Kick-Ass Fictional Women

I started the Kick-Ass Fictional series a while back, with the intention of a one off post of ten amazing women from films, television, books and cartoons. That list rapidly grew, and so became an ongoing series, ten at a time, of these awesome characters. Inspired by all the amazing female heroes at WLFCC, I thought it was time for the next installment.

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Merida
Merida is the central character of Pixar’s Brave, and Pixar’s first ever female protagonist. Merida’s whole story is about gender conventions. She rejects her traditional role, preferring to pursue archery over needlework, and competing to win her own hand in marriage, so she may choose for herself. I also love that the central relationship in Brave is between Merida and her mother, not a love interest. These two women have to overcome their own struggles and help each other come to a mutual understanding and respect. Unusual stuff, for a Pixar film.

Sabriel by kami kazen Kick Ass Fictional Women

Sabriel
Sabriel is the star of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom trilogy. Sabriel’s father is the Abhorsen, a powerful Necromancer. When his sword and bells are delivered to her, Sabriel believes he has been trapped in death and sets out to rescue him. Starting the series as a child, Sabriel grows throughout the books, finishing as an adult, married with children. She finds incredible strength to allow her to wield the Abhorsen’s tools and take over her Father’s role.

 Kick Ass Fictional Women

Catelyn Stark
Catelyn Stark is yet another badass woman from Game of Thrones. She’s a rare character in the Thrones world, in that she is overtly opposed to another War. She has survived one bloody War, and lost loved ones to it, and she will do anything to protect her family from this one. She is given immensely hard decision to make. Stay with her crippled son or head to the capital to warn her husband of a betrayal that puts the whole Kingdom in danger? Should she stay with her younger children, or accompany her oldest son into war and advise him? She is intelligent, and tough. She endures all these hardships, the loss of her husband and daughters and she keeps on, as best she can.

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Arya Stark
We couldn’t miss out the youngest Stark woman, could we? Arya is a favourite Game of Thrones character for a lot of people. Brave, clever and fierce as hell, Arya is not taking any crap from anybody. It wouldn’t even occur to her to be anything less. Rather than let her families enemies overwhelm, Arya goes on the run, keeping herself with her wits, and her remarkable ability to lie. Despite her limitations, she outlives plenty of older and stronger characters.

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Matilda
Road Dahl’s Matilda was one of my favourite characters growing up. Here was a little a girl using her brains and love of reading to triumph. After beginning by playing pranks against her parents, Matilda’s superior intelligence becomes telekinetic powers, which she uses to help her teacher, Miss Honey. She’s smart and curious about the world, as well as kind. Her bond with Miss Honey is a strong friendship, something which is not often portrayed between female characters. She also faces discrimination because of her gender, often being told by her father that girls should be seen and not heard, and being excluded from her father’s talks with her brother about the family business. She was my hero, as a kid, and I still love her.

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Jo March
Little Women might not seem like the obvious place to look for tough characters, but Jo March is a badass, if you ask me. In a time where women were expected to make good marriage matches, Jo prefers her independence, and supports herself with a writing career. When family friend Laurie proposes to her, she turns him down, despite the lucrative nature of the match. She treasures his friendship and dreads being tied down into marriage. Though she does later marry, she chooses a man she loves, rather than her friend with a higher standing in society and greater wealth. Her independence is her most treasured possession.

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Mulan
Disney’s Mulan is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan. Mulan steals her father’s armour, disguises herself as a man and sets off to help fight. While not physically strong, she is quick-thinking and self-motivating, and goes on to save China. Her victory actually takes place after she’s been outed as a woman. Her gender will not stop her.

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Katniss Everdeen
Katniss, from The Hunger Games, is a hugely popular character at the moment. As well as being strong and clever, Katniss is a great portrayal of a female character, because she’s flawed too, dodging that ‘strong woman’ trope. We see her doubts and fears as well as her strengths. Katniss’s strength is from need. She becomes strong, and skilled, in order to protect her family. She has to do it, so she does.

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Kat Stratford
I love Kat Stratford. Since seeing 10 Things I Hate About You, she’s been a serious hero of mine. She was the first person I’d ever seen talking about male privilege, which was a big deal. She was independent and intelligent, and advocating being yourself, regardless of what people thought of you. To quote the lady herself, “Why should I live up to other people’s expectations instead of my own?”

