Monday Mood Board I

I have a serious addiction to Pinterest. Here’s an example of how it goes: I deleted the Facebook app off my phone because I found myself wasting too much time on it, but I could NEVER do that with Pinterest. I’m being productive on Pinterest because my pins are important to my life! Recipe ideas (even though my French host mother makes basically all my meals), workout routines (10 minute “Sweat Before You Shower”, it’s so convenient!), and, most importantly, design inspiration. I always promise myself, “Oh, I’ll come back to that later,” and sometimes I do… And then the broken links are absolutely maddening. How will I ever find the perfect list of 20 paper flowers now?!

I could talk about Pinterest all day, but I’ll move on. Here’s my attempt to corral the hundreds of pins I see into an actual inspiration exercise to benefit my upcoming week.

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Paint chips / Pink room / Mini succulent / Roasted Veggie Grilled Cheese / Washi tape frames / Dotted Clock DIY / Out-of-my-price-range organizer / The Farm to Table French Phrasebook

Friday Photo Dump III

I know I’m being pretty liberal with my numbering system, but technically I HAVE posted two photo dumps before (here and here). This one will have a few throwbacks, but I think they’re still worth it to chronicle my life at this moment.

Oh hello there…

So, I started this blog post about my New Years Resolutions, and I failed to post it. How ironic. Here it comes, with some updates since I wrote it….

Long time no see! As an au pair, my schedule is essentially that of a stay-at-home mom, except that I don’t cook or clean or really do any household chores. But I do the kids’ laundry AND my own… And keep my room clean… That counts for something, right? Anyway, my point is that it’s amazing how having so much free time means I get essentially nothing done. Not to worry, my dear blog-followers, that’s all about to change.

This rest of this post will be about New Years Resolutions, so if you’re over that you can stop reading now, since if you’re an avid blog-reader like me you know that everyone posts constantly about this throughout January.

I had actually started doing monthly resolutions before the year ended, after learning that it takes about 21 days to make a habit. It’s been pretty successful, and so far I’ve worked my way to being a Makes-Her-Bed-Every-Day Person, and a Takes-Off-Her-Makeup-Before-Going-To-Bed Person. Here are a few I’ve been working on for the month of January:

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1. Preparing for the Real World

I took this year off as an au pair to figure out what I want to do with my life. 4.5 months in and I’m finally starting to figure it out. I HAVE figured out that when I find an opportunity, I need to be ready with a well-made resume and portfolio. I finally replaced my fried computer charger (the third one I’ve had to buy) and I’m proud to say that I revamped my resume and started to really put together my portfolio. Real world, I’m comin’ for ya.

[UPDATE: I got a graphic design job! It’s for a luxury men’s grooming company, so get ready for me to wow you with my knowledge of razors and shaving products. I start on Monday, and I’m so excited, especially since it means I get to interact with adults and buy new work clothes. Oh, and I’m finally making real career moves.]

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2. Stop Hitting Snooze Every Morning FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

I have a problem. When my alarm goes off in the morning, I just literally can’t. It’s amazing how motivated I can be before I go to sleep at night with all the best intentions to ~*be productive*~ early in the day. And then it comes to that early wake-up call, my sleepy brain has so many excuses and it’s so good at justifying why I shouldn’t have to get out of bed. This is my resolution that isn’t going well. I’ve tried putting my alarm across the room, turning my lights on once it goes off, everything! Maybe it’s just too ambitious.

[UPDATE: I think my main problem is that having an entirely free day means things like working out, getting dressed, etc. etc. can wait until the hours and hours of free time I have after I drop the kids off. Now that I have a job that I have to go to in the morning, I think that I’ll have more of a motivation to get up and at least put on makeup before taking the kids.]

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3. Healthy Lyfestylez

Yes, okay, I know this is the resolution that EVERYONE has. But I figured I should try being a eats-healthy-exercises-regularly person to see how it works for me at least once in my life. I started doing Popsugar’s 2015 Fitness Challenge, so we’ll see how it works out [pun intended]! I can always go back to being lazy, right?

[UPDATE: I’m on Day 26 of the Fitness Challenge, which is probably the furthest I’ve made it in any fitness challenge, ever. When I went on a run last week, I RAN THE WHOLE TIME, which is a big accomplishment because I’ve been trying to “start running” for probably my entire life after age 14.  As for healthy eating, I’m working on it. The hardest part is saying no to the fresh baguettes and bread the family constantly has in the house…  When in France, right? I stopped stealing the kids’ disgustingly-delicious chocolate snacks and eating more vegetables, though.]

