Sunday Frustrations

Yesterday, my oldest and I went over some things on the new blog page and got a bunch of things accomplished.  Included among them was the change in the header’s picture to one I took in France in Auvers-sur-Oise in 1998 and a change from the Blog theme, which was malfunctioning, to a simpler one.  It turns out that many of my issues were related to the cool Blog theme I had chosen.  Simpler is better, lol!

Christian showed me how he was going “behind the scenes” to make changes in the blog that were not happening from the “dashboard” and that helped a lot.  However, this morning when I went to do it, there were radical changes that didn’t allow me to put in my subscription widget.  Adrienne e-mailed me yesterday and asked that with the move, would she automatically get e-mails with my blog entries?  I figured not, that was one of the widgets I needed to add.  When I used the dashboard, as mentioned, nothing happens.  When I went to do it behind the scenes as Christian taught me, the resident technology ghost in my house decided to take charge and mess up my plans.  So at least the new blog is up and running.  Sorry, Adrienne and others, the subscription thing is on my list. In the move from the old WordPress address to my new one, I have lost about thirty of my entries and numerous photos.  That is next on my list of things to do.  The old one is still up and running but today’s entry is the second one that will only be present on this site and not on the last site.

I hope that this move of mine isn’t going to be as inconvenient for everyone else as it currently is for me!

Yesterday, after having Samantha and Christian over and having major haircut day with Mikey trimming my follicularly challenged head and doing Christian’s hair as well, we headed out to see a movie with friends.  I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, The Eagle, which featured the less than totally respected, Channing Tatum as the protagonist.  The movie is ostensibly about a real event in Roman times taking place in Britain which was then one heck of a primitive, scary place.  The movie kept me awake during its entirety, which for me says that it was pretty entertaining.  I must say that it had some horribly cheesy moments and it was a bit drawn out at times.  What inevitably fascinated me at the end was the fact that it was filmed in Scotland and Hungary, Hungary being a great movie location of late due to the low cost of filming there.  CC and Tony, our friends are always delightful to be with and the dinner afterwards was also good.  CC and I marveled that the movie managed to pull together both of our ethnic backgrounds into a film.  We wondered, as well, whether we would ever find something to match MK’s and Tony’s backgrounds:  Italian (or Swedish) and Slovak!  I think not.  In any case, it was fun seeing a bit more of an “action” film as MK and I are not generally into “couple’s” watching of them, so this was a treat. 

Dinner was at Boston Blackie’s and it was one of those, “We don’t care where we eat as long as it is decent” evenings.  While at Northbrook Court, after the movie, we thought we could stroll over to the “Claim Company” and have dinner, unfortunately, everyone and his uncle had the same idea and the noise and the hour wait wasn’t in our thoughts as being wise, so we went elsewhere.  So it was Burgers at Blackie’s.  Again, doing anything with Tony and CC, who are also our Stratford, Ontario companions, is always a pleasure.  It is a no brainer, always fun, never ever stressful.  The only stress that there might be is figuring out the check because we are on the same wavelength and want to do the right thing.  That is good stress because you never have to worry about trying to deal with an unpleasant situation. 

Today we have a quick birthday party for the three year old daughter of one of Mikey’s good friends who is a talented chef in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He is in town since his parents live here and so we have a quick trip to the bookstore beforehand to get a gift for the young lady.

The rest of the day is somewhat up for grabs though I feel the need to go to the gym.  That is my job at the current time and that was one of my major goals, to get fitter, when I retired from my teaching job.  Our gym is amazing and really, like our local swimming pools, is country club like.  I guess we do get something for our taxes.  In any case, seeing the geriatric issues in our families, I have decided that I am going into this situation head on and I will deal with aging on a kicking and screaming basis.  My sons have repeatedly reminded me that  if and when I get to the point of being geriatrically beyond control that I am going to have a Viking’s funeral set up for me, put on a raft, pushed out into Lake Michigan and having the raft set on fire.  I guess I have my work cut out for me!

The snow has melted a great deal and I continue to watch the progress of the melt on the roof, it frankly worries me.

