In The Beginning of 2021

“My generation understood a lot about duty to others, and very little about duty to ourselves.”
Catherine Dunne

Hello you!

It has been a while, I know, but here I am again. Happy and above all a healthy 2021!

As you will have noticed as a regular reader, there has been a very long radio silence. That’s because I have taken time to think about what I wanted blogging-wise. The original idea of Petite Teacher was to inspire fellow teacher to dress better. It slowly evolved into a blog that was a bit of fashion, a bit of travelling, a bit of life lessons, some cooking and some literature. A bit of everything actually and for me it became a blog on which “one cannot see the forest for the trees”. Although I still love many of my blog posts, I felt I should refocus and concentrate on a niche among all that interests me.

And a choice has been made…

Books

 

I will focus on books and the pleasure and learnings they bring their readers. That’s why I have started a second blog, focussing very much on book clubs and how they can make most out the books they read. When you want to know more, check out www.bookclubpost.com

On Petite Teacher I will publish some bookish blog posts too now and then, but with a different touch. I will link the books more to life lessons, since this blog is called Petite Teacher for a reason, isn’t it?

I hope you are joining me on this new Petite Teacher journey. So, let’s begin with…

In The Beginning

What could be a better book to start with at the beginning of a New Year and at the beginning of a new blogging style than a book with this title?

What is it about?

Well, about a family. In the beginning there is a family. It is a very ordinary family, just like yours or mine – Ben, Rose and their three children. One morning Rose is boiling eggs in the kitchen when, without warning, Ben leaves her. Rose is all of the sudden left to face life alone.

In the novel “In The Beginning” we read the story of Ben and Rose’s marriage and how Rose struggles to re-invent her life after he has left her. We read how the marriage was “In The Beginning” and we follow Rose for one year after the break-up. In this year she manages to create her own new beginning.

Catherine Dunne, the author, uses simple prose and has a good eye for both sharp and subtle observations. She delivers these sharp and subtle observations with lots of humour. When you have finished this novel you will not only admire Rose, but also know (again) that it pays off to reflect what you want and to live your life accordingly.

Summary of In The Beginning

One morning, out of the blue, Ben tells Rose he is leaving her. Devastated and numb by this news, Rose decides to stick to her routines as best as she can to survive the day. And so we read how she gets through the first week. She gets help from her friend Jane and, unexpectedly, from her teenage son. In one week she evolves from an obedient housewife (whose days are filled with keeping the house clean and organised, with taking care of the children and with cooking the most exquisite meals for her husband and serving them on time too) into a woman who takes the initiative in unknown territories.

In between those 7 days, we can read in flashbacks how Ben and Rose came together and how their relationship took shape. This makes us understand why the marriage was as it was when Ben thought it was enough.

The novel has got 4 parts, like the family consists of 4 members. The first part is a daily account of Rose’s life, not just the day, but even the time is mentioned. In the course of the novel the time lapses are further apart, which is in line with Rose’s growth into the new situation. In total the 4 parts deal with the first year. We mainly read the story through Rose’s eyes, though there are a few chapters written from Ben’s point of view.

Review of In The Beginning

The title sounds pretty biblical and the author plays with this by describing how Rose creates order in the chaos of her life after Ben left during 6 days. On the 7th day she rests. I think that was cleverly done and by using this short timeframe, the author makes clear how much we are able to do when we are in a survival modus. Any of you who has been in some kind of traumatic situation can probably relate to this.

I thought it was very refreshing to read a novel that was so domestic. Many novels have got quite an amount of drama in it, with unexpected turns and twists and sometimes far-stretched actions undertaken by the characters. Rose takes revenge on Ben by drinking his expensive wine, throwing some glasses against the wall of his new apartment and by going to the airport to park his car into a different spot, making sure he will get stressed upon arrival. I think these kind of actions are closer to what many readers would do when faced with domestic drama than you will find in many other books. I liked that ordinary approach of an ordinary woman with an ordinary family a lot.

The novel can only be bought as an e-read version (good for the environment) or as a second-hand “traditional” book (good for the environment too, less so for the author) only. I think that is a shame, since the novel may be nearly 25 years old but the topic is unfortunately still very actual. Many relationships fall apart and often women struggle with the emotional and financial consequences of a break-up, especially when there are children involved.

Lessons learned from In The Beginning

The main lesson I took from this novel is that it is important to keep in mind what you want and not just do what you think is expected from you. That was also one of the lessons you can take from Michelle Obama’s Becoming by the way.

The novel also brings the message across that you are stronger than you think you are and I know that is true. I have seen it with friends who have lost their husbands. Every single one of them has managed to find their own new beginning, just like Rose found hers.

Wishing you not only a good new beginning, but a fantastic year full of love, laughter, luck, liberty and literature.

Love, Lieske

PS:

Those of you who are interested in more information about “In The Beginning” can have a look at my reading guide on Book Club Post.

 

 

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How the Corona Crisis has infected our language

white and black Together We Create graffiti wall decor“Words, words, words.”

–  Shakespeare (Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2)

Last week I offered you 5 recipes for mocktails that are easy to make at home. I could have called each of those a “Quarantini” (a cocktail made while stuck at home) as well. Quarantini is one of many new words that have “infected” our daily language since the Corona Crisis is in full swing.

As a language teacher I am fascinated by this phenomenon. How are these new words created and what kind of new vocabulary is there? As we are talking about a pandemic I will not only look at the ways the English vocabulary has been infected, but also treat some Dutch (my native language) and German (my daily language in Switzerland) words. No worries: the blogpost is in English, so you can follow it all!

Read on to enjoy this bit of homeschooling!

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5 delicious low-calorie alcohol-free cocktails that you can make and enjoy at home for your virtual Friday (after work) drinks

“No amount of physical contact could match the healing powers of a well made cocktail.”

– David Sedaris

It’s Friday and even when you are working from home, this still means that your weekend is about to begin and looking at the above quote, let’s kick it off with some fantastic cocktails. Why not organise a virtual drink with colleagues or friends to enjoy them in good virtual company?

Because there is a tendency of drinking too much alcohol in stressful situations (and let’s face it: many of us experience the corona crisis as quite stressful), I have collected 5 magnificent mocktails for you and tried them out myself before posting them here. They are super easy to prepare, look awesome, taste delicious and are not only alcohol-free, but low on calories as well. What more do you want !?!

Read on for recipes, so you can kick off your weekend (and the next ones) in style, taking care of your emotional and physical well-being. Cheers!

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Tips how to celebrate Easter at home: facile, fun & festive! What more do you want?

“An egg is always an adventure; the next one may be different.”

– Oscar Wilde

I don’t know how it is for you, but my Easter weekend will be very different this year. It is tradition for us to travel to Holland (we live in Switzerland) and have a long weekend full of brunches, lunches and dinners with loads and loads of family and friends.

This year the long weekend will be with…just our nuclear family. That means I had to rethink how to make this Easter weekend a fun and festive one too.

Read on for some simple and small gestures that will lead to a fun and festive mood and will make this Easter weekend a positive and memorable one too.

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7 practical tips for a good work-life balance when you work from home

“Nothing is difficult if you’re used to it.”

– Kashmiri (on habit)

Many of you will be working from home these days and I am sure you had to get used to that. I know I had😉.

Although I am used to correcting homework and tests at home and I always prepare my lessons at home, working 100% from home is a different story all together (I miss my classroom and the interaction with my pupils😢).

After 2 weeks of working from home I kind of got used to my new way of teaching, but I felt that some fine-tuning was still needed to get a better work-life balance. That’s why I searched for tips how to make working from home work well. I am happy to share some of these tips with you this week so you can profit from them too!

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Why Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” is a good read now we are forced to stay at home because of the Corona Crisis

Becoming – Art and perambulation

“To me, there was magic in the learning.”

– Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” is an excellent read. It is interesting, funny and you can learn a lot from it. I think it is also (or maybe even especially) an excellent read for everyone who is being forced to stay at home because of the Corona Crisis. Why?

Practicalities first: the novel has got 400+ pages, which is great, because we have a lot of time to spend at home and what’s better than having a good read to kill all that time?

Apart from that, the book has got a very positive and uplifting tone, something we do not find in the news nowadays and something we all need more than ever.

The book also contains many life lessons. Let me share two lessons you can find in this book and you can use in this special situation we find ourselves in.

One is that more choice leads to more stress. Many of us experience the opposite right now: more stress because we have little choice. A different perspective may be very welcome.

A second one is that Michelle Obama shows us the power of a loving and caring family and the power of friendships, relationships all of us can use and offer at the moment.

There are many more lessons this book contains. Read on to find out which ones from Michelle Obama’s extraordinary life you can link  to your “normal” life in the current Corona Crisis. 

