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
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Eat and stay slim like the French {day two}

{day two} Eat and stay slim like the French
There is a myth floating about that the French, and French women specifically, are able to eat just about anything and not put weight on.

If you think about it, it’s a little ridiculous as myths go. French people do not have special magical powers, a better metabolism, a secret fountain of youth or special plant that melts body fat. Weight Watchers, Atkins and whatever the latest trend in diets is, have been a feature in France for decades, and show no sign of diminishing in appeal. France is also the second largest market for McDonald’s after the US, and I mean, French people LOVE fast food. Maybe it’s because you can have a beer or a glass of wine with your burger; for me it’s the pistachio ice cream and the fact that the quarter-pounder is called ‘Le Royal’ (because I’m worth it)  that does it. But somehow, a lot of people outside of France can’t believe this to be the case, maybe due to the (mostly media-led) romantic idea that all we do is look glamorous sitting in cafés drinking coffee and wine with a steak and salad.

I’m guessing that the reason French people have been described as slim is because it stands against the notion of traditional French food being rich and often served with sauces. Whilst it’s not wrong (a lot of French food IS rich), it doesn’t tell the whole story. In the last 50 years, people would have been recovering from WWII rationing and a general lack of available food stuff and variety. In the US, the years after the war were of incredible prosperity and both the appearance of affordable kitchen appliances and pre-packaged food had an impact on people’s eating habits. In France, the post-war recovery was slower as the logistical and physical effects of the war were a lot more immediate and wide-ranging. The focus was more on improving transportation and just making food, as opposed to facilitating its process.

This said, it is not completely untrue that French people are generally slimmer than their UK and US counterparts. I can think of three reasons why this may be:

1. Portion control

If France had a motto centred around food, it would be ‘Everything in moderation’. This is why it is not difficult for the average French person to drink a glass of wine with lunch, or to have a three-course meal every day. If you are going to have cheese, you would just have a small slice and leave it at that. The same goes for starters of cured meats, just one or two slices suffice, and you get the enjoyment of tasty food without gorging.

2. Education i.e it’s a cultural thing

Food is important. It is not a simple matter of getting enough nutrients so you can survive until the next task or the next day. The idea of ‘counting calories’ is relatively new to French people. Eating is an experience, it is relational; it is community; it is about enjoying the best life has to offer. As such, learning about food groups and how to eat is a natural part of a child’s education, and the school canteen menus reflect this. I will expand on this topic later this month when I talk about ‘how to educate your kids about food like the French’.

3. Exercise and diets!

In reality, obesity, whilst a recent problem compared to the US and the UK, is very much on the rise. As I said, France is the second biggest consumer of McDonalds after the US, and its effects are very much being felt. A new generation of French people, from the 90s onwards, has grown up with more access to junk food, and the technological changes of the last 20 years have a major impact on habits and lifestyle. Only time will tell whether France will be able to curb the trend.

Concepts like portion control and seeing food as ‘more than fuel’ are affected by culture and education, that is to say, that we are affected by the behaviours we observe growing up, and by peer pressure. It is easier to restrain your snacking habits in a culture where it is not the norm to snack. It is all about mindset, and whilst it is  possible to change a lifelong habit, it is by no means an easy feat in a culture that loves to eat big. But if people have the willpower to change, whether driven by circumstances or by a strong enough desire, I can’t help but think it must be attainable. If anyone can change their personal habits to embrace something like the paleo diet, it must surely be easier to adapt to a diet that says you can have a bit of everything in moderation instead.
31 days button - Frenchify your life # font x400

What I’m Into – August 2014 Edition

What I'm Into Aug 2014 header

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!

20140814_view from restaurant

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.

20140802_183319

  • 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:

20140814_starter

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.

Please note this post contains affiliate links.

 

What I’m Into – July 2014 Edition

what I'm into July 14 header

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 – May 2014 Edition

May flowers

May flowers

After a good and busy start of the month, May turned cold and dreary, not least because the house was beset with colds and coughs. I was the last one to fall but by then I’d already lost quite a bit of sleep and in my weakened state, the cough has got hold of me and threatened not to leave me again. I have had a record number of tired and cranky days but I’m finally over it, yay!

What I’m Watching

My regular tv shows:  we finished Castle season 3 (what a cliffhanger, but of course she can’t die so let’s move on to season 4 already. Except not, because it’s Channel 5 and who knows whether we’ll get to see Castle again); Person of Interest, Parks & Rec (season 2) and Orphan Black (getting weirder by the minute – Allison is my favourite character and the most terrifying soccer mum ever).

Films:

The Artist: I loved it, even more so because I was already a fan of Jean Dujardin through his French comedy work on a sitcom called Un gars une fille in the early noughties (A Bloke A Girl – only available in French, which follows the daily tribulations of a couple); he was already a well-known figure in France prior to winning his Oscar.

