Girl crushes

12 Jan

I watched Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s opening monologue for the 72nd Golden Globes tonight, and I knew it was time to make an addition to my girl power series: girl crushes. The way I see girl crushes, it basically translates to wanting to be that person. (I’m pretty sure it works the same way for guys and “man crushes,” no?) While there are many women–friends and family, famous and obscure, past and present–whom I love and admire, here’s a quick list of celebrity-type ladies I am (pardon the Valley Girl-ness) totally crushing on right now.

1. Amy Poehler

Loved her book Yes Please, especially in audiobook form, which she recorded herself. It was my first celebrity memoir; I gave it a chance because I love her so much on Parks & Rec, and I came to love her as a person too. She manages to be both grounded and goofy. She writes about her past and herself with such self-awareness and gratitude. I don’t agree with her on everything, of course, but she has wise words on friendship, motherhood, and being a girl in this crazy world. She has an organization that supports smart girls. And she’s hilarious.

Favorite quote from Yes Please, which Poehler says women should repeat over and over (image designed by me):

Second favorite quote:

Amy Poehler (love her!) in Yes Please: “However, if you do start crying in an argument and someone asks why, you can always say, "I'm just crying because of how wrong you are.” " | via spifftacular.2. Tina Fey

Do I even need to elaborate? She’s Tina freakin’ Fey. She’s funny, smart, and gorgeous. (Also, from Philly! And she mentioned hoagies in her monologue!)

Fey ripping on unrealistic beauty standards for women:

Tina Fey at 72nd Golden Globes: "Steve Carell's Foxcatcher look took two hours to put on, including his hairstyling and makeup. Just for comparison it took me three hours today to prepare for my role as human woman."3. Robyn

(1) It’s impossible to listen to “Call Your Girlfriend” and not dance and feel happy and triumphant. (2) She’s a Swede! (3) This perfect thing Ann Friedman wrote about her: “If pop music’s about sanitised emotions and sexuality for sale, then Robyn’s no pop star. Her lyrics bubble from genuine feeling, and she prefers 6cm platform basketball shoes to tottering in heels. … The lyrics are about being vulnerable but strong, lovelorn but independent, and they’re set to a beat so infectious that dancing is involuntary.”

(Ann Friedman herself is girl crush material–I am addicted to her weekly newsletter and podcast.)

4. Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay: "The "first" of it all is the bittersweet part. I'm certainly not the first black woman deserving of this. You can't tell me that since 1943 there's not been another black woman who's made something worthy of this kind of recognition. But for whatever reason it hasn't happened. The time is now. I thank them for recognizing Selma. I just hope … that we get through all the 'firsts,' that we can just get to the good stuff and that people can just make their work and move on from [that conversation]."Image via WBEZ/Flickr, quote via USA Today.

I haven’t even seen Selma yet (I will!) but I already love this lady. I read this New York Times profile of her and saw her interviewed on The Daily Show, and while both highlighted her talent as a director, what struck me was how she simply oozes power and poise. And that’s just what she needs as a member of, as the NYT noted, “‘a small sorority’ of black female filmmakers, who are part of another modest American sisterhood: female directors of any color.” When most of the people in charge of producing, directing, and portraying stories in film and TV are white men, those stories are inevitably going to have a somewhat narrow view, even if there are good intentions. Ava DuVernay and her work offer an awesome example of how right it is to have greater representation of women and people of color in media. (More gals in the Senate wouldn’t hurt, either.)

5. Bonnie Oscarson

OK, so she’s not a Hollywood type or famous beyond the world of Mormonism, but I’m including her anyway. Bonnie Oscarson is the Young Women General President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When she was called to that position a few years ago, my mom and I had fun poring through her Pinterest page. I like the quote she has on her profile page, and turned it into a design that reflects her cute red-and-white-themed pinboard (see, I told you I’m a fangirl):

Bonnie Oscarson on her Pinterest page: "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." And may I add just downright cute to the list? | via spifftacular.

I like her style, including her “All things Swedish” pinboard (plus, her username is “mormor,” which means maternal grandmother in Swedish). And I loved her talk about sisterhood and how women can learn from each other and support each other.

Now it’s your turn to share: Who are your girl crushes, and why?

* Links to Amazon are affiliates. Fonts used in designs above are, in order, Quicksand, Raleway, and St Marie.

