Monday, September 19, 2011

Au revoir

Over the past two weeks more than a few readers have emailed me, asking if things are okay, asking about the blog, and when am I going to post again.

The truth is, once school started up at the end of August, I've had less time to blog.  This school year, a combination of factors has me focused more on my classroom; with 70 students (up from 48 last year), there's more preparation and planning, more responsibility, and a lot more papers and notebooks to read.

To that end, I think it's time that My French Corner bids adieu.  It seems silly to keep a blog going if one rarely posts, n'est-ce pas?

Blogging has been a wonderful experience for me.  The opportunity to write, to share about topics that interest me, and to connect with so many of you has been an unexpected pleasure.  I want to say thank you for checking in and reading and commenting over the years.

I'll keep the blog up, at least for a while.  And who knows, maybe one of these days I'll show up unexpectedly on My French Corner.

Mille mercis!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Week-end Simple: Plan ahead

It's been an interesting week here in the Washington, DC area.  A rare earthquake on Tuesday and the threat of a hurricane due to hit Saturday afternoon has residents thinking about emergency preparedness.  In an area where heavy snowfall constitutes a natural disaster, we are unaccustomed to natural occurrences that menace other parts of the country.

Planning ahead is good advice, no matter what the situation.  In all areas of life--financial, professional, personal--planning provides some control, and great peace of mind. 

In my day-to-day work as a teacher, planning a week's worth of lessons ensures that my students receive instruction even if circumstances prevent me from being in the classroom. And silly as it seems, planning what I'm going to wear for the week makes early mornings stress free.  Planning ahead helps to make life run smoothly.

I am prepared for a couple days of heavy rain and an extended power outage.  But the situation started me thinking about what it means to plan for the unexpected.  So, this weekend when I am stuck inside, I will piece together a plan in anticipation of the next unlikely event.

Those of you who live in other parts of the country--other parts of the world--do you prepare for the unexpected?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why I will never be able to speak French

When is a pièce not a piece? When it is a morceau.  And so went the discussion at the dinner table when I asked "How do you say 'a piece of chocolate'?"

It is these inconsistencies that make it so difficult for me to speak French.  Reading comes easy; a few familiar words and context clues aid in making a passable translation.  And though listening to French is more challenging than reading, I can usually get the gist of a conversation if I pay very close attention.

But speaking French eludes me.  I don't mean exchanging a few lines with the cashier at Carrefour or placing an order at a cafe; I mean real conversation with tenses and articles and vocabulary that goes beyond phrasebook French.

I'm sure much of it comes from a fear of making a mistake--calling something a pièce when it's really a morceau.  A fear of attempting to speak the language and failing, as when I asked tried to ask the bus driver in Annecy a question and he looked at me like I had two heads.  Equally frustrating for him and me, n'est-ce pas?

So what about you?  If you speak French, how did you learn?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Week-end Simple: Listen to the cicadas

Where I live, summer has always been bookended by two insects, the firefly and the cicada.

For me, summer begins on a dusky night in mid-June when I spy my first firefly.  "Firefly!" I say aloud, like a child, resisting the temptation to find a jar, poke holes in the lid, and capture enough fireflies to make a lantern.

Likewise, I know the summer is coming to an end when the song of the cicadas punctuates the hot, thick August air.  I am fascinated by cicadas, by how they can be so noisy yet invisible, and how their songs can be distinguished, if one listen's closely. 

The cicadas whine all day, but it's at night when I really listen.  Sitting outside, or laying in bed with the windows open, the cicadas' elegiac song is a lullaby signaling the end of another summer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Alliance Française blog

If you enjoy discovering new blogs then you might be interested in this one sponsored by Alliance Française.

Recently launched by the Washington DC chapter of AF, the blog is a francophile's delight.  The writing is contributed by AF staff, teachers, and members.

There are movie reviews, discussions about art and music, and posts about the joys of traveling and living in France.  There are posts of local interest, but there are also posts that resonate with readers no matter where they live.  One of my favorites is this post on the dangers of knowing just enough French to get you in trouble!

So, if you have time, check out this new addition to the blogosphere and let me know what you think.

Bonne journée!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Souvenirs de la France: Rue Ste. Claire

When visitors talk about Annecy, they are often referring to Vielle Ville, the old town, with its many churches, canals, and narrow, winding streets.  And one of the most well known streets is Rue Ste. Claire, the main street of old town.


This photo was taken on one of the few sunny days we had, with the sun illuminating the warmly colored houses and the cobbled street.  I enjoy Rue. Ste. Claire more than any other street in the old city; it is always full of life with shops and cafés sharing the sidewalk with locals and visitors.


The shops here have a special "tucked away" quality.  One of my favorites is the shop that sells all variety of market baskets.  Because they are handmade, each one is just a little different.


I also love the shops that sell textiles for the home. Table linens, torchons, linens for the bed--oh, I could spend lots of time and lots of euros in those shops!




And then there are doors and passages that lead to who knows where.  Does someone live at No. 10 Rue Ste. Claire?  These heavy, wood doors are found all along the street, tucked in between the shops and cafes, and I always wonder what's behind them.


It's hard to believe I've only been home one week because this visit to France already seems so long ago  . . .

