Potty Training Reflections

potty training

Everyone has a potty story to curl the toes of most child-free persons and not a small amount of card-carrying parents. In the next few weeks and months, I am going to embark on another potty training adventure with Luciole and I am not particularly relishing the thought, considering how long-winded an affair it was with her sister. At the moment, 2.7 yrs old Luciole is well aware of what she’s doing, but has no interest whatsoever in telling me about it until after the event. Instead, she waits until she has a brand new nappy on to use it as clean canvas for her little jobs. She sometimes even gives me 5 minutes respite before I have to change her again.

When we were first helping Little Girl to use the toilet a year ago, I once lay in bed and listened to the joyful shouts and exclamations emanating from downstairs ‘you did a poo in the potty, well done! Woohoo!’, which was one of those ‘what is my life?’ moments that you get every so often as a parent. The reality of parenting is that our successes are as random as they are dependent on the child, their personality, the circumstance, hell even the time of day, and there’s only so much mitigation you can do to steer them one way or another.

I have a friend whose eldest self-trained early, and whose second also self-trained before she was even 2. I would not have believed it possible had I not seen it with my own eyes. And despite her early difficulties with the toileting process, Little Girl took to being clean at night like a fish to water. No amount of reading, prep or training could have predicted this outcome, it’s just something she did (can I hear a hallelujah!).

potty training toddler

I’m being a bit lax this time and am just waiting for the summer holidays before actively steering Luciole to be clean. We have carpets everywhere downstairs and I just can’t face it. Potty training is still my parenting nemesis, the one thing that is just pure pain for me from start to finish. She has a potty, knickers that she loves to put on top of her nappy-pants, a potty training book, access to poo-themed YouTube videos (yes they exist, and she found them on her own), and generally she has an endless fascination with pee, poo and body parts so surely it is bound to happen at some point in the next six months.

Are French spelling changes a sign of the apocalypse?

Boromir on French Spelling reform

In case you were wondering, a heavy dose of sarcasm was used when deciding on the title for this post… We may have some time to go yet before the apocalypse is upon us, but I think it’s fair to say that almost nobody likes change and that people love to overreact on social media. When a French spelling reform was announced in early February, the reaction to the news that appeared on my social media feeds and elsewhere online kept me entertained for a good few days. No one gets more irate than a French person faced with the suggestion that the French language is less than eternal, timeless and a beacon of light in a world full of savage languages that dare evolve because what is at stake here is the survival of France as we know it, the very foundations of the world. Will no one think of the children?????

The Independent and the Guardian were two among many to publish a nice little report on the scope of the reform and included some of the reactions, which were indeed enlightening, and by enlightening, I mean I rolled my eyes so much I feared I was going to lose my contact lenses inside my brain. It led to an interesting discussion with friends on Facebook, as English people were understandably befuddled by all the fuss (as English is one of those wild languages whose evolution is left at the mercy of the masses) and my attempts at enlightenment less than stellar.

I have always been very good at grammar, spelling and the French language in general, I always did well at dictations, and I can appreciate a nicely put French sentence. I’ve always found a great deal of satisfaction in being able to write properly. So I understand the value of having and following set rules for how language should formerly be written, and I understand the dismay of suddenly being told that your efforts to learn how to put the flipping ‘accent circonflexe’ in the right place was for nowt. I bet there hasn’t been a change in the French spelling curriculum in decades. The Académie Française, that illustrious gathering of old-fashioned French minds that dictates what is and is not acceptably French, is not exactly known for being responsive to change, and yet it is them that pushed these changes forward. It is not like the English language is without rules either. Some are quite convinced that English is very difficult to learn because of the sheer number of irregularities; I mean, do try to pronounce cough, plough and tough without getting a headache.

What I mean to say, is that there is most certainly beauty to be found in complexity, but it is simply wrong to imply that there can be beauty only in complexity, that simplicity cannot be beautiful, or that simplicity is a sign of paucity or ‘dumbing down’. That, is most definitely an overreaction.

