Monday, March 31, 2014

Beauty test : Shampoo Ultra Doux de Garnier à la levure de bière et grenade

As I explained you, I will share with you my bad and good experiences with beauty products. And to begin, I will tell you about one of my favorite shampoos : Shampooing Ultra Doux de Garnier à la levure de bière et à la grenade. I have to precise that this post is not paid. I only advertise it because I like it !

I used to take it two times a week and it really makes my hair soft and voluminous. Furthermore, it's quite cheap and you can buy it in a grocery store. I have to say I really miss it and if anyone know where to buy it in the US, let me know !

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Movie #2 :The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford)

The Grapes of Wrath is a classic movie (1940) directed by John Ford and based on Steinbeck's novel.

The story is almost the same than in the book. Tom Joad, a released prisoner, comes back home to find an empty house. Soon, he learns that all the surroundings-farmers have been forced to leave their home and that most of them are on their way to California, where they hope to find work and food.
Tom found his family and they decided to take their chance together in California. The way to California is harsh : they have to spare food, they're tired and this long journey on Mother road looks like the Jewish exile in desert. They even lost there their grand-father and then their grand mother, too tired or too sick or maybe just too old. But they stay happy, because of the promise of a better life in California.
Arrived there, they just find a huge deception : there is no work, just great poverty. They're not even treated as humans, but they're exploited by the lands owners and park into camps like animals. Furthermore, everyone is starving and never sure of the future, so nobody dares to complain.

The story is very moving, so it's hard not to feel concerned by it. It takes place 80 years ago, but you feel every moment like if it was today. Moreover, the actors are really great and especially those who play Muley (John Qualen) and the migrant returning (I don't know his name). They were so good that I had the feeling they really experienced this tragedy !

To be honest, I had no idea that the Great Depression had been so hard in the US. Because in France, we always see America as a very rich country. If you ask my grand-mother, she will tell you she remembers the healthy soldiers, the hands full of candy ! So very far away from all those migrants from Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas ! The discovery of those hard and courageous lives probably makes like this movie more than I would have otherwise. But even without the shock, it remains a very good movie !

After seeing this movie, I wanted to learn more on the subject and I found a video. It's about the Dust Bowl which leads to the Okie (and Arkie, etc...) migration. This climatic disaster has been mainly responsible of the great famine and the documentary is quite interesting.

Improved Bechdel Test : DA (1/5) (Pour comprendre ce label, cliquez ici)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

How to fill the tax form as a non-resident (in California) ?

Filling my tax form in France wasn't really fun...But here in the US it really becomes a Chinese puzzle !! Fortunately, Caltech offers us a tax software for the federal tax and a seminar for the state tax. I will try to compile these information together and share them with you !
The aim of this post is to explain how taxes work in the US and also to help for the filling of your own form. Except...I was too lazy to read everything, so I just looked what I needed. So, if you are not exactly in the same situation as me, you will probably need to read the notice by yourself. Even if you are exactly in the same situation, I'm not an accountant and I probably misunderstood a lot of things. So, if you want to be 100% sure about your tax form, I encourage you to take an accountant or to pay a software ! (By the way, if you see some mistakes, tell me, I will correct them for the others)

For those who continue the reading, here is my profile :

I'm married without children. We are living in California since February 2013 under J1 and J2 visas. Before, we both worked in France until January 2013. Since we are here, only my husband works and has a SSN. He doesn't have any scholarship and he's directly payed by Caltech.

How work taxes in the US and in California ?

The first thing you have to know is that taxes do not work like in France at all ! (I don't know for the others countries). Indeed, contrary to France, income taxes are here directly taken on your salary and the form is only needed to adjust it and eventually to get a Tax Refund (or sometimes to pay a little more).
As for the taxes, you have two different kinds : the Federal Taxes (for the US government) and the State Taxes (so California for me).

How to fill the tax forms in the US and in California ?

Most of the time, post-docs are tax-exempt in the US (for French people, you have 2 years without US federal taxes if you are J visa). But even if you don't pay taxes, you still have to send your form ! Moreover, the treaty doesn't concern the State. So, I still have to pay taxes in California (and in France of course).
Below, you will find what to do in the correct order (why do I need to precise in "correct order" ?  because it's important to follow each steps, otherwise, you can't correctly fill the forms).

