SUNDAY BEST SPECIAL EDITION: OUR BRAND NEW PROJECT LITTLE GREEN KETTLE

Little Green Kettle - vegan blogHi everyone! I can’t believe I was able to hold my tongue until today regarding a very special announcement. I’ve mentioned here and there that something was in the works but now it’s finally up and running and I’m so excited to share it with you today.

I want you to meet Little Green Kettle, my new blog and something I’m really proud of. The unbelievable response it has had in only a few days continues to overwhelm me. The message and content that will fill its “walls” is so important to me that I’m squealing with excitement over announcing my brand new “baby blog”.Little Green Kettle - Health and wellness blog

Little Green Kettle is a site about healthy and sustainable eating, the power of activism and making a difference in this world, it’s a health and wellness blog covering topics such as yoga, meditation and wellbeing, it’s a delicious cooking blog that will hopefully inspire your time in the kitchen. That being said, we’ll be doing lots and lots of cooking, we’ll be sharing stories about activism and the incredible people making a difference all around us. We will practice lots of yoga and get immersed in a world of change, looking at how the small choices we make, impact the big things around us.

I’m keeping this post short so that you can head on out to the Little Green Kettle and do some reading there. Not sure where to start? I recommend the About page and the Welcome post first, here you can read a bit about what we’ll be up to at Little Green Kettle. Still have some time after that? We’ve already got some great posts on a Trip to the Farmer’s Market, Seane Corn and her amazing work around the world with her foundation Off the Mat into the World, a delicious spinach, kale and citrus salad, yummy vegan temakis and a post about Comfort Foods.

New posts are coming in every week and we’re going to have some incredible collaborators from the fields of psychology, medicine, health, physical fitness, yoga and so much more. You can subscribe to the blog via email on the website, join us on facebook and twitter (all of this can also be done through the buttons on the website). Once you’ve stopped by for a visit, if you like it and feel like spreading the word, please share in whatever way you can! We’re trying to reach as many kind hearted people as possible so that we can all start making changes together.

This is Little Green Kettle. Thank you so much for stopping by. I’ll see you in a couple of days with a funny story about creativity, two young boys and mischief.Little Green Kettle - healthy and sustainable eating, whole hearted living

THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES

first flowersHi everyone, I’m finally back after some days of not being able to post and some technical difficulties so thank you so much for your patience! The student access pages are up and running again and fully updated and now we can also continue sharing stories here. It’s no big secret that I was born in Venezuela and with everything that has been going on these past few weeks I felt compelled to write a little something, if only to work through everything that is coming in and out of my head every time I hear a piece of news or read an article. I am of course not an expert in politics, I am however a lover of books, of stories, of the wise words of so many writers that seemed to be especially crafty at putting down on paper what people were feeling and living through. That being said, today, in light of the tumultuous news and events (is it me or has the world gone kind of cuckoo on our watch?) I want to simply share with you a gem of a story written by the great Hans Christian Andersen. I am of course talking about his wonderfully allegoric short story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. You can read it here, and I urge you to read until the end (it’s not that long and it will be worth it!). In the end it takes just one little boy to shed light on the issue at hand, I hope we can all learn a little bit from this story and be the little voice in the back of the room that says STOP!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, children’s stories were meant to be read again as adults and this is certainly one that should be on the adult required summer reading list!

I leave you with the first signs of Spring, these beautiful little pink blossoms adorned our street as Nala and I walked around this morning. Aren’t they lovely? Please share your comments about the story below! You know how much I love to hear from you!

A FARMERS MARKET, MOCHI AND SOUND CITY FILLED SATURDAY

veggie shoppingThat was a mouthful! That’s only because this morning has been FULL of delicious, fun and musical treats. I started the day off by my usual trip to the farmers market and then to our organic health food store where they gave me that cute box with all my goodies. I got so many great things today it was hard to choose which to photograph for you. Aren’t these beauties lovely?veggies

Then I stopped at a new bakery in town which sells the most amazing whole grain croissants and took everything home to make breakfast. They only had two croissants left so I made my favorite mochi recipe and served it with the strawberries I had just bought and a delicious coffee with rice and vanilla milk. Can you say Saturday morning YUM?!

