Tag Archives: ktblue designs

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Jell-o

what mrs dewey did with the new jell-o

what mrs dewey did with the new jell-o

it’s that time again, ladies and gentlemen! time for Deedles’ holiday jell-o salad recipe!

i don’t know about your grandmothers, but my grandmother deedles loved jell-o. jell-o molds, jell-o parfaits, jell-o with just a dollop of mayonnaise on the top…jell-o was something yummy and sophisticated and worthy of purchasing several differently sized and shaped plastic jell-o molds for various occasions. as such, i love jell-o, too. perhaps not with the mayonnaise, but i do love it – especially around the holidays when i get to make her raspberry pretzel jell-o extravaganza. curious? here’s the recipe..(trust me..it’s divine!)


Bottom layer:

  • 2 cups crushed pretzels
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 Tbs. powdered sugar

Mix butter and sugar together. Stir in pretzels. Pat out into a 9×13 pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool (very important to let this cool completely – keeps the crust nice and crusty…) and set aside.

Middle Layer:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz. cool whip, thawed
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Mix in the sugar. Gently stir in the cool whip. Spread over the cooled pretzel layer.

Top Layer:

  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 large pkg. raspberry Jello
  • 16-20 oz. frozen raspberries

Stir Jello and water together until dissolved. Add frozen raspberries. Stir until the raspberries are separated and soft. Pour gently onto the cream cheese layer. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Deedles never served this as a dessert – rather she served it as an additional salad during dinner. yummy and nostalgic. What a combination!


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I’m a Finalist!

Thanks to all of the wonderful people who nominated me this year, k.t. blue designs Museum Masters is an official finalist in the Red Tricycle Totally Awesome Awards for 2012! Voting is now open for this amazing award! And I’d love love love your votes!

To vote, just visit this page, enter San Francisco as your city, and vote for me! Voting ends November 30th…

I will be so grateful and humbled and honored and thrilled with your votes! As will all of my students who are just the most awesome students in the entire world.
As an added incentive, just let me know you’ve voted, either by e-mail at katie@ktblue.com or by commenting below and you’ll be entered to win a 8×11 matted print of any k.t. blue designs piece you want! I mean, really? How can you lose!

Again, thank you so much for your support….All my love to you all!


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Time Travelers: Jane Goodall

It’s hard not to adore Jane Goodall. So you can imagine how delighted I was to share one of my all-time favorite human beings with my students in our first class of Time Travelers this session. Our curriculum this time around is centered entirely around famous people throughout history and we will be meeting a new historical figure each week! What better way to kick-start this voyage of discovery than with this preeminent primatologist, anthropologist and conservationist.

Jane Goodall has devoted her life to the study and protection of chimpanzees, and all endangered animals. She spent the better part of her life in the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, Africa – learning all about her favorite animals and working to keep them safe for all time. Jane Goodall always knew she wanted to spend her life studying these fascinating creatures – she even had a stuffed animal chimpanzee named Jubilee as a child. (She still has Jubilee today.)

Jane and Jubilee

After family friends invited her to visit their farm in Kenya, Jane took it upon herself to reach out to the inimitable Dr. Louis Leakey who, in one of the best decisions of his life, chose to take the young Miss Goodall under his genius wing and offer her the chance of a lifetime – to study the chimpanzees in the Gombe area. Thus, armed with little more than her brilliant mind and a collection of sturdy shoes and notebooks, Jane embarked on a journey that would span a lifetime. She diligent and lovingly documented the movements of these amazing animals, slowly learning their trust.

Photo courtesy of National Geographic

Jane was the first to witness and record chimpanzees building and utilizing tools for their own purposes – having watched as a chimp crafted a stick into an instrument for collecting ants. “It’s like an ant fork!” said one of my students. She watched as chimpanzees exhibited affection, anger, loyalty and curiosity for the world around them. As time went by, she named the chimpanzees, learning their personalities and watching generations of these beautiful animals face the ever-threatening chill of extinction.

Today, Jane continues her work on behalf of her beloved animals – running the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots and Shoots, her organization dedicated to getting young people involved in saving the world’s resources.

