{ Under The Bluegums }

Two years and counting: My favourite baby milestones so far

No comments :
October 7, 2015

So... I have been a parent for two and a half years already. It is absolutely unbelievable that the time has gone past so quickly and those moments I was warned about - cleaning dirty nappies, having half-digested milk thrown up on me, sleepless nights, and so on - have passed, and I am no worse for wear. I'm proud to say, neither is my daughter! :D

In the first three months of her birth I read a hilarious article by a comedienne whose similar experiences were a relief to me. 'Hey, I'm not the only one!'

Now, two years later, the baby milestones - such as their first bowel movements with speed and trajectory, the first time she falls to the ground despite flailing arms and hands desperately attempting to catch her, and the first time you realise, despite Googling like crazy, that you have absolutely no clue what you're doing - are completely overshadowed by the very real interaction and bonding that takes place once you have come to know your child.

I would suggest to parents to take some time out every day and document what their child has said and done at least once a week, because there are so many things they do that will warm your heart when you feel like going animalistic on them. (I keep intending to start a journal, but... procrastination is my middle name)

Every parent will have negative memories of their children's first years: the frustration of needing some time to yourself and they refuse to sleep; the heartbreak when they appear to love Granny more than they do you; the first time they bite to hurt; those moments when your heart falls into your stomach because they're lying and breathing so still they appear dead; the first time they choke on something; the first time you realise your television viewing is really inappropriate; or the time that you forgot to put away that sharp instrument only to find that she is quietly playing with it.

However, these scary and frustrating moments are exquisitely undone by the delicate embroidery of love and memories.

Here are some of my favourite moments thus far:

1. Greeting random strangers at the mall with her signature lightbulb wave from her carriage (at nine months);

2. The first time she reached out to hold my hand, and every time she still does it. Emma is a very independent little girl. I believe I was more upset leaving her at a sitter recently than she was at being left, proclaiming, 'Go Mommy!'

3. The smell of her hair in my face while I'm reading a book to her.

4. The moment her imagination had kicked in and the toy in each hand had its own accent.

5. When strangers are not interesting any more and merely make her cling to my leg (no more running into the arms of people I don't know for hugs! Phew!) Lately she simply ignores them, not even bothering to say 'Hello'. Is she already tired of street harassment?

6. Singing along with Norah Jones or Old McDonald, enjoying Round the Garden and Three Little Piggies and Pat-a-Cake way too much, making me do it over and over again.

7. Squashing her cheeks together to say the Chubby Baby Club rhyme.

8. Being proud of her artwork on my wall.

9. Every time she shares her meal or sweet or drink with me.

10. Sometimes being the only one who knows what she wants. :) This just makes me feel good.

11. The first time her shadow on the wall frightened her. She ran to me, of course.

12. Her expression when she knows she's just about to be praised, like when she's used the potty, or when she knows she's going to get her way. She has this adorable little skew smile and she juts out her chin with a nod.

13. Being (nearly) my only motivation to go to the gym: 'Wanna go to the gym, mommy!'

14. I know it sounds terrible, but the first time she was really ill. The little baby I had a few years ago had returned, eager for cuddles, lying on my chest, and just wanting mommy!

There are way too many though; I could go on forever. Every day is a new adventure with a child.

Do you have any moments you would like to share?

Just Read: Fair Stood the Wind for France by HE Bates

No comments :
Fair Stood the Wind for France is one of those unexpected gems that everyone simply must read. I am not a fan of war novels in general, but while this one is set in the war, it is a very personal tale about humanity, love, and faith.

Telling the bittersweet story of a young man and woman during World War II, it is filled with evocative, beautiful imagery and amazing insight.

Franklin, a British air force pilot, lands in occupied France after engine malfunction. He and his crew make their way across the French countryside in the hopes of finding someone who will help them eat, hide and escape. They find Francoise and her family, who are more than willing to offer them sanctuary and help them escape the country, feeling it is their small contribution to the war against Germany.

Franklin was badly injured when the aircraft crash-landed and in the rush of the moment and the confusion of the future, he is stunned at the calmness and faith of Francoise, who makes him feel that all his life had been leading to these moments with her.

