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Improve Your French For Free

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French The Prudent Homemaker

One of my current goals is to improve my French every day by learning new words and phrases, improving my grammar, and improving my listening comprehension.

This year marks 20 years since I left for France and Switzerland as a missionary. It's been 19 years since I had the opportunity to speak French every day. Consequently, when I got back in touch with some friends from France on Facebook a couple of years ago, I found that I had forgotten a lot of French. I also had a very hard time understanding everything my French friends were saying during video calls.

I started studying French again in earnest two years ago, and I've seen a great leap in what I can understand and what I can say.

There's still so much more for me to learn. For the last month, I've really intensified my French study and made it a priority every day. Sometimes I just get a few minutes here and there, and sometimes I get the chance to spend 15 minutes, but every day I am doing something to improve my language skills.

Here's what I'm currently using to improve my French:

 

Websites:

 

Duolingo

A great free learning site that you can access on your computer and your phone. You can take a test at the beginning to help you start at the right level for you. I love that this site tests you on your spelling (including the correct use of accents), vocabulary, listening comprehension, and speaking ability. I have to admit that I prefer using this on the computer; the phone ap is not quite the same. This is more of a beginning level, but if you're forgotten a lot of a language it will help refresh your memory.

French Crazy

A French learning blog

Talk In French

Another French learning blog

 

YouTube Channels:

New vocabulary and lots of listening to native French speakers makes YouTube fantastic for improving both your spoken French and your comprehension.

 

Comme Une Française

This channel is in English by a native French speaker who shares lots of great expressions and vocabulary that you never learned in French class as well as cultural information. She has a blog as well that links to her videos, but since her information is in video format, I've found it fastest to subscribe directly to her channel. 

 

Learn French With Alexa

These are really basic beginning lessons, perfect if you're just getting started or if you need a refresher. I've been playing these for my children, but I tend to listen to them while they are playing, and they are great reminders.

 

Cyprien

Cyprien is the top YouTuber in France (because he's hilarious!) and has a worldwide following. If you don't understand the words the first time, try watching it again with French subtitles. I've found that helps me catch the words that flew by me.

 

Français Avec Pierre

Pierre's lessons are all in French. He speaks clearly and slowly. I just found his channel recently and I like that he doesn't speak too fast. His channel feels like personal tutoring from someone super nice and patient. His videos clear up grammar errors that are easy to make. His Facebook page has some great tips too!

 

Pinterest:

I've started a French language learning board that you can follow here. I love having new French words come up in my feed all the time.

 

The Library:

Our library doesn't have a lot of French books  (I did not see any literature) but they did have some of the McGraw HillMcGraw Hill series of workbooks that I've enjoyed. Check your local library to see what they offer! Some public library systems even offer the use of Rosetta Stone (an expensive language learning program) for free on their site; check to see if your library has this option.

 

Online Dictionary:

 

Word Reference

This is my go-to online free dictionary. Though I own two French-English dictionaries, I use this site much more often, as I'm often in need of a word when I'm typing a message to friends on Facebook. I have also used it many times when I know the word but don't know whether or not it is masculine or feminine. They have a phone app as well.

 

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I've found that actively striving to improve my language skills every day has been fun and exciting for me. It was never this fun when I studied French in high school (and less difficult than the French literature class I took in college!) Now that I am learning for my own personal enrichment, rather than a grade, I find that I am an enjoying it much more. And of course, the more I learn, the more smoothly those future video calls will go! I imagine I'll have a few more of those this month, for, at this very moment, a friend of mine's son from France is in an airplane on his way to our house to stay for the next month!

I imagine I'll have a few more of those this month, for, at this very moment, a friend of mine's son from France is in an airplane on his way to our house to stay for the next month! I don't think this opportunity would have come about if I had not been striving to improve my French so that I could communicate better with his parents.

 

If you're working on improving your foreign language skills, what sites are a help to you?

 

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The $1 Dress

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The 1 Dress The Prudent Homemaker

Winter just attended her first formal dance, a Winter Ball put on by the local LDS Seminary, which she attends. They have 375 students who attend a religion class early every morning an hour before school starts. 

Because of our dating standards, only those who are 16 and older could bring dates to the dance. Everyone was welcome to bring friends to the dance.  Winter invited a cousin to come with her, which worked out well as Winter's closest friends are 16 and had dates.

Our plan was to scout thrift stores for a dress, but then a dress came along. Winter told my mom about the dance and my mom mentioned a dress she had bought at a garage sale for $1 several years ago. She had never worn it and she said Winter could have it if she was interested.

Dollar Dress The Prudent Homemaker

Winter really liked the dress, but it was several sizes too large. She removed the sleeves, took it up in the shoulders, and took in the sides. 

The sleeves were unlined. I spent $1.50 for some fabric to line them. She cut the sleeves smaller and sewed them back on.

