Cycling from Seville to La Rinconada

The duchess and I went on our first Grand Adventure today. (The Duchess is the name of my bike….its hasn’t caught on yet – most people still simply call her “your bike” – but I’ve committed to the name so I’m going to back myself and keep using it). We’ve been on a couple of small adventures around town but today we decided to plunge ourselves into the exciting new world of intercity travel and I cycled to work!!!

Typing about this experience is more difficult than usual as my body is in complete melt down. I feel like my bones are crying. I am living in Seville but I work in a park in La Rinconada. The park is 12km away from my house: I know this, because my workmate measured the cycling distance on her phone. This is the same young lady who cycled to work last week and told me that the journey wasn’t that hard. She strolled into work one morning, bicycle in tow, bright eyed with windswept hair and rosy cheeks. I asked her if she was okay and she said “I feel amazing.” I looked at her and thought to myself “I want to feel amazing! I want to have windswept hair!”. So yesterday after much deliberation I decided that today was The Day that I started my journey towards becoming the cycling goddess that I’ve always dreamed of being.

Obviously I didn’t get windswept hair because I approached the adventure with extreme caution and terror, and wore my electric blue bicycle helmet. I was in fact quite diligent in my preparation. Me and The Duchess woke up bright and early and I had a pot of porridge to warm me up before setting off. I even put my jumper in my backpack instead of wearing it so I wouldn’t overheat and spontaneously combust. Despite these preparations I began to wonder if I’d underestimated the immensity of the task at hand…Just as I was struggling to fit Duchess into the tiny lift in my apartment block, I got a Whatsapp message from my dear Workmate saying “dont forget to stretch.” An ominous message to receive indeed. Years of PE lessons, where I was always relegated to the bottom ability group and even my closest friends refused to be my partner due to my complete lack of ability, have taught me that if you have to do stretches before embarking on an adventure then the adventure really isn’t going to be enjoyable. Nevertheless I am at heart an optimistic person so I stretched as hard as I could (and I NEARLY touched my toes during one of the stretches!)

And so we set off!! As we were reaching the outskirts of Seville, my workmate – who I will henceforth refer to as Harriet (because that’s her name) – turned around and asked if I was doing okay. I proudly replied I was doing absolutely fine! I thought to myself, god, this is great. Cycling to work every morning. A bright start to the day. Get the body moving. Awaken your senses. Live a little!

As we reached the edge of town, the cycle lanes stopped. Shortly afterwards the pavement stopped and things began to go downhill. Well, to be more accurate, things began to go uphill. Just outside of Seville there is  a HUGE bridge over a railway track! Its one of those funny things that the bridge does NOT look that big when you’re in a bus….however I would like to confirm that this bridge is far, far bigger and steeper than could possibly ever be necessary. It started out okay but I was going slower and slower, and about halfway up I was moving so slowly that I didn’t know if I was going backwards or forwards. People driving in the other direction contemplated me with great interest. Cars going in the same direction sped past without warning and scared me silly. It was a difficult time.

This was only about 1km of the journey done, and I’m pretty sure the rest of the way was also uphill (though I’m willing to admit that it probably wasn’t and I was just lying to myself). As my knees went up and down on the bicycle peddles I decided to sing some songs to keep my spirits up. I couldn’t think of any songs and ended up rhythmically chanting “Never again. Never again. Never again” as I peddled. It didn’t do much to inspire me.

Eventually we reached La Rinconada. Harriet and I cycled side by side and I had to ask her what day it was. I was terribly surprised when she said it was still Wednesday as it felt like I’d been cycling for days (actual time was 50 minutes). She asked me how I felt and I told her I thought my bottom might have fallen off because I couldn’t feel it anymore. She nodded with understanding.

The last leg of the journey, from La Rinconada to the park, was more pleasant. By the time we arrived I’d recovered a bit and felt quite perky – in fact I felt positively energised. I felt so cheerful I even employed some comic walks as I was traversing the classroom. My colleagues were appalled at what we’d done, and sat us down and made us coffee and toast so we could recover. “You are heroes,” said one of them. I said that Harriet was a hero but I thought I was going to die, and he nodded gravely. To be honest I hoped that I looked as rosy cheeked and wonderful as Harriet did, but when we were heading back home my colleague looked at me with concern and said “Are you cycling in tomorrow as well?”. When I said I might be he frowned. “I’m driving,” he said. “You can text me! I can pick you up! Don’t worry!” It an offer I am feeling inclined to accept…

That’s all for now folks!
xx

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Blollings cooks: Easiest ever and most delicious mojito lime cheesecake

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Recipe for the easiest ever and most delicious lime cheesecake, that you can make with almost no cooking equipment.

