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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What I’m Into – March 2015 Edition

Notebook

Man, it has been an AGE since I last participated in What I’m Into!

Since then (wow, it was October…), I have: moved house, found a job, started the job, become a student again, settled into a completely new routine with the kids, bought curtains, had a terrible cold, caught up with lots of wonderful tv shows, ate my weight in curry with lots of girls from church, celebrated my 35th birthday (yikes), got lots of new books, and generally felt a bit overwhelmed by it all.

We had planned to have a house-warming party towards the end of the Easter holidays. I am now sitting on the sofa, thinking about the state of the house, the number of unopened boxes in the spare room and the lack of curtains and blinds in most of the house and I laugh quietly to myself. My younger self by 2 months was so naive.

So anyway, let’s rewind a bit a take a look at the interesting things I’ve done over the last few months.

What I’m Watching

I finished Parks & Rec and I’m now bereft of comedy in my regular viewing habits, as all the other shows I watch are really quite different: Once Upon A Time, Arrow and Castle. I’m watching season 4 of all of these. I’ll be honest, OUAT isn’t what it used to be and is dragging a bit. Arrow, though, is coming up to a belter of a season finale if the trailer is anything to go by! And then of course, Outlander is coming back.

I’ve not watched any films recently but I’m planning to take Little Girl to see Cinderella at the cinema. It will be her first ever cinema outing and I’m not sure she will cope with sitting through a full-length feature but we will try, and she’s beside herself with excitement, which is worth it.

What I’m Reading

Once again, I received Lots Of Books for my birthday, and I’ve been ignoring them all and re-reading Anne Of Green Gables from start to finish; it’s been a nice treat after the whirlwind of the last month. I’ve just started Windy Poplars and keep having visions of the film and Anne and Katherine Brooke’s hideously gloriously puffy hair-dos.

All my other books are still in boxes and will remain there until we have resolved the problem of ‘the office’. I should think that the pictures below are self-explanatory.

state of the office on 030415

What I’m Listening To

I’ve not been listening to anything new of late. The news that Thrice were coming to the UK to do one date at Hevy Fest was enough to make me dig out Beggars, although I doubt I’ll be able to see them live. I hope this is a sign that they have got back together and may be working on a new album.

I’m very embarrassed about this, but I like a lot of the songs from the 50 Shades movie. Not because I’ve seen the film (and I never will, because whatever people say, emotional abuse is not sexy), but the songs have turned up on Spotify and get played on the radio a lot, and I just really like the songs from Ellie Golding, the Weeknd and the Beyonce Crazy in Love remix. They’re all on YouTube so I don’t have to buy anything, thank goodness.

Favourite Photos

Badgerman finally transferred his iPad pictures over and these ones are my favourite. the one on the left is so good for so many reasons: not only is Little Girl looking at the camera, she is smiling AND posing? What’s happened to my child the fake smiler, where has she gone to and who is this imposter?

Fav photos march 2015

What I’ve Been Doing

  • I, ahem, made an Easter Bonnet for Little Girl.  I don’t understand the point of this, or why pre-schools have an ‘Easter Bonnet Parade’. Life in the UK doesn’t get quainter, or weirder, than this. The making of the hat was a last-minute, night before sort of job. The worst thing is I know it’s only the beginning, as British schools are in the habit of wanting kids to do all sorts of things at home that end up being a massive craft-oriented time-consuming task for the parents. I’m dreading all the World Book Days and nativities that require me to pretend I know how to sew.
  • These last couple of weeks, there have been fevers and colds and I got coughed on quite a bit so now I can’t breathe or taste anything.
  • My birthday was fairly uneventful because we moved house the week after and honestly, it was just all too much for me.
  • I got given a car, and I don’t know what to say about it that won’t sound completely trite and underwhelming compared to this complete whopper of a gift. Our friends are amazing, wonderful, super generous and I totally don’t deserve them.
  • I started an admin job three days a week, which has been fine apart from that one day I had to take off because Luciole was ill. Three weeks into a new job, way to make a good impression! My colleagues are good fun and it’s great to be out of the house and suddenly have something else to think about rather than just kids 24/7.
My 'I Got The Job' present. Basically all my favourite things.