Friday, August 12, 2011

Week-end Simple: Don't make your bed

I enjoy keeping house and take pleasure in small, daily chores--opening the window blinds in the morning, washing dishes, folding linens.  I even enjoy making the bed.  But in the summer, I give myself permission to not make by bed.

There's something luxurious and sensual--even sexy--about an unmade bed. Soft percale and a light cotton blanket, relaxed, unfussy, casual, inviting.

An unmade bed reminds me of childhood summers at the beach when we would get out of bed early in the morning and head down to the ocean to make the most of the day.

School begins soon, and I will go back to rising at 5:30 and my early morning routines.  But for the next few weeks I will continue to enjoy my summer and the pleasure of an unmade bed.


The image is of a beautiful painting by artist Sally Strand.

And the winner is . . .

The randomly selected winners of the fleur de sel giveaway are Lisa of Pickles and Cheese, Rebekah of Cupcake Caramel, and Miss Becky at Seasonality. Ladies, if you send your mailing info, I'll post your package next week.

I loved Heather B's idea of putting fleur de sel on top of chocolate chip cookies (can't wait to try that) and Kate's idea of sprinkling a litte salt on her buttered baguette! Thanks to everyone for sharing; I enjoyed reading your suggestions and will be trying out a few of them.

Don't you love giveaways?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Souvenirs de la France

Before I left for France, I promised to take lots of photos to share on My French Corner.

I don't have a good eye, and my camera is an ancient Kodak digital (I swear I get better photos with my iPhone!)  But a promise is a promise, so here goes.

I've been thinking how to do this and decided on a series--Souvenirs de la France--memories of my recent trip.  Like this view from my hotel balcony in Paris.  I loved being on the top floor with its birdseye view, here looking down Rue Chevert toward Avenue de la Motte-Picquet.

Isn't it interesting how images can take you back to the moment?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Giveaway: Fleur de sel

When choosing gifts to bring home from France, I try to select items that aren't readily available in the states, like a bag of CaramBar for my students (even though they won't understand the silly jokes inside the wrapper!)

One thing that travels well are these small containers of Camargue Fleur de Sel, so I made sure to bring home a few extras to giveaway here on My French Corner.

There will three winners, and to enter, simply leave a comment and tell us how you will use your fleur de sel.  Winners will be announced on Friday.

And moi?  I am going to enjoy mine generously sprinkled on some freshly sliced tomatoes!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Returning home

It feels strange, coming back to my blog after so many weeks away.  But I return renewed, with the fresh perspective afforded by the luxury of travel to a different country. 

I've returned home with a deeper understanding of another culture, and, a deeper appreciation for my own.  Over the next weeks and months, I look forward to sharing my experiences and photos and stories from France.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Going en vacances

School finishes next week and then it's off to France for me.  So, this may be my last post until I return in August. 

While I'm trying to decide whether or not to take my computer so I can blog, for sure I'll be taking my camera.  On this trip, I want to try to capture Annecy so I can share it with you (and I'll take some pics while in Paris to share on My French Corner).

I'm also thinking about some small items that I can bring back as giveaways; I already have a few things in mind, but I would love to hear your ideas.

So, what small gift would you like from France?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Week-end Simple: Indulge in café au lait

During the week, morning coffee is little more than passing affair.  Brew the espresso and sip it down for the reliable, unfailing morning wake-up.

I love my morning coffee, but I don't have take time to sit and drink several cups while reading the morning paper.  The more likely scenario is brew and blog before grabbing my bag and heading out the door.

But the weekend, well, that's different.  There's usually at least one leisurely breakfast, several cups of coffee, and this weekend, maybe a café au lait.  I just added two footed coffee bowls to my Pillyvuyt set and can't wait to try them out.  Filling the bowls with rich espresso, steaming milk, and a bit of sugar sounds perfect, doesn't it?

Bon week-end!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Making Macarons on The Kitchn

I'm not a baker, but I know many of you are.  So when I saw this post on The Kitchn, I had to pass it along.

Actually, The Kitchn post is a link to the original post on BraveTart, and is worth visiting for the photos alone!

I've never made this popular French sweet, have you?

And the winner is . . .

The winner of the vintage French grain sack is Kate, of  Une Vie Chic.  Congratulations!  Kate, if you email your info, I'll post the package later this week.

 And thanks to all that entered; I enjoyed reading your comments and hope you continue to visit My French Corner.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pistou

At school, we talk about food.  A lot.  The three of us--my two teammates and I--love to cook, buy local and in season, and share recipes and ideas.  Last week the conversation centered around basil and what to do with our already abundant harvests.

Pesto, of course.

But Cindy's husband doesn't care for pine nuts, and Kate said she doesn't either; the nuts make the pesto mealy.  She suggested pistou--a simpler variation of pesto--basil and olive oil blended to the desired consistency.

Pistou is an olive oil based basil sauce from the south of France that closely resembles pesto. The way to make true pistou is by hand: tear the basil leaves into pieces first, then grind the leaves against the side of a mortar with a pestle to puree them into a silky, creamy sauce.

