Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Run, run, little mama

That is somehow what I could tell myself, so often.
These days I've had a lot more work... at my work!
And that feeling of frustration has started creeping back...
Like I already mentioned , I was on parental leave for 3 years. And although I had the opportunity to experience how undervalued the status of stay-at-home mum is, I couldn't care less, and it was probably one of the best times of my life.
Back to work, I'm feeling, these days, how hard it is sometimes to be obliged to work out of my home (even if I like my job) when I know I am missing on a few things at home precisely.
My job is great, but it is also time-consuming and brain-sucking. It weighs on my mind and more than once, it keeps me from doing these extra activities, this homeschool work, these fun and entertaining expeditions that I know would be great for my kids.
Run, run, little mama...
Try to squeeze in as much time as you can, open up as much brain space as you can, to fulfill your kids' needs, to expand their views and knowledge, to take care of their health and ensure that their minds and bodies are blossoming the right way. The right way for them.
I could do more.
I love doing more.
I love doing nothing, too, with my kids. Gazing at the sky. Talking silly. Singing.
That is a luxury. Finding time to read with themat night is awesome. It is worth it. It is also so hard to find that time, when there is still work to be done. And sleep to catch up with.
There is always something else/more to do.
The race is hard, sometimes.
And the strangest thing is, I love it, and I dread the day when I stop running.
So run, little mama, run.
And be still, whenever you can, so that the race is swifter, and the time is sweeter.
A special thought tonight, to all the mamas, of all colours and ages and places.
They're all the same. They mean so well. They do so much.



Friday, September 12, 2014

You've got to know where to look

In this blogging community, there is a handful of blogs I love checking up on. There is my friend Sachi's blog (she recently shifted to Japanese and alas, my Japanese isn't good enough yet!). There is Nancy's blog, there is Kami, there is Kristel, Nikola. And a few others, dedicated more specifically to cooking or handcraft.
They all tell a story, full of sweetness, passion, ups and downs, inspiration. In them I see beautiful women, this kind of real beauty made of resourcefulness and sensitivity.
I love checking on them regularly, like checking on a friend to make sure eveything is fine and hear about the latest news from their life.
Wait...there is also Kelle and Rachel. This week, these two have posted something that rings a bell and finds a way into my own heart, because it is my inspiration, the touchstone of my blog.
Your life is beautiful, Rachel says.
Loving, even when it's hard, is the payoff in parenting, Kelle says.
I read those two posts and saw the same thing: there is really a lot of beauty in our lives, but sometimes it is not exactly what we would expect it to be. Sometimes it is there, behind a huge messy heap of daily chores, or in the early rain. Sometimes it is at the very root of what we could get tired of. Because it just needs to be seen and accepted in a different way. Because stress and hurriedness act as the most opaque screen ever....and when you stop and do open your eyes, it all starts flowing and overflowing.
I believe it really requires us to stop. Stop in our tracks, even if we don't have time or don't feel like it.
Though I never was in touch with Kelle or Rachel, though I think they never saw any of my comments, I am dearly attached to their blogs. There is a part of their life that graciously meets mine: the way they constantly surround themselves with beauty, a beauty you have to look for sometimes, or just embrace some other times. The beauty of the instant, in the way you can grasp the moment, yes, this tiny little moment, even if you're having a bad day. This moment of grace, of love, this little snippet of pure joy that's asking to be cherished and remembered.
As Kelle and Rachel, and Shannon, reminded me, yet again, beauty is not automatic, it isn't always easy, it is what you decide it to be. YOU catch the moment. YOU create the beauty around you. I mean the beauty of life, of course...




Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thirteen reasons why cooking can make you happier

 I've always been fond of cooking. But as in many relations, there have been ups and downs. Times of intense activity, and times of pure neglect. When I was a young girl, before studying in England, I didn't care too much about health, fitness, long culinary preparations. While being a student in England, I totally gave in. I snacked on Twix and melted cheese, not caring about all the other food available, never cooking. I occasionally tasted local dishes, but on a daily basis, I was a barbarian! I don't regret it. It was part of my youth, a time of freedom and carelessness. I came back to France with ten more kilos. I didn't wear the same size of clothes, my cheeks were chubby, I was happy. When I met my future husband, I started eating too much, somehow competing with his much larger appetite and stomach. And I put on weight again.
Yet I have always loved cooking and caring about food. My mom offered me a book when I was eight: la cuisine des petites filles. And I passionately cooked each and every recipe, including the slightly tricky ones. I was so grateful for this precious present! It was colourful, surprising, gratifying.
I have always loved cooking for people too. I believe that this part of my life spent alone in my own flat, as a senior student, led me to less cooking because there wasn't someone to share food with, most of the time.
I have always loved arranging dishes, making them look pretty. And I have always been a lover of good things, good food included! ;)
Several moments in my life enhanced and developed my taste for food and its cooking correlate. Becoming a mom was the most important. It started with these little carrot purees I started making for my teeny tiny babe. And it kept developing as my baby kept growing, and as my family increased in number.


