{ Under The Bluegums }

A personal blog with craft tutorials, reviews of books, films, and music, parenting advice, and opinions on society and politics.

August 22, 2016

Five Things I Learnt At The Dentist

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I was never a fan of going to the dentist. I'm not actually certain why, but it could be linked to the fact that my parents showed an extreme dislike of going to the dentist and I possibly caught the fear from them. I think I only ever saw my father go once throughout my conscious life and my mother has not been since before she and my father married, which was over 30 years ago.

I don't remember having a particularly traumatising experience with the dentist of my youth but as an adult I rather enjoy it. And perhaps it has to do with the dentist himself: my dentist is so interesting to talk to and forthcoming with all information about teeth and dentistry. As such, I always leave with the feeling that I have not only received excellent care for my teeth but have also learnt something.

Some of my favourite lessons include:

nitrous-oxide-historical
1. The reason 'laughing gas', or nitrous oxide, has such a giddy effect on our system is because it is giving your body a heavy dose of oxygen without all the other things we breathe in normally. And what does your brain do when you're breathing well? You feel calmer and may even think clearer. According to this article, however, it appears there is no certainty as to why nitrogen and oxygen in this formulation provides an anaesthetic effect, although it may have something to do with how tension is created in the brain between the gas, the alveoli, and the blood in the brain.

2. Why does it seem as though your the whole side of your face feels numb after an anaesthetic injection? At least for me, it was because the needle with the anaesthesia was injected into the main nerve that controls the feeling of the side of the jaw. Imagine the talents of the person performing the injection to get it perfectly numb?

3. Feeling cold on a tooth means the nerve inside is still alive. My dentist tested whether the nerve inside my wisdom tooth with the filling I had done last year was still alive with intense cold.

4. Have you ever wondered why a person has all of their wisdom teeth removed at the same time, even if it's only one tooth that's an issue? It's because these teeth require some opposition on the opposite jaw if they are to avoid erupting: something needs to be creating pressure from the other side.

colgate-plax
5. Using an anti-bacterial mouthwash is not actually as beneficial as advertisers would have us believe. We have natural bacteria everywhere in our bodies and our mouths are no different. Using an anti-bacterial mouthwash makes sense if there is a wound or other issue but if we have otherwise healthy mouths, a simple flouride rinse is actually better. If you'd like to read more on this subject, here is something about the benefits and disadvantages of using a mouthwash, a comparison between mouthwash and fluoride rinse, and a guide on oral rinses.

What are your best (or worst) experiences with dentists?

{Image credit: 1. By Marco Antonio Aguilar Lizarraga - Template:Empresa dentadec, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8709732
2. By http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/f9/b7/8b6378e59c2c136332816e827d33.jpg Gallery: http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/L0005630.html, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35870248
3. Colgate Plax By Editor182 (talk) - I (Editor182 (talk)) created this work entirely by myself.Transferred from en.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16407847}

August 19, 2016

Book Takeaways || Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho

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cover-like-the-flowing-river
'Like the Flowing River' is a collection of anecdotes and notes by the esteemed author of 'The Alchemist', Paulo Coelho, and as such, it is filled with lovely inspirational stories and life lessons. It is always interesting to dip into the minds of some of the most celebrated authors in the world and this exploration of a few select records is no different. We are given a unique insight into the thoughts of a man who is knowledgeable, intuitive, and perfectly able to see not only the beauty in the world but also its secret meaning.

Coelho's anecdotes speak of everything, from milk replacements to the artistry of archery. What follows is a list of my top ten records from the collection, anecdotes that made me think, reconsider, muse, or mourn:

1. A story about how we are filled with the potential of the pencil and how we must remember: we can do great things but there is always a hand guiding us; a pencil is made better through being sharpened (or experiencing adversity or trouble); the ability to be erased (or the pleasure of retrospection) allows us to see the obvious path to justice; the graphite inside the pencil is what is really important; and we always leave a mark.

"The fool who loves giving advice on our garden never tends his plants at all." [28] 
2. The person who follows such a person's advice will only tend someone else's garden, and will miss out on valuable life experience.

3. A tale about friendship: Genghis Kahn went hunting with his falcon. He became thirsty and came across a stream, but his falcon would prevent him from drinking it. He became upset and killed the falcon, only to discover that a carcass was rotting upstream and the falcon was merely being loyal and attempting to save him. The lessons are: a friend is still a friend even when he does something you do not agree with; and, anything done in anger is destined to be a failure.

