Green with envy/Verte de jalousie


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 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.

Snow 2017


(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.


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.


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?


(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.


Bon appétit!  Stay warm!

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

Happy New Year!


Some people make New Years Resolutions on January 1.  Not me.  My new year starts on the first day of school every fall.  I have started school every August of my life since 1963 or 1964.  I have officially survived the first week of of  year 37.  Wow.  I am starting to sound old- even to me.  But I still love it.  New pencils and notebook paper.  Neat classroom. Smiling faces looking at me, with just a hint of apprehension and melancholy at the end of summer vacation.  Big hugs from colleagues and former students.

I don’t especially love meetings, but this year we had a faculty development day with Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee  leading us in a discussion about how to develop cultural competency at our school.  What a gifted speaker.  Ms. Lee speaks honestly, from the heart, and throws in enough humor and personal stories to keep her audience awake and engaged in what she has to say.  Diversity comes in many shapes and sizes.  Some wear it on their faces.  Some do not.  If I make a single student feel the anxiety I felt during this workshop when the question of socio-economic class during childhood came up, I must change what I say and how I say it.

I do love seeing all my colleagues/friends again after 10 weeks away from them.  The middle school faculty spent some time sharing photos of our summer adventures.  I didn’t leave North Carolina this summer, but I was fortunate enough to visit the mountains and the beach.  I read (The Nightingale and City on Fire were my two favorites, for very different reasons), baked, walked for miles and miles on the beach with the Ex-Ex, Son #2, and my sister Moo looking at the waves and searching for shells, stuck my toes in the Toe River, zip lined in Plumtree, visited Mama Mildred, and just generally goofed off.  We teachers call this “recharging our batteries.”  Because after 10 months with middle schoolers, they run real low.

On the first day of school, Son #1 and EB surprised me by leaving goodies on my kitchen counter.


EB works at Bull Street Market and they have all kinds of deliciousness there.  She knows me well, from Costières de Nîmes rouge to sea salt chocolate to Big Spoon peanut butter.  I even found a recipe for flourless peanut butter cookies on their blog, but the question is, will I use this jar for cookies or just open it up and eat it with a spoon whenever I feel like it?  Hmmm.  I will try to decide by the time I finish this blog! (But I have an egg out warming to room temperature just in case.)

Son #2 surprised me with a bouquet of flowers.  (Shocked would not be too strong a word, but I don’t want to sound as if I would never have expected this in a thousand years.)


I confessed to him that the Ex-Ex and I saw a charge for flowers when we checked his bank account 10 days ago or so.  I thought he had a secret girlfriend, but I was forbidden to be nosy and ask him.  Lol  was his response to that.

I have such good boys.  I love them more than life.  And EB is our added bonus.  I love her, too.

I look at these faces everyday.  Son #2 turned 24 this week. How did that happen so fast?

jake and g

One of the girlies in my new advisory group brought me three of her homemade chocolate chip cookies.  I shared one with the Ex-Ex.  They were excellent.  Bravo!  She told me that the recipe is a family secret and I respect that.  I did find an article just today, though, on how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie according to your own preferences using the Nestle Tollhouse Recipe.  The Science Behind Baking The Most Delicious Cookie Ever. Some research of my own may be necessary.

An 8th grade jeune homme, returning to my class for French 2 this go around, brought me the colorful  macaron erasers pictured above.  They look good enough to eat, but I think I will leave them to decorate my desk.  Such sweet kiddos.

Back to the resolutions part of this post.  I don’t want to set myself up for failure and I like to keep it manageable so that I am not riddled with guilt.

  1. Walk more.  Try to get that 10,000 step Fitbit buzz every day.
  2. Continue my Gratitude Project, expressing my thanks daily to someone who has helped me.  Who doesn’t love cookies?  Or a thank you note?  Or a hug?
  3. Keep things in perspective.  First World Problem or a genuine crisis?
  4. Look for silver linings.  There almost always is one.  Blessings in disguise.

And now, back to cookies.  Can’t resist trying a new recipe and warming up the oven.  I will take some to Son #1 and EB for a taste test.  The Ex-Ex will miss out this time.  He is off on an adventure for the next few days.


big spoon

Amazing Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

Big Spoon Roasters blog

24 cookies


One 10 oz jar Big Spoon Roasters Peanut Butter  I used Vanilla Peanut Sorghum– minus a couple of spoonfuls- I admit- one must taste one’s ingredients, people, Quality Control, you know
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar  I was a bit short and used Spices and Tease caramel sugar to make up the difference- a gift from one of my girlies
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda


– Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
– Mix all ingredients together in a mixer until well blended.
– Scoop into even-sized balls (well compacted – the dough is crumbly and a bit oily)
– Flatten each ball slightly with a fork (we make a cross-hatch).  I tried the cross-hatch thing but my fork kept sticking to the cookie dough so I just flattened the second tray with the back of a spoon; I sprinkled some Hawaiian Island Salt Company’s Diamonds of the Sea salt given to me by Judy C aka Joan of Arc aka IronWoman on top of the second tray– definitely a good idea!
– Bake on parchment paper at 350 degrees F for 11-12 minutes.  Mine were done at 10 minutes.
– Leave on the tray for at least five minutes after removing from oven (the bottoms should not burn) as they are delicate until slightly cooled.
– Make friends.  If you decide to share, that is.


