and pepper and magic happened.

Inspirational quote of the week:

“Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying I will try again tomorrow”  Mary Ann Radmacher.

Since we’re talking so much about food today, enjoy a photo of the incredible Basque Country pinxtos we had during our recent trip to Bilbao to see Radiohead. A trip you’ll be hearing about very soon.

Happy Sunday everyone!

A FAN IN THE MAKING

The BeatlesMy mother was 100%  a 1960s hippie. Beautiful extra long straight hair, amazing floral dresses and peasant blouses, beautiful natural material long necklaces, and an enormous collection of 60s and 70s rock and folk albums. This is the music I grew up listening to, and since there was a music all around, music all the time strict policy in my house, I listened to A LOT of rock and roll. We even had a music room and family gatherings were usually a bit of a jam session, my mom played the piano, my uncle played the guitar, my grandpa would rock the maracas, I was of course the tambourine girl/ choreographer since I was the only dancer in the family. We would play, listen to music and then when things got a bit wild, it was ¨making up crazy lyrics time¨ and things got really out of hand. None of these sessions (and I’m talking years and years of Sujo family jam) ever took place without the presence of four little Englishmen: John, Paul, George and Ringo.Illustrated Lyrics The Beatles

The obsession started early since the lullabies my mother sang with her beautiful voice always came from them, Mr. Bob Dylan and of course Mr. Johnny Cash, and yes, Mother Goose also made occasional appearances. This is why when I read the article I’m about to share with you, my eyes were filling up with tears and my face had a huge smile on it, thinking of how music is timeless and how new generations are still getting a taste of those incredible rock and roll tunes from the 60s, the ones I grew up with and that still crush my heart every time. So without further ado, I give you the cutest, sweetest tale of how The Beatles and their music are passed down to a little boy in this New York Times’ article by Paul Greenberg. You don’t want to miss this one, trust me!

Whether you’re singing The Beatles as lullabies like my mom did, or having a deep and beautiful conversation like Paul Greenberg had with his son, any child will love to spend time listening to how important music and its story is to their parents. Most kids will be wide eyed and fascinated to hear the excitement in their parents’ voice. I can still remember sitting on the edge of my mom’s bed, listening to John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’ (one of my favorite songs of all time to this day!), while she showed me the newspaper clippings of the day he died. Looking at their old records, listening to the stories my mom told me, and flipping through the pages of the book you see in the photos above while trying to learn as many lyrics as I could, are still some of my favorite memories. The day I learned ‘Penny Lane’ from start to finish was a BIG day for me. I know I got a big chunk of my identity and my passion for music in those late night conversations with my mom, so for any parents out there, even if your child develops an entirely different taste in music, you’ll be teaching them the importance of music and how positive it is to feel awe and admiration, curiosity and even passion. All good things in my book!

Enjoy the article and your Saturday everybody! In case you don’t believe how much of a hippie my gorgeous mamma was, this crazy photo says it all!

LESSON PLANNING IN THE PARK

Creative teachingOne of the great things about being a teacher is that now I can work anywhere, including my favorite spot in the park. Students see you for an hour maybe two and think that’s all there is to it, but any teacher can tell you that for every hour taught, there’s many more in the planning. Especially in your first years as a teacher! When it comes to my time to plan lessons, I love being outside.

Yesterday Nala and I sat next to the stream and she chased after ducks while I planned a lesson on weather and global warming. A lesson on what?! Yes, I’m still an ESL teacher (English as a second language) not an Earth sciences teacher, but the days of standing in front of the board explaining verb tenses for hours and hours are long gone, at least in my eyes.

The students and colleagues that have watched me teach can tell you one thing, my classes aren’t your normal run-of-the-mill English classes. We’ve gotten used to such a traditional way of learning and teaching, but now I’m always so happy with the enormous smiles I get from students when I teach adverbial phrases with an “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” episode, or the lesson I was planning yesterday in the park about global warming and weather, with segments from movies like “Twister” and “An Inconvenient Truth”. Shouldn’t creativity in teaching be the norm and not the exception? Not only for students! I can tell you I have so much fun planning these lessons and waiting to see what my students’ reaction will be. It’s not all decoration by the way, you can turn a funny scene from “Airplane” and transform it into a listening practice by simply adding some pre-listening tasks. Use comedians and music to teach subtext and inferred meaning. Not to mention vocabulary and grammar, Alanis Morissette’s ‘Hand in My pocket‘ has more adjectives in it than any course book I’ve ever taught with! I can also tell you that the tv show “Friends” has just about every single lesson intro or warmer you can possibly think of. It’s a simple way to engage students a bit more and make the lesson and its contents more memorable. Not to mention a really positive way of getting students to practice listening and especially get used to the speed in which the words are said in a normal conversation.

This is the way I learned in school, I was one of those lucky ones to have “magicians” as teachers when I was growing up, but I’ll cover that in a different post soon. Some of the lessons, books, stories and subjects I learned in this way have never left my mind, and it’s not because of any memory super power of mine  (I have quite the opposite actually!), it’s because of the way these subjects were being taught.

I can’t wait to have our Creative Teaching section ready for you guys, I simply need a few extra hours to take some fun photos I want to include, and it will be ready. In this section you’ll find great links and ideas so you can take your teaching to a more creative place. Your students will love you for it.

I’m off for today to teach a lesson on the possessive with old family photos (yes, baby pictures included! yikes!). Wish me luck!

Did you have any unusual and creative experiences as a student? Please share your stories with all of us in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!

park

SUNDAY BEST

It’s that day of the week again! Some of my favorite links from this past week for parents, teachers, crafters, diy fanatics, artists, photographers, and as always, one cook or two…

For parents, teachers, and lovers of arts & crafts, don’t miss the wonderful blog A Creative Mint. Stunning pictures, adorable ideas, and don’t miss her posts by color, truly a little Christmas present for the eyes.

For a little shot of inspiration Bee of Design, incredible photos, illustrations and beautiful ideas behind every single post.

For people who love to cook and eat, don’t miss La Tartine Gourmande’s cooking site, with mouthwatering beautiful creations like potato nests with avocado and smoked salmon, and tomato tarte tatin. Yum!

For teachers, the website that is referred to as the Bible of ESL teaching in my house, Dave’s ESL Cafe, everything you’ll need for teaching in a unique and creative way is waiting right there for you. Check out their ‘Stuff for Teachers’ section, where you’ll find posts and ideas from ESL teachers from around the globe.

For lovers of design and home decor, Remodelista and their beautiful photographs and articles. Not to mention their wonderful city guides and unique spots to visit while you’re travelling.

Last but not least, the work of my favorite illustrator (you know who I’m talking about if you’ve been following for a while!), Estonian gone New Yorker Miss. Kristiana Pärn. If you’ve been to our little attic studio you know all about her “Going North” print in wood, and I’m dying to get her “Stories” and “Bring you the North Star” to complete my little collection!

More to come next Sunday! Please note that I’m not affiliated with any of these blogs or websites, I’m simply a big fan!

This morning my little veggie garden surprised me with the very first butternut squash blossom which is the photo I’m sharing with you today. Hope the actual squash is on it’s way! I’m always tempted to eat the actual blossom since they say it’s one of the most delicious things on the planet, but you know how it is…no flower no veggie! Ahh the dilemma!

A SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY

Every Thursday, I’m a volunteer English teacher at a very special and one of a kind place, the CEPI center. Roughly translated CEPI stands for ‘centers of immigrant participation and integration’, and they are home to hundreds of users from all over the world, where mostly low income families go to for free assistance in everything from psychological treatment, job placement, education, legal assistance, day care and pretty much anything else you can imagine. It’s all free, sponsored by the government, run by some extremely hard working and wonderful people, and almost entirely supported by volunteers. To paint you a little picture, a family of four immigrants without papers and without a job and sadly sometimes without any means of supporting themselves visits the CEPI, and while the mom and dad are attending a session for job placement and legal advice, the kids are being well taken care of at the center’s day care, taking dance or guitar lessons, at a scouts meeting or at summer camp. After the meeting the parents might also join in on the activities by attending cooking classes, workshops for women, sessions on how to write your CV, Italian, French or English classes (where they get to meet yours truly!), and all sorts of professional training from hotel management to hairdressing, cooking, bar tending and geriatric care. It’s all open to anyone who wants to learn and it’s all 100% free.

The minute you walk in, you notice this very unique and wonderful atmosphere, wonderful people that have smiles on their faces in spite of all the struggles they go through, and it’s all because they now we’re there for them expecting nothing in return and hoping to help and spend time with them. I’ve been a volunteer at many different moments in my life, but I’ve never been involved in anything as substantial and incredible as this. Especially because it’s not all fluff, this place is making a real difference in the lives of these families.

This week it was the center’s 6th anniversary and they had this very special event in front of government officials, and I felt so honored when they asked me to speak at such a wonderful event. I was extremely nervous of course, in spite of all the speaking in public I do with my classes. Not only did I speak, but I was first in line! Boy do I hope I did ok! The front row was filled with government officials and there I was standing before them, microphone in hand talking about what my experience as a volunteer has been, the wonderful lessons I’ve learned along the way, the amazing and supporting staff that make me feel so at home, and of course my students. By then I was so emotional and excited that when it was time to listen to Pape, our volunteer French teacher from Senegal, I just broke down and started crying (as did everyone else that was present). Pape has such an amazing and heartbreaking life story and spends every spare minute he has working at the center, showing us that sometimes those who have the least are willing to give the most. You couldn’t listen to his words without feeling your heart jump to your throat, and at that moment I felt so incredibly happy to have joined this team a few months ago. The words of two other volunteers followed and then a beautiful demonstration by the center’s Karate teacher, and his incredible speech about how he teaches a violent martial art that actually prevents future violence. 

Not that we needed to get even more emotional, but the children followed him by showing their drawings and speaking about values like integration, equality, peace, solidarity and collaboration. You could hear the ‘aaawws’ and ‘ooohhs’ a mile away.

The teens from the center’s guitar class gave us a little concert after that by playing “Every Breath you Take” by The Police and “Wonderwall” by Oasis.

The event was closed with some very special words from government officials and staff, we were all interviewed by the press (it was the very first time for me!), and after that we all joined in for a little party, some Peruvian and Spanish food and some sangria. My students came to hear me speak and I stayed there chatting with them until the very end, when they gave all of us girls a beautiful red carnation on the way out. I felt so happy and blessed to be a part of something like this. Since I’ve started my work at the center I’ve met people from Mexico, Honduras, Spain, El Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Italy, Senegal, Venezuela and Bolivia, just to name a few. In the end, we’re all the same, and in this very special place, we get to spend some time together and help each other. There’s no bigger lie than to say volunteer work pays nothing, I can tell you that…

Happy 6th Birthday my dear CEPI! May we celebrate many more together.

SUNDAY BEST

Happy Sunday everyone! No, I’m not going to Church, I’m simply popping in for a short post today with this little idea I had yesterday. Since the day Pinterest was invented became the day I officially stopped sleeping, I now have these crazy amazing links on everything from food to teaching, to design and architecture, to really wonderful and creative artists that are out there somewhere. Lazy Sundays have become those great relaxing days in which I get to spend some quiet time looking around some of these amazing websites, getting inspiration for all of my weekly endeavours. What a better way to start a weekly post than to share these with you!? Drumroll please…. I give you our “Sunday Best”.

Here are some of my favorites this week:

– On cooking, Spoon Fork Bacon is one of my favorite blogs of all time. Amazing recipes and such a beautiful website as well!

– On photography, writing, design, jewelry, cooking and so much more all the way from Seattle, the fantastic Elephantine blog.

– On amazing children’s books for our readers who are parents, teachers or gift giving aunts and uncles, the great Children’s Books Guide, with amazing titles to inspire your next purchase. I’ve used many of these for teaching little ones back in the day and this selection is quite good!

– On great empowering books for young girls, the wonderful and confidence building selection of Almighty Girl.

– On photography, teaching and life in Spain, I introduce you to the very funny Owain Shaw P.I. and Republica Presente blogs, where my friend, photographer for the Edinburgh Theater Festival, and English teacher Owain Shaw will entertain you with his eloquent tales of an islander turned madrileño and show you some of his wonderful photography.

More to come next Sunday! Please note that I’m not affiliated with any of these blogs or websites, I’m simply a big fan! Hope you like them as much as I do and that the next few hours are filled with some much needed couch potato time. It’s what these doggies needed yesterday after a walk around Madrid during the hottest day we’ve had so far this summer. Dog walkers and their beautiful dogs always remind me of life in NYC and I always have to take a photo, even if it is out of focus.

MUSIC MAKES MY WORLD GO ROUND

Today’s post was going to be all about the strange relationship I have with my iPhone’s shuffle feature, and how it seems to know what to play at any given moment, but something happened to me this morning that tied it all together. As with anything having to do with the creative process, ‘if you listen you will hear’.

