What I’m Into (Spring 2016 Edition)

what I'm into Spring 2016

 

Spring has arrived in England and with it hail, snow, thunder, lightning and bright sunshine, all in the space of a day. It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to join in with What I’m Into.

What I’m Reading

I’ve actually been reading about business finance and investment appraisal techniques since mid January so I’ve spent my leisure time reading free Kindle books in the fantasy, romance and paranormal section. My brain couldn’t take much more than that.

What I’m Watching

I finished Battlestar Galactica, and I still can’t believe I waited until this year to do so. It’s on a par with Fringe in how much I enjoyed the intricacy of this programme. It is so much more than a sci-fi show.

Other programmes I’ve watched/am watching: iZombie, Once Upon a Time, Outlander

What I’m Listening To

As I recently had an assignment deadline, I listened to a lot of playlists and instrumental music from Craig Armstrong and Ludovico Einaudi. I love how these two composers use modern technology to meld electronic soundscapes with classic piano. I’ve also been enjoying this song by Frances:

Favourite Photo

family selfie

Family selfie

What I’ve Been Doing

At Work:

I started a new PA job at my local university in February. I love being back at work and I love the university environment. I have a varied and busy role in a friendly flexible team, I get access to the university’s library and online journals, to Lynda.com, I was set up with the entire Adobe Creative Suite when my Adobe Reader went wrong. My biggest challenge is the fact that it is a two-day role and I could easily do more hours.

At Home:

  • It was my birthday in late February and our 7th wedding anniversary in April and we celebrated both with a Japanese feast.

japanese feast

 

  • I spent the Easter holidays painting the girls’ bedroom and really enjoyed myself, whereas Badgerman found it not at all therapeutic. I guess that’s my job in the house from now on then, but I will leave all the prep to him!

blue girl bedroom

 

  • We went to the Foodies Festival and had a wonderful time scoffing delicious food, enjoying the sunshine, the blues and the gin samples.

Foodie Festival 2016

 

At School:

  • I completed my HNC assignment on Managing Financial Resources and Decisions. It was my most challenging unit to date, as I suspected it would be, what with the fact that there were calculations involved, and I worked flat-out for a couple of weeks to do this.

At Home on the Blog

I will spare you a rundown of all the posts I’ve written since the last installment of What I’m Into. Needless to say it has been a bit quiet since Christmas because of that big assignment but I did post a few things anyway.

  • Not least on the list were my 2016 blogging resolutions, including having an editorial calendar, having a blog loge and going self-hosted. The good news is, I can now check one of these off the list (see below)!
  • I shared a recipe for a typical French dish of sauteed potatoes with persillade (a parsley and garlic mix), which reminds me I should really make it again, yum.
  • I linked to a website for expats, which is a fantastic resource whether you are looking to move abroad or are already there.
  • big spelling change was announced in France, which is a Very Rare Event, and people thought the end of the world was nigh.
  • And finally, I’m about to embark on a new potty training adventure, and I’m dreading it a bit.

Big Announcement

I have been hard at work developing the new platform for this blog since going self-hosted (a spur of the moment purchase on 2nd January this year) and the plan is to launch A Frog at Large under a new URL in the next couple of weeks! I will keep you posted, but be warned that you will need to manually re-subscribe by email or save the new URL as there will not be automatic redirection.

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

What I'm Into

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.

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

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.

French Christmas posts round-up

Have yourself a Merry Little French Christmas blogheader 081215

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

Have a little French Christmas 800x