The pair decide to escape France together, making their way to Spain along sunlit waterways and rugged pathways. Franklin meets up with one of his crew mates, who had left him long ago, in Marseilles and O'Connor gives him and Francoise a gift that changes their lives.

Bates' writing truly is beautiful, evoking the emotions of certain moments and burning some sights in your memory. It is filled with descriptions such as this:

Then there was another level crossing, and he saw a peasant and a boy with a brown horse and cart, waiting for the train to cross through. Sitting in the cart, the boy had his coat collar turned up, and Franklin could see the mane of the horse tossed suddenly upwards in a wild fringe by the wind.

From cover to cover, his enthralling writing is gripping and intuitive, and you won't want to put the book down.

Bates has amazing insight into the emotions of his characters and doesn't shy away from making criticisms about war itself, describing a belief in weapons as 'pathetic' in comparison to the real power of those innocents affected by the war. He tempers the sad reality of such tragedies with generous helpings of the power of love and friendship. Franklin is, and we are, forced to think about everything from faith and fear to patriotism, comradeship, love for our homelands, and sacrifice.

I was left in tears when I finished Fair Stood the Wind for France, aching at the honesty of it and reeling at the terror that wars have still not ended for many.

Just Read: Olivia by Dorothy Strachey

No comments :
September 24, 2015

Olivia, set in Paris, is about first love, sexual awakening, and all the confusion surrounding it. And imagine the confusion as Olivia bears her first loving, obsessive feelings for her schoolmistress in the 1950s!

Olivia is sent to a boarding school to further her education, finding what she believes is a kindred spirit in her beautiful, intelligent, and refined headmistress Mademoiselle Julie, who also takes a shine to her. But Julie’s relationship with her partner, Mademoiselle Cara, is complicated.

The big mystery of the novel turns out to be, not whether Julie reciprocates Olivia’s feelings, but what is really happening between Julie and Cara. Is Cara truly overreacting with regards to Julie’s behaviour? Has Julie betrayed Cara before? Have Cara and Julie truly been separated by the ministrations of someone with an ulterior motive?

Told from the point of view of Olivia as an older woman who has since experienced more of life, her anecdotes of the time are informed by these later experiences and are as such filled with insight.

Looking back on her first love, for example, she says,

at that time, I was innocent, with the innocence of ignorance. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I didn’t know what had happened to anybody. I was without consciousness, that is to say, more utterly absorbed than was ever possible again. [2008:8]

This is a lovely way of describing the selfishness of adolescent love. There is for the those falling in love the first time the feeling that no one has ever felt so deeply for someone as they do now. It was

...the feeling that some divine power had suddenly granted me an undreamt of felicity and made me free of boundless kingdoms and untold wealth... [2008:60]

which left Olivia morose and gloomy.

Of course, its controversial subject matter means that it often touches on issues of gender. As a girl’s school, it came to be seen as somewhat of a sanctuary for these girls, learning about academic subjects the same way that boys had been. When they write their devoirs, they are sent to a young male professor, held in more contempt than that of Julie, the very woman who picks the devoirs to send.

And yet beauty is so valued as a means to secure a future that the headmistress herself encourages those who are beautiful not to be ‘slaves of fashion’ or they will lose their charm, inferring that those who are not beautiful will have to be so. She says,

...remember you are so perfect that you needn’t bother too much about showing it. [2008:47]

This touches indelicately on the show of femininity, of women acting beauty if they are not beautiful, as much a necessity of patriarchy as acting masculinity was for men. This question of beauty is to Olivia the inspiration behind her sexual awakening, realising that she has a body and that it is attractive.

Olivia’s prettiness has no bearing on whether she and Julie can be together; rather it all depends on circumstance and death, which shows itself to her as an unapprehended and malignant power that consumes the people we hold dear.

The novel not only touches on these themes, but also considers ideas of art, philosophy, and literature.

Full of interesting and thought-inspiring phrases and ideas, Olivia is a quick read that is bound to get you thinking.

