Green with envy/Verte de jalousie

green-guy

I know, I know.  Red and pink are supposed to be the colors now.  Valentine’s Day approaches. And I love hearts, flowers, and good dark chocolate.  Oh!  And don’t forget champagne. However, I am seeing green.  First, an author sent me an email asking me to review his book about living in Provence.  I jumped at that chance and the book is in the mail as I type this up.  More about that very soon since I will devour the book tout de suite.  (And I am thinking about offering a giveaway…) Next, Mme P from Pujaut sent me a link to a very funny AMERICAN stand-up comedian speaking FRENCH like a Français and making JOKES in French.  My jokes in English aren’t all that funny (just ask my students), but joking around and making people laugh in French?  Pas moi.  Pas possible.  This character, Sebastian Marx, has been living in France for 10 years.  I’ve been studying the language for 40+ years.  Ah oui, I’ve lived there a couple of times for a few months.  Voilà la différence.  It is indeed what I tell the kiddos and their parents.  We teachers cannot make you fluent.  We can stuff/cram/beat vocabulary and verbs into your darling little heads, but you can only become fluent by living the language.  C’est vrai.  And I never stop dreaming of moving over and doing just that once again.  Am I just a big romantic?  Do I put France and French up on a pedestal the way some of my French friends claim?  While I contemplate that for a few more minutes, watch this video of Sebastian and see what you think.  Funny guy.

If you don’t understand, maybe it’s time for you to move to France and learn French…  Just a suggestion.  We could start a commune.  And pledge to only speak French.  And cook good food.  And listen to good music.  And grow lavender.  And drink rosé year round.  And invite all of our new Frenchie friends over for apéritif. And hang our laundry outside to dry.  To heck with clothes dryers.  And ask everyone we meet “Ça va?” 

It’s just a thought worth thinking and daydreaming about.  So, I think that I will go do just that while whipping up some tapenade à la Fanny.  Oui, chef!

tapenade

Tapenade à la Fanny

2 cans of black olives, pitted
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced (remove the skin and the germ)
Olive oil
5-6 anchovy filets (without the oil)
2 tsp. capers

Put all ingredients in a food processor and mix. Do not over process.  Add enough olive oil to obtain the proper consistency.

If you want to read (or reread) about the wonderful time I had hosting Fanny and Olivier at my house, click here.

Bon appétit and Happy Février!  Keep eating and laughing. And daydreaming.

Hearts Part Deux

goat-cheese

I was just going to go back and edit the last post.  Really, I was.  Why should I make you read a whole new post?  Hearts Part Deux?  Seriously?  What’s up with that? Well, here’s what.  What about all of the expressions that we use that have to do with hearts?

A huge heartfelt thanks to all who contributed to this list!  Someone I recently met (from Chicago aka a Yankee) asked if we (Southerners) really say “Bless your heart.”  Duh.  Of course.  We learn that one in the crib.

  • broken heart
  • heat of gold
  • absence makes the heart grow fonder
  • heartwarming
  • hearty meal
  • hard-hearted
  • good-hearted
  • warms the cockles of my heart
  • I don’t have the heart to…
  • bless his/her heart
  • heartless
  • heartache
  • home is where the heart is
  • cold hands, warm heart
  • emptier than a banker’s heart
  • blame it on my head and not on my heart
  • I wear my heart on my sleeve (oh, man, did Daddy ever accuse me of this!)
  • be there in a heartbeat
  • have a heart
  • young at heart
  • you will always be in my heart
  • heartfelt apologies
  • mal au coeur
  • loin des yeux, loin du coeur

My take on it?  Love begins with yourself.  After all, you are what you have left at the end of the day.  You have to be your own best friend.  Watch Hallmark movies all you want. Personally, I love the happy, heartwarming endings.  Who doesn’t?  Deep down inside. Bless your heart if you don’t.

I did indeed get up and make those sugar cookies.  I left the butter out to come to room temperature so that when I got up it would be soft.  What a satisfying feeling.  Rolling out the dough.  Dipping the cookie cutters into the soft sweetness.  Sprinkling some color onto the colorless dough.  Smelling sugar and vanilla all through the house.  Pulling the tray out of the oven and letting the cookies cool just a couple of minutes before transferring them to the cooling rack. The ladies at the retirement home loved them.  We left the extras on the table near the piano.  Enjoy them, ladies and gentlemen.  I will be back!  We will sing.  We will dance, partner or not.  We will look at photos of your youth and remember the amazing things you did.  The tennis championships you won.  The children you birthed and raised.  The trips you took. Or the ones that you couldn’t take because you had an unfortunate accident. Save me a corner room overlooking the lake and near the dining room and fireplace.  But, until then, I still have stuff I want (need?) to do.

 

girlies

chloe

Thanks for putting up with us, Chloe.  Take good care of your mistress. She needs you more than you know.

Need a song to sing along with?  How about Waylon Jennings’ Good Hearted Woman.

Bon appétit to all.  Live every single day as if it were your last.  You never know what’s around the corner. The dear sweet ladies at Golden Pond taught me that today. And the amazing I-cannot-put-it-down book I am currently reading, The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg.  And I am three years older than the heroine of the story…  Do you have a green bowl?

