{ Under The Bluegums }

DIY: Quick Princess Leia 'A New Hope' costume for GeekFest 2015

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4 July, 2015

While I didn't really have a plan for a costume for our cosplay at the GeekFest 2015, after hubby decided he'd go as a Jedi, Princess Leia seemed the appropriate choice, seeing as she's the only woman worth any mention in the original trilogy and seeing as we could dress Emma up as an Ewok. I wanted to wear the outfit Leia wears on Hoth, it would have been more time-consuming than the two hours I used up to make the outfit she wore in 'A New Hope'.

I was inspired by this post on StarWars.com for a very quick outfit to be done at short notice, since I spent most of the time on the Jedi cloak and tunic. Emma's Ewok outfit, however, took an even shorter time to complete. Let me know in the comments if you'd like a tutorial for her Ewok costume (cuteness guaranteed!).

I obviously altered the StarWars.com pattern a little as I went, since I didn't actually have it open at the time I was sewing it. As a result, it doesn't have the hood, but it has wider sleeves and the polo neck seen in the film. Here are all three of us on the day:
Twitter/Fotolive_Pix
All I used for the outfit was two men's shirts. If you plan to do a similar outfit, use a t-shirt that is wide enough between the seams of the armholes (A) to fit around your hips and waist to use as the skirt. This t-shirt should also have short sleeves.
The second t-shirt, which must have long sleeves and a v-neck, should be wide enough for you to gather it a bit at the bottom to allow it to billow over the belt. I made mine a little too narrow but I don't like huge puffs of fabric around my waist, so it really is a matter of personal preference.

The skirt is also a little too short in comparison to the one in the film, so if you have a third shirt that is much bigger than the one you used for the skirt, you can add an additional section to make it longer. My belt was also too wide but I had given my narrow one away, thinking, of course, that I was never going to use it, haha.

So, steps. I apologise for the lack of images; I worked on this late at night and you know what happens with hastiness... If my instructions aren't clear, please feel free to contact me!

For the skirt:

1. Lay out the shirt to be used for the skirt. Cut off the sleeves as close to the seam as possible and then cut across as close to the bottom of the neckline as possible.

2. Fold in half and mark the side of what will be your skirt with a fabric pencil. You will be drawing a straight line from the shoulder seam parallel to the armhole seam and then you will taper your line down to the side seam of the shirt. Cut once you're certain (Unless the t-shirt is very big, mistakes will be costly), leaving the bottom hem intact, as this will be the bottom hem of your skirt.

This is in essence what you will be aiming for:
3.Sew the side seams up.

Notes: Feel free to cut off the bottom hem of the t-shirt if you are adding another section. All you'll need to do is cut the bottom section off the third much larger t-shirt depending on how much longer you want the skirt, taper the seams to match with the skirt, seam, and attach to the bottom of the skirt.

For the bodice:

1. Put on the skirt and the second shirt, measuring where you would like the waistline for the dress. Mark the shirt at your waistline with enough give for a hem.

2. Cut straight along the shirt at the point you marked off.

3. Set your sewing machine to it's widest stitch and sew a line or two of gathering stitches along the bottom of the shirt.

4. Mark the centres of the t-shirt and your skirt; pin the side seams of the shirt and skirt together; and begin to pull the gathering stitches until the centres of the skirt and shirt match. Pin and sew over the basting stitches. Remember to remove these stitches when you've sewn your waistline seam.

Notes: When I tried the shirt on at this point, I didn't like how low the armhole and shoulder seams hung on my arms. I actually cut off the sleeves, made the shoulder seam narrower, and reattached the sleeves. This also really depends on your personal preference and time constraints.

For the polo neck:

1. Cut off the ribbing around the neck of the bodice t-shirt as close to the seam as possible.

2. Mark the centre of the back and front necklines with pins. Now take one of the sleeves you cut off from the short sleeve t-shirt.

3. Pin the sleeve seam to the centre of the back neckline and the point of the upper sleeve to the centre of the front v-neck. It works better if you work from the centre back down to the v-neck for each side of the neckline. Sew it up.