Just Read: Japanese Nō Dramas

No comments :
September 23, 2015

I chose this anthology at a second-hand store because I have an interest in theatre following my English Studies. My awareness of English, however, does not discount my awareness in theatre from all around the world and these Nō (or Noh) dramas were intriguing also because I’ve always had an interest in Japanese culture.

I would love to see Nō performed live one day, though it is likely only if I make my way to Japan sometime in my life. Until then, I had to sate my curiosity with this anthology and some videos from YouTube.

Nō dramas are interesting because they have a standard stage layout that is followed by the actors and playwrights, and the textual layout always consists of three parts, an aspect that resembles classical poetry in its adherence to standards.
"Noh-stage" by Toto-tarou - Image created by Toto-tarou.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Noh-stage.png#/media/File:Noh-stage.png
What also makes the format interesting is its use of miming, music, language, and dance, as well as awe-inspiring costumes and masks. The latter consist of several defined types of masks, which aid the audience in discerning the different thematic characters of the play. They are truly beautiful and detrimental to the play: some change expression based on the position of the actor's head, enabling emotions to be displayed quickly and simply.

Some of the pieces included in this anthology are very beautiful. Many of them deal with spiritual aspects, since most were written before Shinto religious practices came into being, as well as love. They are also mostly about freeing spirits dwelling in the world because of some heartbreak and involve happy coincidences where someone, usually a monk, has the opportunity of meeting with the spirits and helping them move on. In some way, this reflects the overarching aspects of Japanese horror stories such as The Ring and the Grudge.

Below are my favourites and if I have found a video of a performance - which is rare - it is included below.

The Damask Drum (Aya no Tsuzumi) is about an old man who falls in love with a consort, who tells him to beat on a drum to call her to him. But she tricks him with a drum that makes no noise. When he realises what she has done, he throws himself into a pond. His spirit hounds her from hell. Yes, it’s not a happy tale, but the words are beautiful. The videos below are not the best quality, and don't have excellent sound. I really just wanted a visual to go with the text, which you can read here, if you're interested.

Lady Han (Hanjo) is about a singing girl who entertains a guest and falls in love with him. She goes to find him at a shrine, where he has gone to pray that he will find her again. I could not find a video, but here is the text in PDF format.
The Well Cradle (Izutsu) is about a pair of children who grow up next to each other. They use the wall of the well the houses share to measure their growth. They fall in love and marry. Soon enough, the husband begins to stray but become jealous that she may also have a lover since she shows no jealousy. To find out, he pretends to leave one night to catch her in the act but only finds her pining for his presence. He never leaves her again. Read the text here. The video below is only a section of the play.

Kantan is about a man who is searching for enlightenment. He is given a pillow to sleep upon, on which he dreams he is living a full life as a king. He wakes to realise that life is just a dream. Read the text here. I haven't been able to find a performance of this play.
Tatsuta is about a woman bathing a divine cloth in the stream at Tatsuta Shrine. A monk comes to cross the stream and she warns him not to break the brocade of red autumn leaves littered on the surface or he will offend the Tatsuta Lady. While the text itself is confusing, it is an idealised version of Chino-Buddhist spirituality and it is really the spiritual background and explanation of the play that is beautiful. As the author says,

...the red leaves weave their pure brocade as they flow down the river. Since the Tatsuta Presence is of waer and rain, the Lady is also a water-woman, and water and leaves join in the river-borne brocade... ‘Does she become clouds and rain, the Tatsuta Lady, to stain with colour the bright autumn leaves?’ ... She may be the leaves, but secretly, she is also the cold rains that colour them and the wind and waters that drive them away. Her brocade clothes the [Celestial] Spear in time and the passing seasons.

In the play, this brocade forms the Womb Mandala of the world.

I haven't been able to find the text or a video for this play. That means you'll have to read the book! ;)

If you have found videos to my favourites, please share with me! I would love to watch them!

