Sunday, January 31, 2016

learning French

When in college I thought I might be a language major, until I realized that I am totally incapable of speaking a foreign language.  Despite living in Spain for two years as a teenager my speaking ability in Spanish is at a survival Spanish level, although I can read reasonably well and can hold forth on the concept of honor in 14th century Spanish literature with the best of them.  Even though I was hopeless at speaking a foreign language I loved the idea of it and so I plunged into intro to French.  I lasted two semesters until the morning I was rendered totally mute when called on in a Spanish class which immediately followed a French class and realized I was unable to even pronounce a word of English.   At that point I realized I needed to be a literature, not language student, and I should just give up on French.  Especially since my almost two semesters of French  had only gotten me to the level of counting and saying "my name is J..." and "I don't understand."  It was pretty clear that French was a lost cause.

Now, move forward almost 50 years.  We are going to Paris and I really do need at least a basic tourist level of French to get some directions, find the bathroom, and read a menu, so we've started Duolingo on our phones.  I remain hopeless.  I can do the reading, can't conjugate any verbs and have decided that if I can just put a few nouns in sequence they'll figure it out.  I can't get the speaking thing down at all.  All the words sound the same regardless of their endings.  The plurals and singulars are all pronounced the same as are all the verb endings.  I believe that the way to speak is to pronounce the first part of the word and then just THINK the ending without saying anything.  Someone recommended that you push your lips out a la Donald Trump and pronounce the words from the front of your mouth, not the center or back.  That helps a bit only because I can't really pronounce anything that way so it sounds very French although it may not actually be any word.

Last night we watched a French movie on Netflix and if I had played a drinking game where I took a drink whenever I understood a word I would have remained sober. Luckily I could recognize  "bonjour', "merci", "d'accord", "de rein", and "pardon" which may be the most important words for me.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

April in Paris

Just before Christmas I was sitting at the kitchen table looking at Facebook on my phone when I saw an Iceland Air ad for a flash sale with RT fares to Europe at just over $600.  Absolutely too good to be true!  But it was true and I snagged two RT tickets to Paris for around $1260, which is less than the price of one ticket in the on-season.  So off to Paris we go in April for 9 days...... We've never been to Paris and my French is limited to saying "my name is ...." and "I don't understand"  but being fearless I booked us an apartment in the 2nd arrondisment and we will just rely on the kindness of strangers to make it all work.

I've been doing my research and welcome any suggestions anyone has on funny, special little things to see or do. We are spending all of our time in Paris and the local area so hope to not be so rushed we can't do some of the off-the-beaten path things we enjoy.

And now I'm starting on my packing list - colors are black, naturally since it's Paris, and dark plum. Today I went to the outlet mall to return a Christmas gift sweater and I scored a fabulous sweater jacket in black and white that is oh, so Parisian!  and a scarf to go with it!  A new plum colored shirt is on order from Eddie Bauer (you know, like my favorite shirt but with long roll-up sleeves) so I feel like I'm already packed and ready to go!

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

holiday review

It was a spectacular holiday season!  All children (now that they are in their 30's I really should find a word other than children but.....) were home and made things very special.  We started with Noche Buena which was made even more special by the unbelievable weather - we had the porch open and people were out on the deck sitting around the picnic tables and I had the air conditioner on in the house!  It was close to 80+ degrees here and HUMID!  I was wearing a sleeveless top and sandals.  It was the Florida Christmas my husband always wants.  Other years people have had to walk through piles of snow just to get to the house.   This was the first Christmas ever where we all hung out on the back porch into late into the night.

Then all too soon the children had to leave and the house was quiet.  I actually enjoy the opportunity to get things cleaned up and stop providing meals. I'd forgotten how much people can eat.  When the children were growing up I always had 5 people for every meal, and then usually had an extra nanny, child or my parents at the table.  I could whip up dinner for 8 on no notice.  Now, buying and cooking those quantities doesn't come as easily.

We had a quiet New Years Eve followed by a brunch and an open house at friends homes here in our neighborhood.  We walked from one party to the next on New Years Day.  The following day was my favorite of the whole holiday - the day we took the decorations down!  I actually hate Christmas decorations and celebrate when they can be put back into the crawl space until next year.

Finally, there was a cocktail party at a friend's home on Sunday evening to cap off the holiday season. We all laughed that we were going to have to have a detox since we'd all partied so much over the holiday season.  I think that fasting should also be part of our January plans although I tend not to eat much when I've cooked the food so I didn't actually gain any weight.  Now I've thrown out all the cake, cookies, and pastry and frozen all the meats for future meals so we are back to normal foodwise.

And finally yesterday, the weather got cold cold cold so I made plane reservations for Florida to escape the cold.

