Marianne
Marianne is a lover of cats and chocolate. She enjoys pretending she is a local (wherever she is) and will gladly engage you in a philosophical debate about Harry Potter.
podcasts podcast favorites favourites blogtober
Blog

In the past year or so I have really been getting into my podcasts. They are great companions on my long (bike) commute to university, or distractions when I’m not loving whatever it is that I’m doing (typically cooking or cleaning). This selection features the very best podcasts I have found so far. I know it sounds like an overstatement, but of each of them has improved my life in some way.

1. Dear Hank and John

podcast john green hank green funny comedy

If you don’t know the vlogbrothers, here is a short introduction: they are a pair of brothers, Hank and John Green, who have been making YouTube videos for each other since the dawn of time (or, you know, YouTube). Hank is the creator of many online things (SciShow, Crash Course, Vidcon and many more) and John is a writer best known for his novel The Fault in Our Stars. Their videos are a mix of fun, educational, inspiring and nerdy.

Their podcast, Dear Hank and John, is exactly that: they answer questions from the listeners, give dubious advice, and provide updates on their respectives interests, i.e. the planet Mars and the English football team AFC Wimbledon.

The podcast is so much fun: they can get real deep but never for too long, as there will always be a silly question to answer. Love them, love it.

2. Witch, Please

podcast witch please harry potter literature

Did you really think I wasn’t going to find a way to include Harry Potter in this list?

YES. Witch, Please is a freaking revelation for anyone that appreciates anything about the Potter books and/or movies. Hannah and Marcelle are delightful and funny and they explore the themes and complexities of the Potterverse at length. They discuss issues of race, feminism, history and so many more interesting things.

I would highly recommend this podcast for anyone interested in literature. Potter fans: the discussions about the ins and outs of the books and films are amazing. I can’t tell you how excited I have been to analyze Harry Potter along with the podcasters, realizing bothow much I have missed (after all this time) and how much I love it (always).

3. Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

podcast harry potter interesting literature religious studies

No, no – I’m not done with the Potter pods just yet!

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a little bit more niche than Witch, Please. Each episode focuses on one chapter of a book so you do need some extensive knowledge of the plot in order to fully appreciate it. However. What a treat.

The premise of this podcast is to use the tools of religious studies and apply them to the text of Harry Potter. This means that the text itself and the way certain things are phrased are taken as guidelines or lessons for your life. It is truly a heartwarming listen that has brightened up my day manier times. Again, the hosts Casper and Vanessa are lovely and oh-so smart.

A must-listen for any Potter fan.

4. Stuff Mom Never Told You

podcast feminism feminist social sciences

Moving on from Harry Potter! (“Finally!”)

This podcast is an extension of the YouTube channel of the same name. It is an inclusive feminist podcast that studies all kinds of social science-y phenomena. From weddings to tarot to unicorns to lady truckers to emoji to drugs… There isn’t a topic they won’t cover.

Each episode introduces topics in a very intelligent way that includes all types of audiences. Cristen and Caroline, the lovely ladies that run it, like to provide historical overviews as well as explain social changes over time and why they have/are occurring.

It’s super interesting and always accessible. Another A+ from me!


As much as I love all of these podcasts dearly, I am really missing some good science-y ones. I have given a few a try but never found anything I liked. So if you have any suggestions, please do let me know!

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October Goals Main
Blog

That’s right! I am going to attempt Blogtober! I won’t be posting a new article every day, but I will do my best to release as many posts as I can this month. Today’s topic: my goals for the month.

1. Stay positive about the weather (brrr)

October Blogtober Goals Weather Cold

I have already mentioned that I’m not a fan of autumn and that I tend to dread the cold and the rain more than anything else. However, I do have a daily 45-minute cycling commute to university so I’m just going to have to deal with it. And be happy about it. If I can.

2. Take care of myself, mental health wise

meditation goals october

My anxiety has been rearing its ugly head due to a bunch of reasons; procrastinating from studying, exams coming up, starting a new job, etc. I was gifted a month of free access to Headspace, a great meditation app, so I’m going to give it a go and try to stick to it every day and see what changes I can feel. I have meditated before, but not very diligently; it’s really hard and it takes work. So I’m excited to see what obstacles I will be facing in this challenge.