vgetarian

After I painfully tried to make all those veggies fit in the refrigerator, my hubby, our doggie and I cuddled up in the couch to watch a documentary we had been waiting to see for months. I’m talking about Dave Grohl’s documentary “Sound City”. My oh my!

sound city movie

What can I tell you about this documentary other than please go see it! You know I talk about Dave a lot and about how I think he’s our modern day-number 1 storyteller bar none, and this movie is simply another example of this. It’s an iconic piece of history. I’m not talking musical history here, I mean history, period! So much of this movie took me to what the 70s, 80s and 90s where about, what life in rock and roll California was like, and mainly, how roads seem to unravel when you are deep into your creative process. The movie tells the story of one of L.A.’s most iconic recording studios, where Fleetwood Mac, Nine Inch Nails, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, and countless other legends recorded some of their greatest albums. The part about Nirvana’s recording of their album Nevermind hit me hard and right through the heart. This was my first true rock and roll love affair with a record after my uncle left it at my house one day. It wasn’t my first record (this was probably a Jackson 5 album or Michael Jackson album for sure!), but it was one of those times I remember from my childhood where I got to know the eerie character,magic and pain behind the lyrics and music of a band. Listening to, and watching all about this album turned my heart upside down and I was suddenly transported to this incredible place where it all happened. It took Dave Grohl (of course!) to tell its wonderful story and to bring this place back to life after it sadly and unfortunately closed down.

I had to start thinking about my young students when I saw Trent Reznor talking about how someone in his family made him play the piano really early on, and how that made him fall in love with music. I have never taught a student who has been encouraged to study music or play an instrument as an extracurricular activity. It’s all about the sports nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, sports rule, but telling kids that music and the arts are there for them seems to always fall through the cracks. Of course this is fortunately not the case for every child, but how I wish it would be more encouraged!

I loved how this documentary showed what I’ve seen happen time and time again. Magical moments and brief encounters when you’re deep into creative process that end up changing the course of history. There’s nothing more I can say other than please join Dave, “the Neve”, Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, Rick Springfield, Pat Smear, Krist Novoselic, and countless others on this amazing ride. Thanks once again Dave!

That’s it for my Saturday so far, I leave you with the trailer for Sound City, I hope you enjoy it and that you get to see this little gem!

BEYOND THE LINE OF TREES

Beautiful natureI’ve lived in my neighborhood  for three years now, a lovely town outside the city where you can still hear the birds sing and have actual forests nearby (I’m talking bunnies here!). We recently discovered this beautiful park only 5 minutes away from our house and had only caught a glimpse of it. It’s on a hill and has a beautiful quiet feel to it.When you’re at the bottom all you can see is the rising hill and a line of trees.

SceneryToday I finished my lesson planning early and Nala and I went back to the park and ventured up the hill. I wasn’t prepared for what lied behind the line of trees, and unfortunately my photos didn’t capture what we were looking at. Suddenly we were in front of this giant meadow and this vast expanse. Hills and valleys intertwined in front of us and suddenly in the middle of these two highways I’m always driving on, there was this giant piece of untouched nature, we both stood still for a moment taking it in. The photos simply don’t do it justice! Do you see that area in the background that seems to have a grayish hue? Well, between that and the foreground there was a giant valley and beautiful rolling hills. I need to take my actual camera there this weekend!

Spanish landscape

Nature and its wondersI realized I’ve always been a fan of forests that seem to cover you and hide little trails and creeks. But vast and wide open spaces like this one seem to make you breathe a bit deeper and make you quiet down. Similar to the feeling of grandness you get when you visit the grand canyon and you just feel completely surrounded by its natural beauty. This was no grand canyon (I’m painfully aware of that don’t worry..), but I’ll take what I can get! The feeling was just as wonderful.

Dog loversWe sat in the meadow in the middle of these yellow flowers and just looked at these flowing fields and listened to the sound of the highway far away. The only thing that was missing, although it was playing in my head, was Joe Purdy’s amazing song “Wash Away”.  I leave you with some photos and some of the lyrics to the song. I hope you find your little meadow behind the line of trees, whether it’s a coffee shop, your favorite beach or your backyard. Or maybe the Grand Canyon! If you’re lucky to live close by.

