Monthly Archives: January 2012

Stereoscopic Photography: Old School 3D

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Warmer Waters (Alligators and Ice)
From Ethan Turpin’s Gilded Gardens Series

I used to publish photography articles pretty frequently, but along with my break from photography has come a break from photography publishing. I’m planning to shoot with model fave NevaehLleh tomorrow afternoon, and this evening I published a brand new article about the original 3D photography. Maybe I’ll even make my own 3D images tomorrow!

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Cleanup

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Today was laundry day. Occasionally unwilling as I am to stuff clean, folded clothes into the R’lyeh I call clothing storage areas, I went through my entire closet, including every drawer of my (very big) dresser. I made several startling discoveries:

1. Organizing my closet into “fits now” and “fits soon” makes it easier to conceptualize what’s currently available and gets me really excited about what I get to start wearing again soon as I continue to shed pounds. Things that technically can be zipped but do not fit as designed are not “fits now.”

2. The “fits now” category is almost everything I own. I have ONE item that’s too big, and I only bought it a few months ago. This means for the last two dress sizes I’ve been wearing (and buying) clothing that I should have recognized as being substantially too small. No wonder I thought I looked bad all the time. Nobody looks good in clothes that don’t fit. The upside of this is that nearly everything I own *actually* fits now.

3. Tee shirts for companies and organizations I would never, ever consent to work for again, do not support, etc do not belong in my house.

4. Items that I have for sentimental reasons but don’t ever wear don’t belong in my dresser.

5. Items that are really amazing fabrics but have holes in them (or that I just don’t wear) don’t belong in my dresser either. I can repair them, cannibalize them for scrap, or throw them away.

6. I have a ton of really cute stuff I don’t wear because it’s buried under stuff I don’t wear or it’s balled up and wrinkly.

7. Seriously, a TON of stuff. I threw away a shopping bag full of orphan socks, and my sock drawer is still full.

NaNoWriMoInJa: Chapter Nine

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Chapter Nine
Education

In the wake of Nicolas’s departure, Caroline arrived. Caroline was an elderly tutor, who, I would later learn, had educated Nicolas and his sister, Delphine, when they were children. Nicolas had summoned her to acquaint me with the mannerisms of French court. Upon first hearing of Caroline’s acquisition I was thrilled, knowing the moments of quiet failure would at last come to an end.

I quickly changed my mind. Caroline was extremely harsh, criticizing my poor reading and penmanship and even my French, saying that Delphine had achieved more by the time she was six. While her taunts stung, I tried to remember how out of place I felt not understanding what was expected of me now. Under Caroline’s abrasive tutelage I studied needlework, geography, music, dancing, reading, writing, history, etiquette, the running of a household, and even a little medicine.

Lessons quickly swallowed the two months Nicolas was gone. My fingers ached from stitching and pulling out stitches when they invariably failed to please my taskmistress. I had to practice perfect posture and take tiny steps and hold my head just so. Meals were agonizing. Caroline hovered over me, refusing to allow me a single bite unless everything was just right. I must use the correct fork. The fork must remain in the left hand, tines pointed down, to bring the bite to my lips. I mustn’t lean too much, and I must remember to tilt my bowl in the correct direction, and I mustn’t rest my hands on the table. By the time I finished eating breakfast it was nearly dinner time.

At Caroline’s urging, Nicolas had a harpsichord sent over and set up in the drawing room. It was a bright blue, covered all over with gold fleur-de-lis and scrollwork. When the lid was propped up, the underside showed a beautiful painting of two cherubs. The gift was beautiful, and I took to it well, but upon the discovery of my talent for music Caroline pushed me all the harder, insisting that I must be ready to perform when I met His Majesty. I had to stand before the Harpsichord in my dreadful little heels for hours playing dreadful little songs.

Sundays allowed me to escape to mass for a few hours. Caroline accompanied me to the church but she couldn’t correct me in public, and I don’t think she would have dared to disturb mass, even to whisper. She sat bolt upright, totally transfixed, sparing me not a glance until we were on our way home. Sometimes I’d slump or fidget to try to tempt her, but she didn’t seem to notice, and slumping in my stays was dreadfully uncomfortable, so I gave it up.

My weekly escapes were of great comfort to my tired fingers and feet, but the sermons weighed heavily on my burdened soul. I went into confession to relieve myself of Anne’s sins, the petty little blunders of spite against Caroline or gluttony when she finally allowed me a meal on my own. But I didn’t dare confess to the crimes I’d committed before Anne Savard. Before Fos-sur-Mer and before Bordeaux. Once, a Bishop from far away visited our parish, and I nearly had the courage to unburden myself, but in the end it was the same familiar priest in the confessional, and I spoke instead of taking the Lord’s name in vain when I stepped on a pin. Six days a week, my life before Bordeaux seemed a distant dream, another life. Sometimes I felt like I was born to be a fine lady, and the other life was simply a fever-dream like Nicolas said. But Sunday would come round and I would remember my guilt.

