Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Yesterday was one of those difficult long days that seems not to end and when nothing seems to get better. We went to the doctor, where I had to fight with nurses to finally be listened to by a gynaecologist who understands (even if the damage can't be undone, as I don't have Hermione's time turner). The end result is more seemingly fruitless waiting. Then I came home, poured myself a big cup of tea (more like made a teapot of Moroccan mint with honey infusion) and read Fiona's post on finding the joy in the middle of the winter. As always, her wisdom struck me:
<<There’s a proverb that says, “All the days of the afflicted are bad, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast”. To me this says, yes there will be dark days and difficult days. But your outlook, your perspective on them can make an amazing difference. Do I stay glum and complaining and pity myself, or do I choose to recognise every gift in my life, however small.>>
So I made some more tea. I finished one of the books I was reading (at this moment I am reading several books in parallel), I made potatoes with butter, cheese, salt, pepper and some mayonnaise, I watched Raising Helen and Girls with the husband even if Hannah/Lena Dunham never fails to annoy me, we cuddled in the couch, we analysed and studied and thought and concluded that in the grand scheme of things we are still in the path to our pregnancy and baby, and we had some Stracciatella ice-cream together.
Bad days and anxiety-ridden times happen to the best of us, I know that. And our reactions really are in our hands. And sometimes you really need to have a good cry (or two) in the same day. And then you realize you are supported by many people, some of who you have only met cybernetically, so to speak (Thanks!). Anyhow, I hope you are all having a good week. Let's hope for happy times together, or better, make those times happen.
* First image credit.
Monday, February 25, 2013
In case you missed it, last Friday a lovely and deeply meaningful story, called "The miracle of the Latkes", by Julia from "Writings in the raw", led to a discussion on family recipes, grandmas, traditions and how something apparently simple, like food, can become a transcendent part of your inner family culture. A comment in the thread (by Granola) summarized it best:
"The times when I have prepared the recipes of my mother and grandmother and great grandmother and great aunts are some of the most mundane and meaningful of my life. It’s as if a very fine and strong thread is connecting us, through moving and illness and death and new things; there’s a power in it that I think is the closest thing in this world to real magic."
Or like Laura Esquivel, author of "Como agua para chocolate" (Like water for chocolate), put it in this interview* for the BBC:
"... (la cocina) es un gran laboratorio de alquimia. Es un lugar sagrado donde uno no sólo está en contacto con los cuatro elementos que conforman el mundo, jugando con ellos, sino que entra en comunión con el verdadero origen y con algo más allá....El acto de cocinar es un acto de amor. Todo aquello que hace que dos cosas se conviertan en una es un acto amoroso."
And so I would like to take this opportunity to lead you readers to "Project recipe swap", organized by Laura, from The Mrs. Makes, "as a little nod to all those women in our lives who have lovingly taught us their heirloom recipes, let us lick the cake spoon and learnt their favourites by heart." Anyone in the world can participate, you just have to email her / comment on this post, she will then send you a questionnaire, pair you up with someone, to whom you will send a recipe. You will of course receive a recipe as well and after you make it you can report it back to her so as to put a giant recipe file. It sounds like fun! Snail mail! Cooking! Sharing!
So for those curious, it is actually very easy to make this dish. You just boil some potatoes and peel them. In the meantime you should cook a traditional sausage (worst) according to the instructions (normally you just submerge it for 15 min in boiling water). Once your potatoes are ready you mash them with a little bit of water, milk and butter and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg (and maybe some chilli powder) while on a low fire. You should then add your vegetables (normally shredded curly kale, but really, anything can do), and mix until it reaches the consistency and taste you desire.
You proceed to eat it with the sausage (and a little parmesan cheese if you're like me). Funny story: when we were in the UK we were invited to a very typical British restaurant. And what does the boy order? A dish called "kale mash" which was essentially stamppot (except of course it was drowned in gravy).
*BBC Mundo.com. La literatura es un acto de amor. Entrevista a Laura Esquivel. 22 de Julio 2005.