4. A beautiful statement about 'hope':
"That word that so often rises with us in the morning, gets sorely wounded as the day progresses, dies at nightfall, and is reborn with the new day." [31]

5. Confucius says: 'Be clear'. Lay down the law, set boundaries, communicate.

6. As an owner of many books, I felt a little guilty reading the thought that hoarding books or keeping them in a personal library inhibits the journey the books are meant to make.

biwa-lake-sunrise-wikimedia-commons-A-giâu
7. Considering the distrust and terror taking place in the world today, this phrase was poignant for me:
"When a stranger approaches and we think he is our brother and all conflicts disappear, that is the moment when night ends and day begins." [82] 
The moment where we recognise our fellow man as a friend before believing he is a foe is the moment we can change the world.

8. Using the story about a meditation school believing cats were necessary for meditation practice, we are reminded that sometimes the reason we continue behaviours is unknown or has passed and the behaviour is thus no longer necessary.

9. We are told about an old man who is constantly insulted and abused by the people in his village. He does nothing but bless those who mock him and when he is asked why, he answers,
"We can each of us only offer what we have." [127-8]

10. There is a story of a new Emperor of China who needed a wife. To determine which woman in the land would be best suited, he asked them to nurture seeds that he gave them and the woman with the most beautiful flower would become his Empress. A maidservant was in love with the Emperor and did everything she could to care for the seed but it would not grow. On the day all the women returned to the palace, she was the only one without a beautiful flower to offer the Emperor. She became the Empress because of her honesty: the Emperor had given all the women sterile seeds.

Do you have your own favourite quotations from Paulo Coelho's works?

{Image credit: A-giâu, CC BY-SA 3.0 Biwa Lake Sunrise}

July 28, 2016

DIY || Simple Crochet Hanger Cover

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finished-crochet-hanger-cover
Plastic hangers are so annoyingly useful and unattractive at the same time. While the end result of this DIY tutorial does not entirely disguise the plastic hanger, it does make it a little prettier, while it also provides additional friction for those delicate and knitted items. This is ideal to add some pizzazz to hangers holding skirts from those cotton loops on the seams as well, as the hooks on either side are still showing. I've made covers with fabric and lace, but can only hang items over the top, or fuss with the cover over the hook.

What you'll need for this project:

A plastic hanger
A crochet hook of any size
Yarn in your colour and thickness of choice

How to crochet around the hanger:

step-1
Start off with a knot around your needle.
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Place the yarn under the hanger...
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...bring it over the hanger and the needle...
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...and pull through the loop with the crochet hook.
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Then take the yarn over and under the hanger and pull through loop again, pulling tight.
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Repeat this until you've covered the whole hanger with the yarn.
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The stitches should look like this - close together and covering the plastic hanger. When you reach the joints in the hanger, you use the same technique, pulling the stitch to the new position before pulling it tightly.

Do you have any other ideas for covering plastic hangers?

July 25, 2016

Book Review || Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

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far-from-madding-crowd-book-cover
Thomas Hardy became one of my favourite writers after reading 'The Mayor of Casterbridge'. I fell in love with his passionate depiction of the natural world, with his detailed depiction of a fictional town in the 1800s, and the representation of his characters. 'Far From the Madding Crowd' was no different in this regard, and I wonder why it took me so long to open the cover.

The book follows the trials and tribulations of shepherd Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene, the woman he has fallen in love with. When the pair first meet officially, she rescues him from suffocation. He is in a somewhat better position financially than she is and asks for her hand in marriage. She rejects him, however, on the basis that she does not love him. By a strange turn of events, Oak soon finds himself in a lower position than she after she inherits a farm from her uncle. She hires Oak knowing of his business savvy and his knowledge of sheep while Oak's feelings for her remain through all of Bathsheba's poor choices.

My favourite aspect of Hardy's novel is its enamored representations of Mother Nature in all its seasons and glory. His descriptions of the weather, such as the storm that breaks as Gabriel and Bathsheba rush to save her stockpiles, as well as his sketches of the beauty of forests, pastures, and coasts, dotted with beautiful portrayals of the sun and stars' movements is certain to leave unforgettable imagery in your mind.

He also presents lively debate on religion and philosophy as he describes nature, through the debates and conversations of his characters, mostly those who are classed as servants, and his descriptions of woman or man.

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Bathsheba rescues Gabriel (Helen Allingham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Bathsheba is such an interesting depiction for me for Hardy does not represent her as only a woman, but so much more; even as he talks in the same breath of her feminine vices and sometimes thoughtless mannerisms he has placed her in an exceedingly powerful position for a woman of her time. Indeed Bathsheba's only downfall is falling in love with Sergeant Troy and marrying a man whom she knows very little about. However, he juxtaposes her collapse with that of one of her suitors, William Boldwood, who is a prosperous farmer until he becomes obsessed with Bathsheba to the point of ruining his farm and his life.

