art journal

Art and memes

First two memes and then what I have been up--er, what I am going to get up to--on the art front.
First from pjthompson, The Corner.  Here is the corner of our desk, which as you can see, the corner is pretty much the desk. This set up is not conducive to writing.  That, dear friends, is one of the reasons I have not gotten any words of late.  Things must change. The mouse and keyboard are on a cajón at slightly-below-knee level. :P

Then a book meme from green_knight:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Turn to page 121.
3. The 2nd sentence is your life in 2021.

From Riverworld and Other Stories, which I have permanently-shelved but left lying on the sunduk until I can be bothered to put it back in the library:

I'll denounce him to the whole world, and the Last Days will've started.

The Last Days...yeah, feels a bit like that to me.
Nero fiddled while Rome burned.  I decided to paint.  I need to get some practice in with learn how to use my gouache, so I decided to use a book of design patterns as inspiration.
Here is a Persian rug motif and my rendering on black mixed media paper:

Not too happy with the colors, but as a first try, it will have to do.  The original image is quite tiny (the main flower being the size of my thumbnail), and I painted it last night by kitchen light.  Therefore, I only saw after photographing it and enlarging it for the post that the pattern on the petalss was much less organic than I made it.  Paint and learn. :P
wayfaring wordhack


With one car in need of repairs, snow outside, and the cozy-indoors or close-to-home lifestyle that can induce, we have been voyaging in other ways these past few days.
First of all with food.

I don't know if I have shared a recipe for Poulet Coco (coconut chicken) from Mayotte before, but I made it last night and thought I would share the culinary love.  Hang tight for a "how to" and not ultra-precise measurements:

If you are not pressed for time, cut up your chicken, salt and pepper it and sprinkle with turmeric powder, then marinate it in the juice of one lemon for an hour.  I usually do not do this step and add my spices and lemon juice later.  Regarding what kind of cuts you use, that is up to you.  I do the whole bird; you can do thighs and drumsticks or just breasts. Cooking time will vary according to your choice.

Brown the chicken in a bit of oil.  After browning, remove it to a plate and sauté one diced onion, when translucent add a few cloves of garlic.  Add about four fresh diced tomatoes or a can of whole/diced tomatoes, and a bell pepper cut in strips (I often leave out the bell pepper just because I don't always have them on hand and ate plenty Poulet Coco dishes in Mayotte without).  Return chicken to pot.  Now, if you can, grate your own fresh coconut and make the milk from it, using about 2 cups/480 ml.  My next choice is to make my own coconut milk with 1 cup dried shredded coconut  (NOT THE SWEETENED kind) and 2cups/480 ml of water, which I blend in my Vitamix and then strain (doesn't have to be through a nut bag).  If you can't do either of those things, use a can of coconut milk plus a cup of water.  Season with about 1tsp of tumeric, salt, pepper, a bit of thyme, and parsley.  Cook until sauce has reduced a bit and chicken is tender. Stir in the juice of a lime or lemon, and serve over rice.  I also made a basic rougail to go with it (dice 4 tomatoes--used dried, see below, finely slice one small onion, either finely mince a nub of ginger and one small chile or use a mortar and pestle to make them into a paste.  Stir all ingredients together, add the juice of one lime and salt to taste.)

Today, I made Egyptian Ful Medames, with some distinctly seasonal compromises.  I made dried tomatoes this summer and preserved them in oil, so those stood in for fresh tomatoes, and ditto for some dehydrated cucumbers.  I also made this quick Yoghurt Flatbread (soooo good!) to go with it. However, next time I will add a touch more salt and will have to fiddle with the amount of yoghurt (I had fromage blanc on hand) because the dough was excessively sticky and hard to work with. The resulting flatbreads were incredibly pliable and had a very nice texture for a yeast-less bread.

phone photo:

And OY!  I just realized I forgot to serve it with tahini.   Ah well, just reason enough to make it again.

And my elsewhere finale is the movie Padmaavat.  Epic, gorgeous, lush cinematography.  The landscapes, architecture and costuming were to die for.  The movie apparently (I was not privvy to this before watching, having never heard of it before stumbling across the eye-catching theatrical release poster) caused a lot of protest for various stereotypes, which I understand, one plot element being telegraphed by the disclaimer before the opening credits.  But like I said, gorgeous.  Not being a Hindi speaker, I watched a subtitled version, so I am sure there were plenty of things lost in translation.  As a Westerner, one thing I loved watching was way the male actors express their virility, like the dancing, that are foreign to the cultures I have frequented.

critters: egret fishing

New Year's Day visitors of the feathered kind

Sadly, my super macro lens is having technical difficulties, which prevented me from getting good photos of our feathered visitors.  I had to content myself with photographing the birds through the kitchen window and front door window, respectively, zoomed in to the max.

Rougegorge (English Robin) :



Mésange Charbonnière (Great Tit) :


Mésange bleue (Eurasian blue tit) :


Sitelle Torchepot (Eurasian nuthatch or wood nuthatch) :


We usually have skads of tits at this time of the year, but so far they are rare and sparrows are our most common visitors to the birdfeeders. :-/

christmas - machu picchu

A New Year's Beginnings

Neither J nor I have ever been big News Year's Eve celebrators, so it is rare that we do anything special.  On NYE, J was in bed by 22h00, but the kids were still awake and excited.  We went up to their room and read lots of stories, and Ti'Loup longingly expressed a wish to set off fireworks (prompted by Bobby's 5th birthday with his Grandpa Bob in the book Now One Foot, Now the Other. by Tomie dePaola).  "We have sparklers," I said.  "This is a special occasion; let's use them."*  Which, as you can imagine, was met with great enthusiasm.  Except by J, who did not want to get out of bed to come sparkle in the New Year with us.  :P  The kids danced in the snow in front of the house with their sparklers, then we went to the cross that is set up at the entrance to our hamlet and said a prayer for the New Year.  We are blessed to be alive, to be together, to be healthy, to have shelter, to have grace:

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* I have never found sparklers for sale in France (OK, I haven't looked super hard), so I have hoarded these from Egypt.
** A silver lining to losing old friends is that, by moving along, we have made new friends
*** For those who don't know, Farmer Boy was born with a squint.  He had surgery a couple of years ago, but he still needs to wear a patch 3hrs/day on his right eye to make the left one work more.
art: christmas quail

First Snow

 A few outdoor photos to take my mind off the pain of impending infection blow-up.*

The potager is sleeping, but we have food out for our garden bird helpers:

The pond's first winter:

Lunaria (Honesty) pods:

Aren't those spindle berries gorgeous?

Deck the halls, or the hedges:

* Yeah I think Dentist Optimist did not call it, and I will probably end up having to go on antibiotics to kick the infection.
Sprout: !!!

The Saga of Molar 47, "The End" End?

Today, I had molar 47 pulled, after almost a year of battling with it, which involved 4 rounds of antibiots and a root canal.  On Saturday, the tooth broke, leaving the dentist no choice but to pull it.  May I say that the sound of break teeth is a very awful sound?  And the repeated sound of breaking teeth is more awful still.  I did not appreciate it in the least. :P  It turns out, the tooth was infected again.  Which leaves me fearful, but I still will proclaim:

I hope this is The End end of Molar 47.
wayfaring wordhack

An addendum to my previous post

My post about the song in support of parents' right to decide on their children's education is a bit long, so I did not want to add to it.  However, I was thinking about how one nation's problems seem foreign, unimportant, and impossible to address to citizens of other countries.  Especially when each of us is already under some kind of "home country" stress, more true now than ever with elections, social injustice, corruption, a virus that has shut down the world*...

Yet, haven't many horrific situations in history started in just such a way?  A blind-eye to misgovernment here, a tiny revocation of freedom there, little by little habituating people to give up without a fight? To keep our eyes on our own problems so that we cannot be bothered to help others?  For my part, I hate talking about politics.  You can count on one hand--and maybe not use all of your fingers--the posts I have made in the almost-15 years I have been blogging.  And even writing this now, I have the feeling that I am bothering people, will be taken as a fanatic.  But I realize that my head-in-the-sand approach is part of the problem. :(
In France, education was obligatory for children 6 to 16 until a year and a half ago.  Not school:  education.  However, ask the general public and they will tell you it is school that is mandatory because that is the way the media presents "back to school" every year on TV and in the papers: "L'école est obligatiore de 6 à 16 ans" and no one corrects them.  Then the government lowered the obligatory age to 3. I told our inspector I thought it was a bad idea, but I didn't protest. I didn't contact our government representatives...

Little by little, freedom by freedom.

Now this new law is attempting to make school and not education obligatory.  So, children, three years old, are going to be forced to pass the majority of their day in a school whether the children or parents want it or not.  If your three-year-old is not ready for school, it doesn't matter.  There are already so many problems in schools that need to be addressed, and now they want to add to the load of poor teachers who are already overworked in schools that are over-populated. (A sad corollary to this is that there is plenty of room in rural schools and yet the government makes it hard for people to live in the country, preferring to have everyone in easier-to-control/observe cities.)

So twice in November, I went to protests, and J and our kids were able to go to the last one.  We might not be heard, but it won't be because we didn't lift our voices.

