Friday, 27 February 2015

DIY outdoor furniture and other awesome projects

Do you love recycling? Or creating awesome home projects?

I had a go at making a pallet outdoor couch and table over the New Year period and let me tell you, it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be that's for sure.

I'm really happy with how it turned out in the end, however I don't think I would make another one. At least not the way I did it. As a helpful hint, don't use fence paint with a brush....this process seemed like it was never going to end. Who knew that pallets had a never ending series of sides to them! Spray paint would have been a much faster way to go.

I love the idea of recycling discarded items and turning them into something useful or decorative around home. This couch was my first of hopefully many more projects. The project itself wasn't too costly. You can pick up pallets from most big stores if you ask. The most costly items were the pillows, which could of been made cheaper by waiting for sales or finding other means to also recycle and create pillows (Unfortunately I was hosting a work BBQ and had time constraints to get the project finished on time)

The table was an added part as we had a number of left over pallets and thought it would be a handy extra. We used two pallets for the table top to make it more sturdy. As the pallets are stacked on top of each other, this also created shelves under the table. Great for putting your books and magazines to rest while you sit back, relax and have a sip of a refreshing beverage.

I found Pinterest has a huge amount of recycling projects for around home. So many that I'd need to retire now if I was ever to try them all. And so does Auckland Libraries - with lots of creative books, click here to see some of these if you are interested in getting some inspiration.

So, my question to all you blog readers is - Have you created any recycled projects? If so please share them in the comments. I love being inspired by all of your creativity.

And yes - that's my cat in the photo showing her appreciation of having some comfy outdoor seating... Meow, purr purr.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Books to sink your teeth into – check out 2014’s best cookbooks for inspiration

Do you want to improve your culinary skills in the kitchen? Looking for some delicious recipes for your next summer party? 2014 served up some impressive cookbooks for faster cooking and plan-ahead meal ideas, while also giving you more reasons to be reaching for that extra slice of cake again and again.

So many of New Zealand’s favourite chefs, from across the globe, have released cookbooks this past year; the haul just might even break your coffee table. From vegetarian and vegan recipes to beautiful baked goodies, there’s something for everyone in this mix.

I’ve picked a few of my favourites from last year’s crop, to bring you inspiration by the gallon and the ladleful.

River Cottage Light & Easy By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest offering is filled with a bevy of healthy everyday recipes at your fingertips. Steering clear of both wheat and dairy, vegetables are the alternative stars of these dishes. These nourishing, wholesome and healthy crowd-pleasers will satisfy keen harvesters and the grow-your-own type of cooks.

Josh's Backyard BBQ by Josh Emmett 
This book is one for the blokes and takes outdoor cooking to the next level. Masterchef judge Josh Emett proves there are family-friendly and ‘no-fuss’ ideas to spice up the tradition meat and three veg meal. If your man is a hungry meat-loving carnivore, these recipes will lead you to exhaust the BBQ over this summer season.

Movida Solera By Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish
You may not be able to pronounce its name, but this cookbook offers you the next best thing to taking a journey through the Spanish region of Andalusia. It is filled with vivid photography, Moorish food and majestic travel stories. If you’re searching for simple food with top quality ingredients then look no further.

Everyday Delicious By Chelsea Winter
This book is a personal favourite in my household, where we often refer to Chelsea as our most cherished and valued flatmate. Chelsea's debut cookbook ‘At my table’ is loved by many for its tasty and hearty recipes. Her second book contains the same relaxed and accessible style of Kiwi cooking, but focuses more on 'week-night' meals that are quick and easy to whip up. Two of my favourite recipes are the shortbread and peppermint slice; straight-forward, delicious and no-fuss.

Through the seasons: the free range cook By Annabel Langbein
Every Mum in New Zealand is surely equipped with one of the many cookbooks created by this matriarch of hearty Kiwi cooking. Audiences once again see why Langbein has solidified a permanent place in the New Zealand food scene, returning with an essential kitchen handbook for today’s busy bodies. Inspired by a year of fresh seasonal harvests, she has created even more simple and alluring recipes, many of which are gluten-free or vegetarian.

Healthy every day: 120 delicious and nourishing recipes for energy and good health By Pete Evans.
Pete Evans, Celebrity chef and one-half of the My Kitchen Rules Australia judging duo, shares his favourite recipes for good health and vitality. Inspired by the ‘paleo lifestyle’, these everyday meals feature loads of nutritious ingredients, and are free of gluten, sugar and dairy. The recipes are fairly easy, assuming you have many of the ingredients already stocked in your pantry, but are delicious and achievable after a long day at work. Sadly for many, sauce is sparingly added to the mix, however with striking photography, and a range of recipes from different cuisines, this book is great for the health conscious foodie.

- our thanks to Sophie Buchan for the guest post!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Death of the paperback: The great ebook vs treebook debate

The growing presence of e-readers has prompted many bookworms to replace their traditional paperback editions with electronically downloaded equivalents.

