What I’m Into: October 2014 Edition

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October has been a month of new routines, desperately hoping nobody would get ill and longing for a holiday breather. The girls’ sleep got all messed up and I got tired and frustrated with things and I’ve been distracting as a coping mechanism without realising it. I don’t feel like I have the words for this weird malaise quite yet but I am trying. It didn’t help that the clock change a week ago means that the sun now goes down around 5 pm and it’s making me feel quite depressed. Ugh, I hate this time of year.

What I’m Watching

Regular shows: Once Upon a Time, Dr Who, Arrow. And Castle is back so we’ve started season 4.

Films: Sightseers – it’s a tale of murder in the Lake District. I guess it counts as a black comedy but I tell you, it totally freaked me out, as much for how gory it was as for how casually evil yet disturbingly banal the characters were even in their mental disturbance. I’m never going on a caravan holiday, ever.

What I’m Reading

I finished Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander) and A Dance With Dragons: Part 2 After the Feast and loved both so much! You can read my reviews on Goodreads.

What I’m NOT Reading

It’s not that I don’t want to, honest. I’m that overwhelmed with it.

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What I’m Listening To

In the charts: I fell in love with Say Something by A Great Big World. It’s a bit of a predictable choice for me, what with all the nice piano, clear harmonisation, pretty tune and the heavy dose of melancholy. I had no idea Christina Aguilera was singing until I saw the video, and omg is she over-acting.

The bigger surprise has been how much I have liked All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor. I like the strong lyrics and it’s ever so catchy.

 

Badgerman has been playing a lot of Royal Blood lately and I generally think he has interesting and eclectic taste (when he’s not listening to Mastodon – that’s not really my thing). Rock seems to be enjoying a revival of sorts and I like it. Little Monster is wonderful.

Unfortunately, for all the hype, I couldn’t get past the first track from shameless ad-whore U2‘s new album. They either need to reinvent themselves musically or come to terms with not being big news anymore, either way, it sounded like U2 and yeah, meh.

I listened to the new Coldplay album and although I like a couple of tracks, I’m not bowled away either.

Favourite Photo

MOBY and wine

What I’ve Been Doing

– The nearly-new sale I attended was a complete wash-out. For some reason, the unused bottles of talcum powder went in a flash, and I sold maybe three other items and that’s it. Considering how much time and effort went into preparing for the event, it was not good value for money. I made back what I’d put out for the table and then maybe another £15, and promptly spent half of that on a Cinderella Barbie for Little Girl. I came home knackered but still determined to get rid of all my baby clothes somehow. Ebay here I come!

– I have never celebrated Hallowe’en; it didn’t exist in its current form in France when I was growing up and it’s only recently that the practice of trick or treating has become popular in the UK but for the last three years, we have tried to develop some basic pumpkin-carving skills. This year, to please Little Girl, I went for Hello Kitty, which came out great, although Badgerman later admitted to being surprised at my success because he initially thought I had shot well over my capabilities and was never going to manage anything decent. Thanks for the vote of confidence then…

hello kitty pumpkin 2014

– For a true Hallowe’en fright, I give you my attempt at a Roast Pumpkin Cheese Fondue as I threatened to do last month. I overbaked the pumpkin; it burnt, leaked and caved in a bit on the side and looked quite shocking, as the photo below can attest, but it tasted like heaven. It’s honestly the easiest thing to make. A 1.5 kg emptied pumpkin will take about 1 hr to cook in the oven first at 180C, then layer all your ingredients in the cavity (300 g grated cheese, 2 tbsp white wine, 2 tbsp creme fraiche and a chopped shallot) and roast for another 30 mins. You can’t go wrong. Unless you’re me.

I also made a Lancashire Hotpot, which looked and tasted amazing but yeah, again, I forgot to take a pic of the inside. I’ll share this recipe another time for sure because lamb stew is The Daddy.

Things we ate in Oct14

 

At Home On The Blog

– This month’s been very slight on posts. I battled with S.A.D. and general tiredness and couldn’t get the resolve to be productive and write anything. Somehow it ended up being a food month!

– I did share a typically French recipe for a tasty cheese-free alternative to pizza that ought to please big and small people of all ages. And you can always put cheese on top if you really must.

– The Indian food experiment finally took off. We were late getting it started so both the September Tandoori Night and the October Butter Chicken Night happened in October. No one complained.

So that’s what I’ve been doing this month. Be sure to check out all the other entries over on Leigh Kramer’s website.

