Monday, July 26, 2010

DIY Mini-Tutorial: A Rose Ring

As I'd mentioned in my previous post, I'm not going shopping for a long time. I hope that my bank account will finally get a rest and actually put some meat on those very slender bones.

Instead of buying things, I decided to make 'em! I love, love, love DIY. I've been DIYing since I was a tot, trying to make jewelry out of seed pods and broken necklaces, and stapling loose pages together to form "books." So yeah, I think I have some experience in the field of DIY. Who hasn't? ;)

The problem with crafts though, is that sometimes you have to go out and buy the materials. And considering my self-imposed ban on shopping, I was having a bit of trouble figuring out how to make something with the materials I had on hand. It was while I was pawing through my sewing box that Inspiration walloped me on the head with a large baseball bat. I saw stars. And my eyes shone in their cheery light.

Yes, that tutorial is coming. To end what was going to be a very poetic description had not its trembling author feared public displeasure, I made myself a pretty piece of jewelry using these materials :

1. A ribbon rose.You can get these at sewing shops or craft stores like Michaels. I lucked out because I found them at the sale bin, and bought 3 packets for $1. They are very cute, and I bought them with the vague belief that they would come in useful someday. And so they have.

2. A ring or a steel wire that you can bend. I used a circular metallic ring that used to be part of a bracelet. That bracelet was obviously sacrificed for the greater good of mankind. I've used it in nearly all my jewelry projects, and blessed the friend who gifted it to me. Of course she has no idea that the bracelet is -er- deconstructed, but I suspect she'll love me anyway.

3. Thread, preferably matching the green of the rose leaves.

And you're ready to go!


1. Take the rose and position it on the centre of the ring. Hold it in its position, and sew the rose to the ring. Sew it as tightly as you can. Another alternative is to glue it on, but I'm not a very big fan of this method, because the rose won't be as tightly bound as when sewn, and might fall off at a crucial moment.

 As you can see, I didn't have the exact same shade of thread that matched the leaves, so I just used the closest match I could find. And even if the sewing is messy ( which mine undoubtedly is), no one will notice when you're actually wearing the ring.

A few more close-ups:

Yes, that's actually my hand! My hand's on the Internet! Say hello, hand!

So that's pretty much it. All in all, it took me five minutes maximum to make. I actually did it at work, while waiting for some papers to be scanned. And yes, I told my supervisor what I was doing. She seemed a bit surprised; I guess receptionists should be forever filing their nails instead of sewing.

You don't necessarily have to use a white rose. You can use any colour you like. I think this ring is cute and feminine, and I enjoy wearing it. I've also spied a few women looking at it on the subway ;)

This has been my first tutorial ever! Please comment if you like it, or if you have any other suggestions on how I can improve on it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wisdom- That Jewel Most Precious

It comes as no surprise to me that Wisdom in the Bible takes the form of a woman.  And so does Folly, before I start a gender war on my peaceful little blog. But God’s got me thinking a lot about Wisdom lately, and I am taking to a blog post to try and articulate my confused thoughts.
It all started with this verse in the Bible:
“ And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever."
(1 Chronicles 28 :9)
I was immediately struck by this verse. What is my motive in serving God? My motive is simple: I want to know God intimately and obey all his commands. I want to walk hand-in-hand with him in my journey through the sands of Life.
And to walk through this journey in a manner that pleases God, I need Wisdom. The realization came to me as I reflected on that famous prayer of Solomon’s, where he asks God for wisdom, and God grants it.  It was also no surprise that my pastors at church began a sermon series on Proverbs, and that the first proverbs are exhortations to seek Wisdom. Consider these compelling verses from the man said to be the wisest on earth:

Proverbs 2
Moral Benefits of Wisdom
 1 My son, if you accept my words
       and store up my commands within you,

 2 turning your ear to wisdom
       and applying your heart to understanding,

 3 and if you call out for insight
       and cry aloud for understanding,

 4 and if you look for it as for silver
       and search for it as for hidden treasure,

 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
       and find the knowledge of God.

 6 For the LORD gives wisdom,
       and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

And later on in the chapter Solomon goes on to add, “ Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her."

With all due respect to myself, I never thought that wisdom was for me. After all I’m the most scatterbrained, most irresponsible, most impulsive person I know. Sometimes I feel that I have such a long way to go, and I just want to lie down and give up.
These past few weeks, however, I’ve been feeling God steering me gently towards the topic of wisdom. I can hear Him say, “ Look at it again. Why do you think you can never be wise? You can never be a true Christian without wisdom.”