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Hello, 2015

7 Jan

2015fontI’ve been neglecting blogland in favor of pressing concerns like moving, unpacking, last-minute decorating and sugar-cookie-baking, and Christmas-festivity-hosting.

But I’m back!

I have resolutions for the new year, which I may delve into on the blog. I don’t often/ever make or stick to resolutions, but this just feels like a good year for them. How about you–are you making resolutions this year?

Sidenote: I am content to leave behind 2014 because… I’ve never really liked the number four. The Chinese have their reasons for esteeming four as inauspicious, but I don’t have a reason. It’s simply my least favorite number. Five (well, one-five) sounds fresh and crisp; it feels full of possibility.

Sidenote 2: I started envisioning 2014 as some cluttered serif font and 2015 as a clean, ultra-thin sans-serif. That led me, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie style, to search my font collection and the interwebs for a font that PERFECTLY REPRESENTS THE GLORIOUS ESSENCE OF 2015. I have determined that that is not possible, or at least not possible if I want to get any sleep tonight, but for now let’s settle with Code Light by Font Fabric. (Feel free to suggest your own candidate.) Yes, I know I have a problem.

Here’s to 2015!

 

 

Twitterature: Faith, race, and dump trucks

15 Dec

Twitterature = a compilation of short(ish) reviews of books I’m reading these days, inspired by the brilliant bibliophile blog Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Let me show you how dedicated I was to getting this blog post together: We just moved yesterday, and I carefully labeled a box so I knew where my latest books were:

recentbooksThen again, I’m an overly specific box-labeler anyway. I’ve learned from sad experience what a pain it is to open up a dozen boxes just to find one thing–it’s much easier to label beforehand!

Now, back to the books. (Book title links are Amazon affiliate links.)

FINISHED:

weepsThe God Who Weeps, Terryl and Fiona Givens (5 stars)

The subtitle is “How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life,” but it is so much more than that. The authors examine what centuries of thinkers–theologists of both Christianity and other faiths, scientists, philosophers, poets–have pondered, reasoned, imagined, and believed about the purpose and meaning of life. It was refreshing and faith-restoring to see my own faith deconstructed and then built back up from scratch. I appreciate and admire the authors’ approach in drawing from such diverse sources, in valuing reason as well as faith, and in weaving it all together in a poetic style that mirrors the inspired works they quote. And their thesis that God is powerful yet vulnerable–it is a game-changer. Aside from the Book of Mormon (obviously), this is the book I would recommend to anyone interested in learning about Mormon beliefs, or anyone intrigued by the idea of a personal yet powerful God. #gamechanging #faith #requiredmormonreading

doubtThe Crucible of Doubt, Terryl and Fiona Givens (5 stars)

For me, this book and the Givenses’ previous book (above) were incredibly helpful reads at a time when I had questions about my own faith. We tend to have a language of certitude in the LDS Church–we hear people say “I know the Church is true” and think that if we don’t know, we’re failing. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle, recently spoke about believing and knowing, and the Givenses offer a more in-depth view of how we can productively approach doubt. #faith #requiredmormonreading

My favorite quote from The God Who Weeps, which also applies to The Crucible of Doubt:

“Whatever sense we make of this world, whatever value we place upon our lives and relationships, whatever meaning we ultimately give to our joys and agonies, must necessarily be a gesture of faith. Whether we consider the whole a product of impersonal cosmic forces, a malevolent deity, or a benevolent god, depends not on the evidence, but on what we choose, deliberately and consciously, to conclude from that evidence” (p. 3).

nienieHeaven is Here, Stephanie Nielson (3 stars)

Stephanie Nielson’s blog was popular from the early days of mommy blogging, and Nielson made headlines after surviving a plane crash with her husband that left severe burns on much of her body. I’ve only checked out a handful of her blog posts–when it comes to Mormon mommy blogs, I tend to prefer the satirical kind. I admire her resilience in overcoming significant physical and emotional challenges and was fascinated by the details of her difficult recovery. There were some details that rubbed me the wrong way, like the fact that she nonchalantly bought a ($400 to $700) Vitamix blender as a gift even though she had noted her family would be living off money donated by caring friends and strangers (and turns out, most of their hospital bills were covered by insurance or forgiven). Still, her memoir is an absorbing and inspiring read. #memoir #mommyblogger #survivalstory

