Tuesday, 31 December 2013

festive fun in december

In true december fashion, it's been busy, particularly during the build-up to christmas. Yes, the last few days have been quiet but on the whole I've spent that time in my pjs, watching films (singin' in the rain is on as I write this) and eating my way through all the christmas leftovers - sweet and savoury. Bearing that in mind, my 4 things have taken a bit of a backseat this month...

De-clutter: Although I've still not taken the, now overflowing, bag to the charity shop, I did manage to clear out lots of my old stuff from my  old room at my parents' house.

Health: I can actually count the number of times I went to the gym this month on the fingers of one hand. Bad eh? Particularly as I've been quite merrily stuffing my face over the last three weeks.

Money: I'm not a big fan of sale shopping but having received a few vouchers for christmas I shall definitely be splurging on a couple of things - some new sports attire, fabric and clothes patterns :) Saving continues for the wedding which is now less than 8 months away (aaaaahhhhh).

Do More New: The biggest new thing, that eclipses all new things, this month was: hosting Christmas. I've cooked for large-ish groups of people before and Mitch is a master of roast dinners but cooking xmas dinner was a whole different ball game. Thankfully though almost everything went to plan and it didn't put me off doing it again :)

As you can see it wasn't an entirely successful month buuuut a pretty big change is taking place early next year which will have a huge positive impact on de-cluttering and money saving. More on that at a later date as there's only a few hours left of 2013 and I'm off to the supermarket to stock up for the celebrations this evening. Happy NYE everyone!



Saturday, 28 December 2013

christmas bits + pieces


Earlier today, I returned from a very christmassy week long stay at my parents' place. A week of family, festive tv, cooking, pressies, card games and mountains of food. It was a very different Christmas this year - my parents were both away and so the responsibility of hosting and catering for the family on the big day fell to me and Mitch. Although it was a lot of fun, it was also absolutely knackering - clearly I'm just not used to being on my feet for 9 hours. I would have been completely buggered without the help of Mitch and my sister, mostly due to the fact that we decided to cook waaaay too much: turkey, pigs in blankets, stuffing, roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, swede, green beans, squash and brussel sprouts. I also made bread (for the first time ever!) and served it with paté as a starter, and then made three different puddings: mincemeat and chocolate pudding with salted caramel and rum sauce, chocolate brownies (just in case the first pudding didn't work out, which it did) and a gluten-free white chocolate cheesecake for my sister. Obviously we were a little over ambitious. If we do xmas again I think I shall definitely make less. Of course the best thing about cooking too much on xmas day is that there's plenty of turkey and stuffing sandwiches to be had :) 

As I'm not back to work for another 5 days I shall be mostly lazing around the flat and getting on with a few crafty bits and pieces (thanks to a few christmas presents). Hope you all had lovely christmases and are enjoying some time off too! 




Friday, 20 December 2013

tree alternatives


This year Mitch suggested that we shouldn't get a tree. Outraged, I forcefully suggested we did. To cut a long story short,  I eventually (and grudgingly) acknowledged that Mitch's reasons for a tree-less Christmas made sense, namely that we'd be spending Christmas, boxing day and a few days either side at my parents' house. So, rather than condemn our little flat to a grinch-y/bah humbug type state, I set about putting up some festive alternatives... Fairy lights, a long piece of string from which to hang our christmas decorations as well as xmas cards and lastly, a paper tree (complete with paper decorations) which I stuck to the wall in the living room. To jazz it up I put a vase of fairy lights and all our wrapped presents underneath it. You can't beat a real tree but it's a pretty good and completely free alternative :)

In other news, today is my last day at work until 2014 - crazy, I know. I've not been given this much time off for christmas since I was in school! Obviously, I'm not complaining especially as it may very well turn into a half day depending on whether we come back after our christmas lunch at the pub...

Happy Friday!



Thursday, 19 December 2013

happy birthday little fella


Today, Moriarty turns 1! 
(Ok, so I've never had a pet before which means acknowledging the hamster's birthday is happening.) 
The urge to knit moriarty a little xmas jumper is quite overwhelming but I just know that he'd hate it so instead, we opted to make him some new cage accessories. Hopefully, he'll like them.

video

That little video is actually from the summer but seeing as Moriarty tends to sleep all day and only wants be to sociable in the evenings (which in the winter means it's dark) this is probably the clearest footage of him. He's not changed much since June so I promise you're not missing anything - no radical hairstyles or neon dye jobs. 

When he came into our lives I was v.opposed to having a hamster. But now, I couldn't imagine being without him :) happy birthday little fella. 