For the wider sleeves:

1. Decide how much wider you want your sleeves to be. This also depends on how much fabric you have left over from your bodice t-shirt.

2. Mark an isosceles triangle into the leftover fabric, with the uppermost point being the length of the point in the sleeve where you want it to be wider.
3. Cut the seams of the sleeves to a little less than the height of the triangle.

4. Pin and sew first one side of the triangle to the sleeve opening, and then the other.
5. Neaten the seam by matching the two seams of the triangle and sewing straight along the original sleeve seam.

6. Repeat with the other sleeve.

7. Put on the dress and mark the point where you want the sleeves to reach on your wrist. You can simply cut across the bottom of the sleeve at this point, securing the seams, or you can seam it. I left it with no seam.

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And that's about it! I just added an old brown belt and knee-high black boots. However, if you want the look to be more authentic, you'll need white boots, something I'm not brave enough to purchase! :) I do have a pair of white pumps, which I was going to wear with white trousers under the dress, but the boots looked better. I doubled up on layers as well because the white shirts were pretty see-through. If you have thin hair like me, you may also like to purchase a wig with Leia's iconic buns already on, but this all depends on how much time you have on your hands. If you have more time, you will most likely purchase the correct amount of fabric, all the correct notions, and have everything you need to replicate the official look.

I am actually really chuffed at how well the outfit turned out; how well everyone's outfits turned out, especially since this is the first time I've ever done cosplay. What do you think?

{Image credit: By The Conmunity - Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA (WonderCon 2012 - R2-D2 and Princess Leia) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons}

Forget stranger, danger - the threat is likely in your own home

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By Jeppestown [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
June 30, 2015

When I was younger, I was, as many other young children were, taught that strangers could be dangerous; that strangers were not allowed to touch me; that I should never trust strangers to take me to my mom; that sort of thing. But parents are too afraid to admit that the danger is - has statistically been proven to be - much closer than strangers.

Research has shown that eight out of 10 children (Another site claims this number is really 90%, while 68% are abused by members of their family) who have been sexually abused knew their abuser. This mean it's family members, friends, neighbours, teachers. I personally know at least three people who have been abused at the hands of a family member, and it is exactly because parents trust these people that this kind of thing can happen.

DIF Zapopan has created a series of public service announcements warning people of this fact. Called 'Some things are hard to see', the campaign's advertisements feature various abusive situations between children and family members. They are heartbreaking and cut you to the core.

Here is one of the PSAs (click here to watch the rest):



The fact that abuse does not usually occur by strangers is more commonly known since I was a little girl, and yet sexual abuse of children is still rampant. Sexual child abuse in South Africa is often a point of conversation. A simple Google search (for young girls only) reveals news story upon news story of minors being raped by people in their community. It is scary to think that very often, familial child abuse often goes unreported because the child - or the family - is too afraid to say something.

Children's minds are not fully developed yet, and this is why it is so easy for abusers to take advantage of them. Often children will not tell anyone what happened because they felt ashamed, didn't think they would be believed, were threatened not to tell by the abuser, or didn't know that what was being done to them was wrong.

This is where I believe parental communication is of the utmost importance.

Planned Parenthood believes talking to children about sex in early childhood is a good idea. It makes sense that the knowledge parents impart to their children about sexuality will help them make good decisions for themselves and their bodies. Much as a parent would tell a child why jumping off the side of a cliff into an ocean below is dangerous, parents need to equip their children with the knowledge they need to make decisions concerning their own safety sexually. This knowledge would include what makes a relationship or action good or unhealthy and a child will be aware when something is being done to them that is not right. (Watch this video if you feel uncomfortable talking to your child about sexuality.)

Many communities believe talking about sex is taboo but I think this is like sending your child into a jungle without any survival skills. Even abstinence-only education is flawed, making teens who have been sexually abused feel worthless and dirty.

Having an open and honest relationship with your child will not only help you to impart your knowledge from your own mistakes to them, but will also instill trust in them - something necessary if you want them to tell you if they are being abused. You want to know if your child is hungry, don't you? So why wouldn't you want to know if someone is hurting them?