Friday, February 22, 2013
And so, the greatest gummi bear producer of the world, instead of selling the colorful bears that we all love and that you can find pretty much everywhere else, have their own particular kind "Zwarte beren". I got these from a kids' party the other day and the little ones were fighting for them. I stole a bag for journalistic purposes (that is, this blog post) and my dear Dutch husband was rushing me to take the photos fast so that he could proceed to eat them.
Whereas in other countries the taste of Drop is associated with medicines and illness the Dutch are truly passionate about it. It does not really surprise me, given the weather, as "the two main ingredients of these sweets: liquorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and Arabic gum, have been used far and wide throughout history to soothe coughs and sore throats". Dutch expats often have a hard time without their black opium and beg their friends and family to mail them some in order to alleviate their homesickness. Have you tried it? Do you like it? Should I send you some? I know that to be truly integrated I am going to have to start liking this stuff, but I'm not there yet.
*Dutch delight. Sylvia Pessireron, Jurjen Drenth. N&L Publishing. Weesp. 2009.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
The other day as I was leafing through a glossy magazine, I stumbled upon this article and I thought it was totally worth sharing. 99% of 7-11 years old say they were happy, when asked. Not only that, the little kids revealed their secret keys to happiness:
-Help other people
-Play to your strenghts
-Don't forget old friends
-Try to see the positive
-Don't be to hard on yourself
-Make time for your family
-It's ok to be selfish sometimes.
What do you think? They totally figured out life didn't they?
|My favorite was the "Not just sweets, but not just horrid (!!) food like mushrooms and carrots either"...|
Monday, February 18, 2013
When we were in London last month, we took the opportunity to visit Kitty & the Bulldog, an exposition at The Victoria & Albert's museum on the influence of British fashion icons such as Vivienne Westwood and movements such as punk and goth as well as the Alice in Wonderland aesthetics and the Victorian era on the development of Japan's Lolita style. In any case, for all the kitschiness of the style, I love that these girls are in fact "rebelling against the conventions of contemporary society".
The boy has been wanting to go to Japan since forever (he is a big anime watcher) and we find the Lolita's along with Cosplay kind of fascinating. We joke that when we go there we will totally play along and get some disguises. I dream of dressing as Orihime Inoue, yes, it's the long, flowy, orange hair that got me. If you are in London, you can see this exposition until February 24, but in any case here is a peek.
By the way, thanks to Jacqueline from The Hourglass Files, for bringing this exposition to my attention. You should totally check out her blog, it is a mix of fashion history, current tendencies, great deconstructions of what certain garments meant with regards to their time (my favorite might be this piece on feminine lingerie dresses from the beginning of the century) as well as an approach to her personal style.
If you do go to the Victoria & Albert's museum, don't miss the photography exhibit "Light from the Middle East" of which the lovely Cara from Peonies and Polaroids wrote about here. My favorite part was Issa Touma's series: 'Sufis: The day of al-Ziyara', which documents "...an annual procession of Sufi pilgrims in northern Syria. Touma photographed the event over the course of ten years, gradually gaining the trust of his subjects. His images convey his sense of immersion in the festival and capture the fervour of the worshippers."
The Victoria and Albert Museum. Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL (Tube station: South Kensington). First and last images via the V&A's homepage.
Friday, February 15, 2013
The lovely Louise Elisabeth from Liquorice and Pumps nominated me for a little blog award. This is a fun initiative (a mix between a slam book and a chain letter) to promote small blogs. I see it as a chance to share the random (which I love) and to start a conversation. I also love to know the person behind the blog, so I am playing along.
As a nominee you are supposed to mention the blogger who nominated you, tell 11 little things about yourself, answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you, pass it on to 11 bloggers and ask them, in turn 11 questions. So, on to business , let's see, 11 random things about myself:
-I have a brother and a sister, of which I am the oldest.
-I wanted to be so many things that deciding to pursue only one of those after high school was hard. Some of these things were: doctor, researcher on AIDS, Marine Biologist / Marine mammal trainer, Journalist, Café-bakery owner.
-I started a thesis on the egg-laying habits of the Axolotls, but never really finished. Veterinary medicine was pulling me hard.
-At some point in my life I used to only wear pink.