#Latergram: My French Thanksgivings

I hope you noticed the plural there, because I had not one, but TWO Thanksgivings this year, which I’m pretty thankful for. Since everyone has moved on to Christmas already, I’ll keep my anecdotes brief.

Thanksgiving Round 1: The Host Family (they lived in the US for 6 years, so they’ve had a few Thanksgivings)

Culture Shock Moment: My host mom was astounded when she read that the turkey was not only going to cook for 3 1/2 hours, but it was also supposed to sit for 30 minutes after it finished cooking. However, we also had a French-style aperitif, so by the time we actually sat down to eat almost everything was cold. We agreed that whoever made the recipe hadn’t accounted for aperitif (probably because they weren’t French, since, you know, Thanksgiving).

Cooking Incidents: Condensed milk instead of evaporated milk in the pumpkin pie, which meant it was just a leeeeeettle too sweet. AKA I couldn’t finish my piece, but it didn’t stop me from picking at the leftovers all weekend. / My mom’s Italian Sausage Stuffing recipe became a French Sausage Stuffing made with baguettes, but it was still delicious!

Drink count: 2 glasses of champagne, two glasses of wine, then two glasses of Perrier because wait how can I feel tipsy when I’ve eaten this much?

Thanksgiving Round 2: American (and Canadian and British and Australian) Au Pairs… and a different French host family

Culture Shock Moment: Canadian au pairs insisting they were celebrating “Fake Thanksgiving” since apparently Canada’s Thanksgiving is in October. LOL right, whose Thanksgiving came first and also, who cares about Canada… at all?

Cooking Incidents: What kind of potatoes should I buy for mashed potatoes? / Oops, I forgot to put olive oil on the roasted veggies. / Wait, did anyone set a timer for that? / Does anyone have a meat thermometer? / Were you still planning on cooking something here? Because we’re about to start eating. / Yeah whatever, Valerie, you think you’re special because you showed up here with your stuffing all done and ready to go? (Yes.)

Drink Count: 3 glasses of wine, 1 cup French Press coffee

And to finish up, almost a week late but here are some of the things I’m thankful for: well-illustrated children’s books, the classic December “Santa threat”, headphones, international calling and skype, a mother who will listen to even the most inane details of my life, friends who haven’t forgotten about me even though I’m in France, new friends who keep me sane, blog readers who are understanding of my inability to post in any relevant time frame!

Podcast Picks

First things first, if you’re not listening to the podcast Serial, you should be. That’s all I’ll say about it, because everyone and their mother, including my mother, is talking about it. I’ve been listening to podcasts since before Serial came on to the scene, and I love them. I usually listen to them during my hour-long commutes on the mètro, if I’m cooking or walking somewhere by myself, and even when I go on runs. I’m not a huge music person in the first place, and I love listening to podcasts rather than music because you’re (usually) learning something through what’s basically osmosis, which I am totally qualified to say because I listen to a lot of podcasts and I science now.

Here are some of my favorite podcasts at the moment. Check them out as you fly/train/drive to your holiday destinations, and then when you get there you’ll have plenty of new topics to talk to your relatives about! Or you’ll be hiding in the bathroom trying to finish listening to all the episodes of Serial before your Aunt Marge spoils them all for you.

cover170x170 1. Slate Serial Spoiler Special

Since Serial is only once a week, and no one else in my life is up to date on the episodes (Mom and Moonie, I’m looking at you), this podcast helps me get in a little more of my fix. S.S.S.S. is released Friday morning, and it’s a perfect debrief on each episode that really makes me think about the aspects of the case differently. In my opinion, it’s way better than Serial Serial, but I’ll admit that I listen to both because I have a problem and I’m addicted but I admitted it so it’s okay. I’ve also linked to Slate’s entire webpage dedicated to Serial, so you’re welcome for that.

TAL 2. This American Life

Basically, have some respect and check out Serial’s roots. Sarah Koenig, the narrator on Serial, started out on This American Life, and TAL provided most of the funding for this season. And Ira Glass, the host of This American Life, is also the Editorial Advisor of Serial, and I think he’s awesome. Their stories are different each week, and they’re told beautifully. I’ve been falling asleep while my parents listen to this program on the radio in the car for decades (slight exaggeration), but I’ve only recently started to appreciate the quality of TAL.

ted_radio_hour 3. TED Radio Hour

TED Radio Hour is the podcast that started my addiction to podcasts. I could spend hours watching TED Talks, but now I listen to this 50 minute podcast instead. The episodes are curated on a different subject each week, with three or four TED speakers highlighted and interviewed by Guy Raz. Sometimes they replay episodes, but I would recommend going into the archives and checking out Success, Overcoming and Getting There as well as subscribing to the weeklies. TED Talks are all about changing your perspective, and this podcast often blows my mind.

