Trip to France: Speaking the Language

I took 4 years of French in high school and 1 semester in college. I had a pretty good understanding at the time. Many, many years later I have the opportunity to go to France and so I want to refresh my French language skills.

Here’s the plan:

First I listened to a very repetitive Playaway from the Pimsleur language programs called The Short Course. I can recommend these Pimsleur courses because they build in an easy way things you’ll really want to say like, “I’d like something to eat.” They are designed to teach the listener French without the use of reading materials.

The Pimsleur "Short Course" on Playaway

  If you’ve never used a Playaway. they’re very small and convenient but you need your own AAA battery and ear buds.

Pimsleur Playaway with instructions

Then I moved onto a Berlitz Playaway which moved at lightning pace but was challenging for someone like me who has had a modicum of French and needs some catch-up. I was surprised at the words I could understand.

French All-in-One Playaway

 I listened to Living Language Ultimate French,  Beginner and Intermediate.  It had lots of conversations, lots of vocabulary, lots of grammar but you really needed to use the accompanying book to get much out of it.  I listened to the CDs while driving so it was difficult to consult the book. After listening to 3 of 8 CDs I returned them to the library.

Living Language Ultimate French

This course called beginner’s french by Everyday Communication was produced in England and had different syntax from any of the other courses.  For example: Instead of saying “Where are you?” the question was phrased “You are where?”  Not wrong, I suspect, just different. This, too, is used with a book.

2 CD set of Beginner's French

Finally, I listened to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to French Playaway. Theoretically this course moved quickly in terms of vocabulary and sentence structure but it was the only one of the group really created for a vacation traveler to France.  The first dialogue helped you get your luggage, then go through customs, arrange transportation, etc. It seemed the most practical of all the options because it introduced you to the French you would need as soon as you step off the plane.  

The Idiot's Guide to French Playaway

 To summarize my favorite French study course was the Pimsleur Short Course, followed by The Complete Idiot’s Guide.  The other courses either needed a book in conjunction with the tape or moved at a very quick pace, great for someone who was brushing up but not great for someone who wanted to get some practical phrases under their belt for a vacation.

By the time we leave for France I will have fulfilled another item on my 101 Things to do in 1001 Days list.  Charlie will know how to say, please and thank you and ask for coffee.


Removing the Remains

Charlie and son have been working diligently this week to remove the toppled trees that Tropical Storm Irene left in our back yard.

The debris from two oak trees which fell at The Glade.

It is a huge mess that will probably take months to clean up.

From a 2nd floor bedroom window, all the foliage on the left is part of the fallen oak trees.

 Passage behind the house was impossible.

The trees blocked passage at the back of the house.

 Fortunately the oil tank and rain barrel were not crushed.

The damage was minimal considering the size of the trees that fell.

 Passage behind the house was established on the first day.

In one morning Charlie and son cleared passage behind the house.

 An added bonus was that this scene went from this .  .  .

Clearing in the west side yard.

 to this.

This is only the beginning of the oak firewood we'll have for years to come.

Have you had anything good come from disaster?

Room with a View

As I told you I have been working for a few days away from home at the summer home of my employer. Maybe you’d like to see where I’ve been sleeping.  As you know the house was built in the late 1800s.  Actually, however, the wing in which I’m staying is newer by at least 20 years, maybe more.

The Lodge viewed from the lawn to the lake

 I’m on the third floor overlooking the lake.

My windows are circled in pink.

 From the inside it’s a pretty room with a single bed and a window seat in the bow window. 

My room at the Lodge

 Notice the stuffed owl that greets you as you enter the room.  These creepy creatures are all over the house.  The house was originally used as a hunting lodge and so there are taxidermied trophies everywhere: on walls, floors and any flat surface. (More on this in a later post.)

If Charlie and I are traveling together we use the adjoining room shown below which has a full size bed. I could have chosen that room but prefer the little room in front.

Adjoining room on the third floor

  In the shot above you can’t see the swooping stuffed hawk hanging from the ceiling in the corner by the bed, nor the stuffed squirrel on the dresser. Ick! Other than that this, too, is a lovely room albeit without the view.

Here’s the view from my windows toward the lake.

View from the window

 And on the morning of my departure, the clouds were hanging very low.

Early-morning low-lying clouds over the lake.

 Just thinking about this place is a peaceful experience. It reminds me of Brigadoon- the Scottish town that appeared out of the mist once every hundred years. Do you have a favorite destination? Is it exciting or calming?

All Through the Night, Irene

As most folks are aware the East Coast of the US was bombarded with Hurricane Irene this past weekend. We were no exception. The Glade is situated in a wooded lot with plenty of mature trees, mostly oak.

