Thursday, December 22, 2011

Budapest 2: The food! The wine!

It's a pity I'm not in the food blogging mode anymore, because Budapest would have given great inspiration for some culinary posts.

I didn't even take many notes about the wonderful dishes I tasted and the excellent wine I sipped, but in my short time in the city, I can definitely say that dining out at incredibly reasonable prices is one of Budapest's major attractions.

On the second evening of my stay, the Erasmus conference organizers treated us to a top-class meal at Speiz, a lovely restaurant in the historic Castle Hill district.

The event was billed as a "Wine Dinner," and this restaurant was sure the right place for that:

I wasn't aware that Hungary offers a rich variety of wines, and I may have to consider mail-ordering some because I definitely left the country wanting to learn more about them.

In general, savoring Hungarian cuisine was one of the highlights of my stay.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Budapest 1

So, with no further ado, a little update on some of the excitement in my life.

I went to an Erasmus contact seminar in Budapest from November 30-December 4th. Actually, the conference ended on the 2nd, but I worked things out to get a bit of time in the city on my own over the weekend. I figure I won't be in Budapest every day.

First impressions? To me, Budapest was more sprawling and grandiose than I had expected.

(I hate to say that I didn't do much research before I left, or else I would have known that Budapest was sprawling and grandiose.)

There may be more to come on this subject.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bad blogger...

No, not the blogging service -- me.

I came home exhausted yesterday evening after my long work day Wednesday and a fairly busy day Thursday, and just couldn't think of anything to post or write. So I blew it off.

In other words, I failed at NaBloPoMo on day 10.

But not to give up. Despite the very modest nature of my posts this month, I have enjoyed going back to this space, and catching up with a few friends from the past, like this other Betty, who have dropped in to comment.

So I will peck away at it. And maybe inspiration will come.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Long day

Due to the length of my work day, there will be no scheduled post today.

Stay tuned for the next edition.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On the road again

Talk about a big day tomorrow!

Rendez-vous in front of my school at 6:45 am to pick up three students and drive off to the Infosup educational fair in Toulouse...a full day of communicating about our business school...however, I must leave by 4pm because at 6pm my 3rd year students are doing their video/buffet evening about their foreign internships...

I congratulate myself for getting a post in this evening! Now off to bed...

Monday, November 7, 2011

No-blog night

I am keeping up with NaBloPoMo -- if only for myself -- but I have decided that, as a rule, if I write a professional blog post in the evening, I won't write a " real" post to this blog.

This is where I have been blogging professionally for over 6 years now...and I can tell you that once I have worked all day and then, in the evening, written a blog post that I am getting paid for, the energy for personal blogging wavers.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Talking shop

My head is spinning today.

At my "advanced age," I am thinking about doing some sort of degree or certificate program that would formalize and solidify my skills and knowledge in my career and my passion: teaching English as a Foreign Language.

Yes, I have a Bachelor's Degree, in English for that matter, from a prestigious American university. But finding creative ways to teach verb tenses doesn't have much to do with Chaucer or Dickens.

And yes, I did a 5th year of university studies that led to my becoming a certified teacher in Washington State. Indeed, I still use some of what I learned during that program in my teaching.

But that was, um, how long ago? And how much of that year do I really remember? And how relevant is what I learned then -- on a non-subject specific course, to boot -- to today's language classrooms?

I have a lot to think about.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

International Relations

The campus of KHK Kempen, Geel, Belgium

My school year started out with an unforgettable experience: making an official visit to a college in the Antwerp area to set up an Erasmus partnership with the business school where I teach.

I am happy to announce that a student from my school will be attending the last semester of his third and final year at this friendly and professional establishment.

It was exciting and inspiring to see how another college system worked, and to meet enthusiastic and friendly professors and teachers.

I am truly lucky that my teaching job has expanded to include an element of international project coordination.

As for the non-professional details, I spent one night in the charming little village of Kasterlee...

...and a day and night in the friendly and lively city of Antwerp.

The past year has been a Belgium year for me: I went to a conference in Brussels in October 2010, back to Brussels with my family for Christmas 2010, and then on this trip.

I quite like the country: there's something cool about such a small place where, nonetheless, there is such diversity between the two main regions.

Of course, this diversity has caused the country some major political difficulties -- but I guess I can say this is not my problem when I'm travelling there!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fiddling around with Blogger

My ambitions for this NaBloPoMo are modest; I'm not planning many major manifestos.

In fact, one of my goals is to fiddle around a little every day with my blog layout and color scheme.

I haven't touched any of Blogger's design features in ages.

Today my plan is to change my "hover color."