Kate also shared some of her favorite ways to enjoy pistou, and the one I tried for dinner this evening was poached eggs on a stale baguette drizzled with pistou.  I confess to using my tiny Cuisinart instead of a mortar and pestle, but the result was excellent.  Peasant fare, to be sure, but so, so delicious.

Do you have a favorite pistou recipe?  I'd love to hear it!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Week-end Simple: Take care of what you have

One of the temptations when moving into a new house is to start over with everything new.  Start fresh, start over. But isn't it better to take care of what you already have?

When I moved in, the brass hardware on my front door was tarnished black, from years of neglect.  But rather than replace it, I decided to polish it, bring it back to life, and, take care of it.  I'm reminded of  all the Hausmann apartments I've visited in Paris; they are still beautiful because someone takes care of them. 

So this weekend, make time to take care of something--wash a sweater, polish a pair of your shoes, sew on a missing button.  Taking care of what you have has its own, intrinsic reward.

Bon week-end!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Giveaway: Vintage French grain sack

Back in January, I posted about a vintage grain sack I purchased on Etsy; I had plans to frame it and hang it in my kitchen. 

But I've decided that the color--which is burlap--will be too dark in my small kitchen.  Instead, I've decided to give away the vintage grain sack to one of my readers.

The sack is 48 inches long and 27 inches wide.  It dates from 1964, and has a few small mends which add to its charm and authenticity.  As I said, the color is a true burlap, with the oval emblem printed in black.  You can click on the photo to get a closer look.

If you want to enter the giveaway, leave a comment on how you would use the grain sack.  The winner will be randomly selected, and I'll announce it next Wednesday, a week from today.

It's a beautiful piece and I know it will make someone very happy.

Bonne chance!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

My French Closet: The reveal



Well, it's not one hundred percent finished, but enough so I can put my clothes away.  The built-ins are painted; what remains to be painted are the interior walls and the baseboard trim, but that's going to have to wait until school finishes in a few weeks.

I'm very happy with the result: the shelves on the right hold my sweaters (at this point, one on each shelf), the shelves on the left hold my camis, tissue tees, and my accessories, and the bottom two shelves are perfect for my four pair of shoes!

The hanging space in the center is more than enough for tops that hang--black on the top, gray and navy on the bottom.  What you can't see are my trousers, which are hanging to the left if you're standing inside the closet.  There's also a shelf on the very top that runs all the way around the closet, but I couldn't seem to get that in the photo.  You can click on the photo for a larger view.

I have a few more things to put away--my boots, my purse, and my suitcase--but it's great having all my clothes in one closet again!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Week-end Simple: Make a salad

With so much to do on the inside of my house, the outside projects haven't really garnered much attention. Still, I managed to get some annuals planted in my small patio border garden, as well as some tomatoes, basil, and lettuce.

The lettuce must love its spot in the garden because I've been able to harvest five times since I planted. The crisp, tender leaves taste best sprinkled with a little fleur de sel and a whisper of vinaigrette. This evening I added a few tiny tomatoes, a perfect complement to the delicate leaves.

There is a special pleasure in eating food straight from the garden, something that you have planted and tended and harvested, n'est ce pas?

Bon week-end!

Monday, May 30, 2011

My French Closet: After


 Well, it's not completely finished, but it's almost there.  The carpenter is coming back later this week to complete the finish work, and after that the closet will be ready for painting.  At the moment, it's hard for me to imagine the finished product, but I know in a week's time, it should be ready for the reveal.

In case your wondering, I have tested out the various shelves--there's different depths and different spacing--and they're going to work out well.  So, even though it's been more than three weeks in the making, all good things are worth waiting for, n'est-ce pas?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My French Closet: The progress

Well, here's the progress so far (these projects always take longer than one expects, don't they?)  One set of built-ins has been installed in my closet, and so far, so good.  Of course, there's lots more to do--filling nail holes, sealing gaps, and of course, painting.

At the moment, it reminds me of the computer desk in my son's dorm room, but I'm confident that once it's trimmed and painted, I'll be pleased with the result.  I placed a few sweaters on the shelves, to test the width and depth, and my sweater collection will fit perfectly.

The carpenter returns tomorrow, and I'll keep you posted.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My French Closet: The painting



Over the weekend, work continued on my closet redo.  This part--painting the shelves--was easy, but took most of the weekend because there is at least an hour drying time in between each coat of primer and paint.  The color is Benjamin Moore Architectural White; I chose a satin finish rather than a semi-gloss.

I've also selected a paint color for the closet interior and the bedroom;  "Edgecomb Gray," one of the Benjamin Moore Historic House Colors.  More taupe than gray, it's a perfect neutral that will complement the white baseboards and trim.

I'm hoping the project will finish this week, and will post pics as the project moves forward.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My French Closet: The plan

















Apologies for not posting this yesterday as promised; I also apologize if your comment disappeared from a previous post.  The Blogger platform was down, and a number of reader comments were lost.

The inspiration for my closet is the armoire.  With its shelves and drawers and hanging space in one tidy package, the armoire is standard in many apartments and small homes that lack sufficient closet space.

Armoires are efficient and convenient; when you open the doors, you can see everything at a glance:  folded items on open shelves, hanging space high enough so nothing touches the bottom, and maybe even a drawer or two for precious items.

