Dear January...

And how do you make us feel better about all our hangovers, overdrafts, and failed resolutions? You slap us round the face with the January exam period.

Hi, January, I know you're quite busy right now guilting people into joining the gym and starting a new diet, and you're probably still cleaning up after all the NYE parties, so thanks for taking a moment to read my letter.

(Lots of people are calling you Dryanuary or Veganuary these days, but I'll stick with Jan if that's ok.)

You're the first chapter of the new year, the month that gets people into new activities, and new starts. Supposedly. It doesn't always go that way, does it? January 12th is apparently the day most people give up on their resolutions. So that means for the majority of January people sit around feeling a bit hard done by.

At least you help businesses. Gyms bloody love you. So do firework shops and Champage distributers. And what's with January sales? We *know* they just raise prices in November and then lower them again so we think we're getting a bargain. We know all that. But do we still fight tooth and nail to get into every shop with a red Sale sign? Of course we do. 

By the end of all the festive nights out, "investing" in new habits, "catch up" meals with friends, and sale surfing, we're broke. 

And how do you make us feel better about all our hangovers, overdrafts, and failed resolutions? You slap us round the face with the January exam period. 

Now that's just unfair, Jan. You need to give us either festivities OR life-influencing deadlines. You can't have it both ways. December has the right idea. December eases us in with end of term shaningans and gives us time off from responsibilities. Then in you swoop to drop us into reality.

So how about a deal this year, January? Maybe this year you'll help us get through a few more of our resolutions. Maybe this year you'll let us off from the hangover train. And please, please Jan, help us out with the exams a bit this time?

Whilst you're at it, have a word with your mate March about this whole Brexit thing. See if you guys can sort that out, yeah?

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What have the arts got to do with Freshers?


Enchanting: Edward Burne-Jones at Tate

This may be one of the most successful attempts at showcasing one artist

In a moment of silence, you stand in one of the most famous scenes from any fairy-tale. The moment in Sleeping Beauty when the sleeping enchantment is cast on everyone in the castle. You are the prince, discovering the sleeping castle folk. To one side you see the sleeping soldiers in the briar wood. To the other you see the princess herself surrounded by her sleeping attendants. It is a moment of beauty. A moment of serenity. A moment of magic.

One fellow visitor came in full Pre-Raphaelite attire, wearing a skirt from the William Morris x H&M collection 
No artwork better encapsulates the popularity of Sir Edward Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite artist. With his artworks, he captured familiar stories but imbued them with the beauty and poise for which the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood became renowned.  Tate Britain’s colossal retrospective of the artist follows the rise of the artist, the son of a frame-maker in Birmingham.

All of the most famous artworks are here.

An exhibition of just one artist’s work is always ambitious. Yet this may be one of the most successful attempts at showcasing one artist. The scope of works included is phenomenal, and accomplishes what any retrospective aims to do, showcasing just how talented the artist really was.

All of Burne-Jones’ most famous works are here. The Sleeping Beauty panels (named The Legend of Briar Rose) can be admired in all their entirety. The central panels tell the narrative, but it is perhaps the side panels which are most interesting. Despite the decoration and full composition Burne-Jones clearly loves, he has shown restraint in the side panels. The single empty stool accompanied by the words ‘restless shuttle lieth still’ is perhaps the most compelling area of the series. Similarly, a room is devoted to his Perseus series. Normally in Southampton, the exhibition allows Londoners a rare opportunity to engage with these masterpieces. Although the majority of the scenes were painted in gouache, Burne-Jones initially attempted to make the entire series in silver and gold leaf relief. Two of those panels still survive and can be seen in the exhibition. They are just a hint of how easily Burne-Jones could flit between materials and techniques.

The Fairy Family. A series of Ballads and Metrical Tales Illustrating Fairy Mythology of Europe, 1857, Frotispiece and title pay by Edward Burne-Jones

It is this that is most successfully shown in the exhibition, how varied Burne-Jones’ artworks were. He is perhaps most commonly thought of as a painter, and his The Golden Stairs are even sometimes seen as a precursor to surrealism. However, it is made clear in Tate’s retrospective that he was far more than this. The exhibition is astounding in the range of objects compiled together.

The Good Shepherd, 1857-1861

A book of ballads he illustrated in 1857 is shown alongside his stain-glass windows. A ceramic tile dedicated to Geoffrey Chaucer- Burne-Jones’ most prominent muse- is seen along with a range of life drawings. A design for embroidery is hung next to some comical caricatures. It is as if no technique was left untouched or untried.

