Julia Child and food for thought

“Julia Child said, “I see every recipe as a little short story.” What an inspiration she was! She had a zest for life! As the French say, joie de vivre! This blog is for anyone who cares about food, cooking, and friendship.

Blogging is like having a weekly lunch with girlfriends and writing about what we talk about. Well, I don’t know anyone who has time for a weekly lunch with their friends like they do in the show Sex in the City! The book club my friends and I created, The Julia Child Book Club, meets seasonally. This gives us time to read and decide what to bring to the table. Our conversations gradually build into some lively and simulating discussion (sometimes encouraged by some really great wine or champagne)! We go back and forth to the books and food but also our own relationships and our own life.

The other thing I love is I’m broadening my literary knowledge and expanding my culinary skills. Someone might pick out a book I would never have thought to read, or a cuisine I’ve never thought to try. It gets me thinking outside the (lunch) box. But, more than anything it’s about enjoying the company of friends. Women need that! It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of the same old recipes and routines. It’s also good for your children to see you get creative in the kitchen too! Who knows? You could inspire them to try something different!

As a working mom I find I need little outlets that remind me of who I am. For me I find a little daily Pilates can center me, a once a week ballet class can make me a better wife and mother, and looking forward to The Julia Child Book Club is just the icing on the cake! It provides me with a creative cooking outlet and gets me reading! We all need something to look forward to. I used to look forward to travel. Now with two small children, two jobs, and a rotten economy, this is just not possible! Cooking can be meditative, and reading an escape.

I think reading a good book can provide the same kind of nourishment as eating a good meal. And, when you can share a good book and a meal with family and friends, you are nourishing your mind, body, and soul.

Food and books have always been a passion of mine. But, there’s something about sharing it with friends that makes it even better! Our Julia Child Book Club is small (no more than 8) so that everyone can entertain comfortably. It’s very causal and relaxed! As a teacher, I knew I did not want it to feel like the classroom. There are no planned questions. We might not always like or even finish the book but, like I said it’s very relaxed! We are connected through our love for cooking and reading. We drink, talk, and enjoy each others company before we have to go back to work and our daily routine.

I’ve always had a fascination with Julia Child. She is our patron chef! That’s why it’s called “The Julia Child Book Club”!! Julia Child said, “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” These are words to live by.

If you like to cook and read I hope this will inspire you to get your friends together once in a while to learn from each other, eat a fabulous meal, but most importantly…laugh!

As Julia always said at the end of The French Chef cooking show, Bon Appetit! If you like this idea might I suggest starting with Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously and Julia Child’s My Life in France, then you and your girlfriends could go see the movie together next month.

Looking for more ideas? Here is what The Julia Child Book Club has read so far: The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry (French Cuisine), There’s a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell (healthy), Eat, Pray, Love (Italian), Wicked (spooky), My Sister’s Keeper (New England), Julia Child’s My Life in France (French), The Secret Life of Bees (southern), The Widow Clicquot and Abundance (French country).

Hallo, Auf Wiedersehen and Doitashimashite

Learning Language Breeds Humility
Culture is a passion of mine! I am very proud to be an American, but have always felt a desire to explore other places. Learning about a different culture other than your own makes a person more worldly and open to new ideas, people, food, language…I think parents want more for their children. I certainly want my children and the children I teach to have knowledge of what’s out there. I’ve always thought that the very best education is travel because your heart is open to learning about the culture of where ever you are.


PHOTO: Ashley’s students displaying their love of languages

In the past few years of teaching I’ve explored teaching a foreign language with the help of some wonderful people. I was also motivated to learn with my children! Motivation is a huge key! It’s easier to do anything when you have an interest in it. I just wish that when my 2nd graders get into their 3rd grade class in August that they could continue to study a foreign language because it’s part of their curriculum. Maybe someday!

The good thing is I know my past students will retain most of what they learned because they learned French, German, and Japanese at 7 and 8 years old (a time when their little brains are like sponges). My past students will catch me in the hall and give me a Comment allez-vous Mrs. Cooley?, Hallo and auf Wiedersehen Mrs. Cooley. And my favorite (after thank you), doitashimashite (you’re welcome in Japanese) because it’s so much fun to say! It’s always thrilling to hear and the other kids that I didn’t teach want to know what they’re saying so they can say it too! Perhaps in high school they’ll pick it up again.