Note: This [PDF] from Unicef South Africa is a helpful guide for parents about sexual abuse, what they should look out for, and what steps they should take if their child has been abused.

{Image credit: By Jeppestown [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons}

DIY: Pegged! Scarf organisation

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June 27, 2015

I don't know about you, but I love scarves and as a result, I have about 20 or so. But how to store them? If you have an open space somewhere in your closet, why not try this idea - it's quick and easy!

All you'll need to quickly store and display your scarves is enough wooden pegs for the number of scarves you have and a glue gun.

Warm up your glue gun as you complete the first few steps. Remember to warm it up on a piece of cardboard or something else you can discard so as not to damage your carpet or table. Once the glue becomes hard, that's pretty much it, depending on the surface it's leaked onto.


First, determine where you want your scarves to be hung up. I chose the inner side of our built-in closet, just under the clothing rail.Warm up the gun - remember to put it on a piece of card as it warms up so leaking glue doesn't get stuck on your carpet or on something else of value.

Now you'll have to draw a straight line as a guide along which to glue your pegs. Simply measure the same distance from the top of your cupboard to where you want your pegs to be positioned in two spots - one on the left of the cupboard and one on the right - and join the two marks with a ruler to make a straight line.

 Mark equal distances on the line - 1cm should be sufficient, depending on how close you want your pegs to be.

Put a line of glue on one side of the peg - try to put it on the same side so your pegs all look the same when they're stuck on.

Place the peg in position - I placed their centres on the 1cm marks I made.

Keep going until you're satisfied you have enough pegs stuck on.
Et voila! A quick and easy storage solution for your scarves that also helps you pick the ideal one for your outfit!

CEOSleepoutZA: Congrats on the money, not so much the idea

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Twitter/Vodacom
June 24, 2015

I know it makes me sound bitter and unappreciative of the funds raised and effort that went into planning the recent CEO Sleepout in South Africa, but I really struggle to understand the idea behind it.

Not only do the CEOs of major companies - who earn millions of rands a year - sleep outside in conditions nowhere near those that actual homeless people experience, they are sleeping out to raise money. To me this just seems a cyclical error. Those with money urge other people with money to give them their money to help a social cause.

I know that many civic organisations would never survive without the donations and assistance of major corporations and individuals alike, but the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Sleepout is ridiculous.

After the photos of the event were published, the hypocrisy of the matter just unnerved me. The whole thing reads like an allegory of privilege.

All the campaigning and advertising for the event dripped with the names of the sponsors. The event's website asks: 'Do you have what it takes to rise to the challenge?' Well, is the challenge sitting outside in the cold pretending to be a homeless person, or 'winning' the event as the biggest fundraiser? It was certainly not difficult to 'experience homelessness', especially not for the CEOs who took part n this event, so the challenge must have been making a name for oneself as the biggest fundraiser.

Then, there was a wonderful welcome event held at the Maslow Hotel - where the cheapest room is a mere R2,011 a night - just before the fundraising was to start. Although I am only making assumptions about the details, I can see how this event would have consisted of welcome drinks and hors d'oeuvres, while CEOs clutched hands in greeting and networked.

After this warm-up event, the CEOs were given sleeping bags by Virgin Atlantic and allocated their specially designed cardboard chairs that folded into beds within the cordoned-off and guarded section of Gwen Lane where they would 'sleep under the stars'. Because saying 'sleep in a cardboard box in the bitter cold with nothing but the clothes on your back' wouldn't sound quite so romantic.
Twitter/AkiAnastasiouTwitter/Lead_SA
The participants arrived prepared, of course, wearing the warm outfits they perhaps purchased for expensive trips to wintry Europe that, oh yes! no homeless person could ever dream of embarking upon.
Some CEOs 'braved' the cold in their entertainment kiosk, walking on the soft padding of what appeared to be a mini-golf course.
And heaven forbid they get bored! With PJ Powers and their trusty cellphones, they can still have fun!
And, at the end of the night, a reward: A hot beverage and a gift bag.
The irony of the matter was not lost on Twitter users, who commented on the hilarity of the rich and privileged in the country sleeping out to experience only an iota of what homeless people go through and inspire others to donate money so they can 'win' the event as its biggest fundraiser.
I humbly understand that this platform has raised the most for a single charity ever in South Africa's history but there is something wrong with a society that needs a privileged person to pretend to be unprivileged for one night to get donations rolling. To me the Sleepout was a mere parody of what it means to be homeless. The donors could just as well have sat in an auction room and tried to beat each other in terms of amounts. All of the ridiculousness of CEOs sitting around coal fires, in onesies and wearing the warmest clothing and lying in the comfiest sleeping bags and browsing the web on their expensive cellphones turned the evening into more of a marketing event than anything else; marketing for the CEOs who took part and their companies and for the major sponsors Sun International, Stuttafords Van Lines, Talk Radio 702, and Virgin Atlantic, and other brands whose logos appeared on the official stationery.