The idea is brought to a climax with the final room, full of Burne-Jones tapestries. The floral and decorative designs seen in his paintings seem to be brought to life with the more 3D  method, brought to their true completion. In the centre of the room sits a grand piano decorated with the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, just one more object to which Burne-Jones added his magic touch.

Orpheus and Eurydice Piano, 1870

Recent reviews in the Guardian have unfairly labelled Burne-Jones ‘boring’ and ‘stupid.’ These harsh labels should not put anyone off from seeing the exhibition. The reviews seem to slander the artworks for being ‘kitsch’ when really they are just accessible. It is unusual to have an exhibition so truly enjoyable for anyone walking in. There is nothing overly conceptual. The artworks are purely what Burne-Jones always intended them to be, “a beautiful, romantic dream of something that never was, never will be.” This fantasy is something anyone can appreciate. Being popular and easily enjoyable does not make the artworks kitsch.

The spell of the Pre-Raphaelite master is felt here in its entirety and does not let up until you leave the gift shop.


A Lazy Girl's Guide to Healthy Cooking

I hate keeping an eye on something ‘to make sure it doesn’t burn.’

I hate cooking. Just putting it out there before we proceed.

This is in no way a hobby. Unless we are talking about chocolate, I see food simply as a necessity. (When it comes to chocolate, it is obviously a passion.) 

I find cooking really boring, and I hate standing next to a pot and watching it ‘simmer’. I hate keeping an eye on something ‘to make sure it doesn’t burn.’ No thank you.

My hatred of cooking even extends to pasta. Yep, the food known as the easiest thing to make, the love of all students everywhere. I think it takes too long to cook. I take the term ‘al dente’ to its extreme and often leave the pasta cooking for under five minutes because I hate waiting for it to be soft and ‘edible.’
An actual real life meal I have cooked and consumed. 
Having made this disclaimer, I am now going to discuss some recipes I have found that I can just about deal with cooking. Despite my chocolate obsession, nay, my chocolate devotion, I am actually trying to keep a balanced diet and eat healthily, meaning I can no longer just rely on my half-cooked pasta with a sprinkling of cheese.

Although I’ve never actually met anyone who hates cooking as much as I do, I’m sure there must be other lazy chefs out there, so if you are one of us, please, put down the rock hard spaghetti, and read on. 

Nom nom nom 

(I have included effort level because let’s be honest that’s the only thing that matters. I have also done illustrations rather than taking photos because my food often looks pretty grim.)

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Ingredients: (You will notice I can never be bothered for measurements, so I suggest just bonking everything in and hoping for the best)
-       Two bell peppers
-       Bulghar wheat or couscous or rice
-       2 spring onions
-       Feta cheese
-       Cherry tomatoes
-       Pesto
-       Coriander
-       Olives
-       Garlic
-     Lemon

- Cut the peppers in half, drizzle in a smidge of oil and put in the oven for about 10 minutes       until cooked
- Cook the wheat/couscous 
- Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl
- When the couscous is done add to the bowl
- When the peppers are done, put the mixture inside
- Drizzle lemon over
- Take a photo
- Consume

Cook Time
-       About 20 minutes

Effort Level
-       5/10
-       Pretty darn good effort level. I’m a fan of this one. Minimal effort and it’s very filling and healthy.

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-       Quorn chicken pieces (or actual chicken if you’re a carnivore)
-       For this I pretty much use all the vegetables in the fridge that I want to get rid of in one go, everything goes well in this recipe, but some good ones would be: carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, baby sweetcorn, sugar snaps, red peppers, mushrooms
-       A tablespoon of oil
-       1 Onion
-       2 cloves of garlic
-       Chickpeas
-       1 can of chopped tomatoes
-       1 tablespoon of curry paste
-       (If you are feeling extra fancy you can also cook rice and eat them together)

-       Fry the onion and garlic in oil
-       Chop all the vegetable up and chuck them in
-       After a bit, put in the quorn and mix around
-       After another little bit, put in the chopped tomatoes and chickpeas and curry paste
-       Have a good mix until everything is cooked
-       Nom nom nom

Cook Time
-       I have to say, this is a long one, maybe 50 mins to an hour even. Yep, shock, horror.
-       It takes a while to chop up all the vegetables and even longer for them all to cook, particularly the sweet potato.
-       You can cut cooking time by putting some of the veg in the microwave to soften but I always forget to do this until they are in the pot and it’s too late. #ohwell. #noragrets.