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Wednesday Addams

I love Wednesday. She makes me laugh so much. She’s scary as crap though. Wednesday is clearly the more central of the Addams children, with a much bigger and better part than her brother. She leads all their schemes with skill, all with that famous deadpan expression. I admit it, I kind of wanted to be Wednesday as a kid.

Have I missed your favourite? Tell me in the comments!

WLFCC 2014

123 e1413841032871 WLFCC 2014It’s convention season. Last weekend, I got out the green tights and set off to Earl’s Court to Winter London Film & Comic Con. After the Summer’s madness with Stan Lee appearing, WLFCC seemed very calm in comparison. While it was a shame to not have so many cosplayers around, it was lovely to actually be able to walk around freely, and look at all the stalls in a leisurely fashion.

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I debuted a new cosplay; Poison Ivy. You guys got a sneak preview of the work in progress, but here’s the finished look. There’s a few tweaks to be done I think, partly because I was shedding ivy leaves like a trail everywhere, and the ivy swirls in eyeliner got rubbed off by the wig. In general, I was really pleased with how it turned out though, and it went down a treat. This charming Riddler pounced to let me about a Gotham cosplay group, so I’d best get my act together and get Ivy repaired so I can start joining them at events.

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Despite being a DC villainess, I went along with the Avengers again. The company of Thor, Loki and Black Widow is fun enough to create a multi-verse. Later on we even added Starlord and a Lego chap. Serious multi-verse.

Despite the lower numbers of cosplayers, there were some top-notch cosplays to be admired.

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There are more pictures over on my Facebook page, if you’d like to check out the other bad-asses running around, or see more shots of my Ivy cosplay.

WLFCC was, as expected, immense fun. Con friends, good stalls, amazing costumes and a small child who threatened me with Batman. Good times.

One kiss, my love, for luck. 

Grand Designs Live

Disclosure: My entry to the show was provided by Kinetico. All words, thoughts and opinions in this post are my own and entirely honest. If you’d like to know more about my disclosure policy, you can read about it here.

0181 Grand Designs Live

On Saturday, I went to check out the Grand Designs Live Show at the NEC in Birmingham. I was invited along by Kinetico, who create home water systems, including water softeners and filters. The show is enormous, and covers just about everything to do with the home you could imagine, from the basics of building right to through to crazy kitchen gadgets and interiors.

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When you first come into the hall, you’re greeted with a selection of entrances into the different sections of the show. Always on the look out for more clutter, I dived straight into the interiors area. Immediately I could tell it would be all too easy to spend an absolute fortune at the show. Within about two minutes of walking into the Interiors stalls, I had already fallen in love with some really clever wallpaper posters, a stunning (and giant) oak dining table and a selection of Indian-inspired quilts.

There were some fantastic techy bits tucked away amongst the interiors. Lots of it was definitely ‘aspirational’, but it was really interesting to see some ideas on how home tech, like wireless internet, might work in the next few years. In the Tech Box, I found a couple of examples of transmitters that were stylish and sleek as well as being functional, which seems obvious to me now I’ve seen it. Rather than tucking away your wireless box, why not have something that looks smart?

Not having a garden, I wasn’t expecting to be too captivated by the Gardens section, but I was very wrong about that. I’ve decided I need a huge garden and a posh summer house. There were some seriously amazing examples that were absolutely beautiful. I quite fancied the Hyro Pools too.

Next, it was off to Bathrooms and Kitchens. After I’d drooled over the perfect 1950s style and candy colours of everything made by Smeg (I’d like my whole kitchen to be kitted out by Smeg, please), I went to find Kinetico. The Soft Water Company were showing some of their products. Now, water softeners might not sound very thrilling, but if you live somewhere with hard water, they make a huge amount of difference. When I lived in Bath, I learnt what a total nuisance hard water is. On a basic level, it makes cleaning harder, thanks to limescale, and it can also make showers and washing machines less efficient, making them more expensive to run. Hard water has also been shown to aggravate skin conditions like eczema. Soft water on the other hand, is much better for the skin, because it doesn’t clog pores, or strip out the skin’s natural oils. Both your hair and skin are much softer and smoother with soft water. Sounding more interesting now?

