Top 2017 reads so far

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Hello! It’s me, the worst blogger in the world!! Hope you’re doing well! Readingwise, 2017 has been a good year for me, and I thought I’d pop in and share some of my favourite books of the year so far. Which I guess is nearly over anyway (and thank goodness for that – I’m ready for Christmas and I’m ready for new things in 2018).

Anyway, here are my top picks, in no particular order. I’ll try not to be too spoilery.

 

Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the art of life by Samantha Ellis

As a big fan of biographies (especially those of the historic female kind), I adored this one about Anne, the forgotten Brontë sister. Samantha Ellis does a wonderful job of piecing together the story of her life and framing it around her relationships with others. This is a much-needed update and revision of previous work on the elusive Anne (which is often dismissive and sometimes harsh), and it strikes a nice balance between being academic and actually enjoyable. It’s definitely got me keen to delve into Anne’s novels as well, which I hadn’t really considered before as I didn’t know much about them.

 

The Power by Naomi Alderman

In Alderman’s universe, teenage girls are suddenly gifted with the power to hurt and even kill anyone who touches them. Almost overnight, human society undergoes a complete reversal as women are suddenly the ones with the power. It’s a fascinating story that had me cheering on the downtrodden female characters finally freed from oppression – until about halfway through, when things start to turn sour and we (re)learn that, inevitably, power corrupts whoever is wielding it. The book could probably be shorter – it gets a little slow in the middle – but it’s definitely worth trudging through to get to the killer ending. There’s a really interesting summary and interview with the author here too.

 

Girls will be Girls by Emer O’Toole

This is gender studies 101! If you’re finding yourself a bit confused by the different perspectives on gender and femininity you’re suddenly seeing online, this is the perfect book to get back to basics. Emer O’Toole does a really good job of breaking it down in an accessible way, and I love how she provides practical (and sometimes, dare I say it – fun) suggestions on exploring the way we perform gender. I think it’s critical we bring topics such as this one “down” from high-level academic theory and make them accessible without oversimplifying them, and this is something Emer O’Toole does very successfully. Read this one to learn, re-evaluate AND be entertained.

 

The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin

Another historic biography – of sorts. This is the fascinating story of Nelly Ternan, Charles Dickens’ mistress and sort-of-homewrecker. It’s one of the most interesting biographies I’ve read, because absolutely nothing written by Nelly herself has actually survived until the present day  (read: everything written by Nelly herself was destroyed before the present day). Claire Tomalin manages to trace the outline of her life through sources from others, and yet she herself remains a mysterious silhouette. She lived a life that was so shaped by circumstance, in which her own choices were so drastically limited, that it’s really very difficult to get a view of who she really was. I ripped through this one in a couple of days – it’s a fascinating study of history’s erasure of women, and it provides a very different perspective on Dickens himself as well.

 


So these are my top four. I’d love to hear what you loved reading in 2017! Leave a comment and let’s talk books!

Things to make in five minutes

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Some days, I really, really don’t have the time to do anything creative. Chock-full of errands, appointments, writing and research, these hectic days are also the ones when being creative would benefit me the most. When my mind is buzzing and whirling and sitting down to make something would calm it right down.

As a result, I’m a big fan of the five-minute craft – perfect for squeezing into your study break. I thought I’d show you some of the speedy lil things I’ve been making lately. Maybe you’d like to make some too?

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  1. Gift tags. Lots and lots of gift tags. These are perfect for using up leftover bits of card, ribbon and scrapbooking paper, and you can decorate them any way you like (I used a lot of washi tape!)
  2. Gift bows. I don’t know why, but these are so relaxing to make! I made mine with old envelopes and catalogue pages, basing them off this tutorial and altering them according to size.
  3. Fridge magnets. You know those huge ugly magnets you get from real estate agents with calendars or lists of emergency numbers on them? They’re perfect for cutting up into squares or fun shapes and decorating with painted paper, washi tape or whatever bits and pieces you like.

Some other things you could try: bookmarks, envelopes, printed or stamped wrapping paper, paper Christmas tree ornaments…

What are you five-minute creative fixes (crafty or otherwise)?

Life update

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Oh, hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? The past few months were a blur of classes, meetings, late nights and academic referencing (but like… a slow, painful blur?) and I didn’t have a lot of time to spare. And when I did find a few precious hours I spent them lying in bed staring at the ceiling, unable to muster up the energy to do anything fun or creative. THANKFULLY the semester is over – and my hard work has paid off as I got the grades I wanted! I still have one semester to go and a thesis to write, but if I play my cards right (i.e. make a schedule and actually stick to it) I hope I’ll have a little more time and energy to get back into blogging (no promises though – putting extra pressure on myself is really the last thing I need right now).

