Archive for February, 2022

An Alliance Française Panel Discussion: Demystifying the French, Round 2

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a lively discussion about Demystifying the French with three friends and colleagues, all fellow American observers of life in France, thanks to the wonderful Fédération des Alliances Françaises USA. For a little more than an hour we answered questions from the audience, and talked about everything from the unfortunate (and unnecessary) cultural clashes that can occur when Americans visit France (due to a lack of understanding each other’s ways), to the importance of meals in French life, to differences in the way we view friendship, to whether or not Emily in Paris got anything right–among many other things. Here’s the recording, for those who would like to see it. Pour yourself a glass of wine, prepare a plate of cheese and bread, sit back, and enjoy!

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, A Long Way from Iowa: A Literary Memoir.

February 8, 2022 at 8:00 am 2 comments

A Green Start to the New Year

January and February are, for me at least, an ideal time for hibernation and quiet contemplation. Which is probably also the reason that now that the happy, but somewhat chaotic period of celebrating the holidays is well over, I find that I don’t really want to write about any of that anymore. But I guess I could share a few pictures. We did have a very nice Christmas!

One of the best things about Christmas and New Years 2021 for me, aside from having both of my sons here for a few days, was the fact that this was our first “green” Christmas.

I have always loved having a freshly cut Christmas tree every year. Balsam was always our favorite because of the wonderful scent it brings into the home, and the fact that its rather sparse branches leave plenty of room for ornaments to be optimally displayed. But this year–partly because we had to have 32 (!) spruce trees in our yard cut down last summer (victims of an insect that has been devastating this particular species all over Europe)–and partly because of our growing awareness of just how badly we all need to safeguard our trees here on planet Earth, it just didn’t seem quite right to buy a dead tree this year.

We have a lot of replanting to do, and so we decided, why not start now?

Initially we had planned to bring the little live tree we bought inside, decorate it, and then plant it after Christmas. But once we had it sitting outside where it could benefit from the sunlight and rain, we didn’t have the heart to do that. It was clear that our little tree was going to be happiest outside: and so we left it there for a few days near the bird feeder, until one of my sons was able to find just the right spot, and the time to plant it. And so before the old year was gone, thanks to Sam, we had a new tree planted. It was a good feeling!

It has a long way to go to catch up with the “big guys,” but our little tree is doing quite well and we are very happy with our decision.

And so, after an unusually long silence, I am peeking out of my wintry hibernation to send everyone a belated, but very sincere wish for a green, happy, healthy, and productive 2022. Keep those masks on, and keep smiling underneath them. Spring will be here soon!

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, A Long Way from Iowa: A Literary Memoir.

February 6, 2022 at 2:27 pm 2 comments


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