What I’m Into – June 2015

What I'm Into June 2015 header

Summer’s here! I’m very excited, what’s not to like about sun and heat? Quite a lot, if you’re to believe 75% of the British population. Roads melting, trains not working because the heat is making the tracks buckle (but why? They have trains in hot countries, do they use different metals?), dogs dying in cars because people are stupid, take your pick. Anyway I love summer, even (especially) at 30 degrees when you can spend the evenings with open doors and eat lots of barbecued meat.

I’ve been wondering what I’ve actually done since March and the answer is: lots and lots of study. But I still carve time for non-work activities, otherwise I wouldn’t have much to talk about.

What I’m watching

Once Upon A Time, Arrow and Outlander have finished for summer so I’m watching a bit of Grimm (for reasons unknown, it’s OK but not mind-blowing). I’m also re-watching Fringe from the comfort of my own bed now that we’ve put a TV in our bedroom. I love it, both the show and the tv in bed. It feels slightly decadent.

What I’m reading

With all the reading I’m doing for my studies, I’ve not made much headway into my to-read pile. I’ve been reading a bit of Outlander (well, I’m re-reading book 3, Voyager), also Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist, and Greg Boyd’s Benefit of the Doubt. All highly recommended by me.

What I’m listening to

The new Matt Redman album, it’s a good worship album, and also I was at the Abbey Road Studios recording and I even have my signature on the album artwork (how cool is that), so I was always going to get it; and random stuff on the radio. I’m trying to think of anything I’ve particularly liked this month and nothing is standing out.

The Chemical Brothers’ Glastonbury set I watched on tv was epic but that Kanye West is a douche. I don’t care if he’s a misunderstood genius or wildly overrated. Seriously.

Favourite photos

girls in Bing & Flop masks

What I’ve been doing

At Work: work is actually the easy bit of my life right now. Three days a week, I travel through country lanes to my remote work location deep in the Sussex countryside and spend a few hours completing admin tasks in good company. What’s not to like? it’s only short-term until Christmas and perfect for now.

At Home:

  • We celebrated Luciole’s 2nd birthday, which was a rather subdued affair due to chickenpox! Little Girl had it first for a whole 7 days, and Luciole has just come out with it today, so I’m at home on unpaid leave for another week. Happy days! We did eat an enormous cake and Luciole loved her presents.

chocolate and strawberry cake

  • We’ve been slowly working on the house, we now have curtains and blinds everywhere apart from the kitchen and office. The next bit project is tackling the office properly. Remember when it looked like this?

state of the office on 030415

  • Well, now it looks like this, which is barely an improvement, but I’m trying to organise the office papers and eventually it will look fabulous. Maybe. You know what they say: the more space you need, the more you want.

state of the office as of 050715

  • We’ve had builders in to sort out a few issues with the house whilst it is still under warranty as new houses are. It was built last winter and as the timber is drying out in the heat, it is causing all sorts of weird things, all of which are only cosmetic so far, thank goodness.

At School:

Online studying is still school, right? I’m really pleased with the fact that I completed the first unit of the business course at the beginning of June and submitted my assignment on time. It was really intense for the last three weeks though. I was working every evening for 3 hours 7 days a week. I should know in the next couple of weeks whether my work is of the right standard, and if I have passed the unit. It has been fairly stressful and I honestly don’t know how I am going to sustain it. This brings me nicely to the next thing:

At Home on the Blog

What with everything that’s been going on, my presence online has been really sparse, and that’s really all I’ve been talking about.

  • Finding a suitable work/life balance is my priority right now and is very much a work-in-progress. If I’m honest, I doubt I will be able to blog more than once a fortnight, but hopefully when I do, it will be decent content.
  • My search for this elusive balance coincided with the release of the new 2015/2016 Erin Condren planner, which I discovered accidentally last year and put on my ‘one day’ list. I’m a big fan of planners and have used one for the last three years so I bit the bullet and bought one. I proceeded to write about why I like planners and this one in particular in my most gushing post yet. It’s a beautiful thing. Stationery lovers unite!

As always, I’m joining in with Leigh Kramer for this post. You can check out her link for better book and music recommendations from across a great range of well-read bloggers.

 

 

Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this post.  If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.

Five reasons to invest in a (Erin Condren) planner

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Until about three years ago, I had never heard of planners, and I certainly had never heard of Erin Condren. I had a small diary that I used to keep my various appointments, which means it was sparsely populated. It was the kind that starts in January and ends in December and has little maps and lists of area codes for calling across the world (that was clearly before Skype took off!). It was just what I needed. This said, I could often be found wandering the aisles of Paperchase, drooling.