I love to bake at my parents house where there is a wonderful array of electric gadgets and a variety sizes of baking tins (although there is always the very real risk you’ll nip to the toilet and come back to find the cat sitting in the mixing bowl.) There is also an oven. Here in Spain it seems quite common for people to have no oven at all. In our flat we do have an oven, but its more of a modern décor art piece as it is falling out of its little hole and doesn’t turn on. To replace it we’ve been provided with a free standing grill/oven that plugs into the wall. Me and the grill/oven got off to a bad start because one of the first times I tried to make toast in it, the bread fell down the back and immediately set on fire. This taught me two valuable lessons – firstly, you shouldn’t let the bread fall down the back and secondly it seems that we don’t have a fire alarm…

Obviously not having a fire alarm presumable should be illegal, but so should not having an oven, because what the hell can you bake if you don’t have an oven? The answer, dear readers, is obviously Easiest Ever and Most Delicious Lime Cheesecake. This is a wonderful recipe to make when you’re living abroad because the ingredients are easy to find, you don’t need any equipment and its so delicious all your new friends will think you’re a god.

The recipe is adapted from the Philadelphia website’s Key Lime Cheesecake Pie. I tried to make it more like a mojito by adding rum and mint, and more lime juice.

Some hints and tips…

Be careful when melting the butter because if you get distracted it might go all frothy and smell weird and you’ll have to do it again.
The one piece of equipment that’s hard to find might be a case to make the cheesecake in. You need a 20cm-ish tin. I found some disposable foil cases in the supermarket so I bought them, but equally you could line a large pan with foil and make it in that. If that won’t work, try making the cheesecake in individual glasses or jars, which also looks really fancy.

Easy and delicious mojito lime cheese recipe

Cheesecake
160g Digestive Biscuits
40g butter, melted
250g Philadelphia Original (or any normal cream cheese)
397g tin condensed milk

To flavour
2/3 limes
Rum
Mint leaves

1. Make the base: Bash the biscuits until they are all crumbs. You will need a blunt instrument like a pestle and mortar, rolling pin or a wine bottle. Mix two glugs of rum in with the melted butter. Combine the crumbs with the melted butter mix and press  the mixture down, firmly, into the dish/pan/glasses. You might need a bit more melted butter. Pop the base in the fridge to get nice and FIRM!

2. Make the filling: Beat the cream cheese with the condensed milk. It may take a little while to get rid of lumps, especially if you’re using a fork because you don’t have a whisk or other mixing tool, but it’ll be find with a bit of time. Zest the lemons and juice them, and mix that into the cream cheese along with a couple more glugs of rum…be generous, but don’t be too generous or it’ll all be a bit sloppy.

3. Make the cheesecake: Spoon the cheese mixture on top of the base and put it back in the fridge to set. If you’re short of time you can put it in the freezer, but don’t leave it there too long as it’s hard to eat when completely frozen! Garnish with some fresh mint leaves.

While you’re waiting for it to freeze, obviously you should make yourself several mojitos.

Sourcing these ingredients in Spain:
Some tips for finding cheesecake ingredients in Spain 🙂

Butter – mantequilla (Tulipan is margerine)
Philadelphia Original is sold in most supermarkets, I got the own brand version.
Condensed milk is easy to find and is called leche condensada. You could replace this with whipping cream too (nata para montar)
Limes in Spain are called lima. Now, in some Latin American countries they call limes ‘limon verde’ or even call lemons ‘lima’ so it can get confusing, especially if the fruit shop owner in Spain isn’t Spanish… limes don’t seem to be so common in Seville but I got mine from Mercadona.
Rum – ron. I recommend Negrita because its cheap and good quality.
Mint leaves – mente (or you can use hierbabuena which is sometimes easier to find)

