29 March 2016

Misha Collins Is the Fifth Element

I'm not one to gush over actors or celebrities--nothing against them; I just don't generally care about what they get up to offscreen. Occasionally, however, one of them piques my interest and I go looking for more info. That's how I found out about Misha Collins.

For anyone unfamiliar, Misha Collins is an actor--you might know him as the angel Castiel on Supernatural. I'm not really a fan of Supernatural (I'm missing the "Super" in the Superwholock fandom, alas), but I do like a few of the characters, particularly Castiel. Over time I found out through the internet grapevine that Misha is kind of a wacky guy on social media, so I started following him. I wasn't disappointed (it turns out he's a genuinely good person, as well as funny). From there I decided to check out his imdb profile and what I found out about him kind of blew my mind.

Misha Collins:

-Is a published poet (published in respected journals, such as the Columbia Poetry Review). You can watch him sharing one of his poems here:

-Has co-founded an amazing charity organization, Random Acts, which does things like building schools and orphanages, while also encouraging people worldwide to do good on their own. Random Acts has also started a crisis support centre, along with the "You Are Not Alone" initiative, to help Supernatural fans cope with all sorts of mental health issues they may be facing.

-Runs the world's largest scavenger hunt, GISHWHES: the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen, which has helped him break five (!) Guinness World Records.

-Does an online cooking show with his son (I think his daughter might have also joined in more recently):

-Is a certified EMT

-Goes on Buddhist meditation retreats at monasteries around the world.

-Did I mention he built his own house, including cabinets and most of the furniture in it? The pictures here aren't great but you get the idea, and it doesn't suck. 

Bonus: Was the inspiration for "Mishapocalypse" on 1 April 2013, when Tumblr users switched their user (and other) pics to pictures of Misha.

I'm sure further research would uncover more worth sharing, but I'll leave it for another time. And why am I sharing this, anyway? Because awesomeness needs to be shared, so it can inspire and beget more awesomeness. Don't you feel better knowing people like this exist in the world? Actually, the more I found out about Misha Collins, the more I started thinking he wasn't quite your standard human. Which led me to the conclusion that, much like Leeloo in The Fifth Element (a movie you should probably go watch if you haven't already, even though it's Misha free), Misha Collins is at least a, if not the, Fifth Element, which is to say...

20 March 2016

Apron Strings 7

Going through some of my pictures, I realized I'd forgotten to post about an apron I made a while back. Since I can't deprive my loyal readers of the joys of apron making, it's time to share the Reversible Hostess Apron!

I don't know if I've mentioned this before but making aprons is fun. You get to use fabrics you might not otherwise have a purpose for, they can be embellished however you like, and they're forgiving of mistakes. Not to mention that in the end you get a whimsical (or not, if that's your preference) piece of clothing that's actually practical :)

Picking the fabrics is one of the best parts (for me, anyway). I knew as soon as I saw this retro "coffee time" fabric that I had to use it for something. And polka dots are always good.

Reversible aprons are surprisingly easy to make. If you can sew two pieces of fabric together, you can do it. Ruffles are a little trickier but once you have the technique down, it's mostly a matter of patience. The pocket was the problem part on this apron. Not that pockets are inherently difficult, but I decided to freehand the template (dumb) and then experiment with contrasting stitching (meh). I also had trouble finding a good placement for it; I seem to recall having to undo it at least once and sew it on again. Measure twice and stitch once--good advice.

My freehand template and finished pocket. Not my best work.

Pocket: Side 2
Despite pocket issues, I love how the apron turned out.

Side 1
Side 2

Made using the free tutorial generously provided here.

 Photos ©Whimsy Bower

08 March 2016

A Short History of Aspasia of Miletus

Those of you who've glanced at the "About Me" section to the right of this column have probably noticed my name is Aspasia. Yes, it is my real name ;) It came to me by way of my grandmother, who in turn was named after her grandmother. I would love to know how far down the line this tradition extended but, unfortunately, record keeping was pretty much nonexistent in Greece during centuries of Ottoman occupation. Sometimes, though, I wonder if the line of Aspasias in my family could possibly stretch all the way back to the first known Aspasia: Aspasia of Miletus.

Aspasia of Miletus was born in 470 BCE and died in 400 BCE. Although born in Miletus (in present-day Turkey), she found her way to Athens, where she made an impression. At a time when Athenian women led severely constricted lives, Aspasia was independent, outspoken, publicly active, and renowned for her intelligence (she influenced and impressed intellectuals and philosophers, including Plato and Socrates). At some point she caught the eye of Pericles of Athens ("...arguably the most prominent and influential Greek statesman, orator and general of Athens during the Golden Age...") and they fell in love. Unable (or unwilling) to marry, they chose to live together as partners.

Aspasia is commonly thought to have been a hetaera, which many people have wrongly interpreted as meaning a prostitute. In reality hetaerae were trained companions, more akin to the geishas of Japan. As an occupation, it would have appealed to a woman used to more independence and freedom than what was allowed in ancient Athens. My opinion on the matter, however, is that whether Aspasia was a hetaera or not, the term "whore" was, is, and unfortunately probably always will be applied to strong, outspoken women by people, cultures, and societies that don't approve of strength and outspokenness in women. Not always popular among her contemporaries in Athens, Aspasia was an easy target for such insults, as well as a number of unfounded allegations. At one point she was put on trial for impiety (she won). She was also accused of being responsible for the Samian War, the Peloponnesian War, and even for corrupting the women of Athens.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to be completely certain of the accuracy of what is known of Aspasia's life. But the fact that her memory has survived at all (particularly through millennia of patriarchal bias and the suppression of Hellenistic culture by the Greek Orthodox Church) is kind of amazing. In some cases, she's even been honoured: a species of orchid, a type of viola, and a butterfly have been named after her. On International Women's Day, Aspasia of Miletus is still a source of inspiration.

Aspasia lunata
Viola 'Aspasia'

Parantica aspasia
To read more about Aspasia, check out these links: