30 May 2011

The Giant's Tomb.

Le Tombeau du Géant, Belgium. May 2011.

I spent the past weekend with a bunch of friends in the Belgian Ardennes, in a former water mill near the river Semois and a site called 'Le Tombeau du Géant' (the Giant's Tomb).

It is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt parts of the country, and very special to all of us. Some of my friends have been going there for over 20 years, and are still as much in awe as the first time.

I'd been looking forward to this weekend for a while. After a busy few months, I needed some time away from my computer with nothing but good friends and my Kindle for company.

Two days later, I've come home with sun-kissed skin (sun-nibbled and sun-bitten here and there), recharged batteries and a brain buzzing with the remnants of laughter and good conversation.

Of course, being me, I can't help pondering the paradox of wanting to go to places that are wild and virtually untouched by mankind, while by going there, we touch them - inevitably.

However, there are ways of being a respectful visitor, and I count myself lucky to have found so many people who understand this and try to live it.

Here's to friendship, laughter and heart-warming, mind-blowing beauty!

What are your favourite places to unwind?
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

26 May 2011

Urban Gardening Update.

What a great spring we've had so far. June hasn't even started and I've already managed to spend more time in the garden than I usually get to do in an entire summer - reading in the hammock or enjoying a glass of wine on the patio.

The vegetables are growing well, and I picked the first strawberries today. I swear I've never tasted better ones in my life; I wish I had planted more.

We've harvested so much lettuce already, yet we can hardly keep up. Apart from preparing lots of salads, I've started to experiment using the leaves in other, hot recipes.

They do well in quiches and frittatas, and soon we'll have a fresh batch that will be perfect for making lettuce soup - one of my favourite kinds: velvety goodness with a blue or goat cheese for extra flavour.

It's such a versatile vegetable. You can also use the leaves as wraps, on burgers (vegetarian or not), to make pesto (instead of basil, mixed to taste with other fresh herbs), juice them with other herbs and vegetables or wilt them into pasta or mashed potatoes.

I've found a lot more recipe inspiration here:

And to conclude, a few more photos of our patio garden in evening sunlight:

What are your favourite seasonal recipes?
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

22 May 2011

And the Winners Are ...

And the winners of the giveaway are ...

*drum roll*

  • Small Footprints
  • Angela Felsted
  • L.G. Smith

Congratulations! You each win a $15 or £10 gift card at amazon.com or amazon.co.uk, whichever is most convenient for you.

If you could just confirm in the comments whether you prefer the .com or .co.uk version, I will have them emailed to you asap!

(What I've done to determine the winners fairly is add the names of the people who wrote eligible comments to a list, assign a number to each (in the order of commenting) and then use the random sequence generator at random.org to sort it. The 3 numbers that came out first have been declared the winners.)

Thanks again to everybody who joined in, to my fabulous followers and to those of you who blogged or tweeted about this giveaway!
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

2 Hours to the Giveaway - Last Chance to Enter!

Have a glass of champagne with me. Or a bottle. Pick your size!

Last Sunday I announced an Amazon gift card giveaway to celebrate getting close to 100 followers.

The celebrations will continue to 4pm CET today, which is in 2 hours and exactly 8 months after I published my first blog post.

If you haven't entered yet: don't be shy! Old as well as new followers are welcome to join in.

You can find the details of the giveaway and enter your name here.

The 3 winners will be announced shortly after 4pm. Stay tuned.
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

18 May 2011

They Are Beautiful and So Are You.

'woman's portrait'. © 2007, manu diana. - CC

Some time ago, I posted a list of life questions, and one of them dealt with beauty. A few of the comments struck a chord with me and made me think about how we define 'beauty', and 'being beautiful'.

I find myself surrounded by beautiful people, yet if you would ask most of them if they consider themselves beautiful, they would say no. Too often we confuse beauty with other ideas like 'young', 'skinny', 'curvy', 'desirable', 'wearing make-up', 'dressed up', etc.

Somehow, along the way, we have come to accept this new, narrow definition of beauty. We've even invented phrases like 'being beautiful on the inside', with an unspoken 'instead' underneath.