In class today, we looked at a map of Africa to see where Jane began her research and read my all-time favorite book about Jane titled, appropriately, Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell. If you haven’t yet taken a peek at this gorgeous book it is certainly worth a read. The illustrations alone are an absolute delight.

We met a few of Jane’s favorite chimps – Old Flo, David Greybeard and little Flint – and discovered how she was able to get so close to these wild animals. We even learned a few pieces of chimpanzee communication and watched a brief interview with Jane from National Geographic. I wanted the children to be sure to see and hear her speak – she’s so inspirational. They were riveted!

Then, each child drew a picture and wrote a letter to Jane, asking her questions, telling her about themselves – and I mailed those letters this morning. Here are a few samples…

I’m crossing my fingers that she will write back giving not only my students, but me, the thrill of a lifetime.


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Museum Masters: Rene Magritte

Today we learned all about the life of surrealist Rene Magritte! We talked about Magritte’s use of humor and the absurd in his artwork and what it means to be an artist of “surreal” subjects. I adore Magritte and love that fact that he and Salvador Dali were pals and used their friendship as inspiration for one another’s art!

First off, we learned about Rene’s life – including the fact that, at the age of 12, he attended art classes in a room above a candy store. Seriously? That’s like out of a dream. “Oh, wait just a minute, I want to pick up a few Licorice Whips and Uno Bars before my art class today!” Heaven.

A few other fun facts about Magritte:

  • Before Magritte became famous as a surreal artist, he worked in advertising – creating graphic ads for everything from cars to candies to coffees.
  • Magritte and his wife/love of his life Georgette were quite a striking pair and Magritte loved to paint portraits of his lovey. Unfortunately, one of those famous portraits was stolen from the Magritte Museum in Brussels in 2009 and has never been found!
  • Much like Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Magritte’s Son of Man has been parodied thousands of times with different objects in front of the gentleman’s face
 In class, we took a closer look at a variety of Magritte’s most famous works. The children loved to find the “joke” in each picture – and we talked about the notion that Magritte liked to make people think while they looked at his paintings. The children especially loved the crazy mirror in Not to be Reproduced…
One child took one look at Golcanda and announced, “It’s raining men!” (Hallelujah!)
Son of Man was another hit with the kids – especially since a lot of the children loved the fact that the gentleman in the picture is so dapper in his suit and bowler hat.
And finally, my favorite, The Treachery of Images. I asked the children why Magritte would have written “This is not a pipe” underneath a pipe and, bless their artistic hearts, they all said “But it’s a picture of a pipe, not a REAL pipe.” God, I love these kids! This one is my absolute favorite not only for its inherent cheekiness, but because my dear college professor Gilbert Sorrentino had a print of this in his office and I always think of him, walking gallantly across the Quad, when I see it.
For our project today, I tasked each child with creating their own version of The Treachery of Images. They could choose any object they wanted, and then we would translate “This is not a ______” into French and write it at the bottom. An art lesson and a French lesson all in one! Voila!
Little did I now how fabulous these would be. One child made a gorgeous blue whale:
And another student decided to take it one step further, stating “This is not stinky cheese. It’s you!”
The piece de resistance was recreating Son of Man with the children. I hung an apple from the rafters and each child stood in front of it so I could take their picture. Suddenly, bobbing for apples looks like an exercise in surrealism!
For some further fun at home, there are a number of wonderful books about Rene Magritte and surreal artwork – two of my favorites are Susan Goldman Rubin’s Magritte’s Imagination (which offers a fun introductory ride through Magritte’s mind) and Michael Garland’s Dinner at Magritte’s which tells the story of a bored little boy who finds out his next door neighbor is Rene Magritte! Both of these books provide a wonderful glimpse into this amazing artist’s mind.
Also, the Magritte Museum in Belgium offers a wonderful web site for kids with lots of fun activities, games, galleries and resources. Visit it at http://www.extra-edu.be!