Shopping in Seville: Flea Market, Calle Feria, Seville

Sunny Flea Market, Seville
One thing I never got to do during my last trip to Seville was visit the weekly flea market on Calle Feria. Its held every Thursday morning but, of course, I worked on Thursday mornings so was never free. One Thursday I did unwittingly wonder that way after work, and a little old man who was packing up the last of his stall yelled at me (in English) “YOU’RE TOO LATE GIRL!!!!” and then cackled. I was totally confused because I didn’t know about the market and couldn’t work out what he was referring too…
Well, the first week of these internship programmes is usually spent in a relaxed fashion at lessons and meetings, and we had Thursday morning off. There was generally quite a lot of interest in second hand clothes in the group so we decided to go to the market. Its probably worth mentioning, at this point, that no fewer than TWO people have complimented me on my beautiful eagle fleece since I’ve arrived in Seville. (One other person also told me I looked like her high school chemistry teacher, which I took as a compliment and started extolling the virtues of the garment, until she cut me off with a sharp “Do not try to sell me a fleece.”)
Flea Market, Calle Feria, Seville
Thursday Mornings

This market is about 500% larger than I was expecting. That’s not because its that massive, its because I had really low expectations… but it does go beyond just on Calle Feria onto side streets and across a couple of plazas.
One thing I’ve noticed about second hand clothes in Europe is they are SO much cheaper than in the UK. I think maybe vintage fashion just isn’t quite as widely accepted here…anyway there were tables covered in clothes at the market for 1 or 2 euros each. There was also a lot of books, junk, old cameras, stones and jewels, (presumably stolen) bicycles, light fittings, vintage toys, bits of crap…. basically everything you’d ever want! Here are some snaps…
Creepy dolls and fur coats, aka everything you’ve ever wanted.
Miscellaneous random electronics

An old man after my own heart rifles through some bargains
One thing I’ve noticed about second hand clothes in Europe is they are SO much cheaper than in the UK. I think maybe vintage fashion just isn’t quite as widely accepted here…anyway there were tables covered in clothes at the market for 1 or 2 euros each. There was also a lot of books, junk, old cameras, stones and jewels, (presumably stolen) bicycles, light fittings, vintage toys, bits of crap…. basically everything you’d ever want!
I got myself a couple of pairs of jeans for work (1 euro a pop). Then I wandered down through the stalls and found THE most incredible bag EVER. The reason I like it a lot is because it has a felt sunshine sewn onto it and the sunshine is smiling at me quizically, like its an old friend! I was expecting it to cost about 10 euros but it was TWO! Bargain of my life. Not only that but I treated myself to a four volume illustrated Spanish/English/Basque dictionary. They are the heaviest things ever. I have no idea how I’ll get them back home. But I mean for 2 euros for the lot you literally have to be crazy to walk away!! I haven’t worn the bag yet because I can’t decide if it clashes in a good way or a bad way with the rainbow fleece…
Super Happy Wonderful Sunshine Mexican Rainbow Bag
Second hand and thrift shopping in Seville

Calle Feria is basically the place to go in Seville for second hand clothes. There are a couple of overpriced Vintage shops, but there are also a couple of gems. Look out for the antique shop that has a rail of clothes outside… if you go into the back everything hung up is 2 euros and everything on the table is 1. My friend (her blog is here) got two good quality ankle length, camel coloured coats from there for 2 euros each.
Seville’s charity shop (the only one we ever found…) is called Humana and there’s one on Calle Feria and on Mendez Pelayo. 

Me, Myself and my bike

Dear friends/family/fans,

Today has been in important day in my personal development. This afternoon, I waddled into town and bought myself a bicycle. I bought my bicycle second hand, and when I bought it, I also bought a bicycle lock (to protect the bicycle) and a helmet (to protect my gorgeous face) and thrown in with the package I got a free bell! My bicycle is pink and white so that everybody who sees me riding it knows I’m a girl. My helmet is blue, because even though my I have a pink bicycle, I’m not girly. My bell as a bunny rabbit on it so I don’t get lonely on my long cycle rides!!

I bought my bicycle at the same time as my New Friend. Apparently in Seville there is a massive flea market where you can buy very cheap bicycles that have been stolen off people. I didn’t want any bad karma as I’ve only just arrived in Spain, so we stuck to our morals and went to a real shop where they had all sorts of wonderful bicycles that we assume aren’t stolen. After shopping my New Friend cycled home and I had to stay in town. I was too scared to ride my bicycle at that point, so I wheeled it down the street with my blue helmet hanging off the handle and a smile on my face. I propped it up against a wall and took a photo to send to my fans. When I met a friend for coffee, I kept my bicycle close by the table, tucked safely away so nobody could hurt it. I love my new bicycle.