Nicolas came home just as the cold set in. I met him in the front hall, and he walked in as bleak as the wilted garden. He brought the sad news that his father had taken ill, and he’d need to leave again very soon to tend to him in Fos-sur-Mer. While he was home, I was spared Caroline’s mealtime scrutiny, although I felt her ghost over my shoulder anyway, and was very careful to be every bit the proper lady. I got no disapproving glances from Nicolas, but I couldn’t be sure whether it was because I was doing better or because he was distracted by his father’s condition.

Distracted or no, Nicolas was indulgent, asking about my studies and commending my progress. In contrast to Caroline’s badgering, I basked in his generous praise. Sharing a tutor gave us something to talk about, though it was usually matters of little import. I played harpsichord for him and sang some of the songs Caroline taught which were more civil than the songs I’d learned at home or aboard the Lionfish. Nicolas listened and clapped devotedly after every song.

Some nights Nicolas would come to my room after dinner, but usually he walked me to my door, kissed my cheek, and went to bed in the other bedroom he’d been using. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to turn him away. I’d have been just as happy not to have him, but as he said the first night together, I was living as his wife in all other ways, staying in his home and eating fine foods and wearing noble gowns.

So I’d let him in. He was tender with me, careful not to cause me pain. Afterward we’d lie together in the dark and talk easily. I liked hearing him speak about his childhood here. He spoke of Delphine, and another sister, Nadine, who died when she was seven. Both were older than Nicolas, and Delphine was now married and living in Paris. He clearly loved her very dearly. I told him I hoped I’d meet her someday, and I realized I actually meant it.

In a few short weeks Nicolas was gone again. I wasn’t sure when I’d see him again, but he promised to write. I told him I’d make him something special for when he got back. My stitches had been improving, and I thought maybe I could put together a whole shirt without Caroline making me start all over again.

I had barely noticed Nicolas missing the first trip, but the second time the house felt as big and empty as it had on my first night there. We only met a few times each day, and yet I felt his absence profoundly. I wasn’t struggling as much with Caroline’s demanding instruction by then. When I had some little victory or found something interesting, I would sometimes think to share it with him, but of course he was gone. I’d sit down nearly every night thinking I’d write him a letter, but I’d always abandon it. There was always something that made me give it up. The penmanship wasn’t good enough, or I’d decide that what I’d written wasn’t all that interesting, or most often I couldn’t think of more than a few sentences to write, and I thought it foolish to go to all the trouble to send just a few words.

A few weeks after Nicolas left again I fell ill. I was too weak and tired to continue my lessons, but after a few days of bed rest and what felt strangely like seasickness, I was so bored that I sent for Caroline anyway. For once, she was gentle to me, and she read to me as I sewed. It was she who suggested the perfect Christmas gift for Nicolas.

Nicolas was gone over Christmas, but I got a parcel from him a few days later. Inside were a pair of green silk heels with gold beading on the toes. Inside, and all around in the box were little fruits, nuts, and candies. The accompanying latter was an apology that he was gone for my first Christmas in France. He explained that here, children left their shoes out by the fireplace and Père Noël would fill them with treats. He said he’d tried to send me a fireplace but he couldn’t find a big enough carriage.

Epiphany brought Nicolas home. His father had died of his illness and his body had been sent to the family mausoleum for interment. The mausoleum was in Northern France, so a funeral mass was held in Fos-sur-Mer. Nicolas was overwhelmed with work that had arisen from his father’s passing, and I saw little of him after he returned. I’d frequently go down to dinner to find that a place had been set only for me. In addition to securing his father’s arrangements and making plans for the now-empty house by the sea, Nicolas was also making arrangements for us to travel to Versailles. He’d inherit his father’s title, but due to the close nature of His Majesty and Nicolas’s father, the title would be bestowed personally in court.

In the chaos, it was several days before Nicolas came to my bedroom. When he finally did, I sat him down on one of my fine couches and brought him his Christmas gift, the special something I’d promised to make for him. He held the little garment gingerly, running his fingers over the delicate lace. Caroline had helped with the finer details, and though we practiced making lace, I wasn’t very good at it yet, so I’d bought some for the gown. At first he asked if it was a hope gift, for our eventual firstborn. When I told him I was already two months along, he was ecstatic.