Hearts

window-stuff

I have a thing for hearts.  I probably have since the first time I exchanged valentines with my classmates in elementary school.  Back in the day when we decorated white paper bags and left them out for our classmates to slip a little card in at some point leading up to the Big Day.  I wish I still had every one of those cards so that I could pull them out and try to recapture that innocent little heart-loving girl.  Some would be from classmates who are no longer alive.  Some would be from classmates who moved away and I never saw again. And some would be from little kids whom I do not even remember.   Many of them would be from the classmates I saw this past summer at our 40th high school reunion.

The little girl in me wants to find the best valentines and mail them to my dearest friends. I think I will find some drawn by Sandra Boynton.

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image from: http://bookimagecollective.blogspot.com/2012/04/sandra-boynton.html

How can your heart not feel happy just looking at this little guy?   I’ve been a fan of hers since we decorated Son #1’s nursery with a border of her characters.

Or maybe I will make my own from the photo above.  That’s my kitchen window, holding some of my memories.

Recent heart photos taken in Paris–

Christmas tree hearts in downtown Durham–

I don’t set out looking for hearts to photograph.  They just somehow find me.

I remember listening to Neil Young on FM radio at night in I don’t know what year singing Heart of Gold.  (Google tells me that it was recorded in 1971 with James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt singing back up and hit the top of the charts in 1972.)  9th grade.  That was a few broken hearts ago. I found this version performed at Farm Aid in Raleigh in 2014. I should have been in that audience.  Enjoy.  Sing along with Neil if you want.

Now, I think that I will make some heart-shaped sugar cookies using a recipe I’ve been using for years.  It is from a cookbook I was given as a wedding present, Springfield Cookery. My Papa Bell was a Quaker and Springfield Friends Meeting in High Point, NC is the family church.  The first Meeting for worship was held there in 1773.

Rolled Sugar Cookies

Marilyn Hipps (Mrs. Richard)

1/2 cup butter (softened)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sugar

2 beaten eggs

1 tablespoon milk

2-1/2 cups sifted flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter until soft; add vanilla.  Gradually add the sugar and cream until light and fluffy.  Sift dry ingredients together.  Combine eggs and milk and stir into creamed mixture.  Add half the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Add the remaining and mix well.  Chill dough at least one hour.  Roll a little more than 1/8-inch thick on well floured surface.  Cut with floured 3/4-inch round cookie cutter.  (I will use a heart-shaped one, of course.) Sprinkle with additional sugar. Place on baking sheet (lined with parchment paper) and bake in hot oven (400˚F) until only lightly browned. (6-8 minutes) Remove from pan while warm.  Cool on rack.  2-1/2 dozen.

tights

LuLaRoe leggings from Elizabeth Sayles Bland’s Facebook on-line boutique

Bon appétit to all who are near and dear to my heart. Je vous aime.

Puppies, kittens, and Paris

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I am tired of news.  I refuse to watch it or read it.  It only makes me grumpy and grouchy. And anyone who knows me knows that I am neither very often.  Life is too short.  And in the words of Jacques Prévert, my favorite French poet, “Later will be too late.  Our life is now.”  That’s my translation, not an “official” one.  It works for me.  I haven’t felt like blogging or being creative and I need to shake that.  So, I am back in the saddle.  A great way to start feeling happy is to look at puppies.

Let’s start with Buddha.  He is Son #1 and Daughter-in-Law’s pup.  The only dog I’ve ever met who pouts.  I admit that I am not really a dog person (much to the chagrin of every single relative of mine), but Buddha is a love.  He doesn’t smell stinky.  He loves my boy.  He doesn’t aggravate my cat.  He rarely barks.

buddha

And how about Max?  He belongs to my Cuz and I bet he is just a little bit spoiled! Adorable.

max

Finally, siblings recently adopted by friends…

Molly

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Maggie Mae

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Now, it’s time for kittens.  Callie is ours.  She is sleeping next to me right now.  Studiously ignoring me, of course.  We’ve had her for about 9 years.  Her brother passed away last spring.  She is good company, doesn’t make messes, sleeps on my feet, hides in the bathroom when we have company, especially those with dogs, and is generally pretty darned content.  This is her “I am bored with you” look.

callie

My French girlfriends love cats, too.  Madame M has Tao.  A very Zen cat.  Looks pretty comfy, n’est-ce pas?

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And Bigoudi.  We’ve spent a few nights together in the south of France Chez Fanny.  A loyal America-loving feline.  I like her choice in college basketball allegiances.  Of course, I may have played a small part in that…  BTW, a bigoudi is a hair curler in French.  In case you were wondering.

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For the Paris part.  This time last week, I had just returned from a six-day trip to La Ville Lumière made possible by ACIS, the company I use for my student trips.  It was cold.  The Siberian wind blew in one day.  It was a bit rainy.  I got lost a couple of times looking for Lafayette.  The heat didn’t work very well in my hotel room. But who cares about any of that?  I WAS IN PARIS.  I met some amazing teachers.  My roommate, from Venezuela by way of Wisconsin, was a bundle of energy.

I found three first-timers who allowed me to show them some of my favorite Parisian spots, including Place du Tertre in Montmartre. Merci, mes nouveaux amis!

montmartre

I ate some of my favorite foods– foie gras, fromage, soupe à l’oignon, croque madame

And some sweets, of course.  Pain perdu, macarons et chocolat.

A glass of wine at a couple of my favorite cafés, as well as champagne at the Eiffel Tower.

Speaking of La Grande Dame, I added a few more photos to the hundreds (thousands?) that I already have.

I climbed the steps of Notre Dame to say hello to the chimera and gargoyles.  I lit a candle for Mme Buchanan, my high school French teacher.

