Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Character Sketch: Natasha Romanoff//Black Widow

      She's beauty, she's grace and she'll punch you in the face. That pretty much sums up MARVEL's former KGB spy turned S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Natasha Romanoff or Black Widow. The red-headed assassin made her appearance in Iron Man 2 as the demure and professional Natalie Rushman who was hired as Tony's personal secretary after Pepper took over Stark Industries. Since then, Natasha has taken the fan-world by storm with her combination of beauty, brains, practicality and common sense. Although a skilled martial artist, Natasha's incredible fighting abilities contribute only a small percentage to her immense popularity. It's truly Natasha's fight to overcome her tortuous past that has endeared herself to fans and has proven that a female character can go beyond just a pretty face and a great body. 

     As the MARVEL franchise has progressed over the years, so has Natasha's storyline. With each movie she's in, the audience is given a more personal account of her life as a spy for the KGB faction, "The Red Room." In The Avengers, she recounts to Loki of her life as a Russian spy and assassin who did whatever it took to get the job done. When S.H.I.E.L.D. got her on their radar, they sent one of their own, Clint Barton or Hawkeye, to kill her. However, as Natasha says, "Clint made a different call," and instead brought her to S.H.I.E.L.D. to train as an agent. 

     In Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Avengers: Age of Ultron, more of Natasha's painful past is revealed including the 'graduation ceremony' at the Red Room which was the sterilization of all girls to prevent pregnancies. In only a matter of seconds, the brave and brazen assassin becomes a conflicted and guilt ridden young women who is aching for love and a place to belong. The prevention of having children made Natasha more human and relatable than any other character in the MARVEL storyline. While femi-nazis complained that Natasha's grief made her weak, others applauded the decision to really show how vulnerable and broken she was. Through that brokenness, though, she was healed by the work she did at S.H.I.E.L.D. the friends she made, and the unexpected love she found. 

     You can hardly put Natasha's whole storyarch in nutshell, but to put it simply, Natasha is a women who is driven to do what is best for the world she lives in. She has a strong sense of justice and right and wrong, is sacrificial to a fault and always gives people the benefit of the doubt. Another admirable quality about Natasha is that she has no desire to lead; she is perfectly content with being the second in command and does not question the male authority she is under (unless she believes that there is a better way). While Natasha fights alongside men, she is still undeniably feminine and does not feel that she has 'to be a man' in order to be a woman.

     Writing a female character is difficult. Writing a complex female character who is the sole women working in a man's world is next to impossible. Yet, MARVEL hit the jackpot with Natasha who has also paved the way for other female heroes such as Agent Peggy Carter, Wanda Maximoff, Maria Hill and Agent Sharon Carter. While beauty and agility are capable qualities, Natasha's strong sense of duty, submission to good authority, and compassionate nature have taken her beyond the title of 'strong female character' and have made her a women that truly lives instead of just surviving. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fourth of July Layout

     So, the All-American Girl decided to go all out for the Fourth of July theme! My header is a combination American patriotism found in history and in the media. The layout itself is beautiful! And I love the vintage Colonial design as well!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Royal Families: Crown Prince Haakon & Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway

Crown Princess Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit in
2001 and 2016
     Everyone loves a good Cinderella story or at least a story that reminds us of Cinderella. A young obscure woman who catches the eyes and eventually captures the heart of a handsome and honorable prince. And while royal families over the years can boast of their own Cinderella inspired relationships nothing can really hold a candle to Norway's Crown Prince Haakon and his wife of fifteen years Crown Princess Mette-Marit. 

      So every Cinderella story has a beginning and so does Haakon (pronounced hawk-uhn) and Mette-Marit. Prince Haakon Magnus was born in 1973 to Crown Prince Harold and Crown Princess Sonja of Norway. He had one older sister, Martha Louise, but because of Norway's primogeniture law at the time, he was considered heir presumptive to the throne. Haakon lived a quiet life as a good student, went to Berkeley, joined the Navy and seemed to have no controversial playboy lifestyle at all. In 1991, King Harald ascended to the throne and Haakon was now crown prince. 

      Fast forward to 1999, Haakon is at a concert and meets a beautiful blonde haired woman named Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby. The handsome prince is smitten, but this woman is hardly royal material. Mette-Marit has lived a controversial lifestyle of partying, using drugs and has an four year old illegitimate son from a previous relationship where the father is a convicted drug user. Any self respecting royal would be told to stay away, however, Haakon takes a stand and defends Mette-Marit proving his love for her and her son and even moves in with them during their eight month engagement.  

