Currently • June 2019

“Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the stars. To sit on a branch and study the clouds.” - Regina Brett

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READING: Summer is a good time to read outside of one’s comfort zone and, so far, I’ve read quite an eclectic selection:

  • Hemingway on Writing - “An assemblage of reflections on the nature of writing and the writer from one the greatest American writers of the twentieth century.” (What’s a Currently Reading list without at least one Hemingway reference, right?!)

  • What the Lady Wants - “In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: "Give the lady what she wants." His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair.” I loved Marshall Fields and am sad that very few traditional department stores with that level of service and attention to detail still exist. Although the novel features prominent industrialists including Marshall Field, Harry Selfridge, George Pullman, Potter Palmer, and Philip Armour as well as events such as the Great Chicago Fire and the Haymarket Riots, it is much more fiction than historical and a bit too soapy for me.

  • Vintage - “At Hourglass Vintage in Madison, Wisconsin, every item in the boutique has a story to tell . . . and so do the women who are drawn there.”

  • The Wondering Years: How Pop Culture Helped Me Answer Life’s Biggest Questions - The title is intriguing and I loved the pop culture references dating back to the 1970’s, but this book was a little too evangelical for me.

  • Louise Penny novels: Nan has been trying to convince me to read this mystery series set in Montreal. I finally checked out Still Life, the first book featuring Chief Inspector Armand Garmache.

  • A Man Called Ove - I read this summer’s all school read a couple of years ago, but it’s worth a second look. A grumpy yet lovable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. This heart-warming book illustrates the power of community. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks with a 2020 release date.

  • In case you missed it: Links I Love • June 2019

WATCHING: Nothing new. It’s summertime. I’m open to suggestions though :)

LISTENING TO: Podcasts — As part of the PHS Summer Learning Project, we have identified books, podcasts and videos that support the PSD Graduate Profile. Podcasts are kind of new to me. My favorites so far are:

  • The Earful Tower - Oliver Gee shares fascinating stories about Paris with guests including mayors and ambassadors to comedians, chefs, tour guides, and authors.

  • Should This Exist? - It’s the question of our times: How is technology impacting our humanity? On Should This Exist? creators of radical new technologies set aside their business plan, and think through the human side: What is the technology’s fullest potential? And what could possibly go wrong?

  • Happier - Each lively, thought-provoking episode features offers practical, manageable tips for making your life happier.

WORKING ON:

  • Updating our outdoor space — Eric is refinishing the deck, and we continue to work on our yard. Recently, we added more heirloom plants and native Wisconsin wildflowers.

  • Refreshing “Piper’s room” (aka our bedroom) with an adjusted floor plan, fresh paint, new carpet, new lighting, a chair and side table for reading, newly curated accessories. When we moved into this house almost four years ago, somethings were deemed “OK, for now,” but I finally decided that “for now” was long enough. It’s time to update things to reflect what we really want.

ENJOYING:

  • Taking a break - My goal is to stay away from school for one month. So far, so good…

  • A slower pace - Lingering in the morning over coffee, taking time to read or even nap in the afternoon, not feeling rushed to complete projects…

  • The weather - It has been a cool spring with just enough rain to keep things green (I love a rainy afternoon when I can curl up with good book and a certain beagle!). Summer arrived last Friday and things are heating up, but so far it is pleasant and aren’t too many mosquitos.

  • Early morning walks with Piper (the sunrise, the crisp air, the deer sightings, the smell of wildflowers…)

Currently • May 2019

“All things seem possible in May." - Edwin Way Teale

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READING:

  • The Mistress of the Ritz - From the author of The Aviator's Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue (I’ve read them both), this novel, set in the Paris Ritz during and after the Nazi Occupation. Although such iconic residents as Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway are featured, the novel centers on Ritz Director, Claude Auzello, and his American wife, Blanche, whose secrets have the potential to change history. Despite my love of Paris in the first half of the 20th Century, I am tiring of Resistance novels which are all starting to be formulaic. And despite having read three of her novels of historical fiction, I’m not captivated by Melanie Benjamin’s writing.

  • Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators - We are reading this as a coaching cohort and will reread it with administrators in the fall. Although Elena Aguilar is a little too new age for me, she offers a lot of useful tips for managing stress and helping educators develop resilience. I facilitated chapter 1 on knowing oneself. As a cohort, we took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test and learned a lot about ourselves as individuals and coaches. My type seems to be spot-on. Interested? Take the test here.

  • In case you missed it, here are the May Links I Love.

WATCHING:

  • Mad Men - The culture, the clothes, the history, the inappropriate social interactions of 1960’s — It’s even more fun the second time around.

  • Wine Country - I’m usually skeptical about movies featuring SNL alumni, but this Netflix original wasn’t as sophomoric as I expected. In fact, I could quite relate this funny and sometimes heart-warming reunion of six friends who spend a weekend in Napa to celebrate turning 50. The music is really fun too — The Bangles, Xanadu-era Olivia Newton-John, The Pretenders, and Prince!

  • Brené Brown - Brené seems to be popping up everywhere — even in the aforementioned Wine Country. I first took notice of her work when her Ted Talk on the Power of Vulnerability was mentioned in Aguilar’s Onward. She’s been featured on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, has her own special on Netflix (The Call to Courage), and one of her books, The Gifts of Imperfection is featured in our Summer Learning. This month, it really seems like the Universe is sending a consistent message!

ENJOYING:

  • Lavender lattes

  • The Tina crab tree, trillium, and Honorine Jobert anemone blooming in my garden

  • A few flex days off — I shopped for shoes, ate crêpes, and planned for Paris with Nan, visited Julie’s new home and shopped with her at Ikea, and spent a rainy day at home with Piper.

PLANNING:

  • 2019 PHS Summer Learning - Every year, I help plan our summer reading program, but this year, we’ve extended the learning to include reading, listening, and viewing. I’m excited for so much of this: “Pewaukee High School is ecstatic to unveil the 2019 Summer Learning Program, a program closely related to the Summer Reading programs of the past, but a program that better reflects the myriad of ways that people learn in 2019. Maintaining the fidelity of a reading program was important to us as reading is always a great option, but we also recognize that reading is not the only way in which people can learn and continue to grow. Therefore, in addition to some great books, essays, and articles, we have included amazing podcasts, inspiring TedTalks, and thought-provoking movies for people to enjoy and reflect upon. All of the learning opportunities are aligned with the competencies of the Graduate Profile. Also notice that under the umbrella of each of the Graduate Profile competencies, reading, listening, and viewing options are available. Choose a competency. Choose multiple competencies. Choose one or many of the learning options...but most importantly, choose to participate. Learning cannot stop just because the school year has ended. The world we live in today will not allow it. You cannot allow it. Choose to learn. Choose to grow.”

  • Another trip to Paris in October: The flights and the flat are booked (Want a sneak peak? Click here). This time, it’s a couples’ trip. Eric hasn’t been to Paris for eight years, and it’s been a long time since I was there in the fall. I love planning for different dynamics. Stay tuned for more photos and plans.

LOOKING FORWARD TO:

  • A change of pace - Although the last day of school is not longer as exciting as it used to be since I work quite a lot in the summer, I am looking forward to a slower pace, coffee in the garden in the morning, reading on the deck, cookouts, and bonfires…

  • That first glass of chilled rosé on the deck (I mentioned that in March and in April, but it still hasn’t happened!) Who wants to join me?

Currently • April 2019

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” — John Muir

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READING:

WATCHING:

  • Mrs. Wilson on Masterpiece - Ruth Wilson stars in this drama inspired by her own grandmother's memoir. When her husband dies, and another woman claims his wife, Mrs. Wilson is determined to prove the validity of her own marriage – but is instead led into a world of disturbing secrets. I wish there were more than three episodes. This mini series hooked me right away, but ended rather abruptly.