This week I shall work on bringing my new website up to snuff and seeing how my electronic flashcard app works with the students I am tutoring.  I am planning on working with it a bit with Samantha, doing the numbers for fun..  There is always something and I guess that this is what keeps us young!

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February!

It is February and with the realization of that (I guess I might have had things on my mind) comes the reminder as I sit sipping my coffee that the snow mounds outside are still shoulder height with me (I am 5’ 10”) and the ice floes on the roof are thick.  The only thing that gives me hope is that the daylight situation is very clearly changing.  Okay, as I reread this paragraph I am only sorry it sounds so negative, because I am not at a negative point at all!

Yesterday was a tough one technology wise, it seems that I have had a few of those lately.  I am currently blogging on two sites until I can get the new one under control.  As I have stated in the past, control seems to be the almighty word of reality in most of our lives whether we admit it or not.  In my world, most of my true frustration has been in regards to people and control.  This situation is more like man fighting machine.  It remains to be seen who shall win this one but I have not given up the battle.  Instead of doing what I might have done in the past, I am biding my time more and I am doing only enough fighting to keep me from total frustration.  On the new site, I click on a button and nothing happens or I click on it and I get an ERROR message.  Christian told me that with the upload of pictures that I need to diminish their size first, which makes sense, the old site did that automatically for me.  This makes me wonder whether or not I have made a mistake in choosing to move to the new site.   Supposedly, in the long run, I shall have more freedom to make the site my own.  Yesterday, another main struggle on www.richardjkoerner.com was the one where I was trying to change the background picture on the top to one of my own taken in France about ten years ago.  I have the choice of a wheat field northwest of Paris or of a surprising attractive weedy poppy field.  They are both cool, but although I seemed to have properly chosen my avenue of change, nothing happened.  Christian is coming over, and a part of his new consulting business, check this out: www.cnkconsultinggroup.com, is to work with issues like this so we shall see if he knows his stuff.  I know he does and I know we shall regulate my website issues.  It is just that you have to weigh whether or not the whole thing is worth it.  My natural tendency is to hang on to the old since I know it works.  Okay, let me restate this, in a way I dislike change, but I am smart enough to know that it needs to be done.  It is just that, emotionally I have not always had the ability to handle that well.  The aging process, as maligned as it is, can be of help and it is most certainly helpful here.  So I am hanging in there for the ride.

I am really happy that yesterday I managed to set up some really nice electronic flashcards that are associated with the Bien Dit textbooks by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston that New Trier is using.  I “spreadsheeted” the vocabulary and uploaded it to a website associated to the app.  This shall allow the students I am tutoring to have another avenue of ways to learn vocabulary.  I find that as the time has gone by since I first started teaching, that memorizing has gotten harder and harder for students.  I am sure that it is totally associated with the evolution of pedagogy and the relegation of memorization to a position in learning where it is not totally appreciated.  I do understand that memorization for so long was overused and over touted.  I also am cognizant of the fact that language learning employs a large amount of memorization whether or not we like the concept.  What I am seeing is that the students who are having the most issues, and here we are not talking about students who are failing, but who are trying to maintain more of an above average profile in their classes, are often in their predicament because their continued inability to maintain the vocabulary load and acquire more is hampering their reading ability and causing unnecessary errors.  The subsequent issue is that their confidence level declines and they become sometimes totally or close to totally paralyzed in the learning process.  They then think that they are not language students.  I maintain that anyone can learn a language.  Yes, the ability we all have may be different, but just take a look at the influx of immigrants to the U.S.  Not all of them learned English perfectly, but if they were surrounded by the need to know English, somehow they all managed.  As I may have stated in the past, I misjudged my own grandparents’ abilities with English.  Their speech may have been halting but they frankly communicated quite well, for the most part.  My goal with all of this is to squelch some of the “elitist” attitudes that have been passed on about language learning.  World language teachers are sometimes at fault for having this elitist attitude with their students and cause the lack of confidence that turns them away.  So, I hope that this fun “tool” of a simple app on a phone or iPod will help in some way.  It is most interesting as I tutor and find that my best work is done when I can make it a bit more fun on a personal level and I play psychologist and inject their personalities with the confidence they deserve and need.

