April 29, 2016

Refashion || Bye-bye sleeves, hello crochet straps!

My mom made a bunch of maternity-sized shirts for me when I was pregnant with Emma. The fabric is too pretty for me to let them go, so I've been altering and refashioning them.

In this shirt, the combination of the sleeves with the boatneck was not particularly flattering, making it a little tight over the bust and under the arms. Solution: remove the sleeves! It took a while for me to figure out what to do for straps or sleeves instead. The neckline did not make matters easier.

But then I came across this pattern for a loose collar in one of my old Ideas magazines. I continued the pattern until it was long enough for the straps I needed and just finished it off simply without the buttonhole.

I unpicked the sleeves and the edges of the neckline, as it was lined...

...then sewed the crocheted piece into the lining, ensuring that it would be the right way up when I turned the shirt back inside out.

I was going to trim the sides a little, but since baggy '60s and '70s styles are in now, I just left it!

What do you think?
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April 26, 2016

Emma's DIY Dinosaur Birthday Party

My little girl is already three years old and we celebrated with her first official birthday party this past weekend. Don't let anyone tell you that organising all the eats for the event is easy! It's hard work, especially if you're not certain how many people will actually be attending. Luckily, I made just a little too much, and mostly everything was eaten.

Check out my spread below to see some of the things I did for Emma's birthday with links on where I got my inspiration from!

The Eats

From top left: the dinosaur in the middle is actually holding the balloons, but I didn't get a full picture of it :( (inspiration here) - there is also a plate of dinosaur-cutout peanut butter and jam sandwiches (inspiration here); Flies in Amber jelly treats (inspiration here); Biscuits with dinosaur footprints (inspiration here); dinosaur nest cupcakes (inspiration here); and dinosaur bones (inspiration here).

I served up hot dogs to accompany the sweets. You'd swear the children had never seen food before, everything was devoured!

The Decor

We had an outdoor party so didn't go too crazy with the decor. I hired a dinosaur jumping castle for the occasion, which went down really well with the children, especially since it also had a roof. The company I went through also did delivery, setup and collection, so they're highly recommended! Everything else was pretty simple.

From top left: Stencilled party packs and serviettes (inspiration here); an Emmasaurus throne for the birthday girl; dinosaur masks, which also went down well, especially with the younger kids; a dinosaur fossil banner with Emma's name (inspiration here); and, of course, a 'Land Before Time'-themed birthday cake (inspiration here).

So much work and planning for a few hours of a day... But Emma had a blast and the look on her face when everyone sang Happy Birthday to her was priceless!

More Dinosaur Party Inspiration (aka: Things I Wanted To Do But Didn't Get Around To):

How to Mix Spooky Cocktails With Dry Ice
How to Make Dinosaur Cupcake Toppers
Dinosaur Soaps
Roaring Dinosaur Boys Birthday Party
Modern Dinosaur Birthday Party
Outdoor Dinosaur Birthday Party Ideas
Dinosaur Birthday Cakes We Love
Dinosaur-Themed Goods from The Party Lady
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April 23, 2016

Book Review || Chemical Pink by Katie Arnoldi

Katie Arnoldi's 'Chemical Pink' is a novel of NOTE. It had me absolutely mesmerised from start to finish.

Delving into the world of female bodybuilding, Arnoldi has used her own knowledge of the industry to recreate a world of bodily obsession and fetishistic sexuality.

Charles, a skinny eccentric man used to getting his way, is obsessed with creating the perfect male form in the female body. Jeanine, a single mother desperate for success and stardom, offers him the perfect canvas: her bodily symmetry is ideal for the sport and will take her far.

The two form a symbiotic relationship where Charles - who seems wealthy beyond belief - provides the training, tablets, and finances for Jeanine to continue perfecting her body, while she indulges his every fetish and sexual whim. But how far is too far?

This voyeuristic look into obsession is as addictive as the concoction it is named for. With intriguing characters who are all as obsessive as the others - Hendrik who is at once trainer, drug dealer, and pimp; Skip who believes he is in love with Jeanine; a daughter who becomes obsessed with her mother's former lover; and even the entire industry itself - the novel sweeps the reader along to an ending that is an attempt at resolving the overall conflict but culminates in a climax deserving of a cult novel such as this.

That being said, this dark comedy is at once thought-provoking and heartwarming and makes us all wonder at our own obsessions and how far they will take us before we are destroyed.
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April 18, 2016

Book Review || Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

I became a fan of Tracy Chevalier after reading 'Girl With a Pearl Earring' and while 'Burning Bright' is still a beautiful historical novel, it does not stand out from the former novel in richness of detail, setting and character.