  • Les Misérables on PBS - I was a bit apprehensive about yet another interpretation of this classic French novel, but I was very pleasantly surprised. This mini-series is much truer to the novel than other versions. Since we have PBS Passport, we have been able to binge instead of waiting for Sunday nights. I must admit though that I have been singing the Les Mis sound track in my head the whole time (in both English and French)!

  • Huge in France on Netflix - I was not familiar with Gad, “the Jerry Seinfeld of France,” but this is pretty funny (if you can get past the inappropriate stuff).

  • “Chick Flicks” - In my version of the popular 2012 Things I’m Afraid to Tell You post that was viral in the blogosphere, I admitted that “I read magazines while drying my hair (Sailing, InStyle, Real Simple, Milwaukee Magazine).” Six years later, I also stream videos. I have rewatched the entire series of Friends, Gilmore Girls, The Wonder Years, and Sex and the City (for the fashion, of course). I have also discovered The Great British Bake Off which is curious because I don’t bake at all. I’m currently between series and have been rewatching chick flicks that wouldn’t be popular evening viewing chez Larson-Horne, including Mamma mia I + II, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, all of the Bridget Jones movies, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants I + II, Becoming Jane, and The Jane Austen Book Club. I am no longer into click lit, and I think I’ve now OD’d on chick flicks — well, except Mamma mia; you can never have too much ABBA!

  • We’re still looking for bingeable series if you have any suggestions.

PLANNING:

  • My garden: Everything is starting to come up. It’s time to spread fresh mulch, plant new flowers, update outdoor spaces…Isn’t spring exciting?

  • Another trip to Paris in October: The flights and the flat are booked (Want a sneak peak? Click here). This time, it’s a couples’ trip. Eric hasn’t been to Paris for eight years, and it’s been a long time since I was there in the fall. I love planning for different dynamics. Stay tuned for more photos and plans.

LOOKING FORWARD TO:

  • Flowers blooming in my garden

  • That first glass of chilled rosé on the deck (I mentioned that in March, but it still hasn’t happened!)

  • The Kentucky Derby (We’ve been invited to a party at Arlington Racetrack. I mean the hats alone…)

  • Seeing the tulips blooming in front of St. Joan of Arc chapel (I’m chaperoning a field trip to Marquette next week. Fingers crossed!)

Currently • March 2019

“It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” - Mark Twain

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ENJOYING: Spring Break. Nope, I didn’t go anywhere, but sometimes a bouquet of tulips, a big stack of books, coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, and wine in the evening, along with a super smooshy beagle are just the vacation a girl needs.

READING:

  • A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts - By the bestselling author of Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, this book was a Christmas gift from a friend who knows my literary taste so well. I started trying to read it in January, but the limited daylight made it really hard to read in the evening. I put it away for Spring Break and I quite enjoyed it. Alva Vanderbilt Belmont was a formidable woman!

  • J.D. Salinger: A Life - A great biography/anthology of the life and work of one of the most popular and mysterious figures in American literary history.

  • Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway's Secret Adventures, 1935-1961 - A former CIA officer and curator of the CIA Museum unveils the shocking, untold story of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway’s secret life as a spy for both the Americans and the Soviets before and during World War II. This one makes me a bit nervous…

  • The Race for Paris - World War II novel about two American journalists and an Englishman who together race the Allies to Occupied Paris for the scoop of their lives.

WATCHING:

  • Upstairs, Downstairs - I’m not sure why I didn’t watch this PBS series sooner. It certainly fills a void until the Downton Abbey movie premieres this fall. The first season of Upstairs, Downstairs, set in the 1930s featuring the abdication of King Edward VIII and the events that led to England’s involvement in WWII, was riveting, but the second/final season got a bit soapy for me.

  • Project Runway All Stars and the new season of Project Runway on Bravo - I’m glad that PW has returned to Bravo and NYC, but I’m not sure that I’m going to enjoy host Karlie Kloss & mentor Christian Siriano as much as Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn.

  • And yes, I’m embarrassed to admit, but I am watching the latest season of The Real Housewives of New York City. There’s no excuse for it, but at least they’re the the only Housewives that I follow.