3. Do some uni work everyday

books studying student study goals october

Even a little bit. I am one of those anxious, silly students that leaves everything to the last minute because my nerves keep me from concentrating on more than two sentences in a row. But I really, really need to force myself to get my work and my reading done, even if it is only a few pages a day. That’ll be much less stressful than what I have been doing so far.

4. Have fun

october goals fun social socialize party go out

Duh! I don’t live in Amsterdam for nothing, right? I know it might seem weird to include having fun on my October goals list, but for someone that gets overwhelmed easily, spontaneous outings, evenings out and even socializing at home can feel like way too much. But I’m going to make an effort to take the time and head space for a little bit of fun stuff. Yes.

What are some of your goals for this month?

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Fall 2016 autumn
Blog

The fall is always a bittersweet season for me. As soon as September rolls around, it layers fresh morning dew on our gardens and brings some long anticipated relief from the heat of summer. The leaves start turning all shades of brown, yellow and red and – finally – jeans season is back.

happy kaching cool deal funny gif
Kaching!

But with the fall also comes sadness; the cold is about to set in for real and keep me shivering for months. I am no winter girl. I never feel ready for it. So I do my best to embrace the last few nice days of the year before winter comes. So in times like this, when the fall just cannot come late enough, I have a few ideas to make the transition just a little easier for myself.

1. Embrace the rain.

I don’t live in California. I live in the Netherlands, where the fall brings about a whole set of rain, cold and overall dreadful weather. I usually wouldn’t mind the rain – but having to cycle everywhere, there is no way around it. It becomes a part of my (daily) routine.

rain fall autumn

So I try very hard to get myself into a different mindset. As soon as I open the curtains and see gray, low-hanging clouds, I try to conjure up an inner smile.

After all, my getting grumpy and resentful towards the weather will result in nothing but making myself even more miserable. So instead, I think of the big picture.

“Wow, no sweating today!”

“Yay, the grass will be extra green and mellow thanks to this!”

“Look at this gray sky, isn’t it fabulous?”

(I know. It sounds forced. And it is. But it does help, a little).

2. Incorporate actual magic into your life.

Yes, actual magic.

You might have heard of paganism or wicca; religions that are extremely nature-oriented and that celebrate the passing of time by honoring each turning point of the year. (Also, they practice witchcraft, how cool is that).

Eight sacred holidays (called sabbats) are observed every year. In this fall season, there are two: Mabon on September 22 and Samhain on October 31.

fall year 2016 pagan
The Wheel Of The Year – September 2016 – July 2017

Mabon celebrates the autumn equinox and the harvest season. It is a time of balance between light and dark, and a time of thanks for what the Earth provides us.

  • How does one celebrate Mabon?

Simple. Draw up a list of all the things and people you are thankful for; these elements are what keep you in balance in the world.

Honor the darkness; without it, there would be no light. Mabon is a time for recognizing the power and beauty of the parts of yourself you aren’t fond of; your fears, your insecurities, your jealousy, your failures. These darker parts of you drive you to appreciate the moments of light and accomplishment in your life.

Reconnect with nature; sabbats celebrate its beauty and sacredness. If to you, that means spending five minutes in a park, baking an apple pie or carving a pumpkin, great! As long as you are mindful during this special day, you are doing it right.

Also – eat apples (apparently they are very magically charged, plus they’re in season).

This view of the wheel of the year, while helping me to accept what is here and ground me in the present, also helps remind me that better times will always come around. Although I don’t practice pagan rituals myself, I really like this mindset of appreciation towards nature and time passing.

3. Cozy up with hot chocolate + good music.

I am always – and I mean always – in need of chocolate. Nutella is probably the food I consume the most of (and it gets embarrassing when 50% of the glass jars my roommates and I throw away are my old Nutella jars).

Forget about burgers and pasta; chocolate is my comfort food.

Therefore, I am always super excited when the time of year finally allows for me to drink hot chocolate (almost) every day.

You know the drill: warm milk, chocolate powder and sugar, and you’re done. I won’t pretend like I do anything fancier than that, so if you want some more elaborate hot chocolate recipes, I suggest you have a look on Pinterest.

The best thing about the fall is that you get to snuggle up under a blanket with your hot chocolate and watch your favorite series. Or, you know, if you’re a student, read your textbooks. Meh.

One thing that always helps me do what I need to do is music. It helps me get up and running in the morning, it helps me focus, and it also helps me wind down.

Since I got Spotify Premium, I have been listening to way more music – and discovering way more artists than before. I follow pre-made playlists for specific moods or needs of mine, and I create my own, tailored to my taste.