Then I had kids and not only was my memory struggling to keep up but we needed to save money so I started menu planning. I did so on scraps of paper, until one December 2012 when I walked into the annual ‘Calendar shop’ that pops up around this time of year and is gone by January (goodness knows what they do the rest of the year) and came face to face with the Do It All Mom Planner. It had the usual diary things, plus tear-off shopping lists and to-do lists, stickers, and space; so much space to write all the million things I needed to remember. I also looked at Filofax, but two things put me off: it was too small, and it was pretty on the outside but dull as rain water on the inside. That’s when I realised I could never return to a small-sized agenda, and I haven’t looked back.

I am aware that I could go down the digital route and use my phone for keeping track of life but I’m not getting on with it. I keep forgetting it’s there; I can’t look at everything in one go as you need one app for this and another for that; it’s practical but I keep wanting to write things down in a notebook. From this I deduce that I’m a paper person and should own it. Isn’t the perfect planner the one that works for you?

My current planner is a really good French version, however the back cover completely fell off last month and I’m not prepared to spend the rest of the year with a ruin that I expected to use until December 2015. I needed to get a new one.

outgoing broken planner

It coincided with the release of the Erin Condren 2015/16 planners, which seemingly generates a small explosion on the stationery addict community online every year. I’m the kind of practical person who can’t really get on with all the fluffy decorating that a lot of Erin Condren addicts seem to get down to (seriously, check out Pinterest, it is insane), but as much as I have a tendency to strip everything down to its most useful, I am also very visual and I like something colourful to look at. I scoured the internet for all the possible paper and digital versions I could find, and there are some really good ones out there but I knew my heart was set on Erin Condren, despite the steep price tag.  When I asked Mumsnet if I was mad to want to spend $50 on a diary, someone asked me if I was a teenage girl. Don’t judge me.

It begs the question, why would you spend this much money on a planner? I will give you five reasons below, which highlight why I chose the Erin Condren Life Planner.

1. It is built to last: unlike my current planner, who I thought was pretty sturdy when I bought it, the EC has a front and back cover of heavy-duty laminate; the thing will not bend or easily get ripped. I’ve never seen a coil like this one either, it is one strong and solid binder.

front page collage

2. The EC is big: it’s slightly bigger than A5, at 18.4 x 23.4 cms (that’s 7.25″ x 9.25″). You need a big bag to carry it around, but if you’re the type of person who needs a planner, the likelihood is you use a big bag anyway. The good thing about a big planner is of course that there is a lot of space to write in, and I don’t need to tell you just how much this is needed.

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3. There is a choice of layouts: new this year, you can choose between a vertical (columns) or horizontal (rows) layout. I decided to get the vertical purely because I’ve never had one before and it looks like it might suit me better. Only time will tell but in the meantime, I am excited to start using it.

The headers are blank so it has a lot of potential as each box can be customized to suit individual needs. Standard headings tend to be morning / afternoon / evening but I’ve decided to separate between me and my husband, the kids activities, and either studies/blog or a to-do list.20150625_154221

4. Personalisation: this is the fun bit but it’s also where you can go a bit nuts. There is a great range of colourful, personalised and interchangeable covers; it’s usually the hook that grabs newcomers; they certainly grabbed me.

You can also personalise stickers to highlight important dates with your own wording of even your own photos, and that’s only the beginning. There’s a big range of accessories on the website, each more beautiful than the last. I’m not much of a label user, however all the planners come with a decent selection of standard ones so I will see whether it is worth the additional purchase. There are also a gazillion etsy shops that sell EC accessories anyway so the sky is pretty much the limit. In the meantime, I printed some free sheets on plain paper and even made some myself and will be testing (with glue) whether I am likely to be using them.

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5. Attention to detail: the EC life planner has lots of useful little detail that add to the general luxurious feel in small and big ways. You can tell it has been designed by a planner user, which is a Big Deal.

The sense of quality extends to the way that the planner is delivered, in a colourful box, wrapped in tissue paper. It comes with a handful of gifts in the form of sticky labels, a discount voucher and a postcard.

box opening collage

it’s hard to explain how much more beautiful and solid the planner is in your hands. And inside, it is full of colourful and highly practical things:

  • a clear ruler that acts as a page marker.
  • At the front, a two-page month-by-month calendar from July 2015 to December 2016 and two pages for goal setting.
  • The months are separated by laminated tabs (one of the main reasons I chose the EC).
  • Each month starts with a page for notes and a two-page view of the entire month with a column for goals.
  • Each week gets its’ own double page and a sidebar; some people use it to keep track of fitness. I think I’m going to keep a list of chores. I’m visual, it’s the only way it’s going to get done.
  • At the back, there are 15 pages for notes in lined and unlined paper, a 2017 year-at-a-glance calendar and pages of stickers.
  • And finally, another big hit or me: a strong double-sided pocket containing a perpetual calendar and a clear zip pouch. The pouch comes with some small gifts inside: a coil clip, 3 compliment cards, 3 referral cards and a sample sheet of dot stickers.