-Then I used to only wear stripes. Colorful ones at that.
-Then I had a kind of Emo phase (before emos were even part of the urban subculture), so I guess it was more of a punk-not-quite-goth kind of phase where I would wear black and red t-shirts with slogans like: "I am so happy I could die" or "Here comes trouble" (with a drawing of a cute Japanese-like girl running around with a knife).
-I was supposed to volunteer as a Human Rights observer in Chiapas, at a Zapatist community, but my parents did not allow it.
-My best friend lives in Bolivia.
-My second name is Leila, because my father has a special love for Middle-Eastern cultures.
-I have yet another name, that means star in a different language.
-We really want to get a cat. A blue one, preferably.
Now, here are the 11 things Louise Elisabeth asked:
Mmmm, this is a hard one. I think mint-aqua green. But red comes close behind.
2.-If you would get 1000 euro's what would you do with it?
I would probably enroll myself to a photography course. Or a baking class at Cakes Haute Couture. Or get a stack of books and baking supplies. Or buy an airplane ticket and just go.
3.-What makes your blog a must read?
Hmmm, I wouldn't say my blog is a must-read, most of all I am honored / humbled that there are people actually reading my ramblings and (maybe) enjoying them.
4.-How many shoes do you own?
I had to go and count. That would be 18: 1 pair of boots, 1 pair of short booties, 1 pair of running sneakers, 2 pairs of black heels (high and low), 1 pair of very high nude heels, 1 pair of brown mary-janes (which I just realized have completely perforated soles), 1 pair of lilac heels, 1 pair of heels with a flower print, 4 pairs of ballerinas (fucsia, red, gray, pink), 2 pairs of sandals (both coral pink), 1 pair of white heels, 1 pair of vans-like shoes with a colorful print, 1 pair of crystal blue plastic flip-flops.
|My new shoes arrived. Aren't they the cutest?|
5.-If you had one wish, what would you wish for?
To have a biological baby. I wanted to say to get pregnant, have a healthy pregnancy, and a baby. But that sounded like 3 wishes. You get the idea.
6.-Where do you want to be in 5 years from now?
Physically? No idea... Mexico,the UK or Switzerland would all be nice. Holland as well. Mostly in 5 years I would like to have children and be in a good place (professionally), that is have a job that fulfills me, makes a difference in society and sustains us.
7.-What is your best health tip?
My mom used to say "somos lo que comemos" (We are what we eat), so I would say, read your labels, be very conscious of your eating habits, nurture your body (which includes being in a positive state of mind), and your body will be healthy too.
8.-If you could name any place, where would you go right now?
On a trip? I think that would be SouthEast Asia: Vietnam, Camodia, Thailand, Singapore... and Japan! Talk about needing to win the lottery.
9.-Addition to question 8 who would you take with you?
The boy of course. It would also be fun to travel with my brother, sister and their significant others.
10.-What is your best fashion tip for upcoming season?
Umm, I am clearly totally clueless here. I would say be yourself. Stay authentic and true to who you are. But apparently pastels are gonna be a big hit (yeah).
11.-Are you an organ donor (this is very important to me, might be weird but hey you don't read my blog for its well normalness)
Currently, no, I am not. I feel very ambivalent on this, because coming from a medical profession I kind of know the kind of playing with bodies that takes place among students (that sounds awful) and the kind of crazy science that can happen if in the wrong hands. I have talked about this with the boy and I am ok with donating my organs if they would go to another person, save someone's life, but I am not so sure about giving my body to "Science". Difficult subject.
Off to bright places
Mockingjay... because we all need a little hope.
Pieces of Anna
Made in Morningside
A little bite of everything
The Smitten immigrant
De este lado de mi mundo
The moon on a stick
Un nuevo nacimiento
Zarawitta. Viaje al centro de la beca.
The questions I would like to ask are:
1. Which is your favorite book?, 2. What is your favorite place in the World?, 3. What makes you happy?, 4. If you could go anywhere in the World, where would that be?, 5. Do you have a job / are you happy with it?, 6. What is your favorite food?, 7. Can you maybe share a recipe? (or link to a favorite one?), 8. What is your favorite song / band ever?, 9. And your favorite cartoon as a child?, 10. What about your favorite movie? and 11. What is your most vivid childhood memory?