The crèche in Notre Dame was made with santons from Arles.  An unexpected blessing.

I visited with Vincent at the Musée d’Orsay. Sad to say, Starry Night over the Rhône is not there at the moment.  It must be out and about in another exhibit. Well, as a matter of fact, Google just told me that it is in Ontario until January 29 when it will make its way back to Paris.  By mid-March, I hope.

There are so many statues to admire at the Orsay, as well.

Just strolling the streets, I found beauty at every turn.  The Panthéon.  L’Opéra Garnier. Ile Saint Louis. Sacré Coeur. Sainte Chapelle. Trocadéro. A random rose still alive in winter.

A real highlight was to have dinner at Mary Claude’s apartment in the 16e arrondissement. This is a new addition to the ACIS offerings for travelers.  They work with VizEat, a company that pairs eaters with cookers/hosts and hostesses.  Mary Claude (in the white shirt) could not have been more gracious.

mc-claire-and-bouchra

She fed us exceptionally well.  Leek tart, charcuterie, soup for starters–

Risotto and chicken for our main dishes–

truffle-risotto

Du fromage?  But of course!  I took it upon myself to give the others a lesson in cheese cutting (always respect the form!)–

and Galette des Rois for dessert.

marie-claude

When I had a chance to talk to Mary Claude, in between courses, I asked about the soup (I didn’t take a photo…) and the risotto.  The soup was butternut, made with chestnuts.  I peeked in the kitchen to get a look at her food processor.

food-processor

I am very fond of risotto.  This was probably the best I’ve ever eaten.  I wanted to know her secret.  At first, she told me that it was “just” risotto.  But I knew better, so I brought the conversation back to the risotto after learning about the soup.  Look closely–

truffle-risotto

Those brown specks?  Truffles.  And truffle oil in the initial preparation stage.  Aha!  Not “just” risotto.  The earthiness of truffles + the creaminess of the rice = a perfect marriage of flavors.

It was a wonderful trip.  It will keep me going for the next few weeks.  I will return in six weeks with 22 8th graders.

La vie est belle.  

notre-dame

And, by the way, I finally found General Lafayette.  Tucked away in the back corner of the Picpus Cemetery.  Winter hours 2-4 pm.  12e arrondissement.  Did you know his real name was Gilbert de Motier?  I did not.

lafayette

Bon appétit, old and new friends.  May you see beauty wherever you are.  

What I am crushing on right now

When I wore a black dress with white polka dots last fall, one of the young (and dare I say handsome) teachers at school said he was “crushing on my dress.”  Ever since then I have wanted to use that expression.  So, here goes.

What am I crushing on right now?

#1  My great nephew Caleb’s photos– he showed me a few of them when I visited at Christmas and I asked him to send some to me.  He has quite an eye for beauty, n’est-ce pas?   Here are some of my favorites:

And last, but by no means least, Max, Caleb’s mom/my niece’s dog-

max

Keeping taking photos, Caleb!

#2  My new mascara–  Am I vain?  Oui.  I do not leave my house with mascara.  I search high and low for just the right one.  Waterproof is a must sometimes, but it is so hard to remove.  Lancôme’s Hypnôse Drama does not cause raccoon eyes and it washes off easily at the end of the day.  Merci, Lancôme.

mascara

#3 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer– I just finished reading it last night (actually early this morning) and cannot stop thinking about it.  It is a story told in letters about a writer who decides to go to Guernsey to interview people about the German occupation of their island during WWII.  It’s a subject I am very interested in, but I didn’t know anything about this book until I saw it on a list of must-read stories.  I fell in love with Juliet.  You will, too.

#4 Balsam Range’s latest album, Mountain Voodoo— I have loved this band of bluegrass musical magicians since Sister Moo and I heard Buddy Melton sing at a barbecue festival in Asheville, NC about 10 years ago.  The group was formed in 2007 in Haywood County and has been winning awards ever since.  I go to hear them whenever possible, most recently at the American Tobacco campus in downtown Durham last June.

Something ‘Bout That Suitcase is my current favorite.  Probably because mine is sitting in the corner of my bedroom waiting patiently to be filled with the stuff I will need for six days in Paris.

suitcase

#5  The direct non-stop flight I will take from RDU-CDG later this week.  That’s right, step on in Raleigh, step off in Paris.  Merci mille fois, Delta.  Je vous aime.  The first time I packed my suitcase to go to Paris (and to get on a airplane) was in September of 1978.  I flew from Johnson City, TN to New York to Orly airport in Paris.  I do not remember much about the flight except that it was a charter. Many trips later, I still get excited.

#6  The stories of Sean Dietrich aka Sean of the South—  I’ve written about him before and I continue to love him more with each and every story I read.  I follow him on Facebook and start my day with his daily storytelling.  He has recently started to tell them by video as well.  Go ahead, click on the link and read a story for yourself.  See if you don’t feel better instantly.  While laughing and crying at the same time.

#7 An American in Paris— I just saw the play here in Durham with about 15 of my 8th graders, the BFF, some parents, and a couple I am especially fond of, Steve and Dani.  The Ex-Ex and I saw it on Broadway in July 2015 (I won a trip that included tickets to a show). The story is set in Paris at the end of WWII.  Gershwin music, dancing, beautiful costumes and scenery, love…

american-in-paris

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  I will leave the list with photos at seven.  I prefer sets of 14 for some reason so I will quickly list seven more.

#8  Snow days– I been given the gift of two of them this week so that I can get my grades and comments written before boarding that Delta jet.