Bon appétit and Happy New Year to all students and teachers!  Be your best self and make it a great year!

Gratitude Project

This is an earlier post that I am moving over from my original blog.  It is one of my most meaningful experiences and I like to look back on it often.  It keeps me grateful and less likely to get wrapped up dramas or concerns that I cannot control.

Can you teach someone else to be grateful?  Do you just live it by example?  Why is it so difficult to just accept what we have and live each day with a grateful heart and mind?  Is it true that if you practice gratefulness daily that it will become a habit?  Research has shown that it takes 21 days to form a habit.  That is just three short weeks.  504 hours, part of which is spent sleeping.  30,240 seconds.  1 Mississippi 2 Mississippi 3 Mississippi.  While googling the topic, I found an interesting article on Psychology Today about happiness.  10 Ways to Make Yourself Happier in 30 Seconds or Less.  It’s worth a read.  Gratitude is in there.

Tracy Wilson, a woman I know here in Durham has also started a daily gratitude journal.  I have subscribed to her updates and enjoy reading them now each morning, along with Sean Dietrich‘s Facebook posts. (If you are not a FB user, I’ve linked his website.)  It is how I choose to begin my day.

Now, back to my original Gratitude Project post.

Abby is a very wise young lady.  I continue to be amazed by her.  And I am so grateful that we bonded last school year.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Mrs E:

What happens when a student and a teacher make a lasting impact on each other?  I realize that I have only known Abby for two years, but somehow it seems much longer.  There are a lot of things I could say about Abby, but this video will tell you part of our story.  See for yourself what an amazing young woman she is.
Many thanks to SoulPancake and their video on The Science of Happiness.  We used a short excerpt from the video.  If you wish to watch it in its entirety and find out more about their project, click on the link.
Many thanks also to the amazing Mr. Fitz who shared the video with us and inspired us to do our presentation in front of the whole middle school!
And finally, I would like to thank the incredible Abby who makes me want to be a better teacher and person every single day.  I refuse to think about next school year without you and your classmates.
We’ll always have Paris, Abby… and the Plaza Athénée and Dr. Lantieri –what great adventures! I hope that we will have many more!


If you watched the video, I hope you understand the reason why showing appreciation is so important. You never know how far a simple thank you, phone call, email, or just a smile could go. And you don’t have an infinite amount of time with the people you love either. For me, showing my gratitude, as simply as sending a letter, led me to having one of the best relationships of my life. I’ve realized that life is short, and there is so little time to stay the things you mean to the people you love, so say them while you can.

Abby’s Queso Dip

1 lb or 16 oz of Velveeta, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 lb ground sausage
1 can of Rotel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, undrained

1. Cook the ground sausage in a saucepan until browned, strain all the grease out and put the sausage back into the saucepan.
2. Add the Rotel and Velveeta, cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the Velveeta is completely melted, stirring frequently.
3. Serve warm with tortilla chips, I recommend Tostitos Scoops because you can scoop up a ton of queso with those things, they’re also good for making these really good mini nachos by the way.

Bon appétit, y’all.  I hope that you have someone in your life to be grateful for each and every day. Tell them.  Start your own Gratitude Project.  You will be amazed at the results.

Letting go

Issy and me

I’ve probably already used this title.  It’s my theme for early June.  Another school year has come and gone.  My 36th.  And as excited as I am for summer, it is difficult to let go.  Oh, the 8th graders are ready for high school, whether they know it or not.  Some are nervous, some are excited, some are just plain oblivious because a two month break from homework, tests, quizzes, and projects is all they can see at the moment.  Exams have been studied for and taken.  They’ve been graded, recorded and the grades have gone home to mom and dad.  I’ve had Alice Cooper’s School’s Out for the Summer running through my head for a few days.  Do any of my students even know who Alice Cooper is??
I am especially close to this particular class.  I am not sure why.  Perhaps it is because they needed me in some way that others haven’t?  Perhaps it’s because they let me get close to them and I let them get to know a different side of me?  I taught them for two years and advised twelve of them in 7th grade.  I’ve watched them fall down, scrape their knees and elbows, literally and figuratively. I’ve cried with them over the loss of a grandparent or a pet or as they have tried to make sense of a divorce.  I’ve let them know if they have disappointed me, with thoughtless behavior or by not working up to their potential in class.  I’ve celebrated their successes, winning essay contests, having the nerve to get up in front of their peers and visitors to recite their spoken word poems, sing with the chorus, dance with their movement class or act out a Goth version of Shakespeare.   Some of them shared what they wrote in response to watching the movie Sarah’s Key based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay.  They shared these thoughts in the school literary magazine but also with the author herself when we met her in Paris.  This is Mlle Mer.  Her grandmother left Europe as a young girl in wake of the Holocaust.