Step 0 : Receive your forms from the University

Here is the easiest step, but the most needed !! Before filling forms, you need various papers. For us (and I guess for every post-doc), we receive the W2, 1042S and W4. If you still didn't get anything after the January 31st, call you employer.

Step 1 : Fill the US Income Tax Return (form 1040NR or 1040 NR-EZ)

  • For us, this step was pretty easy, since Caltech provided us a software to fill everything. Thus, we just had to answer questions, and the software gave us automatically the 1040NR-EZ and the 8843. For those who don't have this chance, fill the 1040NR (if you have dependants), or else the 1040NR-EZ. You will find more information in the Instructions IRS.
To be clearer, here is an example I filled (This is neither me, nor my income !) and some explanations.
If the picture is not clear, click on it
Box n°6 : Your american income (The same from the box n°16 in the W2)
Box n°11 : What has been withhold from your income for the State taxes (You will find it in the box n°17 in the W2)
Box n°13 : For this, I'm not sure, but I think this corresponds to the maximal deduction you can have from the government, so $3,900 (so this point is to check).
Box n°1b : If you are french, this is 20 (otherwise, you can find the number in the 1042S)
Box n°1d : For us, our salary. This amount may change for those who have a high income, because I think the treaty is limited to a certain amount. (This is to check)
  • Then, you have to fill the 8843 for every member of your family (You will find it here). For us, we just had to fill the parts I and II with your personal information (name, address, passport n°, etc.).
  • In the envelope 1, put in the correct order :
    • 1042S copy C
    • W2 copy B
    • 1040NR-EZ
    • 8843 for the J1
    • 8843 for the other members
  • In the envelope 2, send the 8843 for the spouse J2.
  • Keep a copy of these forms and keep them for a long time !!!
  • Send the 2 envelopes to the following address :
Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service Center
Austin, TX 73301-0215

Step 2 : Fill the California State Form

For a non-resident (like us), there are 2 forms to fill in : the Schedule CA(540NR) and the form 540NR (Apparently, we have the choice between the Long Form and the Short Form but the accountant told us to take the Long Form).
  • Let's begin to fill the Schedule CA(540NR) using the form 1040NR-EZ.
I won't detail everything (you can find the instructions here), but here are the main information you need to know.

Column A is used to report the federal amounts from you 1040NR-EZ.
Column B is used to report the exempt federal amounts in California such as social benefits or lottery.
Column C is used for the amounts that are not taxed by the federal government but are by California, such as foreign incomes. (So if I understood right, all the 2013 foreign incomes count as if we wear a full year resident, but I would be delighted to learn this is not the case !!!)
Column D = column A - column B + column C
Column E only concerns Californian incomes.

For column A :

Box 7A (CA(540NR) = line 3 (1040NR-EZ)
Box 10A  = line 4 (1040NR-EZ)
Box 21f B  = line 5 (1040NR-EZ)
Box 21A  = Sum of 21Bs
Box 22 A  = Sum of the boxes 7A to 21A = line 7 (1040NR-EZ)
Boxes 22b A/B/C/D/E  = Boxes 22a A/B/C/D/E
Box 33 A and C : I didn't succeed to know if my french student loan was eligible for the deductions. If someone knows, please tell me !!
Boxes 36 A/B/C/D/E  = Sum from 23 to 31 and 32 to 35 A/B/C/D/E (Box 36 A  = line 8 (1040NR-EZ))
Boxes 37 A/B/C/D/E  = Boxes 36 A/B/C/D/E - Boxes 22b A/B/C/D/E (Box 37 A  = line 10 (1040NR-EZ))

For column B :

For us, nothing.

For column C :

Box 7C  = Exempt American income + foreign income
So, to be clearer, put the amount from line 6 in the 1040NR-EZ and sum everything you earned in your own country. For the foreign income, convert what you earned in $ using the average annual conversion rate.
Boxes 33 A and C : I didn't succeed to know if my french student loan was eligible for the deductions. If someone knows, please tell me !!