After learning about some of the benefits of soft water with the Kinetico guys, I headed to the Food section. This section was a mix of kitchen gadgets and fresh food. Apparently I only photographed the salami while I was there. Clearly I was too busy sampling cheese and olives to take more pictures. Some of the kitchen gadgets on offer were being shown off with some serious shopping channel style demonstrations, which ended up being rather amusing to stop and watch. I also found Market Lane up here where there were various cooking demonstrations going on throughout the day. I caught part of a session which included some top tips to cook perfect rice. Useful stuff!

Grand Designs Live has now finished, but I’d highly recommend going along next year, whether you’re going all out and building your own house, proper Grand Designs style, or just looking for inspiration on how to decorate your home or give the garden something extra. There was so much to look at; I think you’d struggle to come away without feeling inspired. I would recommend getting in early though. I arrived shortly after doors opened and was able to walk around and look at everything easily. When I left at about midday, it was starting to fill up a lot and I could see it being difficult to get at the stalls through the crowds.

Thanks Kinetico for the invite! Now, who wants to buy me a fancy summer house? And a garden to put it in?

Project Wonder Woman – Confidence

WP 001973 e1412603592354 Project Wonder Woman   Confidence

Corset, ivy, shorts and tights: Ebay.
Shoes: Marks and Spencer

No, I haven’t lost it totally, this is the beginnings of a Poison Ivy cosplay for London Film and Comic Con later this month. There’s still a lot of work to be done on adding ivy, figuring out the make-up, and either dying or wigs to get Ivy’s iconic red hair BUT this photo is an important one for me.

Cosplay is a funny thing. A chance to put on a different personality with your costume, and be someone totally different. Someone who happily runs round in a corset and hotpants…
A large part of Project Wonder Woman for me is body confidence. I’ve touched on this lightly, without really going into detail, but feeling more comfortable in myself was, and still is, hugely important. I won’t talk numbers on the scale, because I feel it’s unhelpful, but weight has been on my mind the last few months. When I met Tom, I was a stone lighter than I am currently. The relationship happy pounds caught me, with more alcohol, takeaways and general ‘boy food’, and moving in together didn’t help, with Tom’s repertoire of recipes mostly involving things drowning in cheese. Occasionally, I would strict up a bit. I’ve spent the last few months losing and gaining the same half a stone, and generally getting very frustrated. Now…well, my break-up diet of ice-cream and wine has not helped.

However, all that aside, I’m in a funny place where I’m at peace with that. I am not 21 anymore. I can’t eat burgers the size of my head without putting on an inch these days, but who really can? And I like eating burgers the side of my head, and having a glass of wine or six. Would I be happier getting to eat and drink those sort of things, and maybe getting off the sofa occasionally to go for a run, or would I prefer killing myself at the gym and denying myself all the treats, all in the name of getting into a skirt I wore a couple of years ago? Option number one please.

The idea of getting back into old clothes in a smaller size has had a side effect in stopping me from doing other things and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. For a lot of girls, wearing certain things, or doing things like beach holidays seem to rely on, “When I’ve lost X stone,” “When I can get back in that dress,” “When I’m size X…” And it’s silly. Why are letting ourselves be limited.

After discovering cosplay in the last couple of years, I’ve got a list as long as my aim of characters I’d like to morph into for the day. I haven’t done any of them. Some of them are due to money and time constraints, but honestly, some of it was about size. I can’t wear that until I’m that size again. Last month, I decided, “Sod it.” Life is too short for that nonsense. And I started creating this. Poison Ivy, who’s been on the list for a long time waiting for those magic measurements. And you know what? I feel pretty good.

Friday Round Up

Links, loves and lomograms from the last week.

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1. Oh, just the Predator hanging out on New Street. No big deal.
2. Maybe it’s because of where I work, but I can’t resist Rhubarb and Custard flavoured things. Although these taste pretty similar to those Peach sweets, which was a disappointment.
3. New obsession. All together now, “Let me be your…staaaaaaaaaaaaar!”
4. New season, new flyers…lots of folding.

