{ Under The Bluegums }

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

January 30, 2011

Imagine being a parent

30 January 2011

I spent an awesome day with my parents today.

They came over, and as usual my mom spoiled us with croissants - she always does that. We had good food and good conversation, and then good shopping as we made our way through a holistic market.

Then we took a walk through a park that we used to frequent when I was still a child. This place is one close to my heart, because I still remember it from my childhood. The waterfall above is from this park.

After they left this afternoon, it occurred to me that it must be a painful yet satisfying experience to have a child my age. Your parents have watched you grow from a small baby into an independent adult. Imagine all the love and effort that went into your upbringing; all the worry about whether they were being good parents and how you would get through the world without them. And then, visiting you in your own home and seeing the life you've made for yourself with the man you love, being completely independent and happy.

It must be painful to know that your child is grown up - they are far away from you now; they are different; they are grown up.

And yet, it must be satisfying to know that this woman you are looking at is your daughter, was once a tiny baby in your arms, who you taught and loved and cared for with the very purpose of sending them into the world to fend for themselves.

I am sorry to cause my parents such pain by being away from them, but I hope that them being able to see the grown-up they had such a large part to play in living and making plans and happy.

January 29, 2011

Save the Sea Kittens!

29 January 2011

Peta is trying to encourage people to stop eating so much fish, as the stocks in the sea are running desperately low.

This is mainly because of overfishing - trawlers drop nets all the way to the sea bed, and drag everything into the ships, including sharks and dolphins and other fish and creatures that we don't eat.

The creatures we don't eat? Well, they're just thrown back into the sea. Most of them are dead.

Anyway, visit the page, and you can make your own Sea Kitten. I know it's a random activity, but they are kind of cute!

Here are my three Sea Kittens:

 

January 28, 2011

Sand sculptors are amazing

28 January 2011

I never cease to be amazed by the images of sand sculptures that spread across the internet from time to time.

I wonder how one can put so much of your heart and soul into a sculpture that really lasts only as long as it takes for the tides to make their way slowly across the sand?

These images are from a recent sand sculpture event in Australia. Which one's your favourite?











I don't think anyone really needs to be told that the Cheshire Cat is my favourite! :)

View some more of the pics at 13 Above

January 27, 2011

Hamster of Doom!

I just had to share this video with you!

I have a pair of Syrian hamsters at home, named Graca and Nelson, but they aren't nearly as aggressive as this little guy! The worst they'll do is pee on me!



Isn't he cute, in a maniacal kind of way! :)

January 26, 2011

What is a "Cthulhu"?

What is a "cthulhu"? I feel like I should know what it is...

Something science-fictiony... Hmmm...

via Geeks Are Sexy

I'm such a procrastinator

26 January 2011

I registered with a distance learning institution last year to begin studying for my Honours in English.

The whole year that's passed feels like it didn't even happen, it went by so quickly. I feel like I accomplished nothing during the year, and procrastinated even more than usual.

The worst hit items in my life: my family; my photography; my writing; and my studies.

And the worst is that this is time that is unrecoverable.

But I do encourage myself to sit back and smell the bluegums. Everything is just as it's meant to be.

January 25, 2011

Ever seen a ghost?

25 January 2011

I have been taking photos for years upon years and have yet to capture a ghost on film or digital.

This is quite disappointing for me, as I believe in ghosts and have been waiting to capture that "something odd" in one of my pictures for ages.

Alas, it appears that the ghosts, because I already believe in them, don't wish to show themselves to me.

This video shows some of the most famous photographs of ghosts - what do you believe?

January 24, 2011

Animals have a sense of humour

24 January 2011

Animals really make me laugh!

Our cats at home have such different personalities and their little eccentricities make me giggle all the time. Meep watches me in front of the closet in the morning, raising her paw Nazi-style and hoping for attention, and Polly loves to be pushed around in the bath - up the sides so she slides around. Ming absolutely adores Shaun and sometimes follows him everywhere.

But animals in nature have their own senses of humour - like this kangaroo!



via Ever So Strange

January 23, 2011

On the Virtues of Uselessness

Lao Tzu was traveling with his disciples and they came to a forest where hundreds of carpenters were cutting trees, because a great palace was being built.

Almost the whole forest had been cut, but one tree was standing there, a big tree with thousands of branches–SO BIG, THAT TEN THOUHSANDS PERSONS COULD SIT UNDER ITS SHADE.
Lao Tzu asked his disciples to go and inquire WHY THIS TREE HAD NOT BEEN CUT yet, when the whole forest had been cut and was deserted.