Set in 18th century London in the suburb of Lambeth, it attempts to give insight into poet and artist William Blake in the time before he is accused of being a revolutionary and supporting treasonous notions. Told through the eyes of London-born Maggie and Jem, a boy come to the city with his family from an out-of-the-way rural area, the plot is held together by their relations with Blake and a mystery that Maggie won't reveal to Jem, as well as the awakening sexual tension between the two adolescents.

My favourite aspects of historical novels are the potent details about life at the particular time, so I loved the conversations about buttony (and am actually inspired to seek out some tutorials about it!), the contrast between country and city life and those who dwell in each, and also the look at the Astley's circus. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the carpentry in which Jem and his father excelled.

However, I rather felt that William Blake was inserted into the story only to hold the plot together. There is not such personal insight into the artist as was seen in Chevalier's work on Vermeer and I rather felt I was reading only to alight on some information on, some personal experience with the poet, who was my favourite when I was younger. Yet we only see him through the eyes of Maggie and Jem who are  involved with him on the surface and rather spend most of their time spying on him and his wife. Although their interaction with him is fundamental to the plot, and while he reveals himself to be caring and interesting throughout, I feel as though I was robbed of an experience much more like that in a 'Girl With a Pearl Earring'. I suppose that much can be said of expectations.

Certainly it appears that the location and the overarching themes of the novel are its compelling points. London and its people are perfectly rendered in the mind's eye as are those from the country, while revolution, eccentricity, human rights, and even gender politics are some of the themes one is left to ponder instead of what makes a man like Blake intriguing and revolutionary.
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April 8, 2016

Book Review || The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Anita Diamant's 'The Red Tent' is a beautiful rendition of womanhood. Set in the time of Jacob in the Bible, it follows the oft untold story of biblical mothers and daughters who are often only mentioned in passing. Though set hundreds of years in the past, its themes and concepts are - frighteningly - still valid in much of the world today.

The narrator is Dinah, whose story in the Bible consists of mere mention as a daughter born to Jacob of Leah in Genesis 30:21 and then later as a reason for the destruction of Hamor and its people in Genesis 34.

Dinah has neither voice nor agency in the Bible and her story and existence is glossed over as her brothers take vengeance for her defilement by the Prince of Schechem.

'The Red Tent' tells Dinah's story - and that of her mothers Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah - through painstaking historical details that must have taken a lot of research on the author's part. We learn about the segregation of women during their moon blood, how the history of families is passed down through the stories of mothers told to their daughters, and how women worshipped matriarchal goddesses who aided them in birth, life and death. The novel tells of womanhood as a treasure and how the old ways honoured woman as the wellspring of life, finding no embarrassment in menstruation and indeed honouring it the way we are in awe of the full moon today.

It shows that traditions and family histories and genealogy were the realm of the woman, and I must question that if this was so how did ancient men remember their histories and stories? Diamant answers this question:

"The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed to the keeping of men who had no way of knowing." [3]

The novel is also a contrast between woman and man: the former are shown to have a deep sense of duty, respect for history and life, an innate civility and kindness, and also a generosity of person; the latter are shown to be violent and possessive, lustful and prideful, and always aspiring to have more.

The women seem pleased to be part of family life, to fulfil their duties well and learn from each other. However, the novel does raise the question - via Dinah's experiences - whether this is all by choice or because of the patriarchal time in which they lived.

The novel has brought an interesting perspective to biblical stories, their basis in men's written history and the complete omission of women's beliefs or perspectives. Women in the bible are often reduced to trade items, objects to be avenged or condemned, or even examples of femininity and thus examples of what men should aspire not to be.

Though the novel has a historical basis, much still rings true today. While a girl was considered a woman once she menstruated, girls are in most parts of the world not legally marriageable until at least 18 years of age. However, in some parts of the world, girls even younger than menstrual age are given in marriage to men much older than them. Many times the marriage is of benefit to the girl's father in some way, making the girl nothing more than chattel; other times it also depends on the family's state in poverty and insecurity, the overall culture of patriarchy, the institution of gender inequality, and sometimes traditions.

'The Red Tent' is written with an amazing insight into womanhood and a deep respect of humankind and religious origins. The research that went into such a deep novel is beyond reproach and has aided Diamant in creating a world that is rich in detail and utterly believable.

Further Reading:

About Child Marriage
From Eve the Temptress to Mary Magdalene the Prostitute: The Strange Truth About Biblical Women
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