KID LIT:

dumptrucksDump Trucks, by Charles Lennie (5 stars, even after the millionth time)

Lars is really into trucks these days. The library just got this new “construction machines” series, including books about cranes, excavators, concrete mixers, loaders, and bulldozers. We’ve been reading Dump Trucks, Cranes, and Concrete Mixers on repeat.  #dumptruckoverload #kidlit

hughesPoetry for Young People: Langston Hughes (5 stars)

You all know why race is in the news. Lars, not yet two, is too young to have meaningful conversations about race (or why he shouldn’t throw his dinner on the floor…). But I’m a believer in the power of literature, and I think exposing him to diverse books is a great start. Even though this isn’t a board book, I have been pleasantly surprised that Lars loves it. Maybe it’s the illustrations? Or he is magically enthralled by the lyrical lilt of Langston Hughes? Who knows. There are so many beautiful selections, and it’s haunting how many are still relevant decades after being written. Favorites: “I, Too,” “Note on Commercial Theatre,” and “Harlem.” #kidlit #poetry #weneeddiversebooks #larsloveslangston

afroamPoetry for Young People: African American Poetry (5 stars)

Another great library find. Lars isn’t as enamored with it as he is with Langston Hughes, but I like it. This and the Langston Hughes book are part of the Poetry for Young People series. I’ve been interested in poetry lately thanks to my friend Allison, who wrote a poem a day last month (read them all!), and I appreciate that this series offers brief notes for each poem, providing historical and literary context, and even definitions for less-common words. They’re perfect for people young and old who are new to poetry or to a particular poet. #kidlit #poetry #weneeddiversebooks

IN PROGRESS:

rightmindThe Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt

This has been on my to-read list forever. Reading the Givenses’ thoughtful analysis of faith motivated me to look this up again. I’m not far in, but so far so good. #psychology #religion #politics #audiobook

 

yesplsYes Please, Amy Poehler

I say “yes please” to this book and to Amy Poehler because she is awesome. If you shudder at swearing (Mom), there is some of that. But just like Amy and her many alter egos, the book is delightful. This is what got me through a week of packing the house! Definitely get the audiobook (narrated by her and other guest stars). #humor #audiobook

What are you reading these days?

Packing with pom-poms

5 Dec

I’m in the middle of prepping for an across-town move. It’s our seventh home in six years of marriage, so I am pretty dang experienced when it comes to packing. However, this time around I have a little “helper” of the toddler variety.

Today as I was packing the dozenth (isn’t it wonderful to live in a world where dozenth is a word?) box of books, and Little L decided that his contribution would be to grab a fistful of pom-poms and pack them into the box.

pompomsMy first inclination was to get flustered and hastily transfer the pom-poms from the packing box to the toy box, because that is simply not the way one packs books, correct? My second inclination was to stop and recognize that there is really nothing wrong with packing with pom-poms. So the pom-poms stayed.

In fact, I relished the bright puffs of color set against the cardboard brown. It reminded me of one of my favorite childhood picture books, If You’re Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow (that’s an affiliate link). It’s full of whimsical illustrations and delightfully absurd-seeming aphorisms like “If tomorrow morning the sky falls, have clouds for breakfast” and “If it’s the last dance, dance backwards.” My less poetic addition: “If you’re trying to get something done with a toddler around, pack boxes with pom-poms.”

It occurred to me that in the year and half since this boy transferred from my womb to the world, nearly every minute of the day he finds ways to challenge how I want or expect things to be. (Surely anyone who is a parent–or really anyone who has opened their heart in raw, messy, vulnerable ways–can relate.) Sometimes I manage to be super zen and Elsa-like and let it go, and sometimes I feel chafed and bruised by the frustration and exhaustion of failing to find a happy medium. I feel and hope that through each challenge, I am coming closer to vague, elusive traits like grace, peace, and contentment–like when I can smile at my boy’s chubby, dimpled fingers stuffing pom-poms into a box.

P.S. This week I wrote a guest post for Feminist Mormon Housewives about President Eyring’s remarks on gender complementarity. Check it out!

When you get what you pray for

21 Nov

Ten days ago I posted this:

fbstatusThe idea of our toddler sleeping until the late hour of 7 in the morning was indeed laughable. I chuckled mid-prayer.

