What I’m Into – March 2015 Edition

Notebook

Man, it has been an AGE since I last participated in What I’m Into!

Since then (wow, it was October…), I have: moved house, found a job, started the job, become a student again, settled into a completely new routine with the kids, bought curtains, had a terrible cold, caught up with lots of wonderful tv shows, ate my weight in curry with lots of girls from church, celebrated my 35th birthday (yikes), got lots of new books, and generally felt a bit overwhelmed by it all.

We had planned to have a house-warming party towards the end of the Easter holidays. I am now sitting on the sofa, thinking about the state of the house, the number of unopened boxes in the spare room and the lack of curtains and blinds in most of the house and I laugh quietly to myself. My younger self by 2 months was so naive.

So anyway, let’s rewind a bit a take a look at the interesting things I’ve done over the last few months.

What I’m Watching

I finished Parks & Rec and I’m now bereft of comedy in my regular viewing habits, as all the other shows I watch are really quite different: Once Upon A Time, Arrow and Castle. I’m watching season 4 of all of these. I’ll be honest, OUAT isn’t what it used to be and is dragging a bit. Arrow, though, is coming up to a belter of a season finale if the trailer is anything to go by! And then of course, Outlander is coming back.

I’ve not watched any films recently but I’m planning to take Little Girl to see Cinderella at the cinema. It will be her first ever cinema outing and I’m not sure she will cope with sitting through a full-length feature but we will try, and she’s beside herself with excitement, which is worth it.

What I’m Reading

Once again, I received Lots Of Books for my birthday, and I’ve been ignoring them all and re-reading Anne Of Green Gables from start to finish; it’s been a nice treat after the whirlwind of the last month. I’ve just started Windy Poplars and keep having visions of the film and Anne and Katherine Brooke’s hideously gloriously puffy hair-dos.

All my other books are still in boxes and will remain there until we have resolved the problem of ‘the office’. I should think that the pictures below are self-explanatory.

state of the office on 030415

What I’m Listening To

I’ve not been listening to anything new of late. The news that Thrice were coming to the UK to do one date at Hevy Fest was enough to make me dig out Beggars, although I doubt I’ll be able to see them live. I hope this is a sign that they have got back together and may be working on a new album.

I’m very embarrassed about this, but I like a lot of the songs from the 50 Shades movie. Not because I’ve seen the film (and I never will, because whatever people say, emotional abuse is not sexy), but the songs have turned up on Spotify and get played on the radio a lot, and I just really like the songs from Ellie Golding, the Weeknd and the Beyonce Crazy in Love remix. They’re all on YouTube so I don’t have to buy anything, thank goodness.

Favourite Photos

Badgerman finally transferred his iPad pictures over and these ones are my favourite. the one on the left is so good for so many reasons: not only is Little Girl looking at the camera, she is smiling AND posing? What’s happened to my child the fake smiler, where has she gone to and who is this imposter?

Fav photos march 2015

What I’ve Been Doing

  • I, ahem, made an Easter Bonnet for Little Girl.  I don’t understand the point of this, or why pre-schools have an ‘Easter Bonnet Parade’. Life in the UK doesn’t get quainter, or weirder, than this. The making of the hat was a last-minute, night before sort of job. The worst thing is I know it’s only the beginning, as British schools are in the habit of wanting kids to do all sorts of things at home that end up being a massive craft-oriented time-consuming task for the parents. I’m dreading all the World Book Days and nativities that require me to pretend I know how to sew.
  • These last couple of weeks, there have been fevers and colds and I got coughed on quite a bit so now I can’t breathe or taste anything.
  • My birthday was fairly uneventful because we moved house the week after and honestly, it was just all too much for me.
  • I got given a car, and I don’t know what to say about it that won’t sound completely trite and underwhelming compared to this complete whopper of a gift. Our friends are amazing, wonderful, super generous and I totally don’t deserve them.
  • I started an admin job three days a week, which has been fine apart from that one day I had to take off because Luciole was ill. Three weeks into a new job, way to make a good impression! My colleagues are good fun and it’s great to be out of the house and suddenly have something else to think about rather than just kids 24/7.
My 'I Got The Job' present. Basically all my favourite things.

My ‘I Got The Job’ present. Basically all my favourite things.

  • Because I’m a bit nuts, I have also started an online course in business management. It’s a proper degree (well, a BTech actually) but it’s meant to be worked around a full-time sort of life doing other stuff. We’ll see how that goes, won’t we?
  • You might have noticed I updated the look of the blog, again. As much as I loved the featured post slider and will miss it (until I find a design I like that has one), I hated that there was so much block black colour on the page and I didn’t need the menu on the left hand-side.