I will miss her accidentally calling me Mom.

We’ve gotten dirty in the school gardens, planting, weeding, and picking strawberries.  We’ve traveled to Foster’s and Guglhupf cafés just down the street for baguettes, fromage, and macarons, to Washington, DC for the 7th grade class trip, and 23 of us jetted across the Atlantic Ocean so that I could show them “my” France.

i love you wall

The one pictured at the top of the post, Miss Issy, is heading to France this summer to spend two weeks with her pen friend.  Paris with her Mum first, then Senlis, Toulouse (or Toulon?), the Riviera and Corsica.  She is leaving DA for a nearby public school and I will miss her and her really cool English accent.  I can’t wait to read the book she gave me.

parisian book

Not sure what the bad habits are, but I look forward to finding out.  Probably won’t share that information with next year’s 8th graders, though.

What to say about these two?

abby&max%mrs.e (1)

Monsieur drove me nuts, but I will genuinely miss him.  He will grow up to do amazing things when he learns to focus and control his brain.  His pal, on the other arm, bought him a planner to help him get through the end of the year with all of his homework assignments completed (and probably so that she wouldn’t have to listen to me nag him every single day, truth be told).  He should read or watch Le Petit Nicolas.  Mademoiselle has become my Pretend Daughter.  Unbeknownst to me, she and another girlie had a project this year whose code name was Apples.  They kept up with the dates of days when I wore a black dress to school.  The sheet of paper I have as evidence only dates from January 26 and there are 28 dates marked, including the one above, June 9.  What can I say?  I love black dresses.  I suppose I am more clueless than I care to believe.  And 8th graders can be pretty clever.

It was a very good year.  Quite a few tears and many waterproof mascara days. So many laughs and really good hugs.




I love you all.  I will miss you, but it is time to move on.  I hope that I have taught you a little about life, perseverance, hard work, and the importance of being your best self as well as how to conjugate and use the imparfait.  I hope that you have many days when you think “This is the best day of my life!”  And that you remember those days when a lousy one comes along.

This sums it up pretty well, n’est-ce pas?

your dog quote

Mme E

Today’s recipe is one 8th graders would appreciate (well, except for the unfortunate ones who can’t eat chocolate- I had four of those, les pauvres).  It’s from Deb at Smitten Kitchen.  I am addicted to her blog.  And the mention of sea salt reminds me of our visit to Aigues Mortes and seeing the enormous piles of salt at La Baleine.

la baleine

sea salt

Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes approximately 18-24 cookies- but this depends on the size of the cookies; I make mine smaller so I end up with at least 3 dozen.
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 113 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. (25 g) granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. (25 g) Turbinado sugar (aka Sugar in the Raw- you can use more brown or white if you have this, but the subtle crunch it adds is delightful)
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (165 g) packed light or dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. baking soda
Heaped 1/4 tsp. (technically 1/4 + 1/8 tsp.) fine sea salt or table salt
1-3/4 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 pound (225 g) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, cut into roughly 1/2-inch chunks with a serrated knife
Flaky sea salt, to finish
Heat oven to 360˚F (180˚C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Add egg and vanilla, beating until incorporated and scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in fine sea or table salt and baking soda until combined, then the flour on low speed until just mixed.  The dough will look crumbly at this point.

With a spatula, fold/stir in the chocolate chunks.Scoop cookies into 1-1/2 Tbsp. (#40 scoop) mounds, spacing them apart on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle each with a few flakes of sea salt.

Bake 11 to 12 minutes, until golden on the outside but still very gooey and soft on the inside.  Out of the oven, let rest on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

From Deb:
Extra dough- I know, what’s that?!- can be formed into scoops and frozen on a sheet until solid, then transferred to a freezer bag.  I’ve baked these right from the freezer; they need, at most, 1 minute more baking time.  You could also from them into a 2-inch log, freeze it, and slice and bake the cookies off as desired.  The only difference I’ve note between cookies baked right away and those baked a day or more later is that the older cookie dough is less puffy when baked.

Bon appétit and happy summer to all, students and teachers alike!