Because of my condition it was decided that Caroline would come with us to Versailles rather than my maid, Marie. While it was more traditional for a lady to have her servant at court, Caroline’s knowledge of household medicine had already been helpful in dealing with my morning sickness, and I wouldn’t part from her for so many weeks.

Arrangements were made for Nicolas’s investiture, and it was decided that in March we’d go to Versailles so Nicolas could be elevated to his father’s lordship. We’d be personal guests of His Majesty, staying in the palace and attending important court functions.

Despite my progress with Caroline, the thought of having to show myself a lady before the Sun King was terrifying. Nicolas reminded me that my condition would garner a lot of forgiveness, even among the toughest courtiers. He even promised to bring in another tailor direct from Paris to ensure that I had fashionable clothes that would fit over my belly. By March I’d be showing.

NaNoWriMoInJa: Chapter Eight

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Chapter Eight
The Cottage

 

The next weeks were full of practical matters. Nicolas and I were moved, via a long and uncomfortable carriage ride, to “our” vineyard in Bordeaux. The long ride overland was the furthest I’d ever been from the sea, but Nicolas promised that Bordeaux was close to a greater ocean, and we could go to the shore sometimes. I mentioned to Nicolas once that it was strange not to smell any hint of salt on the air, and he said it must be strange to live in such a small island kingdom.

I’d never even seen England, but Anne of course grew up there. I wondered if Nicolas was obstinately refusing to realize that I was not his promised bride, or if he knew, and simply refused to discuss it.

The “cottage” was like nothing I’d ever seen. A large, modern house was nestled in a lush garden, and on all sides grew the rich Bordeaux grapes that became Savard wine, which in turn became Savard gold and influence. Nicolas told me the house had been completely rebuilt, inside and out, to the latest fashion, so that it would be fit to welcome his beloved wife. I thought it would be fit to welcome a princess.

The chateau was huge, with a steep grey roof and tall, slender windows. I’d never seen so much glass outside a church. Nicolas led me in through the grand hall, an empty room as tall as a cathedral and big enough to hold all of the Hotel Bessette inside. High above, the pristine white ceiling was carved with beautiful, intricate patterns, and below our feet was a tile mosaic which had been a part of the original building. Velvet curtains hung from the windows.

Nicolas told me that doors leading off either side led to the breakfast room, dining room, and drawing room. I wasn’t sure what the drawing room was for, but the idea of an entire room for breakfast was fascinating. At the maison we had breakfast on our feet, and dinner at the same table where we welcomed guests in the evening. Here there was a different room for everything.  We went up a curving staircase to the second floor, which had even more rooms branching off the central hall. Nicolas brought me into a palatial bedroom, with white and gold carved wall panels and bright blue carpet. Blue velvet curtains with gold trim hung from the windows and canopied the ornate bed. And it wasn’t simply a bedroom. On one side of the bed were couches and chairs, and on the other a little dining table. Just as I was drinking in the grandeur, a little man tiptoed in behind us.

“I’m so sorry, monsieur, madame. I had a little business to attend to,” he said, doing a curt little bow to each of us. Behind him followed a boy, a little younger than I, arms loaded with bolts of cloth and ledgers and instruments.

“Monsieur Aubrey is our tailor, minette. He’s here to create for you a new wardrobe,” Nicolas explained. “My wedding gift to you.”

“But I already have the things from the house in Fos-sur-Mer,” I protested weakly.

“My sister’s old things? Nonsense. It was lucky that they fit you, but they’re dreadfully out of fashion. We can’t have you wearing those old rags when we meet the King.”

“The King?”

“We’ll have to take you to court sooner or later. Father was a personal friend to His Majesty. It would be impolite not to introduce you.” With that he excused himself to attend to matters of the house, and I was left alone with Monsiuer Aubrey and his apprentice.

The next hour was spent in an embarrassing struggle with Monsiuer Aubrey, who insisted that I must take off my gown in order for him to measure me. I was outraged, but eventually a servant came in to see what all the ruckus was about and said she’d measure me behind a screen with Monsieur Aubrey’s instructions. He insisted that nothing would fit, but he relented at last. After the gauntlet of measurements was completed and I was permitted to dress again (with the servant’s assistance), he grilled me about what sort of things I wanted. I tried to remember what Sylvie had taught me about Parisian fashion, but when I did recall something, Monsieur Aubrey looked disgusted at my outdated suggestions. He commented to his assistant that the English has absolutely no sense of style whatsoever, and to me he rattled off colors and fabrics and styles that meant nothing to me. I finally told him to do whatever he liked. He seemed horrified, and then thrilled, and then he packed up all his fabrics and books and went away.