Michael went out of the house quite early, off to take a basic skills test in order to matriculate in a graduate program at the university.  I remember taking this test myself in the not so distant past as I completed the program for administrative certification, a certificate which, in fact, I never used.  I recall that despite my knowledge that it was a no brainer, that I would have no problem passing it, that it was an annoying, silly hurdle that I had to get past.  It is unfortunate that we have to have such a test to take, but the reality is that there are people who just are not prepared to move on educationally.  This all reminds me of the reasons why Mary Kay and I moved where we did.  We realized that education is just like real estate as they always say, “Location, location, location.”  As much as my children complained of the snobbishness, the crazy attitudes of the newly rich, and the entitlement of their peers, they received a good education here in the northern suburbs of Chicago.  And, as we all know, they can take everything away from you but they cannot possibly take your educational instruction back!

I didn’t mention that last night we had dinner with one of the sons and his fiancée, a delightful dinner that if seen by outsiders would have been questioned as perhaps the activity of a loony bin.  There was, of course, the delicious repast prepared by Michael served with the last of the Beaujolais Nouveau which was accompanied by almost “wet your pants” laughter that I cannot today pinpoint as to subject.  I just asked Mary Kay about it, she called it a “pinky up” sort of discussion which somehow refers to the fakey British accents put on by just about everyone as movie quotes were flung about and the humor went from normal to bawdy.  Somehow, the only thing I remember was the mention of “Spotted Dick” which is a supposed dessert in Britain.  That says a lot about British cuisine, doesn’t it, and perhaps this last comment lends credence to my supposed discrimination against the Brits that I put in a previous blog entry.  In any case, we were literally rolling on the floor.  That was a pleasure to see as the evolution of events from Michael’s arrival at home in December that went from total and all out dysfunction to where we are now.  It seems that the healing process is well on the road, we just need to hang on to it and continue to go with it.  Last night was wonderful and I am so glad that dinners are going back to where they should be.  The culmination of all our healing will be evident as we come together this coming Thursday to fête Mary Kay’s birthday, the number of which shall remain nameless. 

On the agenda today is perhaps a visit to the gym if we can fit it in, a movie and relaxing dinner with some very good friends, and perhaps some insight into my technology war.  I am looking forward to it, bring on the day!

iPods, iCicles, and iWeber Grills?

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Okay, so I did get into a little mischief.  I straightened up!

While doing so I grabbed lunch and took few pictures outside.  We rarely have icicles and I would like to think it is because the roof is nicely insulated.

We do have a few icicles today.  We even have them on the Weber Grill.  I am not overly happy as my usual path to the Weber is solid snow so despite our needs we may have to wait a bit before grilling.  Normally, we grill all year round and we are still using charcoal.  My stubbornness has aided us in this area, I may have given in to a garbage disposal but I am NOT yet ready to turn in my charcoal!

If you are wondering about the iPod, I am currently recycling MK’s old iPhone and turning it into an iPod of the iTouch variety.  I had tried before but that was when I thought I couldn’t.  The iTunes on this laptop must be strangely corrupted so I am now connecting to my netbook.  It is working like a charm. 

Okay, back to my chair!  I need to rest before my 4:30 pm Starbuck’s meeting with Adrienne!

Tuesday, what more can I say?

It is almost noon and I must face facts, I am lazy today.  I told MK and Mike this morning at breakfast, before heading out to the gym that I was having a “Rich Day.”  Mary Kay laughed and said that a “Rich Day” is nothing more than a day I spend in running around the house doing things.  She is right, but I am not sure what I should have called it. 

I am still in my leather easy chair but I do have my beloved laptop with me.  I have spent the morning messing around with blogorganization, making sure that I have everything properly documented and filed.  I have done some e-mailing and also a short translation from French into English for Christine in France, who requested that I go over something for a special “Fair Trade” exhibition taking place in a Strasbourg church in the near future featuring bronze statues from Burkina Faso.  It amazes me that a small piece of my work might soon be sitting in a French church.  It also just occurred to me that I forgot to mention to Christine, although with her English I am sure she is aware, that I used the American spelling of mold which would be mould in British English.  Oh well…

Yesterday was absolutely wonderful with Samantha but for some reason it flattened me a bit!  I fell asleep in my chair during her afternoon nap, something I don’t do all that often.  I thought about it and realized that I have really been terribly busy, so why not just have a plain old lazy day?

