September 28, 2013

This is not art. But it's fun.

It has taken me a long time to come to a conclusion about what differentiates true art from someone's drawing. Even now, I can't put it into words. But I am aware that what I'm doing isn't it.

All I do is make pretty pictures. Sometimes, not even pretty. I make things that sometimes looks like reality, sometimes like something demented, but they always lack a certain oomph, the essence of art itself.
It's a painting. Not a work of art.

During my philosophy classes last year, I had to write a commentary on a work of Bergson where he attempts to define art. For him, it is the unexpected, the one surprising touch of the artist that shows you how his vision of the world differs from yours. It's the element of the artist himself. His view on the world, unique as is yours, put in a way that you can experience it with your own perception.
But to be able to do this, you first need to know how to draw what you see. People are often surprised by Picasso's work from when he was a child, so true to nature, and how different they are from his later works, which aren't exactly a direct representation of the world. Instead, this talented artist stops drawing and instead shows you his world. And that's why his works go for millions of euros.

And that's why mine are just drawings: I'm not bringing anything new to the table. I'm not showing you what i see, I'm showing you what I've been told to see. I'm drawing the world around me not as I have experienced it but as we have all agreed it is. And that's a little sad.

So here's the last of my drawings; I'm going to work on my art.

Good bye for now!

September 26, 2013

Making Mjölnir

So this week's project had been (among others) to create a paper maché replica of the movie prop Mjolnir from Thor ad the Avengers. There was no reason behind making this other than I just really wanted something to do. And so I did.

I started out with old cereal boxes and a paper towel tube.

Once I had all these put together, I cut out the basic pieces to the shape I needed. I assembled them using sticky kraft paper, and covered the entire form with newspaper and tapestry glue. 

I then gave the entire surface two coats of thick white acrylic paint and let it dry completely before I coated it with the basic colors I wanted: grey and black. The handle was left bare because i found pleather I could use as a more "authentic" grip.

I then did more detailed painting with a toothbrush to create an aged look. I blued on the pleather strip with basic white glue and then aged that as well by rubbing black acrylics onto it. And voila!

Not perfect, but fun to make. And it leaves room for pranks!


September 25, 2013

Projects Update (and other things)

So much has happened in the past few days...
First of all, I've gotten hired by an association at Sciences Po (Paris) to design their flyers and their website. They specifically asked for "the founders of Europe... but sexy".
Which led to me having to ask them just how sexy they wanted. I ended up putting Mitterand's head on a bikini model (too sexy) and a party whistle in Sweig's mouth (not sexy enough). Eventually, we reached a balance. Here's my personal favorite:
I designed one with Thatcher (seeing how much she wanted to distance herself from this whole "Europe" thing), but unfortunately, it was confused as either being 
  1. Sexist
  2. Merkel 
  3. Mrs Doubtfire
Which I found highly confusing, seeing as how this is Sciences po we're talking about here, and they should really know their politicians.

I also finally finished my embroidery projects! The last stitch went on Zoidberg this morning, and I was sewing the pillow all afternoon. They're made from recycled jeans.

And speaking of recycled jeans... found an old pair I had put in the "denim" pile two years ago because it was too tight. it now fits perfectly. Success!

Before I go to the states, I need to finish my sweater. I'll work double time on it (I'm halfway up the first sleeve!) but I've also got some drawing I need to do, and I'm going to be painting the Paper mache replica of Thor's hammer sometime later, hopefully this week.

Until then, anonymous strangers on the internet... 'till the next time.


PS have some music

September 24, 2013

Dress Code

I have to say, I hate shopping.

Many girls my age love it. They love picking out outfits that are both flattering and a canvas for their own expression. They love grabbing something their size and finding out that it's "so them". This is how it is for my friends, at least. Why can't I have that experience?

Just for the record, I'm not fat. I'm not even overweight. I have the ideal BMI for my height. Perfect hourglass figure down to the millimeter. But I'm also short, and more importunely, curvy. People say it's the good kind of curvy (It's not another way of saying I'm "big", because I'm not. I wear size S for the most part.) and yet, when I shop, it seems that the clothes I see are more suited for magazines than for me.

In a nutshell, I need to buy trousers as part of the dress code for working at the National Air and Space Museum. I need black trousers - simple, right? Everywhere should have casual black trousers that fit without being too... revealing. It's a basic cut. The first thing you learn to sew. Easy. Right?


I'm very used to having to hem every single one of the pants that I buy, due to my short stature. It's normal. Not everyone is tall, some us us can be used as a perfect measurement of 5 feet. I don't expect to find "short" pants. That's normal.
But when the only pants I can find are slims, tight jersey that squeezes your thighs, or a pant cut so that my knee is actually halfway dwon my shin, its gets pretty darn ridiculous.
If I try a size 38, the waist is perfect, but the legs are so squeezed into the pants that you can see the inside pocket lining as it hugs my thigh. But if I take a size 40, the waist is large enough to fit two of me, and I could be mistaken for wearing harem pants. Not. Cool.