#9  Our new sofa and “chair and a half”– the Ex-Ex and I gave them to each other for Christmas.  Blue.  Comfy.

#10  Bold Rock Blood Orange Cider– seasonal and I just got my hands on some.  Delicious.

#11  Sister Moo’s peanut butter fudge– so much for giving up sweets after Christmas since she sent a tin of it home with me.

#12  Hallmark movies on the weekend– sappy, yes, I know, but they always have happy endings.  One set in Paris will premier later this month.  Love Locks– the mayor of Paris may not like it, but I have a feeling I will.

#13  Bravelets bracelets– I have collected a few of them and love them.  The company donates a portion of each sale to a cause, 2.6 million dollars to date.

#14  The beautiful glass bird that EB gave me for Christmas– It’s a magpie.  The Chinese term for magpie means literally “bird of joy.”  And joy is what EB has brought to our family.

mantel

I texted Nephew Caleb to ask what his favorite food is and he came back with shrimp.  I am with you, Caleb. I could eat my weight in it (and probably have!).  Here’s one of my favorite ways to eat it.  This reminds me of summer at Sunset Beach…

Uncle Beano’s Frogmore Stew

In memory of Ben Philpott, the BFF’s brother and Frogmore chef extraordinaire

Shrimp
New Potatoes
Corn
Sausage (Chorizo, Andouille, hot Italian or some other spicy grind)
Limes
Lemons
Red Onion
Old Bay Seasoning
Hot Sauce
Minced Garlic
Allow 1/3 to ½ lbs of shrimp and one ear of corn per person. Cut corn in halves. Chop sausages to half inch or so. Cut potatoes in quarters.
Bring big pot of water to boil with slices of lime, lemon, and onion. Add minced garlic and a few jabbers of hot sauce (also some beer, if you like), and a few shakes of Old Bay. Add potatoes, corn and sausage. When potatoes are on verge of being done, add shrimp and cook for about 3-4 minutes until shrimps are done.
Spread on newspapers (the cooked food, that is), dust heavily with Old Bay, and serve with cocktail sauce, butter, or whatever moves you.

Bon appétit and here’s to talented nephews and crushing on stuff.

Snow 2017

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(photo taken by C. Bland)

2017 has barely begun and we have our first snow “storm.”  Well, okay, it is a blizzard for us here in the piedmont section of North Carolina.  The photo my sister-in-law sent is from the mountains where she lives.  I took a photo of her vélo at Thanksgiving and gave it to her in the form of a notecard for Christmas.

cindys-bike

She returned the favor this morning via Facebook.  It looks beautiful in the snow. Or sous la neige, as the French say.  Under the snow.

It’s the perfect day to stay in the house.  Read, straighten out and put away my messy Christmas wrappings, make a stack of the things I need to pack for my upcoming trip to Paris, charge camera batteries, make note of addresses for postcards, update birthdays in my calendar, and make gingerbread.

gingerbread

While doing some of that straightening, I came across some thank you notes written to me by students just before the winter break.  One of the math teachers at my school gives his students a point of extra credit if they write a note to one of their teachers.  (I am tearing up again just looking at them…)  They will be added to my Gratitude bulletin board when on Monday (IF we have school).  These notes are the reason I teach, why I am sure that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do with my life.  Sure, I teach French verb conjugations, try to brainwash middle schoolers into thinking that studying French is the most amazing part of their day, but that isn’t my most important job.

I am very hesitant to post these notes.  It sounds as if I am trying to hold myself up above others and say “Look at me- I am such an amazing teacher.” Oh no.  I have so many self-doubts.  Am I teaching them what they need to know before they move on to French 3 and high school?  My lesson plans are not that exciting.  Why don’t I spend more time on them? (Because I do need to sleep at least 6 hours every night?)  Am I up-to-date on the latest research in language acquisition?  No.  I don’t even have a master’s degree.  I met with our head of school a few weeks ago and he was kind of surprised when I admitted that. I wish that I had done it right after I graduated, but then again, maybe I would have never found Durham Academy.  Am I just too old?  Have I become too old to know what adolescents are facing?  Am I too old-school? Do my younger colleagues look up to me or think that I should retire soon?  I am an expert at French 1, 2 and 3.  Teach AP?  Not on your life.  Am I fluent?  Yes, but I don’t know everything/enough.  I have nightmares where I cannot speak a word of French or every time I say a word with an “r” in it, I cannot for the life of me make the French “r.”  And everyone laughs.  I know that I am lucky- I teach in an independent school with motivated kids.  I can only hope that I do indeed make a difference in their lives.

But enough of my (abundant) insecurities.  The reason I was inspired to write this post is because I saw an article this morning written by a math teacher entitled “What even IS good teaching?”  I understood completely what the author was trying to say.  Thank you, Crazy Math Teacher Lady.  You ARE really really awesome.  I get it.

Here are some excerpts, unedited.  They are, after all,  middle schoolers and not 100% perfect…

“This year has really been fun.  Having you since 7th grade has been awesome.  I have learned so much about French and life.  You make learning French super fun.”

Merci, but I KNOW for a fact that it is not always super fun.  But thank you for sitting in the front row and making me want to be a better teacher. And for staying awake first thing in the morning even when I know you are exhausted (because I kept you out late at a performance of An American in Paris at the DPAC).