As I said: modest ambitions.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Roller coaster life

Since the summer, life has been a roller coaster, and there are still a few dips and dives left before 2012...

In September, we sent our youngest daughter off to go to university at the Faculté de Toulouse Mirail.

Within two weeks it was clear that she absolutely hated it, so she managed to bounce back and get into a 3-year Bachelor's in Business degree program in Blagnac.

Just when we thought things had calmed down, she's now changing apartments because her studio in the rue Pargaminières has so much outside (read partying) noise that she can never get a decent night's sleep...

Actually, I think it could take all of NaBloPoMo to really catch up on what's been going on in our lives!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Going for NaBloPoMo

Has it only been 2 months and 10 days since I last posted?

This is not a joke. If you are a Facebook friend -- and if you read this, you probably are -- you will know that the last few months have been, as the French put it (at least around here) "un peu rock 'n' roll."

Speaking of rock music, in this first post of what I hope will be a NaBloPoMo month, I can only quote my beloved Elvis Costello:

"Oh I just don't know where to begin..."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Home again, home again?

View of Mt. Rainier as I waited in SeaTac for my flight to Frankfurt

The mountain "was out," as Pacific Northwesterners put it, for my departure from Olympia last Tuesday.

I was homeward bound again...or was I leaving home?

I have spent every summer in Olympia for 11 years now, and somehow those 5 to 6 week stays always seem like about half of my year.

This year, I'm experiencing something new: coming home alone. My husband and eldest daughter are travelling in New York City; my youngest daughter is enjoying the Côte d'Azur and Barcelona with friends.

I was not so happy about this state of affairs when I had to drag my tired self and lug two suitcases from Toulouse-Blagnac to Rodez, but settling in with no particular demands on my time has been nice.

It has, at least, given me time to toy with the idea of getting back to writing on this blog.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

On defining this space and taking (another) break

After a blast of NaBloPoMo at the beginning of the month, I have once again grown weary of blogging.

Part of my problem is that I haven't really defined this new blogging space. I wanted to get away from La France Profonde because all of the underlying "an American in rural France" imagery just wasn't me.

I thought opening up possible vistas in a new blog would fling the windows of inspiration wide open.

It hasn't happened yet, and I suspect it won't now until my summer holiday comes and I have the time to get the architecture of this blog set up a little better.

I also think I need some sort of underlying concept, because blogging without boundaries just leaves me with too many decisions to make at the end of what are already long, busy days.

Until then, I'll no doubt see you on another nearby social network.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dropping out...

I'm sorry tut-tut.

This month's NaBloPoMo was always a "maybe" kind of thing, and now I'm thinking "maybe not."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rodez by (museum) night

(All photos courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

My husband and I went to quite the lovely event last night: La Nuit Européenne des Musées.

It's an annual do, but we hadn't attended it for a few years.

We ran into some old friends

We used to go to the Musée Denys-Puech often with the girls when they were little ones. It was a suitable outing for rainy Sundays, and at the time, was Rodez's only functioning museum. (Musée Fenaille was closed for remodeling for years.)

"Post rock" among the menhirs

The principle of La Nuit des Musées is not only to open for free on a Saturday night, but also to provide various types of entertainment inside the establishments. We got in on the tail end of a concert in the Musée Fenaille's stunning inner courtyard.

It was a great evening: we started it out with a light dinner at one of our favorite Rodez eateries, the wine and tapas bar La Gargouille.

We ran into some old friends.

And we finished up with a photo-taking stroll through centre ville.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Signs of Aveyron in Paris

Whenever I go to Paris for work, I go to at least one café or restaurant.

And not always, but often, I see a sign of Aveyron there.

People say that there are more Aveyronnais living in Paris than in Aveyron, and I suspect that this is true.

Many of them work in the catering industry now, and some are major players.

Poverty forced their ancestors to leave their homeland, al pais.

They started as bougnats and worked their way up through the ranks of deliverymen for drink companies, then café workers, then managers, then owners...

I always feel a little at home when I see posters like this on the wall of a restaurant in la capitale.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Internet, teaching and guilt

(A random image that I have projected for discussion in English class)

In my dream blogging world, I not only keep up this personal space, but also blog about education in general, and teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in particular.

Wait! That's not only a dream! I actually do have a teaching blog.

But as you can see, I haven't been there for a long, long time.

Early this year, in fact, I got somewhat involved in the Twitterverse of English Language Teachers.

The talents, creativity, devotion, and sheer online output of this community are astounding...and inspiring.

But as the school year moved on and intensified, the inspiration I was getting from these teaching gods (who must be online 24/7) started to weigh me down more than pump me up.