And it's like this everywhere I go. I stopped into Zara to try on their pants (almost every one of them was slim!) and overheard the women next door with the same problem.
"It's like they're dressing a virtual woman," one of them huffed. "Someone who only exists in their minds."
She then stepped out of the changing room to reveal a shirt long enough to be a dress that was so tight around her arms she described them as looking like "sausage casings".
This woman looked perfectly healthy to me. And she wasn't short, either.

The only place that gets it, from my experience, is Levi's. They have shapes. They have different lengths. They have a wonderful selection to top it all off. But the price! I know you have to pay for quality, But I dread having to pay double, triple even,  just because I'm don't look like women in magazines.  It's not even a question of quality anymore, it's a question of availability.

When I'm in the states, I have to shop in the petites section, just so that I can find pants that fit both my waist and my thighs. The problem here lies with selection. How many teenagers do you see shopping in the petite's section? Not many. The designs don't even impress my 60-some year old grandmother, also a petite (it's genetic, all the women on her side of the family have the same body type as I do. My mother, her mother, and her mother before her. Only my sister is exempt.), who, like me, wishes for variety.
I'm 18, not 80.  I have a body I'm proud of, I don't want to let it hide in saggy, baggy, oversized shirts with whimsical butterflies just because my bust is D cup.  I also don't want to impose my thighs on the world, squeezed into obviously tight slim pants. I want to dress comfortably. I want to be happy.

My wish for the world is that clothing came in all shapes and sizes, not just the "normal" girl (who makes up, what? 20% of the population of women?), that they didn't have to have my breast hanging out or my stomach on display just because I am young. I wish for flattering fits. For cute designs. For variety.
Some of us don't want fashion. But we still have to dress ourselves. We're not all model thin, model shaped, we're people. We're different. And because we're different, we need clothes that fit different people.

I know that profit wise, this is tough. You can't offer everything. But I'm not shopping at your store if I have to re-sew your clothes.

Now I'm going to stop wishing and start praying. Hopefully I can find appropriate clothing on thursday - if not, I'll be going to the fabric store rather than a clothing store the next time I need pants.

Yours truly,

And here is some music. Enjoy.

September 22, 2013

A quick stop in Cannes

Ah, the joys of living in the south of France! An hour drive, and we reach Cannes, one of the prettiest coastal cities there is... and home of my sister's boyfriend.

The reason for our trip was simple: my sister's boyfriend (I'll call him MSBF for anonymity's sake) had recently moved there, and his father had invited us to meet with him. Needless to say, I was hesitant at first to come along, due to the fear of being a third wheel. In the end, my sister convinced me it would be fine... I'm glad I did.

And I have to state, for the record, that MSBF is the perfect guy for her. He's funny, super sweet, incredibly respectful, and a blast to be around (even a the third wheeler). He's one of those "out of the friendzone" success stories. All he needed to ask was to be a little more, and they've been together ever since. I would call it romantic, but they're so awkward in public it's more in the adorable side. But that's another point entirely.

Cannes is a stunning city. Think Nice, but smaller. Antibes, but with more tourists... and so, so many tourists. When I went to visit in May for the film festival, the place was packed with tourists from far and wide. I assumed they were all there for the festival... but it turns out, there seems to be the same amount even when the event is over.

The beach was packed - no wonder, most of it is privately owned - so we walked along the shore, pretending we were allowed to be there. We discovered that there was such a thing as "illegal beach massages" and I ran into my former biology teacher in a speedo. That would have been fine, except for the fact that he's a 60' some french man - now my eyes burn.
MSBF told us a funny story. A few days earlier, he went onto one of the private beaches to do some homework, wanting to take advantage of the sun. Unfortunately, he was caught by a lifeguard/security officer, who, instead of turning him away, handed him a snorkel and a mask, and asked him to find a couple's lost ring... he never found it, but after spending two hours searching for it, the guard told him he was a "good kid" and he could "come back whenever."
So... that's that.

We walked along the port in time to see the end of the Royal Regate,  a boat race and show for antique yachts. They were stunning - all polished wood, perfectly curved and fitting to create beautiful vessels. One of the ships had its own violinist, who stood and played them a tune as they docked. Another sported a union jack surrounded by red: when asked what it meant, the crew told us it was to signal that the captain was on land and not onboard the ship.
I was amazed by the fact that most of the people on the ships were young people - in their 20s, young - and not like the sailors I was used to seeing (barrel chested older french men with beards the length of their vessel). I don't know what the prizes were for the competition but they were having a blast, laughing as they folded up their sails or swabbed the decks. It almost made me want to join them. But a sailing life is not for me - I prefer the cosmic ocean to the nautical one.

