August 31, 2014

August in Pictures

In summer, the song sings itself. ~William Carlos Williams


August 31, 2014 Photo (243/365): "Daisy"

“Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud..." 
 ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

August 30, 2014


August 30, 2014 (242/365) Photo:
"Raindrops on Roses"

"Let the rain kiss you. 
Let the rain beat upon your head 
with silver liquid drops. 
Let the rain sing you a lullaby."
~ Langston Hughes

August 29, 2014


August 29, 2014 Photo (241/365): "The Art of Sushi"

Beautiful, jewel-toned colors
Varying lines, curves, and textures
Unique forms and compositions
Skillful execution and creative presentation

French Friday: An apartment in Paris

Paris wasn't always the breathtakingly beautiful city it is today. It's wide boulevards, sweeping vistas, and lovely limestone buildings were preceded by a maze of medieval alleyways and overcrowded, slums resulting in poor health conditions and dangerous rioting factions.

In 1853, Emperor Napoleon III commissioned Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann to improve the city's sanitation and traffic flow by widening avenues and designing the legendary water and sewer system. Several neighboring towns were annexed to Paris (including Auteuil, Batignolles-Monceau, Montmartre, La Chapelle, Passy, La Villette, Belleville, Charonne, Bercy, Grenelle and Vaugirard) and the spiraling twenty arrondissements were established. Haussmann and his successors designed new train stations, public squares, and parks, but his most recognizable contribution to the renovation of Paris is the iconic Haussmannian apartment building.

Baron Haussmann first established a standard ratio between the height of the buildings and the width of the streets to optimize space, light, and proportion. He declared that the buildings would not be more than five or six stories high, and that roofs required a 45 degree pitch to allow daylight to reach the sidewalks. Haussmannian buildings were constructed of massive limestone blocks that were quarried underneath the city itself. The construction of the sewer system, and later the subway, required the removable of thousands of tons of stone that eventually reappeared in the new construction of apartment buildings and storefronts. Often entire blocks had buildings with uniform features, making the whole length of the block appear to be one entity.

Haussmannian apartment buildings typically feature:
  • a basement (le sous-sol)
  • the ground floor (le rez-de-chaussée)
  • a second floor (le premier étage) with wrought iron balconies and ornamental stonework above the windows (This was the "noble", most desirable floor before elevators were installed.)
  • third and fourth floors (les deuxième et troisième étages), sometimes without balconies and with less elaborate details
  • a fifth floor (with a plain balcony)
  • a Mansard roof with attic rooms, lit by dormer windows (These rooms were often the servants' quarters or rented to "starving artists.")
  • Apartments were usually 200 to 300 m² with high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling, shuttered windows, allowing for a light and airy ambiance. 
  • Interior design included herringbone parquet floors, marble fireplaces, ornate moldings, and double "French" doors.

Living in an Haussmannian apartment in Paris would be a dream-come-true! I would decorate with neutral shades of white, gray, and oh-so-French "greige" to emphasize the magical light and to contrast with the rich parquet floors. I would juxtapose the ornate moldings and architectural embellishments with the clean lines of modern furnishings, and scour local brocantes and flea markets for unique, eclectic pieces to add color and personality.

The only problem is that if I had an apartment like this in Paris, I might never leave. Isn't the whole point of living in Paris to live in Paris -- to discover this truly enchanting city with something new around every corner?! Well, maybe that's not the only problem: I would also need a few million dollars! Oh well, I girl can dream...

Photos via Pinterest
August 28, 2014


August 28, 2014 Photo (240/365): "Changing"

"Un changement de temps suffit 
à recréer le monde et nous mêmes."
~ Marcel Proust, A la recherche du temps perdu

"A change in the weather is sufficient 
to recreate the world and ourselves." ~ Marcel Proust

August 27, 2014


August 27, 2014 Photo (239/365): "Black-eyed Susan"

In Act II of Shakespeare's tragic tale of "A pair of star-cross'd lovers [who] take their lives," Juliet tells Romeo that names are meaningless, an artificial convention. Juliet declares: "What's in a name? / That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet." (Romeo and Juliet II, ii, 1-2). She loves Romeo, a person who is called "Montague", not the Montague name itself or the Montague family with whom her Capulet family has feuded for years. Romeo, out of his passion for Juliet, rejects his family name and vows, as Juliet asks, to "deny [his] father" and instead be "new baptized" as Juliet's lover. 

Yet, Juliet may be a bit mistaken. Names do hold great meaning and importance. New parents pore over books until they finally discover the perfect moniker and initials for their babies. A person's name is an integral part of her identity (I am especially proud of the evolution of my name - read more here). Certain images immediately come to mind when one hears the name "Poindexter", "Tiffany", or "Butch." "A rose by any other name" may smell as sweet, but certain flowers do have prettier names than others like "Jasmine" and "Lily". . . poor "Black-eyed Susan" aka "Rudbeckia".