I sat on the plush couch and took a deep breath, but my borrowed stays bit into my hips when I sat, and I soon became uncomfortable anyway. I wondered if I shouldn’t have asked Monsieur Aubrey to make me a new one, but I feared he might need me to strip down even further for that. I shifted to take the pressure off, and pushed it from my mind.

I drifted off a bit on the soft couch, and a maid came to wake me a little later to bring me dinner. I asked her to sit and talk with me, but she had little to say. Her name was Marie, and she’d been brought into employ here just before I was due to arrive. She would be my lady’s maid, tasked with helping me dress and undress, bathe, brush and style my hair, and anything else I should need. It took too much energy to try to engage her in conversation, so I went to bed.

Every morning Nicolas and I shared breakfast in the breakfast room. The two of us ate at a round table that could have seated ten, under a glittering chandelier. Servants brought us bruit and cakes and they poured chocolate from the new world into porcelain cups from the orient.

Every afternoon, Marie brought me English tea and little cakes in the garden and I sat and watched the birds flitting among the flowers. The tea was awful, but they kept bringing it so I assumed it was something Anne liked, and I tried to drink it.

In the evenings we had dinner together in the dining room. We sat at an even larger table and made awkward conversation. Nicolas sometimes spoke to me in fractured English, but usually he stuck to French. I knew so little of Anne and I didn’t know how to act like her. I was no aristocrat. I had no idea what was expected of me. But I would realize, often, that I was doing something wrong. The servants would exchange looks, or Nicolas would look at me differently and clear his throat, and I’d know I was doing something I shouldn’t. Rarely, he’d actually tell me what not to do or what to do. Sometimes he wouldn’t say a word, but I’d notice that how he did a thing and how I did it were desperately different.

After dinner, Nicolas would walk with me, arm in arm, to my bedroom. The first time, he’d tried to kiss me and I’d flinched away. He hadn’t tried again. Since then, he’d asked each night whether I was feeling completely myself again, and I always said no. He’d leave me at the door, heading to another bedroom where he had slept since we arrived.

A month after I was fished out of my lost little boat, Nicolas was saying his goodnight as usual. I had just told him I wasn’t feeling myself, and he sighed. Later, after Marie had helped me get ready for bed and gone to bed herself, there was a gentle tapping at the door.

Nicolas was outside in his dressing gown and an embroidered shirt which hung past his knees. I’d never seen him so informally, and he hadn’t seen me attired as I was for bed since the first night we met.

“I’m sorry, mon cœur, I must speak with you,” he whispered.  I let him in, wrapping my own dressing gown tighter as I led him to the couch.

“I have to go away tomorrow to Port-la-Nouvelle,” he said formally. I wondered why this couldn’t wait for our usual awkward breakfast.

“Oh… will you be gone long?”

“Two months.”

“Oh.”

The weak conversation stagnated.

“I…” he began, and then faltered. “We should… we should consummate our union before I go. In case… well, we should.”

I hesitated. How could I have forgotten to expect this?

“I am…” I grasped for excuses. “I am too young.”

“Nonsense,” he retorted. “You are seventeen and wed. My sister was younger when her first baby came.”

We sat in silence for a moment.

“We cannot. It would be adultery,” I said quietly.

“Adultery? You are my wife.”

“No, Anne Stuart is your wife. You are promised to her alone, and I will not befoul her marriage bed.”

“You are Anne Stuart,” he said. His tone was calm but quietly threatening. “You are my wife. You have suffered a terrible illness and you have forgotten who you are. You will remember.

“I AM NOT ANNE STUART!”

Time stood still as we hung in the stillness after my outburst. I wondered suddenly if he would hit me, but he did not.

“Anne Stuart, my fiancé, was lost at sea,” he said finally. “We found you. We cared for you in our home, and a wedding was held to bind us together for all time. You have lived in my house, pretending to be my wife, for a month. You have accepted my wife’s gifts. You wear clothing and jewels bought for my wife, under the presumption that you were she. You sleep in my bed while I sleep elsewhere, a courtesy I would not extend to someone not my beloved wife.

“Now you tell me that you are not my wife. If you are not my wife than I swore my marriage vows to a dead woman, and the woman living in my house and sleeping in my bed and wearing my late wife’s clothes is nothing but a vile pretender, stealing into my home under false pretenses and taking advantage of a poor widower.”

I was stunned. They made me pretend to be the drowned English bitch and now Nicolas accused me of the very counterfeit he and his father engineered?