     Haakon's family, especially his father, were in support of the relationship because this was nothing new to them. King Harold himself had to fight for ten years to be able to marry Sonja who was a commoner. Yet, during Haakon and Mette-Marit's engagement, the royal family's popularity hit an all time low when the news of Mette-Marit's drug use in the past was released. Like any good prince from a fairytale, Haakon soldiered through and would not allow the people or the media to deter him from from marrying the woman he loved. 

The Crown Princely Family of Norway from 2001 to 2016
      On August 25, 2001 Crown Prince Haakon wed Mette-Marit Tjessem Hoiby in small, but beautiful wedding ceremony. Never one afraid of breaking from tradition, Haakon met Mette-Marit at the doors of the church and they both walked down the aisle together. Together they have two children, Princess Ingrid Alexandra (January 2004 -- heir to the throne after her father) and Sverre Magnus (December 2005). Mette-Marit's first son, Marius (now 19), has lived quietly in the background and is accepted by the royal court and the people, but will never be seen as a royal and will live in secondary status to his younger siblings. 

      Unlike his distant relatives from other European monarchical countries, Crown Prince Haakon was not a rebellious or wild prince growing up. He didn't live the playboy, jet-setting lifestyle and always stayed out of trouble. So for him to choose a woman with such former scandalous life and who also had an illegitimate son must have proven to be a great shock to the people of Norway. 

Haakon did not just rebel against tradition and reform, 
he demolished it all together. 

      Marrying a single mother with such a shady past had never been done before in any royal family. Yet, Haakon has proven to be the stuff of true storybook princes' and found his princess among rubble of past mistakes and regrets. This is why he has been considered not only one of the best royal dads, but also one of the most well loved crown prince of his generation. Mette-Marit has found love and acceptance, not just in Norway but worldwide for her charity work, duties as a devoted mother and modern thinking. 

      To quote the famous last line from Ever After
"And while Cinderella and her prince did live happily every after, the point [gentlemen] is that they lived."
    And how Haakon and Mette-Marit have lived and loved. No other royal couple in history has had a real life Cinderella story so perfectly lived out

The Wedding of Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Mette-Merit Tjessem Hoiby
August 25, 2001

"Strong" from Cinderella (2015) covered by Ellie Swisher
(I had to!!)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov: Daughter, Duchess Legend - Day Three

      My introduction to Anastasia and the rest of the Romanov family started (like with most people of my generation) was seeing the 1997 animated film Anastasia. While the story was 95% total inaccuracy, it captured the hearts and minds of young people everywhere and gave light and interest to Anastasia Romanov. However, the movie itself is not about Anastasia, at least the real Anastasia. The movie is about the alluring legacy of Anastasia and her family and is also based on the 1956 film (starring Ingrid Bergman and Yul Bryner). When Anderson made claims that she was the actual Grand Duchess, that stirred a controversy throughout the world that hasn't really ended. 

      What is it about Anastasia and her family that forever fascinates so many people? A lot of it could be summed in the fact that they were not a typical by the book royal family. Many of their journals, photo albums and photographs were saved and the world has been given an extraordinary inside look at the lives of a royal family that had fun, spent time with one another and were genuinely gracious people. While Nicholas and Alexandra were terrible rulers, they poured their lives into their children which was a rarity at that time for any royal couple.  

      Another factor is how they all died in such a brutal and unmerciful way. Their murder left the whole world in shock when it happened in 1918 and has been considered one of the worst mass murders in history. If the family had died of sickness or even a train accident, that would be one thing; there would have been some sense of honor. However, there is no honor found in death by a firing squad. Especially when your crime was being born royal and nothing else. 

      Only a few years into Lenin's Communist regime and the Russian people began to see that they were better off under the royal family, but by then it was too late. So, when Anna Anderson made her claim that she may be the lost Grand Duchess, it would be understandable why it made world news. A young princess who survived a firing squad and is the last in her family line? That's truly the stuff of fairy tales! Even when Anderson was revealed to be a fraud and imposter, it did not diminish people's desire to find out if any of the Romanovs survived. 

      Today, Anastasia would have 115 years old. Yet, she never lived to see eighteen; she was barely seventeen. She was a young girl who loved her family, her life and was gifted in so many ways. Anastasia is only a small representation of who the Romanovs were as a whole. A good family that did what they thought was best for themselves and for the country. While Alexandra made some terrible decisions that brought down the monarchy, would the life of her only son have been worth it? Studies and research into the deaths of the Romanov family still continue on today. No other royal family in history has a greater impact on world as the Romanovs have and their youngest daughter, whose name meant resurrection, is still one of the most alluring mysteries of the 20th century. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov: Daughter, Duchess, Legend - Day Two

      Like most European royals of the turn on the century, Anastasia was a descendant of Queen Victoria of England. Anastasia's mother, Alexandra, was the daughter of Victoria's daughter Alice. Alice's older brother, Edward (who became Kind Edward VII after Victoria's death) would became the great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Victoria's nine children all united the royal families and for the most part, they were all very close with one another. Most especially Edward's oldest son George and Nicholas who both looked so similar, they could have been identical twins. 