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Unexpected blessing

Occasionally, one has a day in which nothing seems to go right. The pants don’t fit. The cat won’t come in. The cake doesn’t rise. (This was one of those particular days, but you must insert “skinny jeans” instead of pants.) It was a curmudgeonly kind of day that starts out rocky and ends up with a Mr. T knock-out. I was like Pig Pen in the old Snoopy comic strips with the never-ending cloud of dust surrounding him. Except for me it wasn’t dust. It was just blah-ness. Usually, these days just come to their close as they always do, with a whimper and a tip of the hat to whatever Fates were conspiring against you.

A friend of mine once told me that she ends every day with the question, “Did I win or lose today?” And that if that day is a loss, it’s alright because the game is on again in the morning. In my opinion, this day was a loss…that is until 12:55pm in the parking lot of the Walnut Creek Library.
Traffic was snarled all throughout downtown today due to a terrible incident on the freeway. Cars were sitting idle all through town, drivers getting more and more irate, honking, yelling. It was an awful time to be in a car, yet I had to get to the downtown library because, just this once, I wasn’t going to incur late fines on the 25 “My Weird School” books my son had checked out. So I bided my time in traffic, listening to Johnny Hates Jazz without even one of those lilting “You said you’d DIE FOR MEEEE” working its magic on my psyche. Twenty minutes later I pulled into the parking lot, steered my car into the passenger loading and unloading section and bent over to gather the books from the passenger seat.

In that moment, I overheard two people talking. I had seen them as I drove in, standing in the bed of an old orange pick-up with box after box filled with old books. They were obviously donating books to the library and had quite a lot of them to sort through.

“What about this one?” the man said, just as I got out of my car.

“I don’t know,” said his female companion. “Not sure anyone appreciates Grandma Moses anymore.”

Wait a minute. Grandma Moses? Now for those of you who don’t know, I teach art appreciation at the local elementary school and am just weeks away from dazzling my students with the wonder that is Grandma Moses.

I walked over to the pair, towering over me from the bed of the truck and said “I sure would appreciate Grandma Moses. I’ll be teaching her in a few weeks!”

And with that, the pair hopped down from the truck, with huge smiles on their faces and handed me the book.

“You must take this then,” the man said. “Our friend died recently and he had all these old books and when you’re in this situation, you just kinda hope that someone comes along who’ll use ’em and love ’em like he did.”

The woman, who looked so much like the lady in the Grant Wood painting I could barely keep my eyes off of her, smiled at me with a smile so gracious and warm I couldn’t help but shake her hand.

“Thank you so much,” I said, cradling this new treasure in my arm. “You’ll never know how much I appreciate this.”

“No bother at all,” said the man, and they both turned and went back to their sorting.

I walked over to the automatic book return, slid my books through the chute and, as I was coming back to my car, the lady approached me once again.

“Take these too,” she said, handing me a pile of books a foot high. “I’m so pleased we found you.”

And in my arms, she placed a collection of books about artists, artists lifestyles, artwork reproductions – a veritable treasure trove of art literature. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness and surprise and, through the haze of my Pig Pen morning, I got teary.

“Oh, honey,” she said, giving me a hug. “You’re very welcome.”

I thanked her profusely – knowing that I could never truly express my true gratitude at such a lovely gesture. I told her how much my students will love to look at these books and how happy she’d made me.

Later, as I sat in my car, surrounded by honking car horns, I remembered how just one surprise blessing in the form of a stack of books could change my entire outlook. How the kindness of a stranger, tucked away among boxes of books in the bed of a truck, could make me cry. And I am so thankful for those two literary angels who gave me the reminder that while a day may start out as a loss, sometimes magic happens and you win.


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One Step Closer to a Cure…

save a life, grope your wife

I just took the most important walk of my life.

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for the Cure proved to be just that for the more than 1,500 Bay Area participants who walked 60 miles last weekend. For many this was a walk in honor of a wife, a sister, an aunt or a friend who has struggled with breast cancer, continues a courageous fight with cancer or ultimately lost their battle with the disease. For others, it was an opportunity to immerse themselves in a worthy cause and stretch their body’s limitations. People from around the Bay Area and the world participated in the event, which raised more than $3.9 million. The seven of us — Katie Conlan, Amy Jensen, Jennifer Lezcano, Vivian Ma, Leslie Shafton, Ally Thorndike, and I (all mothers from Parkmead Elementary School in Walnut Creek), came together in the early spring, hoping to not only contribute to this amazing organization, but to share in an incredible experience as friends. For us, the aptly named Rack Pack, our lives will never be the same.