Cannes is a city that tries to be a place on the map. The film festival may last only a few weeks, but to the tourists, it goes all year round. A living statue of a silvery cameraman posed for photographs, as we followed the small walk of fame around the exterior of the screening building, the prints doing from Whoopi Goldberg's in tile to Silverster Stalone's in silver. His hands were at least three times the size of mine. All the while, we heard the snap snap snap of cameras as people posed on a red carpet.  The festival building I shot in may (to the right) was now entirely white, ready for the next year. That didn't stop tourists from posing there too!
But once you got past the boardwalk, you reached the heart of Cannes itself. It's a tight city, much like Aix, with winding streets, tiny shops, and incredible artwork on the walls. You've also got the "normal" people, the jeans-and-a-t-shit type, unlike the fashionably dressed out in front, with their small dogs (so many small dogs!) and impossibly high heels. It's a city French at its core, pretending to be the American image so as to bring in tourism, like so many lately.

For the most part, it annoys me when I see these cities trying to be more appealing to the US. It goes agains what so many of my french friends stand for. Today, I see Aix turning into some large super mall, a shopping center for tourists. The mom & pop businesses I loved get shut down for chains. And yet, it is the way of globalization. Identity is lost, giving room to some larger entity, one which engrosses people like me, third culture kids, and everyone around us.
I am lucky: I am a TCK, I was raised to adapt. But what about the people who are Frecnh to their core? How to they feel with this Americanization of France? A re-westernization?

I love my home. I really do. Even if there are loads of tourists, even as a Mac store is built on the foundations of our former office of tourism, I will still love this town.
I just hope it won't change too much while I'm away.

Here's some music, for your eardrums:


September 21, 2013

I'm Going to DC!

Hello, Hello,

Rather than post a rant or a project today, i'm posting an update. FUN!
Anyway. So I got a job at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum as an "Explainer", basically as a cool science geek who gets to tell kids how awesome science is. Basically, my dream job.
I do wear a red shirt, though, and I can feel the ominous foreboding.

I should be leaving for DC within the next month, and will be staying with some incredible people stateside. Until then, I need to wrap up all my projects, and most importantly, make sure my visa is in the making.

* Side Rant here: went to Marseille to drop off my visa application. The offices open at 8:15, it was now 8:30. We reach the front desk and the woman instantly says "we're full, we've got enough of those for the day, come back some other time." Love French Bureaucracy :) *

St Marc is beautiful at this time of year, the weather nice enough to stay outside while with a nice cool breeze that tells you autumn is here. The mountain once again has its stunning sunrises. Just see for yourselves:
Every single morning!

Anyway. I'm working on a few projects now, which I should be posting within the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

Oh, and Landmark: just hit 100 views on this blog. Yay!

'Till the next time,

September 19, 2013

Losing weight... let's cut the crap.

Honestly, who out there has made it through the day without seeing or hearing anything about weight or weight loss?

It pains me to see that's we've reached a state where it's cheeper to eat crap than it is to eat healthy, that most of our day is spend at desks in front of a computer screen, and that no matter where you look, someone is always telling you that your body is not right, that it needs to be better.

I struggled with unhealthy body image for most of my teenage life. And people were telling me nothing but crap about how to lose it. "Nothing but baby food" - "Absolutely no carbs!" - "Diet sodas!" - "Fat free alternatives!". As an easily influenced teenager, I believed at all that (though, thank goodness,  I never tried one of those diets) and much more. But I believed one other thing as well: that I was worthless if I didn't fit the perfect idea of a woman. I tried diets over and over again until I came to a conclusion that changed my life and the way I eat:
Don't diet to get the magazine body. Eat healthy to be healthy.

So I stopped "Dieting" (I still see it as "Die eating" or death on a plate) and decided to change the way I ate for the rest of my life. I created a list of rules for myself through a scientific approach to food.
Imagine this: you're going on a trip and you're packing a suitcase. You can only bring one suitcase on the trip. You want to fill it with things you need, specifically for that trip. You can add a fun toy in there as well - but if you stuff your entire suitcase with useless items, you won't get very far. Fill your body with things you need, not things that taste great but don't do anything!

Here are the rules I set for myself, and thanks to them, I've already lost 40 pounds, and feel so much healthier. My skin looks great. I haven't had a pimple in months. I've got more energy and a better outlook on life. And... my boobs look fabulous.