I've always loved the idea of an armoire, but have never had a room big enough to hold one; as efficient as they are, an armoire can eat up a lot of space in a room.  But here, in my new house, I can have the best of both by converting a closet into a built-in armoire.

Working with an architect and contractor, we came up with the interior closet plan posted above, that will provide plenty of hanging space and lots of open shelving/cubbies to hold my shoes, sweaters and folded items.  I am not a DIYer which is why I needed help with the design and construction, although I am spending the weekend painting every single one of those shelves before they're installed next week.

So, if you're looking for ideas for your own closet, feel free to borrow my design (you can click on the image to enlarge).  I'd love to hear about your project too!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My French Closet: Before

Okay, it's not really French, but it is my closet! 

In my bedroom, I'm fortunate to have a larger-than-average closet.  At 38 inches, its deeper than other closets in the house, though a quirky configuration of rods and shelves and dormers (which you can't see in this photo) make some of the space impossible to access.

The closet is also high and long, but as you can see, the current set-up results in a lot of wasted space.

When I moved in, this closet had a set of inexpensive, hollow sliding doors that moved on a track.  Before having the wood floor refinished, I removed the doors and the track.  When the floor was completed, I decided I liked the closet without the doors, and now I have a true "walk in" closet.  I know it's unusual to not have doors on a closet, but I keep the closet tidy so, the absence of doors doesn't bother me. 

Another thing that's unusual about my bedroom is that I don't have any drawer space--by choice.  Rather than a bulky dresser, I've always had cubby space in my closet, a series of built-ins to hold everything from shoes and lingerie to sweaters and scarves.  This closet has only one shelf running the length of the closet which is where all of my sweaters and folded clothes are currently stored.

So, working with the contractor, we've designed a closet interior that will include floor-to-ceiling built-ins as well as plenty of space for hanging.

Tomorrow's post:  The plan

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Moving forward

If you been reading My French Corner for a while, you might remember that back in November I moved to a new house.  The move happened a few days before Thanksgiving and I had just enough time to move in, place the furniture, and prepare to entertain for the holidays.  Since then I've been in conversation with an architect, a contractor, and a landscaper in preparation for some major interior and exterior changes.  

Not wanting My French Corner to turn into a home renovation blog, I've refrained from posting about the house plans.  As always, I wanted to stay on message, to retain the original intent of my blog.

But as I continue to engage in conversations with the architect and the contractor, I realize that my choices are driven by the same aesthetic that drives my blog:  less is more, simple is better.  To that end, I thought it might be fun to share my projects and the thinking behind them.  So later this week I'll share my first major renovation project:  my closet.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Au revoir to the blue jean

Or, more precisely, the 100% cotton denim blue jean.

For months I've been shopping for a pair of jeans to fall in love with.  But not just any jeans; I want a pair of 100% cotton denim jeans.  Ones without elastane or lycra or whatever else is in jeans that make them s-t-r-e-t-c-h out ten minutes after you put them on.

I was willing to pay any amount, if only I could find some cotton denim jeans.  So the search continued and what I learned is that jeans for women not only stretch, but, they also have names.  GAP jeans have names like "Perfect," "Sexy," and "Always Skinny" (ah, don't I wish).  Even my old faithful Levis were no longer available in cotton, and are sporting the names "Demi," "Bold," and "Supreme"(is it me, or do those names remind you of coffee?)

Then yesterday, I found myself in the men's department buying jeans for my son and found what I was looking for: 100% percent cotton denim jeans.  Regular jeans. The waist fits, the length is good , and the price was affordable.  I'll be the first to admit they look like guys jeans--a little roomy in the thigh, a little wide at the bottom; they're not perfect.  But they're straight without being skinny and the right shade of blue and most important, they won't fall down minutes after I put them on.

In the meantime, if you are also mourning the death of denim as we knew it, can you let me know where you get your jeans?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

And the winners are . . .

First, I have to say the I LOVED your stories about your most memorable French meal.  And, I was surprised by how many of those meals were enjoyed in unexpected places--you know, the little cafe you see as you're walking down the street and decide to duck in for a quick bite?  Thank you for sharing and I wish I had enough copies of the book to give to each of you.

The winners are Cathy, from The House Where the Black Cat Lives, and fellow Francophile blogger Aesthetic Alterations; each will receive a copy of French Cooking in Ten Minutes.  This is a beautiful reprint of Edouard de Pomiane’s classic collection of recipes for simply prepared meals illustrated with period pen and ink drawings.  Ladies, email your info to me at annecychic@gmail.com, and I'll send your book this week.

Again, mille mercis for your comments, and, check back soon for another giveway!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Week-end Simple: Do something different

One of the wonderful things about living in Washington, DC is that there are so many things going on and so much to do, especially on the weekends. 

For example, this weekend is the 8th annual Open Air French Market in DC's Book Hill neighborhood.  With its small storefronts and historic cobblestone streets, this neighborhood in upper Georgetown is one of my favorites.  Away from the trendy shopping and traffic on M Street, it's the perfect location for the sidewalk cafes, the market, and the strolling musicians that will be a part of today's festivities.

I'm heading over there soon to do something a little different this weekend . . .

