Posts Tagged ‘wow’

Career Change

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

I am officially changing careers – I am becoming a sock sculptor. Sure, there’s no money in it (yet), but that might change. And sure, no one would take me seriously, but that might change. Plus I don’t know how to go about it but I can learn. Essentially, I thoroughly enjoyed myself while making my sock laboratory and the final exhibition was a great success. It was very well attended and the range of works on exhibit was very interesting and varied. I was very proud to have my work on show and I got a bit of a kick watching people looking at my work and smiling. I gain similar enjoyment watching people’s reactions to my writing.

It was the process of making my sock laboratory that I enjoyed the most. I loved seeing my ideas come into reality as I managed to work out how to turn limp socks into microscopes, scissors, scalpels and coffee cups. The hands-on element particularly enticed me as it is something that lacks in my writing work. While writing stimulates my brain, it doesn’t fulfil my desire to make things with my hands. It was so nice to have the challenge of creating a piece of work that would have a definite outcome. I would love to do it again.

Studio

My dining table seconds as a studio

In another positive note, while three ‘prop’ items (a test tube, a syringe and a piece of paper) were stolen from my laboratory on the opening night, nothing was taken on the following day. Excellent.

The Sock Lab

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Yesterday I set up my piece in the Art Ou Science exhibition at Café A. It was then taken down without my knowledge in the evening (a tad annoying) and I have to put it up again in 25 minutes. Ca m’enerve. ANYWAY I thought I would put up some photographs of my work so that you can see it. I am pleased with the final result, and am ignoring the person who called it ‘mosh’ (ugly). I stole her desk (hence why my work was taken down) and she wasn’t happy about it clearly. I was told I could use it by the people running the exhibition. Not my fault. ANYWAY…

Sock lab

The lab

Sock lab

My microscope pre-installation

Sock lab

Mouse brains

Sock test tube holder

A test tube holder complete with colourful threads to examine, and a scalpel to cut off little mouse heads

Sock Lab

Bits and bobs in the sock lab

Sock lab

A certificate of education and alpha, eta and lambda hang from the ceiling above

Art vs Science

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

I realise I have forgotten to mention that I am soon to be a world-famous sock artist who has exhibited in one of Paris’s hippest joints. Yes, that’s right. I’m going to be putting my socks on show at Café A – the hippest, grooviest, BoBo-est Café/gallery space in Paris that happens to be connected to the Récollets. When I first found out that I was going to be moving to an artists’ residency, I thought that maybe I would get to go to some cool exhibition opening. It never crossed my mind that I would have the opportunity to put something IN the exhibition for arty French people to come and look at.

A few weeks ago, all of the scientists and artists living at the Récollets were invited to submit ideas for an exhibition with the subject of “Art vs Science.” I jumped at the opportunity to exhibit work in Paris and submitted the idea of making a science laboratory out of socks. My idea has been accepted and for the past two weeks I have been making microscopes, scalpels and coffee cups (scientists need caffeine) out of socks. This Friday the exhibition opens with a vernissage (aka free wine) at 7pm and apparently lots of ‘cool’ people have been invited. This makes me nervous. I thought this thing would be little and no one would come to it but it seems it maybe actually get some sort of turn out. Terrifying.

Anyway, I still have some work to do on it before I post photos but I will let you know how it goes. In the mean time, anyone would happens to be in Paris this Friday night should come!

Art or Science Poster

Cool.

Another to Add to the Dessert List

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

I have a few favourite desserts scattered throughout Paris that I seek out in order to satisfy cravings. There is the banana bread at Kooka Boora, gateau chocolate de Grandmère at Le Jardin d’en Face, and the créme brulée at Les Enfants Perdu. At one point there was also a chocolate and basil tart at Hotel du Nord but certain a grumpy waiter named Adrian has removed that from my list of must-eats. Shame, really.

Last night I managed to welcome a new addition to my “Top Desserts” list, something I was very happy to do. Let me state from the beginning that in order to be in my Top Desserts list, the dessert has to be exceptionally good. I don’t hand out this status willy-nilly! I have eaten MANY desserts and only those that really excite my taste buds and make me all gooey inside are allowed into the Top Desserts category.

Tom and I decided to celebrate my 50,000 word writing achievement and his recent skill at easily gaining freelance work by going out to dinner. We La Fourchette-d it and chose a restaurant that I had been wanting to go to for some time, Le Vernissoir. It is a cool and hip restaurant located in a side street that as we walked down it made me feel like I was walking in NoHo in New York. Very cool. Lots of little restaurants and plenty of BoBo’s hanging out and being cool-and-stuff-without-trying.

I wanted to have an early night as we have been going out a LOT lately so we booked the 7.30pm time slot. We were, of course, the only people eating and no one else came until at least an hour later. It didn’t matter – the staff were friendly and didn’t poo-poo us for being there so early. We both managed to order the exact same dishes for both mains and desserts so we didn’t really get to experience a large extent of the menu, but there were plenty of interesting items to choose from. Duck with truffles, a japanese tapioca risotto with mushrooms, and sword fish with sea urchin juice (yuck.) But we both went for the ‘thick cut’ beef with parsnips and we weren’t disappointed with our choice.

Beef

Mmm... Beef.

The meat was tender and deliciously cooked and the parsnips were a wonderful change from potatoes. I never cook with parsnips but I am now excited to do so. The sauce was soooo good although the plate was covered in a soup of olive oil which, while delicious, is sometimes a bit excessive.

Our La Fourchette booking required us to order desserts. DANG. It was an easy decision. The final item on the menu was a ‘mille feuille’ like dessert – two pieces of thin, flaky pastry with a chocolate mousse (with a very slight hint of chilli) inside and then a drizzle of salted butter caramel sauce over the top.

Chocolate dessert

Winner of Jess's Top Dessert Award

It arrived in front of me and I gasped with joy. OH YES. It was rich. It was good dark chocolate. The pastry was lightly caramelised and then the salted butter caramel sauce was just pure heaven. It was one of those desserts that you want to continue eating forever, no matter how sick you are feeling. By the end of it I was feeling very chocolate-afied and I needed a litre of water to quench my thirst but I WANT MORE!!!

And then came the joy of asking for the bill and paying a tiny amount for fabulous food and half a bottle of wine. The accessibility of eating out in Paris is something I am never going to be able to get over. I don’t know how I will survive back in Perth where for the same price as what we paid last night, I would only be able to get one main dish – no dessert, and maybe a glass of wine.

Ten Months

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

It’s amazing what you can do in ten months. Thursday marked the ten month ‘event’ of Tom and my arrival in Paris and it has come as quite a shock. Ten months is a long time and yet it feels like we just arrived. We shouldn’t be thinking about the fact that we only have two months left until our Year in Paris is over. We should still have so much time left with so many things to see and do. But alas, this is not the case.

LUCKILY we have decided to extend for an extra year, so while I would now be bawling my eyes out and chaining myself to the nearest pole and refusing to leave, I am somewhat less sad. I am still a bit worried about my impending return to Australia and visa application, but I am crossing all of my fingers and toes that it goes smoothly. It can’t not, right? What am I going to do if the French Embassy refuses to grant me a visa? Probably bawl my eyes out, fly back to Paris and chain myself to a pole.

Our friend, Phillipa, is here on the same visa as me and hers expires the day after mine. She is currently going through the horrific procedure of applying for a sponsorship from her work. She works at an O’Sullivans Irish pub and they have kindly agreed to go through the whole rigmarole of filling out forms, writing letters, and photocopying pieces of paper in order to help her stay next year. I am also crossing all fingers and toes that it works for her because she has no other visa alternatives in order to be able to stay in Paris. If Pip can’t come back then who am I going to go shopping with?! We have made a pact that we will meet on 1 April next year at a pub in Montmartre and drink to our good fortune of being back in Paris.

SO! I have 55 days left in Paris. What am I going to do in that time? Let’s write a list!

  • Continue to eat lots of food.
  • Go to Koblenz for Christmas.
  • Go to Holland for New Years.
  • Exhibit some sock creations in an exhibition at Café A (the coolest, hippest place in Paris)
  • See snow in Paris (I REFUSE to leave until it has snowed here because otherwise it is likely to do so while I am away and that is NOT fair.)
  • Go to lots of great exhibitions which are coming up in the next few weeks (when my brother, Ben, comes to visit over Christmas/New Years we’re going to see a Stefan Sagmeister exhibition AND a show about monsters puppets!)
  • Decorate my apartment for Christmas (I bought a mini Christmas tree this week.)
  • Start editing my book.
Ok, that’s probably enough. The first dot point is going to take up most of my time anyway so who knows if I’ll be able to achieve anything else. Anyway, those are my thoughts on this wet and windy Paris day. Actually, I am going to finish this entry and start another one about the weather. It deserves to be discussed separately.

A Beaut Birthday Present

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

I can finally reveal to the world a project that I was working on over the last couple of weeks. It was a birthday present for my Dad and it finally arrived in Australia, just 2 days late! Not bad considering the French postal service was involved.

Meet Chuck.

Chuck

Hello.

Never will you meet a more helpful man than Chuck. No task is too big, too hard, too heavy, too tough. Chuck will find a way to do it and without a complaint, without a sigh, he will get down to work (except electrical and plumbing work.) Chuck loves helping people but he doesn’t do it for the reward or the thanks – he does it because he knows it is the right thing to do. If he has the skills, knowledge or strength that a person needs in order to complete a task, all they have to do is ask.

Chuck

He's handy.

Chuck loves working with his hands and when he isn’t helping someone you will find him in his shed. He dreams of having a big workshop in his backyard where he can keep his tools and have enough space to make things. Wood is his product of choice and he would love to spend all of his time building things such as surfboards, kayaks and fruit bowls.

The problem is, Chuck also spends a lot of his time fighting crime. He doesn’t go searching for trouble – trouble finds him. Luckily Chuck has a black belt in karate and is best friends with the local Chief of Police. Every time he encounters a baddies – BAM! Chuck roundhouse kicks him to the ground and sends him straight to the lock-up. Chuck was awarded a Citizenship award recently be he honourably declined, saying that he is just trying to keep the streets safe and he just gotta do what he gotta do.

Chuck

Nice beard.

Chuck is a family man – he has a wife, three kids and a dog. He goes home every night at 6pm, just in time for dinner. Chuck thinks his wife is the best cook in the whole wide world and tells her that every night as he licks his plate clean. Chuck likes to encourage his kids to go out and follow their dreams and see the world. He’s full of great advice and he has really big muscles.

Chuck is NOT for sale because he now lives with my Dad and drives around in a white van in the western suburbs of Perth.

Cross Stitching Fun

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

I have been working on a project on and off for a few weeks now and am finally ready to announce it to the world. I didn’t want to tell people what I was doing in case it crashed and burned and I looked like an idiot. No one wants to look like an idiot. But, surprises of all surprises, I have managed to successfully complete – my very first cross stitch!

I would like to start by declaring that cross stitch should be made COMPULSORY for everyone. It is more fun than riding a bicycle upside down and it is relaxing and therapeutic. You can sit and make little crosses on a piece of material that will all eventually add up to equal one giant picture – who wouldn’t want to do that?!

I bought a cross stitch pattern from a little store in a Parisian arcade called Le Bonheur des Dames (The Happiness of Ladies or The Ladies’ Paradise.) It should be extended to Le Bonheur des Toute le Monde because the entire world can gain happiness from this craft activity. At first I was scared by what I had put myself up against – there was a pattern (in French), a few instructions (in French), the linen to put the pattern onto and lots of coloured pieces of thread. What to do?!

Thankfully, we live in a world where if you want to know how to do something, all you have to do is turn to YouTube and someone will have wasted their lives making “How-To” videos. So I learnt how to cross stitch with a lady named Vickie Pavone. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I complained to my running buddy, Becky, one morning about having a sore neck, blaming it on sleeping in a strange position. That evening I picked up my cross stitch and realised I had ‘Cross-Stitch Neck’ where you tilt your head on a slight angle for a few hours, trying to get the best light to tackle those crosses. I had a sore neck for days.

Cross stitch

What a lovely class room!

The great thing about cross stitch is that you can start it one day, stop for a while, and then come back later when you have more time. This week I put the final touches on my piece and am very happy with the results. I need to work on my backstitch technique as I find it very hard to make round corners. I’m sure there must be a trick to it. I’ll have to ask Vickie.

Now that I have mastered this piece I want to start designing my own patterns. I added a little bit of “Jess” to my school room scene – 10 points for the person who spots it first.