I've distanced myself from that scene for the time being, but I may get back into it...maybe...

Monday, May 9, 2011

A quick appearance

I've been hanging in here for NaBloPoMo.

But, after writing a corporate blog post this evening, I don't have the energy to say much more here.

Oh well. A post is a post is a post...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A rare "wonders of nature" shot

(Somewhere near Espalion, Aveyron, June 2006)

This is one of my rare "wonders of nature" shots.

Enjoy it while you can.I'm not one for taking lengthy promenades, soaking up outdoorsy solitude, or closely examining flora and fauna.

This is one reason I needed to get away from my former blog, La France Profonde.

I was feeling like a bit of a fake. Sure, I live and work in Aveyron -- and I love the place. But not for the reasons that many do.

When I tell people exactly where our house is, they often wax eloquently about how easy it must be to take great hikes right from my own front door...or to go mountain biking! Right, mountain biking!

Honestly, I just prefer to geek away while enjoying the view...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Windows in various states

I took this photo nearly four years ago in Millau.

It was a quick shot on the way to a choral concert that one of my daughters was participating in, and when I took it, I certainly wasn't analyzing the great variety in the windows of this one building.

I remember being disappointed by the light -- I had hoped to get some sunny shots, but the city was dominated by particular pale grey-white tones that we often get in Southwest France.

Shuttered, draped, open, closed, remodeled, in their original's a fascinating display.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A new blogging concept

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

A concept. To get through NaBloPoMo, and possibly even to continue this blog, I need a concept.

As I randomly posted one of the few photos floating around on my new laptop yesterday, a new blogging concept started to take form.

I have a huge backlog of photos, and a huge backlog of things to say. But where to begin?

I decided to start here.

Generating numbers randomly, I whittled my 60-odd photo folders down to this shot from Capital Playhouse's Kids at Play performance of...?

This is going to be fun. Very fun. And that's what blogging should be about.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Actually, not so wordless, because with this post, I think I have fallen upon a whole new blogging concept...

To be continued!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Back to Barcelona

View from inside the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

April was such a fun and exciting month for me that I thought I would be blogging constantly.

So many little trips! So many photos! So much to write about!

But also -- so much to do.

I'll have to spend May catching up.

My busy month of April all started with a one-night school trip to Barcelona with my second-year business school students.

Even though the trip was short, I (finally) actually got a feel for this city that so many of my friends love, as I mentioned in a previous post.

So many little many much to write's a good thing I'm doing NaBloPoMo for May.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I may be blogging more this month

I haven't been too inspired to blog lately, and just a few days ago realized the end of the month was near, and that a new NaBloPoMo theme would be coming up soon.

What a better theme than "maybe" for a blogger who is sitting on a fence?

Maybe I'll be able to keep up, maybe I won't!

Maybe this was happening when I took this picture, but maybe not!

I'm in.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Alive, well, and not blogging at the moment

I just wanted to leave a quick update here. I have had three extremely busy weekends: a school trip to Barcelona, a one-night hop down to see Jennifer (Chez Loulou) the following weekend, and visitors from the US here for Easter weekend...lots of bloggable material, but no time to get it up and blogged!

Anyway, all is well and all is busy.

I hope you had a great Easter weekend!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Barcelona Magic 1

At this precise moment, I started to love Barcelona

There is nothing noteworthy about this photo. It's just a building in Barcelona, attractive but not particularly charming.

As I took it, I was sitting on a café patio below. With a colleague, we had just finished visiting the International Tourism Show with a group of 36 business school students, and we were free for the rest of the afternoon. As we left, said colleague invited me to join her for lunch with a few people she was meeting up with who live in the city.

I had had grand plans to "see stuff" during the afternoon. But my feet hurt. I had gotten up at 1:45 am, ridden a bus for 7 hours, and then tromped around a trade fair for 5 more.

Of course I said yes.

We ended up at a tiny, somewhat greasy-looking neighborhood tapas bar. "Authentic" would be the word.

We sat down, and time just stopped. I snapped this photo, and let Barcelona take over. The next 24 hours were sheer magic...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Window to window

Stuck in some of the endless road work that is going on in Rodez these days, I was able to catch this kitty from my car window. I suppose all of those vehicles below gave him/her/it something to contemplate...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My secret garden

For over a year and a half now, I have had a new love in my life: an ornate harpsichord that lives in room 310 of the Conservatoire de musique in Rodez.

The first time I saw it, it took my breath away. Sometimes it still does.

I love unlocking the door and sitting down at this flowery creature. For the moment I'm producing relatively simple music, but it transports me far away from my workaday world.