{Image credit [top image]: "Noh-ekagami Arashiyama" by 不明(スキャン:Sat666 (talk)) - 武田恒夫・中村保雄『宇和島伊達家伝来 能絵鑑 百五十番』(淡交社、1981年12月). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
[image of masks: "Three pictures of the same noh 'hawk mask' showing how the expression changes with a tilting of the head" by Wmpearl - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.}

Just Read: A Feast For Crows by George RR Martin

No comments :
September 14, 2015

It’s official - I am determined to read the next book in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series before the next television series because a) the series is really ruining the literature for me and b) this book was altogether too boring to sate my Westeros fix.

I simply cannot bear watching the television series on HBO and being disappointed in the books. Books are supposed to be the better part of adaptations, are they not? Watching Season 5 of the show before reading the book really did spoil the book for me. Aside from the fact that the show is veering so far away from the original story, I was left railing at Martin for the utterly lacklustre novel.

Spoiler warning, by the way.

After the excitement of A Storm of Swords 2: Blood and Gold, A Feast for Crows truly has nothing to offer in the excitement stakes. Seriously, Blood and Gold broke our hearts during the Red Wedding. It made us cringe when Tyrion and Sansa were forced to wed. It made our justice-loving hearts do victory punches in the air when Joffrey turned purple at his wedding and quickly destroyed our celebration with the arrest of Tyrion. It shocked us to find Littlefinger rescuing Sansa while her sister Arya slowly lost all hope and humanity. We witnessed Daenerys’ victory in the slave lands and watched the Night’s Watch defend the Wall from the wildling horde that finally fell to a surprise rescue by Lord Stannis and his Red God. We bemoaned Lord Oberyn’s head being squashed by the Mountain, even though we knew our prayers for him to live would go unanswered. We saw Jaime’s heart broken as his brother killed his father upon his escape and gasped with shock as Petyr pushed Lady Lysa of the Eyrie through the Moon Door. And we met Lady Stoneheart!

In comparison to Blood and Gold, A Feast for Crows was a windy summer’s day spent picnicking on Kipper’s Big Hill. The novel was almost unbearably slow, despite the underlying tension of other happenings in Westeros. Martin painstakingly attempted to keep up this tension with Cersei’s almost yawn-inducing narrative, which I believe not only served to show us how Cersei is working herself into a tight bolus of spider’s web but also kept us informed of the goings-on in the realm. I am not ashamed to say that just about the most exciting things to happen in the novel is the kingsmoot, Brienne’s single battle with a band of outlaws, and perhaps, at a stretch, reading about Arya’s experiences in The House of Black and White.

Other than that, we enjoy the company of Samwell as he describes the movement of his gut during the journey to Oldtown and Gilly’s neverending crying. The most enjoyment we get from reading about Brienne’s search from Sansa is cradling our face in our hands calling that she’s going the wrong way! Alayne’s fussing with food and clothing and the strangeness of little Lord Robert are all that happens see at the Eyrie - even the threat of lords kicking Petyr out as Lord Protector is damp and ends too soon.

I was almost relieved upon reaching the final chapter only to find that it was not a chapter at all but an apology from the author for not including anyone else in the novel. Imagine that! An apology! Well, after dealing with my outrage and not reading about Jon Snow and the Wall or Daenerys or Tyrion, or still being left entirely in the dark about the whereabouts of Bran and the Reeds, I understand his reasoning: if Martin had included everyone in this novel, the readers would have been thrown all over the place, even more so than in the first few novels where we were still learning our way around. However, my argument is that his readers are already invested in the story - already know their way around the world; perhaps they even have the poster of Westeros and the Land of the Summer Sea that they bought with the box set on their wall. His choice to only feature a dearth of action in the tales of a few people who do very little goes against the very tenets of a good narrative and I would argue that this is why the novel stays on the airport runway all the way through.

His clever use of ravens and word from the North or the South or the East is the most important thing that keeps this book alive: I would argue that the people he has chosen as narrators for this part of the story are only thinking of themselves and are not directly involved with the happenings of the realm. Not even Cersei is truly involved: she is more involved in eking out those unfaithful to her and defeating the ‘young queen’ of Maggy the Frog’s curse than she truly is in ruling the realm. It is all this introspection that has made the novel into a very long speedbump in the story.

I have heard A Dance With Dragons: Dreams and Dust is much better. But Martin could truly not have done much worse!