At Home On The Blog

I haven’t really done a round-up since last October, so here’s what happened:

November 2014

  • I wrote about bilingualism and language: we attended a really helpful session with a language therapist who put our mind at rest about Little Girl’s development. The best thing was the information sheet she provided on what normal speech development looks like.
  • I reminisced about my experience of culture shock, homesickness and general emotional upheaval when I first came to England. There are roughly 4 stages people tend to go through and it turns out I’m pretty normal. This is one of these times where the motto of ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’ is actually meaningful.
  • I started participating in Five Minute Friday, in which you set your timer to 5 minutes and write on the day’s given prompt. It’s a nice little writing challenge. That week, the prompt word was Still.

December 2014

This is the month when the world exploded in activity. There was Christmas, I had a bad cold virus for much of the month and we were suddenly buying a house.

  • I revived an old post for a Christmas craft idea for people who can’t craft: a magnet advent calendar for the fridge, which sounds pretty cool if you ask me, and is even cooler in real life.
  • I shared our news that we were buying a house and what it’s like to be a first-time buyer in the south of England.
  • There was another Five Minute Friday post, with a timely prompt: Prepare.
  • As we drew nearer to Christmas, I shared some of my French Christmas Eve Traditions. Everyone who asks me about my French Christmasses ends up hearing about No Potatoes Christmas, which I will forever be bitter about.
  • Wow, I really was in the Christmas spirit this year, because I also put our Christmas Day Menu up for inspiration, shock and awe.
  • I mentioned in the Christmas Menu post that I would translate the recipe for my Raspberry and Lychee Chocolate Log, and so I did. It’s easy to make, promise.

January 2015

February 2015

  • Five Minute Friday on Keep, again incredibly timely.

March 2015

And that’s all folks, we are all caught up!

You can check out what everybody is into over on Leigh Kramer‘s blog.

 

 

England Saved Me From a Life of Crime

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That’s right. Moving to England literally saved me from a life of crime(s)… against fashion.

A persistent stereotype about French women is that we are all born with an innate sense of style and that, with the gift of glamour at our fingertips, we just effortlessly tumble into our clothes and make them look, and here’s a cliché if I ever heard one, timeless. What. A. Lot. Of. Crap.

For the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, here’s the reality of growing up an average teenage girl in France in the 90s (I specify the 90s because I have no idea what it’s like right now, having left France over 15 years ago – maybe things have changed, in which case, tell me about it in the comments!):

  • Hardly anyone has a sense of style: the most important thing about growing up in France is to conform, conform, conform. You do this by subscribing to the traditional school uniform. But France doesn’t have uniforms! Oh yes they do, it’s called the ‘jeans and t-shirt’ combo. Most kids don’t veer very far from this template; or they do so at their own peril.
  • Girls don’t wear pretty things: again, jeans and t-shirt. Grey, black and white. With sneakers and probably a scarf. Special occasions, like going out to a club or a party, involves putting a different top to your normal ones but that’s it. I’ve not seen any girl or women in ‘pretty dresses’ unless there was a wedding. So imagine my surprise when I moved to England and went out. Girls in dresses, girls in heels, girls wearing pretty things, shiny things, glittery things, and colours; it was a revelation. I had never thought of it as an option but I certainly liked having the choice.

This said, I have always been particularly challenged and I have committed so many fashion faux-pas that it took emulating a good friend and a few good years on British soil for me to learn what suits me and what doesn’t and mostly, to recognize when something is just hideous. I’m still not particularly stylish because that takes money and it’s never been a priority.

If you don’t believe that I could be so utterly clueless, here’s the proof: when I moved to England, I wore dungarees that my mum had made me. Not even denim dungarees, we’re talking soft cotton and bright colours. I have nothing against homemade clothes because they can certainly be stylish, but then there’s me and my choices. I was 18, and truthfully, it was quite frightful just how uncool I was. Thankfully, there aren’t any pictures. Well, not many anyway. And definitely none of the dungarees.

Also, when I was 15 I liked to wear a suit because it made me look more mature or something. It was a thick peach-coloured double-breasted suit. I swear I do have a picture of it somewhere but I can’t find it right now, otherwise I would share it, because it has to be seen to be believed. I was so confident I looked good in it that I sent a copy in the post to a boy I fancied; I seem to recall he wrote back to ask why I was wearing old people clothes. I’m getting tears in my eyes just thinking about it, the SHAME.