  1. Fat isn't the problem - sugar is. Most of us are addicted to it, even without knowing it. This addiction leads to us losing any urge to eat right. I decided to cut sugars (refined sugars) our of my diet entirely. Now I tend to crave carrots rather than cake! I've also been able to stay energetic for longer periods of time, seeing as how sugar used to give me short bursts, and then leave me feeling weak.
  2. Drink nothing but water and tea. None of those fancy juices, and certainly not soda. They're loaded in sugar your body does not want or need. This goes the same for flavored milk: that can have MORE sugar than sodas! Drink, drink, drink water constantly. You'll stop retaining it, and you'll feel more alert. Water is incredible.
  3. "Diet" sodas are in some cases WORSE than normal sodas. They are stocked full of aspartame, a chemical you really don't want to have in your body. It may be an artificial sweetener, but it's still a sweetener! In Europe, "Diet" sodas are called "light" sodas - you can't diet on diet soda. please don't.
  4. "Fat Free" foods tend to be worse for you - because, to keep it appealing without any natural fats to add flavor, these foods are filled with - you guessed it! - sugar. Just eat the right proportions of the normal food, and you'll be better off.
  5. Portion control. Don't over eat! Ladies, You only need about a deck of cards worth of meat for a meal, you only need a fistful of carbs! At restaurants, you get at least three times that. Leave the table before you feel full, it's healthier than stuffing your stomach.
  6. Try not to eat past 8 pm. This will help you digest better as you sleep.
  7. NO SNACKING! Whatsoever! Fell hungry, but not at a meal time? drink a glass of water. We tend to confuse boredom with hunger. 
  8. Stay away from processed foods. Good advice from Jamie Oliver: "If you don't recognize and ingredient, just don't eat it!" (looks at the labeling, stay away from long worded chemicals. You don't want to poison your body).
  9. Look at the color of your food. Try to get a nice mix. Stay away from browns, fried foods barely have any nutritional value. A tomato with your lettuce, cubes of cheese, croutons, and chicken in the right proportions with a bit of vinaigrette is lovely and light.
  10. Don't skip meals. Your body works better with regularity.
A last word on sugar: dessert is nice, but not a necessity. When you were a kid, your parents promised something sweet to end your meal, a bit of an incentive. But now you can eat on your own - don't eat dessert with every meal. Please. A square of dark chocolate is good for your iron needs, but a piece of cake or pie? It's a great food once and a while, but not at the end of every meal.
Try to stop using food as a reward. Food should be food, not a prize. 

I'm trying to add more exercise to my daily life, but it's tough. I use a fun technique when I'm working: I have a playlist of a 100 random songs, 20 or which are dance songs. When they come on, whatever I'm doing must be put down, and I have to rock out to the music playing. It keeps me sitting for hours on an end!

Anyway, I promise you this will make you feel fantastic. If you want to do any cleanses, talk to your doctor - don't trust everything you find on the internet. This way of eating is logical and works for me, I hope it can help you!

Bon Courage,

September 17, 2013

Let's Make Bacon Maple Ice Cream!

This summer, I have been on a crazy ice cream craze, creating a new one every three days or so. But now that summer is coming to an end, I've decided to try one I've been ding to do, but never had the guts to: Candied bacon bits in a creamy maple syrup ice cream. Inspired by a friend's dare (you'll be happy to know I said no to making a Fish fingers and custard flavor), I've been thinking this one over for weeks. And now... here it is.

Blend together: 200 ml (3/4 C) Cream 300 ml (1 & 1/4 C) Milk 100g (1/2 C) Marscapone (optional - but I love it) 125 ml (1/2 C) Maple syrup 1 tsp vanilla essence 2 eggs
Then place inside the ice cream maker, until thick and creamy gelato texture - you want it to retain its shape when you move it around.
While the ice cream churns away, start frying 150g Lardons/Bacon bits. NO OIL WHATSOEVER! Add a splash vanilla and a tablespoon of brown sugar and stir until the bacon is covered in a thick caramel. I aded a pinch salt (to taste).
Finally, remove the ice cream and gently combine with the bacon caramel. Place in freezer for an hour or more - finally, enjoy!
As you can see, it's incredibly easy. However, it is so incredibly good tasting, it's like having a full breakfast!

September 16, 2013

Let's Talk About: Light Pollution

Recently, my neighbors sold their house to a businessman who decided to turn their home into a deluxe BnB for tourists visiting provence. After months and months of work, the place looks lush and extravagant... to the point where it's excessive. The emerald green lawn looks stunning, but the water requirements out here in this climate are over the top. However, this hotel isn't just wasting water - it's wasting another kind of resource.
It's wasting light.
23 halogen lights are set up in the 20 square meter parking area. One light per square meter. Our pitch black night has become so bright I can actually read a book in my room by the hotel's lights alone, and the stars... well, suffice it to say, the budding astronomer can't exactly do her own observations anymore.

Not many people tend to realize that light is something that can be wasted. That there is such a things as "light pollution". This form of pollution is defined as some form of artificial light intruding on natural areas. The problem is that the light is not focused on where it needs to be, and is wasted, shinning upwards where it benefits nobody. Large cities are so bright, for example, that from miles away you can see the orange glow of their street lights. You may not even notice how much of a problem this is if you're living in the city. If you want to know just how bad it is, look outside in the middle of the night and tell me how many stars you can see - if you can count them on your hands, it's a problem.

Living in the country as I do, I tend to forget how rare it is to have a clear sky these days. Before the hotel arrived, I could just make out the milky way. Now I'm lucky is I can make out full constellations. 
There's a story that gets told over and over again to make us laugh, which happens not only to be true, but to have happened many times before. After power outages in major cities, the police will get many "emergency calls" about "strange lights in the sky". for the most part, these turn out to be... the planet Venus. Have we come so far as to forget there are planets int he sky above us?

