A Splash Of Colour, 22 Pots Of Paint

My first entry in a Daily Post Writing Challenge, let’s see how it goes!

When it comes to colours, there is so much to be inspired by! Fiery autumn leaves, yellow daffodils, pure white snow, a clown’s bright outfit, turquoise sea, and the numerous nuances of grey in the English sky… Colours… What a rich topic…

Sadly for me, right now colours don’t make me feel poetic or contemplative. Right now, we’re in the middle of redecorating our house. After stripping all the lining paper off, we are getting the walls and ceilings skimmed so we are ready for the next step: painting. And painting involves… colours! Hundreds of them! I mean, 50 shades of grey, quite literally! And then repeat with the blues, the reds, the greens, the yellows… you get the drift. And I’m only talking about Dulux, but you’d also have to look at all the other brands just in case someone else has that extra shade you couldn’t possibly live without.

So Darling-Chéri and I are having all these really cool conversations at home in the evening, looking at all my lovely big paint swatches:
– Me: what do you think of “Ballgown” for the dining-room? We could use it for a feature wall (yes a feature wall) and have “A Whisper Of Choc Chip” on the rest of the room?
– DC: Hmmm… It does look good but I think “Muddy Puddle” would go better with it.
– Me: Is it not going to be too dark? Maybe “Soft Stone” or “Toasted Almond”?

Repeat for each room, each wall, each ceiling and each skirting board (thank God we removed the picture rails!)… And with all these incredible names, if anyone is spying on us right now, they may very well think that we are plotting something! I wouldn’t be surprised if MI5 suddenly turned up at our door. Although I have to admit, as a Marketing professional, I love all these names. I mean, imagine the challenge in naming a shade of red when there are so many other shades AND you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors!

And to think that choosing the colour is only one part of the issue: we still need to decide on what finish we want (flat matt, matt, sheen, silk, gloss etc) or even the type of paint (one-coat, easy clean, durable, eco-friendly, eggshell…). Of course, after all that time spent choosing, we’ll compare our dream set-up to the budget we have and we may well end up with white undercoat heavily cut with water throughout the house!
Oh joy!

Happy Birthday Blog!

I published my first blog post almost exactly a year ago, to the day. And as I blow a single candle on a tiny cupcake 23 posts and 176 page views later, it’s fair to say blogging has not been quite what I expected. But somehow, it hasn’t put me off. Maybe it’s because finally, I get to write again (albeit in English rather than in French). Maybe it’s because having to find content has pushed me to cook more new stuff, and I really enjoy that. Maybe it’s because I’m just too stubborn to admit defeat.

Either way, here is what I’ve understood and picked up over the past 12 months:

1. Blogging takes time: finding/doing things to write about, taking pictures, sometimes even doing a bit of research… Just like going to the gym, you have to really commit to it and make time for it. Otherwise, it will quickly slip to the bottom of your priority list (when blogging becomes less urgent than sorting out your spare buttons tin, it’s definitely time to re-evaluate. I mean, sorting out your spare buttons tin has made it on your priority list???)
2. Have an agenda. From your writing style to the content, it is worth thinking about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. Of course, things will fall into place as you get going and people react to your posts, but without some kind of overarching idea, your blog can quickly become as messy as a 13-year-old teenage girl’s bedroom.
3. Planning, planning, planning. There’s a lot of spontaneous stuff that will happen in your life and if you’re lucky, it might even be worth blogging about there and then. But for those times when nothing significant has happened, or you haven’t got the time or the energy, having a handful of prepared posts means you can still keep your audience entertained. You can also write in advance of an event, say for your blog’s first anniversary for instance (yes, this post was actually written 10 days ago, and yes, despite that planning I managed to miss the actual date!).
4. Be professional. Of course, blogging should be fun. But fun doesn’t have to come with typos and grammar mistakes. It’s also important to stay professional when interacting with the readers or when commenting on other people’s blogs. Respond to comments, be polite, it all contributes to the image of your blog and whether it will make people want to come back!
5. Share! There are many channels to promote your blog these days, from Twitter to Google + to Facebook etc. And bear in mind that the internet is a big place so you are likely to find like-minded people. Visit their blogs and engage with them, participate in writing or photo challenges… It will stretch you and help you make your blog noticed.

Now I’ve talked the talk, am I actually going to walk the walk? See you here in another 12 months!

The Redecorating Project: Undecorating

I posted a while back some pics of our house on the day we moved in, which was back in December. Well, after not doing much to it for a few months, we decided that we needed to re-decorate it, and then buy furniture (it turns out our cardboard-box-based shelving system is not that robust after all!). So the first step was actually an un-decorating project: removing all the woodchip lining paper, picture rails, built in bookshelves, cabinets, wardrobes and side boards to start from scratch again. Well, it was painful, tiring and excruciatingly mind-numbing at times, but we’ve done really well since June and as a result our house now looks like a pretty building site or, as Darling-Chéri puts it: we’ve been the victims of extreme burglary, they even took the wallpaper!!

