{ Under The Bluegums }

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

February 28, 2011

My Favourite Posts of the Week: February 28

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I apologise...this post is two weeks late...but here are links to some of the best posts I've come across. Over the last two weeks, of course! :)


I had one of the best giggles in a while looking at this pic (left) from Geeks are Sexy. The force is strong in these plants, yes!

Jody Hedlund is a writer, and her blog confronts some facts that writers have to face all too often. I enjoyed her post about the pressure created by the internet for young writers. We are all so inspired by all the social media and the talking and writing that we really just want to get out there and be published. So she's given us some tips on how to handle everything.

This post got me thinking about how sneaky advertising really is. Although we hate those infomercials and know they're oh-so-fake, we're still thinking about getting one of the items to try for ourselves, aren't we? What if reviewers are also being sneaky about it?

I am absolutely loving The Anne Boleyn Files, a blog that I happened across one day. I love history and period romances, so this genuine historical story gets me really interested. In this post, Claire asks whether the way we think about the Tudors - ie Henry VIII as being selfish and egotistical and other things - is not coloured by the way we have advanced as a society?

Wonder how time can drag on sometimes and go so quickly at other times? The Brain Lady tells you why here.

If you have a daughter, or are at least planning to have children one day, you should consider the way you talk about beauty when around their sponging brains. In The Good Men Project's post, the author postulates that little girls are exposed to constant cues to show them that beauty is one of the most important aspects they'll have, and the words a person uses around them can quickly cement this in their minds.


The last two posts both come from Green Eyed Monster, a great crafty site that will, indeed, turn you into a green-eyed monster. I love these photos of little babies (pictured above) - it's usually complicated enough trying to take photos of them, but the artist has worked with them in this case, using their little sleeping figures for the images. So adorable!

And then these gorgeous fabric flowers are so clever! You'll never have to water plants again, and they'll never lose their colour. Personally, I would have to dust a lot more often...

Thanks to everyone mentioned for such great inspiration! :)

February 27, 2011

Just Read || Ashes in Her Eyes

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27 February 2011

Today I finished reading my third book for The Pen & Muse blog book reviews.

I'm quite enjoying these novels because there are so many different genres I'm exposed to, and I can really discover what it is about writing and reading that I love so much.

"Ashes in Her Eyes" is a horror novel by Alan Spencer, who appears to have been in the business for quite some time, much to my jealousy! ;)

Anyway, it had a really intriguing storyline and plot, and I quite enjoyed his writing - his horrific descriptions were balanced with the emotion of the characters.

For my full review, visit the blog. If you'd like to purchase the book, click here to visit Amazon.com.

February 25, 2011

Mortality

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My dad enjoying a game of table tennis
25 February 2011

I've been overwhelmed lately with my own sense of mortality while thinking about my parents.

My dad has been diagnosed with alzheimer's and my mom tells me almost every day how much he is deteriorating. Naturally this leads me to think about his death and how much life would change if he were no longer in it.

He's my father - he's an inspiration for being such a wonderful and patient man, putting up with so much over all the years and making it clear that nothing was more important than his family's happiness.

And now there's nothing we can do for him. He's slipping away little by little and we can only watch as he frustrates over his memory and his wonderful mind slowly fades away.

And with these thoughts, comes thoughts of myself. It feels so selfish, but I worry about the fact that I'm good at everything but exceptional at nothing - I'm really only average. I claim to be creative and yet I've watched January and February fly by without being creative or reaching any of my goals. Even something my husband said this morning jolted me: my online content producer job sees me do the Fashion Don'ts gallery on a Friday, and he called it the "Ugly Betty" job.

It's so true - I see it now, even though he probably meant it in regards to the fashion connection - I am in the "Ugly Betty" job because I am doing something I hope will put me onto the road of creativity, and like Betty I've become involved and distracted from my true goal.

I am trying hard not to drive myself to guilt because I haven't written that book that I told my dad I would, because I'm not a professional photographer, because I haven't been painting and drawing as much even though I know he loves me doing it, because I'm letting every day slip past without making him proud of me.

I know that all these thoughts are pointless, because they aren't true, because it's life, but I can't help but think it's because I'm not trying hard enough.

February 22, 2011

MIM || New lounge curtains...with flowers!