 

 

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What I’m Into – September 2014

What I'm Into Sept 2014

How long ago were the summer holidays again? Only one month? September has been busy, stressful and physically challenging, though thankfully we’ve also had some good news and great weather. Still I’m glad October is here and I can give Baked Pumpkin Cheese Fondue a try. It’s totally going to happen.

Anyway, I’m joining with Leigh Kramer and looking back at all the things that have been going on in my life in September.

What I’m Watching

Regular Shows: Dr Who, The Great British Bake-Off

I’ve lost interest in both The 100 and Under the Dome, which have been increasingly underwhelming and ludicrous as time went on.

I’m having the hardest time restarting Friends after my August hiatus, what’s up with that?

I’ve binge watched Outlander, season 3 of Once Upon A Time and last Sunday’s episode, and season 3 of Parks & Rec. Don’t ask how I’ve been able to watch these shows that are not currently showing in the UK. But basically, I loved every minute of every single one of them (especially Outlander, see below).

What I’m Reading

I finally found A Dance With Dragons: Part 1at the library and devoured it in a couple of days. Great book, can’t wait to read Part Two.

My blog Reader filled with reviews and Tumblrs about new show Outlander (Cross Stitch, UK), which was rewarding and frustrating in equal measures at the time (before I found a way to watch it). It is the TV version of my favourite book series but one which I tend to only recommend to a select few due to some of the content in the same way that I don’t recommend Game of Thrones the TV show to everyone either. It’s a matter of taste but some people find the violence and the naughty bits (even in a marital context) too graphic. Or maybe it’s because I remember I was 16 when I read the first book and my mum’s eyes popped a little when she tried it after me. I’ve genuinely enjoyed all the recaps and gif sets I found online despite all the spoilers but since I’ve read the (enormous) books about 10 times each, it was just a lot of fun. I am on the library waiting list to read the latest one (number 8 in the series!) Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. I’ll buy it for sure but due to lack of space on the bookshelves I’ll be waiting for the paperback.

What I’m Listening To

Let it goooooo, let it gooooo! Because Luciole is 15 months and can sing along to some of the chorus – minus most of the words but you can still make it out. Da da GO! Da da GO!

Favourite Picture

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I know I shouldn’t like this one as much as I do. Badger beer is very tasty, I can’t begrudge her that.

What I’ve Been Doing

  • I dove right back into the swing of things, also known as ‘I don’t remember what it’s like to be on holiday and it’s only been a day‘.
  • I met up with friends in the famed town that is Romford, Essex and ate too much cheese, cake and Haribos.
  • I started to clear stuff up at home. I promise, I did. I even bought a table at a baby stuff nearly-new sale for next Saturday.
  • In completely unexpected news, I am now on Tumblr. I had zero intention of doing this, right to the second when I pressed the create button. Tumblr is a weird place full of very immersed fandom members and it scares me a little. I’m really only on the periphery and might never use it properly but I love commenting on things and it bugged me that the only way to do that on Tumblr is to have an account with them. So now I have one, for better or for worse.

At Home on the Blog

I finally wrote that post about our passport difficulties for Luciole, and how it really was a miracle that we got it in time for our holidays.

I’m going to get six parcels full of fresh spices in the post over the next six months and start my Beginner’s Journey into Indian Curries from scratch, all in honour of Badgerman’s 40th birthday. Between Luciole being ill, my cut finger and other things, I’ve not yet hosted the first one, which was due this month but you can expect a post in the next couple of weeks. That is, unless the roof caves in or something similarly disastrous.

And then of course, I cut my thumb, went to the emergency department and subsequently sang the praises of my super sharp knives

Ah, yes, I discovered Washi tape and used it in some clever ways. If you’re into craft, it’s a handy little thing to have. If you’re not, well, it’s a bit weird but pretty.

In case you haven’t noticed, I updated my blog design! It was long overdue and it’s not perfect but it will do, don’t you think? I unveiled it with a post raving about this fab design website called canva, which I’m not linking to here because you should all totally check it out, but only once you’ve read the post.

Luciole was ill last week and I talked about how everyone in the UK (and probably the US and 75% of the rest of the world) gets freaked out when they hear the word suppository. It sure is a culture clash.

Last but not least, another post about cultural differences: you think you know how things work, and then preschool happens and it’s a whole new world of discomfort.

And that’s it folks! Check out all the other September entries over at:

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What I’m Into – August 2014 Edition

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My artistic landscape gardener of a brother’s gorgeous garden

Ah, Summer. I loved you whilst you were here. But it looks like you’ve gone and aren’t coming back! We’ve had a great summer, full of parties and a long holiday feasting and sadly for August, not a lot of sun! So let’s join in with Leigh Kramer and recap this busy month.