I have really big plans about how good I’m going to be at cycling. Soon I hope to cycle to work – to the shops – to the bars – even back home to England! After coffee I walked it down to the river. By the river there a big green strips painted on the road and these are called bicycle lanes and you’re only allowed on them if you are cycling. You can tell because they have pictures of white bicycles painted on them (like my bicycle except mine is white AND pink). (Actually, confusingly, at some points the cycle lanes have pictures of wheelchairs as well, and when you think about it wheelchairs and bikes go at quite different speeds usually). Now I have a bicycle I’m allowed on the cycle lanes too!!! The cycle lanes are smooth and straight, so I put on my cycle helmet and I hoiked my leg over the bike and I put my feet on the pedals and OFF I WENT! Cycling GODDESS!!

I haven’t ridden a bike for ages but I remembered exactly what to do because its just like riding a bike! The sun was shining through the trees above me, and glinting against the river, and my hair was streaming behind me in the pleasant Sevillian breeze. Well, it would have been if the helmet hadn’t stuck it all to my head. Soon I was practically flying down the cycle lane, a young adventuress soaring through Seville ready to take on the world! I decided to name my bicycle THE DUCHESS because when I was riding her I felt like a royal family member aboard her strong new steed! I was a modern day Knight! When I had to turn a corner, I did it deftly. Deftly! I’ve never done anything deftly in my life!

As I got closer to home I nearly got hit by a car, so I started walking it again. “This,” I thought to myself, “is the first time I’ve ever really owned something with wheels.” (Which isn’t technically true but when you’re in a romantic mood you just let your mind take you wherever it wants). “Thousands of years ago when men (and women) where hunched in caves somebody invented the WHEEL and we all became MILLIONAIRES!! This is my first vehicle! A doorway into a new world where I laugh at those fools walking around with their feet!” It was so joyful. I spied more of my new friends on their balcony opposite my flat so I marched my bicycle (aka THE DUCHESS) over to show her off and receive compliments.

Now, my new flatmate introduced me to a new approach to life which is thus: when you experience extreme joy and elation, it is shortly followed by depression and anguish. Regular fans will know I’ve already had a week with limited gas, internet and electricity, so I kind of thought perhaps I got the depressed bit first and now was my time for pure elation! However, this was not to be. Intimate friends of mine will be well acquainted with a really fun quirk of mine where I am able to lose phones at a rate that is so unbelievable people think I’m doing it on purpose. It was just as I was showing off my new bicycle that I realised that, in all the excitement, I had YET AGAIN lost phone.

It’s all the bloody bike’s fault. If I’d never set eyes on its horrible pink metal body I’d never have lost it, I’ve been so careful since I lost my last mobile phone 1.5 months ago!!! Why do bad things happen to good people!?!?! Now I’m phoneless and all I have to show for it is a bicycle, which might be able to get me into town a bit quicker but it can’t send Snapchats to my friends in England when I wake up with a really impressive amount of double chins, can it!? CAN IT!?

I still like the bike though. OBVIOUSLY I can’t post any photos but one thing I will never lose is my artisitc talent and passion for Microsoft Paint! Here and an artist’s impression of the bike. I call it “The Duchess on a Sunny Day next to her Blue Helmet”

I didn’t draw myself on the bicycle because I’m still crying about my phone.
Well, that’s how for now!! And remember kids, you don’t need a phone to be happy as long as you’ve got your health and a positive outlook.
Hasta pronto xx

IMPORTANT INFO if you also want a BIKE:
Where can I buy a bike/hire in Seville for a short term basis?
I got my bicycle from Rebiciclate  (Calle Peris Mencheta) just between Calle Feria and the Alameda de Hercules. If you’re only in Seville for a short time (eg. a semester) then you can buy a bike from there and if you keep the receipt, at the end of your trip they will buy it back for half the price you paid. You just have to bloody hope the bike doesn’t get stolen. Their cheapest bikes are 60 euros, we got locks for 10 and a helmet for 20. They’re very friendly and helpful and they have some beautiful vintage bikes.