When it comes to talking about the people of Weatherbury, they are all interesting and amusing, from having double vision problems to being known only as a woman's husband to absolute loyalty, these folk are straight from a simpler world where there is a respect for one's place in it, a respect for oneself, and a respect for others.

In all, 'Far From the Madding Crowd' can now be seen as an elegy to the dreamlike world of agriculture and rural life before industrialisation, where the farmer and his workers lived to the tune of the sunrise and sunset, of the seasons, of the wet and dry; where time passed according to harvests and stock sales, to a time when life was simpler and man lived in harmony with nature.

While I had committed that error of errors by watching the film before reading the book, it made no matter - I turned page by subsequent page because Hardy's writing was so good! And if you're looking for one of the greatest romance novels of all time, this is one: it's tenth on theGuardian's list.

Have you read the novel?

July 21, 2016

DIY || Origami Crane Mobile

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origami-crane-mobile
Just after Emma was born I was obsessed with folding paper. I think this image was to blame and my idea was that I would fill the entire ceiling with origami cranes.

While I didn't get around to decorating the entire ceiling with cranes, because it slowly filled up with glow-in-the-dark stars and planets and mobiles from family, I did make an origami crane mobile hanging from a dreamcatcher.

I made two, one for my niece, which had the cranes spiralling around a centre point, and one for Emma. I wanted the latter to be random as though the cranes were flying all over the place. Sort of like it would have been had I followed through on my idea.

What you'll need for this project:

Origami cranes (I made mine out of magazine paper to add colour, but you can use origami paper or plain printer paper, too. Follow these instructions on Wikipedia to fold an origami crane.)
A steel or wooden embroidery frame
Yarn (I used DMC tapestry wool)
Clear beading thread

cranes-yarn

First, you will have to wind the yarn around the embroidery frame. Try to wind it as tightly as possible to cover the frame. Start by holding the thread on the frame with your thumb and wrap the yarn over this thread to keep it in place. When you are finished wrapping, use a sewing needle to pull the yarn through some of the loops.

Making the dreamcatcher:

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First tie a knot on the frame with the yarn, then place the yarn over the frame at the position you would like the web to begin.
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Pull the yarn under the frame and downwards.
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Pull the yarn under and over the starting thread...
dreamcatcher-knot-step-4
...pulling tight to create an anchor. Continue in this way all around the frame...
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...and as you continue in the centre of the frame to create your web. Pull the yarn quite tightly to ensure that the web keeps its shape, and then knot it in the centre with a slip knot. You can also add a bead in the centre if you like.

Making the mobile:

The length of the thread the cranes will hang from depends on the effect that you would like. If you would like the cranes to hang uniformly around the frame, cut the threads the same length. If you would like the cranes to spiral around the centre, cut each thread longer than the last. It will take longer if you would like the cranes to fly haphazardly around the frame, since you will have to hang the frame up and position them as you see fit, adjusting the length of the threads as you go and ensuring the frame remains balanced.

The most difficult part, however, is pulling the thread through the centre of your cranes without tearing them. You will be pulling the thread through the middle of the bottom of the body and through the top. The easiest way to prevent the thread from pulling through the crane at a later stage is to put a bead at the bottom. You can also knot the thread several times, securing it in place with some clear nail varnish. Secure it in the same manner where you join the crane to the yarn of the dreamcatcher. Drop a bead or two into the cranes if you're having trouble balancing everything out.
completed-origami-crane-mobile
I would love to see your efforts!

July 14, 2016

Addendum: Movie Review || Rosemary's Baby (1968)

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Facebook/Rosemary's Baby
After reviewing the television miniseries reboot of 'Rosemary's Baby', I have finally watched the original and absolutely agree with everyone who says that it is much creepier than the reboot. The direction, the actors, and even the music all contribute to make this film feel much more complete and well put-together than the television miniseries.

Firstly, the music: Oh my word! 'Rosemary's Baby' is supposed to be a horror movie, or at the very least a thriller, and it felt to me, after watching the 1968 version, that those behind the reboot had completely forgotten the importance of the soundtrack in creating tension and communicating terror to the viewer. If I have to think back on the miniseries, there is not one moment that stands out because of the music. In contrast, the original is filled with notable pieces that only add a greater depth to the film. Take the first and last piece (which are the same): the almost robotic way the mother is singing a lullaby is freaky in itself. The most thrilling piece of music is that employed when Rosemary attempts to escape from Guy and Doctor Sapirstein: the notes become faster and higher reaching a crescendo just as Rosemary manages to shut the door on them and end their pursuit. Then there is also the use of absolute silence, such as when Rosemary is in the dream sequence: the only noise is Rosemary's own plaintive cries that, 'This is no dream!'

