30 Day NY Times Challenge

Dear Rebecca,

It’s a new year! Anything could happen. I know you’ve been reflecting on the past, and there are so many ways you want to grow and improve your life in 2019. Don’t get carried away. It’s so easy to start feeling overwhelmed and lose momentum. Remember that small actions add up over time to create the most lasting change. The first 30 days of the new year is when most people see their resolutions fizzle out. However, you have the New York Times challenge to keep you on track. I know you can do this! Here’s what you are working on:

Move: There are a few holiday pounds you’d like to shave off, of course, but the main reason you are stepping up your fitness is so that you’ll be in tip top shape to give Alicen a kidney this summer. Hopefully you can learn how to sneak exercise into a busy NYC single gal’s schedule.

Refresh: You’ve been battling work stress, family worries, and nursing a broken heart. It will be nice to clear your mind and replace anxiety with hope.

Connect: The compass and anchor of your life so far has been your relationships with your family and your friends that act as surrogate family in this big, lonely city. Don’t neglect these relationships! They sustain you.

Nourish: What feeds you? What gives you energy and strengthens you? What sets your creativity flowing? What brings you peace? This year I hope you will seek after these things.

I am excited for you to start this journey, and I look forward to seeing where it takes you.




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Day 4: La Spécialiste de la Nature

IMG_0989.jpgIsn’t this little guy adorable? He’s a taxidermy bird on display in the Museum of Natural History in Nantes, France.   This year I’m heading back to summer camp to work with the little kiddos for 7 weeks. They’ve asked me to be the Nature Specialist this year, haha. I just downloaded a name-that-plant app for my phone, and I’ve been watching Youtube videos about clouds, bugs, and space. I’ll be working with 4 year olds up through 10 year olds, and my classroom is an actual garden. I’ll teach nature lessons, along with a weekly Young Scientists course where we do different experiments each day, and a Space Makers class where we’re going to build a large-scale model of the solar system and learn about the universe. I feel like that one might end up being my favorite. For my Daily French, I’ll be teaching a mini class to my friend Heather as we head to IKEA tonight. IKEA has actually become a pretty big thing in France! Getting ready for the big move next weekend. How on earth will I ever be ready??


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Day 3: Warm Days, Cool Nights

IMG_1130.jpgThis is a super creamy, not too sweet French ice cream that was delightfully on sale at Whole Foods! Normally $7-$8, it was an irresistible $5. Mint Chip – my fave. One of the main differences between French and American ice cream is that it uses an eggy custard base. This adds to the creaminess, and makes it less likely to develop those crusty crystals ice cream gets when it’s in the freezer too long. I feel like the French version is a little heavier, but oh so good. I really should have stocked up on a bunch of pints, but I’m moving in 12 days. Eeek! A 1-bedroom apartment miraculously fell into my lap, and it was within my budget (although the outer range), and only 9 blocks away from where I’m living now. I’ll still get to be by Central Park, and on the 2/3 train.

On a French note, I took a free online proficiency test just to get sense of where I’m at so that I can measure my progress. It graded me as an Intermediate Learner, which I feel is pretty accurate. Still, I want to be in the Advanced group! I just need some more consistent practice.

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Day 2: Fluent Forever


Anyone who is looking to acquire a new language should read this book! It’s a balanced approach to the science of language acquisition, and most efficient way to go about it. I’ve been studying French for years, but I’ve never focused on phonetics or checked my vocab against a frequency dictionary. Also, I haven’t been great about using images on flashcards when trying to memorize new words or phrases, but I’ll give it a go. It seems like a lot more work, but I already know that I’m a visual learner. Flash cards have been a way of life for me with many subjects, and I definitely agree with the author that the best way to memorize something is to attempt to recall it, rather than just going over and over it. This is why I believe in testing, even informal testing for practice. Sorry, students. 🙂

Okay, I need a goal for this project. After I finish my 21 Days, I’ll invite French speakers over for a game of Taboo en français! Long term, I want to be certified bilingual. According to the Wall Street Journal, this will make me smarter overall, and ward off dementia as I get older. Sweet. Everyone needs that.