Bon week-end!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Giveaway: French Cooking in Ten Minutes

I don't remember if I was first intrigued by the title (French cooking?  ten minutes?  really?), or the fact that a cookbook written more than 80 years ago is still being published.

Published in 1930 as La cuisine en dix minutes, ou l'Adaptation au rhythme moderne, this cookbook is both a culinary snapshot and a how-to book.  It features advice on how to behave at the table and organize a meal, as well as recipes for everything from the perfect sautéed haricots verts to a sublime couer à la crème.

This book is small--5x7 inches--but packs so much utility, humor, and elegance into a tiny package, that I thought you might enjoy a copy for your own bookshelf.  So, I'm giving away two copies of French Cooking in Ten Minutes.

To enter the giveaway all you have to do is share a comment about your perfect French meal (real or imagined!)  The winners will be announced on Sunday.  

Bon appétit et bonne chance!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Gâteau au yaourt

For years I've been hearing about French yogurt cake and my first thought is always, "There such a thing as French yogurt?"  A little research revealed that the cake recipe is French, not the yogurt.   

I also discovered there are slight variations in the recipe:  Dorie Greenspan makes hers with extra virgin olive oil, others use vegetable oil, and some dress up the cake with almonds, or raspberry filling.

Since this was my first attempt, I went with the basic recipe found on Clotilde Dusoulier's Chocolate & Zucchini.  As I was putting the recipe together, it occurred to me, that, I had made this cake before.  Yes, years ago, a variation made with sour cream! 

So how was the result?  A tougher crumb, and not as fine a texture as the sour cream cake, which makes sense due to the lower fat content (though the more likely explanation is my oven was too hot or I left the cake bake too long!)  Still, the cake was delicious and could be eaten for breakfast, snack, or a dessert, just as Clotilde promised.

Gâteau au yaourt, is very easy to make and is often the first cake that French kids learn how to bake. Hmm, I wonder if my nephews Maxime and Jules know about this?

Have you ever baked French yogurt cake?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Week-end Simple: Celebrate what you believe

For many of us, this is a week of quiet observance: Passover, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter.

It's been a reflective week for me; I've appreciated the spring break from school.  It's given me time to slow down, to think, and get caught up on my life.

Outside the dining room window, my dogwood tree is full bloom. Remembering the legend of the dogwood, I snipped a few small branches to bring into the house, one more quiet observance.

Bon week-end!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Parisian Chic

Like many of you, I've been thumbing my just-released-newly-purchased copy of Ines de la Fressange's Parisian Chic.  What fun!  Part style guide, part travel book, part personal shopper, there's a little something in this book for everyone.

What I love most about the book is that it doesn't take itself too seriously, which is perfect for someone like me, who does.  Who wants to wear all-Hermes-all-the-time (and who can afford to?)  Much more fun is pairing classic Vivier's with a pair of GAP jeans, right?

de la Fressange gives her blessing for mixing high and low end pieces, vintage with contemporary, as well as men's and women's clothing.  For me, who rarely steps outside my uniform navy-gray-black-denim, this book is encouragement to be a little more adventurous in with my style.

Whether you buy it, borrow it, or browse it at the bookstore, this little book is worth the time.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week-end Simple: Cook up a croque monsieur

It's late Sunday morning.  You've indulged by sleeping in, but now you're awake.  And hungry.

With some butter and jam, that leftover bit of baguette from last night's dinner would be tasty, but you're in the mood for something more lunch-y.

You check the fridge for ingredients.  Gruyère?  Check.  Butter?  Check.  Dijon?  Check.  Thinly sliced ham?  Check.  Et voila!  You have what you need to cook up a croque monsieur.

Whether we have Proust and his grand-mère to thank for the popularity of this satisfying sandwich is unclear, but croque monsieur has been on French bistro menus for over a hundred years.  And though I've never actually sampled a croque monsieur in France, its glorious gooey-ness is easy to replicate in my own kitchen.  What's more is it's perfect for a brunch, a quick snack, or even a simple supper.  Or, maybe all three . . .

Bon week-end!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Boy Amelie

In case you missed it, Anne Ditmeyer of Prêt a Voyager posted a wonerful piece on the filmmaker who found a roll of film in New York and vowed to find its owner. The filmmaker, who has been dubbed "the boy Amelie,"  and his amazing story can be found here.  If you have a few minutes, and you want something to make you smile, check it out.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Week-end Simple: Learn French

Seriously, you really can  learn some useful French this weekend!

I have to thank my clever, beautiful sister Darcy for sending me the link to Daphnee, Your Lovely French Teacher.  This is brilliant!

From the site:   "Daphnée, a real Parisian, will introduce you to her city and teach you the day to day urban French, enabling you to deal with every kind of tricky situation.  Whether you're looking for some ready-to-use and fun expressions for your next trip to Paris, or, if you're already familiar with the basics and you want to improve your spoken French, Daphnée is the ideal language guide."

I love the format (see it, hear it, say it in both French and English), and I'm in love with Anne Sophie Franck, the French actress who plays Daphnée.  Sadly, the app is for iPhones and iPads only, but if you visit the site you can watch a few of the lessons and get a sense of this easy and fun way to capture some French.