Facebook/Rosemary's Baby
Secondly, the cast was much better for the story that was being told. The film follows the novel in this area and as a result Ruth Gordon's Minnie is the ideal annoying and pushy neighbour. At no point do we come to suspect that she and Roman's intentions are untoward in any way, at least until she appears unclothed in Rosemary's dream, and even afterwards she is not pushy enough to make Rosemary suspicious. John Cassavetes as Guy is also perfectly sleazy for the role. Whereas Patrick J. Adams seems too disinclined to put his needs first and leaks with remorse as soon as the process of impregnating Rosemary has begun, John has an air of selfishness and narcissism that makes the possibility that he could allow what was done to Rosemary much more likely. Of course Mia Farrow is extraordinary in this role: she is almost too angelic to be real, but little nuances such as the way she pulls her face when Minnie brings the mousse makes her feel more real.

Facebook\Rosemary's Baby
Thirdly, I love how the story is that much more simply put through Roman Polanski's direction (Isn't it odd that he shares the name of the main witch, Roman Castevet?) It holds your attention through simplicity and did not have to resort to excessive gore or obvious fright to maintain it. The fact that the couple are in a city they are familiar with, speaking a language they know, and not surrounded by strangers makes the fact that Rosemary didn't catch on sooner completely plausible, whereas the foreign setting in the reboot should have made her that much more suspicious and less quick to trust strangers.

While it is difficult for me to pick which I like most, since I like aspects of both versions, the original certainly has top place for being the chiller the book deserved, while the reboot has top place for the chemistry between the lead characters.

If you've seen both films, which did you like more and why? Please comment below and let me know!

July 12, 2016

Special Guest Post: 5 Great Books We Could All Learn Something From

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book-omg-sculpture-see-ming-lee-flickr
The power of the written word is a magical one; through tales, we are given the opportunity to live vicariously and learn valuable lessons that we could never otherwise be exposed to. However, this is a scale, and some books are by far more enlightening than others.

This is a list of five truly life-changing texts, which will question the way you see the world and give you a truly unique insight into some of the biggest questions that plague our existence.

They’re all available on Amazon, but if you’re an international reader and are having trouble gaining access, then it might be due to geo-blocking in the country you’re in. You can circumvent this by using a Virtual Private Network. Check out this Secure Thoughts review for more information.

1. The Prophet – Khalil Gibran

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The life lessons and ideas are too numerous to summarize in such a short space, but this masterpiece by Lebanese-American writer, Khalil Gibran, harks back to the spiritual poetry of the ancient Persian world. Written in 1923, it’s one of the earliest examples of inspirational fiction.

The story is that of Almustafa, a well-liked yet mysterious outsider who resides in the foreign city of Orphalese. When one day a great ship arrives on the horizon, the townspeople sense that the cherished, enigmatic presence of the prophet might soon be gone. Before he boards to leave, Almustafa serenades the town’s people with some essential life advice, broken down into 26 essays throughout the book.

It’s a unique and succinct format and delves into valuable questions and ideas about love, marriage, giving, work, freedom, pain and much, much more.

2. Wild: An Elemental Journey – Jay Griffiths

There is an ancient wisdom in this world that most of us have forgotten. Indigenous tribes all over the planet hold skills, knowledge and a connection to most wild veins of existence that have been lost in modern society.

This fantastic release by Jay Griffiths documents her epic adventure to all four corners of our planet to stay with some of the world's most remote tribes. It's a passionate search for the true nature of the human spirit and an illuminating reflection on the impact of industrialization on our world and our souls.

Oxford educated, Griffiths addresses history, geography, etymology and philosophy to form an argument that never preaches but merely enlightens readers to the hidden secrets of the social microcosms that exist in the wildest reaches of our world.

3. The Tao of Wu – RZA

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What happens when urban street-smarts meets ancient Shaolin wisdom? Robert Diggs (a.k.a RZA) was born in the projects of inner-city New York but moved all around the country throughout his turbulent childhood. Never finding much luck in his family and home life, he turned to knowledge to free his mind from the strife.

Although an esteemed chess player and mathematician, Diggs still spent much of his youth gang-affiliated and into drugs. Throughout this time he searched the scriptures of many religions and philosophers to escape from this world. Finding solace in the spiritual ideals and morals of Kung Fu films, he finally found his key to freedom in music, cementing international success and forming one of the most well-known rap groups on the planet.