And right at the bottom of the rung, the fact that there are really homeless people out there was completely negated by the fact that these CEOs were given a fun time of it all. As Megan McLean of the North Eastern Tribune said, the aim of the event was not to be fun, but to change attitudes. And no amount of fun will change any number of attitudes.

DIY: Embroidered Drawstring Pouch

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June 20, 2015

The simplest and quickest way of ploughing through your fabric pile is to make pouches. And you can really make them pretty with embroidery details.

I have made several pouches recently, and though they are pretty without embroidery, adding a little detail turns it into something special. In addition, it's the simplest way to rid yourself of that pile of fabric and you can use your creativity too to come up with your own designs.

Pouches can be used for anything from gift packaging for that special someone to handy shoe holders, jewellery storage, and linen storage.

These look especially pretty if you use a transparent fabric such as voile or netting.

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What you'll need:

Design of your choice
Fabric of your choice in the shape of a rectangle
DMC thread in the colours you need
Embroidery frame that will hold your size of fabric
Embroidery scissors
Embroidery backing (if you're using an opaque fabric)

Method:

1. First put the centre of one half of your rectangle into the centre of your embroidery frame. It doesn't have to fit perfectly; it's really just to ensure that your design does not become too distorted.

2. Embroider your design. Use shadow embroidery techniques to hide the end of your threads if you're using voile or a similar fabric.


3. Prepare your fabric to be sewn into a pouch. For transparent fabric you can choose to overlock the edges but some may prefer not to, as the stitching will show through the fabric later. You'll have to judge for yourself whether a visible serger is worth preventing a fabric prone to fraying from doing just that. (Personally, I've foregone the overlocking - even on transparent fabrics - as it appears neater to me.)

4. There are two ways to sew the pouch together. Either: fold over the top seam about 1cm and sew it closed, leaving a gap large enough for the ribbon you want to put through (this is not a very neat way of making the pouch, but it is likely not to be noticed). Then fold your rectangle in half and sew up the bottom and side of the pouch, leaving the ribbon casing loose.


Or: Fold the pouch over about 3cm. Sew about half a centimetre from the fold at the top of the pouch, and then another half centimetre from the bottom of the folded fabric, depending on the width of your ribbon. Sew the bottom of your pouch and then sew up the side up until your topstitching at the bottom of the ribbon casing. Then sew up the rest of the side seam above your top topstitching, leaving the gap open for the ribbon.




5. Put one end of your ribbon into a safety pin and push it through the ribbon casing. If you've followed the second technique for sewing up your pouch, push the safety pin around to the front of your pouch (i.e. through the middle of the four layers of fabric).


6. Tie your ribbon in a knot at one end.

And you're done! Keep a look out for a tutorial for a simple way of making a lined pouch!

Jurassic Park: My Top 11 Favourite Moments

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June 12, 2015

I am almost squealing in anticipation for 'Jurassic World', which starts this weekend. I haven't been so excited, indeed so eager to watch a film at the cinema in so long I can't even remember.


My excitement has been piqued ever further by the release of a brilliantly-edited final trailer (watch it at the bottom of the post), which makes it look all the more as though it will possibly match the tension and thrill of 'Jurassic Park'.