Adjusting the shoulder seams meant the back was a bit too high. She cut the neckline down in back, and then removed the zipper and put in back in a bit lower for the new neckline.

 Dollar Dress Detail The Prudent Homemaker

Her accessories were simple.  She took a warm scarf that I bought at a garage sale last year for $1, wore a pair of earrings that were a birthday gift from her grandmother a year ago and a necklace that I had given her for that same birthday (I paid $1 for the necklace at a garage sale).

Dollar Dress Necklace Detail The Prudent Homemaker

She had a pair of vintage gloves that were given to her when she was a child. One of the buttons was broken and the buttons were white plastic that looked to have once been pearl covered. She removed them and replaced them with some pearlized shank buttons from my button jar. 

Dollar Dress Gloves Detail The Prudent Homemaker

She decorated a hair comb with a piece of a broken cubic zirconia bracelet that she received at a Church activity a couple of years ago and part of a broken plastic pearl necklace. I gave her a set of plain hair combs for Christmas, and she used one of them as the base. She glued the jewels on with some E-6000 glue.

Dollar Dress Hair Comb The Prudent Homemaker

 

Dollar Dress shoes The Prudent Homemaker

Her shoes were a recent gift. Her friend's mom had bought a pair of pearlized pale pink shoes for her daughter online. The shoes and the box were both marked "Child size 7"--but the shoes were too large for her daughter. I wondered if they were possibly an adult-sized 7, and I tried them on, but they were still too big. I asked Winter, who wears a women's size 10, if she wanted to try them on. They fit her perfectly!

Dollar Dress Black and White The Prudent Homemaker

She did her own hair and makeup. She and a few friends got together ahead of time and Winter did hair for a couple of the girls and another girl's makeup.

Several friends had dinner ahead of the dance at a friend's house near the dance, and then they all went together to the dance.

Dollar Dress 2 The Prudent Homemaker

 She'll have other occasions to wear this dress again, so it will get plenty of use in the future, too!

Flourish 2

Linking to: Moonlight and Mason Jars

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Lovelies: Back to School Edition

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Teaching six children in six grades is a lot of work! I think I need to make my goal lists shorter. However, that stuff still needs to get done, so. . . .

Here are some fun things I've found recently that I think those of you with school-aged children may enjoy.


Super Hero Letter Matchups Free Printable A fun way to put together capital letters and lowercase letters

Gibraltar I found this wonderful website about Gibraltar recently. We spent a lot of time reading and learning about the tiny country of Gibraltar. Can you find Gibraltar on a map?

180 Printable Jokes for Lunchboxes You can print them, cut them apart, and have them ready to slip into a lunch box.

Spelling words for first through eighth grade

School lunch ideas Yum, yum, and more yum! Many of these are fantastic for lunches at home and for sending with a spouse (or yourself) to work.

Free downloadable lunch note cards from Sarah Jane I love her artwork, and these are just beautiful.

The importance of sending lunch Your influence goes a lot further than you realize.
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Lovelies: Summer Freebies

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A few freebies that I wanted to share:


Amazon.com is offering a free 30-day trial membership to Amazon prime, which includes not only 2-day shipping on any order (no minimum order size) but also the ability to borrow books from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library (one free book per month), and instantly watch over 40,000 movies and TV episodes. The price for Amazon Prime is $79 a year, so be sure to cancel before the 30 days is over to avoid being charged. Click here to sign up for the promotion: Join Amazon Prime - Watch Over 40,000 Movies


Ancestry.com is offering a free search of the 1940 U.S. census for the month of July! Click here:  4th of July Special: FREE 1940 Census Search at Ancestry.com!


Education.com has a one-month trial to print unlimited worksheets using the code TRIAL. They have both $5 and $7 (a month) memberships available if you want to keep a membership. I have used this site in the past (you can print 10 worksheets a month for free without a membership) and right now I am signed up for the trial so that I can print more color by letter worksheets for my 5-year-old. I do not know when this coupon code expires.


Creative Live has some great online photography courses coming up! These are live classes that you can watch live for free (they are available to purchase as well so that you can watch them later).

I just signed up for two classes:

Children's Posing Guide: Wednesday July 10th - July 12th

Food Photography with Andrew Scrivani: Friday: July 19th - July 21st. I was excited to see this; I love Scrivani's guide to photographing soup!


Lastly, not a freebie, but a great deal:

One of my readers, Rocio, alerted me to a great deal at Wawak, where I buy sewing supplies. She said, "Just wanted to let you know I received a copy of Threads magazine today. It has an ad for Wawak: $20 off your order of $40 or more. The code is THREADS913; it is good until Sept 30,2013." Wawak is having a sale on a few things through tomorrow on top of their already amazing low prices.  Be sure to check out their July sales on their home page as well. Wawak is where I buy thread, buttons, and more for my sewing projects.