This book structured into the “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” documents his spiritual journey and the valuable lessons that every facet of his life taught him. From Brooklyn to the Wudang mountains in China, Diggs' reflections are a truly wonderful insight into life as we know it.

4. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari – Robin Sharma

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Ex-lawyer turned self-help writer Robin Sharma is a shining example of practicing what you preach. Somewhat reflecting his experience - although the limits to where it becomes fiction are unknown - Sharma tells the story of John, an over-stressed and uptight lawyer.

One day John’s colleague, who left work recently after suffering a heart attack, makes a surprise return as, seemingly, a whole different man. Appearing at John’s house one night, dressed in traditional orange robes, Julian Mantle divulges that he’s been staying with monks in the Himalayas.

John listens in awe as he recounts the many secrets to good living and long-life that he's learned from the Monks and provides practical examples of how the reader can translate this into their day-to-day lives.

5. The Zahir – Paulo Coelho 

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From the author of the world-famous 'The Alchemist', this equally poignant release also brilliantly explores some of the most philosophical questions of life as we know it.  The word “Zahir” itself is an Arab concept, meaning the external or obvious. In Coelho's book, it refers to his obsession with his wife, who up and leaves out of the blue one night.

Their relationship was not a good one, but without her, his whole word changes. His search to understand why she left and discover just where she is takes him all over the globe and into some of the most abstract echelons of society. From homeless people on the streets of Paris to native villagers on the Kazakhstani steppe, readers are illuminated with a whole host of unique perspectives.

This book has some crucial lessons to teach about marriage, but also how we view ourselves, as individuals, and as part of society.

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Know of any others that deserve a spot on this list? Be sure to leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your ideas.

About the Author: Caroline is an entertainment blogger for Culture Coverage. She loves books and has spent her whole life immersed in their pages. She loves sharing her favorite novels with others and always has a great recommendation on hand, no matter the situation!

{Main image credit: Flickr/See-Ming Lee (CC BY-SA 2.0)}

July 8, 2016

Addendum: Movie Review || Rosemary's Baby (2014)

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rosemarys-baby-miniseries
Twitter/RosemarysBabyTV
After reading the novel recently, I decided to binge on the miniseries version of 'Rosemary's Baby' and I have to correct my previous statement that the novel and film were exactly the same (I have not seen the original directed by Roman Polanski and it is on my to-do list!). The miniseries version might not have the same creepy tension as in the novel, but it is noteworthy for the impressive modernisation of Rosemary's context and situation, and a more macabre view of Rosemary's destiny.

In the novel, Rosemary and her husband happen to be lucky enough to lease an apartment in the Bramford in New York City and thus simply happen to become involved in the plot to birth the Devil. In the television version, however, the setting is the more romantic Paris and the building is La Chimere, and the Woodhouses are practically led by the bull-ring to become involved in the plan: Rosemary is literally chosen to become the vessel for the anti-Christ and the Castevets do everything in their power to get the couple to stay in La Chimere, be absolutely indebted to them, and entirely under their influence. In this way, the film has a different creepiness to the original story, and the witches of the building have a supreme power that is not revealed quite so much in the novel.

I enjoyed the alterations to the context of Rosemary's story. Paris and its long history make for a more historical basis in witchcraft, although the existence of a coven in New York City is more unexpected. Of course, Paris allowed for the beautiful scene just before Rosemary discovers she is pregnant where she is surrounded by the consecrated skulls of the dead in the catacombs and falls into a precipice - a metaphor for the loneliness she is destined to feel in the hands of a coven and as the mother of a history-changing child.

In the television series, Guy is no longer dreaming an outdated dream of becoming an actor - he wants to write. However, his writer's block seems to have been brought about by Rosemary having a miscarriage. The couple have run away from this reality to Paris. This modern viewpoint was perfectly suited to the story, as is the couple's isolation in Paris, far away from home and even from many people who speak English.

Twitter/RosemarysBabyTV
I also enjoyed the sinister representations of Roman and Margaux Castevet, the leaders of the coven. Their true evil is shown through the 'freak' accidents they cause against those who appear to be placing stumbling blocks in the path of their ultimate plan. I loved the hallucinatory effect of their spells against Commissioner Fontaine, for example, and in this scene, the casual manner in which Roman carries out the spell is an excellent touch. I did think the violence was a little gratuitous, however, and it made the deaths all seem very odd instead of strange-but-not-strange-enough-to-make-it-obvious to the main players that something untoward was going on.