The disciples went and they asked the carpenters, “Why have you not cut this tree?”

The carpenters said, “This tree is absolutely useless. You cannot make anything out of it because every branch has so many knots in it. Nothing is straight. You cannot make pillars out of it, you cannot make furniture out of it. You cannot use it as fuel because the smoke is so dangerous to the eyes–you almost go blind. This tree is absolutely useless. That’s why.”

They came back. Lao Tzu laughed and he said, “BE LIKE THIS TREE.
If you want to survive in this world be like this tree–absolutely useless. Then nobody will harm you. If you are straight you will be cut, you will become furniture in somebody’s house. If you are beautiful you will be sold in the market, you will become a commodity. Be like this tree, absolutely useless. Then nobody can harm you. AND YOU WILL GROW BIG AND VAST, AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE CAN FIND SHADE UNDER YOU.”

Lao Tzu has a logic altogether different from your mind. He says: BE THE LAST. Move in the world AS IF YOU ARE NOT. Remain unknown. Don’t try to be the first, don’t be competitive, don’t try to prove your worth. There is no need. Remain useless and enjoy.

Of course he is impractical. But if you understand him you will find that he is the most practical on a deeper layer, in the depth–because life is to enjoy and celebrate, life is not to become a utility. LIFE IS MORE LIKE POETRY than like a commodity in the market; it should be like poetry, a song, a dance.

Lao Tzu says: If you try to be very clever, if you try to be very useful, you will be used. If you try to be very practical, somewhere or other you will be harnessed, because the world cannot leave the practical man alone. Lao Tzu says: Drop all these ideas. If you want to be a poem, an ecstasy, then FORGET ABOUT UTILITY. REMAIN TRUE TO YOURSELF.

Via Yoga.SA

My Favourite Catwoman

23 January 2011

Tim Burton's second "Batman" film was my favourite. The Penguin would cause me to soil my sheets if I ever woke up with him staring over me, and Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman character was an excellent representation of femininity and danger.



The announcement came this week that Anne Hathaway would be playing Catwoman in the new Batman film, which we all know is a little darker. I am curious as to how Anne will step out of her White-Queen-and-comedy shoes to fill such a twisted role.



I am, however, certain that her performance will be better than Halle Berry's empty Catwoman. Just my opinion.

January 21, 2011

Are people basically good?


21 January 2011

You would think that this being the 21st century, with all the technology we have, we would no longer have the stomach to do some of the horrible things that are still being done today.

Bullfighting is just one example; another is the slaughter of the Taiji dolphins.

Every year a massive pod of dolphins is forced into a cove, and slaughtered. I've heard tell that the dolphins swim to the Japanese murderers like a dog would approach you with its tail wagging, but they have no heart it seems, because these men are absolutely merciless...

The pod is massacred; the sea runs red with their blood.

The video below is not of the slaughter, but of the indirect victims of the slaughter: dolphins who don't make it to the cove are still pushed onto the coast, and these are some of those who have been caught on the rocks.



I try so hard to believe that people are basically good, that there is something wonderful in each of us, but seeing videos like this make me so sad for humankind.

We have lost all connections to mother nature and her wonderful creatures...

Video via Welcome to my Parlour

January 20, 2011

Spider

Prepare to sweat white beads.

A Tibetan story tells of a meditation student who, while meditating in his room, believed he saw a spider descending in front of him. Each day the menacing creature returned, growing larger and larger each time. So frightened was the student, that he went to his teacher to report his dilemma. He said he planned to place a knife in his lap during meditation, so when the spider appeared he would kill it. The teacher advised him against this plan. Instead, he suggested, bring a piece of chalk to meditation, and when the spider appeared, mark an “X” on its belly. Then report back.

The student returned to his meditation. When the spider again appeared, he resisted the urge to attack it, and instead did just what the master suggested. When he later reported back to the master, the teacher told him to lift up his shirt and look at his own belly. There was the “X”.

“Should you desire great tranquility, prepare to sweat white beads.”

Via Wendy Wood

My Adventure Bucket List

20 January 2011

I have always been one for adventures. The problem nowadays is that to have an adventure, you usually need the correct amount of cash to go with it.