“I would prefer,” he continued, “if you would admit that you are still suffering the effects of your terrible ordeal. I can help you recover, but not if you fight me. I do not wish to be married to a corpse.”

I couldn’t imagine why such a noble family would need to kidnap a commoner like me, but if I did not submit, I knew I’d be in more trouble than I’d ever seen before.

“I have been very ill,” I said uneasily. “And I have forgotten myself.” He nodded. “I… I will remember.”

He smiled broadly. “All is forgiven. Now then, come to bed mon amour.”

Afterward I heard his breathing slow beside me and finally relaxed. I laughed darkly about the twists of fate. I was barely half a year older than Sylvie when her innocence was bought from her by a stranger. I’d traveled hundreds of miles over land and sea, and killed a dozen men to escape my mother’s fate, only to end up here. But it wasn’t quite the same as if I’d stayed at Hotel Bessette. Though born the illegitimate daughter of a second-rate French whore, I lost my maidenhood a wife, a lady, and, strangest of all, an Englishwoman.

NaNoWriMoInJa: Chapter Seven

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Chapter Seven
The Sea

The screaming of the dying sailors woke me again and again. Their harsh voices permeated my dreams, dragging my little lifeboat down to the depths. It was hours before I realized the screaming came from hungry gulls and not the damned. The late summer sun burned hot above me.

We’d been close to Les Iles, but I saw nothing but open sea around me. With the sun directly overhead, I couldn’t be sure which way was shore. I didn’t want to risk paddling further from shore. Hours later, I was hungry and parched, but the setting sun gave me the direction I needed to paddle weakly North toward Marsaille.

Night fell and I was torn between continuing North or trying to sleep as much as I could, and risk drifting in the night. If I kept paddling in the dark, I’d be fighting waves that would turn me about with no way to recall North. If I slept, the same waves could pull me back to where I’d started, or worse. I hadn’t learned to navigate by the stars as the Captain could. By full dark my skin was hot and tight, and my mind clouded. I had no choice but to risk sleep.

I dreamed of Sylvie. I was back at the Hotel Bessette, and Sylvie was sitting on the edge of the bed. She slowly turned toward me. Her mouth fell open, and from it issued thousands of inhuman screams in unholy concert. The gulls were relentless. Still, their presence meant I had not drifted far from shore. Their screeching cries cut through my tortured mind like blades, but they promised land, and I was grateful.

The second morning my skin was blistered and sore, and the sun on my face was excruciating. I tried to ignore the pain, but by midday I couldn’t bear it. After hesitation, I stripped off my shirt and dunked it in the sea, draping the blessedly cool cloth over my head and shoulders like a veil. The salt stung my blisters, but the sunlight had weighed on my tender skin like a millstone. I wished I had not lost all my belongings. If I’d had a skirt in addition to the trousers I wore, I could drape that over me rather than baring my breasts, back, and arms to the sun.

By the third day, it didn’t matter. Even the skin of my thighs, covered always by the sailcloth breeches, were pink and tender. I’d had to pull my shirt back on to cover my burned chest and back.

By the fourth day, I couldn’t row anymore. I could barely move. My mind and body burned. After the fourth sunrise, I remember very little. I think it was that day that it rained. I was lying face-down in the boat and was able to lap up the rainwater that collected in the bottom of the boat. It tasted of the sea, but I drank all that I could get, and that one wet day likely saved my life.

Not knowing for sure the date on which I sank the Lionfish, I will never know for sure how many days I drifted in the Mediterranean. I remember nothing after the rain.

When I woke next, the light from the sun no longer burned. The screaming was gone. The world was curiously still. As I returned slowly to full thought, I realized I was in an unfamiliar bed, with sunlight filtering through curtained windows. My throat was dry, but my skin not nearly as tight nor hot as before. I moved carefully out of bed, finding that my sailor’s clothes had been replaced by a lady’s shift. The fabric was soft, but the lightest pressure on my burned skin made me wince.

I walked gingerly to the bedroom door. The room was larger than any of the bedrooms at the Hotel Bessette, and I’d been lying on a plush feather bed. Where was I?

The door led to a corridor. A woman standing in the hall looked up when I opened the door and hurried toward me.

“Please, madame, where am I?” I croaked.

Madamoiselle, perhaps you will be more comfortable in bed,” she responded. She all but chased me back into bed, but I managed to ask her for some water before she disappeared, closing the door behind her. What a strange woman to have brought me into her home and then refuse to speak to me.

The water was delivered not by the woman from the hallway, but a man.

“Thank you, monsieur,” I said. “I wanted to thank your wife, but she ran away.”

