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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Times Like These #4, & A Few Blogging Considerations



A few days ago, I was talking with a friend about social media, about how it can be such a valuable tool for creatives these days - but also about how you're no longer as good as your work, and only as good as the visibility you can give it. But I... the kind of person I am? Promoting myself is just not something I can do without a severe push from a third party and a nagging feeling in the back of my mind. It drains me like few things can.

So the other day, I looked at the follower count, here on the blog, and though "a year of blogging... and that's it?" - and you know what, I should have slapped myself. The fact that there are even people, people who aren't my personal friends, people around the world, interested in reading about my life is huge, all by itself. So, readers, I'm speaking to you directly. Thank you. I find it incredible that you're here, and I am beyond grateful for your support. I think it's easy to get caught-up in numbers when I am bombarded by people promoting themselves every day, people discussing the best ways to gain visibility, people obsessed with their relevance in whatever niche they write in. It's also easy to blame others for the fact that, ultimately, I wasn't focused enough on my own goals, which in turn made it easy to get sidetracked by theirs.

Followers don't just appear overnight. Followers are something you gain, something you work for, and honestly? Not something I want to focus on. I started this blog a year ago, more or less, and I did it for one very simple reason: blogging is something I just can't not do. I've been keeping diaries all my life. This is just another version of that same habit. Some people blog for a living, some people blog for ads and sponsors and various types of compensation, some people blog because they feel they have something to offer - I'm just not in any of those groups. This is, above all things, a personal blog, and as such, it feels impossibly dissonant to treat it the way advice on the internet tells me I should. I wouldn't promote my diary. I wouldn't build editorial calendars for my diary. I wouldn't worry about the amount of people who read my diary.

In the end, I guess I've given this a lot of thought, and arrived at the conclusion that this little URL will not be a priority in the great year of 2014. If social media is draining, and if I can only handle small amounts of it, then I guess I'll have to save them for something worthwhile. Things that aren't my diary. I may choose not to blog - and I will try to spend that time being productive instead. Or, I may choose to blog - but I will do it for fun, and I will expect nothing of it. It's just not healthy to worry so much about something this trivial. It's just not healthy to write meta posts about one's diary!



So. For fun, and expecting nothing of it, let's get to the post! First of all, I got a hair cut just before the holidays - the first photo was taken on Christmas Eve, the photo below was taken right after I arrived home from the hair salon. Too bad the blue highlight faded after two washes, it reminded me of Mako Mori from Pacific Rim. (meaning, it reminded me that I, too, have everything it takes to pilot a giant robot) On the left, little things I have amassed during this consumerist holiday we call Christmas. Zara silk shirt (you don't know what I went through to find it), tiny jars I will probably use to display dried flowers, a Galilean thermometer, a new day planner, and lipstick from Bourjois in that awesome orange/red shade I'd been wanting for ages.

Then, I was on cocktail duty for the holidays, but because I am a minimalist barmaid, I basically took every recipe I found and made it simpler. Above, a half-half mix of caramel vodka and apple juice (10/10, would rec); below, in the white tray, something I believe was black vodka, red fruit juice, and club soda in equal parts (5/10, will probably use less club soda next time); below, in the skull glass, absinthe prepared the old-fashioned way, with ice water and sugar (6/10, would try again with less sugar). I've also bought a corset! This will come as a surprise only to some of you, but I've been lacing up for a few days now, and the results have been pretty encouraging. This photo was taken on the very first day, with the corset only half-assedly laced, and it shows - can you see the gaps on the bottom? It doesn't look like that anymore, but... yes, expect a full post on the matter soon, because I have a lot of corset-related thoughts to share.

Have a great week!
xx




Friday, January 03, 2014

2013, A Recap

Friends! A happy new year to you all, and I hope the holidays have treated you well. Today I bring you a... slightly late 2013 Recap. You see, I tried to get this finished before December ended, but I tend to die to the world in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, and it usually takes me a whole other week to get back into shape.

So. Today is January 3rd, which puts me right on schedule. Are you ready for an image-heavy recap?

Experiences, Little Things, Etc

Looking back, it definitely feels as if 2013 was nothing but college work - and in fact it was, for the first half or so. Nevertheless, I got to do a handful of fun things: first, I created this blog; I spent most of my birthday alone, which was surprisingly therapeutic; I got a shoulder tendinitis, which has been incredibly fun; I made a tiny terrarium in a Nutella jar; I adopted a second puppy, who is almost hilariously unlike our oldest dog; I wrote book reviews for this blog, for the first and last time; later, I created a book review blog; I spent some of my free time burying dead animals so I could unearth them later (no progress so far, that's going to happen in 2014); I started writing for Carnival Of Aces, which has been a very interesting experience in validation and self-discovery; I took up knitting (I haven't advanced a single inch since October); I finished my first set of butterfly lockets; a little after that, I also opened an Etsy shop; I learnt how to make raspberry brownies; and I made a frankly AWESOME twig Christmas tree.

Events worth photographing were the the medieval fair in July, the Steampunk Convention in September, and the NaNoWriMo Kick-Off Party in November, all pictured below.





Places

There were no big travels in 2013 (something I hope to change in 2014) but still, I visited a few new places. Behold, the sad Palacete Pinto Leite, in Porto; and the incredible Museu Soares dos Reis, also in Porto (covered in three posts: one, two, three).






Later in the year, I also got to see a random and slightly creepy chapel in Nazaré; the not-so-aptly named National Museum Of National History And Science and Butterfly House in Lisbon; and an impossibly cool taxidermy exhibit, unsurprisingly, in Porto.