This isn't to say that I haven't had some really good adventures! :) Shaun and I travelled from Johannesburg to Pietersburg, and stopped off at a beautiful waterfall close to Tzaneen. It was just before winter, but we went for a swim regardless. The water was so icy that it stung our skin - I was glad I wasn't wearing a bikini that day, but Shaun was more scathed than I, swimming in only trunks.

We managed to make our way under the waterfall, squealing at the cold, and shared an intimate yet icy kiss under the rushing water of the fall. Despite it being so absolutely cold, it was one of the best experiences I have ever had!

Shipsterns Bluff, Tanzania (photo from National Geographic)
One day I hope to become the adventurer I can only dream about. I've always said I would be a great surfer-girl! So, once I've actually learned how to surf, I might like to try surfing the big waves at Shipsterns Bluff in Tanzania. Might. :)

Or maybe I could set a new world record kayaking down Palouse Falls in Washington...or maybe go cavediving in the Bahamas' Blue Holes.

Sigh...too much to do, so little time!

Take a look at National Geographic's
Ultimate Adventure Bucket List and tell me what you would do!

January 18, 2011

Warped plush dolls

These soft toys bring a whole new meaning to warped.

Can you imagine giving your child a bunny that's bloody and stabbed with a carrot? Hmm, I thought not.

I don't suppose I would be offended, though, if I got one as a gift! :) I must say I'm quite partial to the aforementioned bunny. And the shark.




via MyModernMet

January 15, 2011

Goodbye to another rattie

15 January 2011

Just two weeks after her dad passed away, PC also went to the Rainbow Bridge on Monday.

She had advanced megacolon, which was a disease I was until then unaware of and I really should have known what it was. But she passed peacefully, fighting just a little at the end, but I told her it was ok to go.

She is in a better place now.

She was the most relaxed little rat I've ever had; always ready to love and be loved, and easy to show off to little children.

RIP PC

January 14, 2011

No Kid Can Resist a Mud Puddle

This is such an adorable video! A baby elk plays in a puddle. Dancing like no one's watching. We're all the same really.

Take pleasure in the little things! ;)

January 12, 2011

Broadcasts of bullfighting banned in Spain


12 January 2011

They say some things never change...

But this thing did.

Spain and bullfighting go hand-in-hand, with many passionate Spaniards defending the tradition as part of their culture.

That may be, but it is still a violent act, and Spain's national broadcaster has decided it doesn't want to show its children such violence.

This probably won't stop parents from taking their children to see "their first bullfight", but at least it plants a subconscious seed that perhaps this is a practice that we should let go of as humane humans.

According to "Welcome to my parlour!" said the spider to the fly.: Spain's national broadcaster bans bullfighting 250 000 bulls die slowly as they are tortured with spears and constantly teased. The image of the matador piercing the heart of the bull with one movement is the ideal which these men strive towards, but it is rarely the reality, as the bulls are usually skewered over and over again, rather bleeding to death than dying in such an "honoured" manner.

Poor Huemul :(

This video's kind of cute. I had to share it. Plus, I didn't know what a Huemul is. Now I know.

Another endangered animal. Sigh.

Toowoomba devastation

12 January 2011

The floods in Australia are practically getting worse and worse by the day, and as people are struggling with what's left of their homes, appeals are coming from all over for charity and help. Well, I've said before how I feel about this issue.



The video above shows the sheer power of nature - and it's really only a taste of what she can really do. It's scary, because we're all so safe in our little worlds but something that's so utterly out of our control can take everything away from us.

I'd like everyone to smell the bluegums sometimes and appreciate life for what it is: it's not about money, or work, or hobbies...it's about living.

I'm a book reviewer now!


12 January 2011

Over the weekend I finished the first book I was to review for The Pen and Muse blog.

I also managed to post my review of the book this week.

I am hoping that my reviews will be popular, and that I'll be able to do many more. I am already reading my next novel, and hope to be finished at the end of the week.

At least being responsible to someone else for my writing is a start in the right direction - I love reading, and find myself not reading and doing other things instead, so this way I have to read, and it enriches me at the same time.

The book I covered was a contemporary erotic fantasy and luckily I'm not an erotic-fiction-virgin. I do find, however, that whether you like the novel or not depends a lot on your personal taste, so I found writing the review quite difficult. I ended up giving the novel a good rating, even though I may have had some reservations about it in the end. I'd put my enjoyment of the novel up to being excited about reviewing it in the first place.

Because reading a novel is such a subjective experience, it's difficult to say whether someone else will like the novel or not, and I hope that I can work on being more objective in my reviews.