Having a family made it different. Cooking reached a higher level. I became more aware of the impact of food on health. When I was on parental leave, it reached a higher level still. For the first time in my life I had several babies to take care of, and time to cook real meals. I also had a much tighter budget. So cooking from scratch became a must. And I was stunned each day to see how happy it made me!


Now the babes are growing, I am back to work, my husband still has a strong appetite, and I have acquired enough experience to feed my whole family with care, with a reasonable budget, fresh products, abundantly but reasonably, while always keeping in mind the importance of health and pleasure that, I think, are inherent to cooking.
I'm happy to share here thirteen reasons why cooking has changed my life for the better.


1) Cooking is sharing.
My kids know how to cook. My younger ones love peeling veggies and spending time in the kitchen with me, throwing things in boiling water, cutting, pouring, washing...


2) Cooking is fun.
Manipulating textures, dealing with colours, seeing food transform, making combinations. It's a bit of science class mixed with playing house! Not to forget the immense pleasure of tasting the result of all these makings and experiments! Cooking favours creativity and washes stress away.


3) Cooking means intention. It means taking care of oneself and others. In a medical sort of way. In a mommy's sort of way. In a gardener's sort of way. It makes me happier. It means doing something with intention, and this might not be far from what Sachi wrote about: honmono.


4) Cooking preserves health.
I've enjoyed reading The hungry planet. The more you cook, the more you realize the impact on your health, and on your planet's health. Since I started cooking from scratch and making a real effort to keep processed food at bay, we gradually stopped going to the doctor. After a few years, we realized this stunning reality: we are rarely sick, and recover very quickly from colds. We are more energetic, we pratice more sports than before...So much time and money saved since we stopped being sick every now and then, especially in winter time. This is really worth the effort.


5) Cooking enlightens.
I have learned so much, not only about the actual process of cooking, but about the way food is produced. From agriculture to economy, from philosophy to geography, food partakes to so many different fields of interest. Add to this all the cooking associates, like oenology, wine tasting, but also chemistry. I have a whole collection of cooking books that I keep jealously on a shelf in my living-room.


6) Cooking means playing an active role in economy, through the careful choice of what you buy. It means you can have more control on what you eat. It can even mean you refuse to eat food that comes from animals that were ill-treated. You can stop eating vegetables and fruits soaked with pesticides. Cooking more consciously, I eventually bought my own chickens and extended my vegetable patch.


7) Cooking is educating: myself, my kids, my husband. It means discovering and enjoying new flavours, it involves the curiosity of tasting food from other countries. Discovering rare vegetables, exotic fruits, new dishes. Being respectful of our bodies, our environment.


8) Cooking develops organizational skills: planning, choosing recipes, adapting them to the number of guests and to the time of the year (a nice warm soup in winter, a sweet fruit sorbet in summer, veggies of the season...). Calculating amounts, quantities, proportions, distributing, freezing, preserving. It has a snowball effect. The more you cook, the more efficient you become.


9) Cooking leads to better eating. And this involves not only the amount of vitamins you will absorb, but also the quiet time you will spend together sitting at the table, sharing jokes and anecdotes, anticipating the pleasure of eating a meal prepared with love. If you cook, you might eventually ditch the overload of industrial, processed food that has become part of our daily lifestyle. You might slow down and take time to enjoy the process of giving food to your body. You might relax and feel gratified and grateful.


10) Cooking is love. It shows love. It shares love. It is family. It is friends gathered together.


11) Cooking is celebrating. It means Christmas. Thanksgiving (an event we don't have here, but I am slowly integrating it in my family's culture). Birthdays...