It was not unlike Sarah, who “laughed within herself” at the idea of giving birth in old age–she was all, yeah sure, like that’s gonna happen.

Then the thing she thought was a joke became reality. She was gently reminded, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”

Of course I thought it would be nice if Lars slept a little later so I could sleep or–gasp–shower. But his average wake-up time of 6 (it’s 5 on the most punishing days, 6:30 on the most luxurious days), and asking for more seemed downright esurient.

So maybe God, along with me, laughed at Dave’s boldness. Maybe He wanted to reward Dave for dreaming big, or to humble me for lacking faith.

Whatever the divine thought process, this is what happened: Almost every day in the past week and a half, that baby has indeed slept in until 7. Once, even 7 freaking 30. And today he magically slept in ’till 10 (I checked a couple times to make sure he was still breathing), though that was because he came down with something from a kid at the park who was literally coughing in his face.

The thing I thought was a joke became reality.

I had sent many pleas heavenward in the first year of Lars’ life. Please help me know how to get him to stop crying. Please help me get through the next ten minutes of painful breastfeeding. Please, please, please, let him sleep.

In some moments prayers seemed to be answered, others not. But as far as I understand the whole faith thing, sometimes God answers your prayers the way you want, and sometimes He doesn’t, and the trick is to keep believing in His love and His plan whatever and whenever answers come.

These days, I am grateful that answer comes in the form of a 7 a.m. wake-up call with my sweet boy.

Twitterature: Best-sellers

15 Nov

I still need to make good on my promise to recap my “adventures in feminist summer reading” as mentioned when I started the 31 days of girl power series, but first I feel obligated to cover all the other books I’ve been reading. As it happens, they’re all best-sellers. Here’s a list of short(ish) and sweet reviews, inspired by the twitterature of the brilliant bibliophile blog Modern Mrs. Darcy (which I discovered thanks to Charlotte).

First, two questions for you:

1. Does best-selling status make you more or less likely to read a book (and why)?

I can see both ways–sometimes I don’t mind the sticker of approval from the masses–I am terrible at picking books on a whim at the library or bookstore. But I’m also skeptical–popularity doesn’t equal literary virtue.

I can kind of relate to Britta on Community, who proudly declares that she only just started watching a Game of Thrones-esque show because “I don’t start watching shows until they’re so popular that watching them is no longer a statement.”

britta2. Do you read discussion questions at the end of the book? Do you like them, learn from them? Do you care if they’re written by the author?

I ask because I thought the questions written by Kathryn Stockett for The Help were uninspiring and slightly cheapened the satisfaction I felt at completing the book. But the Q&A section John Green wrote for The Fault in Our Stars was nearly my favorite part of the book. Perhaps because he was answering questions and not posing didactic questions? Anyway, let me know what you think.

On with the reviews! (Links are to Goodreads, although next time I may get fancy and use Amazon affiliate links.)

4667024

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (4 stars)

Procrastinated reading this–assumed it was a best-seller because it’s a feel-good girlfriend novel. Nope. Female relationships were sometimes catty but still believable. Gained perspective on the grueling racial discrimination and violence of the not-so-distant past. Enjoyed character development and dialects. Loved Aibilene, and her tenderness for and teaching of Mae Mobley. Loved the NY editor. Fave quote: “Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, We are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.” #fiction #worththehype

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (4 stars)

Loved the glorification of reading/books, appreciated the commentary on war and learning about a little-known story of the occupation. Found the ending so forced and ridiculous I thought my audiobook had somehow cut out the real ending. (Maybe it’s because the author’s niece helped her finish?) A little annoyed by the saintliness of the two protagonists (Juliet/Elizabeth). Still, an enjoyable, rewarding read. #historicalfiction #perfectaudiobook #goodbookbadending

2612The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell (5 stars)

Gladwell takes complex/important/abstract ideas and makes them seem obvious. (Actually, he uses the phrase “this may seem obvious, but…” a lot.) Fluid writing, solid research, compelling synthesis of ideas. #nonfiction #audiobook #obviousnotobvious

11870085The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green (4 stars)

It’s hard to separate my admiration for John Green from the story. Love his Crash Course videos and nerdfighteria, love his belief that “books belong to their readers!” and love the Q&A at the end. The book is brilliant because it capitalizes on classic YA tropes (teen geniuses, star-crossed lovers, a manic pixie dream girl boy) but still finds ways to challenge its audience. #YAfiction #worththehype #onlycriedonce #ihavenoheart