* First image found on pinterest. Because like Kirsty said, blogging should be a conversation. A chat among friends. Second image from here.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
|Dreamy James McAvoy as Mr. Tumnus|
Did you know that the origin of Valentine's day celebrations lays in an early Roman, pre-christian pagan festival known as Lupercalia? And that it was a celebration of fertility, aimed at expiating and purifying new life before the Spring? As described by Plutarch:
<< Lupercalia, of which many write ... was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.>>*
<< Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, observed on February 13 through 15 to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia subsumed Februa, an earlier-origin spring cleansing ritual held on the same date, which gives the month of February (Februarius) its name. The name Lupercalia was believed in antiquity to evince some connection with the Ancient Greek festival of the Arcadian Lykaia (from Ancient Greek: λύκος — lukos, "wolf", Latin lupus) and the worship of Lycaean Pan, assumed to be a Greek equivalent to Faunus, as instituted by Evander. In Roman mythology, Lupercus is a god sometimes identified with the Roman god Faunus, who is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Pan. Lupercus is the god of shepherds. His festival, celebrated on the anniversary of the founding of his temple on February 15, was called the Lupercalia.>>**
It was not until 496 AD that the Pope, Gelasius, declared 14 February to be St Valentine's Day, a Christian feast day. This is likely to have been an if-you-can't-beat-them-join-them approach to the still-popular pagan festival of Lupercalia.
I would much rather celebrate a pagan fertility tradition than the overflow of hearts and glorification of great romantic gestures that Hallmark has made of this day. And if it will "help bring the barren to pregnancy" I am up for it. Now I just have to convince the boy to wear a goats skin while running around in his birth suit. Hmmm. Not sure if he's up for it.
It is snowing and all this writing about Fauns got me thinking about Mr. Tumnus and Lucy. I will not sacrifice a dog or a goat, but I will attempt to make salt mealcakes (whatever those are). Who knows... maybe it'll work.
* Plutarch. Life of Caesar.
** From our dear wikipedia.
First image from here, second, original illustration by Pauline Bynes from here.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I have a confession to make. For all my talk about not really caring about what fashion dictates, I have a soft spot for (some) fashion blogs, that I check kind of regularly. Those are StyleScrapbook, by Andy Torres, a Mexican girl living in Amsterdam and The Blonde Salad, by Chiara, an Italian girl that seems approachable, funny and even a little bit clumsy, who happens to love road trips too and has a cooking show. I have to say that I find Andy's style too masculine for me (in that I would not wear her outfits, and she rarely wears anything that you would consider "girly"). And yet I find myself going to her blog over and over again. It struck me one day that it was the photography that I liked, so I keep checking.
Anyhow, last week StyleScrapbook, together with Canon, hosted a StreetStyle competition. All you had to do was send (as many) shots of yourself and hope that you would be shortlisted. I only entered because the main prize was a Canon EOS M (I love that camera). And well, maybe the 5-year-old in me wanted to pretend to be a model for a while. So I got the boy to play along and take some pics of me while I awkwardly posed.
Apparently I really have no idea what StreetStyle means. I thought the term came from "Style from the Street", as in, things you would actually wear to go out of the house. Or outfit photos taken in an urban environment, by cool buildings, parks, crossings... Judging from the photos that got shortlisted and displayed in the album Canon created for the contest, in order to be chosen you had to try very hard to impersonate Lady Gaga. Or wear as many random, uncoordinated items together (like your pijama pants, with heels and a Rolling Stones t-shirt). Sure, as was to be expected there were many shots that were real good. But some of the shortlisted pics were kind of bad (worse than our amateurish tries) and they still got chosen. I was kind of disappointed that the people from Canon did not pick 250 photos for their shortlisted entries as they said they would in the terms and conditions. Instead, they chose only 142 photos as real entries. I don't know what to think. I saw people trying real hard with their outfits, so hard that it felt unnatural or a bit fake (to me). I had a "Who wears that?" reaction to many pics but I guess that just really proves I am not a fashion addict. BTW, so much for picking original outfit shots. I saw at least 4 girls wearing vertical black-and-white striped pants that the fabulous Zosia Mamet (who plays Shoshana, in Girls) wore before.