Some lovely person has hit me with their cold this week, and I feel rough as anything, so please excuse this being a short update. I’m made of headache, tiredness and sore throat just now and generally feel a bit grim, and typing for too long makes me feel weird. Fun times. Despite this, I am in full NaNoWriMo plotting mode, and enjoying it immensely. To get my plot and characters ready for November, I’m working my way through Ready, Set, Novel! and rereading No Plot? No Problem! which are pretty much essential NaNo tools if you ask me. It feels pretty good to be working on a writing project again.

Other than the NaNo forums, this week I’ve been finding online:
The 12 Weirdest Reasons For Banning Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books.
YouTube, Sexual Manipulation and Amazing Vloggers.
Six Easy Ways To Improve Outfit Photos.
Fair Pay For Bloggers Campaign.
9 Body Shaming Behaviors We All Need To Stop.
10 Stupid Arguments People Use To Defend Comic Book Sexism.
You Know You’re A Blogger When… 

NaNoWriMo – A Novel In A Month

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NaNoWriMo. 30 days. 50,000 words. 700,000 novelists (and then some).

It’s very nearly October, and in the NaNoWriMo calender that means it’s almost novel planning month. Every year, for the month of November, hundreds of thousands of crazy novelists from around the world (706,333 in 2013) take on the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Why? Yes, partly because we’re mental, but mostly because it’s a crazy ride that helps you shut up your inner editor and get some damn words on the page. NaNo is about enthusiasm, determination and the magic of an impending deadline. 50,000 words is a difficult, but doable, goal, even for those who work full-time or have families. It’s about the length of a short novel, like The Great Gatsby.

I’ve dipped in and out of NaNo several times now, and whether I ‘win’ or not (and I usually don’t…) I always have a blast. The forums make what can be a pretty solitary pursuit into something much more sociable. With local write-ins going on too, you can really make the whole business essentially a team spot. There’s something incredibly refreshing about throwing all caution to the wind and just writing. Write fast, write hard, you can tidy up the mess later. Or not. That’s ok too. The point is to just write. 

I’ll be back on the NaNoWriMo train in November and I can’t wait. For the first time in a while, I feel like I have the time I need to do it. Plus, those elusive 50,000 words are on my 25 Before 25 list, so I’d best get to it!  If you’d like to join me, and be my writing buddy, you can find my NaNo profile here. Please do send me your links too!

If you need more convincing, here’s a blog post from the NaNo team a couple of years ago, with ten reasons you should take on the challenge. Pens at the ready!

Made To Last – I.N.O.X Watches

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All words, thoughts and opinions in this post are my own and entirely honest. If you’d like to know more about my disclosure policy, you can read about it here.

Who’s heard the C-word already this year? No, not that C-word. Christmas. It’s creeping up on us. The supermarkets are already starting to sneak in the Christmas aisles, and one of the girls in my office has taken to horrifying the rest of us with a running tally on how many weekends there are between now and the festive season. I won’t traumatize you, but it was a small enough number to make me slightly terrified at the prospect of all those presents to find.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the men in my life are the ones I find hardest to shop for, and I don’t think I’m the only one. It’s almost time for my Mum’s annual, ‘What on Earth do you think your Granddad would like?’ stress out and my own time to begin secret missions to investigate my Dad’s book/CD/DVD collection and consult his girlfriend to avoid double purchases. 

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I think Victorinox have got Christmas presents for your favourite man sorted though. Just look at these bloody beautiful I.N.O.X. watches! Victorinox are the clever people behind the Swiss Army knife, and are celebrating the 130th anniversary of the company with a range of hard-wearing watches.

With 130 years of experience, these guys know what they’re at. I.N.O.X. (from Inox, French for ‘stainless steel’) combines all the things Victorinox do best. If like my Dad, yours is the outdoors sort, the fact that these watches are all but impossible to break is probably appealing. If you feel like testing it out, you can drop these watches from 10ft onto concrete, drive a 64-ton tank over them, shove them in the washing machine for two hours, or take them underwater to a depth of 200 meters, and they will be totally fine. Now that really is hard-wearing. 

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It helps that they look good too. I like a good chunky watch, and these definitely fit that. They look tough, but with a sleek, classic design, available in black, khaki or navy blue. Personally, I love the blue. It’s still subtle, but a little more interesting than your basic black or silver watch. The watches all come with a removable silicone ‘bumper’ which fits around the case to give the watch an extra layer of protection, without compromising on design.