Next up, we have someone coming in to skim the walls, fix some floorboards and do some of the painting for us, and then we’ll finally get to the fun part: furnishing and decorating! I can’t wait to start discussing wall colours, decal patterns, and the merits of the Billy Bookcase with Darling-Chéri, although I’m not sure he is quite as excited!

Grow Some, Will You?

Aside from the woodchip lining paper, one of the best things about our new house is the garden. Growing up we had a lovely garden which my mother used to maintain to very high standards despite working full time. There was a rather large lawn, lots of flowers and lots of fruit trees. And I still have fond memories of picking cherries, raspberries, plums or pears, cutting mint or rosemary or checking whether the grapes or rhubarb were ready.  So here I am, a number of years later, in my mother’s footsteps (well trying to follow anyway).

A very nostalgic pic of my mother’s garden

When we moved in, the garden was extremely busy with all sorts of crap decorative pots and artefacts so I had to throw a lot of simplify things first to really see the space. As soon as things got clearer, I started wanting to plant stuff. And usurprisingly, that had to be fruits and herbs and the likes. Having taken stock of what was already there (2 small cherry trees, 1 small pear tree, 1 small apple tree, some strawberries plants and what I believe is a young peach tree), I started my own seedlings in the greenhouse the owner left behind: parsley, mint, rosemary, more strawberries, some chilies, chives, thyme and basil. The fruit trees really struggled this year, with illnesses, bugs and Mother Nature being generally a bit out of kilter. As a result we only got a few cherries and strawberries despite loads of flowers and bees during spring. Hopefully with some re-potting (yes, everything is in pots in this place) and general TLC next year will be better and I can decide which trees will actually go into the ground. As for the herb garden, we’re having a bit of a battle with slugs and weeds but everything is growing nicely in their pots, just waiting to go in the ground.

Our no-so-hot chili peppers

Thyme, strawberries, mint, parsley and chives awaiting a more permanent set-up

Our confused apple tree has started flowering again… in October!

Next step: working out what flowers I’d like. Having removed a lot of the degenerated bulbs, wild forget-me-nots and columbines that had invaded every bit of the garden, I think I’m going to have to re-populate a little! Any suggestions for a pretty garden that’s colourful most of the year yet easy to maintain?

A Meal For Those Who’ve Had A Tooth Pulled Out

Like most men, Darling-Chéri isn’t massively keen on doctors, dentists, and anyone who might have to do with health services. But eventually, after four years of gentle hints unremitting hassle, he agreed to make a dentist appointment. Well, it’s fair to say his had been a high-risk-high-reward strategy where he lost. As a result of not going for such a long time, he has to have 2 fillings re-done, 2 crowns put in and a tooth extracted. For appointment #3 (after the initial appointment and the one with the fillings), DC thought the dentist would start preparing for the crowns. So there was some serious bottom-lipping when he turned up in the office having had a tooth pulled out! This also meant we had to improvise a bit for our meals as he could only eat liquid or soft food. The small town where we work is quite limited for lunch options so he ended up having a tuna jacket potato, which was ok. For dinner I had planned some Sticky Sausage Kebabs from Delicious Magazine but with chewing not an option, I had to improvise a bit, bearing in mind I had already thawed the sausages! So we ended up with this Spiced Pork Mince Mess, Courgette Mash and Polenta:

For 2 people
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
4 pork sausages or 230g pork mince
2-3 tbsp fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves
1/2 red onion
1 tsp lemon or lime juice
1/2 tbsp. garam masala
1/2 tbsp. tumeric
1 red chili
1 courgette
500ml vegetable stock
2 tsp soft cheese
100g polenta
400ml water or 200ml water + 200ml milk (I prefer it that way)
A pinch of salt

Method:
– Bring the vegetable stock to the boil. Cut the courgette in large chunks and boil for 15 minutes, until tender.
– Meanwhile, finely chop the onion, 2 garlic cloves, half of the chili and the parsley.
– Mix in a bowl with the spices and pork mince.
– When the courgettes are cooked, blend them into a creamy mash with the soft cheese, the last garlic clove and the other half of the chili. Season to taste then put back on the hob (low) and stir every now and then.
– Put the mince mix in a frying pan and cook it for about 10 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
– In the meantime, pour the water or milk and water in a pan, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Timing is quite important here as polenta is very quick to cook! Follow the instructions on your pack but essentially, you’ll get soft polenta after 1 minute, and then the longer you leave it the more compact it gets. Remember to stir all the time to avoid lumps and ensure the polenta doesn’t jump in your face (it does have some remarkably volcanic properties!).
– Remove from the hob when you’re happy with the texture.

Plate up. I’ll admit it doesn’t look much. But it most definitely passed DC’s very strict flavour test. So don’t hesitate to try it in case of an emergency!