Yet languages are living entities. The meaning of words evolves over time to suit people's needs. Our needs.

'Portrait of Villager, Jongkhar'.
© 2009, RadioFreeBarton. - CC
I want to play an active part in saving the word 'beautiful' from limited and one-sided interpretation.

Let us reinvent that powerful and uplifting word to suit the needs of real women, of all ages, shapes and colour.

I believe we can give a nudge in the right direction by stopping to play ourselves down and presenting a wider variety of images to the world, showing a richer, more diverse and much more interesting interpretation of 'beauty'.

After all, we are a diverse species, and that's a wonderful thing. What a shame it would be if we and the generations to come would lose the ability to see that.

To illustrate my point, here are a few more photographs of absolutely fabulous, beautiful women:

'mummy'. © 2009, modenaroid. - CC

'Lena, informal portrait, part 2'. © 2007, Max Khokhlov. - CC

'A beautiful old lady'. © 2007, Pedro Ribeiro Simões. - CC

'Alegría'. © 2009, Aprendiz de Amélie. - CC

'Talisman Singer'. © 2009, Elliot Margolies. - CC

'Knowing Smile'. © 2006, Meena Kadri. - CC

'my beautiful wife'. © 2007, Gregory Perez. - CC

'Artist Rosey Edgar'. © 2008, Michelle Richmond. - CC

'Future Doctor'. © 2005, Charlie O'Shields. - CC

'Yadi'. © 2007, Melissa Segal. - CC

'Margaret'. © 2009, Richard. - CC

'Portrait'. © 2007, R Sears. - CC

'Untitled Portrait #2'. © 2008, Roger Moffatt. - CC

'indian old days beautiful woman'. © 2008, LatinaPower2009. - CC

'Ginger and green'. © 2011, ben raynal. - CC

'Sometimes Monika says that she doesn't feel very pretty'. © 2009, Christopher Walker. - CC

'Erin'. © 2005, Caitlin Burke. - CC

'How to Conquer Europe with one smile'. © 2009, Eddy van 3000. - CC

'Portrait'. © 2008, spaceodissey. - CC

'Eyesight In Distance (9FH)'. © 2009, Andy Leddy. - CC

'She is my love'. © 2008, Luigi Anzivino. - CC

'Mum!'. © 2004, Charles Roffey. - CC

'Awa summer'. © 2006, Nicolas Rivet. - CC

'Juste moi !'. © 2007, Jessie Romaneix. - CC

Who is the most beautiful person you know, besides yourself?
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

15 May 2011

Almost 100 Followers: Time for a Giveaway!

It's been almost 8 months since I started blogging, and I just hit 90 followers, which I am really happy with. Over that time my blog has grown and developed into something I am quite proud of - when I allow myself.

After a couple of months of slow but steady traffic, when 'The Woman Condition' was mainly visited by family and friends, it is now reaching a wider audience, and the A to Z blogging month of April has been a major step in the process.

What a journey so far, from my first tentative steps out of the safe(r) shadows of internet lurking, to discovering my online voice and connecting with others as 'me' instead of one of the many facades that get me through everyday life.

What blogging has taught me more than anything else so far, is that it's okay to be less paranoid. Probably. Most of the time.

Anyway, in order to celebrate the nearly-100-followers and thank you for sticking around, I want to give away a few presents.

If you're anything like me - and I'm sure we have enough in common - one can't go wrong with Amazon gift cards, so I will be giving away 3 gift cards of either £10 at amazon.co.uk or $15 at amazon.com, whichever you prefer.

If you want to take part in the draw:
  1. Be a follower of this blog.
    (Old or new followers are equally welcome to take part.)
  2. Comment on this post what you most like about my blog.
  3. In your comment, mention which 3 posts on my blog you like/remember best.
This celebration giveaway will run until May 22, 2011, 4pm CET, which is exactly 8 months after I published my first blog post.

On the 22nd, an innocent hand (well, mine, but I give you my Leo Word of Honour that it will happen fairly) will draw 3 names from the qualifying comments. I will announce the winners here and inform them personally (via email, blog, FB, ... depending on what contact information I have).

