Culture, Recipes

Thanksgiving Dinner

This year I celebrated Thanksgiving a few days late.  It’s on the 4th Thursday in November in the US, but in France it’s just a normal day, so we moved Thanksgiving to Sunday instead.

So today I wanted to share with you some recipes for the different dishes we ate.

Click the photos to find the recipes!

Of course the main dish was a big, delicious turkey!

Turkey-Picture

Inside the turkey we put a stuffing.  There are loads of different stuffing recipes with all different ingredients.  Every family has their own tradition.  Here is the stuffing we made this year, with leeks, celery, granny smith apples and chestnuts.  It was delicious!

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For the side dishes, (like the stuffing) they vary from family to family.  This year we made sweet potato casserole, with a cruncy brown sugar and pecan topping.  It was a hit!  I definitely recommend trying this one if you haven’t tasted sweet potatoes before!

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Another dish that we always make for my family Thanksgiving dinner is a green bean casserole.  This is a very simple dish, but it’s a tradition that I grew up with, and Thanksgiving just isn’t the same without it.

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So after we stuffed ourselves with all of these delicious dishes we moved on to the dessert!  We tried two typical desserts.  The first one is the pecan pie:

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And the second was the pumpkin pie:

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Next year I’m tempted to try this recipe for a pumpkin pecan pie, combining these two traditional desserts into one:

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Let us know if you try out any of the recipes, and what you think about them!!

Culture

Thanksgiving Traditions

What is Thanksgiving?

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I don’t think many people really know the history of Thanksgiving, or what this day is about.  We think vaguely about Pilgrims and Indians but mostly about eating ourselves into a turkey coma.  So what is the point of this day?  What are we doing?  What are we celebrating?

To me, Thanksgiving, like the name implies, is a time to give thanks.  To be thankful for our family and friends, to be thankful for our home, our job, everything we have and everything we can do.  We should take a second to realize how lucky we really are.  It’s a family day too.  A day when everyone is there together around the table sharing a good meal and a good laugh.

We grew up thinking this day was special, untouchable.  Today, sadly enough it’s becoming less about family and more about shopping.

Thanksgiving is on the 4th Thursday of November, and the Friday that follows is called Black Friday.  This is a day with huge sales, people camping out over night to be the first ones in the shops, people getting trampled (and sometimes even killed!) to buy a video game or a smart phone.  But now our sacred day, one of the only real days off in the US is starting to disappear.  Shops are starting their “Black Friday” deals on…. Thanksgiving day.  Shops that were all closed on this day in the past are starting to open their doors.  People who used to spend their Thanksgiving with their families are now either working or shopping.  Both of which are sad…

So today Thanksgiving is losing it’s meaning…  But wait!  Where does it come from anyway??

The “first Thanksgiving” in America was apparently celebrated in 1621 by the Pilgrims and Indians to celebrate a good harvest.  The Pilgrims arrived in The New World in harsh conditions; nearly half of them died during the first winter.  The second year, however, the Indians helped them and taught them how to grow and harvest plants.  To give thanks, the Pilgrims threw a 3-day feast to thank God for their harvest and to celebrate with their Indian friends.

On this website you can find a lot of information and interesting videos about Thanksgiving – history, traditions, food, etc..

Culture

Digital Learning

This week in our English club we are speaking about Digital Learning.

We have been speaking about technology for the past few weeks – behaviors that are accpetable or not acceptable with our mobile phones, and also the pros and cons of new technology – the wealth of information, but also endless ways to be distracted and waste time!

Now we are going to take a look at digital learning, the educational possibilities that come with new technology.

These days, whenever we want to find something out, we don’t open up a big, old encyclopedia.  We go directly to our nearest computer, phone or tablet and type our question into a search engine.  We can learn lots of things online on YouTube for example by watching different tutorials.

The internet is a great resource for learning languages.  We can find videos, blogs, explanations, exercices, even new friends to practice our language with.

But do you think this new technology will replace schools in the future?  What is the future of education?

Here is a video to watch called “The Voice of an Active Learner” – Listen along to practice your English, and also see if you agree with the speaker’s thoughts about the future of education:

Here is another video.  See how online learning is already being used in classrooms today:

What do you think about online learning?

Culture

Cellphone Etiquette

This week in our English club, our theme is “Cell Phone Etiquette.”  We will be talking about when you should or shouldn’t use your mobile phone and also sharing experiences that we have had with other people who lack proper cell phone etiquette.