WWDTM 4. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

This is a quiz show about the week’s news, both the relatively normal and very strange. The narrators and weekly guests are all hilarious. I should warn you to be careful when listening to this in a public place, because I can’t tell you how often I get weird looks from people and then realize I’m walking down the sidewalk smiling or laughing on the train (this behavior is especially strange in France).

pchh 5. Pop Culture Happy Hour

This one is kind of my guilty pleasure, but not because it’s a bad podcast. Let me explain by starting with a confession: I don’t watch a lot of movies… I mean, I do, but the list of movies I haven’t seen would probably horrify you, especially if you’re a *Movie Person*. Most of the movies I watch are on Netflix, and I don’t really watch new movies in theaters. I DO watch TV shows, but apparently not the ones that end up getting talked about on this show, so far. Anyway, here’s the part I really feel guilty about: I often use the conversations in this show to cheat and talk about movies or TV shows I haven’t seen when people bring them up in conversation… Yeah, sorry, and mostly I’m sorry to myself because I think I just revealed a lot about myself to all of you. BUT the group of people on the show are interesting and funny, and I couldn’t make a list of my favorite podcasts without including it. So, I’m giving you permission to listen to this podcast even if you’re not a *Pop Culture Person*.

I hope this post inspires you to venture outside of Serial and try some of these other podcasts. I have at least ten podcasts downloaded and waiting to be listened to, but these ones are my tried and true favorites. Let me know what you think, and if you listen to any others please share them with me!

Pinterest Almost-Fail: Homemade Goldfish

Pop quiz: what do Goldfish, peanut butter and granola have in common?

Answer: They’re all difficult to get or extremely expensive in France. I learned this fact when my host family requested I bring them with me in August. Of course, in the ensuing packing disaster, I only had room for the Goldfish in my suitcase, shout out here to my boyfriend for bringing peanut butter with him on his trip later in the month. And, double of course, the boys ate through the two giant bags of goldfish in the first three weeks since they were a key part of snack every day. Being an avid pinner (meaning I use it to avoid getting out of bed), I knew when I found this homemade Goldfish recipe on Pinterest there was an afternoon activity in our future. And, it would kill two bird with one stone–the boys would get a fun activity AND they’d have goldfish for snack! AND they would learn the phrase “kill two birds with one stone”! They’ll be giving me the plaque for best au pair ever any day now.

First problem: Do they have cheddar cheese in France?

Solution: Yes! Although it’s an almost scary orange and it’s circular. Strange. But, hey, tastes fine!

Thankfully, the rest of the ingredients were easy–butter, salt, cold water, flour. You mix everything in a food processor and ba-bam! But then…

Second problem: There’s no food processor.

Solution: A.. hand blender? Looks like this, usually used for giving soups a smooth consistency. Maybe this is a common thing and I’m just not very culinarily advanced (I’m guessing this is the case), but I was pretty mind-blown the first time my host mom made a smooth soup. However, the blending part took a precarious turn, and the whole project almost turned into a Pinterest Fail, but we managed to get it to a decent consistency and refrigerated the dough as instructed. Side note, A basically lost interest after the cheese grating and playing with flour parts were over. So, if you’re planning on doing this project with a 4 year-old, that’s about how long it’ll keep them busy. Thankfully, my backups M (9) and J (12) were more focused.

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Now comes the fun part! Cutting out shapes, baking and eating 🙂 Also, I hand-made those goldfish cookie cutters. Regular size and jumbo. Out of a soda can. NOT as easy as the tutorial leads you to believe, but thankfully my Design major has prepared me for cutting and reshaping a myriad of materials.

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The End Result: Very tasty, cheesy little cracker! I think the bigger ones were almost better because they had a nice consistency. And obviously the boys were overjoyed and wanted them in their snacks every day for the whole week!!!! JUST KIDDING both of them decided they didn’t want them the next day and haven’t eaten a single one since that day. I think J and I are the only ones who have eaten them. I guess it might be considered a Pinterest fail after all…