Planner collage 1 Planner Collage 2

20150625_154318 sticker label sheets

20150625_154336 the back

Conclusion & Practical Notes (plus a discount for new customers)

I am really excited to start using this planner. I can’t think of anything I wish was in there that isn’t, and aside from how attractive it looks, the biggest selling-point for me is how sturdy it is. It is a tool which I use on a daily basis and carry around everywhere. It is a pretty tool, but one that will only work if I use it well.

I bought my planner with a pen holder, additional coil clips and a meal planner clip-on. I chose my own planner colours in the classic Fleur Feliz design with a peacock background and pool pattern.

And now wish me luck, as I’m about to get stuck in and set the planner up for the coming year and a half, using this advice.

Do The Math: at $55 (£35) for an 18-month planner without add-ons, it amounts to just under £2 per month. Even if like me you buy extra bits to go with it, the planner is still only costing you about the same amount as one coffee per month, which I personally think is not extortionate. I’m completely biased though, as it is my idea of stationery heaven.

Don’t forget, if you want to get $10 store credit to use on your first purchase, follow my referral link to register on the website.

 

 

Rhythms

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And breathe…

Readers, I have been BUSY lately. I have been busy like I haven’t been for many years. It’s all my fault of course, but it is not in my nature to fill out my days with doing-things. If I was asked to define myself in a few words, I would always say that I am a being person rather than a doing person. I never require of myself to always be active. I don’t define myself by how busy I am, how many people I see, how many activities I or my children are involved in. I like to sit down to read or blog or watch TV, and I rarely view it as wasted time. It’s all a part of my regime of self-care and basic enjoyment of life. Which all sounds nice and all, but when combined with my natural laziness, makes for an interesting combination. But I digress.

The reason I’m mentioning this is that being busy in the way that my life has been in the last four months is really quite foreign to me and in many ways, I am still trying to adjust. I haven’t yet found a way to do life that doesn’t make me feel like any moment I stop comes with the sounds of brakes and a shout of ‘what the hell just happened to my day/week/month/entire life?’.

Looking back, it is not the house move that has led to all these feelings of whiplash but the combination of going back to work and studying. I had NO IDEA what becoming a student would mean after over fifteen years since being released from school schedules but blimey, that’s been a shock to the system. I have a newly found appreciation for mature students who juggle a full-time job with the pressure of studies but most of all I bow before anyone who does all of this – with children. To be honest, I don’t know how I’m going to manage it. I was under the impression that I had up to four years to undertake my studies but I have since found out that I have been enrolled on an 18-month course. On the one hand, this is good news. I need to be under some level of pressure to push me forward and keep my motivation up, plus there’s an end in sight in the near future. On the other hand, as soon as something happens in my personal life, it affects my ability to study and I feel the repercussions immediately. If a child is ill, or if they just refuse to go to bed, I lose valuable time, the only time I have, and it is out of my control. My first assignment deadline was Friday a week ago and I spent the previous three weeks researching and writing every evening as well as every spare moment during the day. I must have clocked over 20 hours a week of studies on top of a full day at work or with the children, staying up past 11.30 pm most nights in order to feel like I had at least some handle of my assignment brief (which, if you’re interested was on business environment, so think internal and external business responsibilities, competition policy, PESTEL analysis, the World Trade Organization, taxes and the like – riveting stuff but mostly, stuff I knew nothing about before I started). I don’t do well if I get under 7 hours of sleep, and I was starting to feel it.

In the meantime, there are things I would like to write about on the blog, about the move, our lovely new neighbours, our organisational challenges, the little things we have done to make it home, the local French group I have started to attend with the girls, but I just haven’t got the time or the energy. It makes me feel bad, because I do love what I have achieved here. I am really proud of some of the posts I was able to share in 2014 and I have been in a good place both in terms of inspiration and motivation in the last year. And then boom, it’s all fallen down a rabbit hole and I don’t know when it will come back out. One of the things I’d wanted to do was to take part in a 31 day challenge in October, which I should be starting to plan now but considering how my life is going at the moment, I’m not sure how I could and it makes me sad.

All this to say that I am looking for a new life rhythm and it’s taking its own sweet time to materialise. I would like to fit it all in, and I don’t know if I can. I need to get better at planning things and sticking to the plan. I’m not sure what it means for the blog, apart from I want to write and I maybe also feel like I need to but right now, just figuring out how to survive this business course is going to take a fair amount of my energy, especially because the next unit is on finances and oh my goodness am I dreading it, I am so not a maths person.

On another note, it is that time of year when one must buy a new organiser for 2015/2016. I’m a big fan of family planners and have been using one for the last two years. Now that I am back at work and actively studying so I can become a fully fledged entrepreneur with my own business, I am seriously considering treating myself to an Erin Condren life planner. We have nothing quite like it in the UK, and if I do splash out on one, you can be sure I will be reviewing it on here so keep your eyes peeled.

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.