  • Help me find something new to binge. Have any of you watched Home Fires, Poldark, or The Durells in Corfu? I need some PBS to rebuild the braincells that I’m losing on Bravo!

LOOKING FORWARD TO:

  • Fresh air and the song of robins, cardinals, and chickadees wafting through open windows.

  • The first tender green shoots pushing their way up through the thawing earth. I got a preview of crocus, tulips, and jonquils in Paris, and now, I can hardly wait to see them appear in my own garden — that is, if the bulbs haven’t frozen or been eaten by the deer who visit Piper every evening.

  • That first glass of rosé on a warm spring evening — the one(s) I had in Paris don’t count.

  • The Les Misérables miniseries on PBS in two weeks.

  • Art in Bloom at the Milwaukee Art Museum

  • Taking more photos — I’ve been a bit lax lately.

Currently • February 2019

I leave for Paris next week, so this month’s Currently feature is mostly about planning and packing.

Espresso w/Paris napkin

READING: Maybe it’s because I’m headed to Paris again, but I am currently on another Hemingway binge:

I am loading up my iPad with books to read on the plane. Let me know if you have any favorites to compliment my trip to Paris.

WATCHING: Nothing new.

PLANNING: Daily Paris Itineraries

It really isn’t about planning every moment of our trip, but, to maximize our time in Paris, I do like to organize days in walking tours that include attractions, favorite restaurants, and shops in the same neighborhoods. Here is my Google Map for our week in Paris:

  • Saturday, February 23: Arrival, outdoor market (avenue Président Wilson), Eiffel Tower, and possibly a boat ride on the Seine — that is, if we don’t get waylaid by protesters.

  • Sunday, February 24: Île de la Cité and the Left Bank — Notre Dame, bouquinistes, Latin Quarter, Luxembourg Gardens, Saint-Germain, and le Bon Marché

  • Monday, February 25: Champs-Élysées, Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre, Faubourg Saint-Honoré, and dinner at Le Soufflé

  • Tuesday, February 26: Marais: Village Saint-Paul, Place des Vosges, Canal Saint-Martin, Père Lachaise

  • Wednesday, February 27: Montmartre, Opéra Garnier, and shopping in the Grands Magasins and la rue de la Paix

  • Thursday, February 28: Shopping and strolling in the rue de Rivoli, the Palais-Royal, and Galerie Vivienne with stops for lunch or an apéro at 228 in Le Meurice (because it’s 2/28!), tea at the Ritz, and a cocktail at Bar Hemingway. What a great way to celebrate both my birthday and the end of our trip.

PACKING: For Paris…

  • I love my new Delsey Paris Cruise Lite hard-side carry-on. It’s always an adjustment to pack a new bag, but I tested this one on a recent trip to Florida and it’s so convenient. My only regret is that I checked my bag (since my fellow travelers were checking theirs) and there are already scuffs on it. Maybe a darker color would have been better.

  • I also love eBags Packing Cubes to keep my things organized.

  • Yes, I do like to carry-on whenever possible. To me the benefits outweigh the inconveniences:

    Cons:

    • You are responsible for your luggage in airports and on the plane. The greatest challenge for me is finding a kind soul to help me store my carry-on in the overhead bin — Oh the joys of being vertically challenged!

    • You have to limit your liquids and gels to a quart-sized bag. This makes you really rethink what you can do without for a week or so. Do I need all those facial serums? Can I use hotel shampoo and conditioner? How many hair products do I really need? Can I get free samples of my favorite fragrance, face cream, eye cream, etc.? (Yes, thanks to my favorites at the Nordstrom Chanel counter!)

    Pros:

    • You are responsible for your own bag — no one throws it around.

    • You can access anything you need while you are traveling.

    • Your luggage won’t get lost.

    • You must limit what you buy. Before purchasing anything, I consider if things are too heavy, too bulky, and over 3 oz. of liquid. This keeps me from taking home too many books, Diptyque candles, French pharmacy cosmetics and culinary delicacies (wine, mustards, etc.), and expensive fragrances (maybe a con because I love these things, but definitely a pro for my budget).