“Not my wife, mon coeur. The maid,” he corrected. Of course. Why hadn’t I seen it right away? He was dressed far more finely than she had been. I must not be entirely back to normal. “It is good to see you awake. You had us all very worried.”

I drank greedily of the water, though it hurt terribly to swallow.

“Thank you, then,” I said after draining the cup.

“It is nothing, minette. You are kin. We’re just so grateful to have you home and safe.”

What did he mean? Did I know this man? He left shortly thereafter to let me rest, but the servant from the hallway returned a little later with a bowl of broth. She was still resistant to questioning, insisting stubbornly that I should rest. She asked if I would like more broth, and fussed over my blankets, and did not look me in the eye. I wondered how, even in my groggy state, I could have mistaken this browbeaten maid for the lady of the house. I eventually followed the directions of the nagging servant and allowed myself to put off the mystery of my whereabouts until tomorrow.

Tomorrow brought a new surprise. A man of around twenty came into the room and stood over my bed, gazing down at me as I might appraise a hen at market. He smiled, but I was uncomfortable with his scrutiny.

Monsieur,” I protested groggily, “I am not properly dressed.” No worse than when yesterday’s visitor had come in, but he’d barely looked at me.

“No matter,” he said frankly. “You are my wife after all.” The man took a chair from beside the bed and shifted it so that it faced away a bit. “If it makes you happy, mon amour, I will look out the window instead.”

“Wait… you said I was your… your…”

“My wife… Oh of course, nobody’s told you. When you were recovered from the sea, we were married. You were asleep of course, so it was by proxy on your part,” he explained cheerfully, all the while intently staring out the window.

“But… why?”

“Because we were engaged, of course. Did the Earl not tell you why you were being sent to us? When your ship was lost, you missed the wedding. We thought you were dead. When we found you, we were all so relieved. Father insisted that we marry at once.”

My head spun. Who did he think I was? Surely in my bedraggled, burned state I couldn’t have resembled his noble fiancé.

“When you’re well enough, we’ll leave Fos-sur-Mer and travel to our cottage in Bordeaux. Word has been sent to your father regarding your recovery and our nuptials. He’ll be so glad to hear that you’ve been returned to us.”

The mention of “my” father pushed me over the edge.

Monsieur,” I began. The man laughed.

“You are my wife,” he said. “You must call me Nicolas.”

“I am not your-” He cut me off, joviality disappeared. He was standing over me again, and looking right in my eyes.

“You are. You are Anne Stewart. Well, Anne Savard now. You are my wife. Your ship was lost at sea, but by the grace of God you were spared and returned to us. You have suffered terrible fever and you have forgotten who you are. But you will remember.”

His speech startled me, but I had not forgotten. I was not Anne Stewart. I was not his lady wife. I was a whorechild, a pirate, and a murderer.

Nicolas composed himself and bent over me, kissing me lightly on the forehead.

“Rest now, mon cœur,” He said, and he walked out.

I would learn that Nicolas Savard, Anne’s husband, was the son of Lord Archaimbau Savard. Both Archaimbau and his late wife had grown up in the court of the Sun King. The family, although wealthy, was somewhat fallen. The Savard patriarch had abandoned courtly life to attend to cosmopolitan trade, committing Nicolas and now, I suppose, me, to life at the family’s remote vineyard.

Anne herself had been imported from the English court, an obscure Stuart cousin who would bring prestige–not to mention a substantial dowry–to revitalize the house of Savard. Everyone praised my excellent French, and it was all I could do to play along and thank them. I had not decided yet whether to embrace this strange shadow life. It promised to be the most luxurious of my reincarnations, but I felt odd playing the ghost of another shipwrecked girl.

Thin Mint Recipes

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In the wake of a sad, ignorant girl’s attempts to get people to stop buying Girl Scout cookies, I’m finding ways to get people to buy more. I’m scouring the internet and sharing, one cookie at a time, the wonderful things you can do with Girl Scout cookies other than just shoving them in your face.

But don’t let me discourage that either.

These recipes will give you an excuse to significantly increase your cookie-buying this year, and dress up your favorite cookies enough to serve them at dinner parties. Often I post my own recipes, but these I found online. Click the title to be directed to the original site.

Today I’m focusing on Thin Mints, a classic combo of chocolate and mint. One of the most popular Girl Scout cookies of all time, Thin Mints are awesome out of the box, frozen, or in these tasty dishes:

Thin Mints Pizza Surpreme

One 18-ounce package refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
Half of a box Girl Scout Thin Mints cookies (about 20 cookies)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips (6 ounces)
2 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 12-inch pizza pan or a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Using your fingers, press the cookie dough to fit the pan. Break the Thin Mints into quarters and gently press them into the dough. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, in a double boiler, whisk together the white chocolate chips and cream until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat. Using a fork, drizzle the topping over the cooled pizza. Cut into slices.

