Sunday, 27 November 2016

Mini Challenge : 6 Things in 6 Weeks

Recently, someone at work pointed out that there are only 6 weeks until the end of the year. Instead of getting stressed about everything I have in progress, I decided to set myself a little challenge. Before the end of the year, I'd like to finish:

* 3 books
* 2 paintings
* my zine
* walking 200 kms (12 kms to go)
* 2 craft projects
* my 2016 Hobonichi (catch up on blank pages)

I've been looking into Bullet Journalling lately. The system as a whole isn't for me, but I was inspired to make a 'bujo'-style tracker for my challenge. I didn't pretty it up too much, as I'm not going to keep it beyond the end of the challenge. For each day there are 6 squares, and if I did something towards any of the goals that day I get to fill it in. I haven't been able to do much as I've still been sick, but the tracker helps to remind me of what I have done, as well as keeping me motivated.

It's true, there were more than 6 weeks until the end of the year when I began, but it doesn't hurt to give myself a head start, does it? I also have another possible project coming up which would be quite exciting if I can be involved. I'll write more about that later!

Monday, 21 November 2016

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

SPOILER ALERT!: I have tried not to give away too much of the story in my review, but nevertheless, but if you have not seen the movie yet, you may wish to wait before reading this post.


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a movie set in the universe of Harry Potter. It is loosely based on J. K. Rowling's book of the same name. In the Harry Potter universe, the book is a non-fiction school textbook, a guide to magical creatures. The movie is the story of the book's author Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), and one of his many adventures.

The movie is set in New York in 1926. Newt Scamander has just arrived from England to find that wizards do things rather differently in the U.S.A. Muggles are called 'Non-Maj', and there is a law against having any contact with them except strictly for business. Newt has with him a Tardis-like suitcase full of magical creatures, some of which escape. In trying to catch them, he reveals himself to a Non-Maj and is caught by an investigator (Tina, played by Katherine Waterston) from the American version of the Ministry of Magic: MACUSA. At the same time, darker events are happening, for which his creatures are blamed.

Before the movie, very little was known about Newt Scamander's character beyond his profession as a magizoologist. More devoted fans might know that he was a Hufflepuff at Hogwart's. Eddie Redmayne was absolutely perfect as the devoted animal-keeper. Forthright, socially awkward, yet brave and curious, he embodied the ideals of a Hufflepuff and the eccentricities of a wizard.

The female characters were also satisfying. Tina Goldstein, the demoted ex-auror had a complex history and a quiet yet strong demeanor. Her sister Queenie could have been told as yet another blonde bimbo, but her character also had depth. The pathos of Queenie's beauty and sometimes-uncontrollable Legillimency (ability to read minds) was quite moving.

The story is set against a background of fear and oppression. A dark force strong enough to destroy buildings is ravaging the city. An extremist group called the New Salem Philanthropic Society are campaigning to expose and eradicate witches and wizards. Despite the audience being half young children the day I went, I would say this is not a movie for little ones. There are themes of death, abuse and oppression. Some of the imagery, especially that of the political rally and the New Salemer's speeches, was quite chilling.

Despite all this, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ends on a positive note. There is a satisfying amount of duelling and disapparating, and the animals both small and large were fascinating to discover. There are several nods to Hogwart's and the Harry Potter era, such as echoes of the music in the score, and Newt's yellow and grey-striped scarf. Any concerns about the movie feeling 'samey' however, are dismissed immediately.

The ending ties back into the main history of events that occurred in Europe, and I have a feeling there will be at least one more movie on the theme. I certainly want to know more.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them receives a definite thumbs-up from me!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Art is Important

Today, I worked on my art for the first time in 2 months. I kept hesitating because I was worried I'd screw up the canvases. Because they might not come out like the image in my head. Because my art is different to other people's. Because I can't draw as well as other people.

Today was different though. I decided to be brave. As I worked, I was listening to some old cassette tapes. Weirdly, when the song Kids in America started playing, the events of the last week must have caught up with me. Normally I never cry, but cried then, for all of the decent people of the world. By the time the song ended, I knew what to do. I remembered showing a friend some of my paintings a few months ago. Among other comments, he said that looking at them made him happy.

That's what I want to do -- I want to make people happy. Something shifted in me. I worked all afternoon, made some steps on a painting that I'd been hesitating to make, and started a new one. I can't imagine letting those doubts get in my way now. They're nothing compared with what I need to do. I hope this means that good can come from bad, not just for me but for the whole world.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

My Hogwarts House

Yesterday, I finally created an account at Pottermore and found out my official Hogwarts House! I don't know why it took me so long to get around to it. I first started reading the books after the third one came out, so that makes it 1999. At the time, I was instantly drawn to Ravenclaw -- it fit my personality perfectly.

When the online quizzes and tests appeared, I did a couple and the result was always Ravenclaw, too. I was a dyed-in-the-wool Ravenclaw! Or was I? When chatting with Husband and some friends earlier this year, they said I struck them as being more of a Hufflepuff. Were the tests wrong, or perhaps I've changed?

About a month ago, I came across a sorting system based on personality psychology. It's quite complicated, and there's no quiz -- you have to read through the desciptions and decide which one fits you best. The site is here and I would recommend it as an interesting exercise if you're interested in psychology. The system is two-tiered. Your Primary sort is based on your value system: why you do the things you do. Your Secondary sort is your methods: how you achieve the things you want to do. It also explains the concepts of Modelling and Performing.

Choosing my House for the Secondary sort was easy: it was Ravenclaw far and away above the others. I had a very hard time choosing a House for the Primary sort, however. In the end, I tentatively chose Hufflepuff first, with Ravenclaw a close second.

