Top 12 of 2012

We are hours away from 2013 and, as I was thinking about the past year…well, it was probably the best year of my life thus far. I’m going to post, therefore, my top 12 memories of 2012.  These are not in order of importance or how much they meant to me…it’s more a timeline of my year.

12) On January 1, 2012, I was dating a French man.  I joyfully brought in the New Year’s in France then journeyed up to London that night. To have been in Europe both for New Year’s and my birthday (today!) was a thrilling occasion.  I also got to ride in the Chunnel, crossing a very old goal off my bucket-list.

11) I did spend a lot of incredible moments with my family this year.   We saw the Lion King on stage, sampled restaurants, went apple picking, etc.  But one of the funnest memories was heading down to Orlando over Spring Break.  I stayed with my friend, Jennifer, while my mom, my dad, and my sister stayed at a resort near Disney World.  I met up with them a few days and we explored Harry Potter World together, toasting with Butterbeer.  My sister, Jennifer, and I also rode Spiderman like 30 times in a row, by-passing lines by hopping in the single rider’s lane.  It was a glorious night!

10) Also in the spring, my co-worker turned friend, Heather, and I ran the Color-Me-Rad 5k in VA Beach. It was easily the best 5k ever created.  While down there, I got to spend time talking to Heather (really, our first time hanging out).  I also got to meet up with my high-school friend, Rachel, and meet her boyfriend, Drew.

9) In early May, Colin–my youngest brother–graduated from VCU with a masters and a bachelors, so the family went down to Richmond to celebrate.  Meghan and I filled out an amazing tribute book in Colin’s program and we ate at the really interesting meat-on-a-stick place whose name completely eludes me.  Hmmm.

8) I had one of the greatest summers of my adult life this year, traveling up to Connecticut to volunteer with inner-city families at Trinita.   I met some amazing individuals and, I will admit, cried like a baby when I had to leave.  I am definitely going back this year and, perhaps, bringing a sibling along.

7)  In August, I returned to school.  This year, the transition back was so smooth…because I was teaching the same students as last year!  I also have the same team to work with!  Consistency makes life easy for both me and the children.

6) In August and September, it was also time to celebrate the fact…that I am really old.  I didn’t attend my regular high school reunion; I was busy helping Rachel stuff wedding invitations.  Yep!  Her boyfriend was now her fiance!  In early September, I did attend my 10-year Governor’s School reunion though.  This was a 3-day event, orchestrated by a very talented classmate.  Due to everyone I know having bridal or baby showers, I couldn’t make it to all 3 days, but I did attend a very nice dinner at a downtown restaurant and a cookout the next day at a nearby park.  The cookout was also a time to see old classmates’ parents and children for the first time in years….or the first time ever.

5) In October, I flew out to California to see Andrew.  One day, not needed at his house, we journeyed down to Mexico.  It was his first time despite living so close his entire life.  We ate at a Tijuana restaurant, saw a lovely church that was being renovated, took pictures and videos, and one of us even was bitten by a dog.  (I won’t say names, but it wasn’t me).  The trip ended with us standing in line for over an hour to get back into the USA.  What an awesomely, incredibly-stupid day trip.

4) My co-worker turned friend, Karen, also went on some great trips with me this year.  We went scrapbooking up in Sugarcreek, Ohio, toured Skyline Drive, visited random counties for sweet apple cider and honey, and spent a glorious day in Williamsburg, buying candles, eating at the Cheese Shop, spending too much money at the bookstore, and seeing my old alma mater.

3) The highlight of October was definitely being a part of Rachel and Drew’s wedding.  What a whirlwind year for the two of them!  The wedding was lovely and, afterwards, we journeyed to a gorgeous clubhouse on a lake for the reception.  Wedding festivities ensued.  And, as I couldn’t make it to Alex’s wedding in California over the summer, I got my wedding fix for a while.  The best part, though, was obviously seeing how happy Rachel was.

2) Also in autumn, my roommate and I were eating at my favorite restaurant, Kappa Gardens Sushi Bistro, and they completely named a sushi roll after me.  I was tickled, especially when Jong Sung, the chef, gave me a picture of it and hung it on the wall as a menu option.  Fantastic.  Deliciously, deliriously fantastic.

1)  Although, I didn’t see my college friends this year as much as I would have liked, we did have a chance to get together over the summer at Maria and Yianni’s house by the beach.  We spent time at the beach, played board games (I really know nothing about movies) and fell asleep ridiculously early (proving how old we are).  In November, however, Maria and Yianni had a son.  While I have yet to see him, he has the cutest pictures ever.  And I really, really cannot wait to meet this little guy.

Ahh, 2012.  You rocked.  2013, let’s see what you can do!


Vive la France!

I’ve been wrapped up in so many projects this summer, my head is spinning!

First, I’m trying to prepare for my first year of teaching which is just as expensive and overwhelming as it is exciting. I’m so pumped up–for lack of a better term–about this upcoming school year that I find myself mandating “off times” (times where don’t think about education) in an effort not to burn out before the year even begins.