My ‘I Got The Job’ present. Basically all my favourite things.

  • Because I’m a bit nuts, I have also started an online course in business management. It’s a proper degree (well, a BTech actually) but it’s meant to be worked around a full-time sort of life doing other stuff. We’ll see how that goes, won’t we?
  • You might have noticed I updated the look of the blog, again. As much as I loved the featured post slider and will miss it (until I find a design I like that has one), I hated that there was so much block black colour on the page and I didn’t need the menu on the left hand-side.

At Home On The Blog

I haven’t really done a round-up since last October, so here’s what happened:

November 2014

  • I wrote about bilingualism and language: we attended a really helpful session with a language therapist who put our mind at rest about Little Girl’s development. The best thing was the information sheet she provided on what normal speech development looks like.
  • I reminisced about my experience of culture shock, homesickness and general emotional upheaval when I first came to England. There are roughly 4 stages people tend to go through and it turns out I’m pretty normal. This is one of these times where the motto of ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’ is actually meaningful.
  • I started participating in Five Minute Friday, in which you set your timer to 5 minutes and write on the day’s given prompt. It’s a nice little writing challenge. That week, the prompt word was Still.

December 2014

This is the month when the world exploded in activity. There was Christmas, I had a bad cold virus for much of the month and we were suddenly buying a house.

  • I revived an old post for a Christmas craft idea for people who can’t craft: a magnet advent calendar for the fridge, which sounds pretty cool if you ask me, and is even cooler in real life.
  • I shared our news that we were buying a house and what it’s like to be a first-time buyer in the south of England.
  • There was another Five Minute Friday post, with a timely prompt: Prepare.
  • As we drew nearer to Christmas, I shared some of my French Christmas Eve Traditions. Everyone who asks me about my French Christmasses ends up hearing about No Potatoes Christmas, which I will forever be bitter about.
  • Wow, I really was in the Christmas spirit this year, because I also put our Christmas Day Menu up for inspiration, shock and awe.
  • I mentioned in the Christmas Menu post that I would translate the recipe for my Raspberry and Lychee Chocolate Log, and so I did. It’s easy to make, promise.

January 2015

February 2015

  • Five Minute Friday on Keep, again incredibly timely.

March 2015

And that’s all folks, we are all caught up!

You can check out what everybody is into over on Leigh Kramer‘s blog.

 

 

What I’m Into: October 2014 Edition

What I'm Into Oct14 header

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.

unread pile 011114

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 – April 2014 Edition

Low tide at Bexhill-on-Sea

Low tide at Bexhill-on-Sea

I’ve been meaning to get on board Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into link-up for a while now; it’s a great way to sum up the month and also to get recommendations for books, shows and web things of all sorts. But every time it has come around, I’ve either drawn a major blank ‘what on earth have I done this last month?’ or I’ve realised that putting it together at the last minute would involve a lot of scrambling around and would defeat the object of this being a fun thing to do. So this time, I actually planned ahead (which is what I should be doing anyway to keep the blog going, but let’s ignore that for a moment) and it’s a massive post because I spend my entire life reading and watching tv it’s the first one and I feel like I need to do some explaining.

What I’m Watching

I like to keep an eye out for new online shows and currently follow the developments of Emma Approved. Once the glorious days of The Lizzie Bennett Diaries were over last year, I wondered where the creators would go next and I was curious to say the least when they announced they were going to try their hand at a retelling of another popular Austen novel, Emma. If I’m completely honest it was a slow start but the show has now hit its stride and there is a lot to enjoy. The friendship between Emma and Knightley remains the highlight but they just finished the Elton plot and it was so much fun. It’s going on a short hiatus in May but you can catch up on all the rest in the meantime to keep yourself busy.