Your answers should help me get a better idea of topics you'd like to see more of in the future, and (with any luck) I'll have a post to come back to every time I think my writing is awful and pointless and nobody could possibly be interested in what I have to say. I might be a Leo, but those days still happen. ;-)

Thanks for following, for your comments and your support!
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

13 May 2011

Lucky 13: Women Writers about Life.

"I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it."
- Maya Angelou

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
- Anaïs Nin

"Perhaps we are in this world to search for love, find it and lose it, again and again. With each love, we are born anew, and with each love that ends we collect a new wound. I am covered with proud scars."
- Isabel Allende

"That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet."
- Emily Dickinson

"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swaps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all."
- Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged)

"I knew it like destiny, and at the same time, I knew it as choice."
- Jeanette Winterson

"What am I living for and what am I dying for are the same question."
- Margaret Atwood

"Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining."
- Anne Lamott

"Ah! The terror and the delight of that moment when first we fear
ourselves! Until then we have not lived."
- Willa Cather

"So much working, reading, thinking, living to do! A lifetime is not long enough."
- Sylvia Plath

"I live in my own little world. But it's ok, they know me here."
- Lauren Myracle

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."
- Maya Angelou

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
- Mary Oliver

Image : 'Women on holiday' by Sweet Chi. Available under a creative commons license. © 2011, Sweet Chi.
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

10 May 2011

Of Awesome Things and Thanks.

I'm a bit low on energy these days, probably because it's a busy time of year and in the background, my brain is working overtime on my novel.

In order to give myself an energy boost, I want to remind myself of the many things I have to be thankful for:

- the big and little things that are going well in my life

- the wonderful spring we're having

- the fact that summer is coming, which will give me more time to write and opportunities to spend quality time with people I love and care about - some of whom I haven't seen in way too long.

- my family, who remind me of aspects of life I might otherwise overlook or undervalue.

- the inspiring online community I've begun to discover a few months ago, and of which I feel I'm gradually becoming part.

... and last but not least I am thankful for coming to understand that not everything has to be Complicated or Perfect in order to be Awesome.

In the spirit of being thankful for the good things in life, I want to share 2 recently discovered links that helped me to notice and remember:

- An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton

- The 'time-ticking countdown' of 1000 Awesome Things. Thanks to Shelli of A*Musings for pointing me to that one.

What are you most thankful for right now?
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

8 May 2011

It's Raining ...

... awards at the moment. Well, maybe not raining them, but I did get another one: the Versatile Blogger Award, passed on to me by the wonderful cyberpunk / paranormal romance / urban fantasy writer Sarah Mäkelä. Thanks!

This award, too, comes with the tradition attached to share 7 things about yourself, and to pass it on to other bloggers.

Reusing the 7 facts from the last award felt like cheating, so I've come up with new ones. Here we go:

1. I love Thai food.

2. I'm a total night owl - always have been.

3. I learnt to read when I was 4.

4. One of my favourite singers / musicians is Tori Amos.

5. I love the smell of campfire lingering on my clothes and in my hair.

6. I often struggle to balance cynicism and optimism in my life.

7. I wrote my Master's thesis about an obscure female poet from Berlin, Germany.

Now, it is my pleasure to pass on this award to the versatile, multi-talented:

- scientist and writer Alison Pearce Stevens.
- Rosalind Adam, writer and teacher who introduced me to the wonders of Leicester.
- artist and jewelcrafter Suzanne Redmond at Blue Sand Studio.
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

6 May 2011

Eco Flash Mob.

This video brought such a smile to my face, I wanted to share it.

♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

5 May 2011

Stylish Blog Award.

Karen Walker at Following the Whispers passed on the Stylish Blogger Award to me. Much appreciated. :-)

As the award tradition goes, I'm supposed to share 7 things about myself, pass the award on to other bloggers and notify them about it.

So here we go - in random order of importance:

1. I always have chocolate in the house. The dark, bitter kind.

2. I hardly ever read newspapers or watch the news. If something is truly important, I'm sure I'll find out another way.

3. My hair is dark cherry red at the moment. Like really red ->

4. I have very eclectic reading tastes.

5. I am easily distracted, unless a deadline is looming.

6. I have the best husband in the world - for me.
I don't think anybody could be a better match.

7. My first job was in an independent bookstore.


Now, in turn I would like to pass this award on to the following Stylish Bloggers:

- L.G. Smith at Bards and Prophets because I love her style of writing, the way she thinks and the topics she picks.