'Jurassic Park' is one of my all-time favourite films. My parents sneaked my sister and I into the cinema when it released, in 1993 I think, when we were both too young to watch such a scary film. The anxiety of being removed from the cinema might have added to my overall enjoyment of the film, but I was also excited to be watching it - a cinematic hurrah to the world of dinosaurs that I loved so much as young child. (I loved dinos so much I even wanted to be a palaeontologist - yes, long before 'Jurassic Park' was released - who knows what happened to that idea).

I recently binge-watched all three of the 'Jurassic Park' films. That was, of course, before I found out that director Colin Trevorrow was actually disregarding the (still disappointingly bad) sequels and moving on directly from the original. Thus, quite a waste of time (because...reasons). I recently watched a little documentary short about the first film showing how and why the dinosaurs in 'Jurassic Park' were just so groundbreaking: they were really a merging of three different technologies - stop motion animation, animatronics, and CGI. I believe this is why the two sequels could not hope to compete - I believe all their dinosaurs were entirely CGI-based.

I will now happily and smilingly watch Jurassic World' without even remembering the sequels.

But what was it that made 'Jurassic Park' so enjoyable for me? Was it the angst and tension that many are finding difficult to emulate today, even said sequels? Was it the Sam Neill and Laura Dern team?

Here are my top 11 favourite moments in 'Jurassic Park':

1. Welcome, Velociraptor!

This first scene should be on the list as one of the most thrilling moments in a film ever. Pounding rain, a mystery guest, a peek through the bars of the transfer cubicle, a misstep, and a man clinging to the side of the vehicle before being dragged to his doom...I rub my hands in glee!

2. Respect the Velociraptor

Facebook/Jurassic Park
When Dr Alan Grant explains to a snooty little boy why the Velociraptor was such a formidable killer by revealing his raptor claw and drawing it several times across the little boy's torso as he tells him what the velociraptor would do with his little body, I cheer inwardly. Respect the dinos, boy!

3. Dinosaurs!? Dinosaurs!

Facebook/Jurassic Park
This moment still has my hair stand on end at times. When Alan and Allie first spot the brachiosaurus, their expressions say it all, the music reaches reaches a crescendo as the dinosaur reaches up to get the tasty top leaves of a tall tree before slamming back to the ground as the music climaxes, and Alan falls on his knees as his shock and wonder take the best of him.

4. This

Facebook/Jurassic Park

5. Playing God

This is a recent favourite of mine. Alan, Ellie, Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), and the park's creator, John Hammond discuss the events of the day. Ian is convinced that dinosaurs belong in the past - it is where God put them after all, but Hammond does not believe he is playing God and is disappointed that they are all unimpressed with his park. The conversation is quite intense and I'd never noticed it before.


6. Um, The Electricity is Off

Facebook/Jurassic Park
This is the moment you know everything is going to go to the dogs. As you wait for something - anything - to happen, those iconic concentric circular ripples in the glass of water foretell the doom that is coming. Within this scene, Lex asks, 'Where's the goat?' and the T-Rex happily obliges to give her an answer.

7. Dennis Gets His Comeuppance

Facebook/Jurassic Park
Dennis was not a likeable character to begin with - rude, gross, untidy, and selfish - but shutting down the entire park to get some dinosaur samples certainly seems like a plan hatched by a moron. And this moron pays - he is attacked, spat on, and probably eviscerated by a dilophosaurus, a little dinosaur he was kind enough to insult with a candy bar.

8. Shirtlessness and Dinasahrs!

Facebook/Jurassic Park
Yes, this is such a sleazy thing to put on this list, but Jeff Goldblum had to have his shirt off or half open whenever possible - talking to Ellie, sitting in a car, eating dinner, and receiving treatment after stupidly gaining the T-Rex's attention. And, of course, his pronunciation of dinosaurs :)

9. The Electric Fence is Off

Facebook/Jurassic Park
The scene is one of my favourites for two reasons. First, Alan pretending to be shocked by the fence. It's just something my dad would have done. And second, the tension that comes just after that little lilt in angst when the Tyrannosaurus is approaching and the electric fence is about to come on and Tim is too afraid to climb down and Alan and Lex are screaming...