12) Cooking helps you lose weight (or keep your weight stable).
I once read this book and was struck by how true this might well be: traditional French cuisine may actually lead not to overweight, but to a stable, healthy silhouette. Though this is gradually losing ground in France, our traditional way of eating implies several courses, smaller portions, a little bit of everything: entrée, main and side dish, cheese, dessert...A meal cooked from scratch, with some variety, will lead you to eat more of everything and less of one thing. Hence a healthier lifestyle, a safer check on vitamins. I am a fan of French cook Cyril Lignac, because I think he's unpretentious, reasonable in his advice, and wise in his approach. Like him, I think young people shouldn't be forbidden to have a quick snack, but should be educated and slowly guided toward fresh, home-made food.


13) Cooking is beauty. Shall I say more? It is beauty on the outside. It is beauty on the inside. Sometimes both, sometimes not. How does it matter? There is the beauty of all the work involved in the preparation. There is the beauty of showing it, like a declaration. And sharing it.





Saturday, August 30, 2014

Quick DIY furniture makeover...and some thoughts about how less is more!

Very often, I stop in my tracks and consider whether that trip to the mall is actually the best or smartest move.
Very often I end up using leftovers, or whipping up a quick DIY project, and this leaves me a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.
Let's be clear, I'm a girl and I love the occasional trip to shopping places.
But for a few years now, precisely after an emotional shock (the loss of my dad) and later a shift to a new condition/status (parental leave), I started pruning, decluttering,stashing away, while intentionally keeping the most precious and meaningful. And I haven't stopped loving it.
Decluttering actually seems to automatically open new spaces in my mind. It freshens up my brain while freshening up the space I live in.
This week I stopped again in my tracks. I gave up grocery/errands shopping; instead I cooked pasta and spotted a set of shelves abandonned in a corner of the attic.


I also decided to give up my tendency to wait for the best material/best moment/best fit. Better done now than possibly perfect in an indefinite future!
These shelves didn't have a particular style. They had protruding elements on the top (to allow for the addition another shelf).


I then moved to my little boy's collection of Legos. Although he loves them, he didn't play too often with them. Mainly because they were heaped in a box, where it was hard to sort them out, where they were an indefinite mass of items. Kids need to have easy access to their toys. They need to be able to go through them without drowning in a pile of objects. They need a place to play with them. Sometimes just a little teeny tiny spark to set new games in motion. They need to be able to see what they have. Not to invest time in choosing and sorting through more toys than they can deal with. Excess induces stress not only with adults. Kids too, need space to breathe and relax, feeling free for creativity and imagination. And fun. And dreams.


So I took out all my boys' Lego blocks. Simply hot-glued a selection of them on the higher shelf (one layer), along the whole perimeter, and on one fourth of the bottom shelf (following my boy's instructions, as he wanted a small garage). This reduced noticeably the number of Lego blocks and allowed new playing space to play with the remaining mobile Legos.
It was also the occasion to set aside a few toys that were broken or outgrown.
In addition to that, it allowed me to finally create a kind of Lego table. I had seen some of those for sale, at a very high price. This one didn't cost me anything!


It was also fun to make, and all my kids engaged in the process, some simply watching, some selecting the Legos to glue, and some giving directions! ;)
But the best part is that since this quick DIY furniture makeover, they have spent hours playing with my boy's Lego blocks. The little cars have found their place on the middle shelf, and I have customized the blue container that is now officially and obviously the box for Lego toys!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back to reality

Howdy?
I am just back from holidays. I was lucky to have a friend who invited us to stay one week in his house on the Atlantic coast. Lucky, right?
As usual, I feel it was short and packed with emotions and errands and discoveries. One of the things I dig most in holidays away from home, is the change of habits, the novelty. Changing home and space sounds like the radical solution to see everything with new eyes.
I even found some little time for myself: long walks on the beach early morning,while toddlers and friends and spouse were sleeping still. :)
It is so easy in these condtions, to find beauty in everything. Yet I am not sure everyone does. I somehow feel like hundreds of treasures are overlooked, here and there. Unseen. Unappreciated. Forgotten.
I just feel I want to lose track of time watching them. Losing track feels nice. It feels like joining the birds in their flight. Like racing with the waves. Like dissolving in the wind. Like tiptoeing on kids' laughs as if they were stepping stones. Like melting in the ocean's colours.
I wasn't treasure hunting. No need to hunt. Just to breathe and walk and sit, eyes open wide.
Did you come across many treasures on your holidays? Did you have time to slow down and watch around you?
I hope you've had the sweetest holidays, no matter near or far.