3636The Giver, by Lois Lowry (5 stars)

Reread this classic to refresh my memory (still need to see the movie). Always love seeing things in a novel I didn’t discern as a younger reader. Also interesting to contrast to currently popular dystopian YA novels, as this was the first of the genre. On this reading: most compelled by the denigration of birth mothers in the novel’s society, and the overwhelming truth that an existence without pain is without progression and without love (an idea reinforced in my current book, The God Who Weeps). Worth listening to the audio, if only for the narrator’s amusing pronunciation of the word “awkward.” #YAfiction #audiobook #justsaynotosamenes

Currently reading… The Crucible of Doubt and The God Who Weeps, both by Fiona and Terryl Givens.

*****

BONUS USAGE TIP!

Is it “best-seller”? “Best seller”? “Bestseller”? I prefer “best-seller,” but here’s what the style guides have to say:

  • AP Stylebook: best-seller Hyphenate in all uses.
  • Chicago Manual of Style: No explicit guideline, but one example in 5.54 states “the writer whose book was a best seller.”
  • New York Times Style Guide (it is their list, after all): best-seller list Make it the New York Times best-seller list when the newspaper’s name serves as a modifier or The New York Times’s best-seller list when the newspaper’s name serves as a noun. But the books are best sellers.

Instagram: To join or not to join?

9 Nov

The other night I went out to dinner with my friend Sydney and some of her friends I hadn’t met before. As we introduced each other and I mentioned I had a one-year-old, several people commented, “Oh, is that the baby I keep seeing on Sydney’s Instagram?”

Yes, my one-year-old is all over Instagram. Yet I am not.

I’ve held out for awhile now, mostly because I only recently got a smartphone. But I’m starting to cave to the temptation; the call of novelty beckons. Duty calls, too–as a communications professional I feel obligated to at least give a major social network a try. And Grandma (my mom) calls–she’s all about more baby pics in any medium.

Naturally, a silly, first-world problem such as this demands a silly, first-world solution. So… I Photoshopped a Venn diagram to analyze the pros and cons of joining Instagram.

Instagram Venn diagram{You can click the image to view a larger version.}

What say ye, readers? Stick with the status quo, or join my mom, my baby, and the rest of the world on Instagram? What experience have you had on Instagram? Do you constantly debate with yourself whether to stay on Facebook, etc.?

P.S. I’m also intrigued by the new network Ello and its manifesto about privacy, and got on the waiting list–anyone out there using that?

Yes on voting!

3 Nov

ivoted{Image via Fred Benenson/Flickr}

Working for several years at a museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution instilled in me a devotion to civic engagement.* I learned that good government requires “we the people” to be good citizens. There are myriad ways to be a good citizen, but one of the most powerful ways is to vote.

So of course I love this video from the Green brothers about why we should vote:

I will sheepishly admit that I haven’t been well-versed in the positions and records of the candidates in tomorrow’s elections, and I regret I didn’t immerse myself in the election process earlier so that I could perhaps get more involved in a campaign. (Can I use the excuse that we move nearly every year?) But I think a lot of people are in a similar situation, so let me tell you what I did: I checked Can I Vote to make sure I was registered. I spent about two hours researching each of the candidates’ websites, skimming various news articles about them, and checking out a local voters guide. I wrote down a sample ballot to bring to the polls, and I’m actually excited about some of the choices. And you know what? I think that still counts as being a good citizen.

Then again, voting isn’t, or shouldn’t be, about sanctimoniously proving to others you’re a good citizen. It’s about recognizing that your voice matters** and showing your elected officials–the people who are supposed to represent you–what you think is important for the community and country. So. Before I devolve into paragraphs about the grandeur of popular sovereignty and purple mountain majesties, here’s the important information–the handy Voter Information Tool created by WordPress and the Pew Charitable Trusts (also available as an iPhone or Android app):

 

Happy Election Day eve, America.

 

* Credit should also go to my Scoutmaster father and elementary-school-art-docent mom who taught me to read the newspaper every day, and to my church for reminding me every election cycle to vote, and I’m sure other people.

** Unless you’re a felon or former felon in most states. Which seems unfortunate to me, since civic participation has been linked with lower recidivism rates.

Happy Halloween from baby ewok!

1 Nov

Happy Halloween from the forest moon of Endor!

After strategically calculating the cutest possible costume for our child, we settled on ewok. You be the judge.

(If you’re interested in the DIY tutorials, scroll toward the bottom.)

IMG_0256{“Look, Ma, I have a spear!”}

 

IMG_0266 - Copy{Ewok with Endor Leia.}

Some people suggested that I go with the white-robe-and-cinnamon-roll-buns Leia because it’s more recognizable (and metal-bikini Leia just ain’t my style) but I was adamant that I dress as Endor Leia, to be consistent with the ewok, you know? My costume isn’t nearly as detailed as the Comic-Con crowd (see my costumes pinboard to check out some impressive cosplays, as the kids call ’em), but this is by far the most effort I’ve put into a Halloween costume, and it was a lot of fun.

It actually worked out perfectly to dress Lars as an ewok, because his just-learned-to-walk stride is uncannily ewok-like. And it is adorable. Just watch:

 

photo 1 (2){The photo is blurry, but baby’s patience was wearing thin, so oh well. We’re a happy family.}

 

10{Han Solo.}

11

 

13{Princess Leia.}

Full credit for most of the costume creation goes to my awesome mom.

Happy Halloween, everyone! And may the force be with you.

SIDENOTES

:: The Return of the Jedi has always been my favorite in the Star Wars series. You are required to share your favorite film in the comments.

:: Did anyone else watch those made-for-TV Ewok Adventure movies? My brothers and I loved them, and got so mad when my mom got rid of the VHS. In retrospect, it was kind of violent and the orphaned-girl plot was sad. Not sure what appealed to us so much.

:: When I was young (maybe 9 or 10?), my siblings and I teamed up with a family of boys we knew from church to put on our own production of Star Wars. I’m pretty sure we did A New Hope and Return of the Jedi (but skipped The Empire Strikes Back, because it’s such a drag). The only two concrete memories I have are (1) lovingly fashioning a homemade R2-D2 out of a Quaker Oats canister and (2) reenacting the scene where Leia shares a cracker (we used saltines) with Wicket the ewok. We were very detail-oriented children. Also, one of the kids is now a super-talented playwright. Well, I guess he was back then too. 🙂

:: Doesn’t it blow your mind that they never say the word “ewok” in the movies? I didn’t believe it when I first read that, but it’s true!

TUTORIALS

Endor Han costume

Supplies

  • Black fabric (about 1 yard)
  • White collared shirt
  • Black pants or dark skinny jeans
  • Belt
  • Boots
  • Yellow tape (electric, washi, masking, or whatever)
  • Black marker
  • Toy gun and holster

How to

1. To sew the vest, we (a.k.a. my mom) used Simplicity pattern 2346 (option D). We were already buying it for another project and it was really useful, but if you’re a resourceful seamstress you could probably draft your own pattern. It is about a straightforward a sewing project as it gets. So, you can buy and follow the pattern, or you can cut the fabric into once back piece and two front pieces, roughly like this:

photo 5 (3)

photo 3 (3)2. Following the pattern, sew the shoulders and sides together, then fold it inside-out to hide the seams. If you want to simplify like we did, you can skip doing a lining–so for the neck and armpits, just fold under the edges and sew a simple hem. If you want to go the extra mile, you can add pockets, but we didn’t bother (there’s a super-detailed tutorial here.)

3. Put on the vest over the shirt. Either button down the collar or flip it inward so it looks more like Han’s shirt (you could make your own shirt, but we were doing the quick and dirty version).

194. Stick a strip of tape on the outer side of each pant leg. Draw horizontal stripes on the tape.

185. Attach the holster to your belt. Wield a toy gun (ideally a blaster, if you’re really on top of things–we didn’t go that route because they’re pretty expensive).

6. Be a charming scoundrel. But don’t get cocky, kid.

 

Endor Leia costume

Supplies

  • Green fabric (about 2 yards)
  • Green and brown spray paint
  • Green or brown shirt
  • Skinny jeans
  • Brown or black belt
  • Boots
  • Watch
  • Hair elastics and bobby pins
  • Yarn or twine

How to

1. To make the camo poncho, measure the green fabric so that it drapes at the length of a tunic (mine was about 3 feet wide and 5 feet long).