I also finished watching:

Kissing In the Rain – for romance lovers. The blurb on the page says “Actors Lily and James keep finding themselves kissing in the rain, despite not being particularly fond of each other.” In one of the episodes, they act the part of Gilbert and Anne from Anne of Green Gables. If anything’s going to get you watching, it ought to be this!

H+ The Digital Series – I watched this YouTube based sci-fi series in one sitting last week and wish there was more (it may yet happen apparently). It’s about a future where people get implanted with a microchip so that they are their very own computer, and then it goes wrong…

A Tell Tale Vlog – by the same people who produced Kissing in the Rain, it follows Tortured Poet Edgar Allan Poe as he tries to write The Raven whilst being haunted by Lenore the Lady Ghost. It’s so hilarious I had tears in my eyes at one point.

We’ve had next to no TV signal since Christmas and have been waiting on our landlord to sort out the aerial.We don’t have satellite, Netflix or an internet-ready TV so we’ve been scraping, scraping! for things to watch online and hoping we wouldn’t miss out too much of our regular shows. So I was a bit gutted to discover that I’ve lost out on half of series 5 of The Good Wife that’s currently running on More 4. Let me not dwell on these bitter thoughts…

On the other hand, my brother-in-law, the techy guy in our family, introduced us to Chromecast, which is the best thing ever as far as I’m concerned. It allows you to project whatever you’re watching from your laptop onto your tv, and still allow you to use your tablet/laptop for other things at the same time. As we are currently making full use of catch-up services like the iPlayer and Demand 5, this is a really welcomed gadget.

My favourite shows are back from their mid-season break so I am watching Castle and Person of Interest.

Films-wise, Little Girl has been watching Tangled on a loop, which is one of the best Disney films of recent years (bearing in mind I have seen neither Brave nor Frozen) so I am not complaining. I also watched Gravity, which was suitably claustrophobic and made me ask myself once again why people would want to go to space, EVER.

We finished the final season of Fringe, which was a blast of epic proportions with a satisfying ending. I could now watch anything featuring Anna Torv and John Noble without knowing a thing about it based on the quality of their performance on Fringe. Also, Joshua Jackson. Basically a must-see for all sci-fi fans, it’s a treasure-trove of deep characterization and the most bonkers plot developments I’ve ever seen. It’s left quite a hole in our boxset-watching habits. Not sure what will replace it, unless we start again from the very beginning!

New things I’ve only just come across that are amazing: Parks and Recreation – you can’t get away from it online but I never had the opportunity to watch any of it before. I’m only 4 episodes in on BBC4 and it strikes me as a bit like The Office with slightly less cringe (I love Lesley, whereas David Brent made my skin crawl). Also, the first season of Orphan Black was on BBC3 on the iPlayer. Where was I when that show first appeared? Just, WHAT.

What I’m Listening to

When at home I tend to stick to my starred playlist on Spotify but I went on a little road trip to visit a friend at the beginning of the month, a rare event because I don’t have access to a car during the day except during Badgerman’s holidays. Hence it was a bit of a treat to be able to listen to what I wanted whilst driving. I took three albums with me:

Thrice‘s Beggars – I love the titular song, and All the World is Mad is equally good. I am not as much a fan of their heaviest stuff but I do like a bit of electric guitar and their lyrics are beautifully crafted.

Katatonia is a Swedish metal band (not to be confused with the welsh songstress of Catatonia fame). It won’t be mainstream anytime soon but I don’t mind, although I only listen to their latest stuff starting with The Dead Cold Distance. My Radiohead-loving husband thinks they’re too depressing, which is a bit ironic to be honest. I love The Day and Then The Shade, and all of their remixes are awesome (the videos are creepy though, watch at your peril!).

Finally for a quieter driving time (I did have the kids with me after all), I listened to FrouFrou’s Details. I love all of Imogen Heap’s stuff, her lyrics are always chock-full of evocative content and she has a unique sound I love.

