Save France from deep-sea bottom trawling

Yesterday, one of my favorite comic book artists posted a great piece about upcoming legislation concerning deep-sea trawling in the European Union. Her witty piece brings to light a very important case of government subsidies going to a destructive and unprofitable industry.

You can visit Pénélope Bagieu’s site today to learn more about the impact of deep-sea trawling in the EU.

Even if you’re not so environmental, she has a lot of funny comics about everyday life. Take a look!


Saving money on fashion and makeup

advertising-188993_640A few months ago, I walked into a store specializing in makeup to ask about their options for replacing my current foundation which was a little too dark and didn’t offer enough coverage. A pleasant woman in her mid-twenties, who seemed to be advertising the store’s entire makeup line on her face led me to a product that she swore was just right for me. She proceeded to apply said product and then show me just how wonderful it was under the store’s carefully engineered spotlights. A few minutes later, I was outside and happened to see myself in the reflection of a store front window. There was a lovely orange line running down my jaw line from this so-called perfect makeup.

Sound familiar? Becoming a fashion/beauty victim is a sure way to significantly lighten your wallet. Often, advertisements and salespeople play on fears that if a women doesn’t buy this or that then she doesn’t care or doesn’t want to be pretty (how about doesn’t have the money, hein?). How many of us have pimples only because we are too lazy or cheap to buy the right cream?

To save money in Toulouse, I’ve discovered a few simple ways to shop for makeup and clothing without breaking the bank. While these techniques might not work for everyone, I hope that they will remind you that other women struggle with budgeting in beauty as well and that you’re not alone if you can’t afford to buy luxury skin care products.

The techniques:

1. Buy organic/bio makeup
Since makeup is already rather expensive, the extra cost for organic ingredients often represents a small mark-up or none at all compared to drug and department store brands. For example, Lily Lolo is a really nice organic English brand that I order online for the same price or less than non-organic drug store brands.

I buy most of my products from Ecco Verde, an Italian organic makeup website, which ships around the world. This keeps me out of the stores and focused on the products I really need (need being a relative term here). Note: I am in no way paid/free-sampled by Ecco Verde.

2. Shop seasonally
Unless something that I really need rips or gets stained, I buy clothes two times a year: the after-Christmas sales and the end of summer sales. In France, this are the only two periods when stores can legally put items on sale. Sometimes they get away with special promotions, but the real sales are only twice a year.

During this time, I stock up on the things that I really need. Are my t-shirts getting funky? Are my shoes holey after a year on cobblestone streets? Can I see through my socks?

Having limits on my shopping helps me to appreciate what’s already in my closet more and leads to a delightful anticipation of the biannual sales in France.

3. Buy USA
But isn’t Paris the city of fashion? Yes, if you’re pulling down about 90,000 euros a year. A lot of more affordable French fashion is made in China or the Middle East and is of very poor quality (think cheapy strip mall stores). I’m not saying that you can’t find reasonably nice clothes here, but they cost a lot more than in the US. Most people (in my social sphere) in France consider Levis like a luxury brand.

Stores like Marshalls, Ross and TJ Maxx allow Americans to buy high quality clothing at relatively low prices. Those don’t exist here, so for the same price, you are looking at Tati, which is comparable to K’mart. Clothes and luxury items are much cheaper in the USA, so take advantage of it!

Well, there you go, a few pointers on how to save centimes on your fashion and makeup budget. Don’t hesitate to share your own advice on how to save money as well.

Until next time, au revoir.

French Thanksgiving Pumpkin Piepocalypse 2013

Very cute pie pumpkins from the Biocoop in Toulouse.

Very cute pie pumpkins from the Biocoop in Toulouse.

If you’re spending Thanksgiving in Europe this year, be prepared to spend a little extra time cooking the pumpkin that used to come out of a can marked Libby’s over in the States. Since my coworkers love pumpkin pie, I’ve spent the day cooking pies and pumpkin for tomorrow’s celebration of my recent marriage (pot de marriage).

I burnt three pie crusts by trying to do dishes and pre-cook the crusts at the same time. Then in a fury, I whipped together a series of pie crusts made with the only thing left in my cupboard – buckwheat flour, all while trying not to burn the pies already in the oven.

While I don’t recommend that you try to make a bunch of last minute pies for your office party with pantry leftovers, fresh pumpkin pie is a great way to celebrate your American heritage while away from the States. Here’s my favorite internet pie recipe:

However, the problem is that it’s all in American units with some ingredients that are hard or impossible to get over here. So, for your cooking pleasure, in French units with the translated names of each ingredient:

Slightly-tipsy French Pumpkin Tart

50 cl roasted pumpkin or other orange fleshed winter squash (citrouille or potiron).
3 large eggs (oeufs, that one was easy).
150 g red sugar (sucre roux) – get the stickiest one you find, may not be available in all stores. Cassonade will work in a pinch, but has less flavor.
25 cl liquid cream (crème fluide) – usually next to the crème fraîche.
2 soup spoons scotch whisky – Bourbon is expensive here and I don’t drink enough for this to be worth it. And when I say soup spoon, I mean the actual spoon you eat soup with.
1 soup spoon vanilla extract or 2 packets of vanilla sugar which is easier to find in France.
Pinch of salt.
Molasses (mélasse) – impossible to find, omit. Sorry, Holly Herrick, I failed.
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (canelle). As with soup spoon, I mean the spoon you use to stir the sugar in your coffee or tea.
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (gingembre).
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (clous de girofle).
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (noix de muscade).
1 blasphemous pre-prepared pie crust (pâte brisée or sablée). If you’re a little more motivated you can try making a pâte brisée and replacing half the flour with buckwheat (sarrasin) flour, which gives it a bit more flavor.