In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to lately (minus the essays and deadlines, of course):

Travelling: I went to the States! Immediately after my classes finished (and with one assignment still to hand in…) I jetted off to L.A. for VidCon, and then to Portland for a week of shopping, exploring and waterfall-viewing. Despite a few little hitches it was a wonderful trip, and one that I desperately needed after such a stressful six months. VidCon was a very fun experience full of friendly faces (I have a lot of opinions about how the event is managed but I’ll save those for a future post) and Portland was quite possibly the coolest place ever. I absolutely adored the wild green Pacific Northwest, and I can’t wait to go back and spend more time there to do some proper hiking and exploring.

Trying: To get motivated for all the work that lies ahead. I love academia! Writing is fun! My job is fantastic! Etc etc. (Only 4 months to go.)

Listening: To the Mama Mia soundtrack – I watched the movie on the plane home and now I’m having an ABBA moment (Super Trouper is my fave).

Feeling: Cold. The transition from American summer to Perth-in-a-cold-snap winter has not been an easy one.

Thinking:  I seriously can’t understand why anything Yassmin Abdel-Magied has said is worthy of all (or any) of the hatred she’s received. I am very sad and ashamed at the way the Australian press has ‘handled’ something that shouldn’t even be newsworthy – one girl who happens to be brown saying what many of us were thinking. Also I went to see her speak a few weeks ago and she is lovely and funny and clever and the fact that she has been reduced in the media to one or two comments is pretty crap, honestly.

Buying: Clothes. I’m ashamed to say that I recently broke my no-new-clothes resolution. While I’ve made excellent progress in buying more things secondhand and decreasing the amount I buy overall, I have slipped up a few times as I needed smart things to wear to the office and the op shop selection just wasn’t cutting it. I did choose fairly expensive, classic, and (hopefully) well-made pieces, so with any luck they’ll last me a long time.

Enjoying: Said new clothes. Arghh! I hate admitting this but I’ve really been feeling that buzz you get from owning nice new things. It’s been so long.

Making: A travel journal to stick things in from my trip. This was my first attempt at making a sketchbook from scratch, and it was surprisingly easy to do. Tbh can’t wait to never shell out for a Moleskine ever again.

 

(This post was inspired by Pip’s taking stock series!)

Watch this! TED with Vigga Svensson

Oh hi! Here’s a little video we watched in class which I think you might like! I think it’s a really important contribution to the ethical fashion conversation, because it talks about making a difference by challenging the underlying model of consumption (rather than just by buying organic bamboo t-shirts or whatever).

I won’t spoil the video’s plot twist for you, but let me just say I’m really excited to see how Vigga’s sort-of-new way of consuming can be applied to other areas in the fashion industry and other industries altogether. There’s so much potential here to really shake things up and change the way we consume, and I for one am ready for it!

The luxury of not caring

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I’d really like to talk about something that happened to me a few days ago.

It was at a family dinner for my nana’s birthday. Over large helpings of delicious plum pie and ice cream, my family began to talk about climate change. It wasn’t a particularly heated discussion. My great-aunt and grandparents (late 80s) and my mum and aunts and uncles (early 60s) passed around the usual arguments: the climate has always changed in cycles, how do we know it was us anyway, oh, news is so biased, anyone can select the truth to suit them, why should we believe the media, etc etc etc. It was all very mild and non-committal, and then someone said something along the lines of, well, it’s not something we can really worry about, is it? And I thought – fantastic. Don’t worry about it. It’s hardly going to affect you anyway. But me? I’m 22. Maybe climate change is rooted in human activities and maybe it isn’t (for the record, I think it is). Maybe it’s going to change the way we live and displace thousands of people. Maybe it isn’t. The point is – when you’re my age, you don’t have that luxury. The luxury of not caring. The luxury of ‘healthy debate’ over whether it’s happening and how fast and why. That’s what the policy-makers in this country (and the world) don’t seem to get. We can’t wait and see. We need to accept – right now – that climate change could be a threat (to put it mildly) and that we need to do something in case it is. Our lives – my generation’s lives – will be directly impacted and changed irrevocably if governments and businesses keep  putting profit before the planet purely because it’s worked for two centuries and why change something that works, right?

I can’t understand it, honestly. The corporate environment is all about risk management. I’ve worked in an organisation where you’re literally not allowed to not hold on to the handrail when you’re going down the stairs. We have so many strategies in place to protect people from all sorts of potential threats. Well – here’s a potential threat. It might not impact you directly, but it will impact your people and your supply chain and your way of business. Why aren’t you doing something about it?

After that the climate change discussion was lightly brushed off. Ferrero Rochers were passed around. Someone segued off into their general distrust of the media, which set my grandpa off about the shame of having a such a left-leaning national broadcaster (sigh). Everyone moved on, someone spilt a glass of wine, I left to go to my bedroom and cry about being raised in a conservative family.

No need to keep talking about climate change. After all, we don’t have to worry about it, do we?