I guess I will take all of this as my own social experiment on rejection therapy. Did you hear about the guy who has decided to put himself up for rejection by asking totally random things to people he meets? He does things like ask to borrow 100 USD from a stranger, or a flight attendant to give an announcement during a flight, or to get Donuts in the form of olympic rings, so that when he actually gets rejected in real life, it will not hurt that bad. It's an interesting concept. You can read about it here and here.
What about you, are you into fashion? Am I silly for even thinking I could stand a chance at this competition? (Of course I did not expect to win, I am sure our photos are not that good, we are still learning, but I just wanted to play...) Or maybe I should have not tried to pretend and sent something more spontaneously me. Like this. Oh and you can see the winners here.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Yesterday marked the beginning of a new year, the year of the Snake, according to the Chinese calendar. Something in me yearns for marking new beginnings and hopes for new energy, new life, new starts. Yesterday also marked the day when the boy first came to visit me in Barcelona, 5 years ago, and it's also the day when we got engaged (3 years ago). We wanted to celebrate.
We started by making each other our favorite breakfast (the boy made orange juice and raspberry toast for me, I made tea and an omelette sandwich for him). I dressed all in red (from
By accident, when we went to the Asian supermarket we found a graffittied snake in the parking lot, that I had never seen before even though we go to that same parking lot all the time. I love coincidences like this (I know it probably means my brain is more aware / perceptive to whatever it is I'm concentrating on at that moment). Today also marks my sister's first wedding anniversary. I hope, again, this year will bring joy, love, happiness and life to all of you. Did you do anything special?
Saturday, February 9, 2013
I just found out that today, 9 February 2012 is National Libraries Day (albeit in the UK). If you happen to be over there, you are in luck as there will be all kinds of activities organized for the occasion. I just thought I would use this day as an excuse to write about how much I love libraries, and how deeply I believe they should be fully public, by which I mean EVERYONE should have free access to them (are you listening, Dutch government?). If that means they have to be subsidized, so be it. The Queen already gave up the throne (I love that she is so modern and she seems such a nice person), so perhaps that will imply some cost savings? Like I said, how do you expect foreigners to learn the language if they can not have free books/ classes available? Access to books, to a great deal of them should be a human right. Is it Marcela? And let's not forget that when people stop asking questions, the grounds are ready for totalitarianships. Books are key in keeping our minds open, in making us wonder of other ways of thinking, in transporting us to far away places and unknown worlds without having to leave the place we are. There are so many reasons why I love books, but today I just want to advocate for free libaries.
*Image via Tea.Toast.Fashion.
Friday, February 8, 2013
Inspired by Michelle's ideas on closet organization, and after a long chat with Marcela I decided it was time to tackle the mess I had growing and flowing inside my closet. I have a million summer dresses (it might be my one fashion addiction. We can well be in the middle of the winter, all I want to get is more dresses). I have so many that they didn't fit, or so I thought. There they were, crammed and folded over each other, sometimes several in one hanger. In time for the Chinese New Year's spring cleaning I went to get some hangers and made sure every item of clothing was hanging in an orderly and attractive way. I also went all out and organized it by color.
If you take a look you can now see reds / oranges together, beiges / pinks in another section, greens / blues in the middle and (a few) darker colors. I also took this bag down from storage where I had all my scarves and purses and with the aid of this hanger from the Swedish warehouse (thanks for the tip Marcela), I have them now easily accesible and organized.