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure is a 60-mile walk for women and men who are committed to making a difference in the fight to end breast cancer. In order to participate, each of our team members had to raise $2,300. Our team, The Rack Pack, raised almost $20,000 to support breast cancer research. Since its inception in 2003, the Komen 3-Day walks have raised nearly $600 million with net proceeds paying for breast cancer research and community programs for screening, treatment and education.

The Opening Ceremonies at the Cow Palace early on Friday morning were a flurry of tutus, pink wigs, Katy Perry songs and excitement mingled with nerves. For the “3-Day Virgins” in the audience, the notion of walking 60 miles over three days was something we’d trained for (well, at least some of us …), yet something unknown and vaguely intimidating. After an emotional speech by Dr. Sheri Phillips, the 3-Day’s national spokesperson and a breast cancer survivor herself, and a flag-raising in honor of those who have lost their battles with breast cancer, the walk opened and a sea of pink entered the streets of Daly City. What lay ahead of us was, logistically speaking, 20 miles a day of walking. Emotionally speaking, though, this meant walking with survivors of breast cancer, watching husbands walk in honor of their wives, seeing daughters walk in honor of their mothers – all trudging through the sore muscles and blisters for a common goal. As one sign along the route stated — “Blisters Don’t Need Chemo.”

The first day took us from Daly City, through the Sunset, down the Great Highway past the Cliff House, up and over into the Presidio, Pacific Heights and then back down to Fisherman’s Wharf where we caught the ferry to Treasure Island to set up camp. Little pink tents dotted the open field, our home for the next two nights. Dinner for walkers was under the big top tent, complete with carbo-loads of delicious pasta and entertainment from the crew. On-site medical staff provided much-needed blister lancing, muscle rubbing and ankle taping for the walkers and massage chairs and official merchandise were available along “Main Street.”

Day 2 began with an early morning ferry ride to the Berkeley Marina where we trekked through Berkeley, Albany, the Cal campus, down Grand Avenue, past Lake Merritt and ultimately to Jack London Square, where we limped onto the ferry for the night.

The third and final day started with a ferry ride to Tiburon and through Mill Valley, Sausalito and finally across the Golden Gate Bridge, a veritable pink ribbon of people weaving across the bridge to our destination at the Marina Green. What became clear over those 60 miles was that, beyond that I probably should have spent more time training, if evidenced by the severe limp I’d perfected over three days, the walking became secondary to the experience itself. Yes, we walked 60 miles, but along the way we met people whose stories we won’t forget. Smiles, despite the canes, casts and moleskin, kept beaming through each day.


At lunch the first day, overlooking the Cliff House, I spoke to Terry from Chicago who was on her 12th walk in honor of her aunt, a cancer survivor. She was a slight woman, whose body weight was more than doubled by the sheer number of pins, ribbons, boas, hats and sparkly pink accessories. I spoke to Mr. January, (AKA Matthew Pickus) a handsome social butterfly who began his commitment to the Susan G. Komen 3-Day in 2006 after the passing of his father. Since then, Matthew has not only walked in more than 15 3-Days across the country, but founded 60 Mile Men, Inc., an organization of men who are committed to raising money in support of Breast Cancer 3-Day events. To do so, they annually publish and sell calendars of beefcakes (and not-so-beefy cakes) with strategically placed stethoscopes, aprons and top hats. They sell apparel ranging from T-shirts embellished with the “60-Mile Man” logo to others with taglines like, “If You’re Going to Stare at Them, Give Me Money to Keep Them Healthy,” and (in honor of all of us who did the unthinkable and attached one to our hips) “Does this Fanny Pack Make My Butt Look Big?” Proceeds from the sales of these items go directly to the 3-Day events.

While walking through the Berkeley campus, my team watched as a college student ran up to his mom on the course with a huge bouquet. We saw a little boy, no more than 2 years old, holding a sign that read “I’m a Breast Man … Since Birth” and a little girl, obviously his sister, with a sign saying, “Find a Cure Before I Grow Mine.”