“We had the opportunity to write letters to different teachers in math.  You came right to my mind.  You are truly an influence and role model to me.  You love your students so much and it encourages me to work harder and do my best in your class.  Your  honestly like a mom to LW and me and I am so greatful for that.  I know that if I am having a bad day or just need to talk you will actually listen.”

Oui, I do love you.  That’s why I was Mme Grincheuse the other day when you and some of your pals decided to hang out after school, but no one knew you were there.  I am your mom while you are at school.  I take your well-being very seriously.

“Thank you for teaching me French this year!! Although, there have been slight hiccups along the way, this year has been very fun.  I may be riding on the B train right now I think that something has clicked and I am understanding the language more than ever.  I look forward to the France trip!”  P.S.  le beurre de cacahuète

The B train has good, comfortable seats, too.  Keep eating peanut butter and making me laugh out loud!

“I hope that you have an amazing holiday!  This is the time of year when you look back at what you are thankful for and appreciate.  I appreciate you as a teacher.  Your rigorous class always keeps me motivated and you always make me smile.  For the year and a half I have been in your class, you have taught me to how to be a mindful student.”

You are all a teacher could hope for in a student.  I have a feeling that you have always been mindful!  Your smile and quiet presence in my class are a gift.  I should be thanking you for making me look good.

“I have learned an unbeliveable amount of French in just a year and a half.  You always seem to care about your students and I will definitely remember you as a great teacher.”

And I will always remember you and how hard you have worked in my class. It hasn’t always been easy and I know that you have shed more than a few tears of frustration.  But you have stuck with it and now you are reaping the rewards.

“Thank you.  Thank you for all you have done.  While I may not be the best student in French, you have always made me feel important in the class.  You make everyone feel welcomed.  In 6th grade, I was new.  I had French class B period so it was one of the first things I experienced at DA.  In that class I never felt new.  I can’t imagine middle school without you teaching me.”

Well, thank YOU for making everyone in your class feel important.  I have noticed that you work with classmates who don’t have a partner.  I saw you walking around with new students at recess the first week of school.  You didn’t do it so that I would notice and praise you.  You did it because you sincerely wanted to.  Your beautiful smile is a daily gift to all.

“I wanted to thank you for the wonderful time I have had in your class.  You have made French class so much fun for me, in a way that inspires me to love learning.  I love how your class is so interactive and hands-on, and I never expected to have this much fun in a class, and I look forward to class every day.  You are a great teacher who knows when to be serious and when to be fun.  To be able to not only teach a language but to teach kids to love learning is a special quality.”

I am so glad you decided to come to my school this year.  We are the lucky ones. You make me laugh every single day.  And, although you are a very serious student and a worrier of the first order, you are able to laugh at yourself.

“Bonjour!! Merry Christmas.  Thank you for being the best French teacher ever.  You have made — and I not only better at French but just at being better people.”

Oh, how I will miss you and your smiling face at the end of this year.  French isn’t easy for you, but you come to class with a huge smile on your face every single day.  You are amazing.  Never, ever forget that.

So, how about one more beautiful mountain photo of snow.  And a biscuit recipe. Everyone loves biscuits, right?

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(photo taken by H.H. Wise, near Spruce Pine, NC)

All-Purpose Biscuits Biscuits

Sam Sifton, New York Times

6-8 servings

2 c. all-purpose flour, more for dusting (I use King Arthur, non-bleached)

2 Tbsp. baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)

1 scant Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

5 Tbsp. cold butter, unsalted (European-style, if possible– higher fat content)

1 c. whole milk (can substitute buttermilk)

  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, sat and sugar in a large bowl.  (I use a whisk and skip the sifting.) Cut butter into pats and add to flour.  You can use a food processor and pulse 5-6 times or use a pastry cutter or even a fork.  (I have a pastry cutter and do it that way.)  Mixture should resemble rough crumbs.  If using a food processor, return dough to bowl.  Add milk and stir with a fork until it forms a rough ball.
  2. Turn dough onto a well-floured surface and pat it down into a rough triangle, about an inch thick.  Fold it over gently and pat it down again.  Cover dough loosely with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 425˚F.  Gently pat out the dough some more so that it makes a (roughly) 10 x 6 rectangle.  (You can keep it thicker if you want bigger, but fewer biscuits.)  Cut biscuits using a floured glass or biscuit cutter.  Do not twist the cutter when cutting- it crimps the edges and your biscuits will not rise as high. (I cut mine into squares, using a sharp floured knife.  I do not have to work the dough again, which can lead to a tougher biscuit.)
  4. Place biscuits onto a cookie sheet (I line mine with parchment paper) and bake until golden brown, 10-15 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with butter, honey, jam, or whatever your little heart desires.

biscuits

Bon appétit!  Stay warm!

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”   –Abraham Lincoln

Reflections

reflexion-of-tour

It is almost time to say Au revoir to 2016.  And Bonjour to 2017.  2016 had some tough days.  In life, though, that’s pretty much par for the course, n’est-ce pas?  That’s when we learn valuable lessons.  It’s when we learn to appreciate the whos and whats in our lives.  If we are smart.  And then we move on.  The sun comes up the next morning.  Sometimes it is difficult, if not downright nearly impossible, to let go of hurt feelings, guilt, anger, disappointment, fear– all of those emotions that can bring on a middle-of-the-night panic attack if we aren’t careful.  I know.  I’ve been there done that.  Learning to take deep breaths, forgiving myself as well as those I love, and remembering what is truly important takes practice.