Bon week-end!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Looking for an idea for a new series

This has been such a busy week, mon dieu!  I like to post on Monday and Wednesday, and write a week-end simple post on Friday or Saturday, but here it is, Thursday already!

I have a few posts planned, and a couple of giveaways coming up, but what I really want to do is another week-long series. 

I enjoy writing a series of posts; it gives my writing focus, and occasionally it's fun to explore a topic in depth. I've done series' on tartes, wine, wardrobe, grocery shopping, tiny kitchen, living with less, cooking for one.

Just can't decide on a topic . . .

Suggestions?

Monday, March 7, 2011

French Breakfast Puffs

These French breakfast puffs have been popping up all over the place.  Last month they were featured on the beautiful food blog, Fresh, and last week there was a post on The Kitchn.  Of course, the name caught my eye.

I'd never heard of French breakfast puffs, have never seen them in a boulangerie or patisserie, have never heard them mentioned on French foodie sites or seen a recipe for them in a French cookbook. Yet there they were, French breakfast puffs.

What I discovered is that there is nothing French about these breakfast puffs.  In fact, they are a Betty Crocker recipe that's been around for years!  They are easy to make, require the simplest ingredients, and if reviews are to be believed, they are delicious.

But French?  It must be the butter . . .

Friday, March 4, 2011

Week-end Simple: Roast a chicken

Since I've moved and started cooking for one, I've been eating less meat.  Vegetable gratins, eggs, pasta, and soups are quick to prepare and have satisfied my desire for comfort food during these cold, winter months.
But this weekend, I think I'd like to roast a chicken.  

The best recipe I've found for roasting chicken is from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food. Some salt, herbs, the right pot, and the freshest chicken you can buy result in the perfect entree for a weekend meal.

Bon week-end!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Foley + Corinna: Is this my bag?

Anyone who's known me for a while is familiar with my handbag saga.  I am not a purse person; I have always found purses to be more accessory than I want.  Need to stash my stuff?  That's what pockets are for.

It's not that I don't lust after purses--I do!  Over the years I've purchased many purses, always thinking I've found the right one, but then end up returning them.  An expensive handbag is a commitment and I want to make sure I the right one, n'est-ce pas?  I've tried bags from Longchamp, Sequoia, Junior Drake, Marc Jacobs, Furla, but none have ever found a permanent home in my closet.

Then I spied this Foley + Corinna Mid-City Tote.  I like the simplicity, the short drop handle, the versatility--can be carried on the arm, worn cross body, or even carried as a large clutch.  It is unfussy and straightforward, unlikely to go out of style.  The price tag is obscene, but, it would probably be the last handbag I buy for a very long time.

Thoughts?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Week-end Simple: Take a nap

I meant to post earlier today, but I took a nap. 

During the week, my fifth grade students and I are envious of the preschoolers in our building.  "Can we take a nap, too?"  They have no idea how much I want to say "Yes!!"

Alas, napping is a weekend luxury.  This weekend, my plans changed at the last minute, and I found myself with a little extra time on my hands. What to do, I wondered.  So I decided to take a nap.

Bon week-end!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ratatouille gratin

A few weeks ago, Dana Velden wrote a beautiful post about using up all the bits of vegetables she had in her kitchen.  Today, her meditation inspired me to do the same.

A small eggplant, onions, a can of diced tomatoes, and an end piece of Comté is what I had in my fridge and pantry.  The onion, tomatoes, and cheese are staples; I bought the eggplant for Saturday's dinner, but didn't use it.  Today I decided not to do a daily shopping, but instead, use up these bits I had in my kitchen.  Maybe my recipe will inspire you the way Dana's post inspired me.

I heated some olive oil in my braiser, rough chopped the onions, added them to the oil, and let them brown.  I diced the eggplant, added it to the onion, and let it brown slightly.  Next, I added a can of diced tomatoes, seasonings, and let the whole mixture cook until the juices started to thicken.  I placed the mixture into a small gratin dish, topped it with the cheese, and baked it in a 350 oven until the mixture was bubbly and the cheese was crusty.

The addition of the cheese, and the baking, changed it from a traditional ratatouille to a satisfying gratin, perfect comfort food; a glass of wine and bread turned it into a feast.

I love being inspired in the kitchen, and find some of my most satisfying meals are created when "using it all up."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Garance and Scott: A love story

The Sartorialist.  Garance Doré.  There are more than a few fans among you, oui?

Well, if you are a fan of their famed street style, this article from New York magazine is a must read.

That's all I need to say . . .

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Week-end Simple: Read a book

I'm fortunate to have a three day weekend ahead of me, and for once I have no commitments, no report cards due, no house guests, no plans. This weekend, I'm going to get caught up on my reading.

I read a lot and often, but during the school year it's mostly kid lit or books about how to be a better teacher.  But this weekend I've decided to treat myself and read a few of those books that are in my 'must read' stack.  A treat, indeed.

Bon week-end!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Makers Project

On Monday I posted about Jennifer Causey's Simply Breakfast blog and the companion books.  Did you know that Jennifer also has several other books including Simply Paris?

But what captured my attention is her most recent endeavor, The Makers Project.  Causey states she is constantly "seeking handmade and artisan-produced products" and "people who embrace a more tactile way of living."  So, she decided to start photographing them.  The result is The Makers Project. 