NatureIn the words of Mr. Purdy …

“I got troubles oh, but not today

Cause they’re gonna wash away

They’re gonna wash away”

Listen to this beautiful song here or on Spotify if you’re a member. If you like it please purchase it through itunes and help support the artist! This song ALWAYS makes me smile. Tomorrow I’ll take it to my “vast expanse” and listen to it as I’m staring out into the fields.What do you think of this place?! Do you have your version of this? Do you feel like sharing it in the comments? We’d love to hear from you!

PENNY LANE – A LESSON PLAN

Using Beatles song in your lessosIt’s been a few weeks since I posted a lesson plan (remember I also share tons of resources for teaching in the Creative Teaching section of the blog). In today’s plan I incorporate music, grammar, listening, and reading comprehension into a really fun lesson  for kids. You can even make it an arts and crafts project at the end of the lesson and practice speaking skills while you’re creating a classroom poster.

The whole lesson usually takes me about 1 hour (an hour and a half to 2 hours if you’re doing the project at the end) but you can of course adapt it. So far the kids have loved this activity, especially making the project at the end of the lesson, it’s like the cherry on the cake! What song am I talking about? None other than the beautiful Penny Lane by The Beatles. I will outline the different activities you can do in class and in the order I usually do them, but feel free to cut, paste and change things if needed. I’m also adding a paragraph at the end with optional add ons in case you want to do some follow up activities or make this lesson a little bit longer.

Lesson name: Grammar from a song: Penny Lane

Use: Suitable for children of all ages and adaptable to different levels (Elementary + … ).

Language systems and skills practiced in this lesson: Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening, Speaking and Reading.

Timetable fit: This is a great practice lesson after you have taught the present simple tense and the present continuous tense and wish to practice when it is appropriate to use one over the other (present simple vs. continuous).

Part 1: Speaking/ Grammar/ Listening

1. I like to begin this lesson by talking about music and musical styles. Practice speaking with the students by having them talk to each other about their favorite bands and artists and then get everyone together and elicit some examples. If you’re teaching a private lesson simply do this with your student and have a conversation about their musical preferences. Another option is to elicit musical styles and write them on the board (e.g. rock, classical, jazz, opera, country, dance, folk… you’ll be surprised with all the musical styles they come up with!).

2. I’m a Beatles fan so I like to say that now I want to tell them about one of my favorite bands. I don’t tell them the name but I briefly play an excerpt of the song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (which has such an iconic start to the song). If they can’t guess it, I then show them any of the hundreds of videos of the band playing the song that you can find on youtube. If they didn’t guess before they will imediately recognize the four figures in black and white tilting their heads sideways. Once they’ve guessed the name of the band I elicit from some of the students if they’ve heard their music before. They get very excited talking about how their parents love this music and even the very young ones will want to tell you the story of John Lennon’s death (this always shocks me!).

3. I then tell them that we are going to practice the grammar we’ve been seeing in class with one of the band’s most famous songs.

4. Give students the following handout of the lyrics of Penny Lane with a gapfill (download it by clicking here) (page 1). Tell them that they have to write the correct form of the verb in brackets in either the present simple tense or the present continuous tense and to be aware of the change of the verb in the third person singular. This will take them some time, it’s a song, so as we know the grammar isn’t always the way they’ve seen it in class, but they learn so much from this exercise that it’s completely worth the effort.

5. Walk around and help students that might be having problems with the exercise. Have students check the answers with a partner.

6. Feedback: The great thing about this exercise is that feedback or answer check is done by the student’s themselves through a listening practice. They get to listen to the song and correct their lyrics themselves! You will also have to play this several times especially for lower level students. Have them check with their partner again (if you’re working with a group). You can purchase the song on it’s own for practically nothing on iTunes and also find it on Spotify or your favorite music subscription app. Please don’t download illegally! It will cost you next to nothing and you’ll have it forever.

7. Give them the second page of the handout with the complete lyrics for them to check their final answers.

8. By this time, students will be begging to sing the song, and of course they deserve it after such hard work! I like to use this video Karaoke style but simply listening to the song with their complete lyrics is just fine and the quality of the music will be even better (the Karaoke version keeps their eyes up and engaged which is why I like to use this video sometimes). Sing the song two or three times with them. This will also help with connected speech and children love to sing it!