Why is that those who know their days on earth are numbered teach us the best lessons? I hate to break it to you, but all of our days are numbered.  Somehow, though, those who live with it daily are the wisest. Chris Rosati.  The lessons I have learned from him.  Chris has ALS.  Lou Gehrig’s disease.  Tuesdays with Morrie. Since his diagnosis six years ago, he has taught so many of us how to be kinder human beings.  I saw Chris last night at The BIGG Holiday Mashup in downtown Durham.

bigg-mash-up

He was able to put in an appearance at the end of the show.  Dressed as Santa, in his wheelchair, speaking through a computer that is somehow miraculously connected to his eyes and types out his messages.  Many of his high school friends and classmates were in attendance so it ended up being a big wonderful funny class reunion-type event for me.  I taught so many of these “kids.” See, Chris, see what you are doing?  Bringing all of us together for the Big Idea for the Greater Good.  A lesson I promise to put into practice in 2017.

So, instead of reflecting backwards, I will reflect forwards.  Think of the all the potential that awaits us in 2017.  The BFF doesn’t like odd-numbered years, but I have assured her that the coming one will be filled with Goodness.  Kindness.  Pure joy.  Hmmm…. How do I know this?  Because I am in charge of how good, kind and joyous I will be.  And so are you. There are indeed many, many things that we cannot in any way, shape or form control.  Why focus on those?  Instead, let’s focus on what we can control.  Our own attitudes.  Our own behavior.  Terrorists will not keep me from traveling to my beloved France.  The political leadership in my own beloved state and country will not keep me from hoping that good will come from this somehow.  Because we can band together and “kill them with kindness” as Mama Mildred has been known to say.

My 2017 will include the following:

  • Kennedy’s birth.  My first grandbaby.  I already get teary-eyed just thinking about her.
  • Finding new ways to show kindness and helping others do the same.
  • Spending more time with my family, be they in Charlotte, Spruce Pine, Washington, Brevard, High Point or here in Durham.  I am incredibly lucky. My sons, a soon-to-be daughter-in-law, mama, sisters, in-laws, cousins all close by.
  • At least two trips to France.  January (20 days) and March (76 days).  Ah oui, I do indeed count it down.  Every time I board the plane it feels like the first time.
  • Showing my friends how much I love them.  I am lucky in this respect, too.  I have some amazing friends who love me no matter what.
  • Joie de vivre.  I am very fond of this French phrase.  Love of life.  Joy in living.  Ed the Head, used it in 2013 to describe me when he presented me with the Hershey Award. I laughed with him afterwards as I complimented his French pronunciation.  I vow here and now to show this joie much more often.
  • Self-improvement.  At home.  In the classroom with the kiddos and my colleagues. With me.  More walks, more quiet time, good books, good music, good food, more writing.

A good place to start.  And I think I will get a week’s head start on some of those.  Pourquoi pas?

I will leave you with a recipe to make immediately (or as soon as you can assemble the ingredients) and share as gifts and/or make for the family and friends who will come a-calling.  A big bowl of deliciousness.  I fell in love with them the first time I tasted them at a foreign language meeting.  Our Latin teacher is quite a cooker.  She shared the recipe.  Merci beaucoup, JL.

rosemary-pecans

Rosemary Pecans

1 pound unsalted pecans

2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried

2 Tbsp. melted butter

2 tsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. cayenne or black pepper

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Spread nuts on baking sheet (I line mine with parchment paper.)  Bake 10-15 minutes- 15 minutes for crunchier nuts.

While the pecans are baking, combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix together.  Add pecans while still hot and toss to coat.

Serve warm or cold.  Store in tightly closed container.

Bon appétit to all and to all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Here’s to 2017!

97 and 41

A post from the past entitled 94 and 47 popped up on my Facebook page yesterday.  It was from 2013.  At first, I couldn’t figure out what the title meant.

blonde et brune.jpg

Then, looking at the smiling faces of La Blonde et La Brune, it dawned on me.  The countdown until my 2014 trips to France!  I posted the countdown until my 2017 trips on my classroom whiteboard at about 10:00 yesterday morning.  Coincidence?  Non!  I don’t believe in them.  It’s just where my mind goes at this time of year.

In French 8, we are studying food vocabulary.  A couple of days ago, I posted the following activity for the kiddos in the class Evernote notebook:

C’est jeudi 1er décembre. Tu es maintenant à Paris. Tu as vraiment faim et il est midi et demi.  Regarde ce plan de Paris et dis-moi où tu es.  Tu es tout(e) seul(e) ou tu es avec un(e) ami(e)?
paris-map-monuments1
Qu’est-ce que tu viens de faire?  Visiter le Louvre?  Faire du shopping?  Visiter le Panthéon?  La Tour Eiffel?  Trouve un café ou un restaurant près de cet endroit sur le site TripAdvisor. (Refine your search by scrolling down and choosing a neighborhood near where you are.)
 
Tu veux dépenser 35 euros ou moins pour un repas français traditionnel. 
Réponds aux questions suivantes. 
  • Comment s’appelle le restaurant?
  • Où est-ce? La rive droite ou la rive gauche?  L’arrondissement? L’adresse? 
  • Il y a un site internet?
  • Il y a un menu du jour?
  • Choisis une entrée:
  • Choisis un plat:
  • Choisis un dessert:
  • Et comme boisson?
  • Quand tu as fini, tu as aimé le repas?  Pourquoi ou pourquoi pas?
  • C’est combien l’addition?
  • Le service est compris?
  • Write a short review for TripAdvisor (Look at their form, but do not write it on the site- write it below-  en anglais:

I told them that they are helping me plan my January trip to Paris.  I am always looking for new cafés and restaurants.  It’s a short trip, only 6 days– oui, that’s a short trip in my book.  But, hey, I will go for only a weekend if someone offers me the opportunity. Passport always ready, bags packed. Especially now that Delta has a direct flight from Raleigh-Durham to Paris-Charles de Gaulle.