2. In the center, cut out a circle about 5 inches in diameter.

3. Cut a strip of fabric about 8 inches wide and 2 feet long.

4. Fold the strip lengthwise with the green facing out. Sew along the edge of the circular hole in the middle of the cape. Alas, I didn’t catch any pictures of this step, but this tutorial is the closest approximation of what we did.

5. Lay out the sewn poncho outside on newspaper or other paint-safe surface. Spray paint splotches of various shades of green and brown to create a camo effect (with a pic of the original Endor Leia poncho on hand for reference). Let dry.

photo 1 (3)6. To style your hair, first check out these shots of Leia’s hairstyle. And feel free to google other tutorials that may be fancier/more useful than mine.

7. Separate a section of hair right behind each ear and braid it, securing each braid with an elastic.

18. Pull the rest of your hair into low pigtails and secure with elastics. Braid each pigtail and secure each braid with an elastic.

9. Take the behind-the-ears braids and pull them toward each other, arranging them on your head like a headband. If you want to give it that special ewok touch (and if you have a friend to offer a helping hand), wrap some twine or yarn around the braids. Pin firmly in place.

10. Take each of the pigtail braids and twist into a bun. Pin firmly in place. (You can see in the pictures that I did a ponytail instead of pigtails, but I still separated it into two braids.)

15Note: Clearly, my final look is not very neat. But you know what? That’s OK. Leia’s hair wasn’t plausible or practical anyway. 🙂

1610. Drape the poncho over your shirt. Belt the front of the poncho to your waist, leaving the back loose like a cape. Add a watch and boots–and a blaster, if you have one! 17

Ewok baby/toddler costume

Supplies

  • Hooded bear suit
  • Brown suede-ish fabric (about a yard, cut to about 2 by 2 feet)
  • Brown yarn and a few brown buttons
  • Bamboo (1 yard)
  • Leather cord or twine (2 feet)
  • Grey foam (I got a cheap foam sword and cut it down)

How to

Note: The great news about this costume is that the look is very rough, so it doesn’t have to be perfect!

1. Buy a furry hooded bear suit from your local Goodwill (I visited two stores and there were a half-dozen cheap baby/toddler bear suits at each).

2. Cut off the feet of the suit and fold into an ear shape. Stitch onto the hood of the suit.

3. Drape the suede-ish fabric over the head of the suit. Cut out a hole for the face and holes for the ears to poke through. Trim roughly around the edge to create the proper shape of the ewok hood. Here’s what it looks like:

4. Stitch a few buttons on the ewok hood and lace some yarn haphazardly through them. Sew a few stitches to hold the ewok hood to the bear suit hood.

photo5. To make the spear, cut a spear blade shape out of foam. Drill a hole toward the top of the bamboo and through the foam.

photo 4 (2)6. Glue the foam blade on top of the bamboo to hold in place. Lace the leather cord or twine through the holes and wrap it around, then tie it to secure.

87. Teach your baby to say “yub, yub.” (We failed at that, but came close with an “ub.”)

8. Wiggle the baby into the suit, and hand him or her a (toy) spear. Guaranteed fun!

To reluctant readers and feminists, from Hermione.

24 Oct

watson{Image via webtv.un.org}

It’s been a month since Emma Watson’s speech launching the U.N. HeForShe campaign went viral. Though Vanity Fair called it “game-changing,” the message was decidedly unrevolutionary; though it received a mostly glowing reception, the buzz has mostly subsided. So perhaps Emma Watson will simply be one star in the expanding constellation of those who identify as feminists. But it’s possible she will have a significant, if subtle, effect on feminism.

Watson is, after all, the brightest witch of our age. She is inextricably linked to her onscreen character Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” series. She is also closely linked to her millennial peers—the timing of the series was such that many of them feel like they grew up alongside Watson and her co-stars, and she is outstandingly popular on social media. It is thanks to these links that she has the potential to meaningfully engage new supporters of feminism—and it is not unlike the way the beloved series revolutionized reading.

The setup

The story of Harry Potter’s magical effects on reading is nearly as well-recited as the story of the boy wizard himself: Literature-reading among young adults had dropped by a record 20 percent over 20 years. “Harry Potter” came along, selling millions of books worldwide. Young adult readership jumped 21 percent. And now, young people read more than people over age 30.