What I’m Watching

Regular shows: I’ve caught up with The 100 and the Great British Bake-Off (oh the drama…) since coming back from holiday, and of course, Dr Who has just started again, yay!

Emma Approved concluded, and I have no plan to start watching another online show at present, and that’s it for tv and films. We watched a fair amount of Tinkerbell at my parents but little else.

I’ve also not watched any Friends over the last month however so I’ll be getting back on it in September.

What I’m Reading

To my astonishment, I won a couple of books at the end of July, and so whilst on holiday I had the pleasure of reading The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was an enjoyable read, and you can take a look at my short review on goodreads.

I spent a lot of time reading Tsh Oxenreiders’ Organized Simplicity: A Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living in order to get in the right frame of mind to tackle the bottomless pit of clutter that is my house. I’ve not finished it, but I’ve started putting its recommendations into action. (as an aside, I’m embarrassed to confess that I have no idea how to pronounce ‘Tsh’; is it like Tish? If anyone knows, please leave a comment, thanks!)

I also read What Type am I?: Discover Who You Really are by Renee Baron, which is an easy-to read MBTI Personality Types for Dummies – style book, and confirmed that I am indeed an ISTJ. Hello, me!

What I’m Listening To

I had the music video channel on a lot this month and it was an interesting experience. Whenever I visit France, there’s always a typically French wispy-voiced waif earnestly simpering a ballad in duet with an equally smarmy bloke; and there was certainly a bit of that going on. But there were also a few catchy offerings, like the number one from Black M ‘Sur Ma Route‘, and Cats On Trees ‘Siren Call‘.

Favourite Picture

all the blingWhat happens when you buy new shoes for your child? All the bling comes out!

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Le Pont St Etienne, Limoges, France

What I’ve been doing (and notable feasts)

  • We kicked off the month with Badgerman’s 40th birthday party, which was just a big excuse to eat lot of barbecued meat, including the delicious Moroccan merguez below. I was witness to some amazing physical prowess from one of the guests, who managed to take a bite out of an enormous sandwich comprising of skirt steak, a whole flat mushroom and blue cheese sauce. I was too busy doing the same to take a picture.

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  • Two days later, we left behind a rather large amount of trifle, banoffee pie and a freezer full of skirt steak to our lovely house-sitters, who helped us keep the flies at bay by eating all the leftovers and leaving the place way cleaner than we’d left it.
  • I am officially not a fan of long car journeys with kids. But we survived the two days it took us to get to the middle of Nowheresville, France. After that it was all fun and frolics (minus the sun), mostly eating cheese and dry sausage and drinking Belgian beer.
  • Badgerman ate this thing:

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It’s salmon on a bed of cucumber and apple and 5 berry cream, served with a Piquillo pepper sorbet. I had a bite (I was only allowed one :-p ) and yeah, it was really quite amazing, especially that initially weird sorbet.

At Home on the Blog

  • August was a light month. I had minimal interaction with the internet and focused on having fun with the girls and reading. I only gave in and posted after visiting a French doctor, which was an odd affair.
  • Since I got back home last week, I shared my new-found resolution to keep my house tidy, and this time, I have a cunning plan.

And so that’s it for August! I should have plenty to report in September once I get back into the swing of things.

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What I’m Into – July 2014 Edition

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July has been great! It has felt like a proper summer so far, with sun and heat galore, except when we held birthday parties and then it rained a bit. It has also been super busy, filled with parties and lots of cooking. And it’s not the end. Another birthday party on Saturday and then we’re off on holiday. I cannot wait!

What I’m Watching

I finished season 2 of Orphan Back, and I Did Not See That Ending Coming! What an awesome show.

I also finished season 2 of Parks & Rec with great excitement because Rob Lowe! and Adam Scott! But I’m now gutted that the BBC has unfathomably decided not to carry on with the next season, which leaves me confused, angry and, just whyyyy? Why would you do this to me? I’ve been fairly spoiled for the show thanks to Buzzfeed and other internet sites and I’m just really cross I won’t be able to get any more for the foreseeable future. Where can I go to watch the rest now?

I’ve also started to watch The 100, which looks fairly promising but I will hold off a bit before making a final judgement, as I can’t see how it’s going to keep going past one or two seasons.

Films: I watched One Day, which I enjoyed but according to RottenTomatoes.com, loads of people disliked it. Whatever, it’s made me really want to read the book. Pass me the tissues though, what a horrible ending.