At this point, you may be thinking that light pollution is more of a sad inconvenience rather than an actual problem. And yet, the consequences of these artificial lights are drastic. It disorients nocturnal animals, sometimes luring them to roads where they are promptly run over. They blind and confuse insects which pollinate nocturnal plants - without them, these plants can no longer reproduce. Migrating birds get led off course. 

"In some Swiss valleys the European lesser horseshoe bat began to vanish after streetlights were installed, perhaps because those valleys were suddenly filled with light-feeding pipistrelle bats. Other nocturnal mammals—including desert rodents, fruit bats, opossums, and badgers—forage more cautiously under the permanent full moon of light pollution because they've become easier targets for predators." - National Geographic

And if that hasn't worried you, think about how many mosquitos we'd have if bats can no longer hunt them!

It also has severe health effect for us humans: Light pollution can interfere can prevent the production of melatonin, the chemical that regulates sleep patters (the lights aren't just keeping you from falling asleep, they're keeping your body from regulating your sleep!) and low melatonin levels can lead to... Cancer. 

But the thing with light pollution is that it's an easy thing to reduce. For starters, lights don't always need to be on - turning them off when you're not using them is the basic place to start. 
But then, you may say, what about safety? What about lighting our streets so that we can walk without being in the dark? Well, let's look at the lights we are using. They light everything around them, like an orb - but nobody is able to levitate, as far as I know, so all the light going up is wasted. Which is why switching to downward facing lights is an easy decision. You can also combine that with lower wattage bulbs, like compact fluorescents; that will even save you money! It's pretty easy to make a change when you're getting money out of it.

Please write to your local government about changing street lights to lower wattage downward facing lights. It's a good environmental - and economical! - change, which will provide lasting benefits. 

Think of your local Astronomers! 

Check out the International Dark Sky Association's website to find out more about how you can prevent light pollution. And for more on how it affects us and the environment, check out National Geographic.

Talk to you soon,

September 14, 2013

5 Outdated "Sex-Ed" lessons from 1926

Recently, while cleaning out the cellar, i found an old book which my mother claims to have bought at a yard sale. Published in 1926, this is the 38th edition of "Safe Counsel or Practical Eugenics", the first of which being published in 1893. Wow.
Flipping through the pages, I came to find just how different the education was back almost a century ago compared to what it is now. The book itself is actually insightful, and gives some good advice on staying healthy, loosing or gaining weight, and gives practical exercises to help you live longer. It has advice for finding a suitable match and for educating your children as well. So before I go any further, I just want to make it clear: there's noting wrong with the book! Just a few ideas that have really changed over the century.

1. Fighting the Modern evils
If these "Present day conditions" are seen as sins, I hate to think about what they would say about our society today (twerking, anyone?). The chapter begins by giving us how these evils are viewed by "Authorities", including Maurice B. Blumenthal, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney General, who says:

"If  jazz and illicit liquor are to continue as the characteristic enjoyments of society, to the exclusion of home life, the home will become a more near lodging place. Today the city population is seldom at home. It is in the restaurants, the dance halls, and the shadowy corners of the city, where self-indulgence and license are the key note. The morning promenade, the afternoon tea, and the night orgy take the other form from home and leave the children to work out their own social and moral destiny. If we could save the nation we must return to the home as the cornerstone of our society."

The author then adds that this should be more significant because Mr. Blumenthal is blind.

On the topic of Jazz, there is an entire section devoted to its evils. The author is convinced that jazz music has corrupted dancing, destroying any taste for real music. "Jazz and immoral dancing are so closely related as to make it difficult to separate them," It says.  "The dances take names from the animals and low things of life: this music finishes a vulgar atmosphere."
I am so glad they have never listened to Nicky Minaj. (I'd be glad if I never listened to her).
The book continues to say that Jazz leads to drinking and gambling. It urges us to raise the standard so young people return to more "refined dances".
Bobbed hair, make up, and short skirts (knee length) are a curse upon women kind. There is a strict warning not to wear too many cosmetic or we'll have wrinkles by the age of 30.

2. All I want to be is a bride

Need I say more?

3. "BabyLand is FairyLand"
This illustration can be found in the chapter... impregnation. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not exactly sure that this is the image of pregnancy that people generally have. 
The chapter continues by telling us that "the pain is tolerable" and that the thought of bringing a healthy, superior child into the world to aid the human race in its betterment is enough to make the pain go away.

4. Masturbation, a terrible disorder.
In the chapter "on diseases and disorders," a large section is devoted to Masturbation. Mainly to the evils that it brings.
"Learned Gentlemen" such as Brockman, Marcuse and Berger have stated 50 to 99 % of adolescents "indulge in these secret habits". 
"But this is pure guesswork," the author of this book states. "Personally I don't believe the real percentage is nearly as high as even the lowest given estimates."
We are warned that we need to escape this sort of vice. It will ruin our life's ambition, and that of our children, and children's children. We must STOP, HERE, and NOW. (Yes, they wrote in an caps).