Happy Winter!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Note to self

Do not attempt to speak Spanish after just completing a French lesson.  You will be rendered totally mute and speak a gibberish that is not understandable in any language.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

note to self

Explain to husband the difference between seedless and seeded grapes.  Argh.

the annual Noche Buena update

Around 40 people are attending.  I have 17 pounds of boneless pork loin in the oven, 160 meatballs simmering, a billion Christmas cookies and guava pasteries.  Still to do are plantains and rice.

Then final set up of cheese, crackers, nuts, grapes, chex mix, candies, etc.  Then ice and drinks.

Oh, what have I forgotten?  Oh yes, I asked my husband to vacuum the stairs and clean the downstairs bathroom.  So I still have to do that since he just finished his nap and then left to go with the girls to get some lunch at their favorite local fast food place and to run their errands with them. The girls forgot that their assignment was to pick up some additional trays and an extra rice cooker from my friend Margie so I'll run down the street to get those.   And he purchased the yuca at the restaurant this morning instead of at the last minute like I had asked so I have to figure out how to reheat it along with everything else that has to be in the oven.

Feliz Navidad.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

my ultimate, tested packing list

As we were preparing to go to Spain I pulled out my old packing list, and reviewed all the forums with packing tips, and carefully planned my clothes and personal items so that they would fit into a very, very small roller bag and a modest size backpack.  I know from experience that with good planning I can keep my clothing to a minimum but this time I really wanted to test my limits.  And I still took too much.  But I also kept track of everything I used and now have refined the ultimate packing list.  This trip was almost four weeks and we were on the go with no more than three nights in any location and often only one night so it made the laundry issue important.

1 - super Eddie Bauer travel adventure shirt - dark blue.  Washes like a champ and dries overnight in even the most damp conditions

1 - long sleeved shirt - I used a tee shirt and I only wore it twice.  Next time I'd find an Eddie Bauer long sleeve travel adventure shirt and then I could also roll up the sleeves.

1 - lightweight cardigan sweater -light grey  I carried this around all the time and wore it everyday at some point.

1 - heavy cotton tunic sweater. - periwinkle blue.   This one was big enough that I could wear it over both my shirt and my cardigan sweater, which I sometimes did when we had cold rainy evenings

1 - Columbia lightweight vest - NOT polarfleece. Dark grey  It was awesome.  I could wear it with everything and the extra layer was perfect

1 - pashmina scarf - bright blue.  I kept it folded into a ziplock bag and carried it in my purse at all times  I could pull it out as needed for an extra layer.

1 - camisole - for an extra under layer

2 - bras

3 underwear - I found some microfiber from Jockey that easily dried overnight

3 socks  - bamboo/rayon and dried overnight

2 pair black pants - one was a nice Eileen Fisher pair of casually dressy  pull on pants with a drawstring and could be dressed up if needed;  one was a pair of Eddie Bauer adventure pants that I lived in.  They also had the bottom tabs so you wanted you could turn them into crops or capri pants but I never did. Both were quick dry but I only washed the Eileen Fisher pair..  

1 - belt.  I didn't use it but was just about ready to when we headed for home.  As the pants start to sag it's nice to have the belt to hold them up.

1 - nice scarf that could be used with the two sweaters as dressier outfits;  and 2 pair of earrings.   I didn't use any of this but these are small items that could be needed in a dressier situation.

1 pair comfortable lace-up shoes with heavier sole for walking

1 pair comfortable slip-on shoes with heavy sole for walking

1 pair comfortable sandals.  Only used these a couple of times but in different weather might have used them more

1 nice rain jacket.  I found one at Costco and it was wonderful, except not waterproof!  Oh well, it was also the remnant of a tropical storm and raining torrents so I can't entirely blame it.  And it did roll up into a nice little pocket so it packed easily and maybe once I put some Scotchguard on it.....

1 rain/sun hat.  I had one that did double duty and we weren't in an area where I needed a sun hat so it worked.  If I was in a hot sunny area I would buy a disposable straw hat on arrival and then dump it on my way home.

I even have my list of personal and make-up items so I can pare down when I pack next time,  And my important list of laundry items (clothes pins, parachute cord, etc) since my packing requires that you do laundry every two days.    

My goal next time is to fit in my modest size backpack and I think I can do it!

This is a picture of me at the end of our trip in the blue shirt that I wore all but two days of the trip and it still looks good.  Also the grey sweater that was always tied around my shoulders.  Oh, and the grey vest.  And my black cross-body bag that was wonderful and held just enough and not too much and had lots of pockets so nothing could get lost in it.  I should write a testimonial for the Eddie Bauer shirt. And the funny thing is after wearing it for over 3 weeks I still like it!