I have already made plans for one night while I am there.  I have signed up for a food tour of the Marais with La Cuisine Paris.  From their website:

Join us on a Marais Soirée as we immerse ourselves in a typically French experience: l’apéro! Take a sip and a bite of French culture as we enjoy the sociable pre-dinner hours that are such an important part of Paris life. With a glass in your hand and a tempting array of all things delicious, you’ll soon see why the term apéro is a fitting one: derived from the Latin word aperire “to open,” we’ll be doing just that – opening up our appetites and starting an evening in Paris – santé!

Right up my alley, n’est-ce pas?

The January trip is mostly paid for by ACIS, the student travel company I use. They invite teachers who have tours booked with them to spend a long weekend in one of several spots.  I always choose Paris during the MLK, Jr. weekend.  I asked my middle school director for a couple of extra days.  I plan activities for the March student trip.  Really.  I do.  This, mes amis, is professional development for me.  And therapy as well.  I’ve booked a little hotel in the Quartier latin for two nights, near the RER-métro station that will take me directly back to the airport the morning I depart.  The ACIS hotel will be out of my budget range, I fear, so I will move after three nights.  I got the idea for this neighborhood from a friend who is going over for Christmas with her daughters. It will be their first Christmas without dad/husband who passed away this summer.  She found an AirBnB apartment in a great neighborhood and then we discovered it is near an RER B-métro stop so they can easily take the train into the city from the airport.  I sent them my Paris cheat sheet, as I like to call it.  I’ve been compiling a list of my favorites.  If you are planning a trip and are interested, just let me know and I will post it or email it directly to you.

So, for the next 42 days I will daydream and plan a few things that I want to do/see.  ACIS will have activities planned for us.  For the recap last year’s trip, read  ACIS and Paris 2016- Exceptional.  J’ai vraiment de la chance.  

Mon amie Mme M sent me a link to this video yesterday.  She knows that I am on a Spread the Kindness kick.  I showed it to my classes.  It is from francetvzoom.  I can only get it to play in U.S. on Facebook…

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ffrancetvzoom%2Fvideos%2F698407930317996%2F&show_text=0&width=560

As we prepare for the March trip, I always read David Sedaris’ story about the métro to my 8th graders in an attempt to make them realize that we need to learn to be less loud while roaming around France.  And to make them laugh, of course. It’s from his book Me Talk Pretty One Day.  I love that man.  Listen to David tell it–

From my classroom, thanks to the grand-mère of one of last year’s students–

paris-painting

Bon appétit!  Here’s to Paris daydreaming and planning trips!  That’s what keeps me going some days!  Happy Friday and Bonjour, Décembre!

Après Thanksgiving 2016

give-thanks-pumpkin

It’s post-Thanksgiving, T + 3, but I am still thinking about all I have to be thankful for in my life.  I have fallen into a post-election sadness.  Not depression, but a deep sadness for my country.  Politics aside, seriously, it’s not Democrat vs Republican.  It’s about treating others, those different from us, with dignity and respect.  We lost that in the 2016 presidential election. We now have a group known as the Alt-Right who think it is okay to bring back some sort of Heil Hitler mentality.  I am uncomfortable in all-white Protestant settings now because it isn’t what I want my world to look like.  I like differences.  The day after the election, I sat down to face my 11 advisees and looked into a group made up of 6 girls and 5 boys, one red-head of Italian heritage, three African Americans,  three Asian-Americans, one French-Asian genetic combination, and a couple who look like me.  White European Americans.  We all came from somewhere.  Unless you are Native American, your ancestors came over on a boat or maybe in an airplane.  My ancestry?  Turns out that I am (according to Ancestry):

35% Great Britain

29% Europe West

15% Ireland

12% Scandinavia

3% Europe East

2% Italy-Greece

2% Finland-Northwest Russia

<1% Iberian Peninsula

2 % West Asia

I looked at those 12 year-old faces on November 9 and told them that we are truly only in control of how we behave, how we choose to treat others. I, along with two 7th grade girls, challenged them to Spread the Kindness and do something kind for one person each day.

Son #1 lives close by so we discussed the election quite a bit.  We have the same views.  Son #2 lives a couple hours away from home and texted me a day or two after it was all said and done “The sun is still rising and the people I love are ok.  As selfish as it may be considering the circumstances, I’m going to take refuge with those two facts until I can think about everything with a clear mind.”  I have decided to take refuge in that as well.  The sun is indeed still rising.  Spectacularly some mornings.  And it is still setting beautifully as well.

I spent Thanksgiving in the mountains of North Carolina.  The view from the living room of my sister and brother-in-law’s house–

cindys-view

It reminds me of the woods behind my Granny’s house on a mountaintop in the Estatoe/Penland section of Spruce Pine.  My siblings, cousins and I spent hours making towns and playhouses under pine trees and rhododendron bushes.

The Ex-Ex’s parents made the trip with us.  We had almost the whole E clan there.  (We missed you D, K and M.)

We had an abundant amount of food.

