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

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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

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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.

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French Christmas posts round-up

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I bought the special Radio Times Christmas TV schedule yesterday and had a moment’s panic because it means the Christmas countdown is on and I’ve not bought Badgerman’s present yet, or decided on a Christmas menu (French-inspired of course), and I really should get going on all these things. Add to this my deluded intention to get the girls to do some Christmas craft for the house (mainly snowflakes and stars), bake some house-shaped cakes for them to decorate in the gorgeous silicone molds I got gifted years ago and have yet to use, and make some chocolate truffles for our neighbours and Little Girl’s teachers. All this and I intend to enjoy myself too! Ah well, something’s got to give, and I suspect it’s the decorations that will get the cut.

I’ve had a crazy schedule of late despite my course being on hold due to a financial cock-up (don’t ask), between Luciole’s absolute refusal to go to bed and sleep through (up to an hour to get her down and up twice most nights), making gift tags for a craft stall I was holding at our local Christmas Fayre and learning choir parts for a little impromptu Christmas choir I am getting ready to perform at my church’s Christmas services on the 20th. Still, I love Christmas and didn’t want to post nothing so I’m doing a little round-up of past posts I’ve written. Enjoy!

French and British Christmas traditions

The Mysterious Tradition of Weepy Christmas Adverts

French Christmas Eve Traditions

A Christmas poem

Time for new Christmas traditions

3 Ways I know Christmas is coming

Christmas Food

Christmas Day Menu, Franco-British Style

Raspberry and Lychee Chocolate Log

Christmas Music Favourites

The funniest Christmas song for all the wrong reasons

The worst Christmas song

Musical Christmas Cheer (or not)

My favourite Christmas carol

Christmas Crafts (well, only one)

A Christmas Advent Calendar for non-crafty types

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The Mysterious Tradition of Weepy Christmas adverts

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Around this time of year, Britain gets taken over by a slightly bizarre (to me) early Christmas tradition. Major supermarkets and popular department stores have an unofficial competition for most soppy, heart-strings-pulling, commercially near-irrelevant, cuteness-overload Christmas advert.

John Lewis opens the flood gates everywhere and is always a strong contender for ‘Best Christmas Ad’, if there ever was such a thing.


And this year, the rightful heir to the Best Christmas Ad trophy might well be supermarket Sainsbury’s with its Christmas disaster tale as experienced by Mog the Cat.

This year, I would say these two are the main contenders but you might well disagree!

For more of the amazing Christmas ads British stores have given us this year, visit Mumsnet’s helpful 2015 round-up.