- Toby Neal at An Endless Fascination with Stories because of the stylish way she deals with porn (as a topic for her latest posts :-) )

- Queen Mahin for being stylish even when spring cleaning.
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

4 May 2011

Stop motion: City of Books.

Stop motion (also called 'stop action' or 'frame-by-frame') is an animation technique where you create individual scenes, take a photograph of each scene and then play the photos as a sequence, creating the illusion of movement.

In previous years, we have made a few stop-motion films with our students, using clay figures they'd modelled. It was great fun - and a lot of work. Every movement and every position has to be thought out, set up and photographed.

To give you an idea of what this technique can accomplish when wielded by professionals, I want to share one of my favourite stop-motion animations: 'City of Books'.

'City of Books' is a delightful little film that was produced by Apt Studio and Asylum Films in 2008, to celebrate 4th Estate Publishers' 25th anniversary. It took them 3 weeks to make, and I'm not surprised!

What a great commercial this video would make for libraries worldwide, and what a great technique to use for a creative book trailer!

If you want to see how the animation was made, check out these timelapse videos.
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥

2 May 2011

Book Review: The Tapestry of Love, by Rosy Thornton.

About two months ago, in honour of International Women's Day, I bought Rosy Thornton's latest novel, The Tapestry of Love.

I finished it a few days later and started writing the review, but with April's A to Z blogging challenge ahead, I didn't manage to complete it at the time.

Now I'm glad I didn't, because I've made so many new friends through the challenge, I can now recommend the book to a much larger audience - which it deserves.

I don't often review books on this blog, but I wanted to devote some time to this one, for several reasons:

1. I really liked it.
2. Through my previous blog post, I came in contact with Rosy (we're both on Litopia, a great online writers' community), and she's a lovely person - in other words: the kind of writer whose books you'd gladly recommend to your friends, especially when they're a great read like this one.

The Story.

A few years after her divorce, Catherine Parkstone sells her house in England and moves to the idyllic, rural French Cévennes.

Surrounded by beautiful scenery and in often harsh living conditions, she rebuilds her life and starts a business, under the watchful eyes of her Cévennois neighbours - one of them being the charismatic Patrick Castagnol.

We follow Catherine on her journey through the seasons, from foreigner and outsider to a woman who weaves lasting and meaningful threads into the community fabric.

The Novel.

'The Tapestry of Love' is one of those novels you need to read slowly and savour to the full. Rosy is as much a painter as a writer: she sketches the scenery and the characters with care, then colours them in with a beautiful sunset palette.

This is the kind of novel you want to read in summer, lounging in the garden, relaxing in a rural or Mediterranean holiday setting - or on a cold day in front of an open fire. Every page takes you one step further into the beautiful Cévennes region, and into the lives of the people who've grown up there.

What I loved most about 'The Tapestry of Love' is the romantic realism that oozes from the pages. Rosy writes with a gentle touch, with wisdom and a mature, assuaged acceptance of the ups and downs of everyday life.

She takes an honest approach to human relationships and emotion, showing joy as well as pain, love as well as loss, without overdramatising.

In my blog as in life, I look for sparkles of 'life, love and authenticity', and I can assure you I found plenty of each in 'The Tapestry of Love'.

Therefore, on the threshold of summer, I would recommend you to buy this book, curl up on the couch with a good glass of wine, and reserve a good chunk of time for yourself, to transport your mind to the Cévennes in the company of Catherine, her neighbours and her lively English family.

For more information, visit Rosy Thornton's website.

Image 1: 'Vue d'Alès depuis l'Ermitage (Gard, Cévennes)' by Modestine l'ânesse des Cévennes. Available under a creative commons license. © 2009, Modestine l'ânesse des Cévennes.
Image 3: 'Cévennes automne 2010' by Association Djivan. Available under a creative commons license. © 2010, Association Djivan.
♥ Bookmark or share this post ♥
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...