My sign, recto-verso:

"Shhh, Papa State knows better than you"

"Liberty, Egality, Fraternity" (with word plays on "gale - bad person" and "ternité = dull, lusterless"

And our three kiddos (not the girl on the right).  Farmer Boy's sign insists that "school in nature is better than school inside"; Sprout says she wants to be free; and Ti'Loup went with I.E.F. (instruction en famille)

J's use of Nietzsche's quote; "(Macron), beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster"
The other side of his sign said, "My school doesn't have walls"
* These thoughts were prompted by a question from queenoftheskies who asked if kids are going to school here.  The answer is, now, yes.  However, in the spring, the government sent all of them home; families had to adapt, and guess what?  Many of them loved it, loved connecting with their kids and helping with their learning.  So the number of families who decided to home-school for this school year skyrocketed, which, as you probably guessed, caused a panic in the national educational system.  So now, we are in our second lockdown but kids are required to go to school, despite the fact that teachers cannot keep them safe, meaning the families are not safe either.  On the one hand, they shut down all sorts of services, small shops, restaurants, etc. but primary schools, enormous vectors of illness, are still up and running.

Our Right - "Nos Enfants"

As you may or may not know, our children are "unschooled," a type of home-schooling that, simply put, does not follow a pre-decided curriculum based on what legislators or business people deem necessary for their development according to a pre-determined timetable.

The French president is currently trying to push through a law that takes away parents' right* to decide what type of education their children receive. He has made an unfortunate and shocking amalgam between Islamist radicals and parents who chose to assume the responsibility of educating their own children. He claims that by forcing all children into school, terrorism will be eradicated. I will not go into the fallacies of his argument but will point out two things: One, all known terrorists who have committed crimes in France have been school-educated either in France or abroad. Two, we are already required by law to declare our decision each year to both our mayor and the National Education system and are controlled by certified inspectors. Those not interested in following existent laws are not going to do so in the future either.

One mother and song artist Sasha Bogdanoff has recorded a song, which I would very much love for you to take time to listen to. Yes, it is in French, so this is a pretty blatant request just to click through even if you don't speak the language in order to increase the visibility of the song.

I will now do my best to provide an English translation of the lyrics. Keep in mind that if "Traduttore, traditore" is true in a general sense, it is doubly applicable where music and poetry are concerned. :P I have tried to leave phrases that have an understandable English equivalent. I apologize in advance to Ms. Bogdanoff, but her work is too beautiful not to share.

"Our Children"
I don't have the words, I don't have the forms
I don't have the contours of the decor
To express myself, free myself
To tell you to take a hike

And if tomorrow, you take away
My liberty to accompany
And if tomorrow, you steal
my lawful right to decide

Know, sir, that you're taking the wrong route
We are many who have no doubt
Our children, they are not made of wax
And our right is to teach them

On a boat, on a bike,
Under apple trees, in a museum
Early in the morning, or late
On horseback under tall trees

In my arms, reclining there
We think, we play at living
We find the rhythm, we improvise,
We organize our school of life

Know, sir, that you're taking the wrong route
We are many who have no doubt
Our children, they are not made of wax
And our right is to teach them

Know, sir, that you're taking the wrong route
We are many who have no doubt
Our children, they have learned to read
Between the lines of the Republic... the Republic.

The French lyrics to "Nos Enfants" de Sasha Bogdanoff:

Je n’ai pas les mots, je n’ai pas les formes,
Je n’ai pas les contours du décor.
Pour m’exprimer, me libérer,
Pour vous envoyer balader.
Et si demain, vous me preniez
Ma liberté de l’accompagner
Et si demain, vous me voliez
Mon droit premier, de décider.
Sachez Monsieur que vous faites fausse route,
Nous sommes nombreux à n’avoir point de doutes.
Nos enfants eux, ne sont pas faits de cire,
Et notre droit est celui de les instruire.
Sur un bateau, sur un vélo,
Sous les pommiers, dans un musée,
Le matin tôt, ou en retard,
Ou à cheval, sous les grands arbres,
Entre mes bras, allongés là,
On réfléchit, on joue à vivre,
On trouve le rythme, on improvise,
On organise l’école de notre vie.
Sachez Monsieur que vous faites fausse route,
Nous sommes nombreux à n’avoir point de doutes.
Nos enfants eux, ne sont pas faits de cire,
Et notre droit est celui de les instruire.
Sachez Monsieur que vous faites fausse route,
Nous sommes nombreux à n’avoir point de doutes.
Nos enfants eux, ont bien appris à lire,
Entre les lignes de la République.
*Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights