Monday, April 30, 2012

the moodiest birthday cake ever

and on a completely unrelated note, recipe for the moodiest birthday cake ever:

*cheese frosting:

 - 16 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
- 12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 35 grams of sugar glass

with the mixer on medium beat butter and cream cheese for 2 miutes until light and fluffy. with mixer on low, add sugar and beat until smooth.

* add mini marshmallows (mainly to cover your tracks) and some black sugar 

* matching silver candles and oven tray cover (yup, genius)

et voila!

moodiest birthday cake ever

I recommend using red velvet for the inside. it looks kind of like blood

to get WHATEVER YOU WANT printed on sugar to put on a cake click here (go to 'tartas' and then 'oblea' or just write to them in english).

Friday, April 27, 2012

note to HR on how to mainstream recruitment and avoid cancer

I decided to go freelance about 5 years ago. Well, not really. I went on maternity leave, and then back to work, and then back on (extended) maternity leave, and then I started getting work while on leave, and then I realized I kind of liked this half way house. I wasn’t happy being in the office and away from the kids full time, and the periods when I didn’t work I’d go insane, but this middle ground seemed to have the best of both worlds. 

I started slow: I’d get a job, focus on that for a month or two, and then go back to being a full time mom, but feeling renewed by the fact that I had been travelling, interacting with adults and learning in my field.  I’d had a chance to miss my kids, and the swings in the park did not seem so boring after spending time in refugee camps.

 Soon I got lucky and found a large client that had so many evaluations a year they did the recruitment in bulk. This had two advantages: first, by March I knew what I was doing until the end of the year, which meant I could plan around it, and second, because all my work was with the same client, it was easy to juggle different jobs at the same time. In short,  I was spoiled. Yes, it meant that sometimes interesting work would come  my way during the year which I had to turn down, but you wont hear me complaining about that.

This went on for a couple of years and finally finished in April. So now now I’m  in between jobs, otherwise known as unemployed-until-further-notice. I find this both exhilarating and terrifying.

The upside is that I’m getting around to doing all that stuff that I normally never have time for, like getting my kid to a dermatologist now that the wart is almost bigger than her. Or looking into that allergic reaction I had the last time I got on a plane, which apparently requires me to carry an epipen at all times to avoid death. You know, just catching up with admin.

Another thing that I have managed to get around to doing is looking into all those rosters and calls for consultants floating around and, OH-MY-GOD, applying for short term consultancies these days is harder than childbirth. You practically have to do the damn job in order to send in the proposal. There seem to be a few new practices around since  I was last ‘out there,’ and frankly, I would like to highlight a couple of things to the people doing the recruitment from this end:

  • the period that you expect my offer to be valid for should not exceed the actual time of the consultancy, and it should certainly not triple it.

  • also, asking me to be legally bound to accept this consultancy in any time frame at all is kind of out of order since you might not give it to me at all. In short, you can’t (shouldn’t) ask me to turn jobs down on the basis that you might want me

  • and what is up with the panel interview? I mean, it’s bad enough to do this for an actual post, but really? You want to do this for under six months? You want to have people asking technical questions they don’t understand, like:

      ‘what indicators would you use for youth’

     to which I replied ‘there is no such thing as indicators for youth, per se,   they need to be developed according to your objectives, actually, if this is an end of project evaluation and you haven’t worked out the indicators yet we are both in deep shit here’

     but only in my head, because I am thinking that answer was not going to get me  the job. I’m that strategic

  • Neither  is it going to help to point out that they are hiring me for 65 days (for what  would no doubt require more time), and at the same time giving me a deadline to hand the report that adds up to less than 50 days from today, because that is when the donor is expecting it, but apparently pointing out simple mathematics is NOT helpful.

  • Don’t expect me to calculate costs, including travel, if you are not telling me where I’m going and for how long. Also, when makes a difference, for the most  part prices double during  summer months, and we both know the timetable attached is irrelevant, especially as it states I stated this job two weeks ago.

  • Don’t schedule conference calls without taking into account time differences, and if you see my skype on in the middle of MY night don't call.  Remember,  I live here, so the fact that I am here does not make it ok for you to try to engage.  That applies to weekends too.

  • Do not, under any circumstance, send me an email that reads “what is your best price” (I kid you not). I am not selling jewellery by the sea in Egypt.  I would not dream of asking that from my lawyer and neither should you.

In short, we are potentially about to enter into a work relationship where you hold most of the cards, but you should not abuse this, mainly because it’s not right, but also, because your hair might fall off due to bad karma, on a sunny day, when you don’t have access to SPF.

So be nice to me, or you might end up with cancer.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Can boobs cause earthquakes? updated

I have decided to repost this for various reasons. One being that I think that bookquake day -as a concept- rocks, but mostly because I think it would be really cool if it stuck, Hallmarks begun making cards and party flavours,  and Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedigh was forever credited for being the creator of bookquake day. 

We could also call it "reclaim your boobs day." 

The message remains the same: we are, and should be, free to wear our boobs without anyone attacking us -or them- for it, and if anyone has an issue with that  they should take it directly with the one that made them, i.e. their god.

so, if you agree, show your support by publicising boob day any way you see fit (and yes, men have boobs too, less polemic ones admittedly, but man-boobs are also allowed to participate).


According to Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedigh, Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader, YES WE CAN!

In his words:
"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes"

I could write a long feminist post on this, and maybe tomorrow I will, but today I am really busy trying to finish something so that this sinner can take her family to visit the rest of the family, and frankly this whole ‘women are the source of all evil and men are mere puppets that have no will and cannot help themselves’ act is -if you ask me- a tad bit jaded. I mean, when Jesus was around and they wrote the whole Adam & Eve story maybe. But now? seriously?

Still, Jen McCreight has pulled off a pretty good one. Apparently she is being criticized by some for making a joke on April 19, probably because this joke has now turned into a worldwide movement and a pretty funny, successful and pacific response to this kind of attitude. Because lets face it, unfortunately Mr. Sedigh is not alone, and there are many countries were this kind of attitude not only is NOT a joke, but women pay very dearly for it.

Essentially she proposed that we prove this statement wrong through Boobquake day, i.e. a day when all women (or many) dress immodestly, at the same time, and wait to see if an earthaquake happens as a consequence. That day is TODAY! (april 26, 2010)

To those who say that this is a stupid response I say this: stupid statements deserve nothing but stupid responses.

And this is precisely why it is so brilliant, because it exposes the initial statement for what it is: baseless and sexist gibberish.

The Facebook fan page has managed to get over 44,000 fans in less than a week. Women around the world are proudly and shamelessly exposing their assets be it in person or via the Internet. I myself quickly ran upstairs, dug up a sexy bra (I never actually wear,) and took some pics with my iphone to post as my twitter profile picture for the day. I had seen kaseandannasmom post hers once a week to promote breast cancer awareness and self monitoring, and never thought twice about it, but seeing MY OWN on the net, even if in that tiny little space was actually far more disturbing that I would have imagined.

Unfortunately soon my fan base began to grow with somewhat dodgy and horny subjects, which was more than I could bear, so I have come up with a new version that I am much more comfortable with. I asked my 4 yr old to draw a picture of me, which she loves doing these days, and then asked her to include my boobies.

me naked, by the princess

Et voila! Feminism with a twist.

I invite you to support this pacific and humorous initiative. It’s a very Ghandish way of supporting our sisters in repression. An efficient and charming manner of exposing (in a very literal use of the word) our support to them and against those that suppress them under the veil of religious rules conveniently written by men.

And lets pray that no earthquakes or tremors actually happen today or we are going to have a pretty hard time explaining ourselves.

In the words of a recent anonymous (to me) protester

Monday, April 23, 2012

two wishes

the other day the princess found two of those white things that grow everywhere  in the spring. I think they are called dandelions that have gone to seed. You know, the white fluffy ones  you are supposed to take, close your eyes,  make a wish, and then blow all the fluffy bits away.

Her first wish, she told me very serious,  was for me to get fat so that she could have a baby brother (thank you very much).
The second for a unicorn, 'but a real one' she specified, god forbid the fluff fairy might show up with a stuffed one instead.

Should I be concerned that she is praying? she seems so focused I'm afraid we might end up with that unicorn....

if you had two wishes, what would they be?

Friday, April 20, 2012

one year on, remembering Tim Hetherington

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush.
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.


Tim's latest work is showing at the Yossi Milo Gallery  (New York) until May 19th

Yossi Milo Gallery. 245 Tenth Avenue New York .USA
Solo Exhibition of Tim Hetherington's work from Liberia and Afghanistan.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

on what aid work is (or might be) doing to my kids' identity

photo of NY subway taken by the Princess

“momma, can we stay here for ever?”

This is what my 5 year old asked three months after our arrival to NY, a move  I resisted because I thought  my kids would be better off based in a small town in the north of Europe with swans, deer, and cycling paths amongst the trees. Turns out my monkeys prefer the concrete jungle. Trouble remained silent,  too in awe of the tractor digging in front of us to comment. Coming across a dead rat was another  highlight of our initial months here.

“momma, can we go live in India?”
This is what my five year old asked after 7 months living here.

A classmate of hers had gone to India for a month with her parents as volunteers in a school. They did a presentation in her class and she was mighty impressed. Now I can get her to eat anything as long as I say they eat it  in India.

Me – “you mean you want to go on holidays to India”

Princess – “no, when we are done living in NY, can we go to India, to live?”


Recently I was in Bangladesh for a job. Someone suggested I could explain to the kids why I go to these places. Try to help them understand what is so important for their mom to leave them for long stretches of time. I thought it was a good idea. The project at hand was on gender violence, which I decided a 4 and 5 year old were not ready for, so instead I told them about poverty, about how not all kids can go to  school, how they might not have new clothes or toys, ever. When I came back with shiny and tingly bangles the princess asked:

“can we go live in Bangladesh?”

Me – “I don’t think you’d like it sweetie, it’s very poor without all the nice things that India has to offer” (apologies to Bangladesh, but from what I saw I found it a very depressing, dirty, and over crowded place)


“all the people live here. We don’t. we go to different countries to see which one we like best”
This is what my 5 year old  said 9 months after our arrival in NYC.

“our home is Holland” replied Trouble.
A place that we lived in for just three years and with which we have no ties.

Every year we fly back ‘home’ to Italy and Spain in an attempt to secure their identities and strengthen their "mother tongues". These are the  places the hubs and I call home, even though neither one of us was born there.

Does this make them fourth or fifth culture kids? ...this is the first time in their short lives they can speak the official language of the country they live in.

At least I can say that they seem to like it. So far. Only god knows how they’ll feel about this  mess further down the road.

Monday, April 16, 2012

rainy beach day - April family self portrait

rainy day in Monterey, California

This project started in January 2011, mainly because I was never in any of the family photos. 
I take one portrait of the whole family, myself included, once a month. 

Wherever we are, whatever we are doing. 

It was meant to last  for the duration of 2011, but I'm enjoying it so much that it has carried on.  Every family should do this. 

To see previous months click on the links below:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

52 reasons why you shouldn’t date an aid worker

  1. They think everyone’s been to Africa enough times to discuss which are the best and worst airports.
  2. They don’t consider you have been to a place unless you had to rent an apartment and pay utilities
  3. They think the 11 pm news are talking about them
  4. They think they understand third world problems better than the experts or the people actually living in those third world countries
  5. They think 5 years is a long term commitment
  6. They think malaria and dengue are perfectly acceptable diseases for children to be exposed to
  7. They’ve heard gun shots, and are not afraid to tell you or you parents the story
  8. They’ll try to cook you black and white pasta, with zebra meat instead of squid, and complain if they can’t find it in the market
  9. They’ve eaten snake or crocodile, or both
  10. They will celebrate strange holidays like pchung beng and expect you to know what they are talking about
  11. They’ll be constantly be comparing your home town to their last destination
  12. It doesn’t matter how hot it gets, they’ve had worse and are not afraid to tell you the story
  13. They think having parasites is normal and a perfectly acceptable topic of conversation at dinner
  14. They blog
  15. If you complain about your  internet breaking down they’ll  remind you that children in Africa have to walk for miles just to get water
  16. If you ever have relationship issues they will do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)
  17. They choose furniture by weight and how easy it is to dismantle
  18. They think being apart for weeks on a regular basis is normal
  19. They are strange, or at least like to think they are
  20. There are as many of them as there are poor people that they are trying to help
  21. All conversations lead to a time when they were in ….
  22. They drink and eat all kinds of weird shit just because
  23. They are always suspicious of how real or committed other aid workers are
  24. They come out last in the movies because they are trying to recover from the emotional shock
  25. They cant change a light bulb without appointing a committee and a subcommittee
  26. Tableware is always ethnic and not always easily recognizable
  27. They will question the fair trade claims of your coffee
  28. You will have to hear the origin and story of every piece of original art work in their home
  29. They can’t give birth to more than one child in the same continent
  30. Will randomly  thank you in Kiswahili or khmer, and then attempt to apologize, in Khmer or Kiswahili
  31. Read books by other aid workers
  32. They do not know how to add and subtract, but can draft a 40 page document between the main and the dessert which will make no sense to anyone other than another  aid worker
  33. Have silver card memberships and points to airlines you –or the airport authority- never heard of, and expect you to use these for your joint holidays
  34. They idolize people who nobody knows and speak of them as if they were colleagues
  35. They take pictures almost daily and expect you to be interested in them
  36. They ask your opinion about everything but  they do whatever they want
  37. Everything can be justified, even if it contradicts a previous justification or logic
  38. They never heard of excel, and are pretty convinced it does not actually exist
  39. When arguing, you will be nicknamed after some dictator you never heard of before, and won’t be able to complain without having to put up with a condescending “what do  you  mean you don’t know who he is?!”(not affectionately)
  40. Will avoid fancy shoes because their feet are accustomed to feeling free and dealing with the rough terrain
  41. They are writing a memoire and you are likely to be included, how is yet to be determined
  42. They keep an emergency bag in case they have to leave the country in fifteen minutes notice.
  43. They listen to music you have never heard of
  44. They can’t cook a normal dish, they always have to experiment with new ingredients they brought from their last trip.
  45. They do yoga and meditate, but the real kind
  46. They will attempt to read rare books of traditional indigenous tales to your children or your nephews, in the original language
  47. They’ve experienced spiritual rebirth in Asia
  48. You will never understand their gifts
  49. They see ordinary objects and laugh
  50. You can’t watch a movie with them because they will inevitable compare the movie to the real thing
  51. They are always sleepy because they work 24/7 and are regularly jet lagged
  52. When together instead of competing over who has the best car they’ll compete over who’s been to the worst ‘shit hole’.

This post was 100% inspired by Vanilla North’s post “50 reasons not to date a graphic designer”, which is funny even if you are not a graphic designer or have never dated one, it’s enough if you know one. I even tried to see how many of her points could be used and “twisted” to apply to aid workers, (and don’t get me started on how it applies to photographers…) 

Feel free to add your reasons  in the comments section.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

hell is the other - March family self portrait

"hell is the other"   ... just kidding

This month's self-portrait was inspired by Jean Paul Sartre's play "No Exit," a depiction of the afterlife in which three characters are punished by being locked into a room together for eternity. This was also   the source of one of Sartre's most famous  quotations, 'l'enfer, c'est les autres'  ("Hell is other people")

Ever felt like that in a family reunion?

to see other months go to the links below.

Monday, April 2, 2012

on urban teddy bears

I don't know about you, but I spend most of my time trying to convince my kids that they need to wear something warm. They weren't supposed to wear these  until after  the shoot but... it's just been impossible. So I thought I'd  share a sneak peak.

Yesterday I got a package from a client that wants me to photograph their new catalogue of clothes/costumes. I had seen them on the website and was really looking forward to getting them (added perk, my kids get to keep them after the shoot), but they are SO MUCH CUTER in person (the costumes, .....ok, the kids too). 

They are made of really good sweatshirt material, but the "hairy bits" are really soft and cuddly like a teddy bear.

AND they've got a tail... that has been a big hit on this end.

so if you want one, just invite my kids to your next birthday party, 'cause that is all I am getting from now on, I mean, seriously, how cool are they?

PS I'm getting hired  to photograph them, the raving is all mine