Back of the house from deep in the yard before the fall.

 We lost electric power around 11 p.m. on Saturday night and around 1:30 a.m. we heard an enormous thud that shook the house.

Here's a similar shot of the back of the house with the same tree on the the right as a landmark after the trees fell.

 Charlie and I moved our comforters and pillows down to the living room floor just in case the next thud actually hit the house.

Garden before the fall (from bedroom window).

 Two giant oak trees fell over and took out part of the garden.

Same garden after the trees fell (shot from the bedroom window).

 While there was minimal damage to the house: 1. a small piece of gutter and downspout  and

Broken gutter and downspout

  2. broken windows in the dining room,

Dining room storm windows shattered.

 the clean up of these two massive trees will be considerable.

Rootball of the second tree.

Here’s a look at the rootball from the other side when the sun came out in the afternoon.

Cutting up the tree is one thing, getting rid of the immense rootball is something we have not yet figured out.

 Happily, no one was hurt and even more propitious, Charlie had just purchased a new chain saw blade.

Charlie's putting that Husqvarna to good use. Look out below!

It’s miraculous how God preserved us. If the trees had been 10 feet taller we would have been trapped under them. We’re so grateful. How did you fare in the storm?

I’m linked to

How Do They Do That?

When I’m away at the boss’ place everything is both rustic and elegant at the same time.  Rustic because we’re on a mountain out in the woods but elegant because we follow old time customs like dressing for dinner, retiring to the library after dinner, etc.

I noticed in the kitchen an appliance that I not only don’t own (shocking I know) but have never seen before except here.

Do you know what it is?

 I’ll give you a few hints:

  • It’s kept on the counter for daily use.
  • It turns off and on with a switch.
  • It heats up.

Have you guessed that it’s a plate warmer?  That’s how a professional kitchen ensures that the scrambled eggs and toast are hot when you’re ready to eat.

Plate warmer loaded.

 A stack of plates is loaded into the warmer and heated for any hot entree.  You can see this warmer would hold at least a dozen plates at one time.

From personal experience I can tell you this is a lovely convenience. I personally wouldn’t want to be responsible to use it but if I had my own chef .  .  .

Do you warm the plates for hot meals? And chill the plates for salads? Really?

What’s in Your Attic?

I took a stroll through the attic of this 130 year old house and found some unusual stuff in the sense that our attic at The Glade is full of stuff but not this kind of stuff.

Hanging on many of the lighting fixtures including the attic and throughout the house are copies of the following sign on which the Master of the House’s name has been blocked out for privacy. Before 1930 the lamps and ceiling fixtures were all gas.

These are practical rules even today.

 This attic has small rooms partitioned from the large hall.  The room below was once used as a sewing room.  Lots of light and a place to store extra linens and supplies.

Sewing room

 Opposite the sewing room is storage for an odd array of things including  a baby’s basinet.

Another attic room - notice the old floor covering.

 I opened another door and found a lovely yellow cabinet filled with all manner of breakfast sets.

Breakfast in bed? Yes, PLEASE.

 One closet was filled with a plethora of cleanliness supplies which have become passe with the advent of hot and cold running water piped inside the house.

Wash sets and chambers pots

 I always tell my family never eat soup from a one-handled soup tureen. Get it?

Like I said at the start of this post.  Some folks have interesting things in their attic.  What’s in your attic?

Knock, Knock

I discovered something while roaming this large house to find a good internet connection.  Many of the doors have door knockers.

First, the front and back doors at the center of the house have these great huge iron knockers.  The one below is about 10 inches long.

Front door with knocker

 They’re stately.

Large iron door knocker

 The back door’s knocker is equally substantive but totally different.

Iron knocker at the back door

 Some of the bedroom doors also have knockers like this sweet cardinal (about 5 inches tall).

Painted bedroom door knocker

 Two different owls.

White owl bedroom door knocker

 Across the hall.

Brown owl bedroom door knocker

 Farther down the hall is a red rose.

Red rose bedroom door knocker

 Still farther down the hall are some individual bronze knockers which appear to be very old.

I'm not sure what this fellow is doing but I think his name is Chester.


What is this man’s occupation?


This says, "St. Andrew's University - Cambridge"


Henry IV

 Almost finished

A mystery to me

 And finally

Office door deer head knocker with embellishment

Detail of the deer.

Office door knocker with embellishment

 We, too, have door knockers at The Glade.  Remind me to show them to you one day.

Does anyone find these rare door knockers as interesting as I do? Probably not, right, Charlie?