Monday, May 30, 2011

What makes me tick

For the past two weeks, I've neglected blogging a bit for all of my energy is directed towards my bachelor thesis. I haven't talked about it yet on my blog, I believe I have mentioned it in comments on some of the blogs I follow that I am researching honour cultures and the penal system of the early medieval England.
My thesis focuses on the written laws of Anglo -Saxon kings called dooms. Every time I start explaining just why on Earth I chose such an obscure theme for my thesis I am met with mild bewilderment and polite curiosity.
The truth is, I've always been interested in history, particularly the medieval period. But not the romanticized and distorted version of the modern views of popular culture: King Arthur, The legend of the Holy Grail comes to mind instantly.
Instead I'm interested in immersing myself in the culture and social norms of the period I'm researching. I try to understand what motivated these people to behave as they did. What did they value and respect?
In honour cultures, no surprise here: it was honor. The highest value of all, more precious than life itself. Coming from today's society this is a shocking discovery. How can someone value their honour more than their life. And not just in heroic epic tales, but in actual real mundane life. People were perfectly willing to die for a trivial matter.
I give you an excerpt from an author I have come to respect immensely and who is far more versed in the intricate art of writing:

Honor was what provided the basis for counting for something, for you being listened to, for having people have second thoughts before taking your land or raping you or your daughter. It even governed how you spoke, how loudly, how often, and to whom and when, and whether you were attended to when you did; it governed how you held your shoulders, how tall you stood - literally, not figuratively - and how long you could look at someone or even dare to look at him at all.

William Ian Miller, Eye for an Eye

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday night film selection: Charlie Wilson's war

A political satire about a clueless congressman of questionable morals who 'singlehandedly' helps the Afghan resistance fight and succeed in the defeating the Russian invading forces in Afghanistan.

First of all: the film is based on actual historical events and characters. The principal characters in the story have been somewhat altered to fit in the profile of the All American heroes. And although this movies has been labeled as comedy/drama type, I feel a satire is more appropriate. It depicts brilliant the American foreign policy of shoot first, shoot some more and if anyone is left alive try and make some sense of the whole thing.
As history has come to teach us over and over again, Afghanistan was not an isolated incident. And what the American government basically did back in 1980 is to supply weapons to the same regime (the Talibans) that they are now trying to thwart.

Hemming pants

So, the jumpsuit is all finished. With a big help from Mr. C :-) who attached all the snaps. With such a sturdy material as this denim, it does take a lot of strength to punch holes through!

As promised, today I'm going to show you a little trick for hemming pants. The problem with hemline is that a certain hemline is suited for either flats or high heel shoes but rarely both. Ideally, we'd have each pair of pants hemmed for a specific pair of shoes. Frankly I don't have the storage capacity or the desire for such a large collection of pants.

With pants I know I'll wear with different shoes, usually jeans, since I always wear dress pants with a 5 cm heel, I adapt the hemline in the following manner:

First I line the seams together on each pant leg;

Then I take my french curve and draw a smooth line from the beginning of the seam to the center back of the pant leg.

As you can see it ends up looking like a nice soft curve. I know it might look strange, but it does make for a nice effect. The reason for making a curved hem on the back is to accommodate for wearing flat shoes without dragging the pants on the floor. I've seen many women do this and it's hideous. Frayed hemlines, wrinkled and dirty pants. Eeek!

I finished the raw hem with a bias binding, turned it inside and finished the hem with a basic straight stitch. Because this material is non stretch, I had a bit of difficulties sewing the curve without the fabric puckering. A fabric with a bit of elastane is much easier to work with.

And finally this is how it looks like. Please excuse the rather bad photos, it's difficult to get an accurate shot in the mirror.
In the first photo I'm wearing flip flops and the front of the hem sits nicely on my foot while the back of the hem won't drag on the floor.

This time I'm wearing my wedges with a 10 cm heel and as you can see the hem line is works well with these shoes too.

And that's that. Some people might find my method a bit weird, but personally I like the effect of the curved hemline and it definitely makes for one versatile pair of pants.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DIY and leftovers/ 5 bracelet

This bracelet was made by Mr. C. The knot is called a snake knot and if you look closely it does resemble a snake a little bit. Mr. C has got tons of string remnats from previous projects. They're always useful for trying new techniques as was the case with these remnants. But the first attempt turned out so well that I requested (more like whined and batted my eyelashes) that he make a bracelet for me. And he did!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happiness comes in a box: Lens container

We all know them: the little trinkets that cost next to nothing but they make us incredibly happy. Whether it's because they fulfill a certain purpose in our household or are there simply for their intrinsic beauty.

This little fella holds my contact lenses. If you look closely it appears that he is holding a pair of binoculars that expand into two dishes for storing the lenses. Every morning as I open my medicine cabinet, there he is and I can't help but smile.

For those interested, this design is made by a German company Koziol.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Have jumpsuit, will wear it!

This past week I've sewn myself a denim jumpsuit. I've been dying to have one of these highly controversial clothing items for ages. But age and weight issues aside, I am determined to wear it. It's actually surprisingly comfortable and it doesn't look half bad.
I hope you all noticed my sewing assistant in the photo above ;-)

The pattern was downloaded from avantages, a French magazine. They have quite a few free patterns if anyone is interested. However keep in mind the instructions are in French!

The pattern was designed for light fabrics such as chiffon, adapting it to be suitable for heavy non stretch denim took a bit of alterations. So I made darts in front and the back and made a fly opening to the pant pattern piece. I also fiddled with the neckline and arm holes to get a nice fit without gaping.
I added back pockets as well.

Front pocket lining is made of a nice lilac linen leftover.

I used binding on the seam allowance connecting the top and bottom pattern piece, it would be better to use a flat felled seam, but Ferdi can't manage it on such heavy fabric.
In the next few days I'll attach snaps and hem the pants. Check back, because I'll share a little pant hemming technique.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The swimsuit edition

I know we've really hit the height of spring when the road side billboards are covered with swimming suit adds next to cellulite cream adds. This officially marks the beginning of the swimsuit season. And all of a sudden, women everywhere are in a state of absolute frenzy. Everyone is either on a diet, enrolled in a fitness or spa with one goal in mind: to fit into a bikini and look slim, tanned and cellulite free.

And then comes the dreaded shopping for a swimsuit. I too hate shopping for this notorious piece of clothing, for quite different reasons. Nothing ever fits. The bottoms do, but the tops are always too small or excruciatingly uncomfortable. And anything made for large cups is dowdy or just plain ugly. So this year I made my own bikini. I assure you this is the largest triangle bra you've ever seen. But hey, it fits and it's comfortable. I also made a nice wide band for extra comfort and support.
I also bought a cellulite cream.
Do you plan to get in shape for the coming summer season? How about shopping for swimsuit, does it cause you anxiety?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday night film selection: The Fountain

I've been a fan of Darren Aronofsky long before this year's mass hysteria of the Black Swan and The Wrestler the year before. I admire his unique style and vision. He manages to leave his distinct mark on every piece he's directed, much like Tim Burton or David Lynch.
So The Fountain. This movie is like a Pollock painting, it's not meant to be understood but rather experienced for it's intricate beauty. The story is non linear and spans over a thousand years as we witness three different incarnations of the same two people. In each of the scenarios Thomas or Tommy tries to save the woman he loves from dying, only to discover in the end that it is she that rescues him from the ultimate demise.
A story that addresses profound existential questions such as life, death, love and the meaning of our life on this planet.

This time, instead of a clip from the movie, an interview with Hugh Jackman, who plays the lead.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My obsessions with...animal shaped pins

I hope by now you all know me well enough to render any elaborate explanation unnecessary. Yes, I love animal shaped pins and I wear them on my caps, handbags, sweaters but mostly on outerwear such as coats and jackets.

If you enlarge the top picture you'll see two cats named Rufus and Loti. Rufus you know by now and Loti is my mum's cat. A very shy and anti-social female cat, very pretty but hard to photograph because she vanishes the moment I come to visit.

This cat pin was a gift from a dear friend and is the work of a Slovene designer who makes adorable bags and accessories. If anyone is interested, here's a link to the on-line store: Fensismensi

This one was made by Mr. C. It's a butterfly made in Chinese knotting technique.

Mrs Froggy and Mr Froggy. You've already seen Mr. Froggy, he belongs to Mr. C. We both wear them on our spring jackets so the chances of us walking together wearing them at the same time is pretty high. And we do get our share of side way glances for it, too.

This one is a replica of a Roman fibula, made in sterling silver. The original was found while excavating ancient Roman settlements in Slovenia and is on display in the Museum of Celje.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The copyright rant

One of the more useful blogger features is the Stats tool bar. I use it regularly to see how many hits I get from different countries and to see which posts are most popular. When I checked the stats this afternoon, I was none to pleased about it: for I noticed a curious web page. Once I clicked the link I was redirected to a suspicious looking site that was selling something or other, dog tuxedos I think it was. The furious bit: they stole the text from some of my blog posts. And by stealing I mean literally copy-pasting the text without crediting me.
I tried not to be too upset about it but truth be told I am rattled by the whole experience. I know my blog has a curious name: cat's pajamas, dog's tuxedos, and I did get a disturbing comment on my blog once, a blatant self promoting link from a tuxedos selling company from the Philippines ingeniously entitled "American Tuxedos." As my readers know well, I am not in the pet apparel business! But while I can control what gets published on my blog, I can't control this immoral ruthless people stealing the contents of my posts.
I did change the password of my google account and plan to do so regularly. I also wrote a stern e-mail demanding the stolen contents be deleted from their web page.
Has anything similar ever happened to you, dear readers?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blogger meltdown

It was strangely weird not to be able to log in my blogger account these past few days. I confess my morning routine was all out of whack. I've grown accustomed to have my morning coffee while going through the news and post from bloggers I follow.
Unable to post regularly also made me slightly nervous, this is the second time I skipped Friday movie post. But I am adamant not to take this blogging business too seriously. Since Saturday is always the busiest day of the week for me household chores wise, this is just a quick hello to the blogosphere post while I rush to get all the ironing done.
Happy weekend to everyone.

The zebra was photographed at the ZOO in September 2009.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My life, right now.

This post is reminder to everyone, mostly to myself that life is sometimes messy and all jumbled up. No matter how hard I try to compartmentalize it, it still all mixed up, the good with the bad, the happy with the sad:

On Saturday our washing machine broke down. There was a loud bang and a bit of smoke and that was it. Yesterday the repair man came and told us that it can be repaired but quite frankly it isn't worth it because the electronic component was literally fried. Replacing it is costly and there is no guarantee that the machine will work properly afterwards. Luckily we have another washing machine in storage (long story) so we'll simply replace the old one. What pains me most is that this was a combined washer/drier machine that's absolutely indispensable in a small apartment.

On Sunday Mr. C and I went to visit a cousin of mine I haven't seen in ages. We had a lovely long chat and I was happy to reconnect with him and his family. They also returned a book collection of mine, his daughter was keen to read. It's The Famous Five saga by Enid Blyton. These books remind me of some of the fondest childhood memories. And are precious to me because I honed my reading abilities with these books.

As I was clearing the books from a cardboard box in which they came, Rufus decided he really liked the box and found it the perfect place to pee in! Yes, he peed in the box, luckily all the books were on the shelf by then and quite safe. Unfortunately the box was on the bed at the time and cardboard as we all know isn't water proof...

So I had to get rid of the box, change the bed linen and shower the cat because he managed to pee all over himself as well! So today I'm stuck with a pile of dirty laundry and a sulking cat. His bed privileges have been rescinded as well as the customary back rub before bed time.

This morning I'm back on track: I did my morning run, it's the third time this year and I manage to run farther and faster every time. After I got back I had just the thing for breakfast: fruit salad.

Also, meet my new alarm clock. I've been without one for 4 years now waiting for just the perfect one to come along.

And there you have it. Life is far from perfect, there will always be that something, that isn't going according to plan. Relax.. Breathe... Keep on moving...
I wore my old, worn out running shoes today without realizing it. And I did just fine :-)

Making (faux) gnocchi

Gnocchi are traditional Italian dumplings made out of a very difficult, time consuming potato dough. It involves cooking potatoes and then peeling and grating scorching hot potatoes by hand. I avoid all that drama and use a packet of dry mashed potatoes mix. The traditionalist may be outraged, but I assure you the gnocchi are equally good and nobody will notice the difference.