For stolen bikes head to the flea markets on other side of the river on Saturdays and Sundays. Its important to get a good bike lock so your bike doesn’t get stolen….AND GET A HELMET KIDS!

Highly recommended by many people is the Sevicci bike scheme, where you can get a card and use the public bikes for free for 30 minutes. I chose against this because I might need the bike outside of Seville. 🙂

How to get to Ikea from Seville

You’ve just arrived in Seville in the deep mid-winter and all you’ve been given is a flanelette sheet and an extremely long pillow? Do you love bargains? Go to Ikea!

IKEA IN SEVILLE!!!!!

How to get to Ikea from Seville

Its not difficult to get to Ikea on public transport from Seville. You need to get the bus from Plaza de Armas. The M160 Sevilla-Gines goes every 20 minutes or so and
it takes about 15 minutes. If you’re not sure then ask at the Information Desk in Plaza de las Armas and they’re pretty helpful. Sit near the front and ask the driver to tell you when you get to IKEA (I said something like “quiero llegar a IKEA” and he told me the stop). Its right next to Aire Sur.

From the bus stop, you need to walk back up the road and to the roundabout and go right, up the hill. You’ll soon see IKEA looming up ahead. Remember, Sevillian people are really helpful so if you’re confused ask somebody else on the bus. Also remember no matter how good your intentions are, when you go to IKEA you will spend more than you intended to. I spent double.

To come back just wait at the bus stop on the opposite side of the road to where you arrived. The M160 is pretty regular, but if not there are a few buses that head back to Seville.

Shops like Ikea in Seville

If you don’t want to make he trek here are some more central options:

Tiger, just off Calle Tetuán (near Zara): has IKEA style layout. DEFINITELY Nordic or something. And sells a lot of quirky homeware and stationary, things like mirrors, jewellery stands and drawing pins. This is a GREAT place!

So called “chinos” are large bazaar-style supermarkets owned by Chinese people- but instead of selling food, they are absolutely stuffed with every object a human could ever need. They’re like Ebay in a shop. They are all over Seville and have kitchenware, blankets, heaters etc. For some things they are very cheap.

There are a couple of Carrefour supermarkets that have loads of stuff – the one just outside the Macarena has everything from porridge oats to double beds, mountain bikes, kettles and bath mats.

GOOD LUCK!

Xox

New year new me (Seville.2)

Hello friends, fans and acquaintances!!!
I am writing this whilst on the plane to Seville!

Last year I flew with Monarch but today things have taken a turn for the worse and we are flying with Ryan Air. The Ryan Air experience seems to mainly involve the air stewards walking up and down the aisle trying to sell you raffle tickets and hot dogs and automated messages from Ryan Air telling us about the hot dogs and raffle tickets. I asked one for a napkin 50 minutes ago and she said she’d be right back but I guess she was inundated with requests for raffle tickets and hasn’t found the time? I’ll keep you updated.

You’re only meant to bring 10kg of hand luggage on Ryan Air flights. I have 15 but nobody’s weighed me so they have no idea! When I was boarding the plane I acted like my bag was very light so they wouldn’t be suspicious, which was a real challenge. Thankfully I actually have an A Level in Theatre so at least I was qualified for the situation.

So I’m going to Seville for another work experience programme, this time with DSC Regen which is based in London. We’ve been doing Spanish lessons and training this week and we had to stay in London. Walking through London with all my luggage was a harrowing experience, not only because of the weight if it all, but because people kept getting up in my grill. I ran over two people’s feet and one dog. People in London have a dead zombified look about them on the commute, even if you try to catch their eye and smile they just have none of it. I do like the tube though, especially the bit where you get to stand in line and beep your card, it makes me feel like I’m living in the future!!!

I’m travelling with a big group of people from all over the place. The programme is themed “Community Development” so we’re all going to be working in organisations that are trying to save the world and stuff. I’m going to be saving the world by teaching Spanish children about the environment and conservation. There are a LOT of vegetarians in the group. For lunch I bought myself a mango and slaw noodle salad to try and fit in. It was disappointing. I feel this is going to be my fate for the next three months. New year, new me! Sarah version 2015!! Though, I think I’d find it hard to be totally veggie in Seville as the Spanish people have so many wonderful ways of preparing pig!

Here are things I’m excited to do in Seville:

(Finally) visiting the cathedral and the Giralda
Eating ice cream
Eating at…. La Azotea, La Brunilda, Cristina&Co, and lots of wonderful new places.
Seeing more flamenco
Meeting up with friends
Going to the modern art museum
Enjoying the weather as it gets warmer
Exploring new parts of the city
Not be robbed (TOUCH WOOD!!!)

Its a bit sad going back as most of my amazing friends that I had before won’t be there. I liked them all because they never judged me for how much I ate, peed and listened to chart pop music. What if my new friends aren’t as understanding?! What if they peer pressure me into listening to alternative music or cycling?! Its a scary situation but only time will tell.

Saludos for now, amigos.

Update: An air steward has just offered to sell me a raffle ticket again.

DIY Party Decorations from Book Pages for a Literature Party

Over Christmas my parents hosted their annual “Christmas Cracker”. They don’t actually call it a Christmas Cracker, that’s just what it has come to be known as. They love themes, and this year’s theme was “Literature”.

Mother bought a couple of poor quality books and asked me to make some decorations, and this is what I made…

Book Page Bunting

This must be one of the easiest and most effective crafts I’ve ever done. I was inspired by this tutorial from Brooklyn Limestone that I found on pinterest.

Materials: String, unwanted book, sticky tape, string

1. Rip a lot of pages out of a book.

2. Use a blank page to make a template shaped like this… (you may wish to fold this page in half to make it easier

3. Cut out 1 gazillion pages in this shape
4. Go through the book pages and put them in a pile so all the most attractive pages are facing down. Title pages for example can be very pretty so you want that facing outwards once the bunting is hung up.

5.Take your string and start sticking the triangles to it at equal intervals. If you want this to last longer you could fold the top band over to encase the string, and use double-sided sticky tape or glue. But if you’re just making it for a party give yourself a break and take the easy option.

6.To avoid tangling the bunting up its easier to make a series of short lengths of bunting as opposed to one long one.
7. HANG UP EVERYWHERE!! 
Note: As you can see I got a bit creative and cut heart shapes into the middle of some of my bunting.
Old Book Christmas Tree

This is quite a festive craft but you could easily adapt it for other occasions.
1. Take a book and rip the cover off.
2. Draw the outline of half a Christmas tree on the first page.
3. Taking a bunch of pages at a time, start cutting out following this outline until all the pages are that shape
4. Flex the spine about a bit so and stand the book up fully open. IT LOOKS SICK!!

To go with the Literature Themed Decorations, my parents arranged some Literature Themed Games!
Firstly they invited everybody to bring a quote from one of their favourite books or poems and we stuck them on the wall. Then we tried to guess which books they came from.
My sister printed off lots of pictures of book covers with the titles removed, to see if we knew which books they were from.
Finally, my dad wrote a quiz about books.
All those activities turned out much funner than you’d expect!

Frida Kahlo wearing clothes and bossing it

I got this set of beautiful prints by Annie’s Fingers while Christmas shopping at Mucho Mas K Market in Seville. They show three of the Spanish speaking world’s most famous and popular artists, represented with these quirky illustrations and accompanied by a quote. I was shopping for other people but sometimes you just have to admit to yourself that nobody would appreciate something as much as you would.
Gaudí, Picasso, Kahlo
Frida Kahlo is one of my favourite artists, which isn’t that interesting because she’s probably one of the most popular artists in the world. Even so, a lot of people have never heard of her or aren’t really familiar with her art which always surprises me. I first found out about her during a GCSE art class from which my most lasting memory is that she painted a picture of herself being given birth to. What a babe. Her work deals with her identity as a Mexican woman, as well as the tragedies and difficulties she faced throughout her life and her relationship with her own body. Last year when I was in Mexico I got to visit her “Blue House” in Mexico City, a beautiful museum, where there was a special exhibition on show in collaboration with Vogue Mexico, about her clothes, called “Las Apariencias enganan: los vestidos de Frida Kahlo”. I liked Kahlo before I went to the museum but seeing her home and finding out more about her really made me fall in love.