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How to handle daily life during lockdown and what positive learnings you can take with you

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley 

How different this weekend is from the one a week ago. And how much more different it is from the one two weeks ago (as the above photo clearly shows). Even though we had read about the Corona Virus in China and Italy for weeks, many of us had not anticipated all this: the social distancing, the working from home, home-schooling…and all that in the wink of an eye (not really or course, but so it feels).

For the first time in many months I felt lost for inspiration what to write about. There is a blogpost ready about the awesome Atlantic coast near Cascais, a really cool day trip from Lisbon. But who cares at the moment? Life has changed and we are adapting to that, learning to cope with new challenges.

I am sure many of you are, like me, looking for ways to deal with these new challenges in the best possible ways. That’s why I like to share my experiences with you, including my learnings.

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A day trip to Sintra: how to do it without a guide

“If you don’t climb the mountain, you can’t see the view.” 

– Harvey Mackay

One of the best day trips from Lisbon is a visit to Sintra, a super charming little town situated in the high hills of the Serra de Sintra, one of Portugal’s 13 natural parks. Scattered all over the hills are beautiful palaces, extravagant villas and the ruins of an enormous Moorish castle. Sintra is simply a must-go and must-see whenever you are in Lisbon for more than 2 days.

The internet is full of organised tours to Sintra and this can make you feel that Sintra can only be done with a guide. I disagree. It’s an easy trip to undertake yourself, since public transport to and in Sintra is perfectly well organised and tickets can be bought online and on the spot. We did it all ourselves, took an early train to Sintra, had coffee with a pastéis de nata before taking the bus all the way up the Sintra hills. We visited 3 castles in one day at a leisurely pace and had a delicious light lunch in the charming old city centre as a break between our sightseeings.

If you want to explore Sintra without a guide too, please read on, since this week’s blogpost is all about possible ways to organise your one-day-trip to Sintra without a guide, without any hassle and with lots and lots of castles and food to enjoy!

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7 reasons why you should visit Lisbon

“Every choice you make has an end result.”

– Zig Ziglar

There are so many cities to choose from for a city trip, that it may be hard to decide which one(s) to visit. Maybe my list of 7 reasons why you should visit Lisbon can help you choose. I have recently spent a wonderful week in this charming city and can honestly say that I think Lisbon offers something for everyone. I would definitely go to Lisbon if…

1. You like city trips and you are keen on beach days. Lisbon offers both!

2. You like sweet and salty food. Go to Lisbon and you can enjoy both!

3. You like good food and live music. Have dinner in a Fado restaurant in Lisbon and you have both!

4. You like reliable and inexpensive public transport. Travel to and in Lisbon and you have both!

5. You like city trips and you like to do some walking and cycling. Lisbon offers both!

6. You like wine and you like bubbles. Have some vinho verde in Lisbon and you have both!

7. You like modern and classical art. Lisbon is full of museums and certainly offers both (and more)!

Read on for tips and background information about food, public transport, miradouros, the best beaches, museums, Fado restaurants and more.

Let me also tell you that Lisbon is a great city to visit in winter, since Lisbon offers mild temperatures and sunshine☀️ in these months.  I think it’s wonderful to enjoy that kind of weather in winter, when many of us have to do without warm and sunny days. Another good reason to put Lisbon on your list of cities to visit👍

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A heartwarming read for Valentine’s Day: “PS, I Love You” and its sequel “Postscript”

“Sometimes there is only one thing left to say…..PS, I Love You”

– Cecilia Ahern 

The quote is (surprise, surprise) from the novel PS, I Love You. A perfect gift and read for Valentine’s Day.

What is it about?

Well, about letters from one lover to another to start with.

Writing letters is often done at the beginning of a romance. Not so in this novel. The letters, that all end with PS, I Love Youare not written at the beginning, but at the end of a romance. The romance does not end because one of the two falls out of love though. The romance ends because one of the two falls ill. Terminally ill.

Holly and Gerry are childhood sweethearts, they marry and the whole picture just looks like a fairy tale, but without the “and they lived happily ever after”. Gerry gets a brain tumor and just before Holly turns 30 she is a widow. She does not know how to get on with life after this tragedy, something Gerry had anticipated. That’s why he has written 10 notes to her, all with some kind of assignment for Holly, helping her to get on with life and to be happy again.

Prepare yourself with a handkerchief when you start reading the novel, but rest assured: it’s a heartwarming one, a loving one, an uplifting one and one that shows the power of love in many ways.

Read on for more details and for discussion questions you may like to use in your book club or for yourself, simply to get more out of your read.

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