I was amazed to hear this. I hadn't given wisdom much thought before. I had merely assumed it was for the elderly and the experienced; two categories I do not fall into, and therefore I didn’t think I could be described as wise. But why can’t I be? Wisdom is a desirable thing, as evinced by the Proverbs.
I am not talking about worldly wisdom by the way. Wordly wisdom seems to me another word for knowledge, how many facts one can cram into his or her brain until said brain is ready to explode. What I am talking about is wisdom from God, wisdom to live in this world while remaining a shining light for him. As Proverbs 2:6 says, God is the giver of wisdom. And without His wisdom, I am convinced I can never be a truly fruitful follower of Christ. Not to mention a rather ineffective missionary. Every Christian needs wisdom in their walk with God. This metaphor of a journey is again played out in Proverbs 4: 11
“ I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.”

So how do I go about acquiring wisdom? As I pondered this, windows began opening in certain dark areas of my mind, windows that I’d previously been too afraid or too lazy to open. I realized that I was in danger of becoming too contented with myself. There were still areas I needed to clean and dust up, bits of my life that were tarnishing and falling into disarray. I began evaluating these areas and deciding what God would want me to do about them.  Here are some of the earth-shattering decisions I made:
  1.      I resolved to help about in the house more. Both my mother and I work full-time in the summer, but I noticed my mother was doing more housework than I was. My job is not as stressful as hers, and plus I’m younger and therefore supposed to have boundless energy.
  2.     Not to spend as much time on the Internet as possible. It’s all too easy to come back home exhausted from work and vegetate immediately before the ‘Net. I resolved to go back to good old fashioned reading and sneak in some time to do crafts.
  3.      I planned to spend as much time with God as possible. As Dallas Willard says in his book “ Hearing God,” the point of communication with God is that we end up in communion with Him. I want to be as deeply in communion with God as I can possibly be. Instead of wasting my time on useless dreams, I try to talk with God silently in my head as much as possible, praying for people I come across, and praying for all my friends and family. It’s not easy, especially because we tend to be so self-centered, but practice makes perfect so they say, and I’m hopeful that I will improve after a while.
  4.       Curb my shopaholic tendencies! I’d previously read “The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic,” and had laughed my head off, inwardly thanking my stars that I wasn’t a materialistic spendthrift like the heroine. Unfortunately, when I got my first job I realized how hard it is not to spend. Currently I’m trying not to buy anything until school starts. I need to learn how to save!

Perhaps it’s not so surprising how a meditation on wisdom led me to make these lifestyle changes. After all, surely it’s wiser to act than to remain meditating, right? I felt that God wanted me to make these changes, and by way of the topic of Wisdom, had shown me the bright red glaring errors I’d been subconsciously (and lazily) making.
Honestly, the more I think about wisdom, the more I realize that it is as essential to the Christian life as water is to a tree. Without the nourishment of wisdom we cannot grow into strong and fruitful plants. It is wisdom that helps us penetrate to the deepest depths and helps us appreciate with purity and clarity the soul-stirring love and the breath-taking majesty of God. Without wisdom we would not even be scratching the surface; our understanding and appreciation of God’s love would be shallow and farcical, nothing better than a faint apprehension.
That is why I want wisdom, and the maturity that comes with wisdom, to walk hand-in-hand with me as I journey through the adventurous paths of a Christian life.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Miss Austen Regrets- a Meandering and Chatty Review

Once, when I was still innocent, I watched a movie titled Becoming Jane. Ten minutes later, I was finished. I couldn’t take the pain anymore. And I know this sounds a tad dramatic ( I am, after all, raised on a diet of Bollywood), but these are my true feelings. I couldn’t bear Anne Hathaway’s pout-smirk, the idiotic dialogues, and the wildly improbable plot. Well I did only watch ten minutes, but I heartily disliked it. I still dislike it. They slaughtered Jane Austen.  ( Must curb drama!). I mean, they misunderstood Jane Austen.  Apart from grudgingly acknowledging the soundtrack, I decided I never wanted to think of Becoming Jane again, lest I do bodily damage to the t.v screen.

This week I finally got to finish another biopic on Jane Austen, the BBC production depressingly called Miss Austen Regrets. Why did I open myself to the possibility of another heartburn? Well, I’d done my homework properly this time, and actually watched the trailer. I was initially struck by two things: Olivia Williams, and the fact that they appeared to have used some of Jane’s actual lines.