“Naturaleza Muerta”, 1942, Frida Kahlo at the Museo de Frida Kahlo
I thought this meant Dead Nature, but is actually a translation for “Still Life”
If you don’t know much about Kahlo’s style I guess it might seem shallow to put a whole show on her about her clothes, but actually pne of the aspects of Kahlo’s life I find really interesting is her sense of style. Having suffered polio as a child she was left with one leg much weaker than the other, and then after a a horrible road accident, she had to wear a large metal corset/brace to help support her back. Unable to wear the fashions of the times on top of this corset, she turned to her Mexican roots. Traditional Mexican clothing features large woollen skirts and kaftans, covered in wonderful embroidery, and Frida would combine this Mexican dress with ethnic clothes from Guatemala and China as well as European and North American fashion. Her outfits were designed to cover or obscure her legs and corsets, and the amazing colours and embroidery distracted any attention from her body This is an extract from one of the boards at the museum:

“Frida’s use of this traditional dress to strengthen her identity, reaffirming her poilical beliefs, and concealing her imperfections, also built on her own sense of heritage and personal history.”

I love how her sense of style was able to go beyond ‘fashion’ and instead became part of her true identity and sense of self. At the museum you could see one of the corsets she wore, all leather straps and metal buckles. They also showed some of her most legendary outfits, and I love her style.

Frida Kahlo’s head dress
Some amazing cat eye sunglasses

She would paint herself in the traditional outfits, surrounded by imagery about her life, as well as wearing them. Carlos Fuentes wrote “Frida’s arrival at the Palacio de Bellas Artes would be announced by the sound of her jewellery and how the architectural grandeur of the palace, its paintings and the captivating music of its concerts would be instantaneously outshone by her striking presence”. Surely everyone dreams of being described like that!?

Photo of Frida painting in one of her traditional outfits.
(Photo from Museo de Frida Kahlo website)

It was while she was recovering from an operation, and committed to bed rest, that she wrote in her diary the quote that Annie’s Fingers uses in the print: “Legs. What do I need them for if I have wings to fly?”. The diary page is on display in the museum.

“Pies, para qué los quiero si tengo alas pa’ volar. 1953”
This was written a year before her death in 1954.

Without context the quote seems airy and cheerful, but with this drawing it is more than that. She is trying to be defiant. Defiant in the face of difficulty and pain. Having the intimate contents of your diary – and, in fact, your entire house – on display to the general public may be less than ideal for most people. But there is so much beauty there that although I felt a bit like a stalker I felt so lucky to see it. She’s inspirational; her beautiful and timeless art allows her to overcome her physical restrictions.

You can follow Annie’s Fingers on Instagram to find out more about her artwork.
There is more info from the exhibition about Kahlo’s fascinating wardrobe here and the Museum’s website has lots of photos of her and her art.
All photos are mine except the one of Frida herself. ahhhhh looking back at my photos of Mexico always breaks my heart because I just want to go back!!

Tara xx

Sexist Songs 2014: CHRISTMAS EDITION!

Mariah Carey forces her dog under some mistletoe so she can snog him

So I’m going home in a few days and I’m beginning to feel quite Christmassy! This seems to be the year that “feminism” has entered social media, I don’t know if its just the people I’m friends with on Facebook but every other link I see shared is about sexism and feminism and emancipation of the fairer sex. Even buzzfeed is at it. At the beginning of the year I wrote a bit about sexism in the Top 40. In these times of festive fun its very important not to forget that sexism is still a problem and so I thought I’d take an analytical look at some of our favourite Christmas songs, and ask the question we’ve all been dying to know the answer to… are Christmas songs sexist?

Is Mariah Carey, “All I want for Christmas is You?” sexist?

My favourite thing about a good Christmas song is it stops me from worrying about those popstars who don’t have careers anymore. Whenever I think of Mariah, I can smile and think, oh she’s going to be fine in her old age, because she sang (possibly) the best Christmas song there is. This festive classic reflects the classic princess/prince idea that we were all taught by Disney, basically, you’re going to be just fine as long as you find your Prince. In fact, your Prince is all you need to be happy! I don’t like that stupid stereotype that sets us all up for failure because klet’s be honest, ladies (and gentlemen!) no matter how great your partner is they can’t make you happy if you don’t know how to be happy already!! #PREACH! But I do like that Mariah focusses on festive love instead of festive consumerism.

Verdict: You just can’t criticise a song that uses sleigh bells with such reckless abandon,.

Is “Santa Baby” sexist?