Effort Level
-       8/10
-       Yep this dish is high maintenance. Wears perfect eyeliner to a lecture type of dish.
-       In my mind a dish that takes 50 minutes is a dish that has taken 45 minutes too long to make.
  But it is super yummy, healthy and gets rid of all the vegetable in the fridge you only bought to look good at Sainsburys alongside your mega size galaxy bar.

(Instagrammable rustic mason jar not included in the recipe) 

This will give you loads of energy for the start of your day. The oats are really nutritious and will fill you up more than just a plain fruit smoothie.

-       Oats
-       A smidge of honey (but leave this out if you’re really healthy)
-       Frozen fruit
-       0% fat yogurt
-       Some milk
-       2 teaspoons of peanut butter (unless you have an anaphylactic boyfriend who ruins all your attempts at making your recipes more interesting). 

  •    Chuck it all in and use a mixer to joosh it until smooth.

Cook time:
-       Like 5 minutes

Effort level:
- 6/10
-       Okay, despite this taking no time at all, I am still giving it a high effort level, because it’s a breakfast smoothie so you have to wake up earlier than you would usually to have enough time to make this before uni.
-        I mean the mixer thing is really loud for early in the morning.
-       But, still worth doing if you have a bit of time before a lecture.

Well done, Hudi, hold the frying pan with oven gloves. Now you look competent. 

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-       Tablespoon of oil
-       1 clove of garlic
-       1 teaspoon of ginger
-       2 spring onions
-       Almost any vegetables can go in this. Carrots, peppers, broccoli, courgette, baby sweetcorn.
-       ½ mug of water with a vegetables stock cube
-       2 tablespoons of soy sauce
-       Ready to use noodles

·      Heat the oil in a frying pan or, if you are very fancy, in a wok
·      Fry the garlic, onion and ginger
·      Add all the other ingredients
·      Cook until they are cooked
·      Stir in the noodles and continue cooking for a minute
·      Eat

Cook Time
·      25 minutes

Effort Level
- 4/10
·      Not bad, actually! The only effort is chopping up all your vegetables but this doesn’t need any finesse so you can do it whilst watching Made in Chelsea (which is the only measurement I need).

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Okay, this recipe seems really strange and I have been mocked for cooking it before. But, my dear lazy cooking friends, it is actually really yum, I promise. And you get to eat a lot of sweet potato which is really healthy.

-       Sweet potatoes
-       Mint
-       Limes
-       Tamari sauce (or soy sauce if you’re not this extra).
-       A sprinkle of salt

-       Cut up the sweet potatoes and stick in the oven until cooked
-       Grate 2 limes to get the zest and then squeeze 3 limes to get the juice (the grating takes forever but is a good arm workout, so you don’t have to go to the gym as well, right?)
-       Into the bowel of the limes put in chopped up mint and two table spoons of tamari sauce and mix
-       Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, sprinkle with some salt and cover in the minty mixture
-       Consume

Cook Time
-       Ages. Which is the one problem with this recipe. Why do sweet potatoes take so long to cook!? If you plan ahead (which I always fail to do) then this is fine, because you can just stuff the potatoes into the oven for 40 minutes and do something else with your day for a bit. The actual lime and mint mixture only takes about 10 minutes to make, mainly because grating 2 limes is actually tough.

Effort Level
- 6/10
-       As I may have mentioned, the lime grating is a task. Planning your day around putting sweet potatoes in the oven is also an effort. But all worth it as the actual cooking is non existent.

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Probs the most complex of these recipes, this one actually makes me feel so talented that I could open a brunch café.

-       6 Eggs
-       Chopped up mushrooms
-       Chopped up spring onions
-       1 clove of garlic
-       A blob of oil
-       A sprinkle of parsley
-       A shedload of spinach
-       A blib of milk
-       Feta cheese (obviously can minimise the calories by controlling how much feta is in this.)