I’m continuing my watch-all-of-Friends project, which has now taken me to Season 6. Season 5 is  my favourite by far, because of all the Monica & Chandler awesomeness.

Things to look forward to in August: the Great British Bake-Off. I always miss the first couple of weeks due to holidays, but there is no sweeter pleasure than to watch a handful of amateurs try their hand at making beautiful cakes, biscuits and breads in a really interesting and varied competition that leaves you wanting to eat everything. With extra sass by Mel and Sue.

What I’m Reading

Not a lot of reading done this month again, due to an awful lot of social things going on. I plan on catching up whilst on holiday in August.

I did win some books though! I entered three separate competitions on Mumsnet and won all three. I’m so excited! The first one to arrive was Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, which sounds very good indeed… I am now awaiting the other two with baited breath, which are Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris and Ellie’s Magical Bakery: Best Cake for a Best Friend (Ellies Magical Bakery) by Ellie Simmonds (who won 2 gold medals at the Paralympic Games in London a couple of years ago).

What I’m Listening To

There’s been an awful lot of dancing to Pharrell’s Happy with the girls. It’s definitely been our song of the summer so far. But right now, for better or for worse, I’m totally addicted to Sia’s Chandelier, and I’m giving it a good go singing along as well. I might have to sing it next time I go to karaoke. On the other hand, I’m not quite sure what to make of the video; it is both beautiful and chaotic and the girl dancing is amazing but exhausting at the same time.

Favourite Pictures

the two birthday girls June-July 2014

 

My girls are so cute!

What I’ve Been Doing

– I made some party decorations (hence the butterfly in this post’s header) and cooked an inordinate amount of food for Little Girl’s 3rd birthday. Badgerman’s 40th birthday is on 31st July but his barbecue isn’t until August 2nd. Still, So Much Food.

– To my shame, we did nothing whatsoever on 14th July, the French National Day, or ‘Bastille Day’ as non-French people call it. I was still recovering from all the work from Luciole’s birthday and prepping for Little Girl’s, and felt all cooked-out.

Badgerman made the cake on Little Girl’s birthday and it was gorgeous. Not bad for a man who had never baked before!

chocolate cake with strawberry whipped cream

 

– We attended other lovely little people’s birthday parties.

Sorting out Luciole’s passport was stressful and I haven’t blogged about it yet! Let’s just say that it is against all odds that we are in possession of a British passport for her considering the fact that just this week, the Passport Office went on a 2-day strike due to staff shortages. Two months ago, they also made the national news headlines because of the severe delays in producing passports. We were expecting at the very minimum for it to take 6 weeks, which would have brought its completion date to tomorrow (and we’re going on holiday Monday so STRESS). Well, it turned up a whole week ago. It is nothing short of a miracle, and I do mean ‘an actual miracle that we prayed for’. You may call it coincidence if you wish and I’ll accept that. Except it really was an impossible situation and there is no logical explanation for the early arrival apart from our application somehow appeared at the top of the pile.

As a consequence we now couldn’t be any more bi-national if we tried. Badgerman and Luciole both have British passports, whereas Little Girl and I have a French one. The only reason Luciole hasn’t got a French passport is, you guessed it, French Bureaucracy. More to come about that saga soon, once my nerves have recovered.

The potty training with Little Girl has been another source of stress and yet we seem to have turned a corner.

– We’ve had a series of thunderstorms which culminated a couple of days ago when the storm stopped above our house, let out an almighty crack and broke our internet. I mean this literally, there was a crack and the smell of burning and a dead router. I am only online thanks to the wonders held within the mythical man-cupboard, where old routers go to die (or just to rest, as was the case this time, phew). The new router is due to arrive during our holidays in France, very handy.

My favourite new social media tools

Unsplash: I was introduced to Unsplash last month through one of the What I’m Into contributions, and I’ve already made some good use of it. It hosts copyright-free photos which you can use, change and whatever else provided you properly link to the author. The photos are stunning and of superb quality and the website itself shows a lot of respect for the art of photography. The site is updated once a week with 10 new photos so I selected to subscribe to the email so I get the latest straight into my inbox. Simple and effective, and just what I was looking for.

IFTTT: it’s the best thing ever, thank you Lynn from Salt & Caramel! It’s not just for bloggers but for anyone with a social media presence. IFTTT literally stands for If This Then That and allows you to set up recipes for your social media platforms to talk to each other. It works just like the Outlook email rules. For example, I have set it up so that If I create an Instagram picture Then it gets automatically posted to Twitter with a visible picture (rather than just the Instagram link). This is better than the share option within Instagram itself, and makes the photo more likely to get retweeted, which as us bloggers know is Really Really Important and What Social Media Really Is All About.

