31 days to love all things French {day thirty-one}

{day thirty-one} 31 days to love all things French

Bonjour!

This is it, the final day of my series on how to Frenchify Your Life.

31 days of actually finishing something

I cannot believe I managed to post every day for 31 days. When I first started, I thought I would get really stressed half-way through and give up. I was convinced I would not have enough content to write for such a sustained period. But I did it! I may have neglected my studies to do this (like, a lot) but it feels like such an accomplishment. This is particularly the case because Failing To Complete is one of the things I struggle with the most in my everyday life. I have a tendency to be full of fire and motivation when I begin something but the novelty soon wears off and I often don’t finish what I have started. It happens to me all the time. And yet, here I am on day 31, with 31 posts. I am giving myself license to go ‘yay me!’.

31 days of learning about blogging

I learnt a couple of things about blogging, namely that creating graphics takes FOREVER but should definitely not be neglected, and that if I trusted my gut and stopped nit-picking at my posts, it wouldn’t take me so long to write them.

31 days of… decent posts?

In my introductory post on 1st October, I stated that one of my fears when I started on this venture was that it would turn into an exercise in churning out posts of poor quality and/or low interest and value, just for the sake of writing. I tried to avoid this by planning topics and posts in advance rather than writing every evening for the next day, and considering the amount of research some of the posts required, I dare say it is a good thing I did! I feel I reached my goal of producing good content (I think! I hope?).

31 days of recommendations, just for fun

I forgot to say it in the actual posts, but I was not approached by anyone to review products, nor did I receive monetary rewards by companies or authors for any of the recommendations I made throughout this series. I did it purely because I personally like or use the products and sites mentioned. This said, most of the Amazon links are affiliate links, which means that if you were to go through the links to purchase the stated item, I would receive a small token of money which would go towards supporting the site.

31 days of French things

I hope you enjoyed the various topics I explored around the elusive subject of what it means to be French, and that the recommendations inspired you. We talked about food, education, history, beauty products and French novelists to name but a few, and I had a lot of fun writing some of the more random posts (hello, Napoleon!). Which one was your favourite? As you saw from my post on fashion, the fact that I know nothing about a particular subject will not stop me writing, if anything I will send you out onto the internet towards someone with more expertise. Do you have a burning question about France or French people you wish I had addressed? As ever, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or the comments section if you want me to write about anything in particular to do with France and the French (or food).

I am now going to take a break for a couple of weeks to catch up on my studies for an assignment deadline on 10th November. I have no big plans beyond that, no big blog announcement of any sort but I aim to continue to write once a week as life allows.

If you missed any of this month’s posts again, I have curated the entire series on one page, which you can find under my main blog headings at the top of every page, or by clicking the graphic below. Thanks for staying with me this month, and happy reading!

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Sleep like The French {day twenty-two}

{day twenty-two} Sleep like the French

This blog post idea comes courtesy of my husband Badgerman, who said “surely you should write a post about sleep, after all the moaning you do about it and British windows”. He’s heard me complain often enough about blinds and windows and poxy cream curtains that let all the light in to know my sleep is important to me and that I cannot fathom why shutters don’t come as standard on British houses.

The best way to get a good night sleep, according to the French and SCIENCE, is to have a very dark bedroom. It doesn’t need to be completely pitch-back but it should be as close to it as possible. It’s a known fact that the darker the room the more profound the sleep.

Typical French shutters in the background

Typical French shutters in the background

French people understand this so all houses and flats come with shutters as standard. Some have painted wooden ones and some have the more old-fashioned metal ones on the outside of windows. More modern constructions may have electric shutters but that’s not a statement of wealth, just practical.

Typical English shutters: bespoke, affordable only to the wealthy, and installed inside the window (in case they get stolen?)

I cannot get my head around why shutters are not standard everywhere. They are common sense for so many reasons, not just because they create a darker and more suitable environment for a good night sleep but also because:

1. If you live in a hot country (or just for hot summer days), you can half shut them to protect your house and yourself from overheating but you can keep your windows open and get the benefit of the outside air instead of just being shut inside in a hot house.

But for this to work, you would need windows that actually open widely, and these are not to be found in England (another cultural shock for me!).

2. The flip coin is that in winter, closing your shutters helps keep the heat in and the cold out, you are immediately better insulated. So, you know, you save money on heating.

3. It is added safety; robbers have an extra job trying to get in. It’s just common sense!

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Classic French Books for Children {day twenty}

{day twenty} Classic French books for children

For this post, I have had to search my memory for books that impacted me when I was growing up. It was a tough task, but let’s not linger on the state of my neurons and instead look at what books French children are most likely to grow up with, though school or left to their own devices.