Age 18 in my homemade trousers and shapeless t-shirt

Age 18 in my homemade trousers and shapeless t-shirt

I’m not quite sure what the point of this post is, apart from maybe to serve as a warning that if you are looking for ideas on how to look stylish like French women, this is not the blog for you. Apart from, less is more. Always.

‘Adultery can save your marriage’ Say What?

adultery can save your marriage

I came across this story about a dating site being sued in France for targeting married people last week. I know these sites exist but to see the thinking behind the idea written out like that, it is so skewed, it made me a bit depressed about the world, and sad for the people who hold these views.

French stereotypes strike again

There is this idea about French married people, that they all have affairs at some point in their life and no one bats an eyelid. It is a stereotype, it is not true. Sure, French politicians occasionally make the headlines about their seedy extramarital activities, and I get the sense that in some milieux, say the bourgeoisie (probably rich, bored, powerful Parisiens – who’s stereotyping now?), it might be a more acceptable thing, but for the average French person? It is not true or normal or acceptable. The article doesn’t exactly help disabuse of this notion, but I did learn something I quite liked, that ‘fidelity’ is written into French law. After all, marriage is a contract that offers legal protection; the vows aren’t just for show, so doesn’t it make sense that they should have some legal weight?

No Deception

There’s this line in the article that goes:

I chose Gleeden precisely because it is for married people. It means that the person you meet knows your situation. There’s no deception. We can talk openly about husbands, wives and children.

Isn’t there always deception though? Sure, in one sense, there is no deception between the two people having the affair, but there sure is deception if the partner of the married person doesn’t know about it, which I suspect in most cases they don’t. Take politics. France is big on privacy but I have a bigger issue with people who deceive their partner. I disagree with the French privacy laws that say that the private life of politicians is none of the public’s business. I am interested in how politicians behave in private because it tells me about their character. It’s not about knowing the details of their personal lives for kicks; I am, however, interested in whether they respect the people to whom they have made promises and how they show that respect. If you will deceive in your private life, it doesn’t give me much confidence that you will have any qualms about deceiving the public if it would benefit you. After all, actions speak louder than words. I think this applies to most relationships, not just marriage, because we all desire to be loved for who we are, warts and all, and the basis for most relationships is that you will love them and be faithful to them, regardless of whether you have spoken the official vows or not. This is why I’m not surprised that the website user found most men she met on the site to be ‘sub-optimal’.

In most marriages…

“But let us not be hypocritical. It’s not black and white. In most marriages at some point there is infidelity, but that does not mean the marriages collapse. Sometimes the infidelity is what saves the marriage.”

Isn’t it a sad thought? There are people out there, quite a few of them it appears, who live with this worldview that ‘in most marriages at some point there is infidelity’. This makes me sad, because it doesn’t have to be that way. I suspect that these people didn’t think that way on their wedding day (I hope!) but they might have entered the marriage with rose-tinted glasses full of the passion, romance and excitement of First Love, forgetting that all relationships require work at some point to be long-lasting. When a relationship based on First Love faces difficulties, disenchantment and disappointment can soon appear. It is interesting that the website user interviewed said they were unhappy but ‘would not leave their husband’. I couldn’t help my first thought: ‘how selfish’. I don’t know her circumstances and I’m sure nothing about them is simple or easy. After 6 years of marriage, I know well enough that relationships are hard work at times! A truer saying might be that ‘in most marriages at some point there is the temptation of infidelity.’ We all hit rough patches in our relationships. A great many of us choose to remain faithful, because we all have a decision to make about how we treat each other, and in this our character shows its true colours.

But apparently, many people stay in unhappy marriages for various reasons, not least because the alternative is too fearsome to consider, but also for some because despite their unhappiness, they value their comfort more than their husband or wife. When you are unhappy you may try to rationalise your situation, but thinking that an extramarital affair could actually ‘save your marriage’, call me naive but I can’t see how that works. A healthy relationship is based on trust, honesty and communication. An affair doesn’t save a marriage, it replaces the assumption of a healthy foundation with a flimsy partition, and leaves you hoping your partner won’t notice the difference.

I can’t help but think that when someone has reached the point when they will join a dating website in the hope that it will restore happiness in their life and by extension in their marriage, they must have such a bleak outlook on life. What do you think?