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22 February 2011

I've been working on these lounge curtains for a year now.

I measured up the curtains and measured out the drops, but I didn't have enough fabric. So I decided I would add a tier of another colour. I bought that fabric only to find that I was missing an entire drop - don't ask me how that happened, because I don't know.

So I struggled to find a matching colour, using instead the closest colour possible. When I finally sewed it all together, inspiration hit and I decided to put flowers on the curtains. Alas, another weekend later and finally I have the new curtains up!

For the flowers, I used orange voile (because for some reason everything in our lounge is orange - although it does look yellow in the light) torn into strips, and then rolled up for the first few metres. The last sections I wrapped haphazardly around the centre to make a bud.

I attached them to the curtains on Saturday and hung the curtains on Sunday. The result of my efforts:



Of course, it had to have approval from quality assessor for the day. Polly. Does she look pleased?

February 21, 2011

Rape isn't about the victims

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21 February 2011

I have been reading plenty of material regarding the recent assault of CBS reporter Lara Logan in Egypt, just after the country began celebrating their so-called independence.

She was apparently separated from her crew, causing her to be caught up in a 200-strong mob of men, at the hands of whom she suffered a “sustained” sexual assault and beating – she was trapped for at least half an hour in every woman’s worst nightmare.

She was rescued by a group of Egyptian women and flown back to the US, where she spent some time in hospital.

My first reaction upon hearing about the assault was horror. I can’t imagine how horrifying it must be for a small woman – for she is described as petite – to be at the mercy of so many strong men who are carefree of the fact that what they are doing is wrong.

Other people’s first reaction was a bit different: some say she deserved it because she put herself in that position – in other words, she got what she was looking for; others said that she was a war mongerer, and her assault would go a long way in making her seem to be a good reporter.

I disagree with the first statement wholeheartedly – this victim-blaming is the same, to me, as someone saying a little girl deserved being molested by an older man because she was wearing a dress.

These crimes should not be about the victim: they should be about society; they should be about the crime.

We are no more to blame for being a hijack victim if we were waiting for our gates to slide open and were caught off guard by a hijacker; we are no more to blame for being held up at the bank as some robber attempts to steal money from the cashier.

The real thing that people should be asking themselves is why the revelation of such an act is turned into malicious words being thrown at the victim rather than questions posed about why society is seemingly accepting of people who do such crimes. Why is this act not used as a statement of how frequent this kind of crime against people is, and used as a means to create awareness and encourage people to come forward?

No wonder 60% of rapes go unreported, and only 6% of rapists ever serve any kind of sentence for their crimes. Victims are petrified, and all these reports serve to do is make people more afraid of reporting.

It’s a convenient situation for the rapist, isn’t it?

February 19, 2011

Just Read || Eric

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February 19, 2011

Like a good wine, Terry Pratchett certainly gets better with age!

Eric is one of his earlier novels, and I have to admit that his more recent novels, such as A Hat Full of Sky and Monstrous Regiment are much more enjoyable.

"Eric" follows the return of Rincewind - well, a sort of return, since he is completely overshadowed by the story in this novel. He is summoned by Eric, a Faustian character, as a demon who must grant him three wishes. Eric won't believe that Rincewind isn't a demon, and he does have the ability to move them from place to place by clicking his fingers. We follow Rincewind, Eric and, of course, the Luggage, as they travel around the world and through time to bring Eric his three wishes. But the demon world is really controlling the situation, all so that, like within the bowels of the Unseen University, the hierarchy can be changed.

The novel is funny and adventurous, but I did find it lacking in comedy - perhaps because I am now used to Pratchett's advanced vitriolic humour familiar in his later novels.

The King of Hell is quite hilarious though.

February 18, 2011

Just Read || My Last Duchess

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18 February 2011

My Last Duchess was an impulse buy from Exclusive Books – my hubby was purchasing something and that meant I had to as well (not that I'm complaining).

It was the only novel that caught my eye - aside from the regular Terry Pratchett novels I’m still missing from my collection – because when I’m not giggling at the Discworld, I do like to indulge in some old-fashioned historical romance.