I start by putting the mashed potatoes mix and a half of teaspoon of salt into the mixer and then prepare the mashed potatoes according to the instruction on the packet. Basically pouring boiling water and hot milk and stir well.

Then I add one large egg and 250 grams of cottage cheese. The cottage cheese is optional or can be substituted with ricotta or mascarpone.

Then I let the mixer do the work. After the egg and cottage cheese are completely blended in, I slowly start adding flour. I never measure the amount of flour, but rather add as I go along, until I get the desired dough consistency.

I reckon I use about 750 grams of coarse ground wheat flour.

I dust my cutting boards with flour. This is where I place my gnocchi to be frozen. Some people only make enough dough for one portion and they cook them immediately. That's fine too, but I can't really spare the time to make fresh gnocchi every time. Besides they freeze wonderfully and are excellent to have at hand for emergencies a.k.a. unannounced guests.

After the dough is mixed I take it out of the mixer on a flour coated counter and proceed to knead it by hand. Here comes the artistic bit of the gnocchi making process: After the dough is kneaded all that remains is to make little dumplings by shaping them into little balls. This is the most time consuming part of the process.

And ta-da! There they are. I used some whole wheat flour for this batch as well as coarse wheat flour. If there existed a gnocchi beauty pageant I'm sure mine wouldn't win any prizes but I assure you that after they are cooked and served with a delicious sauce, their appearance is the last thing people comment on.

After they've been in the freezer long enough to harden, about 2 hours, I transfer them to a zip lock bag and put them back in the freezer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The contents of my makeup bag

After showing you what's in my handbag I suppose it's time to reveal the 'mysteries' my makeup bag holds.
Truth be told, I kind of dislike wearing makeup. I don't mind applying it, it's the removing bit that irritates the c*! out of me and my skin. It took me a long, long time to walk straight past the makeup isle at my favourite drug store. There was a time I couldn't resist buying all those fancy shiny containers of rouge and blush and whatnot only to spend a fortune on something I never used.
Over the years my makeup routine has scaled back to bare essentials you see in this picture. If I were packing to go on holiday, this is the full extent of my makeup requirements: light coverage compact powder, mascara, eye pencil, eye shade, gloss, lip balm and one lip stick thrown in for good measure. And of course a quality eye makeup remover.

As you can see from the photo I practically never use the turquoise shade but the gold one has almost been used up. I've come to realize that the most important part of my routine involves a high quality mascara, eye makeup remover and a nice soft big brush to apply blush powder.
What is your makeup routine, dear readers? Do you keep it small and fuss free like me or do you prefer a makeup with more impact? I'd also love to hear what your brands are and the one makeup product you consider most important.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A perfect day

At the risk of sounding like a MasterCard commercial I will claim the following: priceless experience doesn't cost the Earth. In fact for a measly sum of 10€ you can get the experience of a lifetime. That's exactly how much the trip to Zbilje cost including gas fare, renting the boat for an hour and some bird seed. But this is all insignificant compared to the fact, that I got to see these magnificent swans so up close.

Mr. C and I really love to come here as often as possible to do a bit of rowing but most importantly to see the swans. These birds aren't stupid, they can see from a great distance where people are throwing seeds in the water and flock to the location.

Zbilje Lake is a popular location on a sunny day with every poseur in town stretching on a deck chair sipping macchiato. Flashy sunglasses are a must. The bigger the logo the better.

Mr C. and I are usually the only one to walk straight past the cafe to the boat house. But once people realize rowing is on the menu we'll inevitably see more people renting boats. At times like this I don't have anything encouraging to say about Slovenes, it's like we are a nation devoid of any original thought. What a sad prospect!

This last photo shows a couple of geese. We saw them just as we were leaving the lake and the photo is taken from a considerable distance. I'm not an ornithologist, but I do believe this was a rare sighting. These birds are definitely not indigenous to our area.