Part 2: Reading / Comprehension of the song/ Vocabulary

1. Now it’s time to help students understand what this song is about and go over new vocabulary in context.

Option 1 for lower level students: I use a beautiful illustration you can find in the following book: The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics, edited by Alan Aldridge (sorry I can’t share the illustration for Copyright reasons, but the book is truly wonderful if you want to look for it). You can also do a Google image search by typing: illustration of the song Penny Lane. Divide the class into smaller groups and give each of them a copy of the illustration and have them identify the different verses of the song with the images you see in the picture. For example, have them point to the picture and say this is the barber showing photographs, this is the pretty nurse selling poppies from a tray. Get the class to come back together and elicit what each of the things are by pointing at the picture. Here you will practice vocabulary, speaking and reading comprehension.

Option 2 for higher level students: This requires a bit more prep time by the teacher. Find magazine cutouts of the vocabulary used in the song and have the students make a collage to show the meaning of the song. Google images or google clipart will help you as well.

Part 3: Project-Arts and Crafts/ Speaking

1. You will need scissors, a glue stick, poster board, markers, your illustration of the song (or collage if you did option 2) and the lyrics to the song (I like to use the version they did themselves). Get students into small groups and have them place their collage or illustration in the center. Have them cut up the lyrics and place each piece next to the appropriate pictures in the center. They can do crazy looking arrows to show you what each part of the song refers to. Have them write things they know about the Beatles, the name of the band members and the song (you can even have some pictures or cutouts of the band that students can choose from and add to their poster). Encourage creativity and freedom to add what they want to in this part of the lesson. Encourage speaking in English while they do the activity and help them with language used in arts and crafts and making a project as a team. In classes where it is appropriate, I like to play soft Beatles music in the background. They love this!

2. Display their artwork proudly! You can even make a little art show and invite other teachers or students to come see their work.

3. If you have an extra couple of minutes, sing the song again. I can’t tell you how much students love this final singing of Penny Lane and how loud and excited they will sing it after they used all their creativity to work on the song.

Possible follow up lessons or add ons:

– Find a picture of the actual Penny Lane street in Liverpool (through Google images) and give them a text with facts about this street and the inspiration behind the song with some comprehension or True and False questions. Have a brief speaking practice at the end asking them if this was the way they imagined this street to be. Ask them if anyone has ever been to the UK or seen it in person.

– Add additional readings or listenings about The Beatles, always accompanied with a task to guide them through the activity.

– Add this song to your class music repertoire and sing it from time to time. Students will learn it by heart very quickly and this will be incredibly motivating for them.

– There are many illustrations of the lyrics of this song, find the book I recommended above or have some fun browsing Google Images and choose your favorite (you can also make your own if you like to draw!). You can use it time and time again.

– Enjoy this fun and musical lesson!

Please ask me any questions you might have about this lesson and don’t forget to share if you’ve enjoyed this post! Let me know how the lesson went in the comments below, ask me any questions or add some suggestions or ideas. Have fun!

WHILE TIME FLIES

sunset at the santa monica pierHappy 2013 everyone! I can’t believe how fast time is moving along. I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and that you’re prepared and full of energy for the new year. This feeling of time going by incredibly fast is something that I’ve been thinking about lately. I’m sure I’m not the only one that sometimes feels time is passing at warp speed and this often makes me wonder if I’m listening closely and feeling deeply while enjoying the ride. Perhaps it’s my return to yoga that has brought me closer to thinking these things, or perhaps my pursuit of yoga was a result of feeling I wasn’t always as present as I wanted to be. Either way, my wish for all of us in this new year that is starting is that we are able to be present, that for several moments a day we can forget about our endless lists and errands, and focus on the moment. The wise Bob Marley said it best when he shared with us his wonderful line in Redemption song “emancipate yourselves from mental slavery”. Not that thinking is bad at all, but overthinking takes us out of enjoying what is happening around us. I know that when I started to become more aware hundreds of wonderful things started changing and happening around me. Connecting yourself to your surroundings opens your heart to helping and understanding others, something that we need a lot of in these crazy times we live in.