    • You also have to limit what you take. To me, this really is a benefit. In Paris, black is always chic. A good capsule wardrobe is appropriate for everything from a stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens to tea at the Ritz.

    Here’s what I’m packing:

    • Outerwear: The average high temperature in Paris for February is in 40’s. Currently the forecast of our week in Paris is mostly in the 50’s! However, last year’s bitter winds and snow taught me to be prepared for a variety of weather situations. A good mid-weight coat is key. I’m taking a little trench/peacoat hybrid.

    • In my carry-on:

      • 4 pairs of skinny black pants (89th + Madison) and maybe a skirt

      • 3 black sweaters: a cardigan (Loft), a turtle neck (J Crew), and a boat neck (Maison Jules)

      • 5 tops: blue tired shell (Maison Jules - out of stock, but like this in solid French blue), navy shell (Loft), black shell w/sheer overlay (no longer available), floral shell (Loft), and black boat neck blouse (similar to this)

      • 2-3 pairs of shoes (depending on the weather). My #1 bit of packing advice is take COMFORTABLE walking shoes! Poor shoes impact one's feet, back, and attitude! Don’t be a slave to fashion (even during Paris Fashion Week)! There are a lot of boots and flats that are both comfortable and fashionable. Here’s what I’m taking: black ankle boots (Blondo), black loafers (Donald/Pliner - similar to these), and black ballerinas (These are very reminiscent of Chanel ballerinas, super comfy yet very inexpensive. I’m on my second pair.)

      • Accessories: jewelry (including my watch and charm bracelet) headbands (black, leopard print, and tortoise shell), and a variety of silk and wool scarves

      • Unmentionables, pajamas, slippers, tights, and socks (Have you tried these?)

      • Personal items: cosmetics, contacts, hairbrush, toiletries (see above), contacts, Advil, band-aids, a curling rod, and maybe a hairdryer (I have to verify the wattage of the one in our Airbnb.)

      • Sunglasses, gloves, and despite what Audrey says, an umbrella.

      • Copies of my passport and insurance card

    • In my tote:

      • Wallet: passport, bank card, insurance card, and euros

      • Coin purse — I always end up with a lot of change in Paris.

      • Cosmetic touch up kit, fresh contacts, and toothbrush

      • Electronics: voltage/plug converters (I really like this one), Macbook (for editing, curating, and sharing photos as well as watching movies set in Paris), iPad (for movies, photos, Facetime with Piper and Eric, and especially books), iPhone XS with the Verizon TravelPass (for $10/day, I can use my phone exactly as I do in the US, including calls, texts, and data), Powerbeats 3, Theta 360º camera (for a school project), and charging cables. As much as I love my Sony a6000 DSLR, I will only use my iPhone on this trip. I want to focus on the daily delights that make Paris special rather than obsessing over lighting and focus.

      • Merino scarf (doubles as a blank on the plane)

      • Reusable water bottle

Have I forgotten anything? What are your recommendations for books, movies, packing, and strolling in Paris?

This post contains many links to books, movies, and products I love, though none are affiliate. That being said, if any of the companies or Paris shops and restaurants that I mentioned are interested, I would love to work on a project together!

Currently • January 2019

Many bloggers do a regular “Currently” series to share what they have been reading, watching, doing, thinking... Let’s try it!

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READING:

Just like last year, I pledged to read forty books in 2019. We’re less than two weeks in and I have already finished three: one that I think I’ve read before (The Piano Shop on the Left Bank — It wasn’t too memorable the second time around either), one that was more of a workbook and not terribly innovative (The Curated Closet), and one that was overhyped, predictable advice from a self-absorbed, preachy cheerleader (Girl, Wash Your Face).