August 26, 2014


August 26, 2014 Photo (238/365): "Superhero"

I love my role of EdTech/Effectiveness Coach, but I do miss my 20-year career as a French teacher. I cared deeply for my students and strived to inspire them to dream and discover the world. In my heart, I know that my work with teachers directly impacts even more Pewaukee students, but notes like this remind me that, although I am no longer in the classroom, I still make a difference. Thank you to the students who share their struggles and dreams with me (and still call me "Madame"), to the parents who trust me with their children's education, and to Dr. JoAnn Sternke, Superintendent of Pewaukee Public Schools and fellow Marquette alumna, who knows what it means to "Be the Difference!"
August 25, 2014


August 25, 2014 Photo (237/365): "Sage Bee"

"Aerodynamically, the bumble bee 
should not be able to fly, 
but the bumble bee doesn't know it, 
so it goes on flying anyway." ~ Mary Kay Ash

Don't let others set your limits.
If you believe you can, you will.
August 24, 2014


August 24, 2014 Photo (236/365): "Butterfly"

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough." ~ Rabindranath Tagore

How strange it is to feel this way on the last night of "summer vacation"! School starts tomorrow and I should be feeling nostalgic, apprehensive, and melancholy; yet curiously, this final Sunday summer evening feels...normal. It must be because, for the first time in 43 years, I'm neither taking nor teaching classes. I'm working in an academic environment without the usual academic calendar. Only two weeks passed this summer when I didn't work on campus: the week of the 4th of July and our week in California (when, although I didn't work on campus, I did work at Google). So, voilà, it appears as though I've finally entered the "real world." Therefore, I will look back on the summer of 2014 not as a student or a teacher, but as a butterfly. I can't count the months, but I can count the moments this summer: 
  • Mornings in my garden, enjoying coffee with my flowers 
  • A few lunch dates with my mom or with friends
  • Taking time to read for pleasure
  • Occasionally working on the deck rather than at my desk
  • "Auntie" Camp and Apple Camp with my nephews
  • Sailing and watching fireworks on our boat
  • A long weekend with Eric in Wine Country
  • Late evenings grilling out, sipping wine, listening to music 
  • Watching the sunset, the stars, and the meteor showers
It may not have been a typical 2-month break from school, but maybe these summer moments were time enough.
August 23, 2014


August 23, 2014 Photo (235/365): "Delicate"

"Beauty is a fragile gift." ~ Ovid
August 22, 2014


August 22, 2014 Photo (234/365): "Packers"

Family fun at Lambeau Field:
Green Packers vs. Oakland Raiders (31-21 :)
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Linebacker Clay Matthews
Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson
Rob, Alec, and Chase

French Friday: La Rentrée

La Rentrée -- back-to-school, the end of les grandes vacances, "the reentry" -- I love this French expression! August in Paris is quieter due to the mass exodus of French citizens retreating to the countryside, the mountains, or the sea, leaving tourists in their wake. The French take their vacations quite seriously. Time away is deemed necessary for one's physical and mental health, in turn making time at work even more productive. Granted most Americans don't have five weeks of federally-mandated paid vacation, but whether we get away from our normal routines for a month, a week, or even just an extended weekend, the pace of life changes in the summertime. The days are longer. We spend more time outside. We slow down to be with family and friends, to linger over a meal or a beverage, to watch the sun set, the moon rise, the stars and the fireflies flicker. Yet, one day near the end of August, we start to feel another shift. It's subtle, but if we pay close attention, we notice that the sun is lower in the sky, the mornings are chilly, and the leaves have lost their vibrant verdancy, preparing for even more vivid color. C'est la rentrée!

As much as I relish summer's languid pace, late August makes me eager for change. As Jordan Baker told Daisy Buchanan, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby). I love the cooler weather, the cozy sweaters, fires in the fireplace, hot cider, and football games. School starts on Monday, and even though I never really left this summer, I'm almost ready for The Reentry. But first, my own annual ritual, my personal holiday: Il dolce far niete (I know it's not French, but Italian is a beautiful language too). Each summer I take one day before school starts again to enjoy "the sweetness of doing nothing!" Today's the day: coffee on the deck, the September issues, blogging and online shoe shopping this morning, followed by a back-to-school mani-pedi and The Hundred Foot Journey this afternoon. Then I'll be ready for La Rentrée.

August 21, 2014


August 21, 2014 Photo (233/365): "2 Limes"

G&T, 2 limes...always 2 limes!
August 20, 2014


August 20, 2014 Photo (232/365): "Baby Face"

Happy Birthday to our junior skipper, Chase! Uncle Eric and I were aboard our boat on that beautiful August day in 2006. When your dad called to tell us that you were born, we sailed in as fast as we could to meet the newest member of the Larson crew! How can that possibly be eight years ago already?! Remember that no matter how big you get, you will always be my "Baby Face", Chase!

