As the New Year gets underway, motivation tends to be strong, and our goals are often set to the highest levels. Hand in hand with this time of year are New Year resolutions, whether they’re meaningful and well thought out, or overly ambitious ideas dreamt up whilst enjoying the fizz of champagne bubbles. Perhaps you don’t make any resolutions at all but simply embrace la nouvelle année with positive thoughts and a renewed energy?
Whatever your plans for this year, I thought I’d take a look at the things that are often at the top of everyone’s list, and then, somewhat lightheartedly, ponder on the year ahead.
Isn’t this always in the top ten of New Year’s resolutions? If so, I hope this might be the year that some of you will get to France; I know how many people have said it is one of their dreams, so remember – if you do – drop me an email and come by and say ‘hello’. If you’re longing to discover foreign lands but unfortunately lack the means or wherewithal to achieve this goal, then opt for the armchair version; it’s free and it’s fun, and I can certainly help with that!
I am fascinated by different cultures, there is no right or wrong in a culture for me – it’s just a nation’s or race’s way of life that has existed for however many hundreds or thousands of years in whatever part of the world I happen to find myself in.
As a result, architecture holds a great fascination for me and plenty of that can be seen right under our noses – and it doesn’t have to mean 12th century churches or ancient chateaux; mid-century design and modern buildings can be just as awe inspiring.
Do Something For Others
So this is an obvious one. Anything one can do produces a great feel good factor on both sides, and even just a smile or a simply voiced “Good morning” or “Good afternoon”, can make all the difference to a person’s day. Unfortunately, I think it is only as we get older that we appreciate best how the very old feel, and it is for them that I reserve a special piece of my time, for sadly I think that sometimes they can be the loneliest people in the world.
Try Something New
Make this the year that you take the plunge and try your hand at a new skill, hobby or experience. It doesn’t have to be anything mind-blowingly complicated like mastering a new instrument, but perhaps to just advqnce past playing Chopsticks on the piano or finally learning a few more words of a foreign language – either might be just enough to make you feel wonderful! Perhaps that additional vocabulary might finally enable you to have a wonderful conversation with someone who you’ve been dying to talk to. At the very least it will let you do something beyond being able to order a glass of local plonk!
On a different line of thinking, I am still very tempted to buy a certain French classic and slowly restore it. However, I’ll need a little help with this so I’m working on Roddy quite diligently to get him to agree!
Read More and Surf Less
I am probably totally shooting myself in the foot with this one, since I’m rather fond of my surfers, and shouldn’t perhaps be really urging you to put away the laptop, the phone, the iPad in favour of a good old fashioned book. But, you don’t have to give it all up, and of course I hope you won’t give up this blog in particular, but I do think we need to encourage our children to read more, there still is nothing quite like a really good book. We also need to remember just how thought-provoking a good book can be.
Find Time for You
Free time seems to be harder and harder to come by these days, despite the fact that almost every job is technically easier; and even though for many of us there is a mechanical device on hand to help us with virtually everything, we all still seem to have less time to spare. Just half an hour a day, wandering aimlessly, perhaps soaking in a hot bath, or doing something special just for oneself, really is vital, and for me it’s a great way to recharge the batteries.
Exercise More and Eat Healthily
OK, so this is probably what steals the Number One spot each year. However, I confess to never having been to a gym in my life and I really don’t think I plan to ever change that. For me exercise means gardening, tennis, long challenging bike rides up rather steep hills and anything sporty with the children. If one can include good hearty walks gulping in lungfuls of fresh air and some Yoga (yes, I admit I am a yoga fan) then I’m already onto this particular resolution but more as a way of life rather than a ‘fix’ each January.
Healthy Eating and sticking to what is ‘in season’ speaks for itself and you all already know that is what our family firmly believes in; it is something that comes up quite regularly on the blog as it is very much a part of daily life for us.
However I do have a little tip. If you do any sport or you suffer from that mid-afternoon ‘dip’, often you will find yourself reaching for an energy bar or snack bar at some stage. I have developed my own recipe for a protein energy-bar that contains scarcely any artificial sugars and is utterly delicious. This began as a sports bar, when energy mid-game is vital, but it’s ended up as a family favourite. You can play around with the recipe, but the one below is what we have found works well.
SUPER ENERGY BARS
3 cups of unsalted nuts (you can choose a mixture of the ones you like best)
1/2 cup rolled oats
10 – 12 dates with the stones taken out
1/2 cup of raisins
2 tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
a few squares of dark chocolate (we use at least 70% cocoa)
Combine everything together in a food-processor until it is very finely chopped. At the end is where I like to add the few squares of good quality dark chocolate and then blitz these in the processor for just a few seconds so that they still stay slightly chunky and become more like chocolate chips. In the USA and the UK you can just buy the chocolate chips (and probably in other countries too) but we are in France and they are not so common!