Second, after being hired by the school district, my old retail employer called and asked me to come back and work for the month of July. Balancing upwards of 40 hours a week, July has not been too relaxing, but I know how to do a lot in that store, so they have me managing the cashiers or working in the cash office…which, by their standards, pays the “big bucks.” And that’s definitely money I can use to support my classroom-expansion-fund.

Third, France! Older posts elaborate on this, but over New Year’s, Jamie and I went to Savannah and Charleston. After touring–and falling in love with–the south, Jamie sent me the book Gone with the Wind. I read it, loved it, and then wished I had read it before I went on our trip. We decided to reverse the order of things. So we are currently reading books and watching movies related to France. Then, inshallah (sorry, my Arabic ability is sorely lacking), we shall make our way to France. So, I’ve been enjoying the books, the music, the Bastille Day celebrations and the new blog we have to commemorate our efforts.

Naturally, this being life, I’ve also been dealing with some not-so-great-things: computer that won’t boot, cat that is starting to show signs of kidney failure, lack of ac in the car, annoying men, potential identity theft, eerie phone calls…but hopefully I’ll get most of this sorted out in the next few weeks. Prayers are always welcomed, especially for the cat. I think I can handle everything else. 🙂

lettre d’un étranger

paris by andrea laliberte
i bought a poster not entirely unlike the one above. drifting through the store, debating other impulse purchases, i was stopped by a woman. her children lived in paris and she used to spend holidays ever year with them. she spoke, at length, about the sights and sounds of paris and before i left, she was kind enough to give me a list of her france recommendations. her list follows, written, more or less, in her words…
these periodicals come out once a week, i believe on wednesday:

you must pick them up as they will tell you what all the current exhibits and shows are and how to buy tickets and find the theatre/museum.

here are some sights both in and around the city that you must see if you get the chance. some are rather obvious, but still capture the soul of paris:
1) chateau de chambord
2) louvre
3) versailles
4) giveny
5) museo d’orsay
6) tomb of napoleon
7) arc de triomphe

o la la! i don’t think one trip will be enough.

belated bastille day

(photo belongs to the free-lance star)

apparently fredericksburg, virginia–a self-titled “itty-bitty city” not far from me–has a sister city in france: frejus. this, of course, called for a bastille day celebration. while the city did not shoot off fireworks, it did have a band from frejus play. the celebration actually continues into the weekend, and walking around the city last night, i was captivated by the french flags still flying everywhere.

being ever-inquisitive, i had to learn more about frejus. located on the cote d’azur, the small commune has some interesting attractions: nearby lie a beach resort, a deadly dam, and mary magdalen’s head.

frejus shops
(photo from francethisway)

a quoi ça sert l’amour?

sans amour dans la vie, sans ses joies, ses chagrins, on a vécu pour rien?
another edith piaf song! she sang this one with her second husband, theo sarapo. in french or english, a quoi ça sert l’amour is a true examination of why we allow ourselves to get torn to bits by love… because without it, nothing is quite so grand, quite so worth living for…

défaite française

…mais victoire américaine!
let us turn off our fantastical minds for a moment and spend a day with reality.
the world’s eyes might be focused on the world cup in south africa, but other sporting events don’t just cease. today, wimbledon history was made after american john isner defeated france’s nicolas mahut. what’s so amazing about that? well, the time it took for that victory to occur.
for those who don’t know much about tennis, it is necessary to skim over the meanings of games, sets, and matches. a match (the winner) is determined by which player won the most sets. the player who wins the best out of 3 or 5 sets (depending on the level on competition) wins the match. isner won the first set. mahut won the second and third. isner picked up the fourth. so it all came down to a final set. and this is where things got interesting.

a set in tennis is composed of games. one player serves the ball; the next player will serve the ball in the next game. points are seemingly sporadic as your score increases thus: love, 15, 30, 40. to win a game, a player need to score one point beyond 40. however, a player also needs to score two more points than their opponent. if the score stands 40-30 (the server’s score always goes first), and the server makes the next point, the game is over. if the score is “40 all” (both players have 40), and the server scores, the score is referred to as “ad in” (advantage for the server). only after scoring a point beyond “ad in,” can the server be declared the winner of a game.

likewise, players need to win two more games than their opponent to win a set.  if you win six games and your opponent has won none, congratulations, you’ve won the set.  if your opponent has won five games, however, you need to win seven to win the set, so you have two up on your opponent.  in wimbledon (and many other tennis events) if the score is 6-6, the players just play one more game as a tie-breaker.  this is true for all the sets except the last one.  the winning player in the last set must always have two more games up on the opponent.  this is what caused the wimbledon record.  isner beat mahut, to be sure, but it took him 138 games–over 11 hours of playing time–to do so.

the final score for the match (with isner’s points first) reads: 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.