5.  Being a good spouse.
"Studies have shown that marries women outlive old maids," the book concludes. It reminds us that a real marriage "makes you look younger" and "will create true respect for the opposite gender".
What really makes me laugh in the chapter of love and marriage is the "what women look for in a man" vs "what men look for in women":
Women like: Intelligence, generosity, courage, moral sense...
Men like: Beauty, a good female body, Broad hips, small feet, and Beautiful arms. They don't like woman who have "false appearance", meaning makeup and cigarettes.
This book does not like cigarettes.
When it comes to marriage, being a good wife is all about obedience. Men are encouraged not to issue or orders, rather... suggestions. But still, a good wife listens and does those things. And stays young. And stays interesting. And all that stuff.

The dawn of a New era: I do actually like this book, because we can see the beginning of the sexual revolution actually taking root.  There is a paragraph I find particularly interesting:
"It is hardly necessary to state that women's economic and political rights are today receiving recognition long past due.  Authorities seem to agree that the same is true of women erotic rights. The modern man has come to look upon his wife is a partner, entitled to equal share in the rights, privileges, and pleasures of the firm. Woman is no longer placed upon a pedestal in public and degraded in private life."
I recommend a reading of "The French Lieutenant's Woman" by John Fowles Written in the 1960s, the plot takes place in the 1860s, pointing out how the revolution was already beginning a century earlier. The victorian woman, the "Angel in the house", was an idea already beginning to change. "Safe Counsel" still states that woman's place is at home, but it is with newfound respect and a certain kind of freedom. 
And now, almost 100 years later, look at us. 

Just beware of that jazz music. It'll be the end of us.

- Sarah

P.S. Be Careful what you read!

September 13, 2013

And Then There Was One...

Today, the last of my friends here in Aix left for university.
I should have been starting classes, if I had not taken this gap year. And I guess it's safe to admit that I'm just not ready to stop learning.
I can barely sleep, I'm just so used to the routine of institutional education. I wake up still at 6 every morning, as if I were going to school, just to find myself with a commodity I've never had before: time. Time to do what I want. Time for me, myself, and I. And now that I have it, I don't know what to do with it.
And I'm so... alone.
I try to keep busy by drawing or knitting or sewing or writing, but I feel as if I'm not actually getting anything done. I need something to keep me busy. I need... constraints.
Until then, I'll just keep creating.

Oh, and I've just opened a zazzle shop. If you like any of my designs, why not own one? 
Visit My Zazzle Store to find out more!

Meanwhile, enjoy some nice music.

September 12, 2013

Craft of the Day: Night Vale Cupcake

I've recently become addicted to an incredible podcast which is well worth a listen: "Welcome to Night Vale", which you can find FOR FREE on iTunes!
Two days ago I was walking through Papietrie Michelle when I found an adorable paper maché cupcake. A few minutes later and I had bought it. But what to paint on it?
Quick answer: Night vale.
Here's the process I used to create this odd item, which is basic Paper Maché painting. Sometime soon I will make a prop for scratch so as to show the full process.
First comes the design stage. Take your model and draw out what you're going to paint, then draw directly on the paper maché to make sure it all fits. Keep your design handy, because those pencil marks won't be visible.
Next, coat the entire surface of the model in white paint or (better yet) gesso. This is let your top colors become more vibrant, because the first layers will always soak through. It gives you a nice surface to paint on.
Next, you're going to want to paint your background entirely. If you're using acrylics, use a little water to blend the colors together, so that it looks nice and smooth.
I then used a toothbrush to flick white and yellow dots of paint onto my model, to create stars. This is an easy process: add a little water (tiny bit!) to your paint to make it more fluid. Dip the front of an old toothbrush into the paint and point it, bristles down, at the area you want speckled. Run your index finger slowly over the bristles- and voila!
Careful, if your paint it too thin, your paint will run and create puddles.

Finally, paint on your final design. No need to rush it! You want it to be perfect.
And voila! Easy as pie! Or, as cupcake. 

It's nice to have a fine tipped Posca pen to do the details. Owning a white one and a black one always comes in handy. I keep borrowing my white one from my sister, which I probably shouldn't. Anyway, they are worth the investment!

Hope this helped,

September 10, 2013

Back to the Drawing Board

Today was rather difficult, as it would have been the day I would have started on my trip to Scotland, if I was going this year. Instead, I've had to watch my friends leave for their freshers' week, without me.
I wished a few friends off, going for our "last lunches" and talking about things we never got done. It's hard to believe I've gotten so close to these people over the past few years, and now we all have to go our separate ways... another curse of being a third country kid, when your friends spread across the globe for their education.

At home, I got a bit more sketching done. I've got a whole list of works I would like to get to, I just need to spend more time on them rather than drawing Nigh Vale fan art. 