Thin Mint Brownies

1 sleeve Thin Mint cookies, crushed
1 box brownie mix

Prepare brownie mix per package instructions, folding in crushed Thin Mints toward the end of the batter-mixing process.

Spread batter evenly in greased 13-by-9 baking sheet and bake per package instructions.

Thin Mint Cake

The link above leads to a recipe that actually uses Thin Mints. The first Thin Mint cake I found was via this blog, which used that cake recipe to make Thin Mint cake balls. Which sound amazing. Unfortunately there were no Thin Mints in her recipe, so I had to find another one.

1 box Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Cake Mix (do not use the butter fudge cake mix – it is very different in texture!)
1 cup of finely chopped (about one full sleeve of cookies) Thin Mint Cookies- will separate
1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon of Creme De Menthe Liquour
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 cup water
Ice with your favorite icing and mix the remaining 1/3 cup crushed cookies in with the icing along with the tablespoon of Creme De Menthe Liquour in that icing.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Line bottom of cake pan with parchment paper & spray the sides of pan with a flour/oil mixture.
Place all wet ingredients in bowl first including eggs, then add cake mix & mix until thoroughly blended.
Add 2/3 cup of the crushed cookies into the batter.
Pour into the pan(s) & bake 40 to 45 minutes.
Remove from oven & dump cake onto waiting Glad PressN Seal Wrap (sticky side up).
Wrap the warm cakes tightly and put in the freezer. You can freeze for as little as 3 1/2 hours but for best results freeze overnight. This adds moisture to the cake, and traps in the flavors!
After removing from freezer allow to sit for about 10 minute if you froze overnight, no need to let sit if you froze for the minimum amount of time.
Mix the remaining cookie crumbs into your favorite icing recipe along with the tablespoon of Creme De Menthe Liquour (this is optional)
Fill & Ice cake as usual and garnish as you like with the whole or crumbled cookies.
I also like to cover my already smooth iced cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache.
You can do a quick ganache with Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Icing & some Semisweet chocolate Chips.
In a glass bowl add 2 cans of DH Chocolate Fudge Icing and 8 oz of Semisweet Chocolate Chips.
Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir well. If not all chips melted heat in 30 second increments stirring well after each time in the microwave until the mixture is of a smooth pourable consistancy.
Place refrigerated cake on a cooling rack that is sitting in a large baking pan. Pour the “ganache” over the cake & allow it to sit until set. Remove cake from cooling rack and plate on your favorite cake stand or cake board. Garnish as you like.

Thin Mint Mini-Cheesecakes

1 box Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
½ cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Whipped Cream for garnishing

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
Pulse cookies in food processor until coarsely ground.  In the alternative you can place cookies in a zip lock bag and crush them by hand using a meat mallet, rolling pin or the bottom of a small pot.
Mix half of the crushed cookies with the melted butter.  Press approximately one teaspoon of the crumb mixture into the bottom of each cup with the back of the spoon.
Chill for about 30 minutes.
Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar together in large bowl until smooth.   With the mixer on medium, add eggs, one at a time until all is combined.  Mix in the mint and vanilla extracts and beat for another minute.  Stir in the rest of the cookie crumbs, reserving a few tablespoons for garnishing, and the chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups.   Bake for 25-28 minutes or until set.   Remove and cool completely on a wire cooling rack.  Refrigerate for several hours until thoroughly chilled.
Serve topped with a dollop of whipped cream and reserved cookie crumbs.

Stick with me for more amazing recipes with other Girl Scout cookies. Got a great Thin Mint recipe I missed? Post a link in comments!

Girl? Scouts

Standard

It came to my attention this morning that a 14 year old girl scout cadet created this video calling for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies because Girl Scouts permits transsexual children to join scouts. Like the cadet, I was a Girl Scout for nearly a decade. My friends were Girl Scouts and our brothers were Boy Scouts. When I was about this scout’s age, the Boy Scouts were under fire for expelling homosexual scouts and scoutmasters. My Girl Scout troop discussed the scandal, and we agreed emphatically that we were ashamed of the Boy Scouts’ decision to alienate scouts and leaders based on sexuality. We were proud that we were part of a more inclusive, welcoming organization. Some of the boys I knew dropped out of Boy Scouts, not because they were gay, but because they wouldn’t support an organization that openly discriminated against minority boys.