Of the translated books I grew up with, the most notable have been the Narnia series, Little House on the Prairie series, Anne of Green Gables and Enid Blyton Famous Five series). Nowadays, I suspect French children may well read Harry Potter and similar supernatural tales. Thematic collections of traditional tales from different countries are also very popular, like Nordic or Middle-eastern fairy tales.

The girls' French bookshelf

The girls’ French bookshelf

The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) by Antoine de St Exupéry is an internationally renowned classic loved by children and adults.

Tales of Mother Goose (Contes de ma mère l’Oye) by Charles Perrault, were written long before the Brothers Grimm and Disney got hold of them so the traditional fairy tales are in their unadulterated, non-PC and fairly horrifying form (probably not suitable for young children!). Includes Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood, Blue Beard to name but a few.

The Comtesse de Ségur, who was originally Russian but spent her life in France in the 19th century, wrote a number of children’s books most notably Sophie’s Misfortunes (Les Malheurs de Sophie). This bilingual book of Fairy Tales for Small Children contains tales that would appeal to younger children.

The Fables of Jean de La Fontaine (Les Fables de la Fontaine): you can’t escape La Fontaine’s fables when you are at school in France; they are morality tales in poetic form, usually featuring animals and really quite clever.

The Witch in the Broom Cupboard and Other Tales (La sorcière de la rue Moufetard et autres contes de la rue Broca), by Pierre Gripari. I am so happy this book has been translated into English; it is wonderful from start to finish. The tales are fantastically creative and imaginative and the humour is spot on for children.

Nicholas (Le Petit Nicolas), by René Goscinny et Jean-Jacques Sempé is one of a few more recent tales that have become classics in their own right. It tells the adventures of Nicolas, a typical French school boy, and his friends.

For toddlers and pre-schoolers, the story collections of Martine, by Gilbert Delaye & Marcel Marlier, Emilie by Domitille de Pressensé, and Mini-Loup by Philippe Matter, are all excellent. None of these book collections are translated into English but they are a great introduction to the French language if you are that way inclined. They tell basic stories about day-to-day activities that young children engage with themselves: birthdays, shopping, animals, nightmares, having a bath, etc.

Another way that the French try to encourage children to read is by offering magazine subscriptions, but the magazine themselves are more like collections of stories, comics and educational games on a monthly theme. My girls have been receiving Popi (0-3) and Abricot (3-5).

Popi Abricot Collage

All the comics I have mentioned before at the end of my post recommending books for adults are also well worth a look if you have reluctant readers, things like Tintin, Astérix, Boule & Bill and Titeuf.

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The Truth about Frogs and Snails {day nineteen}

{day nineteen} The Truth about Frogs and Snails

 

When I was preparing for this series earlier this year, I asked people on my Facebook page if they had any questions about the French that they would like answered, and one of the things that came up was: why do the French eat frogs and snails?

 

That’s a good question, which is just as puzzling to foreigners as the following two are to me: why do the British eat Marmite and why do Americans eat syrup with bacon? Mystère… If you live in the culture, it’s a no brainer; ‘because it tastes good‘ comes to mind, but like many cultural things, it can be an acquired taste, a ‘you have to be there to get it’ sort of thing.

 

When you think about what the Romans used to eat, you should maybe not be so surprised, France was properly invaded by them, and then of course, in medieval times, nobles owned the land and were pretty much the only ones allowed to hunt on it. The peasants had to make do with, well, peasant food. So in the case of frogs and snails, it probably went like this:

 

It was a dark and stormy night in medieval times and the peasants were hungry. They woke up to find an invasion of frogs crawling everywhere. ‘What to do with the vermin’, they wondered. Eat it of course! And so they did. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that. Don’t judge them.

 

I joke, but that’s as likely as any other myth story you will hear on the subject.

 

You are lucky in that I have tasted both frogs’ legs and snails so I can give you my personal opinion, and then you can decide whether it’s a food idea worth pursuing for yourself.
Photo: Todd Coleman

I liked frogs and I hated snails: both are pretty tasteless. I always describe the taste of frogs’ legs as ‘chicken that lives in water’. Bland but tasty enough when fried in butter, herbs and garlic. You do need quite a few of them to make a decent meal, as they are only skin and bones, the poor things.

 

Snails dish

 

Snails are prepared all manner of ways, including the traditional pan-fried in butter, garlic, and herbs (a French classic trio of flavours) and they’re OK I guess, if you like things that are bland and chewy. They taste fine but I didn’t like the texture at all, which goes to show it is a matter of personal taste.

 

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