     When the Bolsheviks took over Russia, England offered the Romanov's asylum. King George refused for fear that his own people would hate him for taking in his German cousin and her weak husband (the German prejudice of WWI is what caused England's royal family to change their German name Saxe-Coburg and Gotha--which they received from Prince Albert--to Windsor from Shakespeare's play "The Merry Wives of Windsor")

      Anastasia's parents, Nicholas and Alexandra, met at a wedding when they were young teenagers and fell in love immediately. Many people thought that Alexandra was not a good choice for the future Tsarina of Russia. She was raised in Germany, was painfully shy, hated social gatherings and was very spoiled. However, Nicholas would have no one else. Although Alexandra loved Nicholas she was unsure about marrying him because it would mean she would have to convert to the Russian Orthodox Church, but eventually she was persuaded to say yes out of duty. 

     Nicholas and Alexandra were married a few weeks after Nicholas' father died and both were crowned Emperor and Empress of Russia a year later. Nicholas had not been trained well to rule an empire and proved to be a weak Tsar. However, he was a loving father who adored his children and hardly said no to his wife. Alexandra, for her part, hated Russia and the people and preferred to stay with her children. When WWI hit, the people regarded Alexandra as a German spy. Also her devotion to Rasputin, whom she considered a man of God, caused even more hatred among the people who thought that he was controlling the family and the country. 

     After Nicholas abdicated, the family was put under house arrest in several different camps across Siberia. Much to people's surprise, the family lived remarkably well and seemed to enjoy the simple peasant life. Nicholas had a military upbringing of sleeping on cots, taking cold baths, doing chores and understanding survival. This training he passed on to his children and they were all able to adapt easily to captive life. 

     Even though the Romanov children were sheltered, they were not cut off from their extended family. Some members they liked (like their English relatives) and some they despised (the children of Nicholas' sister, Xenia). The Romanov children, themselves, were all very close and spent every moment with each other. While Alexei was considered the most important of the children, the girls had the uncanny abilities captured the hearts of everyone they came across. Each child was unique and distinct in their own way.

     Grand Duchess Olga Romanov: As the firstborn child, Olga considered herself the second mother to her younger siblings. She was a level headed girl who enjoyed school. Olga tended to be fiercely independent and had a fiery temper. When she heard the news the Prince Edward of England had interest in marrying her, she steadfastly refused to comply and after negotiation, her parents let her have her way. Naturally, she was close to Tatiana and both girls served as nurses during the war. 

     Grand Duchess Tatiana Romanov: Tatiana was considered most clever of all the children and well as the most talented. She was her mother's traveling companion and personal stylist. Unlike Olga who was a mother hen, Tatiana tended to bully the younger two girls around. Tatiana was more in control of her emotions than Olga and was interested in political and social issues. In 1913, Tatiana contracted typhoid fever after drinking contaminated water and her head had to be completely shaven. Afterwards she wore a wig.

     Grand Duchess Marie (or Maria) Romanov: Mashka as she was known to her family, Marie was considered the most beautiful of all the girls, even though she tended to be an airhead from time to time. She was a sweet, engaging girl and a hopeless romantic. Marie oftentimes felt herself caught between following behind her two ladylike older sisters or having fun with Anastasia. She had no shortage of male admirers, primarily Lord Louis Mountbatten who was hopelessly in love with her and kept a photograph of her until the day he died. 

     Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov: The little imp who was the favorite of her father and her paternal grandmother, Empress Maria Feodorovna. Anastasia loved fun, games and mischief. She was close to Marie and Alexei and despite her antics, was rarely if ever in trouble with her parents. Anastasia tended to have bad health problems from the time she was a child and had problems with bunions and bad back muscles. Anastasia was a talented artist and spent a good deal of time painting, drawing, and color tinting photographs. 