Chocolate stain

I also added a bit of chocolate for some extra flavour

 

It’s All About the Hair

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Meet Angelique.

Angelique

Hello.

Angelique is half Parisian, half Algerian, and the proud owner of an amazing head of hair. She works as a sales assistant at Le Chic hair and nail salon on Boulevard de Sébastopol, one of the busiest African beauty streets in Paris. She has been voted “Best Sales Assistant” via customer reviews every month since she started there. Angelique loves her work and puts every effort into her own appearance in order to set a good example for the store. All the ladies come to get their hair braided and their nails varnished by Angelique and they keep telling her she should set up her own store. Unfortunately, the guy she works for barely pays her a cent and threatens to cut off her beautiful long locks if she dares leave. It’s a tough world in the beauty scene.

Angelique

So pretty.

Angelique has always been interested in fashion and beauty – her mother likes to tell the story about how when Angelique was just six months old, she managed to apply some lipstick she had found on the floor. These days, Angelique gets up at 5am every day in order to start getting ready for the day. It takes a long time to look this good. Her hair is her favourite personal attribute – every day she cleans and styles her hair, forming it into a different shape depending on her mood and the theme of her outfit. She loves to add a bit of bling to her attire – today she is wearing a lovely yellow bow (given to her by one of her favourite clients) and a gold necklace she saved up to buy.

Angelique dreams of opening her own store one day. Not only would she offer hair and nail services, but there would be a designated space for the husbands and boyfriends to wait with televisions and magazines, as well as free coffee for all customers. She would also offer beauty consultation services for those ladies who just don’t know what to do with their hair. When she lies in bed at night time, she thinks about the design of her store, what colours she would use and what the name would be. She would really like to call her store So Angelique but she is worried she might appear too arrogant.

Angelique

How does she do that with her hair?

When Angelique is working and talking to her clients she is vibrant, fun and vivacious. However, it is a much different story when she is talking to boys. She is shy and would never dream of asking a boy out. She would love to have a boyfriend but whenever a guy shows interest in her, she turns away and hides. Lots of boys have tried – she is so beautiful! There is one boy in particular who keeps walking past her store, trying to catch her eye. He is a strange looking fellow with zebra stripes and he is always wearing reindeer antlers. Maybe one day they will meet and fall in love. Angelique certainly hopes so.

Angelique is on sale at my Etsy Store. Take her home today!

Going Inside the Giant White Bubble

Friday, October 28th, 2011

For a few months I have wanted to go to an exhibition being held at the Institut du Monde Arabe. The glass fronted building of the institute is impressive in itself, however there has been a large white bubble-building in the front courtyard that has intrigued me. I finally got around to visiting the exhibition this week as it closes at the end of the month.

Institut du Monde Arabe

The wall of the Institut du Monde Arabe

The exhibition focuses on the work of Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid, and is located inside a moveable building designed by Hadid herself. The building is organic in shape – like a freeform bubble – and has been designed to be moved and relocated as the exhibition moves between cities. The exhibition had already been shown in New York and Tokyo and yet the quality of the materials and the solidity of the building made it difficult to believe that it was transportable.

Zaha Hadid building

Amazing.

The exhibition itself was a bit disappointing. Its key focus was the way in which Hadid’s architectural firm is redesigning the concept of a skyscraper – turning it from being an individual entity that is designed to impress and stand out, to amalgamating towers into the surrounding landscapes to produce a more useable space. The exhibition had examples of the company’s work and highlighted some of the techniques used, however, like most ‘conceptual’ exhibitions, the audio guide merely prattled on about modernity concepts of space and how towers were symbols of power blah blah blah. While that is all very interesting and so forth, I didn’t come away feeling like I really knew what Hadid’s motivations were and how she managed to get from being a female in Iraq to running a multi-million dollar architectural firm in London. Plus the examples of her work were all current works that were either recently or near completion. I couldn’t gauge a sense of progress, development or future aspirations. Pity.

Luckily the building the exhibition was showcased in was so wonderful. It allowed for a very easy flow within the space and the exhibition was clearly designed to fit within the area. What was also interesting was that it was France-specific, with information about buildings that Hadid is designing in Marseille and Montpellier. Clearly as the exhibition moved between cities, the exhibits would change somewhat to highlight what was more relevant to that country.