When I’m teaching Pilates to the children in my classroom I am inspired to teach German at the same time. After all, Joseph Pilates was from Germany. The kids learned the history of Joseph Pilates and to count and speak some basic German phrases and words. Ich mach Pilates the kids would say ( I like Pilates)! We would sing a German counting song while balancing. As a teacher, I love the way this adds another element of challenge into the program. I had their little minds and bodies working together.

Young children are ready and able to soak up lots of new information, especially if the learning is fun! Joseph Pilates was right; children do need to learn his exercises because just like a foreign language, when you learn it as a child, it stays with you forever!! I try to use what is available to me. Last year I was fortunate enough to have a room mother from Austria. She would come once a week and teach us German. This year I had access to someone from Japan and we did both German and Japanese. The kids loved it!! And I feel every year I become a better teacher because I am learning too! My toddler can speak and count some basic German, French, Spanish, Turkish, and now Japanese and she absorbs it all!

I really think the key is to introduce foreign language and Pilates as early as possible because as I can see from my former students and my daughter, they soak it up and love learning and being challenged!! America is really behind other countries like Europe in teaching our children culture studies. Most countries start learning a foreign language in elementary school. Learning Pilates, like learning a foreign language, increases a student’s skills in creativity, memory, attention control, problem solving and more. Why wouldn’t we want this for our kids?!?

I have read that kids under the age of 12 can learn a foreign language and speak it without an obvious accent. I don’t know about you, but this is not possible for me! I know my Texas accent carries over into whatever I’m speaking. But, our kids can do it! Children in Europe learn two or more foreign languages during their schooling. I wish language was more of a priority for us in elementary school because the longer we wait to teach them the harder it is to pick up. I know what teachers are thinking! I don’t have time to add one more thing to my day! This is true, I certainly had to make it a priority and I married many things together. If you are motivated to teach and learn, you find the time! My 2nd graders were teaching me too, and I know they liked that!

Another reason we should want our children to learn a foreign language is that people of other cultures are worth getting to know! We should make more of an effort to try to learn to get to know them in their own language. Most countries learn English! I know what you’re thinking!! I’m not going to France anytime soon in this economy so why bother? I’ll tell you why…Learning is fun! Maybe instead of French, learn Spanish! But, take a step into another culture together with your child! I’m sure you will find the history, food, and the people to be fascinating. You will be serving them a giant slice of humble pie too, because learning a foreign language breeds humility.

I love this inspirational quote from Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

Be inspired to inspire your children and learn together.

Yogalites (Yoga and Pilates) unite!

Yoga and Pilates…competitors? Yes, but also a great team with a lot in common. Do they attract different personalities? Yes! The stereotype Pilates person is a regimented perfectionist (this was Joseph Pilates to the T). The stereotype yoga person is a free spirit! Yoga compliments Pilates with breath, flexibility, balance, concentration, and meditation. The two marry well together. As a certified Pilates instructor and dancer who practices both yoga and Pilates regularly, does that make me a type-A/ hippy? I think I am “middle of the road”! Maybe because I do both!

You may have heard of “yogalites” (yoga and Pilates combined) classes. I sometimes find myself teaching a Pilates class and transitioning with a yoga pose just because it feels natural to me. Many of the poses are similar. This past year, I had a student whose mom is a yoga instructor. My student, Collin, noticed when we were doing swan that it was just like cobra! He was correct in that observation because when you compare the yoga pose, “cobra” to the Pilates, “swan”; you are doing the same movement! Both are even named after animals! Similar, yes! The same, no! If you practice something for a long time, you are able to pick up on the differences. I’m not a certified yoga instructor, put some things just feel natural to my body. I like to try to stay true to the teachings of Joseph Pilates but sometimes like to experiment doing just what feels good.

Pilates benefits yoga practice by teaching you how to organize your body. This is one of the reasons I started implementing Pilates in the classroom. I noticed something missing in my 2nd grade class. The kids who can’t organize their desks, can’t organize their bodies! We need the structure of Pilates and concentration of yoga. Kids can benefit from both these exercises! Believe me, I’ve seen it work!

In both yoga and Pilates, the idea is to find balance. The concentration you have to have in yoga means your body is aware of: its senses, mind, memory, consciousness… I find I get more out of Pilates with yoga under my belt because I can relax while at the same time be present and feel the flow of my exercises.