I used to read one book at a time, but since rediscovering my public library and its digital collection, I put holds on several of the books on my To Read list and I never know when they will become available. Sometimes, like right now, I have to juggle several books at once — what a wonderful problem to have! Here’s my current stack:

WATCHING:

  • We just finished season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime. The dialogue is so fast-paced and witty — just what you’d expect from Amy Sherman-Palladino, the creator of Gilmore Girls (which I confess is one of my guilty pleasures). The costumes and sets epitomize New York in the late 1950’s: Upper West Side apartments, gritty Greenwich Village clubs, department store make-up counters, full skirts, great hats and shoes and purses, and even a summer holiday in the Catskills (it’s Dirty Dancing redux and Midge is Baby)! I’ve loved Midge’s style since the first episode, but this season, my eye has been on Rose, especially in — *spoiler alert! — the Paris scenes! It’s been a long time since a show has captivated me like this one. I can’t wait for season 3.

  • While we wait for more Mrs. Maisel, Eric and I have been searching for another new(-to-us) series to binge. Last week, we finally landed on The Americans. This show is set in Washington DC in the 1980’s. Philip and Elisabeth Jennings are KGB spies masquerading as typical suburban parents/travel agents who just happen to live across the street from an FBI agent. We do seem to gravitate toward 20th Century period pieces, don’t we? Is it wrong to be a little nostalgic for the Cold War? Now before you get all political, I’m simply stating that spy dramas were so much more intriguing when we feared the Soviets. Let’s face it, James Bond movies really haven’t been the same since. I have to say that I could do without the gratuitous bedroom and torture scenes though.

  • OK, yes, I did watch the new Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and, if you know me, that shouldn’t be a surprise. I read Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a couple of years ago. Rather than transforming my life, it was really more of a validation of what I already do. I am definitely not a sentimental saver. I do believe in a place for everything and everything in it’s place. I really love having a capsule wardrobe…BUT I’m not Zen enough to thank my unwanted clothes for their service and I know that not everything in my house truly “sparks joy.” Some things are just necessary. As with most books, I don’t think that the KonMari method translates well on screen. Marie, who relies heavily on a translator, is a cross between a pixie fairy godmother and a Stepford wife. The families on the show were also a set of archetypes — empty nesters, burned out millennials, a widow, newlyweds, etc., and some of their comments really bugged me: “When I’m mad at my husband, I go shopping. I like to hit him where it hurts — in the pocketbook.” and “It’s my fault that our apartment is a mess. I’m the mom. I should be able to do it all.” Eek! I think my life will be tidier without this show.

LISTENING TO:

  • After a month of Christmas music, we immediately turned to our old friend, Jimmy Buffett. Songs about summer, sailing, and boat drinks are the perfect antidote to a post-holiday malaise.

  • Movies have also influenced my music selection recently:

  • And when in doubt, it’s always cool jazz — George Winston’s Linus and Lucy or Vince Guaraldi Radio on Pandora.

  • I guess since I’m confessing all of my guilty pleasures in this post, I’ll admit that I loved listening to Shaun Cassidy on Pat Francis’ Rock Solid podcast. Is it weird that the 10-year-old girl in me swooned over the music of her childhood while the 51-year-old woman felt oddly proud of how intelligent, thoughtful, and authentic Shaun Cassidy has become? Anyhoo… I know I’m late to the party, but I think I’m finally getting into podcasts. Do you have any suggestions?

PLANNING: Another trip to Paris in February! In 2017, I went alone and did just want I wanted for seven glorious days. In 2018, I shared the trip with a fellow movie-loving, book-devouring, francophile who reveled in my cinema and literary tours and immediately fell madly in love with the City of Light. This year, I’m traveling with Eric’s mom and her best friend who are both discovering Paris for the first time. It is such a fun challenge to plan for travelers with different interests while satisfying my own need to reconnect with the Paris that I know and love. I seriously think I might like to do more of this — customized tours for women, couples, art lovers, book lovers, movie lovers…pourquoi pas?!

Lately...

October 6, 2014 Photo (279/365): "Nesting"

As these autumn day get shorter and crisper, I start to crave the comforts of home and begin feathering my nest for the long Wisconsin winter. So lately, I've been...