The Stressful Things Of Life

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So much has happened in the last few weeks that I don’t really know where to start. I mentioned it before disappearing into a whirlwind of life-changing events, but we’ve just ticked a couple of boxes of Most Stressful Things You Could Face In Life. I knew from experience that moving house was one of them so I looked online and sure enough, this is what I found:

1. Buying or selling a house.

2. A relationship break-up or divorce.

3. Getting laid off.

4. A death in the family.

5. Getting fired.

6. Being in debt.

7. Starting a new job.

8. Becoming a parent for the first time.

9. Planning a wedding.

10. Going broke or bankrupt.

Number 1 and 7 happened to us in a really short space of time: we moved one week and I started a new job – after a break of nearly four years – the next. The week after we moved I also became a student again and started a qualification in business management, in addition to having to find a childminder for the girls and buying a second car.

I must admit that I surprised myself by not getting stressed by the expected things. The packing was  painful and we lived in boxes for 2 months so by the end I was tired of it but, incredibly enough, not stressed. In the midst of that I went for a couple of interviews and got the job, and it was an odd time but not stressful to me.

What did happen however, was that there was only so much space in my head for the multitude of other decisions I needed to make in the space of two weeks, and I simply couldn’t give each issue the amount of engagement and energy they required. So finding a childminder and a car, these two things got to me. I found myself one Wednesday morning chatting to a friend when the realisation that I needed to sort these things out in the next seven days suddenly overwhelmed me so there I was, crying over stuff I didn’t even know I had been stressed about.

Life has been… exhilarating, busy, challenging, and then some!

We moved into our brand new house three weeks ago today, and it’s been momentous and exhausting. I am still in disbelief that it is a real thing that happened and I catch myself at times ‘so we actually live here?‘, as we had no immediate plans to move before mid-December when it all started. As to the move itself, it went very well but I am SO GLAD it is behind us now. I have had enough of living in boxes and I look forward to never doing it again. Unfortunately I can already tell this is going to continue for a while yet, as this past month confirmed that Badgerman and I both have the tendency to keep things, we’re basically beginner-level hoarders. The house is gorgeous, with loads of light and very well finished (one friend came to visit and left suffering from ‘banister envy’ as she put it). To be honest, it’s hard for me to get my head around just what an amazing turn of events this is. I’ve rented my whole life and house prices being what they are in the South East, it looked unlikely that we would be able to afford anything this spacious so I couldn’t be more grateful (even though we do only own a bit of it).

Then there’s the new job, and a completely new routine for the whole family. I was most anxious for the girls rather than for me, hence the meltdown over finding suitable childcare for them at short-notice – how could I think to move them from the only house they ever knew AND disappear into working life the next week? It turns out that the ‘children are resilient’ saying is true of my own; both girls seem to have adapted to their new circumstances with relative ease.

I don’t like being so busy that I don’t have the head-space to write or think about writing, but between adjusting, unpacking and studying (just, WHAT), it is where I am at the moment. I am aware that I am still in ’emergency mode’ and that I need to find a new routine for myself so that I don’t just play catch-up with my life but am able to carve space for relaxing and blogging. I’ll let you know when I figure it out!

 

Five Minute Friday: Keep

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I’m back this week to take part in Five Minute Friday, where you follow a prompt and write for five minutes flat. I did it long-hand and cheated a bit by giving myself 10 minutes. I think it’s fair!

 

Ever since we decided to buy a house last December, I’ve been trying to work out how to trim down our possessions, what to sell, what to give away, what to keep. I was… optimistic in my ability to make efficient decisions.

I’m not exactly a hoarder but I am not a tidy person and I like to keep hold of stuff. It’s a lethal combination. I like physical books and Badgerman likes physical music, specifically CDs. Between the two of us we are a removal company’s worst nightmare. I still have diaries from when I was a teenager, literary horrors full of emotional outbursts which I have no intention of reading again, but physical reminders nonetheless of the person I used to be. A part of me wants to hold on to that.

I tell myself that I might some day need this bit of string or that old candle holder and I store it (badly) until that day comes. And of course, for the most part, the day never comes and in the meantime, clutter accumulates, until you want to move out and dear lord do you feel inadequate then!

Sometimes I wonder ‘what would I take with me in the event of a fire‘? The answer should never be belongings, unless your passport happens to be by the front door, but it’s a good question, isn’t it? Would I feel like I lost myself if it all went up in flames? I am not my possessions and I do not want them to own me, yet as I ponder what to do with them all, I can see how much they do in fact have more of a hold on me than I would like.