Music

The year's greatest musical discoveries were The Civil Wars (listen: Barton Hollow | The One That Got Away), Mélissa Laveaux (listen: Postman | Triggers), Alice Fancis (listen: Shoot Him Down | Gangsterlove), and Foe (listen: Mother May I? | The Black Lodge).






In the world of Korean pop, there were dozens of good songs, videos, and albums, but because it's easier to measure time in singles, here are my favorites, in no particular order: IU's Red Shoes, a super energizing 20s-inspired electro-jazzy song with a video to match; Brown Eyed Girls's Kill Bill, an homage to the Tarantino film with a slight comedy twist; and History's What Am I To You, which managed to play the tropes of a boyband video completely straight (the elaborate choreo, the close-ups) while going in the completely opposite direction with the other half of the video (heavy smoking, heavy drinking, depressed boys in their underwear, etc etc etc).





The second batch of favorites, still in no particular order includes: Jaejoong's Mine, a badass song/video about fighting the people who contamine your room and block the light that shines on you (I swear I'm not making this up); Sunny Hill's Darling Of All Hearts, a good-humoured take on what it's like to be the single girl who somehow ends up giving out relationship advice (with bonus folk-ish intrumental!); VIXX's Voodoo Doll, which is quite frankly a little too gory for general audiences (you probably shouldn't watch it if body modification... and blood... and guts... and needles... freak you out), but just right for this morbid blogger; and Block B's Very Good, the official comeback of the world's most inadequate boyband, where they rob a bank, make fun of the world's obsession with swag, and wear corsets. You know, the usual.






TV

2013 was more or less the year I came back to watching TV. I lack the attention span to watch long series, you see, so generally, I don't even start. Still, this past year I found myself obsessively following American Horror Story: Coven, which you've probably heard of (the witches! the hats! the house! in New Orleans! hold me before I start singing The House Of The Rising Sun!), and unearthing a Korean drama from 2011 called White Christmas.




Now. Both shows are really good, but I will always have a thing for the Break The Cutie trope, and White Christmas pretty much runs on it. The story is simple: in a high school for the top 1% students in the country, seven kids receive a mysterious letter with a poem and a threat, stating they will find a body in the school grounds during Christmas break. So what do they do? They stay in their glass cage of a school for the duration of the break, with only one teacher to keep them company. The show poses one question, and it's right up my alley: are monsters born, or created?

Oh, and finally, because I don't live under a rock, I might have gotten a little too invested in Attack On Titan. I will say one thing and one thing only: this anime knows how to make an impression.



Books

I read 40 books in 2013, a large number for me, but still a good ten books short of my goal. The only book I rated with five stars was Tanith Lee's Disturbed By Her Song, a collection of "tales of homosexual love and desire". It's the perfect book for those days when all you want to do is curl up with a blanket and daydream.

Four-star ratings were slightly more common, befitting the likes of Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment; Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives Of Human Cadavers and Spook: Science Tackles The Afterlife; Benjamin Alire Sáenz's Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe (I cried like a baby); Janni Fagan's The Panopticon; Kevin Miserocchi's The Addams Family: An Evilution (which compiled the original work of the Family's creator, Charles Addams); Stephen T. Asma's Stuffed Animals And Pickled Heads: The Culture And Evolution Of Natural History Museums; Michelle Lovric's The Book Of Human Skin; and Tanith Lee's The Silver Metal Lover.

Films

I didn't watch a lot of movies in 2013 - in fact, I think I went to the movies exactly once. Actually no, wait. Twice. Like every self-respecting Portuguese person, I went to see La Cage Dorée, a Luso-French production about a family of Portuguese emigrants in Paris. It hit a little close to home, being a granddaughter of emigrants myself, and I must confess I did cry a bit. Ok, a lot. But so did everyone in the room during the same exact scene, so it felt right.

Like every self-respecting fan of cool-looking movies, I also went to see Pacific Rim - it wasn't perfect, but some of the characters were. Just like the soundtrack, the incredible action sequences (boat sword!), and of course, the overall concept. They say a sequel has been approved. I am 110% in for it.




There were other movies, of course, and these three were my favorite: Byzantium, a very awesome, very fresh take on vampire lore by the director of Interview With The Vampire and The Company Of Wolves; Stoker, an almost Freudian tale of love, desire, and of course murder; and American Mary, a pseudo horror movie about a medical student who lets the promise of easy money lure her into the world of underground body modification.





Can you say YAY for complex female characters? I can, and looking back, I can tell 2013 was a good year to be Team Girl. Hopefully 2014 will be even better? Wish me luck, and see you next week!

Love, a slightly shaken Anna who, somehow, still thinks we're in 2013.
xx
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

DIY: Twig Christmas Tree




Forgive last week's absence, friends, but for health reasons (remember my shoulder?) I had to dramatically cut my computer time. I spent the time doing quality things, though, like reading, painting my nails the most ridiculous chartreuse, and setting up Christmas trees.

Yes. Plural. We take Christmas very seriously around here, and that usually means multiple Christmas trees. The kitchen has been set up (white tree, red ornaments), the entry as well (off-white tree, gold/brown ornaments), my sister should be taking care of her room soon (white tree, pink/green ornaments), the living room will probably be last (green tree, red ornaments)... and well, me, I decided to take a different route.

My mother created the original Twig Tree a couple of years ago, but its demise came one rainy afternoon as someone bumped against it and the whole thing crashed to the floor. The vase broke, the twigs broke, the ornaments broke. It was the end, but this year, I decided to take it upon myself to resurrect the beast (or a version of it) for my own purposes. It's a simple DIY, and I'm mostly posting the steps so I can tell you about all the things I did wrong... but here we go anyway.