I love Miss Austen Regrets. Without reservation and without regret ( lame pun totally intentional). Why do I love this movie so? Let me count the ways:
  1.   As I’d mentioned earlier, Olivia Williams. I consider OW a fine actress, who seems tres overrated and who possesses a wonderfully mobile face, not to mention very expressive eyes. Unlike those who shall not be mentioned, she really seemed to get the character of Austen. I loved how she portrayed her, with an ironic air and witty pronouncements on men that barely masked the fragile vulnerability underneath. 

2.       I’m glad that unlike BJ, they didn’t entirely focus on Jane’s love life. Though in Miss Austen Regrets, the focus seems to be Jane’s apparent lack of a love life. But intertwined with the theme of romance inexperienced were Jane’s concerns with writing, and with the need for money to support her sister and her mother. As she remarks bitterly to Rev. Bridges, one of her admirers, “ I am to be my own husband it seems.” Taking such responsibility  is not easy, even in our enlightened twenty-first century. I read in the papers last week that women in Canada were still making less money at their jobs than their male counterparts. And if women are having difficulties now in 2010, imagine those difficulties magnified in 1810, where women did not have much (if any) choice in the way of careers.

  2.  Hugh Bonneville! I’m so pleased he’s in this. I’ve a soft spot for him, mainly because he’s such a reliable actor. He always delivers. In all the roles I’ve seen him in so far, he’s managed to execute them so capably that I never have trouble distinguishing them apart.  His rendition of Rev. Bridges was like Williams’ portrayal of Austen: emotionally repressed yet vulnerable.

3. A grand part of Jane’s dialogue was taken from the letters which she wrote, making it all more “real.” I felt happy knowing that this was what Jane really thought, and not some lines a screenwriter conjured out of thick air.

4.   The costumes were lovely, and I loved the colours of Jane’s dresses, especially the dark red-brown dress she wore most of the time and another dress of royal blue. Such deep, warm colours suit Olivia’s complexion very well, and I hankered after those dresses myself, in spite of my proclaimed affection for jeans.

5.  I was impressed with Imogen Poots’ portrayal of Fanny. I found Fanny extremely annoying; na├»ve, simplistic and self-absorbed, and I applaud Imogen for carrying off such characteristics so well. Fanny is after all, a teenager, and her youth and emotional outbursts were very well contrasted with Jane’s maturity and finely masked feelings.

I suppose I should reason out why I dislike BJ so much and why I entirely prefer Miss Austen Regrets. First of all, biopics are hard. Considering the fact that they’re about real people, I can understand the dilemma that confronts directors, screenwriters and actors: How does one make the film as real and relatable as possible? How can the film reel in viewers’ attention?
The problem with Becoming Jane, is that I feel the directors, screenwriters,etc., ignored the first question and jumped onto the second question.  And I feel insulted, because they obviously didn’t consider the real details of Jane’s life interesting enough to stick to them. Instead they created a fiction with the scanty information they had, an enjoyable fiction I suppose, but a fiction nonetheless.
Miss Austen Regrets however, seems to have regarded both questions with intelligence. Not only is it much more historically accurate than Becoming Jane, Jane Austen’s character is explored with respect and sensitivity. While it might not be 100% true ( I think that’s too much to ask of anything, really), the format of sticking with what was known along with throwing in some deviations worked stylistically and flowed smoothly.

Perhaps the film’s greatest advantage is that the character Jane actually uses some of the lines that the real Jane wrote.  I stress this because using these lines from Jane Austen’s letters made Olivia Williams’ portrayal much more real to me. I could imagine the real Jane saying them, and this was no great feat because she had said them.  Or wrote them, if you want to be painfully accurate.  In Becoming Jane on the other hand, I could scarcely imagine the real Jane even thinking up such lines, much less saying them. Please note that I did only watch ten minutes, so I’m talking about the first ten minutes of the film. I don’t care to put myself through more torture to hear the rest of Jane’s lines in BJ. I’d rather drink cough syrup.
Perhaps none of the films got Jane Austen. And I don’t think any film, any biographer can present the whole, unvarnished truth. Books, films, letters, can all reveal several facets of a person’s character, but can never be, and will never be exhaustive troves of information on that person. And while I cannot know Jane Austen because she is dead; I can admire her spirit and her independence, and thank her for all the hours of simple enjoyment I have found in her books.

P.S: I claim Henry Tilney as MINE! Ah, the power of having a blog! I can say anything, anything!