Just Read: Possession by AS Byatt

No comments :
July 19, 2015

Possession is an extraordinary novel, twisted and melded around an invented poet and poetess’ love affair. The history in the novel is finely detailed, making the pair utterly believable and protagonists Roland and Maud’s journey to finding the truth of these literary figures and the truth about themselves is captivating.

Bearing in mind that this is a very academic novel, it is filled with poetry, epistolic writing, and even fairy tales. And thus it is also filled with the themes that English Studies is all about, such as identity, gender, and criticism. I enjoyed the novel immensely because of these aspects, as an English student, but this novel is not for everyone, especially if they have no interest in such questions and themes.

The novel is also about possession: who holds possession, who has the right to hold possession, what constitutes possession, what and who can be possessed.

It is this question of possession that gets Roland into trouble in the first place. He comes across undiscovered drafts of letters written by his idol, RH Ash, to some unknown woman. Here the question of possession of artefacts comes in: it is his discovery - does it make the letters his? Do they belong to Ash’s family? Should they belong to England? Should they belong to Mortimer Cropper, a man known as having the most complete Ash collection in the world. If not, to whom should they belong? Roland takes the letters, determined to solve his discovered mystery.

After some research, he decides the only woman to whom the letters could be addressed was Christabel Lamotte, a poetess in her own right but who is believed to have partnered with another woman. Roland decides to investigate Lamotte and meets Maud, who happens to be a relative of Christabel’s sister.

Together they uncover the truth of the letters but the mystery only deepens and it becomes something that possesses them as much as they attempt to possess it.

Filled with discussions about postmodernism, femininity, gender, liminality, and other academic interests, one of the novel’s themes is boundaries and the crossing of invisible thresholds. The women in the novel all have this boundary. Christabel Lamotte’s choosing to live with a woman was a way of living a life away from men. Maud, along with Leonora Stern and Beatrice Nest, also have their own boundaries. For Nest, it is her figure, which she has determinedly disfigured to gain the least attention from men. Heartbroken Maud uses her disguised and tightly wound hair to remind herself to be at all times in control. And it is men who attempt to cross these thresholds - albeit amiably - and it is seen as an assault by these women. They are all like Ellen Ash, who was unable to allow her husband entry to her body, and so fear the real entry of men into their lives and personal spaces. Even Roland has his own threshold to cross: that of his own self-deprecation. It is only once he crosses this boundary that he sees himself and allows himself to cross it.

The book also questions how our identities are so shaped by our ideologies that we sometimes do not see what is right in front of us: Beatrice, Roland, and Maud are so wrapped up in analysing the world and making everything fit into their theories and beliefs that they forget to consider to live. Roland and Maud eventually fall in love because they come to see through their own constructed boundaries into each other's realities.

While this highly-acclaimed novel won two book prizes and was made into a film, I believe that it will be very difficult for the average reader to remain interested. I highly-recommend this book for readers who habitually close-read and for readers who are looking for  unanswerable questions and philosophising about the answers. It is indeed a romance, but a higher grade romance that needs a bit of academic history to get through without losing the plot.

I watched the film after reading the book, and it left out much of the academics of the matter, instead becoming a romantic adventure centred around the mystery of lost letters and overlooking the aspects of identity and possession that the novel is inspired by. In essence, the academics of the story were erased, turning it into a run-of-the-mill love story.

Even more disappointingly, the bookishness that made Maud and Roland find a kindred spirit in each other was removed entirely. Roland was altered from a distracted and academic Briton to a stereotypical American, making vulgar jokes at every opportunity and being a typical 'man'. The writer of the film, and of the book, too, believed this was necessary to make Roland work on screen, but it is telling that he had to be turned into Maud's opposite for them to fall in love, that he had to become the everyman to appeal to moviegoers. Besides, there was no way that Hollywood would allow a lost man to be Maud's love interest.

This is not to say the film was bad, of course, just not the same. But how often are books and films the same in their readers’ eyes?

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

No comments :
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:
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.


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

No comments :
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

No comments :
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

No comments :
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.
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

No comments :
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.


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)


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

No comments :
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

No comments :
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.