Mmm, pie.

Mmm, pie.

The full instructions for how to make the Holly Herrick recipe are on the Charleston Chow website. If you’re in a hurry, mix the pumpkin and liquid ingredients with an immersion blender until smooth and then add the sugar and spices, taking care to sprinkle the spices evenly over the mixture before another whirl with the blender. Then pour the mixture into the pie crust which has been lightly precooked (about 5-7 minutes).

Now that my fingers are all burnt and the work’s done, I’ll be off to bed soon. The hubby is on dish duty tonight.

Till next time, bonne nuit.

After the party food : le cake au jambon et olives de Marion

Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner, which means it won’t be long until your in-laws invade, leaving a trail of leftovers and havoc in their wake. A close friend of my husband’s gave him this easy-to-make recipe which will help you to take care of some of those 40 pounds of spiral-cut ham ripening in your refrigerator. This simple dish can also be served cut into bite-sized pieces as an hors d’oeuvre at holiday parties. I’ve conveniently translated the recipe into American units, but please let me know if you have any recommendations, since I’ve never tested the converted version.

A small note on the meaning of cake in French: a ‘cake’ is typically not sweet in France and corresponds to what Anglo-Saxons would call a loaf.

Ingredients :

4 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup white wine (use the already open stuff in the fridge)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
4 large slices of ham cut into cubes
1 large can pitted green olives
Large handful of shredded cheddar or gruyere

4 œufs
250g farine
1 verre vin blanc
1 verre huile d’olive
1 paquet de levure chimique
1 paquet de dès de jambon
200 g olives vertes dénoyautées
Poignée généreuse d’emmental
Une pincée sel et poivre

1)      Mix together oil, eggs and white wine.
2)      Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a separate bowl.
3)      Add dry and wet ingredients together along with the olives, ham and cheese. Mix.
4)      Pour the batter into a buttered and floured cake or tart dish (around 8-10 in round). Sprinkle the top with shredded cheese.
5)      Bake at 150°C/300°F for 30-40 minutes or until golden and toothpick comes out clean.

Our tiny tiny oven.

Our tiny tiny oven.

I hope you enjoy this recipe which is a classic of French parties (holiday or not). Let me know how it works out for you!

Si vous souhaitez les indications en Français, laissez un commentaire =).

Palme d’or movie review: Blue is the warmest color

Photo : le bleu est une couleur chaude appartient à Julie Maroh et Glénat.

Le bleu est une couleur chaude de Julie Maroh.

The palme d’or 2013 has been the subject of numerous rave reviews, disappointments and scandals since its crowning at the Cannes film festival. Some critics have touted this film as the ultimate in female liberation and realist cinema, while others have critiqued the cold, masculine nature of the rather long and now rather famous erotic scenes. Last weekend, I went to go see La vie d’adèle with my neighbors to have a look for myself.

In the first few scenes we see some really up close shots of Adèle’s (Adèle Exarchopoulos) day-to-day life : cramming pasta into her face, drooling as she sleeps, going to her French classes (she’s French so that’s like our English classes). Anyway, we get to know he pretty well. It’s endearing to see this slightly lost high school kid bumbling around life, constantly putting her greasy hair into a messy bun and pulling up her pants.

Enter Emma (Léa Seydoux). With the arrival of Emma, Adèle’s life is turned completely upside down. As she risks losing both her friends and her family, Adèle discovers a new kind of love that’s frightening and exhilarating.

Blue is the warmest color or La vie d’Adèle: Chapitres 1 et 2 in French was adapted from the comic book, Le bleu est une couleur chaude (blue is a warm color) by Julie Maroh.   The film lacks the softness of the comic, as director Abdellatif Kechiche leaves us with all the harsh reality of life down to the stream of snot rolling into Adèle’s mouth as she cries. The scenes are shot almost entirely in very wide shots of the actors’ and actress’ faces, so we have no respite, no opportunity to enjoy the scenery, just raw emotion and three hours of it.

From a practical point of view, the constant zoom on the actors’ faces along with the slightly jumpy camera gave me motion sickness. During the first hour of the film, I had to look away from the screen frequently and almost left the theater. There’s no need to use techniques that make your audience ill (unless you’re the Blair Witch Project and can’t afford better).

The rawness and length of the sex scenes was also pretty difficult to get through. I understood what the director was trying to say after the first 30 seconds and the rest just wasn’t justifiable, other than because he didn’t want to waste the footage.

There’s a lot that’s beautiful in La vie d’Adèle, but in giving birth to his artistic vision, Kechiche forgets to address the basic goal of any good film: telling a compelling story. He’s too focused on having a cinema that’s as real and raw as possible, which becomes distracting, so much so that he doesn’t even get to the end of Adèle and Emma’s love story (we only have chapters 1 and 2 in this film).

Unless you’re a big fan of French realism, I don’t recommend seeing this film. The long, graphic sex scene will be too much for most viewers and certain parts of the film are too long while other parts of the story seem to be missing.

If you’re looking for good French cinema in 2013, I recommend Grand Central, another French realist film also with Léa Seydoux or Elle s’en va with Catherine Deneuve, which is a charming look at the exploits of a retirement-age former beauty queen’s quest to find herself and rebuild family ties.

Well, I hope this gives you some insight into what or what not to watch this fall as leaves turn color and the weather chases us indoors.

Happy watching and bonne soirée.