What I love about yoga is that it’s open to how you feel that day. The regimented type-A Pilates person can tend to find fault with the little intricate parts. We can always do something better, but why not take a cue from yoga and just be who we are today. There are so many details to focus on when practicing Pilates! When teaching my Pilates for kids class I tried to give very small corrections so not to overwhelm the children. I had a Pilates instructor tell me once, sometimes a good teacher is silent and just observes the person while they find the movement in their body. I myself am a kinesthenic learner. I need to move to learn! I try to be aware of what kind of learners my children and clients are so I can meet their needs. You almost need a 6th sense to be a teacher (any kind of teacher)!!!

I find that the core strength I have from Pilates supports me in daily activities like chasing after a toddler and baby, and the yoga provides me with balance and harmony I need after what ever kind of day I’ve had!

Pilates and yoga both have a lot in common but are also quite different from each other; this is part of what makes them a great team! Pilates focuses more on strength and yoga focuses more on stretch. Breath is important in both exercises. Breath is a fabulous cleanser for the body! It helps to get rid of the toxins! In both systems you are encouraged to develop a conscious breathing. When I think about the labor with my two children, the pain was so horrific it was as if I was removed from my body and hovering up overhead. What kept me focused was breath. Because breathing links physical activity with attention of the mind, children who learn to focus on their breath stay more relaxed and centered. There are times in my classroom we just stop to breathe. Joseph Pilates wanted children learning his exercises so they would know how to take care of themselves for the rest of their lives. Joseph Pilates said at the age of 86, “I must be right! Never an aspirin. Never sick a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world should do my exercises. They’d be happier.”

Pilates and yoga are both known to develop long, strong, graceful bodies that move efficiently without creating bulky muscles. They help reduce stress and increase well being. And both are used as rehabilitative systems.

Yoga and Pilates support the achievement of the body, mind, and spirit. There is a meditative spiritual feeling I have when I’m practicing Pilates and yoga. I find my peace, balance, and calm. Each are very satisfying disciplines. We all need to breathe!

So which to do? My hippy/type-A answer is: Do Both!

Give great effort, not a false sense of confidence


As a parent, elementary teacher, and Pilates instructor I see a generation of kids being given a false sense of confidence. Can YOU do anything perfectly? No, well neither can your children. Children are too often being praised for something they don’t do well. Why not encourage them to work harder! This is what builds character! Think about the pride you had when you accomplished something you’ve worked really hard for. We want that same feeling for them.

Children should be encouraged to explore their interest because to do so is healthy and makes them brave. We all learn from our mistakes. That type of learning helps kids find out what they’re good at. But, I think parents are afraid that any criticism will crush a child’s confidence and as a result, children may develop a false sense of confidence. They won’t learn to take criticism well in adulthood. Helpful criticism is not bad, it helps a child grow. If parents reward them for everything whether or not they’ve deserved it (and kids know) they aren’t learning that it’s ok to be wrong!

I know parents want to raise confident children and when they see it’s not so bad to be wrong; they will work harder, try again, and feel more true pride! When I’m teaching my children a Pilates class, I’m not constantly saying, “perfect, wonderful, excellent” rather, I will point out something they are doing well and see if I can get them to do it even better, then give them praise. My two-year-old knows she’s not a great swimmer yet, but she also knows she will be because she’s practicing and wants to be better. I tell her, “You’re getting stronger, or way to be brave.”

Extracurricular activities are fantastic: clubs, sports, talent shows…When kids get to perform in front of their peers and parents it does build confidence but parents want to make sure that it is true confidence that they have worked HARD for.

Kids these days are very stressed! There are a lot more expectations on them today than when we were in school. Maybe it’s because of this stress, parents want to make them feel good. But, they still have to work hard! Children get discouraged when they’re doing poorly. We can help them work through this by reminding them, “Yes, it is hard!” and that’s why we have to practice…math, soccer, piano, reading…

When I started my Pilates for kids class in Argyle, I knew the kids would enjoy the routine and challenge. As a teacher, I recognize and appreciate the effect Pilates had on them, promoting calm and concentration. My class offered a competitive environment against themselves. I tried to make it a positive environment where the reward in working hard is a confident child who feels good about themselves.

Parents control the atmosphere their children live in… My friend Margot says this about parenting,”Like creating a great wine, It’s not just about the type of grape. More like what type of dirt did they grow in, how many days of sunshine, … lots of love and energy goes into that. And the very best teacher I ever had, my Dad, has always said, “Give great effort!” That sticks with me in everything I do and I hope to instill that in my children and the children I teach!”