Chocolate Land

Monday, October 24th, 2011

We all know that if I was sentenced to death and I was allowed one final meal before my beheading, it would consist predominantly of chocolate. Chocolate cake, chocolate biscuits, chocolate sauce, chocolate ice cream, chocolate chocolate… I’d probably ask for muesli and yoghurt as well, and lots of really good cheese, but I would leave enough room to gorge myself on chocolate so that I ended up killing myself with cacao overload rather than having my head removed.

Somewhat unfortunately, I don’t think I will be committing any significant crimes any time soon so my last supper will have to wait. However, I came fairly close to chocolate death on Saturday afternoon when I attended the 2011 Salon du Chocolat with Tom and our friends Sonia and Guibril.

Salon du chocolat

The Salon du Chocolat awaits

Salon du Chocolat is French for ‘Insane Chocolate Fair’ – a large convention hall filled with row after row of stalls selling chocolate related goods. There were high-end chocolate craftsmen, international chocolate makers, bio/eco/organic brands, local chocolatiers, and a strange assortment of chocolate paraphernalia (jewellery in the shape of chocolates, cooking utensils etc.) This being France, there were also two or three stalls selling foie gras and adding chocolate sauce in order to make it theme appropriate.

Salon du chocolat arc de triomphe

Only Leonidas would make something as tacky as this

The main purpose of the Salon du Chocolat is for retailers to present their products and provide little samples that amaze and entice you, resulting in the purchase of more chocolate than you really need. As you can expect from a chocolate-related event held in Paris, it was very, very busy. There were human traffic jams as everyone fought their way to the next chocolate sample. Of course, we’re talking about FRENCH humans who are incapable of seeing other people and who merely barge their way through, stepping on your feet, walking into you and then blaming you for the collision. I think Sonia and Guibril found my intolerance for the crowds amusing as I would push my way through until I found an empty space and then rest there for a while, calming myself down before tackling another onslaught.

As for the chocolate, I wasn’t overly impressed. There were a LOT of stalls and we did sample a lot of chocolate, however none of it really blew me away. I was judging each chocolaterie on the quality of their plain dark chocolate and I can’t say I really liked any of them. I put this down to two factors:

  1. It was mostly French chocolate, which, in my opinion, isn’t the best in the world. The French are very good at putting chocolate INTO things, however their straight chocolate lacks substance and spark. The Belgians kick French butts at dark chocolate making.
  2. The chocolate that was available for sampling had been handled by so many people before I could put it in my mouth. Gross, but true. The teeny tiny pieces that were on offer had been sitting around in strange temperatures and then chopped up by someone wearing plastic gloves. It was hardly the best tasting conditions and the chocolate suffered for it.
Salon du chocolat chocolate

Lots of chocolate

I may have felt differently had I been allowed to taste entire pieces of chocolate. Some of it was really dreadful though. I had a few pieces that had the texture of soap or were gritty and appeared to be full of sand. Not pleasant at all. On the other hand, the higher-end chocolatiers had some amazing chocolates on display with intriguing fillings and beautiful designs.

I did sample one piece of chocolate that did make me very, very happy – it was a japanese chocolate company called Tokyo Chocolate and the chocolate looked like a bright green worm. It was green tea flavoured with a crunchy wafer on the inside, surrounded by dark chocolate. It was absolutely amazing. I stood there looking dumbfounded for a little while, hoping they would give me the entire bowl to finish. Sadly they didn’t. The other chocolates on offer from Tokyo Chocolate were beautiful – bright shiny surfaces and amazing intricate designs. I want to find out where I can buy their chocolates because green tea is good for you and so I should probably have some more.

For Tom, the highlight of the Salon du Chocolat was the alcohol companies that were also promoting their wares with free samples. The perfect accompaniment to chocolate – a glass of Baileys Irish Cream whizzed together with ice. We spent a fair amount of time standing next to the Baileys stand, taking turns to get more rounds. It made tackling the French human traffic jams more bearable.

Baileys at Salon du chocolat

Thank you, Baileys.

Overall, the Salon du Chocolat proposed the ultimate experience and I think if I had been more willing to buy, I could have gained more enjoyment from it. However, nothing enticed me enough to want to make a purchase, particularly considering I have a box of Willie’s Venezuelan 72% in my kitchen. Now THAT is a death-defying chocolate experience.