I mentioned in my review of the book that it was a bit of feminist novel for its time, bemoaning the lack of control women had over their own bodies. I enjoyed Zoe's Rosemary argue with everyone around her about her bodily autonomy and right to choice, but the film did not make the control the coven had over her feel as dire as it could have been. Perhaps it is because most people nowadays know the basics of Rosemary's story - it has become a pop culture icon - that her situation simply isn't a surprise. It doesn't help either that revelations as to what Rosemary is in for are suggested right from the beginning of the film and thus the subtle scariness, the mystery, of the story is lost, even for those who have never read the book or seen the original film.

I know that technically this version of 'Rosemary's Baby' is a remake, but I haven't seen the original so I cannot comment on how good it is compared to that (yet). All I can say is that I enjoyed most of the changes from the book but found that there was a lot less mystery for the viewer than there was for the reader, making the story a strict horror instead of a thrilling ride.

July 7, 2016

How Did We Finally Finish Off Our Shower? Find out!

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We finally finished redoing the shower around six months ago. I've taken a long time to complete the final details, though, and have finally put up the new curtains. I'm happy with the way it turned out and just need a final piece of art to hang over the towel rail and I have a great idea for the lampshade, both of which I keep procrastinating over. :)

For a while we considered leaving the failed SatinCrete as is - it sort of looks like a (very badly done) paint technique - as we liked the basic colour (We chose the Sage for the shower room, though it looks grey in the photos and didn't even look like the sample). However, with all the other fixing that needed to be done we would not have been able to emulate the finish. Thus a new paint job was our chosen option.
messiness-of-shower-mistakes
Clockwise from top left: The finish of the wall - really horrible in these images; the loose plumbing at the toilet (the showerhead was similarly loose); and the poor plaster work for the shower.
Clockwise from top left: The finishing around the air brick was untidy;  the plastering around the window - the sill also sloped towards the window instead of outward; and the finished look of my beautiful pebbled floor. They had put so much sealer on the wall at once that it actually ran down the wall and pooled on the floor.
The first thing we did was sand all the walls down, as the finish was very rough. Then we took out the (very lopsided) basin. 
You can see why the basin was so lopsided...
skew-mark-peeling-plaster
...as they made a massive hole on the left hand side with a massive bolt. Upon closer inspection, they even secured the bolt with - sticks!
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Of course, the original plumbers had put so much silicon sealer between the basin and the wall that we loosened all the SatinCrete in the area and had to smash it out, fill it up with plaster, prime the plaster, and then paint. I was not happy with the finished result, as it was too rough compared to the remaining SatinCrete, but since it's around the basin it shouldn't be too noticeable. Besides, I had a plan...

As we don't know how to do plaster work, we had a guy named Steven come in and do it for us. He did a great job on fixing the windowsill, ensuring it slants towards the shower instead of the window, on the step, and where the old basin was. He also fixed the loose plumbing and did the mosaic on the side of the shower step for us. He was also kind enough to paint. (Sheesh, that makes me sound so lazy!) I decided to paint with a brighter colour scheme and I was skeptical at first, but it has grown on me. I also redid the grout on the mosaic, too, so it looks much neater.

Once I fitted in the new basin, I got to work with the back-splash. I wanted to go for a look that emphasised natural materials. I had some leftover mosaic pebbles, which I removed from their backing and came up with this shell design:
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After that, all I had to do was add the decor I had purchased for the room ages ago. And here is the end result, including shells and natural materials:
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I'd love to know what you think!?

July 5, 2016

Book Review || Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg

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miss-smillas-feeling-for-snow-peter-hoeg-cover
'Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow' is full of promises, and so are its rave reviews. We meet Smilla as she attends the funeral of her six-year-old neighbour, Isaiah, who fell from the roof of their apartment building in Copenhagen. We discover that Smilla, a Greenlander, has a unique sense of her world in relation to the dozens of types of snow that exist in the Inuit language. Using this sense and her own intuition, she comes to believe Isaiah's death was no accident and she uses her stubborn resourcefulness to uncover the truth.

We follow Smilla Jasperson through the most intricate story I've ever read. We are thrown from the present to the past to scientific explanations to philosophical musings to treaties against Western culture and colonialism to nostalgic longings for the past. And somehow it is still possible to follow the thread of the plot through all the distractions.

We eventually learn about all the different types of snow and how Smilla is unique in her talent for navigating through ice. We are, however, never party to these skills aside from her own musings into how she had done so in the past. When she is confronted with ice or snow or cold, she explains every detail about how it is created. Smilla's skills and knowledge are an excellent device to keep her grounded in her own culture - she at once rails against the Danish way of life and its destruction of her culture and depends on it for survival - but her constant return to her instincts is a way for her to affirm her heritage.