I must say, though, that I don't think my mom would have liked to read it! ;)

January 11, 2011

Do you want to save the bees?


11 January 2011

I don't really know whether petitions really do anything to save the animals or help the people they say they're going to save or help, but sometimes I suppose you just need faith.

The bees of the world are under threat, after scientific studies have revealed that a group of toxic pesticides are to blame. Countries that have banned these products have seen a powerful recovery in their bee populations, but those chemical companies producing the pesticides are trying very hard to keep them on the market and in use.

This despite the fact that bees pollinate at least 90% of the plants we grow, and our survival is dependent on theirs.

I sometimes can't believe that a large corporation does not think that this would be a problem; does not even say, "Whoa! Our pesticides are doing this? We could be responsible for the demise of the human race? Let's rethink our product!".

All down to human greed, I guess. It doesn't affect them directly...yet...so they can make some money out of it for now.

If you'd like to part of the hopeful petition to ban the pesticides, sign this petition now. It's apparently already had an amazing response with half a million people signing up over the weekend. Let's see if we can change the world.

I watched a mosquito yesterday

Photo by Alvesgaspar
11 January 2011

It came in from the courtyard outside. It was the middle of the day. It was relentless. It hunted without end until its target was found.

It flew around our pet rats, even settling on one of their heads, but still it found no satisfaction.

Losing interest, I looked away for a second, and upon inspection the strange itch on my arm another second later was found to be none other but the same mosquito's proboscis, which had found its target and ensued sucking the blood from my forearm.

I always feel bad when I kill a mosquito, but after nights spent trying in vain to sleep with the relentless buzzing and repeat itch attacks, I sometimes cannot help myself.

I feel bad because I know that she is only after sustenance for the development of her children. But she can have oh-so-many children! After digesting the blood and laying her eggs, she returns as a repeat offender, over and over again until she dies.

I watched the mosquito that sparked this post sucking on my arm, and even saw her belly fill up with my very own blood.

I remembered the smell of bluegums and didn't kill her. I watched her fly away after a small flick of my finger.

January 4, 2011

Just Read || Lord of the Rings (finally!)

4 January 2011

I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have taken over a year to finish reading JRR Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings, but I am oh-so-pleased to finally have finished!

One of the things I most enjoyed about the novel was the way that it differed from the film trilogy screenplay, and I appreciate the talent of the screenwriter much more!

When I first read the part with Tom Bambadil, I couldn't understand how they could have left it out of the movie - it was such a pivotal point in the novel, because without Tom, they would have gone nowhere. However, once I reached the middle point and contemplated on the screenplay of the films, I understood that, although Tom was an intriguing character, he was not among the most intriguing characters.

But I must say that the death of the Steward of Gondor is much more dramatic in the novel than in the film when he's holding the palantir and sets himself alight, although I liked the depth the film added to the Paths of the Dead, and the setting of the stage for Arwen and Aragorn's relationship right from the start.

Being a Romantic at heart, I liked the extra focus the book put on Eowyn and Faramir falling in love. :)

When I embarked upon my journey into Middle Earth with Frodo and Sam and the rest of the Fellowship, I was expecting a long, hard read, as everyone I know who has read it before - with the exception of my father (legend has it he finished reading the book in a single night) - said it was one of the longest books they've ever read.

And now that I'm finished, I would have to agree - "The Lord of the Rings" now holds my personal record as the book that has taken me the longest to finish.

I really enjoyed it though - it was a journey into the beginnings of fantasy almost, because in every fantasy novel I think back on I can see how they were inspired by Tolkein and his amazing imagination. Despite the drawn-out family histories, the various names for a single thing, the intermittent poems and songs and the characters' illustrious and sometimes tedious manner of talking, the novel will still make it to my list of one of the best books ever.

Imagine Losing Everything

From The Big Picture
4 January 2011

Imagine what it's like losing everything in a natural disaster.

Queensland, Australia, is suffering from floods of "biblical proportions" according to the media, with over 200 000 people displaced from their homes.

Seasonal flooding is expected in Australia during the summer season, but to this extent, it was completely unexpected, devastating homes, farms, roads, railways and wildlife.

People in an area as large as Europe's France have had to be evacuated, and people in the region have taken to rescuing the helpless wallabies and kangaroos who normally frolic across the dry plains. Click here to see more images from The Big Picture.

To make matters worse, cyclone Tasha also hit the area two weeks ago, and this dumped even more water in the region.