Line a small baking-tin with parchment paper and press the mixture into it, pushing down firmly and packing it very tightly, literally squashing it all together. Put the filled tin in the fridge and once thoroughly cold you can cut the mixture into squares or rectangles, and then store in an airtight tin for up to two weeks. This is a really quick healthy snack that should satisfy event the sweetest tooth, but will most definitely give you a little lift when needed. I should add that when you have a container of just crumbs (or if your first attempt turns into crumbs), they make a delightful topping for ice-cream or yoghurt.
So, now we have our resolutions in place, let’s see what else 2018 might have in store for us. The New Year blew in with yet another very windy start as Storm Carmen hit our western shores on Monday the 1st, bringing winds of up to 130 km/h. This was swiftly followed by Storm Eleanor, which is battering many departments in the country. They are blowing away any cobwebs we had and have brought us a plethora of puddles for the children to jump in, very muddy walks and endless branches strewn across the garden to pick up – these will be next winter’s kindling for the fire, so that’s a job well done.
The French sales, les soldes, are due to get underway soon. This year most departments have their winter sales from January 10 to February 20. A Frenchman is credited with the invention of seasonal sales, and they are highly regulated in France and are limited to taking place just twice a year. The summer sales usually start at the end of June, and both sets of events last just six weeks.
The first wild truffle grown in Paris has been found in a rooftop garden at an hotel near the Eiffel Tower! As the capital aims to have 100 hectares of roof gardens developed in the next two years it makes me wonder if Paris will see a rise in the number of pigs kept in domesticity as a result?
Okay, so that’s a whimsical thought, but it should be noted that as the winter truffle variety found in Paris has a stronger, more peppery, flavour than the black Perigord truffle found in the south, and as the price of truffles is now at around 5,000 euros a kilo, (yes that’s correct, five thousand, I haven’t inadvertently added any zeros!), then perhaps some pigmy porcine additions to peoples’ menagerie’s may not be out of the question! Whatever happens, surely these gardens will become a very useful resource for the city – especially for bees? It is said that ‘city honey’ – and there is plenty to be had in London, for example – is deliciously varied in flavour due to the amount of different nectar sources.
In other news, France has around 400 wolves living naturally in the wild after they were reintroduced into the country in the late 20th Century. But they are becoming a serious problem and in 2017 more than 11,000 farm animals, mostly sheep were attacked and killed by them, costing the government 3,5 million euros in compensation. I’m not sure of the response you will have to this snippet of information if you bring it up across a French dinner table, so use with care.
A French court has allowed a hospital to fire a man for having a beard that was too long and the list of mandatory vaccinations for children has risen from 3 to 11.
Emergency numbers in France can be confusing, with separate numbers for different services, despite the aim of the procedure being to make the service quicker and more efficient. For anyone visiting, below is a list that might be of help to keep on hand. But remember, if in doubt you can always dial 112. This official European Emergency Services number which works from all landline and mobile phones.
18: Emergencies: This number connects to the fire brigade (Sapeurs Pompiers) but they deal with medical emergencies and should be the first port of call in life-threatening situations. If you have a hornet’s nest in your garden, this is the number you should ring if you need to get rid of it. Naturally, if we have a hornet’s nest in our garden, I can expect Roddy to be close by with a camera for most of the summer. Sigh.
15: Samu (for other urgent medical call-outs)
17: Police / Gendarmes (remember that the police cannot shoot you at will, but the Gendarmes can as they are part of the military and don’t have to have a reason to let loose with a bullet)
114: Emergency calls (hearing assisted)
115: Emergency Shelter
119: Reporting child abuse
196: Sea and lake rescue (a good number to have at this time of year when icy ponds and dogs can cause problems)
197: Terror/kidnapping hotline
01 40 05 48 48: Anti-poison centre
09 726 750 + your department number e.g. 17 for the Charente Maritime): Gas & electricity emergencies
3237: (0.35/min) Outside hours GP and pharmacy information (also available on http://www.3237.fr). This number will give you the location of your nearest open pharmacy – there is normally one open every hour, somewhere near you
And finally – to end as we mean to go on – an unofficial report states that France’s future economy is looking good. Champagne sales are regarded by some as a good measure of the country’s state of affairs and I am told that this means we are heading for a fabulous 2018!
If only it were that simple!
Sales of the fizzy stuff have brought in more than 5 billion euros in 2017, a 6% rise from the previous year and half of all of these sales were made in France. So let’s break out the bubbly and raise a toast to 2018. Here’s to all of you, I know many of you are cutting back on social media and blogs in general, but thank you for continuing to read Our French Oasis; thank you for all your comments and emails. Thank you for taking the time to make this blog a reality, for without you it would not exist.
Tell me what your plans are and if you have any resolutions and great ideas. Let’s make this a wonderful year together, because most of all this is not ‘my’ blog, this is ‘our’ blog.
Wishing you a wonderful, happy and healthy 2018, from all of us, dogs, cats, goldfish and chickens included! xxx