For the column D :

You just have to sum columns A and C and to subtract the column B !

For the column E :

Box 7E (CA(540NR) = line 6 (1040NR-EZ) (so only our Californian incomes and even if those are exempted by the federal government)
For the part III :

Line 38 (CA(540NR) = line 11  (1040NR-EZ)
Line 39 (CA(540NR) = Put here the taxes you are gonna to pay (included those in your foreign country) + the deductions of the line 11.
Line 40 (CA(540NR) = line 38 - line 39
Line 42 (CA(540NR) = line 40 + line 41
Line 43 (CA(540NR) = If you don't earn more than the indicated amounts, report here the line 42.
Line 44 (CA(540NR) = Report here the standard deduction, which is $3,906 for us.
Line 45 (CA(540NR) = Box 37E
Line 46 (CA(540NR) = line 44
Line 47 (CA(540NR) = Box 37E / Box 37D (with 4 decimals)
Line 48 (CA(540NR) = line 46 * line 47
Line 49 (CA(540NR) = line 45 - line 48
  • Fill then the 540NR Long Form using the both the Tax Table and the Schedule CA(540NR) you just filled.
For the top of the page, just put your name and your actual address. For the status, if you're married with a non-resident, check the box 3 "filling separately", because this is the only option for non-resident people.

Then :
Line 7 (540NR Long Form) = 1* $106 = $106
Line 11 (540NR Long Form) = Sum lines 7 to 10
Line 12 (540NR Long Form) = Box 16 in W2
Line 13 (540NR Long Form) = Line 10 (1040NR-EZ)
Ligne 14 (540NR Long Form) = Case 37B (CA(540NR))
Line 15 (540NR Long Form) = Line 13 - Line 14
Line 16 (540NR Long Form) = Box 37C (CA(540NR))
Line 17 (540NR Long Form) = Line 15 + Line 16
Line 18 (540NR Long Form) = Put the deduction $3,906 except if you want to give money for charities
Line 19 (540NR Long Form) = Line 17 - Line 18

Line 31 (540NR Long Form) = If you earn less than $100,000, check the "Tax Table" and put the number associated to your income and your fillin status into the line 19.
Line 32 (540NR Long Form) = Box 37E (CA(540NR)) = line 45 (CA(540NR))
Line 35 (540NR Long Form) = Line 49 (CA(540NR))
Line 36 (540NR Long Form) = Line 31 / Line 19
Line 37 (540NR Long Form) = Line 35 * Line 36
Line 38 (540NR Long Form) = Line 35 / Line 19
Line 39 (540NR Long Form) = Line 38 * Line 11
Line 40 (540NR Long Form) = Line 37 - Line 39
Line 42 (540NR Long Form) = Line 40 + Line 41
Line 63 (540NR Long Form) = Line 42 unless you filled the lines 50 to 62
Line 74 (540NR Long Form) = Line 42 unless you filled the lines 71 to 73
Line 81 (540NR Long Form) = Line 38 (CA(540NR)) or box 17 from W2
Line 85 (540NR Long Form) = Line 81 unless you filled the lines 82 to 84
Line 101 (540NR Long Form) = Line 74 - Line 85 if you over-payed (report this number on the line 103)
Line 101 (540NR Long Form) = Line 85 - Line 74 if else.
You fill then the information to pay or to receive your refund and you're all set !
    • Now you need to put all the papers in an envelope. And in the right order please !! :-)
      • W2
      • long Form 540NR
      • schedule CA540NR
      • copy of 1040NR-EZ
    • And send everything to the following address :
    If you have a refund :
    PO BOX 942840
    SACRAMENTO CA 94240-0001

    Or if you owe money :
    PO BOX 942867
    SACRAMENTO CA 94267-0001

    That's it, you can relax and open up a bottle of Champagne (and maybe wait for your tax refund !!!)

    Halloween DIY#2 : Cooking

    Even if I'm a very bad cook, I wanted to do something special and fun for Halloween. My friend Kiemi helps me and within an afternoon, here what we've done !

    • Jello aliens

    This recipe this perfect for me because she seemed so easy ! But not enough for me ! I totally succeed to screw it... So instead of jelly, I did iced jelly in the end... 