French people keep saying that French is a ‘langue vivante’, a language that is alive, whilst all the time looking at every suggestion of its evolution as a sign of, well, the apocalypse. It’s not even as if it hasn’t changed before. The poor accent circonflexe that is being removed from so many words, this little hat sign ˆ that has been put at the forefront of the discussion, wasn’t always in use. It used to be that hôpital was spelled hospital, and château was spelled chasteau, and the sign was added to remove the silent ‘s’. Yet it is possible that some French nationalists would like us to revert to speaking like the playwright Molière did – can you imagine having to go back to speaking Shakespeare’s English? Yeah, me neither.

This said, I know that I am going to struggle mightily with many of the spelling changes when they come into effect in September, not least that of the humble onion. It is going to go from ‘oignon’ to ‘ognon’, and I won’t lie, it looks weird to me, and I doubt that it will ever look anything but weird and misspelled. It may take a generation for the change to embed itself but to say that it dumbs down language? Ridiculous.

Want to move abroad? Check out expat.com

Want to move abroad-Photo by  Dariusz Sankowski via unsplash.com

Seventeen years ago when I first moved to England, there weren’t many places you could visit to find information about your new country of residence and get help if you had any problems. The internet was still in its infancy and you needed to live in London to be able to visit the Institut Français or the Centre Charles Péguy (and even now, just look at that website, it doesn’t even have a decent URL, for goodness’ sake). I haven’t needed any expat support for many years now, but I remember it was just near impossible to find anything without making a phone call or turning up in person, which is why I just got on with it without help from the French.

Nowadays, it is much easier to find all the information you need. If you have a question about immigrating, health or finding a job in your new country, you can ask it online in specialist forums. But of course, you have to find that trustworthy website that provides you with the information you need.

Expat.com is such a website; I go on it from time to time to answer questions from people wanting to move to England, and of course, it is a good place for me to advertise the blog, mine and other expat blogs being another tool for prospective expats to research the country they want to move to.

Whether you wish to live in England or you are already settled here, you probably have lots of questions about your expat project. To help you answer them, Expat.com makes it easy to get in touch with expats living nearby or on the other side of the world. It is the largest expat help and support network, and it just underwent a complete overhaul, making the experience of visiting the website a whole lot easier. It’s also completely free to use.

You can ask questions, get answers and also discover expat life in England to get all the support you need. A range of features is available: discussion forums, jobs and housing sections, guides, interviews, classified ads and even an agenda of events organised in England. You can find all you could possibly need for your expat daily life. It’s also a great way to meet people; aside from actually living abroad, interacting with people on the ground is the best way to get an idea of what it is like to be an expat. It is critical in fact, in order to remove the rose-tinted glasses off prospective expats and disabuse them of their notions of easy job findings and cheap housing (Ha!).

I know I could have done with a website like this when I first moved to England, and I’m happy to recommend it as a great resource both to prepare for a move abroad, and to connect with others once you have settled.

Living in England

Classic French Recipe: sauteed potatoes with persillade

sauteed potatoes with persillade 150116

I have an unapologetic addiction to potatoes in all their forms, and one of my favourite dishes is simple sautéed potatoes, but I had never made them with a persillade before. I don’t know why, as it doesn’t get more ‘classic French recipe’ than potatoes and parsley.

Before you start worrying about how complicated this recipe is likely to be, let’s look at what ‘persillade’ actually means. It comes from the French word for parsley, ‘persil’, and in its most classic form it is a simple mixture of parsley and garlic. There are a few other ingredients you can add depending on what dish it means to complement. Its freshness and crunch lends itself well not just to potatoes, but also to fish, meat and vegetables.