We have two grandbabies on the way.  Thanksgiving next year will be quite different!  A pink cake pop- an ingenious way to let the family know what you are expecting. It took three of them and more than a few minutes for it to sink into my dense head.  I like to provide a laugh whenever I can.

cake-pop

My children barely tolerated my picture-taking.  One of them quite openly hates it, but puts up with me for a little while.  Can you guess which one?

three

Actually, from the looks on both boys’ faces, it might be hard to tell.  Too bad.  Mom wins.  (Thank you for smiling, EB!)

I got a few minutes with Mama Mildred and Sister Moo in Marion on the way to Brevard.  I had a couple of things to deliver and they met us right off the interstate.  Mama Mildred is on the mend (Merci, St. Bernadette) and Sister Moo is busy volunteering to take care of the firefighters who have come from all over the country to help fight the fires that have been raging for weeks in our mountains.  Love you more, Moo.  Bless you.

As I stood stirring a praline topping for this morning’s baking adventure, the thought popped into my head that in just a couple of years I will have a baking apprentice.  Sunday mornings will be my time to teach the soon-to-be-born Kennedy all of my secrets.  That thought alone is reason enough to get up in time to see the sun rise every day.

What to do with the leftover bread from Thanksgiving?  Eggs, milk, cinnamon, butter, vanilla, brown sugar, and a few pecans will solve that problem.

french-toast

Sunday Morning Baked French Toast

based on recipe from allrecipes

Casserole:

5 c. bread cubes (I probably used more- I had leftover sourdough and Italian-style bread), best if a bit stale

6 eggs

2 c. milk (maybe more if mixture seems too dry)

2 Tbsp. sugar (I used Turbinado, but granulate white sugar would have mixed in better)

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Butter for greasing pan

Topping:

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

1 Tbsp. light Karo corn syrup (I found some without high fructose corn syrup which is, according to a chef friend, the work of the devil, to be avoided at all costs)

Pecans

1/4 c. packed light brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

Grease 11 x 7 baking dish.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Place bread in bottom of baking dish.

Mix eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla.  Pour over the bread and stir to coat.  If mixture seems too dry, add another egg and some milk beaten together.  (You do not have to be precise!)  Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.  (You can refrigerate it overnight as well if you like to do things in advance.)

To make the topping, melt butter in a small saucepan along with the pecans, cinnamon, corn syrup, and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Spoon it over the casserole.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until top is golden.

Bon appétit to all those out there who are thankful.  Keep smiling and Spreading the Kindness.  Wake up early and watch the sunrise!

 

Give Thanks

gratitude-tree

Practice gratitude.  Easily said.  Not so easily done sometimes.  But I try to do this every day.  By nature, I am not a negative person.  EB recently gave me this little gratitude tree. She and Son #1 have one in their apartment. Last time I was there, I noticed that theirs has more leaves on it than mine and that makes me very happy.  Now that I look at mine, so far I have the letter F covered!  When I begin to feel worried or upset, I take deep breaths and try to focus on the good.  This morning’s grateful list in no particular order.

  • My health.  A little neck pain requiring some treatment but nothing debilitating or too serious.  Getting older isn’t for sissies.
  • Two amazing sons finding their way into adulthood and their own happiness.
  • The Ex-Ex. We recently celebrated the anniversary of our first official date. We went to the 30th birthday party of a colleague (who has become a very dear friend and is still a colleague) in 1981.  2016-1981= 35.  Wow.
  • Mama Mildred.  Still my hero.
  • Sister Moo.  More.
  • Technology.  I have the world at the touch of a button or the click of a key.  Amazing.
  • A well-stocked pantry and refrigerator.
  • Leftovers.  Specifically chili and potato soup at the moment.
  • Fall.  It is going to be the perfect day today.  Sunny with a high of 65˚F.  We have had the bluest skies lately.  I actually had to find my ice scraper this morning to get the frost off my windshield for the first time.
  • My friends.  We laugh.  We cry.  We celebrate.  We mourn.
  • My home.  Warm. Dry. Comfortable. Casual.
  • Books.  My escape.
  • My students.  They inspire me, make me laugh, make me want to pull my hair out, keep me young.
  • My comfortable, warm clothes.  All my black dresses.  My black tights.  My Dansko clogs.  My boots.  A great pair of jeans I found at a consignment shop– on sale.  The cashmere sweater I found on get-rid-of-it sale and I had a coupon.
  • Durham.  The town I live in.  Keep it dirty, Durham.  I love you just the way the are.  Great restaurants.  The American Tobacco Trail.  Duke.  The Durham Bulls. DPAC.  Duke Gardens.
  • The student who inspired me (and, more importantly, helped me) to set up this blog. The people who read my blog.  Thank you very much.  Merci beaucoup.

banana-oatmeal-muffins

Oatmeal Banana Muffins

Makes 12

Inspired by Allrecipes

1-1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup Old-Fashioned oatmeal

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup mashed bananas (2 med-sized bananas)

Pre-heat oven to 400˚F.  Line muffin tin with paper cups or coat with cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, oatmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the egg slightly with a fork.  Stir in milk, oil, and vanilla.  Add the bananas and mix thoroughly.

Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture just until combined.  Batter will be a bit lumpy.

Divide the batter evenly among the cups.  If desired, sprinkle turbinado sugar mixed with cinnamon over the tops.

Bake 15-18 minutes or until muffins test done.

Bon appétit and practice gratitude and kindness.  It has been an ugly presidential campaign and I am glad it’s over as of today.