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.