Scholastic, the publisher of “Harry Potter,” commissioned a study finding that half of “Harry Potter” readers ages five to 17 said they did not read books for fun before they started reading the series. The trend was somewhat more pronounced among boys—61 percent said “Harry Potter” introduced them to reading for fun.

Research on literacy and gender has shown that boys tend to read less than girls do and perceive reading as a feminine activity. “Harry Potter” deftly incorporates what often interests boys—action, escapism, humor, plus the hype of popular books and movies—and gives them both permission and motivation to enjoy reading.

The audience

This cohort of initially reluctant readers is precisely the prime audience for Watson’s message, which invites men and boys to advocate for gender equality. Those who once shunned reading may also have no interest in feminism. But Watson may convince them to give it a chance.

Just as the books managed to appeal to boys’ interests, Watson cited issues that personally affect men and boys, such as “young men suffering from mental illness [being] unable to ask for help for fear it would make them look less ‘macho’” and her “father’s role as a parent being valued less by society.” She declared, “Gender equality is your issue too.”

There’s another reason they might give it a chance: They are already more open-minded. This is true generally—a 2010 Pew Research Center report revealed that millennials are more accepting than previous generations of interracial dating, immigrants, and nontraditional family arrangements.

And it’s especially true among “Harry Potter” fans: A study published this July found that reading “Harry Potter” improves attitudes toward stigmatized groups.

Harry “fights against social inequality and injustice,” the study authors write. As he interacts with characters who “suffer the consequences of prejudices and discrimination, [he] tries to understand them and to improve their situation.” In addition, Hermione is a passionate crusader for the rights of house elves (though that storyline is bypassed in the films).

The study assessed groups of children, teens and university students who had read “Harry Potter” and their attitudes toward stigmatized groups, including immigrants, homosexuals and refugees.

The authors concluded that participants had “observed the positive attitudes and behaviors of Harry Potter toward stigmatized fantastic groups, and projected them onto real stigmatized categories,” particularly when people identified more with Harry Potter and less with the villain Voldemort.

That identification works in favor of Watson’s feminist message. Fans the world over have come to positively identify with Harry, Hermione and friends. The characters’ fair treatment of house elves, Mudbloods and Muggles can prompt readers to more positively view real-life stigmatized groups, which is at the heart of the aim of feminism. (It’s worth noting that Watson’s speech didn’t mention minorities and other groups that face additional discrimination, but as one critic put it, the omission doesn’t “limit its cultural significance.”)

The message

Though it was probably unconscious, Watson actually echoed sentiments that will resonate with “Harry Potter” fans.

First, there’s the classic injunction from Professor Dumbledore: “Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”

We all know how divisive the term “feminist” can be, so Watson spent nearly half the speech clarifying what feminism is not (namely, hating men) and what it is (namely, equal rights and opportunities for both men and women).

Second, recall Sirius Black’s lesson to Harry: “The world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

Watson called the mentors and influential people in her life “inadvertent feminists who are changing the world today” and stated that “if you believe in equality, you might be one of those inadvertent feminists.” Focusing on actions more than labels, Watson found another way to appeal to those who may be skeptical of feminism.

Third, we have more words of wisdom from Dumbledore. He warned: “Time is short, and unless the few of us who know the truth stand united, there is no hope for any of us.”

Watson wove throughout her speech a sweeping call for unity. “We want to end gender inequality—and to do that we need everyone to be involved.”

The future

The HeForShe campaign certainly has its flaws: It might imply that women need to be rescued by men, or that men haven’t joined the cause simply because they haven’t been asked nicely enough, or that tweeting a feminist-friendly hashtag is enough to effect real change. In fact, the “action kit” on the HeForShe website primarily involves starting a student group or hosting an on-campus event, demanding a bureaucratic array of measurables that focus on awareness-raising rather than, you know, equality-raising.

But perhaps Watson’s awareness-raising stint as U.N. Goodwill Ambassador will lead to equality-raising. Perhaps reluctant-turned-engaged readers will also be reluctant-turned-engaged feminists, and they will join with those who have already spent years working toward equality in real, substantive ways. It may be that, much like the “Harry Potter” effect on literacy, Watson has found herself at the Gladwellian tipping point of being the right messenger with the right feminist message at the right time. Or? It may be magic.

This post is part of a 31-day series on girl power. It was also published on Medium.