We met a newlywed couple participating in the walk as part of their honeymoon. We watched as walker after walker strolled by with a picture of a lost loved one safety-pinned to their backs, a reminder to the rest of us of how vital this walk is to the future of cancer research and millions of women affected by this disease.

Harley Davidson aficionados cruised streets alongside the walkers, honking, protecting us at intersections and playing Disco music from boom boxes bungee-corded to the backs of their bikes. The San Jose Police Department sent a posse of handsome volunteer policemen, decked out in pink wigs, pink feather boas and ballet skirts, who rode their bikes alongside walkers and basked in adoration on the part of the women at the event.

Crossing the finish line on Sunday afternoon concluded an experience I will never forget. I laughed until I cried, cried until I laughed and further cemented in my mind the notion that people with a common purpose can make a difference in the world. Many barely made it to the final staging area, collapsing onto the grass below, but when entering the Marina Green, with the music playing and the 375 Walk Crew members applauding our accomplishment, there was a renewed spirit in the crowd. As breast cancer survivors, in pink 3-Day Walk T-shirts, gathered around the center of the stage, we, the remaining participants, honored them with a “One Shoe Salute.” The sight of almost 1,500 smelly, dusty tennis shoes, held high in the air, was the perfect culmination. Sixty miles. $3.9 million. 1,500 walkers. 375 crew members. And just one step closer to a cure.

Registration is now open for the 2012 3-Day Walk. Please visit http://www.the3day.org.

originally published in the Walnut Creek Patch – September 12, 2011

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walk like an egyptian

This week’s art lesson was like a step back in time. not just to Ancient Egypt, but to 1978 when my parents took me to the King Tut exhibit at the de Young in San Francisco and I threw up in a porta-potty. Despite the inauspicious beginnings, that trip was the start of my life-long love affair with all things Ancient Egyptian. From that moment forward, I wanted to be an Egyptologist (and then a Veterinarian, a Pediatrician, a Librarian and, for about a month, a Canadian). So imagine my utter delight at sharing my love of this time and this place with my students! First of all, a few fun facts about hieroglyphics:

  • Hieroglyphic writing began around 5,000 years ago.
  • Egyptians wrote in hieroglyphics up until around 400 AD, after that they wrote in a cursive style called “demotic.”
  • In 1799, a soldier digging in a fort in Rosetta, Egypt found a large black stone with three different kinds of writing on it. The writing was in hieroglyphics, demotic and Greek. People used the “Rosetta Stone” to translate hieroglyphics so that we can understand what the Ancient Egyptians were writing!
  • Some hieroglyphics stand for entire words, while others represent individual sounds, groups of sounds or even syllables.
  • To write an English word in hieroglyphics, you must listen to the sounds that make up the word. Some of the sounds we know in English don’t even exist in hieroglyphics, so any translation, particularly of names, is done with a certain amount of guessing!
  • Hieroglyphics were sometimes read right to left and other times left to right and even top to bottom

Today we talked about the world of Ancient Egypt and the amazing written language developed at that time. We discussed the use of papyrus and stylus instruments in the writing process and tried to decipher what different hieroglyphic symbols might represent. We looked at a variety of books about Ancient Egpyt, a map of the area and got to feel what a real piece of papyrus feels like. Each child was then given a piece of parchment and a rough translation of their name to create their own Egpytian cartouche! These name plates were then placed in frames to be displayed at home.

For some extra fun at home, there are a number of “hieroglyphic translators” available online…I used the “Virtual Egypt” site for this particular class. Try going online and translating your name or other family members’ names! Also, the best way to understand the true wonder of Ancient Egypt is to see some of the artifacts firsthand. For a truly local treasure, the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose is really one of the best museums in the entire Bay Area and is an absolute goldmine of Egyptian relics, artifacts and information. Visit http://www.egyptianmuseum.org/ for more information.  And invite me to go with you! : ) And finally,  James Rumford wrote an amazing book about the translation of the Rosetta Stone titled Seeker of Knowledge: The Man Who Deciphered Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Find it at your local bookstore or library today!


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