It has made a huge difference in my life. I now have unlimited access to music wherever I am, with no ads and a much more diverse playlist than ever before.

It’s great.


So this is how I deal with the fall. It’s not a perfect plan, but it helps.

Besides…

Christmas is coming.

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Graduation graduate university college liberal arts
Blog

Last Friday was my graduation ceremony. After completing my BSc in Liberal Arts and Sciences, I got the chance to wear the wizard robes and stupid hats I had always seen American high school movie characters wear.

Cool.

It ended up being a super special day for reasons I hadn’t foreseen. I felt more appreciation for my degree than I had done in a while, I was around some of the awesome people I got to know over the years, and I was treated – along with the other graduates – like a VIP all day.

Very cool.

graduation graduate liberal arts unviersity college

The head of each major said a little something about each of their students. Some comments were rejoicing in so and so’s wedding; some were congratulatory concerning the work ethic of a particularly brilliant student; and some were downright funny like this one:

When I first met you, I thought you were a typical high school jock. You had the attitude, you looked sporty, you played funny. And then I found out that inside the jock was a massive nerd.

I think that this comment beautifully reflects the fun diversity of people that I have met in my studies. Man, Liberal Arts was the best.

Having been picked to give the valedictorian speech that year, I was getting pretty, pretty nervous by the time the ceremony started. Would people laugh at my jokes? Did I write a good enough speech or was it extremely common and lame?

I pictured a stoic audience and disappointed professors.

Glurp.

But then it went great. Everyone I talked to after loved my speech, and I was glad I pushed myself to do it – even though it felt like the least natural thing to say yes to. Me. Alone on stage. Talking.

I did it.

I made it through my 3 years abroad, my 3 years of Liberal Arts, and I made it through my first 3 years of independence(ish).

Let’s see what happens next.

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cursed child harry potter reading book read JK Rowling
Blog

I know that many people are somewhat skeptical in regards to the new Potter book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And with reason; it isn’t ‘the next Potter book’, really. It tells the story of Harry’s youngest son Albus. If anything, the book is a teaser for the play that is currently on stage in London and brings the story to life. Still, I found the book so enjoyable and exciting to read – and I had many feelings as I did –

I just had to share my top 4 reasons to pick it up – if you like the Harry Potter saga.

Any spoilers will be written in white and kept in brackets, like so: (these are spoilers).

1. The characters will make your heart melt

Scorpius Malfoy. Albus Potter. Draco Malfoy. Harry Potter. (Severus Snape. Albus Dumbledore).

feels

Albus couldn’t be more different from his father and that is made clear to us by (his being sorted into Slytherin and) his befriending Scorpius – a Malfoy. Albus and Scorpius have adventures together; but those are tainted by their feelings of inadequacy and difference. There’s a reason Albus is nicknamed ‘the Cursed Child’. He and Scorpius just want to be loved for who they are (oh how relatable for basically any human). They don’t trust the adults that don’t get them – so they do something very stupid – and everything goes to shit.

You can tell what the theme of the book is from its very title: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”. Albus isn’t even named, and he comes second to his father. This struggle is the core of the story. Needing to exist as an individual. Leaving the past where it belongs…

2. You will be surprised

First and best thing: there is a very obvious gay love story… Though it isn’t explicit, it’s nice to see something a little bit more LGBT-friendly finally getting included in the saga.

But with that aside, the wizarding world has been refreshed. You’ll learn something (super weird) about the Trolley Witch of the Hogwarts Express; you will see just how damaged the trio is (they all clearly suffer from PTSD and none of them seem to have seen a therapist about it); and you’ll find out something shocking concerning Voldemort. Though he was originally a mere metaphor for evil, an unlikely one-dimensional villain, the Cursed Child has made him seem uncomfortably normal; it’s like the character was actually human, which I never really considered. (I had initially dismissed the rumors about Scorpius being Voldemort’s child because of how ludicrous it seemed to me that Voldemort had a sexuality. I always read him as a fundamentally asexual character).

The format of the story is weird. Reading a play is completely different from reading a novel. There is no time to dwell on context, explanations or sometimes, plot holes. I’ve read criticism of the play, people calling the story very fanfiction-y. But because a play has to move forward quickly in its story, all the usual fluff has to be taken out. It goes to the point: there is a great danger out there and the kids are in danger (what else is new?).