The Chinese tradition tells us that on the days immediately before the New Year (this year on February 10):
<< Chinese families give their home a thorough cleaning. There is a Cantonese saying "Wash away the dirt on ninyabaat" (年廿八，洗邋遢), but the practice is not restricted to nin'ya'baat (年廿八, the 28th day of month 12). It is believed the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the preceding year and makes their homes ready for good luck. Brooms and dust pans are put away on the first day so that the newly arrived good luck cannot be swept away. Some people give their homes, doors and window-frames a new coat of red paint; decorators and paper-hangers do a year-end rush of business prior to Chinese New Year. Homes are often decorated with paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases and couplets. Purchasing new clothing, shoes, and receiving a hair-cut also symbolize a fresh start. >>*
Coincidentally, I just decided to finally let go of 3 pairs of old boots and shoes, all completely worn out, and with holes in the soles (because I don't know how to walk), that I still loved dearly. And because I was left without "everyday" shoes I ordered a pair of Kickers, on sale too. I'll show them to you as soon as they arrive.
If you want to celebrate the Chinese New Year I can only recommend the lovely table decorations and easy to make treats suggested by our very own Celebration Girl.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
I stumbled upon this Oscar-nominated short film a few days ago and had wanted to share it with you ever since. So here it is. All the paper airplanes flying around, and the serendipituos, coincidental meetings made me think of the Spanish film "Los amantes del círculo polar" (The lovers of the Arctic Circle) by Julio Medem. All of his movies have a certain magic, that can be disturbing at times. Have you seen either? Both come highly recommended.
* The original video has been removed, I can only show you the trailer. For more information on the video go here to see and read Walt Disney has to say about it.
** Update : I just found out you can watch this film, along with the other 4 Oscar nominees for best short film at Slate, just click here.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
It snowed again! And probably, all you want to do is stay inside with a warm cup of tea and a book (great idea, too). But, inclement weather does not mean you have to be housebound. So... I have the perfect solution for you: visit a Museum. Jan van Eyck is one of my favorite painters, so when I heard the unique exposition at Boijman's museum in Rotterdam, "The road to Van Eyck" is reaching its end*, I knew I had to go. The exposition traces his steps back to the beginning showing an art-historical voyage of discovery that presents the only images we have of the Low Countries in the early Middle Ages, to show the art he was most probably exposed to during his lifetime, and ending with his work (c.1390-1441).
|The adoration of the Magi with St Anthony Abbot. c 1390 LA St. Paul Getty Museum|
He was a true revolutionary, and brought real life to his paintings. Up until then, the style of painting was very "flat" and did not really portray individuals. He had a strong interest in textures and relief: if you look closely at his paintings you will immediately see the detail in brocades, the pleats of fabric, the shine of metal, as well as facial expressions and peculiarities that show the traits of the person being portrayed. He was also a pioneer in the use of light, colors and perspective. His subjects appear tridimensional.
|To the right my favorite, The Arnolfini portrait. To see at The National Gallery in London.|
Talking about color, this was groundbreaking. He dared to paint the annunciation angel with a heavily bejewelled cape and technicolor rainbow wings. This provoked a huge debate at the time: it was thought that colors were the work of the devil, put there to seduce us, and make us sin, starting with that bright red apple in the garden of paradise. Jan van Eyck was telling us "enough with the punishment and the suffering, life is beautiful and can be enjoyed here, now, today".
|The Annunciation. Jan van Eyck. c. 1430-1435|
It was the very early Renaissance and ideas were starting to change. People discovered that you could have a craft, be good at it, take pleasure in it and recognize it was a good thing, hence the rise of merchants and commerce that would make the area very rich in the years to follow.
|Woman between her husband and lover c. 1550. (copy of an original c. 1410).|
|Book of hours of Etienne Chevalier. 1415, van Eyck's earlier work +"De madonna in de kerk", Berlin state museum.c. 1439|
If you go to the exposition, you will also get to see the collection of the Boijman's museum. There is a bit for everyone. Degas' ballerinas, Monet's, Kandinsky's, early Van Gogh's and my personal favorite: "La Jeunesse illustrée" by the surrealist René Magritte. Oh and you might even see giants, yes giants, walking around and having a cup of coffee.
*the last day to visit the exposition is February 10, so if you are in Holland you still have a chance to go. And if you do make it to Rotterdam, you might as well stay for the China light festival, the biggest of its kind in all Europe (which will be there until February 14).
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
3015 CX Rotterdam, the Netherlands