Monday, February 28, 2011

Spring in the South, King Cakes and Open Windows

Spring has sprung in south Texas and south Louisiana.  I find this a double edged sword.  I enjoy this time, don't get me wrong, who wouldn't?  It is warm, sunny, windy and there are signs of life all around.  I have even been able to open my windows!  Open windows are something very familiar to some of you in the spring who live north of the sultry south, to those of us who live down here, it is a delicious pleasure that lasts only moments.  I savour those moments, the fresh air blowing through the house smells so nice and feels luxurious.  I don't even mind the dust that it leaves on all my furniture.  I can dust in the air conditioning....someday.  In the meantime, I choose to enjoy the open windows while I can, I count this as one of life's absolute pleasures. 

I said this is a double edged sword so here is the other side.  Open window season is followed by "too hot to exist" season faster than you can say,"stop talking about the weather.".  I know there are many of you still digging your way out of winter's deep freeze and to you I say, "enjoy it while you can."  At least that is what I would do.

 In other news and observations....people in Louisiana love Mardi Gras!  We were in Baton Rouge last weekend and the entire town was decorated in purple, green and gold.  Evidence....
Just a local shop in a strip mall!

A beautiful Mardi Gras wreath on my sister's front door

front door fully decked out for Mardi Gras!

Everywhere we went there was Mardi Gras!  I loved it!  We walked into a local grocery store and the smell of King Cakes hit me in the face/nose.  King Cakes are delicious cakes available only during Mardi Gras.  They are similar to coffee cake, and there is a plastic toy baby hidden in the cake and the person who gets the baby is supposed to bring the next King Cake... traditionally.  Have I mentioned that the cakes are delicious?  They are iced with either a sugar glaze or cream cheese icing and sprinkled with green, purple and gold sugar crystals.  So festive and fun! 

It seems every time I go back to Louisiana I am reminded of how much culture exists there and how much I love it.  There really is nowhere like Louisiana.  The food, the culture and the people are truly unique.  One more week of Mardi Gras celebrations and then....Lent.  Party on!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Student... Teacher and a Little Vacation

One thing I have wanted to do for many years has been to reacquaint myself with the French language.  I studied it in high school and college but never had an opportunity to use it until much later in life and by then it was all but a distant memory in my brain. I just never had the opportunity to practice aside from a few trips to France when I found myself totally unprepared to speak the language and overwhelmed by how much I did not know!  To speak another language you need exposure and regular practice.  After a week or so in France I could tell that if I was given the chance I could actually learn to communicate in French.  Sign me up for the next flight to Paris, I need to learn French!

In an effort to keep my brain from turning to mush and the reality that I can't just hop on a plane and spend the next year in France, I decided to so the next best thing and take a French class.  I am also secretly hoping that if I learn the language well enough I might be rewarded with a "graduation" gift and get some real life practice in France, before it all escapes my feeble memory!  One can hope.

So now on Mondays and Wednesdays I teach English and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I attempt to learn French. Last night in French class my head was spinning.  I missed class last Thursday

(a little hint as to where I was instead of in French class)

and even going one week without class I missed a lot.  I sat with that confused look on my face as the professor spouted off unfamiliar words and phrases.  Yikes!  Mush-brain!  I will be doing a lot of studying before tomorrow night's class.  It would help if I had the textbook.  I ordered it on Jan. 24 and still haven't gotten it.  Don't even get me started....I think the seller on Amazon sent it via bicycle or something.

My French class has been an eye opening experience when it comes to teaching my ESL (English as a second language) class.  For my French class I had to take a placement test similar to the test we use to place our students (I'm in level 2, must have remembered something!).  Now I'm the one who speaks with an accent and I am the one who looks up into the sky for the right word!  (still haven't found any answers on the ceiling)   I know exactly how my ESL students feel, immersed for an hour and a half in a class where all you hear is a foreign language.  I also have learned a few techniques from my French teacher.  One of my favorite lines he says is, "It is the same mistake whether you say it soft or say it loud, so speak up!"  He is always saying, "Courage!"  Spoken with a French accent of course! 

 After all that talk of school and classes we need a vacation.  We spent the weekend in New York City and it was another excellent trip with a surprise around every corner.  Enjoy this virtual vacation.
Katz's Deli, he used 6 pounds of meat on this sandwich!

a peaceful stroll through Central Park and what is left of the snow
we were fortunate enough to see a parade in Chinatown, complete with dragons!

and tons of confetti!

YUMMO!  TJ's favorite stop on our tour of Little Italy!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

S(no)w Day, Texas Style

This is the massive amount of ice that shut the city down for a day.

Oh, be quiet, I can hear the laughter from here. 

It has been below freezing in Houston for days!  Yes, that is a state of emergency here.  I know there are people all over the country, and the world, who are living in a winter wonderland/nightmare and it is below freezing for months at a time.  I lived in a place like that for a few winters...  Houston is not a place that experiences many days or nights below the freezing mark.  Therefore, they are ill prepared to deal with cold weather.  I forgot that pipes freeze here and plants die.  We do not typically drain our sprinkler systems in the winter because many winter days are in the 60's and all those flowers in your garden need water.  When a cold snap happens you are caught off guard and the pipes can freeze or the sprinklers can freeze and break.  Power outages happened all over the state.  Don't even get me started on the roads.  There are no snow plows and no salt trucks.  We are left to slip and slide on the roads if we dare drive. 

The storm that has paralyzed the Midwest has made it's way to Texas.  On Monday, the temps were in the 70's and frozen pipes were the last thing on our minds.  Then on Tuesday morning it was 22degrees F.  A rare occurrence in Houston.  There were statewide rolling power outages.  They were predicting snow and sleet for Thursday night and Friday.  Talk about craziness....Houston and snow.  People here do not know what to do with snow, especially on the roads.  I waited with guarded anticipation.  These things are usually much hyped and rarely deliver.

This is what my indoor/outdoor thermometer read on Thursday night...

The city shut down, schools closed, both airports cancelled all flights and they told everyone to stay home....and not a flake of snow had fallen!  No sleet, no ice and no snow....BUT it might be coming, so shut it all down NOW!   I sit in amazement at the over- reaction.  TJ said the day would be considered a spring day in Toronto!  I could only wait like a kid for the snow to arrive and hope that when I woke up in the morning I would not be disappointed by the green grass and clear streets.  I slept with visions of my snow covered streets and houses in my head.

As you have probably gathered, the only snow I saw was on my indoor/outdoor thermometer.  In the city's defense, the bridges did ice over and driving was indeed treacherous for much of the day on Friday.  The temps did not get over freezing until late afternoon on Friday and only for a few hours and then back down to the sub freezing zone.  Don't feel too bad for us though, today it is going up into the 50's and tomorrow the 60's.  Such is winter in tropical Houston.

My most sincere thoughts are with those of you who are dealing with "real" winter.  I know you are tired of it and we all seem silly shutting down an entire city because it is "supposed" to snow.  I'm with you!  I hope the snow gives you a break...soon. 
And if this post wasn't amusing enough, watch this

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