One thing you probably know about me by now is that I love traditions. My friends laugh when I keep asking about their family’s traditions and which ones they continue to put into practice. For some reason, the carrying on of traditions is very important to me and I’m constantly stealing things I love from other people or other cultures. One tradition I’ve fallen in love with recently is the Ayurvedic tradition of Sadhanas. Sadhana is a word in Sanskrit that is used to talk about a means to accomplish something, and although it’s usually used in a spiritual sense, many followers of Ayurvedic tradition use it when talking about practices as simple as roasting spices or cooking and is seen as a meditative activity that connects you to your spiritual side. For me, it’s a very powerful and simple act that takes me right where I want to be, exactly in the present moment. Whether you’re spiritual or not, these small meditative actions can start to spark little creative fires and wonderful feelings inside of you. After reading about this, I suddenly put two and two together and remembered the wise words of my mother: “when you have a problem, have worries on your mind or feel stressed…make a loaf of bread”. People that grew up in farms probably did Sadhanas every morning while they milked the cows and fed the horses. They also probably started their day with a clearer mind and an open heart. Of course the idea is not to drown these activities with noises, TV or distractions. If you were one of the farmers, it’s all about you, the horses and the sound of the birds in the background.

So as a welcome to 2013 I hope that we can all be more present and live every second to the fullest, there’s no need to write about all the fringe benefits this will have because they will quickly start falling into place for you, trust me! I hope you have a year full of creativity and surprising beautiful moments. I leave you with one of my special places to just sit and be present, the Santa Monica Pier in California at sunset. Happy 2013!

WINTER BEAUTIES

Winter photosHi everyone. I’m just popping in for a few seconds today to share some of the winter beauties I’ve been photographing lately. When I take our dog to the park in the mornings I find that it’s a little bit different with every passing day. The leaves have almost left the trees entirely, little berries are making an appearance, and the few leaves that are left have this very rich color, just as they are about to fall. The sunsets are also surprising me these days. Very different from the summer sunsets we can see from our terrace which always seem to be on steroids. In the Winter, they are light and soft, but just as beautiful. I hope you enjoy them!

fall leaves

autumn

winter sunset

sunset in Madrid

 

A DAY IN THE LIFE

ChristmasFor some very strange reason, my students (especially the young ones) seem to be extremely curious about what my life is like. They are constantly asking me about my hobbies, my favorite bands, how old I am (this little guessing game gets hilarious with the young ones), what my husband is like, whether he plays play station games or football. My life is pretty simple nowadays which is what I’ve worked my entire life to finally be able to have, but to my students, these little bits of information are like little special treats. Perhaps it’s because we spend the entire class talking about what they’ve been doing, what their favorite movies are, the sports they play, and they love turning these back at me. The idea is to get them talking as much as possible, so I’m the least important person in the room while I’m teaching. However, it is slightly unfair that I get to ask all the questions and get all the scoop. So for my dear students who are always reading the blog (thanks! you guys rock!) and to any others that might be stopping by, here’s what my day looked like today.

At around 7 I made breakfast for my doggie and hubby and we all sat down to eat together (doggie on the floor but still…). A couple of hours of lesson planning followed, and then an early morning yoga class in what seemed to be the coldest day out ever! Then I ran some errands and continued with my lesson planning, and then after still having some of my yoga buzz left over I went into the kitchen to make a yummy vegetarian lunch. Roasted sweet potatoes, quinoa with almonds and goyi berries and my favorite ginger carrot sauce on the side, not to mention my new favorite side dish zucchini and leek “pasta-less pasta” with a rich tomato sauce. Amazing is all I have to say! Not because of any particular cooking skill of mine but because of the incredible and delicious food nature gives us! Then I had an afternoon of teaching, drove back home listening the the great Gary Jules and had dinner with hubby and doggie again. We’re about to curl up on the couch for some tv time, one of my favorite parts of the day!

Hope you had a great one too! Be sure to tell us about it in the comments!

PS: Another typical question is what our home is like, and whether I’ve put up my Christmas tree yet, so that’s what the photo above is about. Nala decided to model it for you. What do you think?!