"8 is Great" and so are you!  XOXO ~ Love always, "Auntie"
August 19, 2014


August 19, 2014 Photo (231/365): 
"Joyeux Anniversaire, Mademoiselle!"

"Vous pouvez être magnifique à 30 ans, 
avoir du charme à 40 ans…
et irrésistible pour le reste de votre vie." 
~ Coco Chanel (b. August 19, 1883)

August 18, 2014


August 18, 2014 Photo (230/365): "Early"

Today was the first day back for the faculty of Pewaukee School District. Yes, it is very early (although some of us never really left), yet even Mother Nature is already showing signs of fall. So, here we go: back to school; back to new shoes, pens, and notebooks; back to lovely foliage, apples, and football; back to sweaters, scarves, tights, and boots; back to crisp nights, bonfires, and red wine...To everything, there is a season, and fall is one of my favorites. Welcome back!

August 17, 2014


August 17, 2014 Photo (229/365): "Flower Power"

"Flowers always make people better and happier;
they are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul." 
~ Luther Burbank

Coneflowers, know scientifically as echinacea, are more than just a dramatic edition to late summer gardens. Their spiny centers (resembling sea urchins -- echino in Greek), contain a powerful herb that has been used for centuries for its medicinal qualities. Archaeologists discovered evidence that Native Americans used echinacea for centuries to treat infections and wounds, and as a general "cure-all." Contrary to urban legend, echinacea has not been proven to prevent the common cold; yet many people use the herb to shorten the duration of colds and flu, while reducing symptoms such as sore throat, cough, and fever. Beautiful or medicinal...either way, that's flower power.
August 16, 2014


August 16, 2014 Photo (228/365): "Lighthouse"
(Milwaukee Breakwater Light)

"Be a lighthouse rather than a lifeboat. 
Do not rescue, but instead, 
help others to find their own way to shore,
guiding them by your example. " ~ Anonymous.  

(What a perfect metaphor for my role as
EdTech/Educator Effectiveness Coach.)

North Point Light Station, Lake Park, Milwaukee, WI

August 15, 2014


August 15, 2014 Photo (227/365)

“Give me books, French wine, fine weather...and a little music...” ~ John Keats

French Friday: Lourdes

In honor of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, today's French Friday post is dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, the Blessed Virgin Mary who is said to have appeared to a young peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, on numerous occasions in 1858 in the vicinity of Lourdes, France. 

The first apparitions occurred on February 11, 1858, when 14-year-old Bernadette told her mother that a "lady" spoke to her in the cave of Massabielle (a mile from Lourdes). The Lady went on to appear to Bernadette seventeen more times. On February 24th, Bernadette related that the Lady asked for prayers and penitence for the conversion of sinners, and on the 25th, She instructed Bernadette to dig in the ground and drink from the spring she found there. Although it was muddy at first, the stream became increasingly clean. As word spread, this water was given to medical patients of all kinds, and many reports of miraculous cures followed. Seven of these cures were confirmed as lacking any medical explanation. As people began to flock to the springs, the government fenced off the Grotto and issued stiff penalties for anybody trying to get near the off-limits area. Bernadette, knowing the local area well, managed to visit the barricaded Grotto under cover of darkness. There, on March 25, she said she was told: "I am the Immaculate Conception" ("que soy era immaculada concepciou"). On July 16, Bernadette went for the last time to the Grotto. "I have never seen Her so beautiful before," she reported.

The Church, faced with nationwide questions, decided to institute an investigative commission on November 17,  1858. On January 18, 1860, it was declared that the Virgin Mary did indeed appear to Bernadette Soubirous, who was later canonized as a Saint. Together with Fátima in Portugal, Lourdes is one of the most frequented Marian shrines in the world, where between 4 and 6 million pilgrims travel annually and testaments of healings continue to take place.

(Information provided by R Lauretin, Lourdes, Dossier des documents authentiques, Paris: 1957 - via Wikipedia)
I visited Lourdes in 2008 en route from Paris to San Sebastian in Spain. The basilica is beautiful and, although the grotto and the springs are teeming with tourists, invalids, and believers, the grounds are hopeful, reverent, and peaceful. 
I've loved the story of St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes since I watched The Song of Bernadette as a little girl in Catholic school. In college, I wrote a paper about Lourdes for my Holy Women theology course at Marquette.
I brought home tiny bottles of Holy Water for my mom & godmother... 
...and for my nephews when they made their First Communions.
This graphic novel of Saint Bernadette was an excellent
way to engage the boys in the story of The Miracle of Lourdes.
August 14, 2014


August 14, 2014 Photo (226/365): "Duck on Deck"

Those fancy feathers...
That come-hither stare...
She's such a flirt!
August 13, 2014


August 13, 2014 Photo (225/365): "Sky"

"The sky is an infinite movie to me." ~ K.D. Lang

In the past 24 hours,
we've had thunderstorms, rainbows,
and a battle between the super Sturgeon Moon
and the Perseid meteor showers.