     Tsesarevich Alexei Romanov: The long-awaited son who was suppose to bring stability to the empire, but instead brought destruction. Alexei suffered from a genetic condition called hemophilia. This condition caused Alexandra and Nicholas to make some very hard and unwise decisions and brought into their lives, Grigory Rasputin, who would destroy the family in the end. Despite his illness, Alexei was just like any other boy who loved the outdoors, army life and reading. He was pampered by his mother and sisters, but according to his tutors was not spoiled at all and was incredibly intelligent with remarkable insight for someone so young.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov: Daughter, Duchess, Legend - Day One

     There are people that live their lives, do great deeds and are remembered throughout history as heroes, icons and legends. Then are some that lives their lives and remembered just for that, for living…even after death. The last royal family of Russia, the Romanovs, Czar Nicholas, his wife Alexandra and their four children, Olga, Tatiana, Marie, Anastasia and Alexei were all brutally murdered by the Bolshevik Party in 1918.

     While this young family had committed no crime, they were considered failures to their country that was weak, starving and craving modern independence. However, if the Bolsheviks thought that the royal family was going to be forgotten, they were wrong. One family member especially has been both mystery and inspiration throughout the decades. And oddly enough, her name means ‘resurrection.’ 

     Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov started her life as a general disappointment to her family and her country. Russia, like other monarchies, was under the strictest of male-preference primogeniture law. Females were forbidden to take the throne and it was necessary that the heir be from the present ruler. Coming after three girls, Anastasia’s birth was the greatest anticlimax in Russia’s history.

     Relief spread throughout Russia when Alexandra gave birth to a boy two years later. The line was considered secured and the country and the family could relax. While Anastasia’s birth brought little to no joy to Russia, she was probably the most spoiled of the daughters, the apple of her father’s eye and the darling of the country. She was a beautiful golden haired baby that grew into a lively and charming girl with a great deal of personality.

Anastasia has fun in front of the camera
     Anastasia was devoted to her mother and was always at her father’s feet. She was called “Malenkaya” which meant little one or “shvibzik” that meant little imp. While her older sisters were ladylike, genteel and good students, Anastasia was tomboyish, rough and tumble and despised school (actually she just like annoying her tutors). She loved the outdoors and animals, roller skating inside the palace, writing and putting on plays, pulling pranks and meeting new people. Anastasia was life itself and her over-abounding happiness made her the heart of her family during their darkest days. 

      Anastasia, like the rest of her family, was deeply religious. Although she may have had her doubt about the elusive Grigory Rasputin, she trusted him and considered him a friend. As she grew older, Anastasia became much more thoughtful about life and the world around her. She enjoyed writing and was a talented artist and many of her pictures and little stories were saved.

     When WWI began in 1914, all of Europe was plunged into fullscale war. The Romanovs were immediate targets because Alexandra was from Germany and the world blamed Germany as the cause of the war. Meanwhile, there was turmoil and distress throughout Russia as the Bolshevik party began to take over and Lenin was spouting out his Marxist ideals. One of these ideas was the disposal of the wealthy and the powerful. As a royal family with a German princess, it wasn’t hard to convince people that the Romanovs needed to go. 

The Romanov Daughters - Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia
     In 1917, the Nicholas finally abdicated. He and the family were arrested and put under house arrest. During their captivity, the family made due of their poor conditions and actually found themselves very happy. A year later, several months before the war ended, the whole family was taken down to the basement and executed. Anastasia was only seventeen years old. She was young her whole life. Marxist ideology, hatred, fear and prejudice stopped the heartbeat of a young girl that would never become a legal adult, would never marry, never have children. However, it is Anastasia’s short life that has made her legendary.

      In the 1922, a woman named Anna Anderson claimed to be the lost Grand Duchess due to her intense knowledge of the Romanov's personal lives. This claim spawned a court case and a great deal of media attention, but Anna was eventually seen as an imposter and was not the first woman to claim to be Anastasia. However, Anna Anderson put Anastasia's life on the royal fascination map and from then on, their has always been some belief that she may have survived.  


  ***  A couple of bodies were found by the canal where the Romanov family were killed and they have been identified as possibly being Alexei and Marie, not Anastasia. ***

Friday, June 10, 2016

Little Things #11

1.) I'm obsessed with butterflies: Yes, they are an animal and they're my favorite animal.

2.) Cupcakes: Heaven : )

3.) I like the sound of rain: Nature's lullaby. 

4.) I have a non existent love life: It's been saying single on my Facebook relationship status since I first joined.

5.) Orange-pink sunsets: A few minutes of pure perfection. 

6.) I wish I had a better body: I'm working on it...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

On Instagram

      After finally getting an i-phone, my sister told me I needed to get an Instagram account. I've actually had a lot of fun with it! So you can follow me here: @ivymiranda2390

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