Fontaine à Chambéry

Fontaine à Chambéry

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Museum Exhibit: The Cave Paintings of Lascaux at the Field Museum, Chicago

I'm a big fan of art and history that's 2,000 years or older, so when I heard about the Lascaux cave paintings exhibit at the Field Museum, I was thrilled. I've been begging R to take me to Lascaux for years, as it's only a 4 hour drive from his hometown. Hopefully that trip will happen the next time we are in France...

Lascaux is a city in western France that became famous in the 1940s upon the discovery of Paleolithic cave paintings. The paintings and engravings are vastly important for art history because they're considered to be some of the earliest artworks created by mankind. Around 15,000 years ago when the paintings were made, humans were beginning to view and understand the surrounding world in a different manner than before; the paintings are a testament to the development of intellect and complex thought, and mastery of artistic practices such as representation and abstraction.  Animals like bison, mammoths, bears, wolves, and lions, among others, are depicted in the cave in twisted perspective, with their heads rendered in profile but other body parts, such as antlers or horns, appearing full-on. Because of the absence of natural light, the paintings could have only been viewed (and created) via fire--a pretty astounding way to view this art. Fire's movement would mean the paintings would look as if they were moving, dynamic components of the cave. Pretty cool. 

Today, a replica cave in Lascaux is the nearest you'll get to the paintings. The fragility and age of the paintings mean that any exposure to humidity, breathing, and humans could severely and irrevocably damage this priceless site. Fortunately, for those who cannot travel to France, the Field Museum has created a replica of the Lascaux cave, art and all. The exhibit has gotten decent reviews, and I fully intend on seeing it the next time I'm in Chicago. It's an art historian's dream, after all.

Here is a link to the Field Museum's Lascaux exhibit. 

Here is a link to a photo gallery of the Lascaux paintings, compliments of the UNESCO World Heritage site.

Friday, June 28, 2013

New Addition

We've been talking about adopting a dog since winter, and we finally did it last weekend. I've always been pro-pet adoption and fully support nonprofit organizations that exist to help animals, such as the Humane Society, ASPCA, and APA. We got Daisy from the APA after scouring their website and looking at the list of available pets multiple times a day for weeks. She's an excellent dog and a great addition to our family! She's a very laid back 8-month-old black lab who's gentle and calm, even when Z takes her treats or the cats hiss at her. It's been a week since we adopted her and everyone has adjusted well. I think Daisy and Tucker will be good friends. Lily is still a little hesitant to get close, merely because of Daisy's size. The amount of fur on the floors and furniture has increased exponentially, but that's alright. It's a great feeling to give an adopted animal a great, loving home. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

They Ate What?!

I wrote a post a month or so ago about the British Museum's app for its Pompeii exhibit. Many museums are beginning to incorporate technology into their exhibits, which is great! While using an app certainly isn't the same as seeing artifacts in person--or in their original location (don't get me started on this subject!)--you can download an app and see the objects in the exhibit without having to travel to the museum. This is really nice when the museum you're interested in visiting is halfway across the world and travel just isn't feasible. 

I was looking at my Pompeii app this morning and came across this cool artifact. Dormice, small European rodents, were delicacies in ancient Rome and are actually still considered as such in Slovenia and Croatia. Delicacies vary by culture. What's delicious to the French, like frog legs and escargot, may not appeal to you (but having tried both, I can assure you that they're delicious). Scottish people eat haggis, which is a type of pudding made from sheep organs. The Japanese eat raw fish in their sushi. In South American countries like Ecuador and Peru, guinea pigs are common fare. As the proud owner of several guinea pigs throughout my life, I can't say they're high on my list of things to try. I can cross haggis off too. 

I didn't realize that an ancient jar would cause me to think so much about delicacies and cultural food norms. What would be a delicacy in the U.S.? I've thought about this all day and can't come up with anything. I suppose it would vary by location within the country. In thousands of years, will archaeologists unearth bags of Cheetos, or even boxes of Twinkies, and think twenty-first century Americans ate these regularly? I suppose some do.

 This little artifact from Pompeii, which probably is nothing spectacular and was a common household item, has really caused this modern girl to think about what people eat and how willing we are to try new things. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pineapple Curry Chicken Recipe

My mother-in-law makes this often and I got the recipe from her a few months ago. It's delicious and fast with little cleanup because you cook everything in one skillet. It's great for leftovers and tastes better the next day because the spices have time to settle and blend. Oh, and it's not spicy, for those of you who don't like spicy foods. If you do like a little spice, get a different type of curry powder than the mild one I use here.


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 can crushed pineapple
1 can coconut milk
1 can bamboo
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Brown rice (I use the quick cook kind to save time)

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and cook in a skillet with the butter and onion until the chicken is cooked completely through.  Add the powdered sugar, ginger, and curry, and stir well. Add the pineapple (don't drain!) and drained bamboo. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 5 minutes, then add the coconut milk. Stir well to mix everything. Serve with brown rice. Enjoy!

Yield: 4 large servings

(I also sometimes cook this ahead of time and then freeze it into individual servings if we have a really busy week. It reheats great.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Day of Travel Photos: Australia

When compiling the photos for this post, I realized how much camera technology has changed in the last six years. I always snap photos on my iPhone, and those are of better quality than my high-priced digital camera that I used on my trip to Australia. Such is life. Enjoy the photos!

Sydney skyline

Sydney Opera House

Outdoor cafe

Beach in Sydney


Sydney Harbor Bridge

Whales in an outdoor mall

Whitsunday Islands

Island resort

Pretty view

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sign Language

One of the great benefits of Z's daycare is that they teach the babies infant sign language. Lately Z has been signing (and saying, too) "all done" when she's finished eating; she also makes other signs but we aren't quite sure what they mean. Signing is a great way for infants to communicate before they're able to speak. 

I just realized a little while ago that R and I have our own form of sign language. We have signs for: "Z is asleep," "be quiet," "turn up/down the TV volume," "look at that," "this diaper is dirty," "where is xyz?" and "can you get me a drink?" There are probably a couple more, too. I don't exactly know when we developed these signs, but I'm thinking they started to emerge at times when Z was asleep and we needed to be really quiet. I just got out of the shower and poked my head out of the bathroom door because I wanted to know what time Z had fallen asleep. I looked at R and he signed "be quiet" because Z was still settling down a bit. He then mouthed "10 minutes." You know you're good at communicating when you don't have to say anything to know what the other person is thinking. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thoughts: The Happiness Project

I’m currently reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Rubin wrote the book after a year of self-reflection, improvement, and dedication to appreciating life more fully. Although she is an NYC inhabitant and lawyer-turned-writer, Rubin is easy to relate to and is humorous about her struggles to remove clutter from the house, not snap at her husband and children, and go to bed earlier. Her creation of her personal Twelve Commandments and list of adult truths made me realize some things I’ve noticed about life and adulthood, which I’ve compiled into the following list (and yes, I realize many of these have been said before, but I think they’re important to remember):

  1. Wearing sunscreen on a daily basis may be a pain but it’ll pay off in the long run.
  2. It’s never too early for a good anti-wrinkle cream. This is even more applicable if you have children.
  3. There’s nothing soap and water can’t clean, so don’t stress if the kids/pets/spouse make a mess.
  4. Drinking a glass or two of water when you have a headache can really work wonders.
  5. If you’re not enjoying what you do for a living, it’s time to look for something else. Life’s too short to be miserable at work.
  6. Go ahead and eat that dessert.
  7. If you clean your closets (or bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, basement, etc.) on a regular basis, you’ll be happier than just thinking about cleaning.
  8. Adopt a pet. Studies show that we need animals just as much as they need us. If you can give an animal a loving home, why shouldn’t you?
  9. Volunteer. Do something good for someone/animals/the planet.
  10. Recycle. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Don’t leave the water running when you brush your teeth. Little habits can have a profound effect and make our planet a little nicer for future generations.
  11. Read a book. You never know what you’ll learn.
  12. Travel. Explore different countries, cultures, and do things that make you uncomfortable. You’ve got to get out and take advantage of everything there is to see.
  13. You can learn a lot from your children if you pay attention. Kids are resilient and learn so much from the world around them. Take time to enjoy your food, revel in your favorite movie or television show, try new things, and if you fall down, get up again.
  14. Smiling, even if it’s fake, can make your whole attitude change. 
  15. Always buy lemonade from a kid’s lemonade stand. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Flashback Friday: Ant Butts