Høeg's innate sense of beauty is extant in the simplest of descriptions, from the 'eiderdown' of snow that lays over Isaiah's body to statements about love and life:
'For the first time I notice how burdened the room is with the past' [76]
In another review, it was stated that Høeg's sympathy for the Greenlander was questionable, and that he appeared to be more devoted to American culture as seen through the details of the plot, which include the likes of conspiracy murders, scientific discoveries, smuggling, and all-powerful corporations. However, I feel the empathy is most definitely there. Smilla is isolated, lonely, depressed. Her constant thoughts of the past, her musings about how disappointing Western culture is, about how her people and herself are judged according to Western standards, little details about how life was so different in her homeland, these details create a nostalgia for a simpler life. He bemoans the fact that Western culture does not experience things for itself but lives in the belief and faith we have in others who tell us things are so. One of my favourite phrases is:
'What we discover in nature is not really a matter of what exists; what we find is defined by our ability to understand.' [392]
'Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow' is definitely a beautiful novel. But does it deliver on its promise? Well, if you're looking for an actual ending, a resolution to all the tension you feel from page to page, you'll be disappointed. While the mystery is solved, the ending is much like 'Inception', where we're left to resolve our own ending.

I would also like to add that Smilla is not a particularly likeable character. And this makes her endearing to me. Intelligent, ingenious, and multiskilled, she is sarcastic, frank, and sometimes downright mean. But this is a really refreshing from the piles of novels where the woman is stereotypical in practically every way. A bit like Kathy Reichs' series, there is nothing Smilla cannot do and is not willing to try to discover the truth.

A challenging read, this novel is intriguing and while you may have to put it down sometimes, you'll definitely want to finish it.

July 4, 2016

Rolling Stone's Best Horror Movies of 2015: Reviewed

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I am an unequivocal horror movie fan. I'm not sure why I still love them, considering that true horror quality is difficult to come by in this age of the gruesome and gory 'torture porn' films such as 'Saw', 'Hostel', and 'Vile', the latter of which I didn't even bother finishing. And don't even get me started on 'rape revenge' horrors: give me something that makes the hairs rise up on the back of my neck, startles me either physically or mentally, or gives me something to think about.

I've been planning to do this post since the beginning of the year after wandering around the net in search of good horror movies. I came across Rolling Stone's list of top horror movies of 2015 and decided to watch each one. I have finally done so and have been pleasantly (or should I say horrifically) surprised to find that character development and plot have really begun to change the horror landscape. While we still find some low-budget mumblegore films, we are also being offered up really thoughtful and almost genre-defying films, and here are my thoughts on the movies that were included.

10. The Final Girls

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Not to be confused with 'Final Girl', which also came out in 2015, 'The Final Girls' is a horror spoof/parody of the classic film series 'Friday the 13th'. Using the same premise of a serial killer on the loose at a summer camp, this slasher film has no real surprises. Except of course for the fact that all the characters are stuck inside a film and must figure out how to escape. It is also much more than a terrible spoof of slasher films: the dialogue is clever, the transitions are smooth, and the film simply makes fun of the horror film tropes that have been stock standard plot points since slashers began, in particular the stereotypical plot point that highly-sexualised female teens (or at least those who reveal their naked bodies) are certainly among the first to take their leave. It is only the virgin who can overcome the evil of such a serial killer. This horror-comedy also flawlessly manages to make the characters real and thoughtful instead of simply waiting for their time to die.

My rating: 4 out of 5

I would like to make a mention of 'Final Girl', however. A think-piece in my opinion, it sees a young girl trained as the ultimate weapon against serial killers. She is basically a highly skilled lure for men who cannot resist being cruel and brutal to innocence. It did not receive good ratings in general, perhaps because as the viewer you're sort of dumped into a plot with no real backstory for any of the characters. Personally I loved the film noir-style of the cinematography. It also makes one question the state of a world where we cannot hope for justice unless we take it into our own hands, a place where we can only defeat brutes by becoming one ourselves.

9. The Visit

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M. Night Shyamalan's foray into handheld horror was 'The Visit'. In what seems like an innocent weekend away with their grandparents, a brother and sister are faced with increasingly bizarre behaviour by both of their elders. As with all handheld horrors, the film suffers from being too focused on the mundane throughout but the thrills are quite scary and the inevitable twist even more so. Shyamalan's view of the world - that everything is based on belief - is important for this film's premise because the two have never met their grandparents and simply believe what they have been told. Isn't that what belief is?