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

festive film line-up

So this is just for starters.
We kicked off our Christmas movie viewing last Sunday with a couple of classics - Home Alone and It's a Wonderful Life - followed by two gems from the 80s... First up, Trading Places. Rich, snob, broker Dan Aykroyd finds his life turned upside down when his obnoxious bosses orchestrate a change of circumstances and swap Aykroyd's life of luxury with that of impoverished street hustler Eddie Murphy. Not only is the script great and the casting superb, it's also directed by John Landis of Blues Brothers and An American Werewolf in London fame. He also directed Michael Jackson's Thriller video.
Second 80s film - Scrooged. Bill Murray is in the Scrooge seat playing one hell of a jerk and tv network director. In standard Christmas Carol style he's visited by three spirits - past and future are pretty terrifying. Murray is perfect for the 'starts out bad, ends up good' character arc role (also see Groundhog day), and, although it's relatively new to my xmas film list (I only watched it for the first time last year), it'll probably be staying in my list for years to come purely for the entertainment factor.
Looking forward to the others especially: Bridget Jones's Diary - I've not seen it in years, The Muppet Christmas Carol - I might save this for Boxing Day, and The Snowman - for me, it's the oldest on my list, the one that really signifies christmas, probably because I've been watching it every year since I can remember. We had - still have - it on VHS, and on that version, David Bowie did an intro (I know, v.cool). In all of my 26 years I've not met anyone else who's seen this (and I think a few people thought I'd made it up) but! some v.helpful individual has put it on youtube so you can see it for yourself!

Also, in case you hadn't realised, it's a week till Christmas day!


picture credits: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10


Friday, 13 December 2013

Reading & Seeing 13

Journey into Fear (1940)

Istanbul, 1940. English engineer, Graham, has been in Turkey on business. The night before he is due to begin his journey home, he is injured in a shooting, perpertrated by a thief disturbed by Graham when he returns late to his hotel room. The gunman escapes but the Turkish Head of Security tells our protagonist that the so-called thief was actually paid to murder him. A new route home is plotted for our engineer and he finds himself on a cargo ship bound for Genoa. The ship is also carrying several other passengers of various nationalities, but who can Graham trust? Exciting stuff eh? Spy thrillers aren't usually my thing but this was v.cool indeed. It's most definitely one of those "can't put it down" books (unsurprisingly, I finished it in record time). As well as writing many novels, Eric Ambler, also wrote screenplays. The descriptions and pace in 'Journey into Fear' definitely lend itself to a film plot and the narrative angle - through the eyes of an ordinary man - made Graham and the story itself, instantly more accessible. Although World War II is evidently the cause of Graham's situation, the War is very much in the background. The crux of the novel is a very simple concept - the interaction of strangers in a confined space. Oh, and the drive for survival. Definitely worth a read.


Sweet Tooth (2012)

Let's start with a confession. I've never read any Ian McEwan before. I know, I know - where have I been? Everybody raves about him (plus he's one an award or two) so perhaps this was the wrong book to start with as I'm not sure what the fuss is about... It starts with an intriguing set-up: a confession from a former secret agent who, after only 18 months in the service, disgraces herself and ruins her lover. Tantalising, no? However, what followed was a meandering recount of the lead-up and installation of our protagonist, the incredibly irritating Serena Frome, into MI5. Once she's actually there (where I thought the pace/interest might increase) she's given a role in operation Sweet Tooth, which basically involves the secret service, under the guise of the "Foundation", bank rolling writers who openly criticise communism. Serena, after one meeting with one of these writers, one Tom Hadley, promptly begins an affair with him. This drags on somewhat. The only shinning light in all the affair stuff is when Serena (and therefore the reader) reads the writer's short stories which were all pretty weird and slightly messed up. But, there aren't enough of these short stories to make up for all the waffle. Just when I was starting to write a v.disparaging review of Sweet Tooth (in my head) it finally got interesting - ahem, 30 odd pages from the end. In fact, the last 10 pages of the novel actually made the book for me and the very final paragraph delivered the payoff I'd been waiting for which I admit, was pretty clever and definitely altered my opinion (and the review). Perhaps this is just how McEwan rolls? He gives his readers 300 pages of nothing before you get it all at the very last second? I might have to read another of his to find out.


Blackfish (2013)

An excellent documentary which exposes the dark side of SeaWorld and the killer whales that "perform" in their shows. The film is framed by the most recent (or at least, the most recently publicised) incident of a fatal killer whale attack on its trainer. You might remember the story from 2010: experienced trainer, Dawn Brancheau, was killed by Tilikum, the largest killer whale to be kept (and perform) at SeaWorld Orlando. Through interviews with former trainers, whale hunters, marine biologists and former marine park owners the documentary follows the life of Tilikum - from his capture as a baby to the solitary life he lives in Orlando where he still appears in shows today. It's quite a devastating look at what goes on behind the curtain at SeaWorld: the lies they spread about killer whale life spans, their complete dis-reguard for their trainers safety (namely buying a whale that they knew had killed a person) and of course a complete lack of respect for the whales themselves. The film got me all riled up and quite emotional, not just because people had died, or been seriously attacked in the name of forcing wild animals to perform to crowds but because whales had died too, mostly thanks to the complete ignorance of the people in charge at SeaWorld and other such parks. Thankfully, I can say that I've never been to such a place but even if I had, I sure as hell wouldn't go again. I highly recommend this film - I feel like more people need to be aware of what's really going on.