BURSTS OF COURAGE

be braveI was watching a very silly movie the other night about butter carvers in small town America. A funny and silly satire about a town that is famous for its butter sculptures. This post isn’t about the movie, but it is about something that occurred to me while I watched it. In the film a father tries to give his daughter a little courage boost after she is scared over something she has to do. You know what I’m talking about, those moments we all have where we feel we need someone to push us through the door of that job interview, or a difficult phone call. Those moments in which our feet just won’t budge and we’re  super glued to our chair? Well, in the movie, this character tells his little girl “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”. He doesn’t stop there though, he moves on to list a bunch of incredibly crazy scenarios, and his daughter then joins in with some crazy ideas of her own. Imagine having a job interview, being scared stiff, and suddenly imagining these unlikely and mostly impossible situations in your head, 5 minutes before heading in:

– You walk through the door and there’s a miniature hurricane.

– You walk through the door and there’s an angry mob of people with torches and pitchforks.

– You walk through the door and get robbed.

– You walk through the door and your entire family is watching you answer your future boss’ questions.

– You walk through the door and all your third grade bullies are there waiting.

– You walk through the door and get the sudden urge to take your clothes off (after which you’ll never get the job).

– You walk through the door and your future boss is your bitter ex-girlfriend or boyfriend seeking revenge.

Now start getting creative:

– You walk through the door and there’s a giant paper shredder that has destroyed your resume (and your tie).

– You walk through the door and are greeted by little green men asking you to board their mother ship.

– You walk through the door and realize you have to speak to 50 telemarketers before you get to the actual interview.

– You walk through the door and the zombie cast from the Walking Dead is happily waiting for you.

Now imagine my favorites from the movie:

– You walk through the door and there’s a zero gravity environment and your head hits the roof leaving you incapacitated.

– You walk through the door and there’s a Justin Bieber concert.

I can assure you one thing, if you spend 5 minutes in this imaginary crazy world of possibilities of what might go wrong, the actual fears will get right into perspective for you and soon you’ll be laughing and realizing that the worst case scenario isn’t really the worst case scenario after all. No matter how brave we all are, we all have these knee trembling moments every now and then, and to me this is a true antidote that will get us past the threshold.

Today’s photo is of my favorite part of the Christmas season: Twinkle lights. Christmas came early last night as we were decorating our tree (photos coming soon). I bought these a couple of days ago because they looked like the beautiful glass lights I had growing up  as opposed to today’s very artificial led lights. They were big, round and red, perfect for Christmas.

HALLOWEEN-IES

bat hanging bat costumeHappy Halloween everyone! This post was supposed to go up last night but I finished teaching at 11 pm (yes, you heard me), so here it is today, after the sugar rush has done its thing and the costumes are in the hamper. That’s me in the picture above when I was about 5 years old wearing my favorite Halloween costume which I wore for years and years. My mother made it for me in her little sewing machine and altered it for years so that it would continue to fit me. I would then proceed to hang upside down in every kind of bar or handle that would allow me to do so. Halloween was serious business in the Sujo house, we were what I always called a couple of “Halloween-ies”. My mother and I would decorate the entire house and she would throw her annual and extremely famous neighbourhood Halloween party for all the kids. We all went nutty, had these extremely creative Halloween themed food, bloody red Kool Aid (this was back in the day when Kool Aid was allowed), went trick or treating, had costume cat walks and had a visit from “The Witch”. Halfway through the party, my mother who would always wear her everyday clothes, would leave for a moment and then “The Witch” would arrive (my mother in disguise). Her costume was so incredible, that we were all completely convinced it was an actual witch. Not only that, but she would call all of the parents beforehand asking about what had been going on in their kids’ lives, and at the party she would give each of us a Tarot card reading telling us exactly what was going on with each of us. You can imagine all the teeny tiny jaw dropping that went on.

Every year I think of these magical parties and time with friends and I get extremely excited around Halloween. I especially remember hanging the giant cobwebs and spiders that would fall on people at different moments in the party. I missed it this year because I was teaching, but my hubby and I did go out for a midnight burger at a local diner last night and were served by bloody chefs, scary ghosts and crazy skeletons, and we had a giant cob web hanging right on top of our table. So I got my Halloween fix in the end. Hope you had a great one!