3. Adult Harry and Ron are unmissable

Of course, Hermione is kicking ass – as usual. She always had done so it is no surprise to see what kind of cool adult she has grown into.

Ron has turned into a jolly father who remains loyal to his friends no matter what. He has turned into a sweet, loving person and he is such a joy to read.

As for adult Harry… ehh. He’s struggling.

It’s painful to read, but it’s also such an important thing to witness. It’s great being reminded that the characters – hell, the people – that we worship are just human. They’re just trying hard, doing what they think is best for everyone. And sometimes they’re very, very dumb.

Also, look out for Draco being another sweet, concerned parent. And some cool McGonagall bits. Really, you can’t miss out on the characters.

4. It feels like coming home

Albus’ adventures are a close parallel to his father’s (infiltrating the Ministry of Magic using Polyjuice Potion, seeing a classmate die at 14, time traveling to save an innocent…).

The story revisits events we have already read about; its characters are familiar, the spells are the same, the settings are places we have (kind of) been. It isn’t really the next Harry Potter book – remember, it’s the script of a play – but it takes you along on a whimsical journey through the stories you have loved. It feels like hearing from old friends; a little bittersweet because you can tell you have missed a lot in the meantime, but wonderful all the same because you had missed them so much.

The message of the story hasn’t changed. Friendship, love and cohesion in the face of evil is still what this Harry Potter story is about. It is written word for word:

“I’ve never had to fight alone. And I never will.”


In sum, reading The Cursed Child is like a present for any Potterhead: it was a wonderful mix of old and new, with all the familiar things and characters we know jumbled up into a completely new story. I did not expect it to take me on such a whimsical journey, but it did.

And it was magical.

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living abroad amsterdam netherlands expat
Blog

Once you’ve got accustomed to your new country, made friends and got settled, living abroad is like having cake on your porch by a sunny Sunday afternoon. Right? Wrong.

What nobody tells you about moving abroad is that you keep a base level of discomfort even past the initial period of adjustment, just because things are different. There is so much work that goes on in the back of your mind to adapt to all that’s new – without you even noticing.

You learn to be more open-minded (“Oh, prostitution is legal here? Hmm, I guess it is nice for prostitutes to have legit work conditions”). You learn to be more humble (“Man, the public transport system is so much better than it is back home”). You learn to listen more (“You can’t call the Netherlands ‘Holland’, that’s just a region of the country and it offends people”).

It’s not just a mental shift that happens overnight; it’s a mental leap that takes you from kind-of-prejudiced-and-egocentric-bastard to oh-my-god-I-know-nothing-Jon-Snow.

Oh god, did I really say that?

The thing is, even when you feel comfortable, you’re still adjusting. For instance, I’m used to seeing product labels written in Dutch; that’s my normal now, but it still makes it difficult for me to do my shopping.

The one thing I like the least about being a foreigner is the way that other people perceive me. Typically, those people who haven’t lived abroad consider me like a premium specimen of The French Woman.

They want to know what things are like in France; do people do this? Do people do that? Or they have observed something about ‘The French’ and want me to confirm or explain it. Or they take one of my behaviors or preferences to be a result of my being French rather than my being me. Or they say “oui oui” in a mock voice and move on with their conversation (in Dutch).

By default, this type of conversation ostracizes me because it places me in the ‘Different’ box; it’s not a bad box to be in, and there is often praise that comes with being in that box – but it’s not quite like being a part of the group.

I’m not actually that different from Dutch people. In fact, there are very few cultural differences between France and the Netherlands and they tend to be quite small or, at least, somewhat subtle.

It’s my own self-perception that takes a toll.

You would think that living abroad is a huge confidence boost; challenging yourself to get out of your comfort zone and make a life where you don’t know anyone is pretty damn cool. But because it’s so challenging, you forget to pat yourself on the back. Instead, you focus on all the not’s.

  • You don’t speak the language
  • You are an inconvenience to others who have to switch to speaking English for you and, if they don’t,
  • You aren’t (good enough to be) part of the group.
  • You don’t get the references
  • You don’t come from here
  • You don’t have a family here
  • You can’t figure out how the train system works and you feel really, really stupid
  • You don’t get the customs
  • You only know like 5 people
  • You don’t get why your insurance wants you to pay €300 extra every year
  • Sometimes you don’t want to go out and make an effort
  • You think that you really should go out and make an effort more

Basically, you are never enough.

Because you don’t belong here. Ouch.