What I’ve Read and what I’m Reading

After finishing Daring Greatly last month, I read Quiet, which was a different beast altogether. It was an interesting and insightful look at introversion and I enjoyed it a lot. It was thankfully much less emotionally involving than the previous book but I took longer to read it than I expected, maybe because the concepts were not new to me. It’s probably no bad thing, I don’t think I could have taken the emotional punches day in day out quite like I did last month! I have nearly Bread & Wine: a love letter to life around the table, which is my first forray into the food memoir genre and is warm, funny, devastating and making me very very hungry. I also read an urban fantasy set in London called Whispers Under Ground and started The Gallery of Vanished Husbands.

For a closer look at my eclectic reading taste and reviews of all of the above, I have a Goodreads account to keep track of things.

Favourite picture of the month

the girls - April 2014

What I’ve been doing

  • We went to the seaside for my mother-in-law’s birthday, which has led to a near daily request of ‘is it my party yet’ and ‘I want a scooter, a pink one’ from Little Girl. Her birthday’s at the end of July so I fear my patience is going to be tested.
  • As it was the Easter holidays, we made the most of having two weeks to ourselves with Badgerman. It is the one good thing about him being a teacher and always leads to lots of eating and going out in the sun, including our regular holiday visit to my favourite place in Lewes, Bill’s Restaurant. We never make it early enough for the breakfast, which is a shame because EVERYTHING. Instead I always end up going for the fish finger sandwich, and the girls loved the chicken skewers and couscous.

lunch at Bill's

  • Our wedding anniversary came around sooner than I was prepared for so I scrambled for a last-minute present which had NOTHING to do with the given theme of the year: wood. Badgerman did much better and got me not one but two wood-inspired presents. I went for the practical with a plectrum-shaped case for, you guessed it, his plectrums. I was starting to wonder if we were going to get hundreds of letters in the same style as Harry Potter in the days before his first year at Hogwarts, except from plectrum heaven telling us to sort something out pronto.

2014 Anniversary

Notable Feasts

I love food and cooking for people is one of my favourite things but as a strong introvert I can’t host lots of parties and have people around all the time or I would just be constantly exhausted. However, a ‘what I’m into’ post would be nothing without a special section sampling the delicious things tasted in the last month. It’s a terrible shame that I completely failed to get pictures of anything.

  • We went for a ‘picnic lunch’ at the local farm/kids playground requested by Little Girl. Within 2 minutes of sitting down with our sandwiches, she had scampered off on her own to play on the slides.
  • We had a wonderful Raclette cheese feast served with the usual sides of little strips of steak, charcuterie, boiled buttered potatoes and green salad: the ultimate comfort food.
  • A dear friend came over for a belated birthday party and we had fresh fish (cooked whole for effect) and my cheat apricot tart, which I made with peaches because apricots are not in season. To be honest it was also a bit early for peaches. I bought the ‘ripe at home’ variety and they were rock solid. I managed to salvage them by softening them for a while in a pan with sugar and Amaretto. Nobody complained.
  • Then Easter happened and we had a really impressive leg of lamb and Easter chocolate and cherry trifle for dessert (with chocolate brownies at the bottom because it had to be done and who cares about waistlines anyway, right?). I’m really gutted about the lack of photos, but I forgot in the heat of the moment.
  • I did, however, got a build your own Mister Easter-egg Head and attempted a Picasso.

my picasso Easter egg

On the blog

I have probably been more prolific in the last month than I have been in the last year put together. Maybe it’s Spring or the Easter holidays motivating me but I have felt more energized to write.

I shared a couple of recipes for chicken and soup, waxed lyrically (or not) about the parenting bits from that book I read in March, and I had a few thoughts about a French workers’ agreement which seems to be a storm in a teacup. I also wrote about tea, which French people know very little about, despite that apparently they are giving it another go.

You can check out all the other entries on Leigh’s blog by following the image link below.

 

What I'm Into