French recipe for Sautéed Potatoes with Persillade

Ingredients

1 kg waxy potatoes, cut into 2 cm pieces

2 tbsp vegetable oil

300 g smoked bacon lardons (optional)

25 g butter

For the Persillade

Small pack of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 tsp/1 sprig tarragon leaves, chopped

1 echallion/banana shallot (or 2 small round ones), finely chopped

2  garlic cloves, crushed

Method

  1. Boil the potatoes for 5 minutes so they are nearly cooked. Drain and leave in the colander for a minute to steam out.
  2. Mix all the persillade ingredients together in a small bowl. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the lardons and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until they are slightly caramelised. Add the potatoes, then the butter.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly until they turn golden brown. Spoon out any excess fat and stir in the persillade. Adjust the seasoning for taste and eat!

We had roast chicken with our sautéed potatoes with persillade but you can serve them as a side dish to just about anything. Bon appétit!

My 2016 Blogging Resolutions

2016 Blogging Resolutions 020116 blog header

I don’t do New Year resolutions because they are usually make-believe aspirations to be someone other than myself, especially when it comes to ‘be healthier’. Stepping into the new year doesn’t magically grant new fully formed habits, or I should be the fittest woman in the whole of England! Ah well. At least, that’s how it is for me.

So this is less a list of New Year resolutions and more a contemplation of the things I hope to achieve this year but can’t quite bind or guilt myself into doing at all cost as they will be subject to last-minute changes should Real Life events demand it – namely because my priority right now is to find a new job, restart my business studies, continue to research setting up my own business and all the other life things I do (did I tell you I directed a choir over Christmas? It was a hit, so I might be doing more of the same in 2016). Yeah, all these things. I know many people who are seemingly able to juggle a million things and still maintain their stability of mind; I’m not one of them. Yet, one has to make plans, and here’s my attempt:

  • Actually plan my blog posts and improve the regularity of my posting schedule: Posting schedule, ha! In four years of blogging, I am still an impulsive writer who, like yesterday when I was penning this, just wakes up and decides to write something off the cuff without any prior planning. It’s awful. It’s not sustainable and is a rookie mistake, nay, a blogging crime I need to remedy as soon as possible. This is especially true in light of the success I had in October when I joined the Write 31 Days challenge and planned and delivered 31 consecutive posts. It brought my entire life to a stand-still and I am definitely not planning to do it again in 2016 but it was a good exercise. With life as it is currently, I have no hope of posting anything unless I sit down and plan ahead. So there, this year I want to plan ahead at least a little.
  • Move the blog from wordpress.com to a self-hosted platform: I am determined to do it this year. I have done my research and I feel I have a decent idea of what’s involved. I’ve already decided on my hosting provider and I just need to press the ‘buy’ button. It’s not expensive and I have enough technical know-how to do it myself; in fact, it is something I need and want to do to consolidate my CV. Website support and social media are two areas that I really want to grow in for my long-term plans of becoming a virtual assistant, and this blogging malarkey, whilst very much a hobby, is also a great way to test things out without the risk of messing about someone else’s work. I don’t know when it will be ready to launch but surely some time this year.
  • Branding: moving to self-hosted blogging, I will have more flexibility with regards to the look of the blog. But I’m stuck, and I need to spend some time thinking about what I want, especially the logo and colour scheme. I know that the navy blue/white/red combo makes sense in light of the French theme of the blog, but it’s so boring! Seriously, I want some teal and aqua and purple and silver and raspberry red, but that makes no sense whatsoever so yeah, I need help. And a logo that doesn’t look like it’s been drawn by a 3-year-old, maybe with a frog in it. I don’t know! I usually can tell what works and what doesn’t when I see other people’s websites but I have no such objective distance with my own and I am not an ‘ideas’ person. I may need some help…

And that’s it! I’m really motivated about learning more about the technical aspects of blogging, and once I’ve actually planned something, maybe the quality of what you read will be less ‘I put this together last night after 2 glasses of wine’ and more ‘depth! Fascination! Shock and awe!’. Or not.