I had a great workout at the gym early in the morning.  Mike’s was less successful as he was dealing with Charlie’s somewhat unexpected exercise routine that “confused” his own a bit.  Mine was going along just fine, some cardio, my shoulder/chest machines, and then a “super” cardio finish because somehow having Michael next to me on a treadmill had me working harder than I otherwise might have. 

So, I came home, did some organization, a bit of translation, and am quietly sitting finishing up the herbal tea I prepared.  Lunch, perhaps?  Darn, I am going to have to prepare it myself!

I also did some work for MK’s upcoming birthday.  As usual, I will set some “grenades and bombs” of confusion about what will take place and about what she might be receiving for this particular “big” birthday that she wants no hubbub about.  I love the element of surprise and the stress as one wonders exactly what is going to happen.  Honestly, I haven’t done much planning…or have I?  Since she reads this blog, perhaps I am setting her up from this vantage point.  On the other hand, is her birthday this month or next month?  She knows me too well, I am not the normal husband, I remember these things.  My mother trained me well, Queen of Hallmark that she was!

So, although I am blogging later in the day than normal, at least I got to it!  Still keep wondering…the day is young, there are all kinds of mischief I can get involved in!

Awake

 

At 5:30 AM, I literally sat up straight in bed.  I knew that there was no sleep to be had.  As I shuffled around the bedroom, MK asked me why I was up.  I responded, “Because I am awake.”  My internal alarm had gone off for some reason.  When it goes off, I heed its call!

I had slept well although seem to have experienced strange dreams.  Every so often I would somewhat awaken to mentally rehash the story line of the dream.  At that point, I wasn’t sure whether it was dream or reality.

So, up I am and set to making the coffee and then to a task I didn’t want to do later.  Before going to bed I had thrown a load of wash in.  Our front loading washer is wonderful, but unfortunately we didn’t follow a Koerner tenet, never to buy something when it is a new model.  Despite the fact that the Europeans have been successfully producing front loading washers for what seems like centuries, we Americans are new to it.  Our model works well but it took us a while to figure out its quirks.  One of the quirks is that you cannot leave the door closed as it will begin to take on a musty odor from the moldy matter it must be producing.  We also learned that you can use almost no detergent, it needs to be very small in volume.  Excess soap makes must as well, or so I am told.

So, I went down to the laundry room after my toilette and coffee production to deal with the laundry.  I knew that I had to deal with the issue of folding the laundry in order to place the new laundry on the racks.  That took a bit of time and then I was finally able to install the newly washed whites from last night.

It is now 6:30 AM and I am finally seated with my cup of coffee.  It is time to reflect on yesterday and today.  I got my coffee and took out the recycling and picked up the newspaper which is too large for Ali to deal with.  I almost killed myself on the slippery pavement which is ice covered from Snowmageddon and now has at least an inch of white fluffy snow.  Apparently we are going to have our record beaten this year.  In the past there were never more than three years in a row with over 50 inches of snow.  The past three years were over that limit and we were at 47 inches the other day.  I am guessing this is a “no brainer” and we shall have a new record. 

Yesterday was nice despite the less than auspicious beginning after our exercise foray.  We went to the nursing home to take clothing for MK’s mom.  Once there we learned that she had not been cooperating.  For us, news of this nature is never a surprise.  We dialogued with the nurses and staff, made them aware that we had two charges in the facility, which surprised a good many of them, and we informed them that we understand what they are going through and that we are very supportive.  We told them, as well, that MK’s mom is to get dressed each day and they are to try to make sure she gets in her rehab and tries to socialize a bit.  We even managed to get her to lunch and she seemed to enjoy it.  My mom was her usual self and doing fine with the situation although she hasn’t been eating as much.  She has lost weight and I think she may have gotten into some bad habits while waiting for her mouth to heal and for her new dentures.  Anyway, there is always something.