One needs wonder, however, why no one is making a concerted effort to discover the true reason for the intense and devastating natural disasters the world has experienced over the last year.

The past year was definitely one for the history books, with 295 000 people killed. About 950 natural disasters were reported last year, and this makes 2010 the second-worst year since 1980 - the average number of catastrophic events over the last decade was 785.

Although the earthquake in Haiti was to blame for 222 570 of the reported deaths, this does not take away the effect disasters had on people who lost their homes, were displaced, evacuated and sometimes forgotten as another disaster claimed headlines.

I sometimes think that there seem to be more disasters because the media is so much more embroiled and evident in our daily lives. But the fact that we're still reporting on their devastating consequences should not be overlooked, and nor should the fact that their frequency and intensity is increasing.

January 3, 2011

Polymer Clay Crafts

3 January 2011

My mom was our polymer clay artist, but she only played around before I was old enough to remember her sitting at the table, painstakingly shaping the legs and bodies and eyes. She made small and cute creatures, and she keeps them in the lounge in one of those little wooden shelves*, a memory of a simpler time perhaps.

Melanie's reindeer
I also love Whimsical Creations' little wonders! They are all so cute, and, of course, make me considerably jealous that my job is not as fun! :)

Melanie posted a little tutorial on how to make your own little reindeer. It's not really relevant anymore, I suppose, but I only recently came across it, and thought you'd like to take a look. It's really very simple!

Thanks Melanie for the inspiration! :)

Via Whimsical Creations

Or you could join her on Facebook.

*PS Does anyone know what those little wooden shelves are called? They're sometimes in the shape of little houses? I can't for the life of me remember what they're called!

January 2, 2011

This time last year...


2 January 2011

I was in Bela-Bela at a small place called Chanty's for New Year.

Shaun and I had taken his aunt and cousin along to Warmbaths. Chanty's is one of our favourite spots - you'll have to be really nice for me to tell you where it is! ;) - as it's quite close to the resort, and also offers its own amenities, such as an indoor heated pool, an outside pool, and comfortable self-catering chalets.

I remember last year this time it was raining, but it didn't stop us from swimming, even to the point of jumping in the warm pool and running outside after each other in the rain, plunging into the cold pool and making a return trip to the warm pool a few times! :)

I think the family thought we were a little crazy!

MIM || Knitting squares


2 January 2011

I started to collect a series of knitting books a while ago. Retailers in South Africa now have the crochet version on sale, but the main project of the series was a knitted square afghan.

I had stopped collecting the series after a while, but continued to knit my own squares. During my holiday I managed to knit twelve of them - yes, I admit, I'm a slow knitter!

The main problem I had was the different patterns of the squares, because after a while they all started to look the same. I found Vogue Knitting's Stitchionary very useful, and had fun co-ordinating the squares so they all look different!

Anyway, the afghan is now the perfect size for a lap blanket, but I'm not sure if I should continue knitting squares and make it into a larger blanket? What do you think?

Away for the holidays


2 January 2011

My husband and I haven't been away in a while - just the two of us having an adventure - so we went to the Magaliesberg in the north-west of Gauteng.

Whispering Pines Country Estate is just outside of the city of Magaliesburg. I wasn't aware of it when booking, but the entire area once belonged to Farmer Brown Chickens, and the reception and restaurant area of the hotel was actually the original farmhouse where the owner of the chicken company stayed.

Although many of the properties were sold off, there are still several chicken farms in the surrounding area. Unfortunately this also meant that our nostrils were assailed by the occasional smell of chicken farm.

The lodge is very pretty though - the gardens are well-kept, the service is efficient and almost too quick and the air is fresh enough (most of the time!) to allow you to feel as though you're far away from the city and work life.

I can't help imagining what it must be like to run a place like that, far away from most civilisation. But the one manager said in this line of business, you spend little time with family, so that must be one of the cons of lodge management.

The first day saw us relax by the pool for a while, and the three-course dinner was very impressive! Breakfast on the second day was also lovely - crumpets, muffins, croissants, cold meats, fruit and a country breakfast - just what you need to make you super lazy!

The second day offered us a relaxing massage, although I wouldn't say it was that great, but I still felt relaxed!

On the third day, we took a hike up the ridge, which offered a lovely view of the Magaliesberg from the hills we were staying at, which are the Witwatersberg. I forgot to put sunscreen on the tops of my hands so they were a bit burnt! :P

Even though we were there for three nights, and left feeling relaxed, I still don't feel ready for work! :)