My Last Duchess is about Cora Cash, an exceedingly wealthy American heiress whose mother is intent on having her wed into a family that will give her a title. Something along the lines of ‘princess’ would do; so would ‘duchess’.

When we meet Cora, I wouldn’t say that she’s particularly likeable, but Daisy Goodwin surrounds her with such detail and gorgeousness that one can’t help but become involved. As we read on, the characters around her become more intriguing, and the scenes more opulent – eventually you feel drunk and addicted to the lavish descriptions of Cora’s outfits, the rooms and estates, the train stations and forests, the meals and outings – every detail is there in all its precision.

As Cora makes peace with her journey to Europe, she starts off as a confident American woman with all the power of wealth behind her, but she is thrown into a world filled with history, jealousy, betrayal and secrets. When she meets the 9th Duke of Wareham, she could never guess how deeply she would fall in love with him, nor how tricky the European aristocracy was to navigate.

The world Cora finds herself in dominated by those who fail to show their true feelings. She is set up time and time again for embarrassment, and her husband is so difficult to read that she eventually feels helpless and alone – even her mother is unconcerned with her feelings – she has her title after all.

It is now that we see who Cora truly is - determined, brave, loyal, strong... she becomes someone we can connect with despite her obscene wealth.

It is only her maidservant Bertha in whom she can confide, but Bertha has her own opinions about Cora and the situation, and despite indulging in Cora’s hand-me-downs, she is a judgement figure in the novel and offers a delightful foil to the extravagance of the Cashs and the aristocracy.

Some would say that the novel is completely self-indulgent, but I think that the novel is balanced, true to history and society, and a truly enjoyable read.

This is Daisy Goodwin's first novel. If you'd like to find out more, click here, or follow Daisy on Twitter (I am!).

February 17, 2011

My concerns on princesses

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17 February 2011

Peggy Orenstein recently released her latest book, called Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I've just read a post on The Sexy Feminist, written by someone who's just read the book.

Orenstein's novel is one of those I put on my to-read list a while ago after reading about it on AlterNet.org. It's a novel that touches on something I'm worried about myself, because, as I hope to have children one day and there's at least a 50% chance that it will be a girl, and I've worried about how I would deal with a daughter who only wants to be a princess. Especially since, despite growing up on Disney princesses, I can't stand the consumer culture that's come of it nor the way it made me feel when I was a teenager.

My niece is 7 this year, and she was brought up without all the princessy stuff, but once she started to mingle with children her age, she wanted to be a princess, and have the Bratz doll. She had a 'boyfriend' when she was in creche.

I dread not knowing to do when my own little girl looks up at me and asks for a tiara "because Jenny has one". I would be adamant that they should not get it just because Jenny has one and only if they really wanted one, and as long as they didn't want one because they wanted to be a princess.

It's such a dilemma because growing up in this day and age, marketing is everywhere - you can't get away from it unless you move to a plot with a cow named Daisy where there's no other little girls with whom your little girl can associate.

Our little girls are exposed to princess marketing wherever they are, whether they're shopping with you in Clicks where they can spot bath products with princesses or pretend make-up sets marketed by Snow White.

The worst thing about the princess mindset is that it makes you worry about how pretty you are, how thin you are, and because of dolls such as Bratz idols such as Miley Cyrus, how hot you are, not least because Prince Charming didn't end up with the Wicked Witch, if only because she was really ugly.

February 15, 2011

Life is paradise

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We do not understand that life is paradise, for it suffices only to wish to understand it, and at once paradise will appear in front of us in its beauty.

- Fyodor Dostoyevsky

February 14, 2011

The origins of St Valentine's Day

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14 February 2011

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, I thought I would do some research on the beginnings of this tradition that has us consumed with romance for an entire day!

The real origins of the celebration seem to be a contested subject.

While some believe the February 14 was a festival to honour Juno, the queen of the Roman gods and goddesses, in ancient Rome, many say it was dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera. The celebration is also connected to the Feast of Lupercalia, which was an ancient rite connected to fertility.

As part of the Feast of Lupercalia, girls would write their names on pieces of paper on the evening before the festival and place these pieces of paper in a jar like the lost lover's bottle sent out to sea. The boys would pull a name from a jar and throughout the festival the pair would celebrate together. Their relationship would sometimes blossom and result in marriage.