We saw The King’s Speech in the early part of the afternoon.  It was amazing from so many standpoints.  I was in awe of the way that the film was made and managed to keep you involved despite what seemed to be a very simple plot that wouldn’t be able to hold your attention for the whole film.  The actors, Colin Firth in particular, managed to totally convince the spectator of the seriousness of the undertaking.  The pain of “Bertie,” AKA King George VI, was evident, obvious, and strongly felt by the audience.  It was a great film and managed to keep us awake throughout the whole time, which at my age is how you can measure the interest of a film!

Did I mention it was snowing?  I just opened up the blinds so we can enjoy the beauty of the falling snow which is continuing to come down in a steady, but persistent way.

We ended up last night going to a Tapas Restaurant with one of MK’s colleagues and spouse.  We had a delightful dinner and then returned home.

Yesterday I also completed my tutoring schedule for the coming week.  I am tutoring two girls consistently each week and yesterday I received an e-mail from another who wants to make sure she understands The Stranger by Albert Camus, one of my all time favorite books. 

The kids are supposed to be heading north this morning for a Super Bowl Day of skiing.  I kind of thought that they were on an early schedule, Samantha is to spend time with “Mumma” and Papi today.  We shall see.  That newspaper seems to be inviting me to read it.  Now that I have my world in control and can approach it and see what is going on.

Oh yes, the Super Bowl.  Weirdo that I am, I am probably not watching it.  Honestly, had the Bears been involved, I would have at least attempted to watch a bit, maybe even more than a bit.  I shall be glad when the game is over; I am sure tired of being asked at the grocery store if my stockpiling is due to that celebration!  Traditionally, we always find something to do that is usually crowded, on this Sunday, during the game, crowded venues are amazingly empty and so much more enjoyable!

Time for some more coffee…

Florida, Texas, and thoughts of New Trier

Florida, last year when I was working for ASC

 

As I am sitting here in my sixty-eight degree surroundings and see the snow capped piles in the distance through my living room window, I ponder what today might have been like had I been still working for the language lab company.  This week the conference was in Florida, next week in Texas.

Most assuredly I would have donned a suit and spoken to hundreds of people  as I worked the conference in Orlando.  As nice as Orlando is, it is not my favorite Florida venue, and Florida, in fact, is not my favorite warm weather place.  I would have been nice seeing my ASC colleagues, especially George Washington.  I would then have gone this week to Texas, probably Austin, to work that crowd.  I truly enjoy travelling and working with educators so that would have been fun.  That was not meant to be and I do believe that something is around the corner for me, so we shall see.

Pretirement has been an interesting part of my life.  I miss teaching, I miss the camaraderie with the great students and my wonderful colleagues, but I do not miss the hassles.  I do not miss grading papers, although I could easily get back into that, it wasn’t my biggest issue.  I do not miss the bureaucracy and the myriad of add on jobs that occurred during my thirty plus years’ career.  People have absolutely no idea how much school functionaries are put upon by the changes in philosophies and progress in educational thinking.  What I really don’t miss is the politics and the silliness that it brought into our daily lives.  To me these things are totally unnecessary and only made our jobs harder.

Recently, on Facebook, a former student, or should I explain, a former acquaintance student of mine contacted me about this blog.  She told me she was remiss in not having contacted me sooner to tell me that she enjoyed the blog.  She said that she enjoyed the poignancy of my feelings in the entries I have posted so far.

She also mentioned that she would love to have my reaction to the atmosphere within the Modern and Classical Languages department that had pretty much adopted her, during her time at New Trier.  She was truly the departmental mascot.  That is one of the reasons why I knew her.  In my stay at New Trier I have gotten to know far more than my own personal students.  Alison was the “advisee” of my good friend and colleague, Adrienne.  She was a student of Japanese, not French.  I knew her because of her association with my good friend.  Alison, like many of our students and advisees, was omnipresent in the office, searching us out to talk, to discuss, to confide, to connect.  That is what so many of us as teachers and advisers were all about.  We did it because, frankly, we were on a mission.  We were not always sure whether we were born with that mission or turned to it from New Trier, but I am convinced that it was both of those reasons.  Not only was it our mission and our calling, but we reveled in the wonderful communications and experiences we had.