While this exercise and learning more about the psychology-based sorting system was very interesting, it left me even more confused than before. Can you be a RavenclawxHufflepuff? That's why I decided to join Pottermore, do the sorting quiz there and get the 'official' truth. Which is: I'm a proud Hufflepuff!

It wasn't much of a surprise actually, when I think back on the last 15 years. I've changed in many ways. Learning and knowledge are still very important to me, but so is community and supporting others. (The rise of the internet is probably partly the reason for that.) In the last 3 years especially, since buying our house, gardening and plants have become a new and passionate hobby for me. That, more than anything else, is probably the reason my friends now think of me as a Hufflepuff!

I am very happy to be a Hufflepuff, as I think it suits my personality the way it is now. And who knows, perhaps I would have been the student to build bridges between the Houses and show that Hufflepuffs aren't "duffers" after all! There's only one drawback to being a Hufflepuff. The House colours -- yellow and black -- are the same as a football team here in Melbourne. None of the other House's colours suffer from that problem. I suppose that if I ever want to deck myself out in Hufflepuff regalia, I will have to make sure the crest with the badger is clearly visible. I don't mind though, because the badger is the most adorable and foresty of all the animals!

I actually think that if I lived in the Harry Potter universe, I would have been a Ravenclaw. If I'd been admitted to Hogwarts at the age of 11, where would the Sorting Hat have put me? I was such a strong Ravenclaw back then. If the hat had given me a choice between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, I would certainly have chosen Ravenclaw. Now, I would choose Hufflepuff. And J. K. Rowling agrees.

TL;DR I'm a Hufflepuff!

Thursday, 10 November 2016

6 Comforting Things to Do

I'm sure that many of us are feeling troubled right now. It's especially difficult if you are the kind of person who feels the emotions of others, even just a little. My first instinct at the moment is to go back to basics -- focus on what's most important to me and the core things I believe in. It's hard to do that though, when so many unsettling things are happening right now. So I thought I'd write this post to help in some small way.

1. Go for a walk in the fresh air, or do yoga or stretching. Gentle movement will help to relax the mind as well as the body. It may help you to sleep better as well. When I go for a walk, I like to look out for the little things along the way, like a bright flower or the ripples of light on the water.

2. Connect with your loved ones. Talking about your worries can help you feel much better. Or perhaps you might prefer to avoid the issues and talk about light-hearted things. Whichever you choose to talk about, knowing your loved ones are there is very important for your well-being.

3. Read some favourite books from your childhood. Try to remember the happy feelings that you felt the first time you read them. Or try reading some new books.

4. Play with toys. Just like reading childhood books, playing with toys can take you back to a time that was more innocent. Choose toys that you played with as a child, or ones that involve making up stories or using your imagination.

5. Be creative. Work on your hobbies. Whether it be writing, painting, gardening, etc., return to the hobbies that you find relaxing. Perhaps try a new one that you have wanted to try for a while. The process of learning something new may help you to take your mind off things.

6. Check that you're prepared. When I'm feeling worried about the state of the world, it makes me feel better to check on practical things. For example -- review my savings plan, make sure I have things I need in my backpack, arrange a place to meet with Husband in case of an emergency, etc. Once these practical things are in place, then I have a bit more peace of mind.

I hope some of these suggestions help, and if you are worried about the world at the moment, know that you're not alone.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

My October

It feels a little late to do my monthly update one week into the next month, but I'll forge ahead anyway. I didn't do very much last month, as I've had a virus which left me with constant headaches and feeling tired. So there's not much to share anyway. However, I did some preparation for a few blog posts, so there's more coming up soon.

Spring this year has been a little wetter than normal, which the plants love, so my garden is doing well, in the main. Despite being sick, I've had a few lovely times. My best friend surprised me with this amazing Pikachu backpack that she sewed just for me!

Of course, I wore it to PAX, the computer game and board game expo. Unfortunately we weren't able to spend the whole day there as Husband came down suddenly sick, but I did buy these two games on impulse:

What I've been knitting ...
I decided to concentrate a bit more on finishing old craft projects, and the one I've chosen first is a set of 3 coathanger covers with a polkadot theme. I suppose I'd finish it much quicker if I just made one, but then I'd only have 1/3 of the satisfaction! I've finished the first cover and started the second one. This one is in a simple slip stitch. I thought I would also keep the colour theme consistent as I have quite a bit of the blue yarn in my knitting bag to use up.

What I've been drawing ...
Sometimes when I'm low on motivation, I get behind on my Hobonichi daily art journalling. On days when my motivation is high though, I try to go back to the earlier blank pages and do an extra drawing, partly for the practice and partly to catch up.

What I've been reading ...
A few days ago, I came across an old blog I'd written between 2010 and 2013. I always knew in the back of my mind that it was lingering somewhere on the internet, but last week I thought I'd have a look at it and decide what to do with it -- delete it, salvage some of the posts, etc. I ended up deciding not only to preserve it, but to revive it. It's a personal blog, so I'm not quite ready to link to it from here. However, it's a public blog, so you may end up finding it if you use some creative searching skills!....

My Dias de Muertos Altar
Ever since my Opa passed away, his framed photo has been the centrepiece of the altar every year. This year I added some Dutch items that I came across while I was unpacking, as well as a few things I found while on nature walks. For the first time this year, I also added the female figurine I made many years ago in ceramics class. I'm not sure why, to be honest. I've been thinking a lot more lately about feminism and why it's important, so perhaps that's why.