I have been plunking away on it for nearly two school years now, and apparently I am making progress.

That progress unfortunately didn't show up too well at my first recital, where I was stricken with panic mid-sonata and somehow lost most use of my left hand - not a good thing for playing keyboards. But I got through it.

Stagefright is a strange thing. I can play the violin in recital situations or speak in front of hundreds of people and stay cool as a cucumber. But performing on keyboards (I used to study piano) has always been my bête noire.

Next step is a non-exam called un bilan de premier cycle on April 7. I will be playing two pieces in front of a jury, which is supposed to give constructive criticism and suggestions for the continuation of my musical efforts.

Stress, stress, go away! I would so like to be able to approach this bilan with the same calm and joy I feel when I practice...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Is soggy weather bloggy weather?

The world from my window, March 19 2011

Have you found a direct connection between the weather and the desire to write blog posts and accessorize them with lovely photos?

I figure for many of us, there is a link between what's going on outside and what goes up on our blog.

The link could go both ways. On the one hand, blogging is a highly suitable winter activity. And when the weather brightens up, we should naturally be distracted by other possibilities besides sitting in front of our computers.

I feel the opposite effect. When the sun is beaming, I want to run out, take photos, and share them here. It seems like there's plenty to tell and plenty to show.

But on days like today...or during weeks like this one...I feel like there isn't that much to say.

So I may not be saying much this weekend.

Or then again, tomorrow the sun may burst out, and I could have a whole new set of photos and thoughts to share.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pézenas discoveries: Door museum and La Dordîne

Daughter descending into the Pézenas door museum
March 4 2011

After spending just one night in Pézenas, I can hardly position myself to make a lot of recommendations about the place. But I can make a few, based on the few but wonderful things we did there.

Don't miss the funky Musée de la Porte. It's really more of a depot for old doors collected by a local association than a "museum" in the true sense. Information about the doors is relatively sparse, but the place has a mysteriously chaotic feel to it and is perfect for poking around.

Entry is free, but of course donations are gladly accepted to help the association keep up its work.

Anyway, I could show you plenty of other "Portes de Pézenas," both inside and outside the museum, but if you're curious you can take a look at my Pézenas set on Flickr.

Chambres d'hôte "La Dordîne"

When I think about it, our decision to stay in Pézenas was partly based on finding the website for La Dordîne. It's a guest house, or Chambres d'hôte, right in the old town on a quiet, pedestrian street.

We stayed in the Syrah room

The rooms are adorable and amazingly reasonable in price; and the breakfast, nearly 100% homemade by the charming hosts Véronique and Aurélien, is a real treat.

My photos are downloaded and uploaded, and I have devoted two blog posts to a single one-night trip.

It's now time to leave Pézenas behind, but getting this little impromptu getaway together definitely gave me impetus to plan some similar outings during the spring.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Perking up in Pézenas

Une porte de Pézenas, March 4, 2011

It's amazing what even one night away can do to boost my spirits -- especially at this time of year.

Friday I took the afternoon off, and with my youngest daughter we hit the open road to the enchanting medieval town of Pézenas in the Hérault department.

Unfortunately, the weather there was a bit cloudy and chilly, but the colors of the Languedoc still shone through.

Blues in Pézenas chased my blues away

Our original plan had been to spend Friday night in Montpellier, but while surfing the Internet for hotels last weekend, the idea hit me to spend the night somewhere smaller and quieter.

I didn't really even know how truly lovely Pézenas is...nor how full of tourists it must be in the late spring and summer.

Grey skies; blue shutters

There's something special about roaming around top French tourist spots off-season.

Virtually every building gave us a photo opp -- but we were the only ones taking pictures.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I've gotta get out of this place...

You know it's February when Rodez looks like this

My daughters just started two weeks of school holiday.

My students have one week of school holiday.

I have half a day off on Friday afternoon, and I am sure as hell going to make the best of it.

Mind you, this is not a complaint. Although my particular education job doesn't give me "les vacances scolaires," I have a generous vacation plus R.T.T. plan that will allow me to take much of the summer off and still have a few days left over here and there.

In other words, the amount of time off from work is not my point here.

The point is, when Rodez starts looking as it does above...I've got to get away! I've got to run away!

So this morning, I planned out a little one-night escapade with my youngest daughter to a nearby, yet sunnier clime.

I'm already looking forward to posting next week, when I should have much more of interest to say!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Deadlines looming, weather glooming

I'm learning to play one of these

For the past two years, I have been enrolled in the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Départemental de l'Aveyron -- what used to be known as l'Ecole de Musique; but, as the French say, "pourquoi faire simple quand on peut faire compliqué?"