-       Chop up the spring onions, garlic and mushroom and fry until brown
-       Add the spinach and parsley
-       ‘Whisk’ the eggs and milk. (But actually just mix around a bit with a fork, this isn’t Masterchef.)
-       On goes the feta
-       Let it cook for about four minutes
-       Put into a baking tray and into the oven
-       Let it cook for about fifteen minutes until it’s all set and risen
-       Eat eat eat

Cook Time
-About 25/30 minutes

Effort Level
-       4/10
-       Actually so easy to do, all you need to do is chuck everything in and mushrooms are absurdly fun to cut up.

So there you have it!! I know it’s not that mind blowing but hey, it’s an improvement on pasta, right?

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Women of Art History: Edmonia

Edmonia Lewis. 1844-1907. America.

How many artists can you name? Chances are, you'll have named many more men than women. From the moment we are children, most of the artists and artworks we are exposed to are created by or about men. It's time to rebalance the scales and open up the artistic 'canon', introducing more women and ethnic minorities into the widely known narrative of art history. Here, I'll be trying to do just that in the style of a children's story, introducing you to one more woman from art and art history who, until now, you might not have known. 

Once upon a time, a little girl called Edmonia was orphaned and was raised by her aunts and her older brother. She helped her aunts sell Native American baskets to tourists. In 1859, her brother helped give her enough money for her to go to college and study art. 

Edmonia was Native American and African American. At Oberlin College there were only a handful of other non-white students. She really stood out.

A lot of people were racist towards Edmonia. They didn’t like how she looked and thought that made her a bad person. One night, Edmonia was attacked by a racist mob.

Edmonia couldn’t graduate from her degree because of all the violence against her. But she didn’t let that stop her.

She moved to Boston and began working on her craft: sculpting.

It was very unusual for a woman to be a sculptor. In Victorian times, people thought there were things only men could do. They thought only men should be able to be sculptors. They thought women should stick to sewing or painting. But Edmonia knew sculpting was her gift and she wanted to work hard at it.

Three male teachers refused to help her learn sculpting because she was a black woman. Finally, she managed to find one teacher, Edward August Brackett, who could show her how to make marble portrait busts.

Edmonia was very interested in famous abolitionists. That means people who fought for the end of slavery. John Brown and Colonel Robert Gould Shaw were two very brave men who fought for the rights of black people in America.

Edmonia Lewis, 'The Bust of Robert Gould Shaw', 1867

Edmonia made a marble bust of Colonel Robert and his family loved it. In fact, a lot of people loved it and she had to make lots and lots of them. She sold one hundred portrait busts of him!

Finally, in 1864, Edmonia opened her first exhibition to show everyone her sculptures.

Edmonia made enough money from her exhibition that she could travel to Rome in Italy, where she really wanted to live.

In America, people always spoke about her colour. In Italy, she thought people could judge her just on her art and not be so interested in what she looked like.

Edmonia Lewis, 'Forever Free', 1867
In 1866, Edmonia set up her own space in a studio. The studio had once been owned by Antonio Canova 100 years earlier. He was one of the most famous Italian sculptors of all time!

Edmonia worked on every single bit of the art process, and didn’t want to hire people to help her. She wanted to make sure that when people saw her work, they knew it was done by her.

Edmonia Lewis, 'The Arrow Maker,' 1872
Even though she often created sculptures that looked Italian, and wore big robes like Canova’s sculptures, Edmonia also never forgot her African American and Native American past. In ‘Forever Free,’ she depicted an African American man and women breaking the bonds of slavery. In another sculpture, ‘The Arrow Maker’ she showed a Native American father showing his daughter how to make an arrow.  

Edmonia’s sculptures became so well known that tourists began coming to her studio to see her artworks. She held many exhibitions in America and in Italy. In 1876, she created a huge marble sculpture that weighed about as much as two huge horses. It was called ‘The Death of Cleopatra’ was elegant and powerful. She showed it an a huge exhibition with lots of other artists in Philadelphia. Everyone agreed her Cleopatra sculpture was on of the best pieces there.

Edmonia Lewis, 'The Death of Cleopatra', 1876

Edmonia lived happily ever after in London.

Her legacy is important because she showed that despite others telling her she couldn’t be a sculptor because she was an ethnic minority and a woman, she did it anyway and became internationally successful.

Oberlin College

Oberlin College, where she was forced to leave university, have taken her success and tried to make change. They have named a centre after her for women and transgender people, helping others who may have been judged for their race or sex, trying to make a world where no one will have to go through Edmonia’s hardship.

 “I have a strong sympathy for all women who have struggled and suffered.”
—Edmonia Lewis

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