Sunday, July 6, 2014

Gift swap, anyone?



Dear blog readers,

I wonder sometimes where this blog is going.
My last post dates back to april...seriously!?
To be honest, I've been tempted to let it go. Several times. Too much 'stuff' to deal with in my life. Too much I feel like writing, and too much I want to keep for myself. Two opposite forces that keep attracting and repulsing each other. Too much time to spend on the Web, too many things to do outside the Web. Decisions and directions to take. A mother's life, a worker's life, a wife's life, and a blog that is still somehow looking for its own meaning.
Does that make sense?
My dear friend Sachi, though still a foundation of this blog's soul, has been called to other blogging activities. She may sometimes post something about it here, and will be most welcomed. But she is busy elsewhere, and I wish her the best with the task she has undertaken. :-)
Yet, I keep coming back to blogging. I've met very nice people thanks to blogging. I've learned things. I've entertained myself more than once. I love sharing things. I would like this blog to become a place of exchange. A place to talk, share experiences, and learn, and help each other.
These last months/years, I've been busy. Very busy. I stopped my stay-at-home mum's life to go back to work. I've had to help a dear member of my family facing serious illness. I've had to let go of what my life once used to be, thus welcoming very good things but saying good-bye to awesome things too.
I haven't been gentle enough to myself, because I had to be there for others. Because I wanted to do so much. And I've been coming close to burn-out.
Suddenly the holidays are (almost) upon me. My kids are on holiday. Time is bound to slow on its own. Life opening up to quiet evenings, star gazing, listening to crickets and nightingales, simply watching my kids playing. A true possibility of hurrying less, making new plans, breathing deeply, enjoying the moment.
We all have so many grand plans, I believe. Yet, what do we remember in the end? Most likely those moments spent inhaling the simple happiness of loving and being loved, being alive, soaking in the beauty.
I am considering shifting this blog's focus on 'the moment': sharing tiny snippets of Life's treasures. We'll see..

But for now, with the arrival of the holidays, the huge need to release pressure and indulge in sweet, self-relaxing activities, here is my call: gift swap, anyone? :-)
Very much inspired by Kristel's idea, I'd love to start a gift swap. Feeling interested by an exchange of gift for this summer? Anything that could include handcraft, drawing, playing ideas (toy-making, jewel-making,  vintage - or not! - fabrics), essential oils, reading (books, magazines ..), relaxing, sweets, cooking, sewing, activities and little things for kids too. That is an unfinished list! Well, you get the idea: a little package of fun to receive, a little Xmas bubble in the heart of summer? The gift swap I've done with Kristel was awesome! Not to mention the packages Sachi and I sent each other! That's the added bonus of blogging: giftswap is bound to be entertaining, exotic, fun. It's so great to receive little things from another place, country, region, it is such a great opening of our views and boundaries.
Let's get in touch via email or in the comments section if you are interested! I hope you will! ;-)
Namaste, friends!







Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Going nowhere, doing nothing, planning nothing

Hello, hello...I think I never let this blog down for so long?
And suddenly, Spring was upon us, and suddenly it was holiday time!
I think it is obvious that I am going through a mini crisis,
Questioning our consumers' society, our need to rush and show off,
Our race to get more, prove more, speak louder...
It is something I feel, and life as a working mom adds to the rush.
Well, does it really?
It does, but it's up to us to question what we do, the way we live...
I am personally by Nature torn forever between my contemplating tendencies
And my love for activity and movement...Well, Life is a constantly self-readjusting balance
Between all our aspirations and needs...
This week, I've chosen my balance :) Everything comes to a stop...
No more going here and there, no more activities for the kids...Exit judo, riding lessons,
Exit getting ready for school, exit getting prepped up and cute-looking for work.
This week, it's holiday at home. Spring has finally arrived,
The garden is in full bloom, and my motto is 'no rush'.
Each time I have something to do, I stop and think about how I can do it
Without hurrying...I think of all things, hurrying is one of the most harmful things
I have to face. 
I also have enrolled in an online course, fascinating...and I'd like to present you
Our new family member...I am falling in love with that one, too:


Well, it feels good to be back here!
I know Sachi has plans that may include this blog too,
She has come up with great ideas...
Wishing you all a happy, sunny day
(Like many, I am so fond of Pharrell Williams' song!)

Val