10. The Wobbling Jello

Facebook/Jurassic Park
Lex and Tim finally make it to headquarters and have the dinner that was waiting for them, but their meal is interrupted when Lex spots the shadow of a velociraptor on the other side of a banner. Before we know what she sees, her terror is made clear by the wiggling blob of jello on the spoon that never made it to her mouth.

11. A Velociraptor in the Kitchen

Facebook/Jurassic Park
This is still one of the most intense scenes in the film. Lex and Tim are up against not one but two velociraptors appetites were not sated with either Ray Arnold nor Robert Muldoon. As the children sneak around on all fours to escape, Tim manages to catch their attention. Lex calls them to her instead with a shiny spoon and tries to squash herself into a stainless steel stove. The velociraptor sees her and runs, claws sliding on the floor, hackles up, targets Les, but then smashes into Lex's reflection. This amazing scene still makes me tense, even though I've seen them escape a hundred times already.

I know that 'Jurassic Park' doesn't have very many fans in the world of palaeontology for basically settling an image of dinosaurs in popular culture and the viewing public that isn't really based on reality. I can understand that this is problematic and a fluffy dinosaur with feathers may now be scoffed at instead of dazzle. While the first film went miles to show humankind that dinosaurs were smarter than previously thought - which was what palaeontologists had been discovering - many have even fewer compliments for the dinosaurs of 'Jurassic World'. The dinosaurs are massive and apparently barely resemble the painstakingly acquired skeleton specimens displayed in museums around the world.

But 'Jurassic Park', you have a fan in me despite your inaccuracies, and I hope 'Jurassic World' meets my expectations.

Watch the trailer below:



Are you looking forward to seeing the film?

Just Read and Watched: Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller

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June 10, 2015

This delightful and scandalous novel is filled with snobbery and malice, and it is also deliciously sinister, especially coupled with the film version.

I enjoyed Notes on a Scandal immensely and could hardly put it down once I started reading it. Barbara Covett is a spinster teacher who becomes a sort of mentor and friend for Sheba Hart, to whom Sheba reveals her secret about an illicit love affair she is having with one of her charges, a 15-year-old pupil named Steven Connolly. But as we learn more about the characters we see that Barb is her surname anthropomorphised. She covets everything beautiful; however, at the same time she looks down her nose at it and this makes her a most interesting character.

Barb is at once the jealous and overprotective matriarch and the manipulative bully. She weasels her way into Sheba Hart's life and trust by very carefully not speaking her mind unless it is to deride other persons she loathes, a scheme she uses to isolate the person she has her eye on. Although she is at first flattered and ecstatic that she is the only person who knows Sheba's secret, her desire to be the only person to whom Sheba turns and her attempt to isolate her from her family and lover fails - at first. Sheba does not realise the friend she has in Barb: a treacherous woman with a past only hinted at in the book.

Sheba is not innocent either, while she often claims to be a victim of circumstance. She blames her early marriage for a lack of worldly experience and believes Steven's pursual of her a gift - she had not been courted for many years. While her relationship with Barb is hinged on this secret and on the power Barb has, when she is discovered Sheba refuses to see the hypocrisy of her actions. This is a theme for the novel, as the characters can all not see their own hypocrisy as they judge and raise their snouts.

Many critics of the novel say it was difficult to become emotionally attached to any of the characters because they were all filled with this characteristic, but I loved them all, especially Barbara. No matter who we are we will always look down on others in our minds - that is just something that makes us human. And that is the point: these characters are as real as they can get. There is no pretense that what they are doing is motivated by anything else but human nature.

The novel is also a frightening look at the effect loneliness can have on a person. Barbara, Sheba, Polly, Steven, Sue, Richard - they are all lonely in their own ways and it is a testament to how quickly overcoming this emotion can change our lives.

The undercurrent of romantic feeling that Barbara has towards Sheba was also difficult to pin down. While she indulged in the closeness of Sheba and we read about the uncanny moment where she tickles Sheba's arm, she is nevertheless disappointed when fellow teacher Bangs is not interested in her. Perhaps this was just an indication of how lonely Barbara was - anything will do - and is reflected when she muses about how people like Sheba did not know what it was like to go to bed at night without being touched.

