Month in Review – February


A Matter of Life and Death (1946) – My friend Sarah and I do a monthly NYC cultural activity to give us an excuse to catch up and try new things. We saw this film as part of the free Friday Night Film series at the New York Historical Society. It’s an adorable WW2 love story between a British pilot and an American nurse. I really enjoy watching classic films in this space.

 Lego Movie 2 (The 2nd Part) – I saw this on $5 Ticket Tuesday at AMC. It wasn’t as funny as Lego Batman, and the story always loses me when the humans come on screen, but Emmet is just so freakin’ loveable. See it with a blue raspberry slurpee.

Isn’t It Romantic – Another $5 film. I saw this with a group of girlfriends, and although the storyline is a little ridiculous, it was the right show for an inexpensive girls night. We had a blast.

Oscar Animated Shorts – My friend Dave is a colorist, so we like to go see these with him each year. I knew Bao would win (it’s the short film that played at the beginning of The Incredibles), but I was cheering for One Small Step, about the little girl who wants to become an astronaut. These were all actually quite moving this year.

Instantpot Attempts: This is my newest kitchen gadget. Thanks, Mom & Dad!! Here’s what I’ve made so far:

Carrot soup – easy and delicious. I made it twice, and ate it all week each time. The carrots literally cook in, like, 6 minutes.

Mac’n cheese – This was a little bland, but it was super easy, warm and cheesy. Good for a quick lunch with friends.

Brown rice – I’ve never had an actual rice cooker, but the Instant Pot makes perfectly moist and chewy brown rice in 15 minutes. I made this a couple times as well.

One terrible chocolate cake – I followed the recipe exactly, so I’m not quite sure what went wrong. The cake was rubbery and basically inedible. Ugh.


Restaurant Week – This year we went to Monkey Bar. The décor is eclectic and colorful, and the chocolate hazelnut tart was 100% worth the price of the entire meal. I was happy with everything, but that crushed hazelnut crust…

Cou Cou French Valentine – This was a French Slang class and TV show screening. Cou Cou has the loveliest space, and I learned some great tips for navigating love en fraçais.

Taboo FIAF – This was my 2nd French event for the month, but I do love board games, and Taboo is one of my favorites in any language. Plus, the French Alliance serves stellar snacks: popcorn and Pims!


Insoupçonable – This was for my French book club. It was a little intense, and it involved a love triangle, layers of mystery, a murder, and a tragic ending for at least one character. Très français.

A Brief History of Time – I have been meaning to read this one for awhile,  and I finally got around to it. The part I was most interested in was this idea of time being something you could travel through. Because of how light travels, when we look off into the distance, we look back into time. Can we go there -into the past?

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – I didn’t like this as much as Agnes Grey, but Anne Bronte can still tell a page-turner of a romantic story. Just when it seems like everything is heading for disaster, she finds resolution for her star-crossed lovers. What can I say, I’m an American and I like a happy ending.

Persuasion – This novel has Austen’s most mature heroine. We meet her at the ripe old age of 27, after she has formed her character and her opinions. Her love interest is still getting his act together, but by the end of the story he’s risen up to her level.

Classes Taught: 27. It was a busy month.

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Month in Review – Janurary

Museum Exhibits:

History of Magic @ the New-York Historical Society – Too bad this has closed. It was well-curated with historical artifacts and it surprisingly wasn’t creepy at all.


Second Act – the second worst movie I have seen in a loooong time. Too ridiculous.

On the Basis of Sex – Excellent! RBG is always inspiring, but Marty Ginsberg was the surprise hit of the show.

They Shall Not Grow Old – I don’t do well with violence, but this was tastefully handled. My favorite part was Peter Jackson’s amazingly candid talkback afterward.

The Upside – It was alright. It’s a remake of a French film that I absolutely adore (Les Intouchables), and it just didn’t measure up.


New York Times Travel Show – I go to this pretty much every year. One of the booths I stopped by during my first visit three years ago always sends me a free pass. This year I was mainly looking at Scandinavia. I feel like a Denmark/Norway/Sweden adventure with some Northern lights would be delightful.

Women Who Drone – My friend Brooke Mellen tipped me off to this one. I don’t own a drone, but these women were so passionate about their craft that I’m looking into it. Mainly for video/photography purposes.


Midnight’s Children – for my book club. First of all, it’s beautifully written. However, it was one of the most challenging pieces of literature I’ve ever tackled. It took me most of the month to finish it. There were lots of parts that were strange and hard to understand. I appreciate it, but I can’t say that I love, or even like it.

Mortal Engines quartet – I dipped into this YA series when I needed a break from Salman Rushdie. I was originally intrigued by the concept of these giant, mobile cities, but I finished the series mostly to see how things played out for the somewhat unusual protagonist. I wouldn’t re-read the books, but I mostly enjoyed them.


My Fair Lady – I wanted to see the set, which is a work of art. However, I ended up loving everything about this production. Go and see it!


The new semester has started, and I’m teaching seven classes at three different schools. I’m also taking a Television Studio Production class at a fourth school. NYC is overpopulated with colleges, but I can’t complain. It’s nice to have all my gigs within a 20-30 minute subway commute of each other.


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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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Keep the Owl Happy

duolingo-owlDuoLingo is my daily French app. I log in 6 days a week, and spend maybe 5 minutes doing a set of French exercises. The app’s mascot is this bright green owl, and he’s only happy when you practice. You get sad emails with a crying owl if you skip a day. It’s more motivating than you’d think. No one wants a sad owl! A friend and I created a club in the app called “Les Petites Pidgeons” that is super popular. It pretty much filled up the minute we created it. We even kick people out of the club from time to time, if they don’t do any work, or they do SO many exercises duolingo2that no one can even touch them on the leaderboard. As soon as there is a spot open in our club, someone jumps on it. We never have an opening for more than a minute. Today was my first day back to the community college after Spring Break. I really enjoy teaching, but I’ll be honest – it was soooooo nice to have a break. I feel recharged and reset. Now, if only I could find something to eat besides marshmallow Peeps and chocolate bunnies… 😦

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