Adrienne is the consummate French teacher and also the consummate teacher as well.  She is very interested in her subject area and teaches it with the highest professionalism possible.  I say teaches, because she is still teaching although “retired.” I would say that she is truly “pretired” as I am.  She was all about the kids, she is all about the career that she took on and espoused; lives, eats, and still breathes to this day.  She is a hard worker, a motivator, and the most caring person you could ever meet.  The day she retired was a tough one for me since I could no longer count on seeing her on a daily basis for the moral sustenance that we all crave as we do our daily jobs.  That made my subsequent years at New Trier harder. 

Adrienne and I not only worked together on the Winnetka campus, she even accompanied me on trips to France as we “shepherded” kids through a Homestay/Exchange program.  She and I became “Mom and Dad” to so many kids as we studied, worked, and traveled together.  I could always count on Adrienne to work with anyone and everyone because no matter what, she cared.   I can also say, with total objectivity, that although she was revered in the halls of the Winnetka campus,  she deserved to be on a much higher pedestal than she was, for all the good she did.

Adrienne and I had been through some very tough times while at the school.  We had lived through and dealt with a Caligula-like department chairman who attempted to make our lives very difficult at times.  The office that Alison speaks of so fondly was not a pleasant place to be.  We were stressed, we were under the gun, we knew that the proverbial shoe could drop at any moment and we would be subjected to moods and reactions that we never deserved.  We lived through it and we pride ourselves on the fact that despite the enormity of the bad situation we endured, our students were never aware that it was occurring.  In fact, they are the ones I credit with our having gotten through the stress and trauma.  Having them as our focus allowed us to deal with the extremely unpleasant man who was our supposed superior, inflicting his mean-spirited whims on those of us in the office that he had singled out unjustly.  I remember oh so fondly the days that he wasn’t present in the office, for some reason, and how the curtain of unpleasantness was lifted.  I also remember the joy when we heard of his impending retirement and how he pretty much disappeared almost completely from view unlike others who had retired.  We had obviously been justified in our dislike for him and our lack of appreciation and understanding for the job he was doing.

Alison showed up during a time period of healing.  I remember talking to the person who became the new department chairman and saying to her that she mustn’t mistake our anxiety in being called into the office as being due to something she had done, but instead realize it was an almost Pavlovian response to what we had been through with her predecessor.

Things were never really the same after Cecil’s departure, but they did, most assuredly get better.  Alison saw the real “us” as we were able to freely go about our jobs and welcome all into the office.  The office had always appeared as a “haven” of sorts even during Cecil’s tenure, we had always had wonderful food and snacks to share.  Those of us who were “persecuted” never really allowed anyone else to suffer (except for, in my case, my poor family!) and the students were,  as I said, never aware.  Once Cecil was gone, we set about to “recover” and be our normal selves.  I recall so many students who made daily visits to us.  I so remember the wonderful, brilliant, young student who was having parental issues and how she would visit me daily and we would discuss rationally what needed to be done.  I remember telling her to get a calendar and set up to countdown the days until her graduation.  She did so, she graduated, she is well on the way to achieving so much and she is going into education.  She is one of many that we were able to reach and help.

The office that Alison came into was not a huge space but it contained well over thirty people.  I am not saying, in this entry, that all of my colleagues were on the same page as Adrienne and I were, but for the most part, they were very good people.  There always were a certain number of people who, since having been placed on the good list during the bad years, never really could understand the pain we were undergoing.  They were so happy at their situations that they almost refused to see what was really going on.

It hurts so much when people try to denigrate the job that teachers are doing.  I know that teaching, like any profession, is going to have some people who are not performing as they should.  I know as well, that so many of them are performing so far above and beyond what they are paid to do and just don’t get the recognition.  I know this personally from so many discussions I have had during the years and these discussions have been with acquaintances and family alike.  I know that some say that the tenure process and unions for teachers are a problem.  I know as well that had I not had tenure that I would have been in some hot water for a short time during my career since I had a supervisor who decided that he was going to try to make my life difficult.