In contrast, I found the film more sinister, especially with regards to Barbara. She was more malevolent in her actions and she seemed more aware of what her obsessions meant for her relationships. Sheba, meanwhile, is painted as the innocent victim of Barbara's plots: whereas in the novel the breaking point of their relationship is Sheba running off to be with Steven, in the film she is heading to one of her children's school events. This is just one example where the audience is made to feel more badly for Sheba. [Spoilers to follow if you haven't seen the film] Even more disturbing was Barbara's purposeful revelation that Sheba was sleeping with a young boy, the truth of what happened with Barbara's former friend Jennifer, the vitriolic terms with which Sheba reprimanded Barbara when she found out, and then that very final scene where Barbara begins stalking a new victim.

These events certainly paint Barbara as a more sociopathic personality than the book does and I almost feel that in a way it is generalising about older, lonely women not only being lesbians but also being lonely to the point of madness.

I most definitely enjoyed the novel more than the film, simply because of the real insight Heller gives us into Barbara's mind, something that is lacking in her rendition onscreen. I rather liked her character because she felt real: bitter, disillusioned, snobbish, hypocritical... and yet her loneliness was stark and touching.

Notes on a Scandal is certainly up there with my favourite novels.

DIY: Found object bottle frame

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June 6, 2015

Whenever I go to the sea, I cannot help picking up shells and stones and other objects along the beach, and keeping mementoes of special moments. All these items usually end up in a box somewhere, but what about displaying them?

It turns out that shadow boxes aren't the only things you can use to display your found items. If you, like me, are a lover of glass bottles and have piles of them awaiting a special task from you, how about trying this?

You'll need:

A glass bottle
A photograph of the place you retrieved your found items cut to the size of the bottle you wish to use
Your found items

The rest of the tutorial is pretty obvious: simply place the photo into the bottle first and then put all your found items behind it, or you could even try putting some items in front if you don't mind covering up some of your image.
Once you are pleased with the effect, place your bottle with other mementoes of your travels, such as larger seashells or souvenirs you purchased. The overall effect is quite attractive and you'll have an ideal talking point in your living room.

Just Read: The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

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June 2, 2015

Elizabethan British history is one of my favourite escapist topics. For all my annoyance at the concept of royalty and my desperation that Emma doesn't turn out to love princesses, I enjoy reading about princesses, princes, queens, and kings all too much. Plus, my guilty pleasure is imagining their completely impractical yet exquisitely embroidered clothing.

Perhaps I enjoy historical fiction because, not only is it so unlike our own recent history, but the women are strong in ways women today can only imagine. Giving birth sans anaesthesia is just one example.

In 'The Constant Princess', Gregory has also managed to give so much depth to Queen Catherine - more depth than I've ever read about or seen about her before. I was a fan of the television show 'The Tudors' and Catherine is made out to be a failed queen, someone who was simply a means to an end for a spoiled and narcissistic man. She is not loved by Henry, nor by the court, which seems all too eager to allow their king to do as he pleases.

Gregory's book gives some heart and background to this popularised story, showing how it was that Catherine and Henry were forced together to give rise to one of the most infamous battles for the crown of the Queen of England.

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Queen Catherine was the feisty daughter of the Queen of Spain - a warrior queen who commanded on high with the belief that God had her back. Catherine's personality is a struggle for her - she is torn between her duty to God, her country, and her family and her own dreams and wishes. As a teenager she falls in love with her young husband, Arthur. The two make plans for a new England, modelled on the myth of King Arthur and Camelot where they would rule side by side. Their dreams are shattered when Arthur falls ill and dies not even a year into their marriage, and before she can become queen.

On his deathbed he makes Catherine promise a secret vow to marry his brother, Henry, so she can become Queen as she is meant to be. For years she is left in limbo as the king attempts to decide what to do with her, and we see her at her most vulnerable when she has no friends, no company, no money, and what looks to be no future, but where she also learns to live in adversity.