On another note, friends going off to college means dorm rooms that need decorating. I've gotten more than a few commissions for personalized artwork!
Today I was walking through the quality art supply store (Papiertrie Michelle, for those who know Aix)  and found some wonderful sources of inspiration. You can now buy paper maché deer heads with detachable antlers. Neat. And there are more Moleskin books than you can count, including limited addition white "Petit Prince" books, and a sketchbook which includes maps of the London underground. I got myself a paper maché cupcake, which I have no plans for as of yet.

So I shall return to painting and drawing - but before I go, here's some good music.


Winter is Coming: Brace Yourself With This Cozy Knitted Hat!

It's going to get real cold, real soon.
Want to try your hand at knitting? or maybe you're already an experienced knitter, looking for a project? I've got your covered. It's hat time.

Over this summer, I hadn't yet come to the decision of taking a gap year. I dutifully prepared myself for Scotland by knitting an abundance of sweaters and hats. The pattern I used for this one was extremely simple - I even had the opportunity to create my own design for the hat.

So, let's talk knitting! Each of there designs can be stacked however you like. Separate them by one, two, or even three rows of different colors, depending on what you like.
I used size 8 needles, and this incredible yarn from Katia, Called "Peru". it's thick and woolen, incredible warm. I have a sweater made of the same material and it's warmer than my winter coat. It also felts well, if you're interested.
This will create a hat for a 60cm head.

First step: the ear flaps.
Cast on 19 stitches. You can either knit stripes, a full color, or a color with a self contained pattern. I knit a blue background with two triangles.
Knit 24 rows, increasing every 6 so as to have a total of 27 stitches. Slip this onto an extra needle so you can knit the second ear flap. Remember to reverse the design on this one if your design is asymmetrical!

Now for the Hat.
Cast on 9 stitches on circular needles - knit on earflap one (right flap) - cast on 36 stitches - knit on earflap two (left flap) - and cast on another 9 stitches. You should have 108 stitches on your needles. You've now got the basic shape of the hat!
You can now start on one of the patterns above. Keep knitting around for a total of 24 rows. 
Here's where it gets a little tough, because you're going to have to keep track of your count. You're going to want to decrease by 7 every other row (every row if you want a rounded rather than conical top). Start by knitting two together evert 15 stitches. Then knit a row normally. Then knit two together every 14 stitches. And so on. It's easier once you get closer to the top, because you can see the decrease lines, and just knit two together once you reach each separate one.
Finish it off, leaving a tail - this will facilitate attaching the pom pom.

Finally, details.
Use a crochet hook to finish of the entire edge of the hat, going around the entire edge, including the ear flaps.
Make yourself a pompom with the four colors and attach it to the top of the hat, using the left over tail to help fasten it.
Cut 2 60 cm strands of yarn of each color. Find the middle of your flap, slip one strand of each color through the stitch. Do a four strand braid and finish it off with a tight knot.

And you've got yourself a hat! 

September 8, 2013

Time: a Confusing Reality

How does one deal with the agonizing progression of day after day after day - while waiting for emails that don't ever seem to come?
In my case, I have returned to painting. It's nice, it passes the time. Lately, I have been working on some Pastels and watercolors (just got a new set which I absolutely adore). Here's a few I've done this weekend:


Painting really is a blast. I can't really say much more than that. it makes me feel like I'm doing something at least slightly productive. It's as if I'm not wasting that much time, waiting for these job replies.

On another note, I've finally finished the dress I was working on like week. This one was tough, as I was using cheep upholstery fabric I found at Eurodif, and that stuff is THICK. I like how it turned out, though now I have to figure out how to correctly accessorize.

*Please ignore my lack of any modeling skills.*

I've decided that this is the the week that I finally wrap up making my plans for next year. I've really got to get to it. September 2014 seems like it's a long way away, but I'm sure this year will pass in a flash. I've got to do something with my life: I've got to use this year to my advantage.

Until then, I'll just keep listening to Welcome to Night Vale, write a bit more, paint, draw, eat sleep, and everything in between.

And you, dear reader, can enjoy some good music which you may or may not have ever heard of before.

Until the next time,

September 5, 2013

The Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole (and other kitchen things)

One of the most difficult things for an American living in France is coming to terms with the lack of American products. Near the top of the list of things I miss: Tater tops. Right up there with everything Reeses and Buffalo wings. Until about two years ago, that list included Oreos: rejoice, Frenglish friends! You can now find Oreos in every French supermarket. Hallelujah!

A few years ago, one of my aunts made an incredible potato dish that was so good, me, my sister, and my cousins ate it for every meal for almost a week. It was as good hot as it was cold, and reheating it did not ruin the flavor in the slightest. A true miracle of cooking. But to my dismay, upon my return home, I could not find the necessary ingredients to make the dish here in France.

Not like that ever held me back from anything. (except maybe the perfect cheesecake.)