I take harpsichord lessons with a wonderful teacher, and have been relishing the challenge of learning how to play a new instrument.

I grew up playing the piano, so keyboard instruments aren't totally unknown to me. However, the harpichord has a totally different sound and feel, as you can imagine if you know anything about musical instruments.

Also, I don't have one at home, so I practice at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement...etc... on a lovely, flowered harpsichord (not the Wikipedia Commons Image one above.)

Last year, everything was "just for fun," but this year I have somehow ended up in the bilan du premier cycle, where I am going to have to play in front of a jury on April 7.


As my wonderful teacher keeps telling a panicked me, this is not an examen, just a bilan to "see where I'm at."

Relax, girl. Oh yes, in the meantime I'll be playing my pieces in a "little recital" in late March, which is suddenly more or less tomorrow.

Double yikes.

Deadlines, deadlines. I also have a huge one coming up at work that I really have to get on this week.

For all of these projects that need energy and élan, the weather is not cooperating:

The world from my window, February 20 2011

I've done very well chasing off the February blues this year until, shall we say, today?

Cheery comments are welcome!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Honest light

(The road taken, Sunday morning, February 13, 2011)

Even as I have promised myself to get away from the "French countryside" image that was a part of La France Profonde, I have also decided to explore a few back roads that are not that far off my usual paths.

Thus my Sunday morning grocery shopping trip to Bozouls turned into a mini-adventure. I took a detour that leads to the tiny village of Gillorgues, and motored my way up this steeper-than-it-looks dirt road.

I found myself in a quiet place with a lovely view of the town of Bozouls in the hazy distance.

There was one slight problem, though: I knew the light wasn't very good.

Yet why do we so often prefer to take our photos with stunning blue skies and stark contrasts?

These shots certainly aren't as striking as they would have been on a gloriously sunny day, but they sum up what I saw.

Call it honest light.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why I tweet

I'm pushing towards 4,500 tweets, which I find a little hard to believe.

I signed up for Twitter relatively early in the game -- July 31, 2008. That seemed to be the year that a lot of the people I tweet the most with got chirping.

But I had a slow start. I didn't really see the point...or maybe the point wasn't the same in 2008 as in 2011 -- or even in 2009, when I reactivated my tweeting life.

I love Twitter now for browsing the news, exchanging teaching information, and keeping up on some favorite sites like The Oatmeal, Brain Pickings, and Chez Loulou.

I can also indulge in fun mini-conversations with the lucky members of my "friendsandfam" list...whenever I want.

Also, for some reason Twitter is not guilt-inducing to me.

I feel bad when I don't come up with good blog post ideas (in fact, I'm feeling that way right now.)

I feel guilty when I don't keep up with my real Facebook friends; even though I've ruthlessly eliminated hundreds of peripheral "friends" and stupid games from my newsfeed, I still have trouble keeping up.

And let's not even talk about Google Reader, or "keeping up with stuff on the Internet" hell.

Twitter seems easy come, easy go...and full of fascinating information.

How do you feel about it?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Old meets new in Rodez, or who was Désiré Malzac?

What's really strange about this photo is that I had never noticed the "D. MALZAC" on this building in Rodez's rue Neuve.

I have unfortunately noticed the Pimkie and Promod signs more times than I care to mention, daughters obligent.

This got me wondering what the D. MALZAC establishment used to be, and none of my books about the history of Rodez were able to enlighten me.

I was convinced that this search for knowledge would be un-Googleable, but I was mistaken.

Désiré Malzac was clearly a printer/editor of some sort; at any rate, his establishment turned out postcards that are now for sale on eBay, or on display on the cool site Europeana.

There was definitely a little "thrill of the knowledge chase" involved in writing today's post.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Les voeux, or late again...

If you read any France/expat blogs, or if you live in France yourself, you know that the French don't send Christmas cards.

Between buying gifts, decorating the house, and preparing (elaborate) Christmas meals, who has time for it? Indeed, this is one French concept I really like.

The tradition here is to send New Year's greetings, and, in typically leisurely fashion, the French allow themselves the whole, long month of January to get it done.

Of course, les voeux du Nouvel An used to be cards sent by the post. Personally, after a lull the past few years, for 2011 I have noticed a huge increase in electronic cards/photos created by families and companies.

Betwixt and between, I have managed not to do any type of holiday greeting the past few years. No -- make that for the past decade.

But this year, we got organized. My husband and I created three versions of the above e-greeting, and one of my daughters even made up photos to send out by snail mail.

I've managed to send a few of the photo/cards, but hardly any e-greetings. Oh well.

Happy New Year...or Bonne Année 2011...anyway.