The cadet uses the term “transgender boys” throughout her presentation, but it is not transgender boys that GSUSA welcomes. It’s transgender girls. Sometimes she forgets to say transgender at all and simply refers to them as boys. This tells me that she and her supporters don’t understand what it means to be transgender. The Honest Girl Scouts are against gay rights and a woman’s right to choose, and I believe that’s their right. But transgender isn’t a moral choice like abortion. It’s a medical condition. Transgender doesn’t mean that the child woke up one day and decided to pretend to be a girl to get into a club. What causes a person to look like one gender and feel like another is actually a biological process beyond their control.

While a body is (usually) distinctly male or female, the brain, for a number of reasons, might develop as the opposite sex. Scientists are finding that just as there are male bodies and female bodies, there are also male brains and female brains; and those bodies don’t always end up with brains that match. The BBC has a great article about “brain sex” here. A University of Cambridge study found that 17% of males have “female” brains, and 17% of females have “male” brains.

Beyond “brain sex,” there are situations that sometimes cause babies to exhibit both male and female traits, or even have one apparent, external sex, but another latent sex that shows up later in life, usually at puberty. In the case of hermaphroditic babies (babies with both male and female sex organs), the parents usually choose for their baby to be surgically “corrected” to one sex or the other. In short, they guess what kind of brain their baby has, and hope they’re right. Sometimes they are. But other times, the baby grows up feeling stuck in the wrong body, and ends up having more surgeries later in life to make his or her outside match how they think and feel.

For some people, having the “wrong” sex brain is ok. I’m a woman, but my mental traits are more in line with a “male” brain. I’m less empathetic and more analytical. I have have typically masculine relationships with men and typically feminine relationships with women, although relationships with other women are challenging for me. My (male) romantic partner is more female-brain. The way we relate to each other is backwards of typical male-female communications, but it works for us because we are able to acknowledge and find humor in the “backwards” nature of our relationship. Other people feel the effects of mismatching more strongly, and for them it can be extremely difficult to come into their personal identities because they feel alienated by their own bodies.

Sometimes the mismatch comes from a person having more than one set of DNA. In a rare condition called chimerism, two eggs which would normally become fraternal twins fuse to grow into one person. That one person carries two full sets of DNA and may have disagreeing traits. Some extreme examples include people with drastically different skin tones on different parts of their bodies, or two eyes of different colors. Sometimes one organ will have different DNA from the rest of the body, or little patches of DNA will be scattered throughout the body. If the two eggs are of different sexes, a child might be born hermaphroditic, or with disagreeing sex traits (such as exhibiting as male physically and female neurologically).

In still another medical condition which is completely beyond the child’s control, some children are born with XXY chromosomes, which mean these children have both the female (XX) and male (XY) chromosomes. These children are born apparently normal male children, but at puberty they don’t develop normally as boys. They have small, underdeveloped genitals and low testosterone, and they might develop breasts! Most commonly, these people decide to undergo testosterone therapy and remove their breast tissue, but some have reported feeling like a girl stuck in a boy’s body until the breasts started appearing, and live the rest of their lives as women.

Some scientists believe that transgender individuals may also result when, in fetal development, male hormones are not introduced at the proper time or quantity to result in a normal male. If these hormones, called androgens, are introduced in insufficient quantity or too early or too late, a child might develop sexual characteristics of one sex and neurological characteristics of the other.

A trans girl is someone who was born looking like a boy but who lives like a girl 100% of the time. For whatever medical reason, she does not identify with her male body. She usually goes by a girl’s name even if she was given a boy’s name at birth. She dresses in girls’ clothes all the time, or would if allowed to. With supportive parents, she might be enrolled in school as a girl. She’d take girls’ gym, usually changing in a bathroom stall or other private area. Her condition is probably a very painful secret. Often times when a trans child or teen’s condition is unveiled, they have faced ridicule, rejection, and sometimes violence.

This girl will probably take hormones to prevent her male body from undergoing puberty. Delaying puberty will prevent her from growing wide shoulders and masculine facial traits, and will also delay sexual maturation. Her long-term goals might include surgical gender reassignment, but even if she is against the idea of plastic surgery, she will most likely want to be addressed as a woman for the rest of her life. She will apply for jobs as a woman, and she’ll most likely look for a male life partner.

Like girls who have survived other sexual traumas, like a girl who survived female genital mutilation in her home country, or a girl who survived rape or sexual abuse, a transgender girl may be in desperate need of acceptance and love, and some quality girl time in a safe environment like GSUSA. Like other victims of sexual trauma, her private parts may look or work a little differently from other girls in her troop. If Girl Scouts is anything like it was when I was a scout, that won’t matter, because her private parts will stay private.