Here's how to make a Tater Tot casserole from scratch! This recipe is a mix of/inspired by two others, along with my personal touch. So to give credit where credit's due: "Bacon-Ranch Tater Tots" (Cook's Country, October/November 2011) and "Tater Tot 'n' Cheese Bake" by Marcia Padilla.

For Francophones: 1tsp = Une cuillère à Café and 1 Tbs = Une cuillère à Soupe

Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole
Takes about 2 hours

You'll need:
2 Pounds (900g) Russet Potatoes
1 C (250ml) water
2 tsp salt
1 Tbs cider vinegar
2 Tbs Flour
1 Cup (200g) Bacon (Lardons)
1 tsp Garlic powder
Papper to taste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder (optional)
1 Tbs (20g) Butter
2 Eggs
2 C (500ml) Milk
2 - 4 cups Cheese (more on that later)

This recipe is in two steps - making the Tater Tots, then making the Casserole. You can easily freeze the finished tater tots to make the casserole another day.

  • If you're vegetarian, this can be made without the bacon. Substitute it with whatever you please, even nothing at all. You may want to add more salt, though: bacon adds a lot of flavor, and if you go without it the dish can end up a little on the bland side. 
  • You could use ham instead of bacon - but you'll put that directly into the casserole, instead of inside the tater tots.

Start by cleaning and pealing the potatoes. It's best to have a little more than 2 pounds, because you tend to loose a little during the process, even if you're careful. Slice them in small pieces - the smaller the better.
Mix the salt into the water until it has dissolved. Pour a food processor/ large blender and add in the potatoes. Use the pulse setting a handful of times, stop, mix, and start again. You want the potatoes to be in tiny pieces, but not a mash.
Once that's done, take them out of the processor, and squeeze them over a colander.  I did this in three batches. You'll want to squeeze out all that excess water. Move the dried potatoes into a microwave safe bowl.
Microwave on medium high (I used 650W) for 9 minutes. Remember to stir halfway through.

Meanwhile, start heating up your bacon. If you don't have lardons, chop up your bacon into small bits, not longer than an inch. Fry them gently on a medium temperature until they're crispy. Your whole kitchen has to smell like bacon before you're done. Pull them off the heat once they're just as you like them; put them on a paper towel to get rid of all that extra grease.

Pull the potatoes out of the microwave ( You'll know they're done if they're just a little sticky)  and immediately mix in the vinegar cider. Stir to help them cool. Then add the flour, garlic powder, paprika, pepper, and chili power. Finally, add the bacon.

Place aluminum foil on the bottom of a 8"x10" dish, and spread out the mixture, it should be about half an inch thick. Put the dish int he freezer for 45 minutes to an hour, until film, but not hard. Like the texture of your forearm if you poke at it.

Prepare your frying oil. You can use a deep pan or a fryer, it's your choice. I used peanut oil when I fried my tater tots.
Take the dish out the freezer and take out the aluminum. Slice the potatoes into small squares (no more than an inch/ around 2 cm) and drop them into the oil. Let them fry there for five minutes until the outside is golden. Put them on a paper towel to get rid of the excess oil.

You've made tater tots! At this point, you can either freeze them for next time, or start on your casserole. if you're in a casserole mood, preheat your oven to 350 F or 180 C.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, the eggs, and the milk. (I also added 50g of creme fraîche, Frenchies!)
Now you're going to want to add cheese. The initial recipe calls for 4 Cups, but I managed with 3. In my opinion, the more, the better! I used Emmental and Comté, but you can use any kind of hard cheese you like. Balancing white and yellow cheddar should do just fine. Leave a little bit for the top.
Add the tater tots to the mixture, and stir gently.

Butter a casserole dish and pour in the mixture. Top with cheese (I used parmesan) and pop it into the oven for 45 minutes. It should end up golden on the top, and a knife should come out clean.

Let cool before serving - the tater tots can hold in a LOT of heat.

And there you have it! This dish is perfect for freezing and pulling out for breakfast. It's great any time of year, and one of my favorite comfort foods.

September 4, 2013

The Year Starts... Now!

Hello, is this thing on?


Ahem. Hi.
My name is Sarah - I guess that's a nice place to start, puts us on a first name basis. I'm not a blogger by nature, this is more of an... experiment, I guess, trying to give a bit of direction to the next year of my life. Please forgive me for the general lack of direction as of yet.
Let me quickly let you in on my situation. I'm an American, but I was raised in France, and want to go to University in Scotland - but since I'm not European, the fees are a little high. As I don't want to leave school in crippling debt, I've decided to take a gap year to resolve this problem. I now have time on my hands I did not expect to have, and I don't intend on wasting it.
So I'm working. Working on getting through a stack of French paperwork. Working on getting a job (so I can work). Working on getting things done that I always wanted to finish. Projects that have been siting on my shelf while I've had a Bac to study for now can be worked on. And maybe on the way, learn some valuable life skills.
Oh yes. Life skills.
It's disappointing they don't have classes for that in high school.
Meanwhile, I'll just share the things I learn along the way. And maybe some good music.

À bientôt,