I went to Australia in 2007 on a high school trip (even though I wasn’t in high school at the time). It was a whirlwind of a vacation primarily because I was jet lagged the entire time. The trip was two weeks long and we traveled to Sydney, Cairns, and the Whitsunday Islands. Since we were there in June, it was wintertime in Australia and many of the places we visited weren't busy with tourists, which was pretty nice.

We stayed at a resort right on the beach in the Whitsundays. There were no cars, stores or restaurants on the island (or if there were, we didn't know about them).  Because it was winter, we were basically the only people at the resort so we had total run of the place. During our stay it was pretty rainy, windy and chilly, which was unfortunate. The views were gorgeous though.  

Everyday there were activities such as jet skiing, hiking in the forest, and swimming. One day the resort was sponsoring a nature walk through the woods. The tour guide was funny and made tramping around in the rainforest pretty interesting. Australia has many of the most dangerous snakes, spiders and  animals in the world, and many of these creatures can kill you pretty quickly; there's just something about this that makes you a little nervous to explore in the rainforest, especially while on an island without motorized vehicles. 

During our hike the guide found a group of ants with large, green-colored butts. He picked one up and licked the butt and instructed all of us to do the same thing. The butt was really sour--like those Warhead candies sour. There were probably 25 of us just standing in the woods licking ant butts, a strange sight to see if anyone would have stumbled upon us suddenly. I don't remember why the ant butts were sour, and to this day I've wondered who actually realized that this particular kind of ant's behind has a tart flavor. And how? 

The quality of the photo is poor, but you get the idea.

Thoughts on Social Media

Lately I’ve been feeling ambivalent about social media. I like how I can connect with people and organizations to see what they’re doing, but I don’t like how much I rely on the sites and am starting to view my accounts as a waste of time. I’ve even considered deleting my accounts and only using email/telephone calls/text messages to communicate. I have profiles on Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. Of these, I only check the last three maybe once a week, if thatCome to think of it, I actually don’t remember the last time I went on Pinterest. I am, however, a dedicated user of Facebook and Twitter and find myself checking these sites multiple times throughout the day. I manage these accounts at work so in addition to using them personally, I’m on them for a chunk of time each workday. 

As a society, I don't think we will ever rid ourselves of social media. Yes, the platforms in which we use it may (and probably will) change--Facebook may go the way of Myspace and new sites will emerge as the most popular means of virtual communication; however, I think our culture's reliance on technology is here to stay. We're so engrossed with updating our accounts and documenting our lives via status updates and photographs that we've lost that personal touch. You've got to stay virtually connected to, well, be connected in the world.

Social media fluctuates between good and bad. It has its merits, but it also has its faults. In wake of recent tragedies such as Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon bombings, and the Oklahoma tornado, social media allowed people to connect with loved ones and even strangers, come together, and donate money to the relief efforts. It also exploited victims. I remember seeing photographs of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung surfacing on Facebook shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings. The photographs stated that Hochsprung was one of the three victims killed in the bombings. In what has become an annoying trend lately, people were "liking" the photos to spread the word and "ignoring" the photos if they didn't care. Imagine being Hochsprung's family or friends and logging on to your Facebook account, only to see her picture making its rounds and claiming she had been killed in Boston. How terrible.  

I do realize the irony in complaining about social media when I am a devotee to a couple of social media sites. I do write a blog, which is definitely a form of social media and puts aspects of my life out there in cyberspace. This is just a jumbled, rambling mess of my latest thoughts. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Product Review: Sally Hansen Salon Insta Gel Strips

I like having my nails painted but I don't like 1. waiting for nail polish to dry; 2. how my right hand always looks worse than my left hand; 3. how quickly nail polish chips, which ruins a manicure. One day at Target I saw the Sally Hansen Salon Insta Gel Strips kit and decided to give it a try. Rather than using regular nail polish, there are gel strips that you adhere to your nails. You then secure the gel strips with a curing agent, hold your nail under an LED light for 30 seconds, and voila, salon-style manicure for cheap at home. According to the box, the polish lasts for up to two weeks and is chip-free. 

The starter kit comes with everything you need.

Here's a step-by-step process:

1. Push your cuticles back with the enclosed orange stick. File your nails to the desired shape and buff the surface of your nails. Swipe clean with the alcohol wipe to remove any oil and residue. 

2. Peel off the front and back of the gel strip and adhere to your nail. Press down carefully to remove air pockets. Bend over the top of the nail and file away excess gel with the nail file. 

3. Once you've applied the strips to all of your nails, coat them with the clear curing agent one at a time. Place the nail under the LED light for 30 seconds to set the manicure. Repeat until all nails have been cured under the light.

4. Swipe the nails with an alcohol pad to remove excess residue. You're done!

The entire process took about 45 minutes. I expect it goes faster as you do it more often. The only thing I didn't like was that my nails were really sticky for the rest of the day; cat hair and lint kept getting stuck on them. I woke up this morning though and there is no more stickiness, so that's nice. I'll see how well the strips last compared to regular nail polish. If this manicure lasts two weeks with no chips, I'm going to be a very happy customer!

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Few Travel Photos: Egypt

View from our hotel in Cairo

Typical breakfast: eggs, beans, bread, coffee, and lemon juice

Khufu's Pyramid

The Bent Pyramid



View of the Mediterranean Sea in Alexandria

Pompey's Pillar, Alexandria


Boats in Alexandria

Heavy load

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer Reading List

I read a lot. Even when life gets hectic, I set aside time to read; it’s nice to decompress with a good book. Every May I compile my summer reading list. I usually scan magazines, websites, and look around the library for ideas of what to read. Undoubtedly, the list I create is far longer than what I expect it to be and there’s usually no way I’ll be able to read everything. This is even truer now that I don’t have summers free and can no longer lounge around reading on my days off. It’s really disappointing to have a “to read” list that’s in the triple digits. It makes me feel like I’m racing against time but I’m destined to fail because 1. I’ll never read all the books on my list and 2. The list keeps growing because I add to it on a daily basis! I am a very fast reader so that does help a bit. Last week I read three books, which is quite the feat considering I’m a working wife and mother who is also in graduate school. Reading three books sure put a dent in my reading list, right? Not really, since I added nine other books to the list. Oh well.

My new favorite thing is You can create reading lists, read reviews, find books similar to what you have read in the past, and interact with other readers. I’ve found it very helpful to keep my reading list on GoodReads rather than scribbled on a piece of paper in my purse, where it usually gets misplaced.

Here’s a brief portion of my current summer reading list:

·         Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
·         Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck
·         The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
·         The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani
·         The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld by Christine Wiltz
·         The Good Thief’s Guide to Berlin by Chris Ewan (I LOVE this series and can’t wait for this novel to be released in August!)
·         Inferno by Dan Brown
·         Man Up!: Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence by Ross Matthews
·         Who Cooked the Last Supper?: The Women’s History of the World by Rosalind Miles
·         Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed and Betrayals that Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Michael Gross
·         After Auschwitz: A Story of Heartbreak and Survival by the Stepsister of Anne Frank by Eva Schloss
·         Chocolat by Joanne Harris (and the other books in this series if I like Chocolat)
·         Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris

I’m excited to tackle these and more this summer. Do you make a summer reading list?