    Ingredients and tools

    - 1 cup of boiling water (so 237 mL)
    - 1 cup of cold water
    - 1 Jello s'lime sachet
    - 1 bowl
    - 1 measuring cup
    - freezer-friendly molds


    1/ Mix in a bowl the boiling water and the jelly during 2 min.
    2/ Add cold water and mix.
    3/ Fill the molds
    4/ Put in the freezer
    5/ Serve !
    • Jello Halloween monsters
    Same recipe as above, except that we used orange and grape jelly this time. In a more complex way, you can try : 

    Ingredients and tools

    - 18.25 ounce or 215 g of cake mix or for me 50 g butter + 50 g flour + 50 g sugar + 50 g eggs (a small egg)
    - 16 ounce or 190 g of chocolate frosting or vanilla frosting (I used Rich & Creamy of Betty Crocker). You can also put peanut butter instead.
    - 3 ounce or 35 g of candy melt
    - mold for pop cake or melon spoon
    - sticks


    1/ I can't help, I'll never eat a pre-maid cake ! So I put a quatre-quart instead. This cake is very easy to make and matches perfectly with the chocolate !
      a) Mix eggs and sugar until it becomes white
      b) Put the flour and mix
      c) Put the melted butter
      d) Cook at 180°C until it seems to be ok but not burned (around 15 min)
    2/ Stir the cake with the frosting until it's well mixed up.
    3/ Make balls or fill the mold and let rest in the fridge (or even in the freezer).
    4/ Melt the chocolate
    5/ Hold the cake balls with a stick and dip them in the melted chocolate.
    6/ Decorate and let rest.

    • Halloween marshmallows  

    Ingredients and tools

    - marshmallows
    - dye liquid
    - water
    - cups
    - sticks
    - cardboard


    1/ According to the result you want, dilute the dye (for me 10 drops for 1 coffee spoon)
    2/ Fill the cups with the dye
    3/ Put a stick in a marshmallow and decorate it :

    4/ Drain and let it dry

    • Pumpkin soup
    In Paris, Jibouille used to make me a "potiron" + nutmeg soup which was delicious and I was really happy to eat it again... Except that pumpkin doesn't taste like "potiron" at all ! F or me, it's really to sweet, so I advise you to use this recipe for something more like than "potiron" than pumpkin.

    Ingredients and tools

    - 1 onion
    - 1 garlic
    - 600 g pumpkin pulp - 30 g butter - 1/2 L water - 1/4 L milk - 1 chicken bouillon cube - Cumin


    1/ Melt onions and pumpkin pulp in the butter and mix
    2/ Add the milk, the bouillon cube and water and mix
    3/ Boil during 30 min

    • Salty Pumpkin Pie

    Ingredients and tools

    - 2 onions
    - 1 garlic
    - 600 g pumpkin pulp - 1 bacon
    - pie mold
    - pie dough


    0/ Preheat the oven at 180°C
    1/ Cut the bacon into little slices
    2/ Grill the bacon with the onions.
    3/ Add the pumpkin pulp and the butter and mix.
    4/ Place the pie dough in the pie mold.
    5/ Pour the mix into the mold
    6/ Brush the top with an egg's yellow
    7/ Put in the oven for 45 min.

    • Cupcakes (9)

    Ingredients and tools

    - 140 g flour
    - 120 g melted butter
    - 120 g sugar
    - 2 big eggs
    - 3 soup spoons milk
    - 1/2 sachet bake powder
    - 1 coffee spoon vanilla

    (butter cream)
    - 100 g butter
    - 200 g ice cream
    - 3 soup spoon of milk
    - 2 spéculos and 1 spoon of frosting (Rich & Creamy)
    - 2 spoons of peanut butter
    - cupcake mold
    - Piping bag


    1/ Preheat the oven to 200°C
    2/ Mix the melted butter and the sugar
    3/ Add the eggs, the flour and the baking powder and mix
    4/ Add the milk and the vanilla
    5/ Fill the molds to the 1/4, add a spoon with the spéculos mix or the peanut butter
    6/ Fill to the 3/4
    7/ Heat during 20 min at 200°C, then let rest
    8/ Mix during 3/5 min the butter and the icing sugar and add milk if needed.
    9/ Decorate the cupcakes

    • Bloody Cocktail
    Here is the original (and succeed recipe) :
    Unfortunately, I couldn't do as good, so here is mine !

