Saturday, December 31, 2005

Illo Friday - Flavor

Okay, this is an old illustration (Old, like 1 month!) that I drew to illustrate my Grandmother's apple pie recipe. I LOVE apple pie, so to me, there is no better flavor! :) Slightly crunchy, tart juicy apples, dripping with sweet, syrupy cinnamon held together by a crumbly, buttery crust - if you're lucky there'll be some hardened, carmelized cinnamon sugar drippings in the crust that tried to leak out - that's my favorite part! Yum!

And... my belated Holiday illo is entered below also... as well as my annual Christmas poem - for anyone's interest...

Illo Friday - Holiday

Sorry this is late - I just got around to finishing it...
This year I was intrigued by ornaments - I don't remember them meaning so much to me... but as I unpacked all my "old" ornaments from years gone by to decorate "our 1st Christmas tree," I realized that each ornament was a token from various people or points in my life. These ornaments I drew with glue and decorated with glitter aren't specific like the ones on my tree, but I hope their cheerfulness conveys the sense of real holiday cheer I felt as I decorated our first home for the first time....
Some special ornaments this year:
  • The pink cadillac from Brie - who has no idea why she gave it to me, nevertheless it's charming and endearing because of the giver
  • The red and green hands traced by my nephew, William
  • The hobby horse stuffed ornament my mother made (each of us siblings has a similar ornament)
  • The Little Red Riding Hood book with 3 D Red Riding Hood spinning in the center - from my Aunt Flo in TX, given to me at least 20 years ago, and repaired many times
  • The rainbow fish - a most recent addition to the collection from our honeymoon in St. John...
I suppose I could go on with more memories... but I'll save them for next year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year... Julie

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Poem 2005

Come see the place where the little babe rests,
Hailed by angels, shepherds and kings.
Rich gifts they bring to place at his feet –
Incense, gold, myrrh – their hearts, they give.
Silently, Mary ponders these moments,
Treasures each breath the little Lord makes -
Messiah has come to honor this place.
And rude stable, rough manger – are as
Simple and humble – as hearts blessed with His love and grace.

Julie Kieras – Christmas ‘05

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bragging Rights?

Well, I don't really feel I can take the credit, but I'll pretend to for a minute. In September, I had all 80 of my students enter a writing competition sponsored by the CT Commission on Children. For two days, we journaled on topics relating to the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and heroes, etc. I took the kids to the computer lab for a day or to, so they could type them up for submission. The kids were reluctant at first, but they all participated and in the end, I think they produced some great pieces. I posted several of them for a week or so. The students kept asking me what happened to their essays and poems. Unfortunately I had no answers for so long, they stopped asking.
Then yesterday, word came from the state. 2,300 entries had been submitted. 300 from Windsor Locks District (over 200 from our school alone!). 70 "winning" entries from our school were selected - the most from any one school district in the state! 28 of those selections were MY STUDENTS - the most from any teacher in the school! WOW! I was so excited for my students and so proud of them too!
On Tuesday, Dec 6th, they will be honored at a special assembly at the State Capitol - we all get to go; I'm not sure exactly what will go on that day, but I'm glad our school is spending the money to get us there so the kids can get recognition. What a great moment to finally tell the students "what happened to their essays!"
So - I know the kids did all the work, and they had great English teachers last year who taught them to express their feelings creatively. However, the credit I'd like to humbly take, is that I'd had them journaling every day since the beginning of school, so they were used to producing some pretty nice pieces on short notice. But mostly the kids deserve the kudos, I think, for writing heart-felt pieces that caught the judges attention.
Among the winners was a great cross-section of students from Honor Roll to special ed to even students who failed many classes last quarter - so I think this recognition is going to be a wonderful motivator for them, and it emphasizes the importance of long term rewards.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Illo Friday - Small

I took a break last week. Plus I couldn't think of an appropriate image for "free" (That I could draw). Here's my take on "Small" - Here were some of my original ideas and attempts: A girl wearing a super small sweater (like our students like to get away with), a person standing small against a night sky (But overlapping images is not a strong skill of mine yet. Then, I tried to draw a "drop in the bucket, but I'm not good at things that need definite shapes or proportions like a bucket. So finally, into my mind popped Jack and the Beanstalk and how small he was to climb up the stalk. So I created my "Magic Beans" drawing. For what it's worth... enjoy! (Sorry Jack is so featureless, I can't draw good faces yet!)
I can still remember seeing Mickey and the Beanstalk and laughing at how he was so poor and was so short on food, that he shaved his bread into translucently thin slices... Sometimes I don't know where these ideas come from....

Monday, November 14, 2005

Illustration Friday - Strength

Mark 1: 39-41 "And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? "

The word strength immediately reminded me of the power of Christ when He slept in the boat while the winds and waves threatened the ship. All it took were three simple words and the sea was calm.