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Starting Fresh – Day 1


I just got back from an extended trip through Northern France, and so I thought I’d pick up this goal again. Can I keep my language skills solid on my own? The picture above is of Les Anneaux, a series of rings by artist Daniel Buren in the city of Nantes. They are white by day, but they light up at exactly the time that the sun sets. It was really cool to watch this happen. I worked on some French grammar today, and I started watching an adorable web series about a little French boy who is secretly a super hero. This was my first time traveling alone in France, outside of Paris, and I feel like it was a great refresher for me. I stayed entirely at AirBnBs, not just because they were SOOOO much cheaper than hotels, but because it forced me to really talk to people beyond buying a ticket, ordering food, or inquiring after the toilets. I stayed with a single mom, a college student, and a dyed-in-the-wool bachelor, and I really enjoyed experiencing a diverse range of French daily life.

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New Year, New Things to Try


I started this blog years ago as a way to connect with my students outside the classroom. In the beginning, I was great about writing every week or so, but I petered out as time went on. Last semester was my busiest teaching load of all time. I finally hit the limit of what I can physically do. My workload is going to be much lighter in the Spring. Although I’ll miss the extra funds, I hope to find more time for things like writing, maybe even daily writing. Here are some projects I am working on in 2018:

  1. Downhill skiing: I’ve been snowboarding, and I’m a pretty decent ice skater, but I’ve never tried skiing. This will be my year.
  2. Learn to play a song on the piano: I’m sort of cheating with this one, because I started learning Schubert’s Lilac Serenade this past summer. It’s beautiful. Mind you, I don’t actually know how to play the piano. I’m just figuring out where my fingers should go, note by note, verse by verse. I don’t have 10 years to master this skill. I just want to learn to play a song.
  3. Visit all the galleries in the Met Museum: I go here quite a bit, but I still get lost and forget where my favorite exhibits are. This place is HUGE, and I’d love to explore it more methodically.
  4. Read 15 new books: French & English, fiction and non-fiction. This is not too difficult, because I am a member of a serious, super exclusive book club.
  5. Learn to do a crown braid.
  6. Some physical activity every week day: Yoga counts. A brisk walk in the morning or evening counts, if I go for at least 30 mins. Getting 10k steps counts.
  7. Visit the largest planetarium in the western hemisphere: This just opened in New Jersey a couple weeks ago, and I am SOOOOO excited to check it out. The museum is located a short distance from the PATH train, so it’s doable.
  8. Experiment with new recipes at least bimonthly: I have a couple new cook books I need to crack open. This is my year.
  9. Do at least part of the DC Museum circuit: I only put this in because I’m for sure going over Martin Luther King Day weekend. 🙂 I’ve only been to DC to protest to government and attend a conference. It’s time to see what more they have to offer.
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So Long, Summer

IMG_4866I packed up my beach bag this morning and stashed it away in the closet for another year. School starts tomorrow, and it’s time to make room for more serious things. Still, I had a great summer! I kicked things off with a trip to Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and Budapest. It was my first time in Central/Eastern Europe! I especially loved the mirror maze in Prague and the Museum of Music in Vienna. It was fun to explore the salt mine in Salzburg, and spending half a day at the bath house in Budapest was the right choice. I  pretty much subsisted on cheese, pretzel bread, chocolate and cherries, but it was a magical time.

IMG_5128I came right back and started a performing arts residency at St. John the Divine here in New York City. We took an imaginary trip around the world in a hot air balloon, and we explored different countries through song, dance, and creative drama. Then, I guided the children through an immersive theatre piece called The Mystery of the Missing Mummy. In our production, we received a notice that a mummy had gone missing from the Met Museum, and the kids went through an Egyptologist “certification” training so that we could hunt it down and return it. The mummy left us lots of clues to follow around the cathedral, and it was fun to watch the kids get into it. “We have to find him,” they said. “It’s up to us to protect the camp!” I’ve been exploring soundscape, and how music and sound effects can establish time, place, and mood for the audience. These are 5-8 year olds, so sometimes they would get a little freaked out. I have to reign it in for the kiddos. 🙂

IMG_5383My last trip of the summer was to Salem, Oregon to see the Great American Eclipse. I flew into Seattle, and drove down to Oregon with my family. We ended up camping on a Christmas tree farm, and watching the eclipse from there. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect – crystal clear skies. And pictures just don’t capture what the sun is really doing in totality. If you get a chance to experience it live, take it!!



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