I have a little used red car we  call ‘the little cherry’, where I jump in to go and teach, run errands, take my dog to the park, and of course, my favorite thing, sit there in silence listening to music while I drive through the streets of Madrid. About two weeks ago I had to run a very important and nerve-wracking errand that will possibly become the starting point of huge opportunities for me. I was sitting there by myself, a little scared of what I was about to do, and at that precise moment, the shuffle feature in my iPhone decides to pull one on me by playing Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’ and I teared up instantly. I am not a die-hard Mitchell fan as I know so many of you are, but this song reminds me of my mother and our time together and I always have it on my phone:

‘I remember that time you told me, you said, “Love is touching souls” Surely you touched mine ‘Cause part of you pours out of me In these lines from time to time’

That little piece of the lyrics takes me on a roller coaster of a ride every time and it was so strange to hear it at that precise moment. Mr.Shuffle didn’t stop there, as I was wiping off the tears, Led Zeppelin appears with ‘Tangerine”, off I was now with half a tear still in my right eye, but a huge smile on my face, almost halfway to my scary destination, and with my official ‘fill yourself up with hope tune’ blasting through the stereo. Nick Drake and his ‘Black Eyed Dog’ showed up next as I was pulling into the parking lot, so now I was officially with two strong feet on the ground and as focused as I could be. Three hours later I stepped out of a small building on the outskirts of Madrid, with a smile of relief, a glimmer of hope, and I got into my car, turned on my stereo and there it was, the song of victory… Mumford & Sons and their “Little Lion Man”. There’s nothing like a blasting banjo and music that builds with every passing second, to make you feel like your car is going to lift of the pavement for a few seconds. Crazy! Did I buy an iPhone with a weird cosmic connection-style shuffle feature?

This morning I was looking at old photos of my jewelry to pick a few for our new Jewels in the Attic page in the blog, and it was so strange to sit there and look at all those pictures of work I started doing when I was 12 years old, all the way up to 30 (good thing my mom always told me: ‘take photos of EVERYTHING’). I’ll talk about what I found on a different post, but since this is a post about the music that colors my life, here’s what happened. The songs that I listened to while I was making those jewelry designs so many moons ago immediately started sounding in my head. I realized music has been like another member of my family since I was a baby. It was always playing in the background, whenever we had breakfast, lunch, dinner, or had any sort of fun, and every stage of my life has had a soundtrack to it.

This is what I can remember:

– The first time I made a necklace: A mixture of The Beatles and the Mammas and the Pappas (all songs, played over and over again in my mom’s record player).

– Living in New York City as a child: Nanci Griffith ‘Three Flights Up”.

– My first jewelry collection ‘Pinkerton’: Anything by The Shins, The Elected’s “Sun, sun, sun”, anything by The Decemberists.

– Chasing Weezer across Florida with my hubby when I was 18: Weezer’s “El Scorcho” of course!

– My two life changing road trips up and down the California coastline: anything by Green Day, Death Cab for Cutie, or Snow Patrol.

– A life changing bus ride from Woodstock to New York City: Rilo Kiley’s “The Good that Won’t Come Out”.

– My mom passing away: The Beatles with “Across the Universe” and Israel Kamakawiwo’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”.

– Walking my dogs up and down the hills of our Alto Prado home: Regina Spektor’s “Samson” and Barry Louis Polisar with what I call his special tune for skipping “All I Want is You”.

– Packing up the house and moving to Spain: Sondre Lerche and his song “To Be Surprised”.

– The day my hubby and I tied the knot: the Foo Fighters and their song “Next Year” which I played as a surprise for him while we were doing ‘the ring thing’.

There’s lots more, LOTS MORE! But this is all I have for now…

Do you have any tunes that have marked some milestones in your life? I’d love to hear about them so leave them in the comments!

(To leave a comment simply click on the little box to the right of the post or click on the title of this post and scroll down! Easy as pie… unless you’ve never made pie that is!).

I CHOOSE HOW… AND WHAT…

children's education

I am now officially the cool fun aunt that apart from appearing to have an unlimited supply of stickers has the “really big wall you can draw on”. These are four of my little nieces and nephews, which are that in spite of me being an only child. They are of course my friends’ kids (who now hate me a little bit for showing these guys that painting on walls is an actual possibility). On the day I took this picture, their parents, my hubby, the kids and I were barbecuing outside, our dog was eating all the potato chips the kids were leaving behind, it was just a great fun Sunday barbecue. Towards the end of the day I took them into my studio and gave them a box of colored chalk. They were mesmerized and each got in front of the wall to start drawing. The oldest one arranged the space each of them would have, he explained, and they all started drawing.