When King Henry the 7th dies, Catherine is shocked when Arthur's brother Henry proposes marriage to her on the basis of the lie that her marriage to his brother was not consummated. Gregory makes the relationship between the new King and Queen seem filled with love at first. We also see Catherine take England to victory against the Scots. Wikipedia says she dressed in full armour and was at the head of the army - but she was heavily pregnant and gave birth to a stillborn son. This may have gone a long way in losing Henry to her for good, and is something that isn't even mentioned in 'The Tudors'.

I'm not sure how much artistic licence Gregory took when writing this novel, but since we all know how Catherine's marriage to Henry ended, the story about Catherine and Arthur falling in love and consummating their marriage juxtaposed to what we know of historical accounts that Henry believed Catherine was not a virgin certainly explains why he was so quick to believe that their marriage was cursed when no son was born. Well, if we forget that Henry was quite the playboy of his day and that he always had his way...

Throughout the novel, we are reminded of the love that Catherine and Arthur shared. We are made to wonder if Catherine had followed the same path with Henry, had opened the lines of communication with him, had told him stories about Spain, whether Henry would actually have looked elsewhere. Had this fictional Catherine truly opened her heart to Henry, would he not have loved her more fully?

It is a sad story about a girl forced to be a woman and when given the chance to reclaim her youth at a young court with a young King rather forces herself to be the adult. Could this have been her downfall?

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The motifs of destiny and fate are also an important part of this novel. I always struggle with these concepts because they imply that one has no power over one's life. Catherine is adamant that it is her destiny to be queen of England - she was fated to be the Queen since she was promised to Arthur when they were babies. I know that times were very different back then, with women forming key points in political liaisons and not having much choice in anything, but there are many times that she could have changed her life by making a decision.

Many times she certainly did. She could never have given Arthur a look at who she truly was, which was one of the reasons he fell in love with her. She could have returned to Spain regardless of her parents' wishes in order to avoid the adversity she suffered awaiting a decision. She could have revealed her true self to Henry, possibly enticing him to truly love her. And I would argue that her choices went a long way in both making her Queen of England and in creating the downward spiral that she found herself in in later years. Had she not insisted on being the warrior queen she had always believed she would be, perhaps she would have given birth to a healthy son and Henry would not have turned away from her.

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As always, 'The Constant Princess' is rich and entertaining read for those who enjoy period pieces. Gregory's research and insight is enlightening and gives life and personality to a character that is largely neglected in the tellings of Elizabethan history in favour of Anne Boleyn and Henry's four other wives.

{Image credit: By Lucas Hornebolte [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Henry Nelson O'Neil (Historia n°767 - Novembre 2010 - page 49) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons}

DIY: Stained Glass Bathroom Light

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May 29, 2015

I was looking for something unique for our bathroom after I gave our bathroom a makeover. I looked at chandeliers and globes, flat bulb covers and even paper shades. But I was inspired by Moroccan lanterns with their geometric designs when I decided to use stained glass paint and lead to design my own shade from our current glass shade.

It's one of my favourite touches to my new bathroom, and it really is simple to accomplish.

What you'll need:

A glass bathroom shade
Heritage lead liner
Glass stain or paint (I originally had a Martha Stewart glass stain, but it was not dark enough for what I needed. I used Heritage glass stain instead.)
A paintbrush
A pencil
A ruler
Your design (I used a modified version of this design)
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1. Divide your bathroom shade into quarters using your pencil and ruler.
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2. Draw your design onto the shade. I modified an image I found on the web of a circular Moroccan design with fish to match my mural. Remember that if you have chosen a geometric pattern you will need to make sure the pattern is the same, or as close as you can get, in every quarter. 
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3. Using the lead, trace along your design. Be careful of smudging the lines. Wait for the lead to dry before you paint in the lines. I left my lamp for a day. Once it's dry, you can erase your pencil lines if possible, because they will show through the paint.

TIP: If you have a shade design printed on paper and have a clear glass shade, tape the print on the inside of the shade and use that as a guide when you do the outlining.
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4. Paint in between the lead lines. If you are using a pearl lead as I did, take care not to paint over the lead itself as it will show. Decide on your colours beforehand, as there's no way to undo the glass stain.

Once your paint is dry, hang up your shade and enjoy your work! The stained glass look will make the light more muted and may also cast pretty colours around the room.