Sometimes, when the winds and waves of daily live threaten to capsize me, I can almost hear that voice say "Peace, be still," and I remember that the other side of the storm is calm. I can relax, put life in perspective, take each moment as it comes and not fear the next one.... because if I don't have the strength, He does!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Illustration Friday - Night

Long time no illo....
Sorry about that - things got hectic at school and I got overwhelmed - I guess that's what this blog was supposed to do - keep me writing DESPITE...
Well, I'm back, with a minimal attempt at the illustration topic, Night.
This is my "new" medium - oil pastels - like I know how to use them. So I decided to do the Scraffito Design style shown on the back of the package and just do a little doodle with the word "Night" to "decorate" it a bit.
If anyone has any tips on how to better do this Scraffito or work with oil pastels, please fill me in - all I remember about these thing is using up numerous packs of "Craypas" growing up! :)
Well, I am open to your critiques! Bring 'em on!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Which Peanuts Character Am I?

Well, I just discovered I am most like "Rerun." Okay - I didn't even know this character EXISTED! It was interesting to note that MOST people in the survey were like Schroeder. Hmmm... I wonder if I've ever even read a Peanuts with Rerun in it! I'll have to ask my brother who is up on ALL THINGS PEANUTS! (Brought to you by Quizilla:


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Teen Read Week

Week 8 of school and also Teen Read Week. We're doing a few Teen Read activities, headed up by the Media Specialist. I think it's rather fun (loving to read) so I wanted to write about it. First, we're doing D.E.A.R every day at a random moment (Drop Everything And Read). I love it because I can read a book in the middle of school (fortunately, the teachers know when it will be so we can plan our lessons around it, but the students don't know!). I chose to read The House of the Scorpion, because several of the students are reading it (it's about cloning, and interesting). We taped 5 mystery "book lovers" to play over the morning announcements, and the students have to guess who is reading and what book; I got to be one of the mystery readers too! Some of the kids guess right away, but then again, they asked yesterday if it was me, and it wasn't, so I think they are just guessing!
We also had our students create a poster with their favorite books/authors/genres and hung them in the cafeteria.
I'm handing out raffle tickets to students I see with a book or reading a book, and I'm doing a raffle at the end of the week.

So it's been pretty positive on the reading end ... although I like teaching grammar and writing, I do miss teaching the literature... and I don't really enjoy teaching CMT prompts (so far - maybe once I get used to it, I will like it more!). Journaling has been great - the students get disappointed when I have to cut them off!
Still, I'm glad they seem to enjoy it! And it makes for interesting conversations about the art of writing.

That's all folks!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Illustration Friday - Cold

When I saw the prompt "cold," I thought of the illusatration for Les Miserabé. Of course I could never duplicate the cold empty sadness on Cosette's face, but I hope I've captured some of the idea of that feeling in my drawing. Proportions seem to be a bit of a problem for me!
I was moved to place the door behind her, perhaps a symbol of being shut out - another form of coldness. I used purples, blacks and blues to indicate the colors of coldness. I'm enjoying matching color to the prompt - it's a familiar connection for me between visual sybmolism and literary symbolism.
I'm also including an old poem that speaks of coldness between two people. There's no real story to the poem, I was just trying to recreate the feeling.

Cold Glances

Down my back I feel the chill
Of your glance as you sit behind me.
Those eyes that watch always,
In sleep or in light, looking
For the chance to cut
Through to what you want. You know
The stillness of an empty stare,
And the fear of a broken word.
And you touch me, hoping
To regain what you lost, to catch
What flew from your grasp.
I feel the chill on my shoulder
Now, and then my face, but you
Won't look at me--just at whatever
Is just over my shoulder
There in the dark. It's your fear
Of telling me the truth -

Julie Howard 4/1/97

Friday, October 07, 2005

Illustration Friday - Lost

This week's topic immediately reminded me of the Biblical parable of the shepherd who went to seek his one lost sheep, leaving the ninety-nine behind. So I drew a shepherdess, reaching for her sheep (because, I am after all, a girl!), to remind myself of the purpose of my life.
After I drew it, I was reminded of the verse: "...and of some, having compassion..." Imagine the compassion to leave ninety-nine sheep who are safe and warm at home, and go out into the wilderness just to find one sheep, who you may or may not be able to rescue. To spend your time seeking, with no promise of success.
It's much like life - you spend your time dealing with people you may or may not be able to help. (Much like teaching too!) It takes compassion to make us leave the comforts of home, the familiarity of the "ninety-nine," and search the cold night for just one...never knowing quite where to look, or where you may be of help, but just "being available" when there is a need.
But, of course... there was One who went looking for us too... when we needed it - so it's only right to follow in His steps.

On a technical note... I only have my 89 cent Ocean State Job Lot set of 12 colored pencils, and I didn't know what color to make the sheep, so I picked purple. And I'm not very good at drawing "in the lines...." Mostly I just like to draw the curly hair - it's the most fun part of the illustration! (and the easiest). If anybody knows how to pick the right colors, let me know! :) I was thinking I'd like to try drawing with chalk sometime... it seems like it would be more forgiving than colored pencils! Sorry if the picture is too small to see also... And I need to work on getting the scanner going, b/c taking a digital photo of the artwork and uploading it creates a lot of shadows and a beige hue to the page. Oh well - technicalities, I suppose!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

After Apple Picking

I always did like that poem by Robert Frost...
Here's a photo of Matthew & I at Lyman Orchards - we're in the Looong line to buy our apples! (15 lbs!). They sure are delicious - juicy, crispy fresh! Mmmm.
Also a photo of Brie & me - she joined us in the picking spree! Wasn't it a gorgeous autumn day!

Illustration Friday - Float

Feels like less than gravity -
Lifting, I spin, lightly tilt -
Open like autumn-fringed twirlygigs,
Arms over the air, fingers out - tiny on
Tiptoes and finally free!

Another prompt from Illoannounce: This time, I wrote a poem using the word. I played around with both words that evoke the feeling of floating, and having the letters of the word "float" around the poem.

I also, at Carla's encouragement, attempted to illustrate it! Ha! Here's my virgin voyage into the world of illustration. Don't say I didn't warn you - it's pretty shabby - a stick figure! :) haha! But it WAS fun!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Bulletin Board Freak!

Okay - it's true - I have an addictiont to creating bulletin boards! :) Am I secretly a 2nd grade teacher? No, I don't think so! Here are my two bulletin boards so far. The one on the left is for my students - the Large soccer balls have the class rules: be prompt, prepared, productive and polite. The smaller soccer balls have student-created goals on them - like make honor roll, improve spelling, get all homework done, etc.
The 2nd board is my Parts of speech web - Although I hate spiders - the 8 legs lend themselves well to the project. I have a web for each part of speech. This week, my students will brainstorm examples for each part of speech and post their examples on the board. I hope it'll help the kids feel like they helped create the atmosphere in the room.
I have a 3rd board for "Star Writers" and I already have some Grade A essays all about the student's names posted up there. The Names Essay went over well, I thought - the concept of exploring their names was intruiging for the students.

Illustration Friday - Fresh

I am on a mailing list from to get sent weekly topics for illustration. I am not a visual artist, so I doubt I'm about to create drawings and sketchs of the topics any time soon without some training (although it'd be nice to take some art classes, I seriously doubt my ability to learn to manipulate pen/pencil/paint to create anything recognizable!).
However, I thought I'd try using the prompt to inspire some written pieces on the topic. We'll see what turns up.

I am torn between images of fresh-cool, and fresh-warm/hot. Of fresh warm baked brown bread from the oven leaving a yeasty scent throughout the house. Or, the fresh wind through the apple orchard in autumn bringing the crisp smell of macintoshes and granny smiths to my nose. The ideas have somewhat in common - scent. I must find a connection between the word "fresh," and the wholesome goodness of food freshly baked or picked.
I've long been a picky eater - and food connects strongly for me. I can't bring myself to eat leftovers. I long for something fresh each day. Newly made, untouched foods to spoon up or spear crisply with a fork. Microwaving a lump of congealed pasta or greasy meat sits uneasily with my stomach and sensibilities.
Fresh - crisp romaine hearts with micro beads of cold water, topped with vibrant red half-moons of tomato and cool rounds of cucumber.
Fresh - the whiter than white flesh of macintosh apples, with barely visibile veins of red tracing through it, and crisp skin that breaks easily and cleanly when bitten into.
No wonder I love to shop for produce more than any other grocery item - the freshness and earthy dampness entices me. Fruits and vegetables have not traveled far in time or space from the earth in which they grew.
No wonder I love to go apple picking - to pull a firm Cortland from the tree and dust it on my sweatshirt, take a bite and still taste the sunshine that only seconds ago was pouring sweetness into the fruit.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Explaining my Blog Title

Why did I call this Blog a Writer Within? I bet it's a little self-explanatory, but I'll explain anyways, b/c I can't think of what to write at the moment.
I feel like my writerly self has gotten trapped. Trapped deep within myself. Trapped between mundane daily events/chores and the intensive schooling and preparation I've gone through the past 2 years to become a teacher, get my master's etc.
In 2002, I won an award for a short story. And then it's like my writer-self sunk into a hole buried deep within me. A Writer Within myself. Sometimes I read the pieces I wrote years ago and wonder WHO wrote that, because they sound so foreign to me. Unlike what I might write now if I were writing; far better than I could write now if I were trying to write.
I feel like I've packed wet clay around myself and let it dry and get crusty. Unearthing my writer-self is going to be messy, and produce some sloppy writing, I'm sure.
Bear with me. It'll take some time. I long for inspiration to flow into and out and through me again. I long to set the words free. Dust them off; put some sheen to them, and let them shine again!

Friday, August 19, 2005

First Blog

Okay, after reading Beq's blog and Carla's, it looked like so much fun, I had to try it. I used to keep a "blog" type journal online at but this has so many more fun templates & looks like my own real website! So I decided to switch! Plus, I wasn't really doing a good job at keeping up with my livejournal site, as Sarah can attest to! :)

I don't know if I'll achieve Carla's level of inspiration but... I may attempt to post some creative writing thoughts if I ever get around to writing for ME again! Mostly I'm writing lessons and discipline plans and rewards systems, and all the fun stuff that goes along with teaching 8th grade. Okay well - I'll post again when something more interesting happens!


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