Fuck you, brain.

That’s all stupid, right? Because even though it’s tough, you do the best you can and you keep doing more. And people appreciate it. When you spend a lot of time with locals, it’s easy to forget that you are much, much more than all the not’s and can’ts.

  • You have a native language you speak perfectly and with which you make smart and stupid puns alike.
  • You have a home country where everything looks normal, where you understand strangers’ conversations, where things make sense.
  • You have the experience of living away from comfort which has taught you to be more open, more humble and much less judgmental than ever.
  • You know the struggle of not belonging abroad or at home, and you know the pleasures of belonging in both.
  • You challenge yourself to live a different life than that of your parents and peers.
  • You have been so grateful for others’ kindness and acceptance that it is all you wish to offer to them.
  • You choose to put your prejudice aside, and you listen, and you learn.
  • You are able to grasp the complexities and diversity of cultures you did not know held so much depth.
  • You face time and time again other people’s views of your home and culture. And you learn to be diplomatic, and you learn to be proud.
  • You exert self control by accepting that your normal seems quaint to others. You remind yourself that when you first got here, you acted just the same. You didn’t know any better then.

Now you do.

When you come home and your friends express their admiration for your lifestyle, all you do is shrug because “oh, you know, it’s okay now”.

But really. Kudos to you.

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French Paris
Blog

“But you’re French!” they exclaim incredulously. “Why do you speak so good English?” they add (in a thick Dutch accent).

Here is a list of things I could say:

  • I was abducted by American truckers at the age of 8 and they raised me as one of their own.
  • I am Canadian French.
  • I learned everything I know from High School Musical 3.
  • My great-grandparents were French but I like to say that I am French too because it makes me seem cooler.
  • I went to an international high school.
  • I have to speak perfect English for religious reasons.

But none of the above ever makes the cut; I am a decent human being who likes to keep the best of her sass for dinner parties with friends. Instead, I’ll mumble some kind of a shy thank you with a quick word about how I’ve always liked the English language and maybe kind of taught myself and anyway what’s your name? This absurd situation – being asked why I speak English so well by a stranger – happens to me a surprising amount. People (mostly Dutch people) cannot wrap their heads around it. A French person with no French accent is, apparently, unheard of.

From there, the conversation may go on to:

  • The person telling me how bad French people are at speaking English
  • The person telling me how rude/unhelpful French people are to foreigners (and asking me why)
  • The person insisting to find out a good enough reason for my incredible language competence
  • The person trying to speak a few words of French to me – which is usually lovely, but also kills the conversation as they just throw random words at me while I quietly applaud their performance.

So when I meet someone new I usually feel quite nervous about revealing where I am from, knowing full well that I am going to have to fight off the aggressive questions and explain that yes, I am indeed French, and yes, I can speak English for no particularly outstanding reason, and that yes, I am very sorry to hear that my people have been horrible to you in the past but no, we are not all like that.

Ultimately this is a very nice problem to have. I am also aware that Dutch people are just a straight-forward bunch who may lack a bit of tact when complimenting my English. So I’m not mad, Nederland. I get it. But… know your audience.


Do you have any sassy come-backs I could use?

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leave loss love you
Fiction

2 comments

If you have to leave,

Find a rose and leave it on my pillow

So I can remember the softness of your skin.

If you have to leave,

Let the silence grow between us

Let it grow impenetrable

And never tell me why you must go.

If you have to leave,

Wait until I am home

Until I can watch you go from the other side of the window –

I’ll wrap my arms around myself

And let in the quiet.

When you have to leave,

I’ll be thankful for the soft rain

For the green trees

For the warm tea

For the whole world still there for me to see;

When you have to leave,

I will gather all the parts I have left of you

Place them in a velvet-lined box

Lay down a kiss on the cover

And let it be.

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lilac spring flower playlist music song
Blog

As I mentioned before, music is really important to me. I am always adding songs to my playlist and learning new tunes to sing along to, so I thought I would share some of the songs that have been following me around this month. This is just a small selection that I couldn’t help but make somewhat eclectic.

May (mā)

n.

1. The fifth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar.
2. The springtime of life; youth.
3. A weird and lovely mélange of near-summer warmth and winter-reminiscing cold. Alternating between sunshine and showers, stress and happiness, new and old things coming together. Birthdays, reunions, deadlines and preparations. May holds many things within it.

The lilacs are in bloom.

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