Now that we can bring our mobile phones anywhere, and at the tip of our fingers we have access to internet, to social networking sites, to games and applications, people tend to have trouble DISCONNECTING.

Do you talk on your phone while driving?  While waiting in line to check out at the supermarket?  Do you check your emails or your Facebook page while eating at a restaurant with friends?  Are you addicted to your mobile device?

To help you prepare for this theme and also improve your English, here are a few different materials for you:

First check out this video (listen for the American accent and expressions:  “You wouldn’t wanna be..”)

If you want some more practice, here is a nice little article “Cell Phone Etiquette: 15 rules to follow”  It includes pictures and descriptions.

Cell Phone Etiquette Article

See you soon in the English Club and we will discuss your point of view about Cell Phone Etiquette!  Otherwise, feel free to leave comments to share your point of view!

Culture

“Les Ponts”

My French students often ask me, “How do you say ‘faire le pont’ in English?”  Literally translated I would say “make a bridge”… but I always have to explain to them that this doesn’t actually mean anything in English.

So what does it mean exactly, to “faire le pont?”  Well it happens when you have a day off (France has plenty of bank holidays…wikipedia says they have 11, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more!!).  So this day off happens to fall on a tuesday or a thursday, leaving one day of work smashed between your weekend and your day off.  So what do you do?  Well, you build a bridge from the weekend to the day off and create one nice long weekend.

Like this week for example.  Wednesday and Thursday were both days off.  So of course you can’t go back to work on Friday….that doesn’t make any sense!  So you just take Friday off too…  (many employers actually pay for these bridges!)  And for some people, they built an aqueduct and took monday and tuesday off too…leading to 9 consecutive days without working.

They’re shocked when I say that this doesn’t exist in America.  That even on bank holidays…guess what, I was still working!  And even if you had the bank holiday off and you wanted to stretch your day off to the weekend…. Why waste a vacation day?

In France they have 5 WEEKS OF PAID VACATION MINIMUM.  Yeah I typed that correctly!  So you can build bridges all you want!

In the U.S. I was working 39 hour weeks… Which made me a part time employee, which meant that I apparently had ZERO paid vacation.  So building a bridge here and there cost me…  So I wasn’t interested.

The average is 2 weeks of paid vacation.  Even when you have that, you want to take one week in December to enjoy Christmas with the family and maybe one week in the summer to head to the beach.

Ok maybe neither of these options is right.  In the U.S we just work work work work work and don’t take time to really enjoy life, enjoy time with our family, to explore and discover new places and things.

So I am happy to have my 5 weeks of vacation in France after having none in the U.S.  But on top of that do we REALLY need to have 11 days off, and build a bridge every time we have one of these days off?  Apparently yes…Image cu

Culture

Try a Little Kindness

Try a Little Kindness

When you travel, what do you notice about the people in foreign countries? Maybe they dress differently, maybe they’re all taller than you… maybe it’s the way they greet people or the way they spend their free time that sets them apart.

One difference that stands out between American and French people is their SMILES! American people ALWAYS smile. Whether they’re sad, stressed, happy, busy, bored or confused, their “go to” expression is always the smile.

My grandmother and I were in Paris around New Years this year, and she said something that had never occurred to me before. My grandmother, a true New Yorker, explained to me that whenever she is in Paris, she consciously smiles less, because the French just don’t smile like Americans. Smiling at strangers is just not the custom in France like it is in America.

What is the power of a smile? Can just one smile change someone’s life? Can one smile be the difference between life and death? Who knows the value of a smile? Well, in this article from TIME Magazine, I discovered that scientists may have the answers to these questions…

According to the Scientists, “ …biases in the perception of emotional facial expressions play a causal role in subjective anger and aggressive behavior.”

-http://healthland.time.com/2013/04/04/study-shows-seeing-smiles-can-lower-aggression/

And WHAT DOES THAT MEAN??? … you might ask. Basically, their experiments have shown that seeing a smile can reduce violence and aggressive behavior. So, next time you’re walking down the street, you might give it a try. You never know if your smile will change a stranger’s mood from aggressive to calm. Bring a little happiness to your community, turn someone else’s frown upside-down!

“Put a smile on your face,
make the world a better place”
-Thanks Vitamin C!