The Eco Audit: Making good (small) choices

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When it comes to reducing our environmental impact and creating a sustainable society, I firmly believe that true change will only happen when we work together, en-masse, to slowly but surely alter the way we do things. The way we produce things, buy things, and dispose of things. The way business is run. The way we think about consumption, satisfaction, and achievement and their relationship to each other. Basically, we need a radical shift in social and economic ways of thinking.

Certain eco-peeps argue that the small choices we make individually (like not using plastic bags) aren’t really going to change anything, and that we need to ditch this ‘what can I do?’ rugged-individualism mindset and replace it with ‘what can we do?’. We need to think and work as a group – a community and an organisation and a country, even, to get this shift happening. I agree 100%. Yep. Great idea. Unfortunately, we’re kind of unlikely to reach this ideal state of unity overnight – which is why I still think it’s important to make your small choices positive ones as well. Maybe bringing your KeepCup to the cafe everyday isn’t going to immediately resolve the plastic wastage problem, but it’s not going to hurt, is it?

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With that in mind, I’ve made a checklist of small actions that can make a small change and applied it to my own life. A little eco-audit, if you will. Feel free to use this list yourself to see how you’re travelling and where you can make changes. I’ve focused on physical waste around the use of disposable items here, but obviously there’s a lot more to consider.

Plastic bags: EXCELLENT. I avoid plastic bags at all costs. I’m pretty good at remembering to bring my fabric totes (and if I forget I just have to carry my shopping as penance). I get my fruit’n’veg loose and try to avoid products with plastic packaging in general.

Coffee cups: AVERAGE. I would say I remember my KeepCup about 50% of the time. Must try harder.

Tea: POOR. Ideally I’d like to make a permanent shift over to tea leaves to reduce my waste in this area – and don’t you think there’s something so nice and traditional about brewing a big pot of tea with tea leaves? Alternatively, I could use teabags from a brand like Madame Flavour, which are made from corn and break down in ‘a year to five, depending on heat and humidity’ (as opposed to the hundreds of years that nylon bags take).

Food waste: GOOD. We are avid composters. Need to work on not letting things go off in the fridge though.

Disposable food containers/utensils: AVERAGE. I’ve been trying to put a knife and fork in my bag in the morning, but eating at food courts or whatever isn’t something I actually plan to do. It just happens. Potential solutions: carry knife, fork, and plastic take away container with me at all times, or choose food that doesn’t require a container (like a wrap). (The simple solution here is to just PACK YA LUNCH! Why can’t I remember to do this? Oh, that’s right, it’s because I get up 5 minutes before I need to leave the house.)

Disposable beauty products (face wipes, cotton buds, etc): POOR. I’m still trying to think of a solution to this one. Small cloth or crocheted face wipes? I could make something like that (and it looks like there’s plenty on Etsy too).

Tissues: POOR. Are handkerchiefs really the answer? I don’t want to carry my snot around with me all day, thanks.

Period supplies: AVERAGE. I’ve recently got onto Thinx period-proof undies which I am LOVING (review/explanation here). They’re definitely an investment but they’re a wonder for a worry-free, forget-that-it’s-happening period (and the company itself is very socially-conscious as well). Still not brave enough to try a cup. One day.

Clothes: An update on my year of ethical fashion is a post for another day, but I’ll have you know I’m doing well at resisting the urge to shop.

So now that I know what I need to work on, I’ll see what I can do and check back in in a couple of months. What do you think you could change to reduce waste in your everyday life?


Don’t forget it’s Earth Hour today! Turn off those globes and light those scented candles at 8.30pm local time! (It’s a good excuse for a relaxing, candlelit bath, right? I think so!)

Chin-up Tuesday #3

graphic of the words 'only for now' under an umbrella

 

Wow. What a crazy few weeks it’s been. Today as my inspirational (sort of) quote, I’ve chosen the name of a song that I love from the musical Avenue Q, as a reminder that everything will pass. The song itself brings me a lot of comfort: it’s about appreciating what you have and not stressing the small stuff, because both will soon be gone. Kind of positive motivation and kind of comforting nihilism. I’m including a link here because I want everyone to appreciate its wisdom (and if you’re wondering why some of the voices are weird it’s because Avenue Q is a musical about puppets – a sort of grown-up Sesame Street) (and it’s also really really good!).

Here’s my rather short look-forward-to list:

  1. One of my intensive classes finishes this week, which aside from being a massive relief will also free up an extra day for me during the week. Phew! As of next week I’ll have spare day to play with (ie to catch up on work with). So keen for that! An extra bit of time opens up so many possibilities.
  2. I’m really into enamel pins right now. I bought this lovely lady the other day and I’m a bit excited for her to arrive (it’s the little things, right?)

The whole point this exercise was to make sure I have exciting/fun things coming up to keep me going (no matter how big or small). As I’ve now run out of things at a measly 2, I’ve got to try and make some good things to help me through the next few weeks. Time to plan some movie dates/catch-ups/beach excursions…

Hope you’re doing well! Keep on getting excited about things!