I also set it up so that my WordPress blog posts get posted automatically onto my personal Facebook page. I may live to regret this but as my blog is not self-hosted, I have some limitations and one of these is that I can only select one place where WordPress will publish directly onto Facebook when a new post comes out. I have chosen to post to the A Frog At Large Facebook Page (because, duh) but when I started to put the occasional post on my personal account I got a lot of interest from my friends (thanks, friends, I love you!!), and I want to continue in that vein (although, please leave comments on the blog itself, not just on Facebook!).

At Home On The Blog

  • It’s been a good month, which I kicked off by reminiscing about the sitcom Friends as part of my watch-all-of-Friends project, because, would you believe it, it will be 20 years in September since it first appeared on TV. I don’t know about you, but it made me feel old.
  • I was also invited to take part in #mywritingprocess Twitter party and I shared some tips on my writing process, which is something I didn’t know I had until I started to write the post.
  • I made the controversial argument that French music isn’t all bad; you’re welcome to challenge me on that one…
  • I mentioned above that we’re pretty much done on the potty training front. It hasn’t been without tears, loss of hair and other unmentionable things however.
  • Then we’ve got all the birthday posts! I bemoaned the loss of my toddler as Little Girl has moved on to, well, little girl territory, and I shared the recipe for her delicious cherry birthday cake.
  • And finally, I got new glasses for free, which is well worth celebrating if you ask me.

And this is all that happened in July! Check out Leigh Kramer’s blog for more links.

 

What I’m Into – June 2014 Edition

Late afternoon by the old Brighton pier
Late afternoon by the old Brighton pier

Good grief. It’s that time again and I feel like the month has only just begun. Where has June gone? What have I done with it? I haven’t got a clue and it’s an unsettling thought.

What I’m Watching

Regular shows: Orphan Black, Parks & Rec, Emma Approved (web-based).

I decided to start watching The Good Wife again despite the fact that I missed half a season, right before the devastating bit that everyone was spoiled for after it was leaked online. I love this show, and I am not sorry. But I will have to watch the missing episodes if there is a rerun in the future.

The most exciting thing I did this month was to start a complete re-watch of all 10 seasons of Friends. I’ve never done a sitcom marathon of this size before and I got a bit giddy at the thought, especially when I realised that there is a load of episodes I have never seen before in the latter seasons. I’ve already watched the first three seasons (in a week, eek!) and I have questions, which I’m sure were answered by everyone 10 years ago but there’s nothing like a re-watch to make you notice things you’d never seen before. Like, Ross, I hate you, you hideous Nice Guy.

What I’m Reading

I haven’t got a clue what I read this month. I’ve tried to continue the books I’d already started and just couldn’t get into it, again! Let’s call it The ‘Friends‘ Effect. I did read one book from start to finish, The Ocean At The End of The Lane, and I highly recommend it. You can always check out my Goodreads account to see all the books I didn’t finish this month.

What I’m Listening To

I’ve had the Spotify UK top list on a loop this month but I always start with the same song, West Coast by Lana Del Rey, because it’s gorgeous (although I haven’t got a clue what she is talking about, probably nothing good!).

 Favourite Picture

Luciole birthday week

 

What I’ve Been Doing

  • Mostly, I’ve been looking after the girls and it has felt just about enough to cope with.
  • I did organise Luciole’s first birthday party, which was eventful in itself but turned out wonderfully. One down, two to go!

On The Blogosphere

  • The scary ham is very scary indeed.
  • You’d have thought there would be nothing left to say about The Lord of the Rings movie, especially after so many years, and then comes this thoughtful post about how in the book the Shire was actually very much touched by the war and why the fact that this aspect was missed in the movie is a real shame and makes it a poorer film even though the movie was really long enough already.
  • Dads Aren’t Dumb – or useless or second-rate parents worthy only of ‘babysitting duties’.

At Home on the Blog

I kicked off with Naughty Children and Using Words Wisely, which is a challenging topic I need to remind myself of every day, because words mean things and it matters what we say to our children, and by extension how we speak to anyone.

Then I hit a dry run so I posted poetry because I was feeling bad about the blog being neglected – and also because I found a poem I’d attempted to write out in calligraphy and thought, what the heck, it’s not completely terrible so let’s post it (here’s my writing process for you, impressive, isn’t it?).

Finally, my baby girl turned one and we braved the elements to celebrate her life French-style, with a massive buffet.

 

Ad that’s it for June! As usual, I’m joining with Leigh Kramer for the What I’m Into link-up.