My rating: 3.5 out of 5

8. When Animals Dream

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For those who love the idea of werewolves, 'When Animals Dream' is a really interesting film to watch. For those who love to see werewolves, this is perhaps not your style. The first foreign film on the list, it takes place on a small fishing island where its teenage protagonist finds herself feeling more and more out of sorts with the people in her lives. The zeitgeist of the failing town appears to be indulgent of her as well as malicious towards her. She begins to feel her body changing, and it is not just a sexual awakening for her.  While visually appealing, the film's drawbacks include a slow pace and low character investment on our parts. The story is interesting enough to keep us curious but it doesn't really deliver on its promises in the horror genre. It should really be considered a supernatural thriller instead.

My rating: 3 out of 5

7.  We Are Still Here

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So to be honest I'm not really certain why 'We Are Still Here' has received such rave reviews. I was utterly bored with it. There were no real surprises for me. It certainly had its positive points, such as enticing moments of tension, creepy shocks, great special effects, and an interesting take on haunted houses in general, but I think these don't outweigh my impression of the gore being the drawcard rather than an interesting story and appealing characters. If you're looking for a good replacement for this spot, I would suggest 'Visions',  which is scary and has a lovely twist.

My rating: 2 out of 5

6. Crimson Peak

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I enjoyed this haunted house film much more. 'Crimson Peak' is a gothic horror with intriguing characters and good acting (Mia Wasikowska is amazing in these types of roles - check out 'Jane Eyre' or 'Stoker' if you're interested), a beautiful and unique setting, amazing costumes, and tension and scares. The haunting is artfully done, the story is well put together and the plot twist is memorable and disturbing. You should enjoy this one.

My rating: 4.5 out of 10

5. The Falling

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This is certainly one of the more stranger films on the list, not only because it's one of the weirdest movies I've every seen but also because it isn't a horror in any sense. It's not even a haunting. 'The Falling' is set at an English school where a mystery fainting illness appears to come over a group of girls involved with Abbie, the blonde favourite of both girls and boys. Abbie dies after fainting mysteriously. The friends she left behind are grieving her loss, particularly Lydia, who goes on a downward spiral, rebelling against the teachers at school and her mother, who strangely never leaves their home and making every effort to be close to Abbie again. It's a slow film and even worse, the mystery of the fainting sickness is never revealed. This was interesting but really made no sense eventually. And I think the marketing was a little deceiving, as you can see from the cover.

My rating: 2.5 out of 5

4. Spring

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This is definitely one of my favourites in this list. 'Spring' tells the story of a young man who has lost his purpose in life and leaves the US for Italy. Here he falls in love with a woman in a plot much like that of 'The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman'. The exception is that this woman is no normal pixie fairy love interest. She is actually something not of this world and the pair have to decide whether love will save them both. This independent film is artfully done and while it starts off slowly, it is all worth it in the end. The horrific moments are elegant without being artsy and the characters are also well-performed. This horror, if you haven't seen it, should be on your list.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

3. What We Do In The Shadows

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I loved this film for its unique outlook on the 'modern' vampire. Melding together historical and nouveau ideas of what vampires are, 'What We Do In the Shadows' is a documentary spoof of the domestic lives of a bunch of vampires living in Wellington, New Zealand. From 'Nosferatu' to 'Dracula Untold' and 'Interview With the Vampire', there is a type of vamp for everyone. Throw in some hilarious biting mishaps, virgin meals, werewolves, and an annual ball and you have a creative comedy that will make you giggle. Its only drawback is that it can be a little slow.

My rating: 4 out of 5

2. Goodnight Mommy

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This film definitely belongs on every best horror movie of 2015 list. 'Goodnight Mommy' is an Austrian film following the lives of twin brothers who don't believe their mother, who has just returned from plastic surgery, is truly their mother. They begin to torture their mother emotionally and physically, waiting for her to admit who she really is. But all is not as it seems and the truth of the matter is well worth reading the subtitles for!

1. It Follows

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Also another film deservedly on this list, it is certainly one of the most disturbing. Playing on the concept of catching an illness from someone during intimate moments, 'It Follows' is truly terrifying. Jay is plagued by a some...thing following her at ever turn. No matter where or how fast she runs, it will catch up to her. This film is filled with suspense and uncertainty, and instead of relying on shock value for its ratings,the focus is on the tension, visuals, and the music, the latter being a detail that many horror films are forgetting about.

My rating: 4 out of 5

Have you seen any of these films and disagree with my rating or viewpoint? I'd love to know what you think! Please comment below!