    Ingredients and tools

    - candies-red or black string
    - red drink
    - 1/2 lemon
    - sugar
    - 3 red dye drops
    - Cumin


    1/ Mix the dye and the sugar,
    2/ Soap the glass edges in lemon and then in sugar.
    3/Try to make spiders with the candies (I didn't succeed....)

    • Roasted seeds

    Ingredients and tools

    - Pumpkin seeds
    - olive oil
    - condiments you like (for us : cumin, nutmeg and oregano)
    - fleur de sel (salt from the first layer)
    - Water


    1/ Boil the seeds in salty water (1 cup of seeds for 2 cups of water and 1 spoon of salt),
    2/ Let dry the seeds,
    3/ Mix the seeds with oil and condiments (1 spoon of oil for 1 cup of seeds)
    4/ Place the seeds on the griddle and heat them at 250°F during 10/15 min. Eventually, vaporize a little bit more of oil and grill them during 1min to make them crusty.

    Hallowenn DIY #1 : Pumpkin carving

    Today, I will share with you my first Halloween experience ! In France, even if I like the spirit of Halloween, I don't do anything, because nobody excepts the shops does... So here, I wanted to experiment everything !! I want it all : Jack O'Lanterns, scary decorations, pumpkin pies and the costume party !!!

    In this post, I will share my first time with pumpkin carving. Later, I will show you what I did for the cooking and decoration part. And of course then...the party !!! Of course, don't expect me to do some wonderful stuffs, it's only my first time !! But I'm waiting for your comments to improve myself next year !

    Pumpkin carving kit

    Step-by-step pumpkin decoration :

    Let's be honest : this is our first time and the only help we had was on Youtube. So we did our best and even if the rest isn't brilliant, we had a lot of fun !!!

    1/ Clean up !

    First, you have to clean the pumkin. Especially, if you want to eat the inside !!

    2/ Cut the hat :

    To access the inside, you will have to cut the top or the bottom, depending of the effect you want.

    The important thing is to keep the knife at 45° so the hat doesn't fall.

    3/ Scoop the pumpkin : 

    Step 1 : Take off the seeds (with your hand or a spoon). I advise you to keep them, because you can use them to cook a delicious appetizer !

    Step 2 : Scoop the pumpkin so the edges are 2cm thin. You can also use the inside to make soups, pies, etc.

    4/ Drawing

    For this step, you have several choices. You can use an internet-drawing, stick it on your pumpkin and draw directly on it. But you can also let place to your imagination !

    5/ Cutting

    Once the drawing done, you have to cut. You can use a pin to make it easier first and then use a knife. Push delicately the part and finish it properly with your knife.

    6/ Lightning !

    Here you are !! You finally can enjoy your work putting a light inside ! In our case, we use a LED light which looked good and is less dangerous !

    Halloween decorations

    My friends specially arrived from France for Halloween. That would have been too bad to miss it !! For the event, Jibouille and I organized a party (this is why we prepared pumpkins and made food !). I am little bit fast when I said party. That was much more like a big appetizer before leaving for the West Hollywood parade !  For the decoration part, we didn't try too hard :  some bats and spider webs on walls, a Frankenstein basket for the candies and that was done. We didn't take pictures... In contrast, we walked in some Pasadena streets to have a good idea of how houses were decorated. We had not enough time to go to the most impressive neighborhood but we have even had a rapid foresee of the traditional house-to-house spirit !

    Jibouille alias Duffman attacking haunted houses
    Children asking for candies

    You have to know that Halloween is a big party here : shops specially open for the event, both children and adults prepare decorations and even if the most amazing decorations appear only for the 31th, this is not unusual to see pumpkins and witches all the month long. I am mad of me to not take pictures of all of this. As an apology, I present you the most surprising disguises I saw in shops :

    Finally, there are some interior designs and gadgets : 
    Our bats
    A dead body in the back trunk !!!
    A small and cute vampire candy