Another legend says Emperor Claudius was struggling to get men to join the army, and he decided the reason men weren't excited about warring was because they would rather be with their wives and sweethearts. As a result, he cancelled engagements and marriages throughout the empire. Rebel St Valentine apparently performed secret marriages, but he was eventually uncovered and lost his head on February 14.

Yet another legend says Valentine was really trying to persuade Claudius to be Christian and was executed for his attempt.

There were many early Christian martyrs by the name of Valentine as well, so it's difficult to set one aside as the true origin for the tradition.

Greetings for Valentine's Day became popular in the Middle Ages, with lovers singing their sentiments, but paper greetings only became popular in the 15th Century. The first official recording of Valentine's Day can be seen in Geoffrey Chauce's love vision "Parliament of Fowles", which is really a loverly poem. :) Read it when you have a chance.

Now, this tradition has evolved into a full-out buy-your-loved-one-a-gift-to-prove-you-love-them event. Even in primary school it was a big thing for us! I remember in second grade these two boys had cut out dozens of hearts out of paper for me - all in different sizes - they threw them all in my school case and I remember pulling hearts out of my cupboard and sock drawer for weeks afterward.

Do you remember your first Valentine?

February 12, 2011

Favourite blog posts of the week

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I love reading blogs during the week, and I think this is why a lot of my time disappears. But people are so creative and willing to share information it makes me happy!

- Aside from the interesting trips around England, the Witch Blog showcases some beautiful creativity as well.

This image is one of my favourites.

 Follow her on Twitter.






- As you might have gathered, I love animals, and I love finding out about animals even more so. The Ever So Strange blog is filled with interesting facts and anecdotes, and I have to admit that I had never heard of the ocean sunfish before.

The sunfish is classified alongside the tuna, and I wonder how many of them are actually netted up during big corporates' fishing exploits.

You can also follow the blog on Twitter.


- I absolutely love Wild & Precious' finds, and her nursery ideas are no different. I share one of her favourites in this nursery design. I love origami and folded paper, and think this idea is fresh and lovely for a little baby.

February 3, 2011

Simple beauty

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3 February 2011

I follow South Africa's Freshly Found mostly because of her folded paper bracelets and other trinkets. Paper folding is such a skill - it takes a lot of patience to get it just right.

But this lady is uber-talented!

Just in her recent posts she's made my feet green.


Patchwork cushions - now I know what to do with all my scraps of material! Thanks!

And the infamous paper bracelets *boil*
Sigh...

We can't all be so lucky I guess! :)

If you'd like to see more of her stuff, visit Freshly Found at the I heart Market in Greyville, Durban, on February 5.

For more, visit Freshly Found.

I had a desire to be creative

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But when I arrived home, I had no inclination to do anything. I have all these ideas, but I don't know why I'm generally so unmotivated to do them.

I envy women who go to work full-time, manage to write a novel, look after their children, and even fit in some knitting or painting here and there. What kind of kick under the bottom is it that I need to get me doing the things I know will make me happy?

What doesn't make me happy is thinking about the things I'd like to do instead of doing them: taking photos of random things, like the flowers in the garden or people at the market, so I can start to build a real portfolio, or paint - I've had a 1000cm x 500cm canvas for almost three years now - it's still blank.

What will make me happy is only something I can give myself though - I am the only one who can make my happiness.

February 2, 2011

Life coaching tips from cats

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I love cats...they're so cute. I think they have the wool pulled over our eye though regarding their intelligence... :)

Beautiful places in the world

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2 February 2011

I feel overwhelmed sometimes, because I would love to see them all, but I know that life is short in this world and doing everything is impossible.

One can dream I suppose!

There are a few places that I would love to go to though:

- Macchu Picchu for the severe ancientness that will confront me. Plus, Llamas are cute! :)



- New Orleans because Anne Rice made me fall in love with the place.
Photo by Jan Kronsell
- Somewhere up north enough for me to see the Northern Lights.
Photo by Image Editor

- The Okavango, the Serengeti, or somewhere in Africa where I can experience real wild life.



- Japan, because, even though they're horrible to their animals, I must, need to, see their cherry trees in blossom!
Photo by Jason Pratt
I really could continue, but these are my top destinations!

What are yours?