 
Note: This post contains affiliate links for Amazon.com  and Ancestry.com.
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Lovelies: Photography Tips

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Mother's Day 2012
Many years ago, we had some fantastic family pictures taken. I loved them, and we ended up choosing a whole lot of them to have printed. When the total came, however, I turned to my husband and said,  "I could have bought a camera for that." At the time I only owned a film camera with a basic zoom.

I knew then that I was done paying for family pictures, or for any pictures of the children.

My husband was telling my children jokes when he took this picture a few years ago (notice there are only 6 children in this picture), and my mom was making funny faces at the children as well.
It took a while before I was able to buy a camera, but eventually I was able to find a digital camera for close to the same amount I had spent for those Mother's Day photos.

Everyone told me that the camera I was considering wasn't good enough. They said I needed a better camera with better this and better that. I thought that the camera I was looking at was going to do what I wanted, and that I didn't need a more expensive camera.

When the time came, my husband found an online Black Friday sale and ordered the camera for me. We also made sure to order a remote so that we could take family photos (my husband had an old tripod that worked with my camera).


Then I needed to know how to use the camera to achieve what I wanted. I started looking online. I started studying my favorite bloggers pictures like I had studied painting, looking to see what I liked and what "made" a shot.

Along the way, I found some great advice:



Shani's simple tips for photographing have made me think differently about where I stand when I photograph, and it's change the way I shoot. She also inspired me to take trampoline shots. My daughter's pose in the shot above was inspired by her daughter's trampoline poses.

Kristin Duke's Photography Tips have given me so much to think about. I've incorporated several of her ideas when photographing my family.

Wondering how to use the manual settings on your camera? Simple and easy: Nailing the Exposure

Excellent tips on adjusting the white balance and more

My favorite food blogger introduced me to a food photography class taught by Penny de los Santos on Creative Live. I was thrilled to be learning for free. Since then, I've watched a lot of Creative Live classes for free, and each has taught me something different.  (Old classes can be purchased on their site). Tomorrow, Australian Creative Photographer of the Year Kelly Brown is teaching a free newborn photography class on Creative Live. It is three days long, from May 9-11. The class is free to watch while it is live; there is usually a replay right afterwards for those in different time zones. You can enroll here. (If you enroll they send you an email that links straight to the live feed, or you can just click over to Creative Live and watch on their live feed page). They also have an upcoming class on Fine Art Portraits.



For food photography, I studied my favorite bloggers like crazy.

I was thrilled when my other favorite food blogger did a basic explanation of food photography here. A few years later, she wrote a book about food photography entitled Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling. I checked the book out from the library, but by that point I was feeling like I had learned those things already from lots of study (especially of Helene's shots from her blog) and practice. (If you are new to food photography, I highly recommend her book!)

Poppy from my garden two years ago. The poppies are just starting to bloom in my garden again this week!
I'm still learning and practicing. Like any art, it takes practice. I'm so grateful for a digital camera and the chance to take hundreds of pictures without the cost of developing film.

For those who are wondering what I'm using:

A Nikon D40. (There are newer cameras out there now with more features, like the Nikon D3100, which is what I would probably get if I were looking for a camera now, still on the "lower" end of a DSLR--and their regular price for that one at Amazon is what I spent for my D-40). I ordered mine with the kit lens, but eventually I was able to get a 50mm fixed lens (on sale, of course!) and I pretty much use that all of the time now.

I use a reflector that has been discontinued but is almost identical to this one.

One of the things I want to capture more is the everyday moments, like my oldest and my youngest reading a book together.



Happy Mother's Day! I enjoyed this Mother's Day video.

Take some family pictures this weekend, and/or ask your husband to take some pictures of you and your children. It's a Mother's Day tradition we've been doing for several years now, and I'm really glad we do it.
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Lovelies: Mother's Day Gifts

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Graham Thomas roses cut from my garden yesterday
Mother's Day falls in May for at least three countries (the United States, France, and Italy) and probably many more. It's not the same day for any of those countries (as I learned as a missionary in France with both an Italian companion and a French companion during the month of May; we called home twice a year; once on Christmas and once on Mother's Day).

My favorite part about Mother's Day are the homemade cards that my children make. Of all of the drawings and pictures that they make for me, I think the Mother's Day ones are the most important ones. I keep them all in the top drawer in my nightstand.

However, I also have a role to play as a daughter. Here are some inexpensive homemade gift ideas that you can make (possibly even with things on hand) for your own mother (or yourself!):

Make earrings for .15 a pair.

Make this running stitch scarf.

Make a simple scarf from repurposed fabric.

Buy strawberries on sale and make some strawberry jam.

Any of the great Graphics Fairy images would be excellent for a simple zippered pouch, though I'm particularly enamored of the French post card image used here. If you're like me and own a black and white laser printer, you can use  the Citra Solv method to transfer one of her free black and white images to fabric for a gift.

Top off your gift with this homemade paper bow.

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