70-68. and as the guardian wrote, “that is not a typo.”

american john isner (far left) with french nicolas mahut (far right)
as they are told that play must be suspended
until the following day because of bad light.
the score stood at 59-59.
photo by the guardian

mémoire du piaf

piaf, taken from the bluegrass special
édith piaf: a brief melody
the places of piaf: a brief history
  • paris: in 1915, piaf was born as édith giovanna gassion to a mother who was a café singer and a father who was a street acrobat.
  • normandy: where she lived with her paternal grandmother who ran a brothel.
  • lisieux: piaf had impaired eyesight until she was seven due to keratitis, an inflammation of the cornea. one of the possible causes of this condition is herpes. regained her eyesight after a pilgrimage to sainte thérèse’s home in lisieux.
  • paris: where first sang in public at age 14, performing with her father’s acrobatic troupe.
  • paris: fell in love at age 16 with a delivery boy and had a girl, marcelle. the child lived until she was two years old.
  • paris: her next boyfriend was a pimp who took her money in exchange for not making her act as a prostitute.
  • paris: in 1935, louis leplée, owner of the paris club le gerny, convinced her to sing at his club. since she was so small (4’8″) and nervous, he nicknamed her piaf, or little sparrow. within a year, she had multiple records produced.

    Gerny's (By kind permission of Christina L Fisher)
    le gerny’s*
  • paris: in 1936, leplée was murdered. piaf was questioned, accused of being an accessory to murder, but then acquitted. she set on a mission to revamp her identity, which included changing her name to édith piaf.
  • worldwide: over the course of her career, she had many lovers and met with great success, starring in movies and having her voice in high demand.
  • new york city: she was not very popular in the states until a prominent critic gave her a great review; she went on to perform at carnegie hall twice.
  • france/us: in 1945, she sang la vie en rose. it was given a grammy hall of fame award in 1998.
  • plascassier or paris: in 1963, at 47, piaf died of liver cancer. she is buried in pére lachaise cemetery in paris, next to her only child. also in paris, a two-room museum, the musée édith piaf, is devoted to her legacy.
*credit: Christina Fisher

sunday’s records: all the things you are

today we are greeted by another charming post from jamie:

charlie parker once said that this old jazz standard’s lyrics were his favorite. here in a smoky parlor, serge gainsbourg’s fingers croon “you are the breathless hush of evening that trembles on the brink of a lovely song”.

and hopefully coming soon to a theater near you is gainsbourg, je t’aime … moi non plus, very loosely based on director joann sfar’s graphic novel. it takes a dreamlike approach to gainsbourg’s life, told through immersive performances, animation, and yes, puppets.

(serge and jane in the throes of love as drawn by joann sfar)

l’amour du chocolat

beynac-et-cazenac (from wikipedia commons)

i saw the movie chocolat years ago and found johnny depp to be simply delightful in it. but reading the novel by the same name, i became completely enamored with the stubborn, proud roux. i was not prepared for the ending, which left me less fulfilled and more wistful than anything else. art imitating life, i suppose.

i loved the idea of visiting lansquenet-sous-tannes, the city in which the book takes place. but as it is completely fictional, i found it necessary to dig a little deeper. the film was shot in a variety of locations. the river and indoor scenes were all filmed in england, but since france is our destination, we shall overlook this fact. the remaining portions of the film were apparently shot in flavigny-sur-ozerain (in burgundy) and in beynac-et-cazenac (see above).

flavigny-sur-ozerain is (was?) home to a benedictine abbey in the 700s. in the 800s, after france experienced viking raids, st. regina’s (a martyr who wouldn’t renounce her faith to marry her betrothed) remains found their way there. pilgrims came to visit the remains and a town developed around the abbey. less than 350 people (the size of my graduating high school class) live in flavigny year round. today they are, appropriately enough (considering our book), known for the little pastilles they sell around the world.

beynac-et-cazenac is slightly larger with just over 500 residents. i don’t know much about the area save that the communes of beynac and cazenac combined to form this commune (just a municipality in the government). but the château de beynac is a well-preserved castle there. it is the highest building in the picture above. in 1962, lucien grosso bought and restored the château. since then, quite a number of films such as les visiteurs, ever after, jeanne d’arc (not to mention chocolat using the village below!) have been filmed there.

since travel is our aim, i located these cities on a map. since i don’t know the exact route we hope to take, i’m crossing my fingers that we can at least fit one of these into our travels! on to the next book, count of monte cristo!

chansons de paris

amateur travelers we are, but amateur dreamers we are not. the excitement of france looms over me, like a tempting mirage, toying with my emotions in my daily life. to travel, to cast off this monotony if only for a brief moment in time. and to prepare, even though our trip is nearly a year away, i find myself trying to soak up as much of france as possible.

two movies seen of late are highly recommended: paris, je t’aime and les choristes, which i have admittedly seen half a dozen times now. from the latter, i present jean-baptiste maunier singing a short melody. i would tell you what he is singing, but i throw my hands up at my inability to speak or understand french. i simply appreciate and find that i have a much greater love for singers who convey emotion beyond language than those who rely so fully on words. a simple search of les choristes in youtube pulls up a great many more songs both from the movie and the concerts that came about as the public rallied for more.

so tonight belongs to maunier, but i’ll be back with edith piaf and other lovely voices to sate the romantic soul.