  • ...walking through the woods and parks in our area. The trees are just starting to turn and I love the smell and sound of dried leaves beneath my feet. (See yesterday's post for pictures of our hike through Lapham Peak.)

  • ...bundling up. I love fall clothes -- cashmere sweaters and scarves, skirts and warm tights, comfy boots...I just feel more "me" at this time of year.

  • ...stocking up on firewood, lovely soft yarns for knitting projects (I like to knit during Packer games), coffee, tea, cider, cocoa, and red wine.

  • ...cooking comfort food, especially soups. Yesterday, I made a big pot of cream of chicken and wild rice -- a traditional, nothing fancy, grandma recipe. In the coming weeks, I look forward to roasting pumpkin seeds and maybe baking something with the season's lovely apples.

  • ...reading Fisher & Fry's Better Learning Through Structured Teaching, along with the other district learning coaches; however, I'm craving a good, "can't put it down" book. Any suggestions?

  • ...decorating with gourds and other natural items. I'm not one to go all out with Halloween decorations, although I always display the "Spooky Tree" that my mom gave me years ago. I enjoy pine cones, dried flowers, and this little nest, and I'm partial to miniature white "pumpkins." (Orange is not my favorite color -- more on that in a later post!) Today, one of my awesome colleagues/friends brought me a gift of homemade molasses cookies in a very fancy box that she decorated with festive skull. The card read, "Your desk is too clean. You needed a little holiday clutter!"

Festive "clutter" in my office (Merci, Nan!) & home (Thanks, Mom & Mother Nature!) What have you been up to lately?

Lately...

The Fabulous ´40s

These days, I seem to be on a World War II kick. Maybe it's my dad's influence, but the 1940s have always intrigued me: the history, the fashion, the music. My dad always played Big Band and Swing music in the garage; he taught me how to dance, and told stories of his WWII service in the Navy. Somewhat unintentionally, my recent reading and viewing selections seem to focus on that era, inspiring further choices in music and cocktails. I also like to inject a little 40s into my fashion, favoring modern interpretations of classics while avoiding campy, rockabilly trends. Lately, I've been...

...reading

(One of the greatest benefits of an educator's summer change of place and pace is the luxury of reading for pleasure. I try to do this throughout the school year, but I find myself buried in professional journals, EdTech blogs, and educational philosophy):

  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemptionby Laura Hillenbrand, the riveting biography of Louis Zamperini -- juvenile delinquent; college track star; 1936 Olympian who shook hands with Hitler; WWII Air Force captain; survivor of a plane crash and forty-seven days drifting over 2000 miles on a raft in middle of the Pacific Ocean; tortured prisoner of war for two and a half years in several Japanese POW camps; recovered alcoholic and PTSD sufferer; inspirational speaker, coach, and philanthropist. As I read, I continually reminded myself that Zamperini was going to make it through all of these harrowing trials, knowing that, at 97 year old, he consulted with Angelina Jolie in the making of the Unbroken film (due for release on Christmas Day 2014). Sadly Louis Zamperini died last week.

  • The Hotel on the Place Vendômeby Tilar J. Mazzeo, a history of the Paris Ritz told through the stories of the people who lived, worked, loved, partied, and debated there. The book begins with the Belle Époque opening of the hotel in 1898. Occurring during the notorious Dreyfus Affair that pitted French aristocrats against artists and intellectuals, the Ritz's opening inspired A la recherche du temps perdu, Marcel Proust's literary opus. Although the narrative continues through Princess Diana's final meal and the current two-year renovation of the hotel, the book focuses on the Ritz's social and political importance during the WWII era when aristocrats, philosophers, fashion designers, journalists, artists, authors, spies, Nazis, and members of the French Resistance all mingled at the Ritz. The cast of characters includes Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Coco Chanel, Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, Hermann Goering, Jean Cocteau, Marlena Dietrich, Ingrid Bergman and many more 20th century notables. This book only reinforces one of my bucket list goals of enjoying a cocktail in the Ritz's Hemingway Bar (perhaps after shopping at 31 rue Cambon). If only I could afford to spend the night! The Ritz reopens later this year.