Star Trek Voyager (1995- 2001)

Seeing as SO much of my time was spent watching this show (about 3 months) I thought I'd give it a quick mention. Even if you hate SF and Star Trek, I think you've gotta give kudos to the overall concept -Voyager is stranded in an uncharted sector of space known as the Delta Quadrant (Earth, some 70,000 lights years away, is in the Alpha quadrant). The great unknown is the perfect backdrop for interactions with bizarre species and thought provoking scenarios. I'm not gonna lie to you - after 170 episodes some of the story lines get a little repetitive. But, there are some great episodes and I really warmed to all the main characters - especially Janeway, Starfleet's only (as far as I'm aware) female captain. Sure, it's geeky, a little cringe-y at times (and they can't end an episode for shit - last ever instalment was vastly disappointing) but the franchise has come a hell of a long way since the days of William Shatner getting it on with one alien babe after another... Definitely an acquired taste but it made me laugh (sometimes with it, sometimes at it) so if you're curious about what Star Trek was like before JJ Abrams got his mits on it, Voyager is great series to try.



Tuesday, 10 December 2013

weekending


The december busyness kicked off for me this weekend what with... ★ a trip franco manca in brixton village and craft beer on friday night. ★ a day of sisterly fun at the crafty fox market followed by lunch at the joint on saturday. a long over-due meet-up for dinner and drinks (and an exchange of secret santa gifts) with my old school mates on sunday. Plus, I managed to squeeze in some present wrapping, finally finishing star trek voyager AND crocheting too!

Also, over the rather jam-packed weekend I managed to almost completely book-up the rest of my december which can only mean it's going to go quickly (it's already the 10th?!) so rest assured I'll be savouring every festive minute of it.



Wednesday, 4 December 2013

art faves

A couple of nights ago my sister casually asked what artists I liked (something to do with christmas perhaps...) and I ended up spending a good couple of hours looking over my favourites before finally emailing her some links to choose from. Then I thought, maybe it would be nice to share these favourites, perhaps they'll help with your own present buying...but if not, it's always good to look at pretty things.


Collages, as you'll soon see, are a big hit with me and Beth's work is pretty much perfect. The two below are the prints I covet the most.


I absolutely love her illustration style and her choice of film and tv characters (yes, han solo!). The little knight is my current favourite.



The little people project and his book 'Global Model Village' are ace. 




I particularly like his negative space collection but all his stuff is very clever.




More awesome collage art. The cut-out floral mountain and the one below are my faves.




SAMMY SLABBINCK
And whilst we're talking collage art, I think Sammy's work is tres cool. So surreal. I like Goodbye Blue Sky best.




SANDRA DIECKMANN
Beautiful illustrations - so many details and different textures.




HEATHER LANDIS
A mix of collages, illustration and photography - v.pretty stuff.




Monday, 2 December 2013

thanksgiving!


Obviously I'm not american but this year I got to partake in a couple of Thanksgiving related events, and a lot of fun it was too! 

On friday night my friend Alex, the culinary genius, invited me to his vegetarian Thanksgiving feast. Although I am sorry he couldn't celebrate with his family in Michigan, I was VERY thankful that he decided to celebrate it in South London. The food was a-mazing. Lentil loaf, green beans casserole (type thing), giant balls of veggie stuffing, sweet potato mash, feta, pecan and apple salad and homemade bread. See, I told you he was a genius. Needless to say, I had seconds of everything. But, the feast didn't end there - he'd also made three different types of dessert. A pecan pie (avec rum), pumpkin pie and a coconut and pumpkin pie with walnut pastry. I tried a slice of each, obvs - all were as delicious as they sound :) Traditionally, I think people watch some american football after the food but we settled for a game of Cards Against Humanity. Add to all that, lots of red wine, great company and a thought about what we were all thankful for, it really was the most fabulous evening! 

To continue the thanksgiving appreciation, I took part in Meredith's most recent yarn bombing challenge and crocheted these little leaves. En-route to the gym on sunday, I left them on a bench in brockwell park. Most pleasingly, on my way home from the gym, I actually saw someone stop to look at them :) Hope you all had a lovely weekend too.

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