Looking at the photos and reading about the individual makers reminded me of the European craftsmen and artisans; we often hear about how some craft will be lost because younger generations are making other choices.  Yet Jennifer Causey is documenting how craft is being preserved right here in the states.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Simply Breakfast

It's a few minutes after 5:00 a.m.  Shortly, I'll be heading out the door to get an early start to a very busy week.

Breakfast this morning?  Ah, it's too early for me; I'll take some yogurt and jam to eat later in the morning, a breakfast inspired by Jennifer Causey on her blog, Simply Breakfast.

Brooklyn photographer Jennifer Causey has been blogging for years, cataloging daily breakfasts in her gorgeous photographs.  Her spare but lush photos have an almost European aesthetic, and remind us that there is great beauty in the ordinary and everyday.

Love the photographs on Jennifer's blog?  Then you might want to check out the companion books, Simply Breakfast, The Art of Breakfast and Simply Breakfast, More Please.

I hope to post more about Jennifer later this week, but now I've got to run!  Bon lundi!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Week-end Simple: Make a valentine

Monday is Valentine's Day, and while I'm not one for celebrating Hallmark holidays, I think Valentine's Day can be an occasion to express affection for anyone close.

When my son was young I always enjoyed making tiny valentines with him--cutting and gluing bits of paper, using oil pastels--that I would put in his lunch box or under his pillow.  In turn, he would make valentines for his father and for me.  This always made the day more about the expression of love than the buying of a card or gift.

Even if you don't have small children, there is something special about making a small valentine for someone you care about. 

Bon week-end!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Parisian kitchens on The Kitchn

Okay, I know this is a cheap post, but when I see these posts on other blogs I can't resist sharing with you!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

To Paris!

Last week I finalized my summer travel plans to France; I'll be heading to Annecy in July, returning in August.  I can't wait to see my sister and her family, and the friends I've made over the years.

Plus, I've planned a little side trip to Paris--three days in the City of Lights!  I'll be traveling with a friend who has never been to Paris, so, it will be like experiencing it again for the first time.

Since we'll be there for just a few days, renting an apartment isn't an option; most apartments rent for a minimum of five days.  But, I think I've found a small hotel, close to many of the sights a first-time visitor will want to see.

If you had three days to spend in Paris, where would you stay, where would you eat, and what would you see?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Guest Post: Advanced Editing 401

Since  former blogger Stephanie from Bonjour Madame and C'est si Bon said au revoir, there's been an empty space in the blogosphere.  I miss her travel stories and photos, and the posts about decorating, fragrance, and style icons that populated Bonjour Madame.  Then I was invited over to C'est si Bon, where Stephanie posted about more personal journeys that resonated with many readers.  

Although no longer blogging, Stephanie still has projects to share, and I'm so happy she agreed to guest post on My French Corner.  Merci beaucoup, Madame Stephanie!



I want to thank My French Corner for inviting me to guest post.  I have been a long time admirer of this blog from the beginning.  

If you read my former blog, you know that I am a fan of de-cluttering.  I do it constantly and am known to be ruthless.  I had no idea what an amateur I was in the beginning.  It went something like this.  I would de-clutter, think I did a great job, pat myself on the back, then months later decide to de-clutter once more and in the process, would wonder how some items made it past my first edit.  Each de-cluttering session made me ask harder questions.  I wanted to get to the root of it.  

I’ve found different answers depending on the category.  With clothes, I might have held onto a smaller size with the hope of it fitting one day.  With decor, I might not have taken a fresh look at how it looked in the space.  Sentimental items usually made the cut because it reminded me of an event or person and I wanted to hold on. However, the number one stumbling block I come across is recognizing and having to admit expensive mistakes.  Ouch.  

My goal is to edit by getting rid of the wrong pieces and carefully adding the right ones.  If you are not at this point, it’s hard to de-clutter the right way.  With that in mind, I finally faced my Hermes scarves.  I bought my first Hermes scarf in Paris and the whole experience was magical.  I loved going to the store and choosing a gorgeous red scarf.  Fast forward a few years later and I now have a small collection.  I appreciate their beauty and love the details.  But, after much deliberation and internal monologue, have decided they are not right for me.  

After taking an honest hard look at them, here are the reasons why they do not work for me.

  • I’m not fond of the square shape.  They lend to fussy knots and fidgeting through my day, therefore making me uncomfortable.
  • I feel stuffy wearing them.  To me, the silk is thick and stiff and I dislike how it feels around my neck.
  • Wearing one makes me feel about twenty years older than I am.  (I think this is a result of the stuffy feeling, but also I’m just not that aristocratic and formal.)
  • Most importantly, I never wear them.  They sit unopened in their boxes, taking up closet shelf space.  
 I’ve known this for over a year now, but didn’t want to admit it.  I wanted them to work for me.  Isn’t every self respecting female supposed to love Hermes scarves?  What was wrong with me?  But then I realized nothing is wrong with me; they just don’t fit my lifestyle.  I actually love scarves, but the ones I reach for daily are the long cashmere variety in winter or the whisper light silk or linen long scarves in the summer.  Le sigh.....a very expensive lesson learned.  But it’s a good sigh, because now I know what to focus on.  Remember, edit the wrong pieces and carefully add the right ones.  