watching (Although primetime programs are on hiatus and television is definitely not a priority, I do enjoy discovering and binging on Netflix series):

  • Bomb Girls: A Canadian series about a group of women working in a Toronto munitions factory. The ladies build bombs for the Allied forces fighting on the European front. Although the stories reflect the social status, race issues, and morals of the era, the real (albeit rather shallow) attraction for me was the fashion and music. I can't resist a big band, a high-waisted trouser or a ladylike dress, a peep-toe sling-back or T-strap pump, victory rolls or finger waves, and a great red lipstick! I was disappointed that there were only 18 episodes and that second season ended without tying up several loose ends. However, I recently discovered a two-hour TV movie to end the series that aired in Canada last March. Now, I just have to wait for Netflix...

  • Land Girls: A BBC drama following the lives and loves of the women serving in England's Women's Land Army (3 seasons, only 15 episodes). The attraction of this series was the relationships between the landed gentry and the girls working the land, between the soldiers and the men at home, between the women and the men, between the Americans and the Brits (yikes!), and among the ladies themselves. Fashion was hardly an issue since most of the time the men were in military uniform and the women were in their work clothes, but there was an occasional party to highlight their finery along with a Glenn Miller tune. Both Bomb Girls and Land Girls also provided intriguing alternative, non-American views of the war.

  • The Winds of War: Having completed Bomb Girls and Land Girls, season two of Orange is the New Black seemed too incongruous, so we searched for more WWII-era drama. I remember my parents watching this 1983 miniseries, but, at the time, I was much more interested in the Brat Pack. Last night we watched the first of seven two-hour episodes. The history, politics, and social issues of a world on the brink of the Second World War are compelling, but I can't help being distracted by Jan Michael Vincent's feathered hair, by olives magically popping in and out of martinis with each sip, by Ali MacGraw's one-note acting (I keep waiting for her to say, "Love means never having to say you're sorry!"), in fact, by the casting in general -- actors who are too old for their roles or who seem to have stepped of the decks of The Love Boat. We still have twelve hours remaining to redeem my initial opinion.

listening to

enjoying

  • my favorite classic summer cocktail, a gin and tonic. My recipe: Two ounces of gin (I prefer Tanqueray), four ounces of tonic water over ice with two wedges of lime (yes, two!) When looking for the classic recipe, I learned two interesting things: 1.) Most recipes call for a tablespoon of lime juice (maybe my two limes make up for this); 2.) Freezing tonic in ice cube trays will keep your drink from getting too watered down on hot days. Why didn't I think of this? Cheers to the '40s!

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Lately...

These days, my life seems to be filled with WONDER! Lately, I've been...

  • reading Wonder by R. J. Palacio. There is so much to learn from Auggie Pullman and his friends and family about life, self-esteem, acceptance, and compassion.

  • watching The Wonder Years on Netflix. I love the innocence and universal experiences of growing up, the funny kids' clothes from the late 60s and early 70s (What were our moms thinking?!), Kevin and Winnie's evolving relationship, and of course, the amazing sound track (The Beatles, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Doors...).

  • listening to "At a moment like this I can't help but wonder, 'What would Jimmy Buffett do?'" Yes, it's summertime and Jimmy Buffett is in heavy rotation chez Larson-Horne. Boats, Bars, Beaches, Ballads is our soundtrack for evenings on the deck (of the house and the boat).

  • wondering how to keep up my French conversation skills. It's been a year since I stopped teaching French, and I've noticed that my opportunities to parle français are limited. I have been watching French films on Netflix and writing emails to my friends in France, but I need to cultivate more opportunities to practice. Perhaps I should Skype or have a Google Hangout avec mes amis, volunteer or teach at the Alliance française de Milwaukee, chat with Max at Le Rendez-vous or Didier at Lake Park Bistro, or better yet, start planning my next voyage en France. It seems I always have wonder wanderlust!