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Maybe it’s the Hereford in me, but I can see this being an excellent option for those of you who’ve got army boys in your life. The watches are reinforced way beyond the levels of your standard timepiece, and designed to withstand ‘unusual vibration, shock and temperature changes’. It makes sense; Victorinox began by equipping the Swiss Army (duh), and are still producing knives used by the military of a dozen armies and NASA astronauts.

I promise it’ll make your life less stressful to get your Christmas shopping started now, even if you’d rather pretend it’s still ages away. Anyone else already planning their gift buying?

 Made To Last   I.N.O.X Watches

Birmingham Independent Food Fair

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Last weekend, I set off for Millennium Point to eat myself silly at Birmingham Independent Food Fair. The Fair is run by Ahmed, the founder of Dine Birmingham. Ahmed is passionate about the Birmingham food scene, and with great cause. The food scene here really is fantastic. Birmingham actually has the most Michelin star restaurants outside of London, as well as some of the best independents around. The Food Fair celebrated those independents, covering everything from bars and coffee shops to fancy restaurants.

After spotting a giant queue for Paella (one of my favourite foods anyway), I decided to join it, figuring it had to mean it was great. It was. The smell alone was delicious. I followed that up beautiful olive bread, a lamb and mint sausage (tasty, but challenging to eat off a cocktail stick…), a goat’s cheese salad ‘bon-bon’, salted caramel truffles, maple bacon cookies and a Rum-Zinger Cocktail.

Seriously, the stuff our independents is putting out is stunning. Every stall was heaving with delicious treats, and there was some really creative stuff being shown too, with inventive flavour combinations all over the place. After sampling some of the treats on offer, I am determined to start working my way round the best foody spots in town. No more chains for this girl! You just don’t have to around here, there are enough fabulous independent bars, coffee shops and eateries to keep you busy for ages. I can’t wait to start my foody explorations.

Where should I go first?

Friday Round Up

Links, loves and lomograms from the last week.

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1. My favourite piece of artwork currently on the walls at work.
2. Loved this stall at one of Saturday events.
3. I. Need. These. Converse.
4. GEEK is in the house.

This week’s been a funny one. Ups and downs aplenty. I started well, with Birmingham Independent Food Fair (post to come in the week) where I ate myself silly and generally had a very good time. Saturday night was spent eating steak and drinking cocktails with my mum for her birthday, before we spent Sunday exploring Leamington Spa. I’d never been, but from what I’d heard of it, I thought it would be up Mum’s street. It was; classic spa town.

The rest of the week has been busy; we’ve got several big events in a row at work, so it’s been a bit of a scramble to get it all sorted. Tonight is a night off though; the Geek event is launching. I can’t wait.

This week, I’ve been reading:
Food Myths Nutritionists wish you’d stop believing.
Reddit has banned The Fappening.
Four ways to crush your email challenge.
How to get back on track with healthy eating.
20 tips to build your Twitter following.
How Forever Amber became a professional blogger – Part 2.
Bonjour Blogger, with…ME!
I’m a female gamer and here’s why I’ll never play a Grand Theft Auto title.

Project Wonder Woman #10

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Whenever everything is a bit rubbish, people give you the same advice. “It’ll get better with time.” “Just keep yourself busy.” And while it’s not always the most comforting thing to be told, it is true. This week, I’ve been enjoying the magical restorative powers of keeping busy, good friends and plenty of gin.

I wrote recently about allowing yourself to feel bad, and not saying you’re ok when you’re really not. Wallowing absolutely has it’s place. BUT, honestly, I think surrounding yourself with people you love and who love you, is the best cure for the blues. Last weekend, I gathered up my favourite people, mashing together groups from my old job, old school friends and randoms we’ve picked up along the way, for an epic house-warming. Something clicked into place a bit, I think, having all those lovely people around. People who knew me before I was part of that relationship, people who reminded me of the person I was before. And let’s be honest. It’s always nice having somebody reminding you that. break-up or not, you’re actually pretty awesome.

The busy times have kept up this week with various outings, more gin, and more lovely people. It seems to be the magic combination. I feel much, much better this week than I have in a long time. There’s a way to go yet, and I know there’ll still be some downs ahead, but honestly? I feel like everything is looking up.

More plans with all those magic lovely people who fix everything in the works, for sure.