I learned a lesson that day, one you don’t learn in classrooms since you’re teaching the same age group at any given time, they were all doing their own thing, in their own way, and lots was going on. Not because of their age or physical development, but because of their preferences, their personality, because of the effect the presence of the other kids was making on them, and because all I told them was “here’s some chalk… go nuts, do whatever you want”. This wasn’t an experiment by any means, I just wanted these guys to have fun, but what happened was very unique! The boy to the left (the oldest, about 5 years old) was trying to draw the human skeleton and was very focused on the height of the wall and how far up he could draw on it. The second boy was very concerned about what others were doing while he continued to draw on the board without looking at his own work, but trying to focus on the other drawings and the movement. The third boy was completely obsessed with drawing and then erasing, and was also the first to notice that you were supposed to draw on the black part of the wall but that the white part of the wall was something different (and he’s 1!). The little girl to the right was entirely focused on the different kinds of chalk and how the colors were different from one another. Four kids, four completely different experiences by just drawing on a board at the same time. None of them were trying to copy each other which is very typical, or what I was doing (yes, I was drawing too of course!), they were simply in the zone doing their own thing.

It got me thinking, what happens when we leave education (at least parts of it) in the hands of the children themselves? Well, I’m not an expert, but here’s education scientist Sugata Mitra explaining just that. You HAVE to watch this video! I thought it was so beautiful and special that I felt like sharing it with you guys today.

At the end of the day the four of them left with star stickers on their hands (as did I) and I was left with this amazing photo and a little bit of insight. What are your thoughts on this? Any mammas, papas or teachers in the crowd?

Are you new to this blog? Please check out our first post “The Thing About Summer and Changes” to read what it’s all about! If you wish to subscribe to this blog you can do so by clicking on the Follow button in the menu on the bottom right and you’ll get notified when we have new posts. Thanks for stopping by!

THE THING ABOUT SUMMER AND CHANGES

The first time I wrote a blog was a couple of years ago, and this beautiful shot of The Lawn at Central Park was one of the first photos to make the cut. I took it in the summer of 2010 and it marked the beginning of something very special, the launch of my little enamel and jewelry design business Jewels in the Attic and all the exciting adventures that have come with it. The photo below was taken this summer when I went to Bilbao, Spain to attend the annual BBK Live music festival, and once again, a trip involving a rolling lawn has marked one of the big changes in my life. Let me explain for those of you that might be new to this blog. I’m Kim, I’m a Venezuelan, ex New Yorker, current Madrileña who has spent the last 8 years working as a jewelry and enamel artist and as of April 2012, a mere two days after my 30th birthday, found my second passion in life. I’ve heard so many people say that you find your true self after 30 and I’m not sure if that’s entirely true for everyone, but something strange has been happening to me since that day, and new beginnings have reared their beautiful heads without me having any control over it.

A few months ago, I was feeling restless after so many years of working on my own in a little studio, having a blast, but slightly isolated from everyone else, and I started craving something different. I wanted to be around people and start something new. I wanted something that would still go well with my business, but where I could work with others and maybe even make a difference somehow. So, when the time came to choose what my next adventure would be, I looked into my other favorite things, the English language and the wise words of my husband that had been echoing in my head for months (I would say years but I don’t want him to think he’s always right! Which by the way is actually the case most of the time). Long story short, I went back to school and got certified as an English teacher. Many moons ago I had the experience of teaching English to young children, but I was very young myself, and never really thought of it in a serious way since I was going down such a different road with my business.

Nothing prepared me for what was going to happen. It turns out everyone was right, it’s never too late to dream and its never too late to accomplish either. I’ll fill you in on more of the details in future posts, but basically I’m now wondering… How do you say thank you when you find two jobs you simply love?

The only downside to having two occupations now is that there’s a lot less time for everything, which is why I’ve joined my passions to create ‘Blackboard and Brush’ and hopefully now I’ll  have more time to spend with you guys. Prepare to be in the midst of very special and colorful pictures, tales of the teaching world and the characters I’m meeting along the way, and of course, what we always love to talk about: creativity, living creatively, working creatively, and now teaching creatively. Thanks for coming with me in yet another storytelling adventure!