All is not lost.  I plan to sell them and recoup the expensive part of this mistake.  And here’s where the sting softens.  The proceeds will go toward saving goals for a trip to Paris.  Letting the iconic scarves go will allow me to follow my real goals instead of clinging to an idea that never worked for me.  As for Advanced Editing 401, apply this logic to your things and see if it works for you.  Ask hard questions and make the space that will allow you to move forward.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Psst . . .

Coming Monday, a guest post from one of our favorite bloggers . . .

Friday, February 4, 2011

Week-end Simple: Set a pretty table

It's the depths of winter; the days are too short, the weather is too cold, and there's lots of snow for some.  Maybe you could brighten your weekend and make one of your meals extra special by setting a pretty table.

I know we all set the table for meal time, but I'm talking something special here.  Bring out the pressed table linens and the sterling flatware and candles.  

I'm not suggesting anything formal, but rather simple elegance.  And the meal?  It could be a simple roast chicken, or humble eggs, or even a bowl of soup.  It really doesn't matter what you serve when you set a pretty table, n'est-ce pas?

Bon week-end!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

French Twist

Nothing like spring fashions to give us something to look forward to, n'est-ce pas?  Even if your not looking to buy, you have to check out Talbots Spring Look Book and online catalog.  The ad campaign for spring?  French Twist!

Back in May I posted about Talbots Fall 2010 collection, their changing demographic and their new, hip appeal.  This Spring 2011 collection will not disappoint; the looks are fresh without being trendy and classic without being stuffy.

Inspired by old-school (think 1950s) Paris but tailored for a modern aesthetic, the sheath dresses are classic and the skirts are elegant yet playful, with names like "Tres Jolie" and "Champs-Élysées."

Alas, I'm not a dress or skirt gal, but I could definitely see myself in a pair of these slim ankle trousers with that pair of four inch black Stuart Weitzman heels that are hanging out in my closet!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Merci!

A big thank you to those who commented on my January 29 post; I appreciate your kind words and support.

I think every blogger enjoys comments, and I'm no exception.  But for me, blogging has become a way for me to write for an audience, even if I never hear from my audience.  My struggle is not the lack of comments, it's the lack good ideas.

I'm not accomplished, but I enjoy writing.  So much in fact, it's what I teach all day.  Granted, teaching writing to fifth graders is not glamorous, but blogging has made me a better writing teacher.  I carefully choose my words, my sentence structure, and continue to revise posts even after they're published finished--all things I encourage my students to do.

Again, thanks so much for reading, for commenting, for encouraging.  For now, I'll continue to hang out here at my French corner, but, who knows what the future will bring.

Monday, January 31, 2011

My sweet son

My son arrives home from college tonight, a short break between the winter and spring term.

Today, after work, I will bake his favorite cookies, give his room a quick clean, and leave a small gift for him on his bedside table, a book he's been wanting to read.

And for the next week I'll bask in his stories about school, friends, his current favorite music. I'll listen to him play the piano and the house will be filled with waltzes and sonatas (or the music from Final Fantasy XI).  I'll tease him about how much longer his hair is since the last time I saw him.  I will celebrate how big his world has become and how easily he moves through that world.

I'll notice the shoes on the floor, the crumbs on the counter, the unmade bed,  the coat and books strewn everywhere, but I won't complain.  Because for a few days, my son will be home and the house will be filled with certain, reckless joy.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

L'avenir, or the future

Earlier in the week my friend Leigh asked why I hadn't been posting.  When I went back to look at the blog, I realized almost two weeks had passed since my last post, and, I have no good reason other than I've been unusually busy.  Sometimes, we are just busy, n'est-ce pas?

A classroom that demands a lot of time and a new house that needs lots of work have kept me busy for months; blogging has slipped.  Some days, I don't have the time, and some days I simply struggle for writing ideas.  And some days I consider a new blog, a different blog inspired by the home design and renovation blogs I visit.

I don't like to whine or vent on my blog, so I apologize.  And I do like to stay on message, stay true to my original intent of  " . . . exploring ways to bring a bit of France into my home . . . ways to introduce small but authentic French touches into your life."  I regularly need to ask myself if that's what I'm doing. 

I know other bloggers have puzzled through this.  As I look back over the nearly 300 posts on my blog, I wonder if I've said what I wanted to say, if there's any more to write about.  I wonder if my trip to France this summer will inspire me to continue blogging, or, if it's time to close up shop . . .

Friday, January 28, 2011

Week-end Simple: Drink chocolat chaud

Inspired by our first big snow of the year, these past two days I've been drinking sinful amounts of chocolat chaud.

I've had two snow days from school, and it's been satisfying being home, enjoying the snow, and indulging in late morning cups of rich hot chocolate. 

I don't have a favorite chocolate, though many swear by the French Valrhona.  But, I think any quality chocolate with a high percent of cocoa solids will do.  I also like to sprinkle a little salt on my chocolat chaud--strange, I know--but I enjoy the combined sweet and salty flavors.

So whether it's snowing in your world or not, wouldn't it be nice to enjoy a cup of deep, rich chocolat chaud this weekend?

Bon week-end!