I watched the 2007 BBC version of Jane Eyre. Pff, let me fan my face before I type this up! It’s taken me until now and this series to really ‘get’ Jane Eyre. The movie with Michael Fassbender failed to move me, as had the 1996 one with Charlotte Gainsbourgh. In film or book, I couldn’t warm to Jane, who seemed to have lots of thoughts and opinions and chose to keep them to herself, and Mr Rochester, who was just really rude and secretive. Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson at last enlightened me as to why Jane and Mr Rochester’s relationship is one of the best there is. Ruth’s Jane was pouty but passionate in nature and once she dared, unrestrained in expressing it. Toby Stephens’ Rochester really got under my skin, portraying a heart-broken man putting up as best a front as he can in the face of a bleak and lonely future. What puzzles me most is that Rochester is supposed to be this unattractive man whose rough appearance fits in with his frightsome demeanor but Stephens is anything but ugly (imho). Or maybe these days people think that unless a man has a pretty face then he cannot be attractive, which is a shame. Sure Stephens, and Fassbender for that matter, aren’t the ‘pretty’ men most favoured by the casting agents of today but they have strong and interesting features and well, also REALLY good acting that takes interesting to plain attractive. I am also in favour of more red-headed leading men. Just sayin’.

At last, I also watched Frozen; it was wonderful and I had stuff to say about it.

What I’m Reading

I finished Bread & Wine on May 1st and I loved it. Shauna Niequist is possibly my opposite personality-wise, which is probably why I loved her so much. I have a few friends who are extroverted feelers like her and they are so wonderful to be around; paradoxically I find their company relaxing and freeing and I can’t even begin to try and explain why.

For some reason it’s been a really slow reading month. I started a few books and I haven’t managed to focus on any of them. I blame my ill-health. So I am currently in the process of reading Organised Simplicity and Introverts In The Church. I did finish The Elegance of the Hedgehog, but I had to push through to the end with sheer determination, because good grief it was hard work. It contained all the tedious things I dislike about France, pompous intellectualism, apathetic superiority complexes, lack of plot. Just, gah. You can read my stellar review on Goodreads.

What I’m Listening To

I started this month with Sara Bareilles, who is mellow and deep and just makes me want to sing out loud, which I did a lot, in the early May days when I could still sing without choking. This song pretty much sums up where I’m at right now:


I’ve also been living with another, spiritual song

Favourite Picture

14052014 sleeping princess

What I’ve Been Doing

  • It’s been the busiest month of the year so far, not least because I’m back on musical duties at church after a long maternity leave and I’m getting stuck in behind the keyboard and the microphone again. I love it, especially singing, but it’s a major logistical adjustment nonetheless, especially as we hosted a conference mid-May and I left Luciole properly for a whole day for the first time.
  • The rest of the month was spent surviving a bad cold with two children under three when all I wanted to do was crawl into a ball and sleep.

Notable Feasts

  • For the first time in a few years, I missed the Eurovision Song Contest, which is a glorious display of bad taste and outrageous acts with a bit of singing thrown in (don’t let the ‘song contest’ part of the title distract you). I usually spend the night tweeting about things I find amusing with the song subtitles turned on, and I discover European countries I never knew existed (like Moldova, which is somewhere in Eastern Europe, but I couldn’t point it out on a map). Alas, I missed the ascension of the bearded lady who won the contest this year. Instead I attended our new neighbours’ house warming party and it was awesome. We had ribs; lots and lots of ribs. And also curried goat and rhubarb and ginger crumble. I found myself at half midnight dancing to TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ and some Michael Jackson in the neighbours’ lounge whilst holding a gin and tonic and a glow stick with complete strangers.

a feast of ribs

  • I made sticky chicken drumsticks and spicy wedges because I fancied barbecue and then I forgot to take a picture of that glorious dinner. Grrr. I did learn to make mayonnaise from scratch, which totally blew my mind when it actually worked. Then, inspired by a blog post from my favourite food blog FranglaiseCooking, I made a French potée (a piggy casserole, as they say), which was timely as the weather decided to turn cold again in synch with my menu planning.

May food

On the Blogosphere

I nearly wet myself watching this sketch about Christian dating online.

‘Pinterest moms: I don’t get it but I support it. I totally know where the Bloggess is coming from.

At Home on the Blog

I was so ready to apologize for doing nothing on the blog this month, and then I was possessed by a writing frenzy and went all out on a variety of subjects. I managed to share some very special parenting fails and I watched Frozen.

I also finally did what I said I would do in March when I read Daring Greatly and I wrote what is possibly my most personal blog post to date about emotional capacity and good mental health. And finally, I also talked about personality types, MBTI and being labelled ‘argumentative’ in my early twenties and how that didn’t work very well for me.

 

What I'm Into

I am linking with Leigh Kramer again, so go check out what other people are into this month!