So, in the end, I am so thankful to people like Alison and Adrienne because they are so representative of my experience in the teaching world which is so rewarding and oh so memorable.  It is so nice to be touched by having worked with people like these and receiving oh so much from them.  That was one heck of a career.  And hey, I am pretired, so on it goes!

Soufflenheim and its pottery

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France is obviously a very important part of my life.  My first view of it was through Paris and of Tours, living in the latter for an academic year of college.  I thought that I would always prefer Tours and the Valley of the Loire, but I was mistaken.  Although I frankly adore it all, I am particularly smitten by Alsace and Strasbourg.  So much so that when I am in Paris I have been asked if I am “from the East.”  They noticed that I was using some vocabulary and also had a trace of an accent from the eastern portion of France.

Having spent more than ten years of yearly two weeks or more stays in the environs of Strasbourg, I grew to love the area. I created many close friendships and had many a good time there.  Because of the nature of the exchange program I worked with, I lived each time I went to France, with a teacher/colleague who exposed me to all aspects of the Alsatian/French culture while treating me like a king.

I remember early on falling in love with the everyday dishes my friends would serve me on.  During the daily trips we would take in the area with students, one of the stops was always the lovely town of Soufflenheim.  While there we would visit the local pottery shops and get to see the making of it as well.  In my visits there I became enamored of the blue variety you see in my pictures.  I decided that we needed to have a set of it.  I even have my favorite potter’s studio of Philippe Lehmann.  One of the things I like best about it is the fact that there are variations in its production, they are not perfectly alike.  From potter to potter there are variations as well. 

Supposedly potters have been in the area since almost 400 B.C.  The local potters were given the rights to use the local clay from the nearby Haguenau forest by the Emperor Barbarossa.

The large dish/plate/tray with my name and Mary Kay’s was a gift from my dear friend, Martine, one of my teacher/colleagues who stayed with us and then we stayed with her family while in France.  That was quite the lucky stay since it was a Boulangerie/Pâtisserie Artisanale, which means that it was truly on top of the heap in terms of honors and they were well deserved ones at that.  Needless to say, we had the most amazing culinary time you could imagine soaking up all the amazing bakery items imaginable, all while visiting with a most amazing family.

Martine and my other friends, Nicole, Catherine, and Fabienne, spent much time with me and my family and exposed me to so many aspects of Alsace and Strasbourg.

One thing I found out right away is that the pottery from Soufflenheim could not be easily gotten in the U.S.  When I asked about shipping it, they told me that they just don’t!  I checked into shipping it myself and my friend, Martine, told me that I risked getting it back home smashed to bits because the postal workers were notorious for not treating packages well.  I therefore set about, in my stays there, to picking up plates, mugs, assorted pieces, bit by bit and transporting them on the plane as carry ons.   Little by little, mostly just by myself, but with family members when they were with me, I picked up enough pieces to have a set of fifteen dinner plates, salad plates, etc.  We use it when we feel the need for a “pick me up” because it always gives us pleasure using it.  This year we decided it is our official Thanksgiving set of dishes to be used with the dirylite cutlery we have.  It all looks amazing together.

In France, it is advertised as being safe in the dishwasher, oven, and microwave although we take more care with it than to do that.   The blue is the secondary color of Soufflenheim, I believe, the mustardy yellow being more popular.  What we purchased is pretty traditional in style; they have advanced to modernizing it a bit.

One of these days I need to visit the town of Betschdorf, the other famous Alsatian town for pottery.  I think it is beautiful as well, it is a gray/blue combo, but it just doesn’t have the pull for me that Soufflenheim’s does.

Soufflenheim is also known for being close to Sessenheim, a town where a young lady lived, who was pursued by Goethe.  I believe that Goethe was known to have visited Soufflenheim with the young lady as well.

One of the pictures has a piece that looks a lot like a Bundt pan.  It is the mold for a Kougelhopf, a special Alsatian cake that can either be made as a dessert type with some sweetness and almonds or a more savory apéritif type variety with cheese and bacon.

I know many people who have a piece or two of the beautiful Soufflenheim pottery, but don’t know of any other family beyond our own who has an entire set of it.

At the present time, one of our salad plates bit the dust, I think I may just have to go to France and pick up another!