Milagro Altered Book

As 2004 draws to a close, Rather than making New Year's Resolutions stop and give thanks for the good things that have happened during the year that has passed. Make a small Milagro - Retablo altered book that acknowledges the things you have appreciated.

At Theresa's Gallery I drooled over lovely imagery and thought that

December would be a perfect time for making Retablos and Milagro's to give thanks for those serendipitous moments that kept my creativity pumping throughout the year.

Lucky and you know it

"If you are lucky and you know it clap your hands" was the opening line of a song on the Australian Children's Television program called 'PlaySchool. Cynthia korzekwa writes about the Aesthetics of Appreciation. She says that "if you're lucky and don't know it, it's like not being lucky at all" and that to keep your luck alive you need to recognize it. Retablos are a means of offering thanks for this luck.

As the Advent Calendar draws to a close some Patrons have been offering their thanks. I really appreciate their words.

I just wanted to let you all know how excited I was to find some of my stories on the advent calender. You all have helped make me confident and secure enough to put my stories out there.
Anita Marie Moscosso

May I say for everyone how very much I have been enjoying this year's Advent calendar. Thank you Heather and thank you all who contributed. Have a good Christmas and a wonderful year. Fran

Yes the Advent Calendar is just so beautiful and varied and heart warming and informative and wise and just about everything that has happened this year in the life of Madame Muse.. to us and to her gifted children at school . Now what a year it has been .... I have been printing two copies every day and today is day 21.... I will put a copy of the 25 days in a lovely clear page folder for me (as I did last Year) and one for a friend who took to writing after I gave her Sara Ban Breathnachs'Simple Abundance' and lots of the writing I did in the Soul Food Cafe... She now writes every day and since her near fatal heart attack a year ago has come full circle in how she looks at me a transformation in how we both now live our lives....I am off to print out day 21 and enjoy and savour its contents......
Love Lois( Port Melbourne Muse)

Just wanted to tell you... ...your Raven Queen is delicious, love, but she needs some pink fluffy bits to make her totally cool. recipes are hilarious. I agree with the spreading out of elf-hunting hunting territory. Can you imagine the fine for getting caught? The calendar is wonderful and I'm glad the participants are so happy to be included. You've done a good thing for all, M.M.

Hi Heather... I've been popping into your calendar...hey it's wonderful stuff in there. Congratulations, you creative bunny. And everyone who has contributed of course. Jenny

I’m so pleased that paper dolls were included as an activity in the advent calendar! You are doing such a fabulous job with each page and I’ve had some excellent feed back from those on other groups too. Sylvia

Yesterday I was thinking about my teachers and remembering none has left me an extraordinary memory, only faces and names, and multiplication tables by hundreds. I opened the Advent Calendar and watched all the wonderful things you did this year with your kids and envying them for having you as teacher. Then I realized you are also my teacher, for two years now. Irene

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Gratitude - Retablos

'Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom'
Marcel Proust

Northern New Mexico was settled by Spanish Conquistadors in the Seventeenth Century. New Mexico is a spiritual land with deep-rooted religious traditions. In the rugged isolated villages of northern New Mexico, the Hispanic people who first settled there developed a unique and passionate religious art, the art of the santero, or saint maker, that still flourishes today. They brought with them their families, soldiers, and Catholic Priests to settle the area. Once here they integrated and intermarried with many of the different Indian Tribes, thus providing New Mexico with deep cultural heritage. The early settlers of New Mexico started painting retablos many centuries ago as a form of expressing their Christian beliefs. This tradition has been carried and passed on from generation to generation, with each artist using his/her own style and technique.

Retablos (or more properly Retablos santos) are images of saints or religious scenes used for private devotion (i.e. a home shrine) or for church display at the altar.

Retablo is derived from the Latin Retro Tabula, meaning behind the altar table. Ex-Votos refer to images produced as a sign of thanks for an answered prayer or favor granted. For example, a gravely ill individual, or one to whom an accident is about to happen, prays to a saint or religious figure of personal or family devotion, to be saved from harm. If that prayer is answered the individual will then have an image made (usually on tin, wood, or paper) depicting the occasion and the favor granted. These pieces would then be taken to a church and hung on a wall or possibly at a shrine or sacristy in the church. It is important that Ex-Votos be publicly displayed as a sign of gratitude. To the church these pieces served as proof of the miraculous power of the patron saints and helped reinforce the value of faith. The word again comes from the Latin and means "from a vote (of thanks)."

When giving thanks you don't have to feel constrained. It is not obligatory to constrain oneself to making religious retablos. In a shop window of the Coyoacàn neighborhood, just outside the arched gateway to the Jardin de Centenario, side-by-side posters depict two of Mexico's most famous and revered women: the Virgin of Guadalupe and, in a reproduction of one of her many self-portraits, the artist Frida Kahlo.

Frida Kahlo’s love of indigenous Mexican culture was reflected in both her artistic style and her fashion – she always wore traditional Mexican clothing. Her paintings, which were often small in size, were based on Mexican retablos, small religious pictures dedicated in Mexican churches. Frida Kahlo painted many of her self portraits in retablo style.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) Self-Portrait with Curly Hair, 1935
Oil on tin Estimate: $1,500,000-2,000,000

This painting was done during the period when Kahlo first discovered that her husband, the artist Diego Rivera, was engaged in an affair with her younger sister Cristina. Emotionally distraught and seeking retribution, she cropped her signature long hair and moved out to an apartment in the center of Mexico City. While the artist appears gentle and serene in this self-portrait, she also seems slightly amused, perhaps documenting the small triumph of revenge over Diego's infidelity. Painted on tin, commonly done in retablos, or small Mexican folk paintings, this is in fact a "double work" as there is a sketch of another self-portrait carved on the verso.


1. Make a retablo book that included thanksgiving to those artists who have inspired you on your creative journey.

2. Be like Frida Kahlo and do a self portrait retablo style.

3. Keep a book filled with the accolades that come your way.

4. Make retablo style cards for people who have made you happy or made you feel like a million dollars.

Showing Appreciation

When I found SCRAP I seriously thought that I had found heaven. I would seriously like to be a part of a Scroungers' Center For Reusable Art Parts. San Fransisco is a bit far from Melbourne so I figure I will have a mini version where I work.

Soul Food's Advent Calendars print out beautifully and when bound will make a wonderful gift for the artistically minded.

If you love the features here at Soul Food and feel inclined to support the Writing Passport Program send a surpise parcel of artistic SCRAPS to

Mrs Heather Blakey
LaTrobe Secondary College
Wairoa Road Macleod West 3085
Melbourne, Victoria Australia.

Any artistic supplies that can be used by students will be very welcome.