Whereas Mariah is pining for some fireside loving, Marilyn, Kylie, Madonna and all those other wonderfully beautiful ladies have got something a bit more tangible on their minds. “Santa, I really want a nice gift this year, and I think I deserve it because I’ve spent the last 12 months not kissing people…”. Santa Baby really embraces the idea that women want material goods and that they will use their wiley, sexy ways to get them. If you don’t think this song is gendered, wel firstly you’re being a bit dumb, but secondly have a look at Buble’s version. Whereas the ladies want some kind of fur garment (“slip a sable under the tree”), some decorations from Tiffany’s and a ring, Buble wants a Rolex, some Canucks tickets and some decorations bought, quite inexplicably, from Mercedes… I’m not sure that makes the song a misogynist´s anthem but it is some strong proof that Michael Buble is a moron.

Verdict: It clearly plays on “Gold Digger” stereotypes, but it could arguably be ironic?

Is “It’s Cold Outside” sexist?

On the subject of Buble, here’s another song he’s murdered recorded with Idina Menzel. But I will always remember the version by Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews because it has been forever forged in my brain as The Creepiest Song Ever. Cary Mattews’s voice sounds so young in the recording, coupled with her saying “my father will be pacing the floor…” makes you think she’s about 15. I think the creepy McCreepy highlight is when she says “Say, what’s in this drink…? I wish I could break this spell”. What IS in the drink, Tom!? What spell have you poisened her with!? She goes on, “The answer is no.” But thankfully he is not perturbed and keeps pressurising her to drink and smoke until finally agrees to stay.

Verdict: I don’t know if its cold outside but this song sends a freezing cold shiver down my spine.

Is East 17, “Stay Another Day”, sexist?

Christmas seems to be littered with needy men attempting to convince women to stay with them. East 17 choose to emotionally blackmail their loved one: “Baby if you have to go away, don’t think I can take the pain… don’t leave me alone like this”. Also, in a vaguely innappropriate gesture of affection, he says “I touch your face while you are sleeping”. I find this very offensive as first of all its an invasion of personal space while somebody is unconscious. Secondly it reflects this awful idea that women look good when they’re sleeping, which is cruel as some of us dribble when we’re sleeping and we can’t help it.

Verdict: I’m going to be honest, this may well be my favourite Christmas song so I refuse to criticise it.

Is Slade “Merry Christmas Everybody” sexist?

No, its not, its the best song ever written and should be played all year around.

Seasons greetings!!!

Blollings xx

Christmas shopping in Seville: Mucho Más Ke Market

Mucho Más Ke Market, Sevilla
Christmas shopping while you’re abroad can be a biiiiit stressful, especially when you’re like me and you find picking an ice cream flavour a terrible ordeal, meaning that picking gifts for other people is an experience more harrowing than the Hunger Games. Additionally is the major problem that everything you buy has to fit in your luggage to go home, which is particularly concerning seeing as when I came out to Seville my luggage was already 3kg over. My good friend here the other day was like, “I don’t understand how you were over the limit!” This was probably in reference to the fact I wear the same clothes every. single. day. I really  blame the huge amount of moisturiser I have to lug around with me. 
However, Seville actually has a wealth of wonderful shopping opportunities, and I decided I may as well try to enjoy the shopping experience. So yoday i went waddling over to the other side of town to visit the “Mucho Más K Market” market, which opened in Seville today. Its meant to be an alternative to the average Christmas market. Seville is a pretty traditional place, but there is also a bit of a bohemian vibe here and there and there are a lot of young artists and craftspeople around and about.
The market hall is full of scaffolding so you feel like you’re in the middle of a get-in at a theatre. The scaffolding is full of plants, which makes you feel like you’re in the last section of IKEA where they sell bamboo and vases. Overall its a very pleasing effect. Its not a massive place but there’s a small bunch of stalls selling your average alternative crafts, like quirky silver jewellery and indie illustrations printed onto every day items. Some things are slightly overpriced but I did buy a couple of things which MUST REMAIN SECRET as they may or may not be Christmas Presents!!!
My colleague told me about the market. If she hadn’t, I don’t think I ever would have found it. Its not signposted and its almost impossible to find (mainly because its in Seville, and everything in Seville I’d impossible to find!) If you want to go then I suggest you head to the indoor market on Calle  Feria. If you’re coming from the mushroom, turn right just before that market. You’ll end up on called arrayàn and the market is on the right.
#christmasshopping
#hohoho