New and popular reads have become more accessible than ever before, simply with one click of a button. Subsequently, booksellers and librarians are expected to adapt their services to suit this expanding technology, amid growing speculation that print formatting may be on its way out.

From Jane Eyre to Harry Potter, the paperback has been a consistent literary staple for decades. However, with some deciding to bid farewell to its tradition without even a backward glance, some people are now heralding ‘the death of the paperback’.

But even with e-readers’ phenomenal success, do people truly believe the decline of the paperback could eventually turn it obsolete? Do people really foster a genuine preference for reading on either paper or an e-reader device?

Results taken from an Impact PR survey definitely give an affirmative answer to these questions, with the majority of participants expecting to progressively phase out hardbacks and look online for their literary fix. Despite this shift, 92 per cent of those surveyed also believed that there is still a place for libraries in the future.

Yet the writing appears clear on the wall here. Over the last few years, e-books have quickly subsumed print as the preferred vehicle to store literary favourites, especially among young people.

For all the great things that e-books can accomplish – convenience, portability and selection – there are still some fundamental assets that, in my opinion, e-readers will never possess.

There are a few qualities about paperback that I can’t seem to give up: the anticipation before ripping into a brand new book, the physical act of holding that book in your hands and turning the pages that, for me at least, can hardly compare to pixels on a screen.

Therefore I suggest that e-books are not simply a better format replacing an inferior one, but rather a medium that offers an entirely separate experience.

So here I play devil’s advocate and lay both arguments on the table:

Firstly, you could debate that there’s nothing like the comforting smell or weight of a well-read book in your hands. Paperbacks are a classic tradition, unrestricted by the problems faced by those dependent on digital sources. They possess a collectible quality, passed down through generations, and permit a sense of nostalgia and provenance. However, by glancing at this list of print benefits, you could contend that an affinity toward paperback comes from not so much the practicality of the object, as it does the emotional and sentimental value of the hard-copy itself.

Alternatively, online books are credited to cost less than a third of their hard copy counterparts, making them affordable and accessible for people on smaller budgets. When you purchase or download an e-book, your reward is instantaneous; meaning there is no need to trudge through the pouring rain to your nearest library anymore. Perfect for the travelling gypsies, e-books will allow you to bring a whole library with you wherever you go, saving a ton of space and also maintaining the “green” mentality. Lastly, they eliminate the dangers of straining your eyes to read the paperback’s text, where with an e-book you are able to change the font size and brightness to your specifications.

Have I sold you on a preference yet? Are you setting your quality fiction novel on the table next to your conveniently placed iPad? Well, how about this suggestion: Paperbacks do not necessarily need to disappear for e-books to flourish and e-books do not have to be the only choice. While I may take my e-reader with me on long train rides into work or on holiday, I can’t kick the habit of reading a physical hard-copy, and I shouldn’t have to.

There’s plenty of room in my life for both.

- our thanks to Sophie Buchan for the guest post!

Friday, 13 February 2015

Books to read before they hit the big screen in 2015

Personally, I believe the hallmark of a really great book is when a reader is able to cast and direct the story within their own mind. Whether visualising the locations or the characters, an enticing read is one that can transform a collection of words, into those that evoke an imagined visual experience.

While comparing the differences between a book and its cinematic adaptation can often lead to heart-wrenching disappointment, there are some occasions when it has actually succeeded, and when it does, the result is spectacular.

The accomplishment of reading a novel before seeing it in the cinema also fulfills me with a slight air of smugness and superiority, in comparison to other people who clearly haven’t bothered.

To share this feeling with you all, I have narrowed down a list of eight essential books to read before you see their movie adaptations are released now/in the coming months. Any one of them could possibly be the next people claim that “the movie was every bit as good as the book”.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Chances are you will already know what to expect before going to see this movie. Starring Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele, the characters erotic exploits are set for release on the big screen just in time for Valentine’s Day.

American Sniper by Chris Kyle
The autobiography of SEAL Chief Chris Kyle tells a fascinating and brutal account of his rise through the ranks, that has solidified his status as the most lethal sniper in American military history. The upcoming adaptation comes from Clint Eastwood and stars Bradley Cooper in the lead role.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova
We follow the story of a successful Harvard professor, who receives a tragic diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. As she becomes increasingly disorientated and forgetful, Alice struggles to navigate these moments of confusion and slowly learns how to make the most of her time while she can. Alice is played by the uncompromising Julianne Moore, nominated for an Oscar for her brilliant work in this leading role.

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
The story follows an unconventional private eye and the bizarre situation he finds himself steeped in following his ex-girlfriend’s plea to help her kidnap a billionaire land developer, whom she just so happens to be in love with. Set in the psychedelic sixties, the big screen adaptation features a stellar line-up; led by Joaquin Phoenix, who is supported by Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro and Owen Wilson.

In the heart of the sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
Based on one of the most dramatic maritime disasters in history, the novel tells the true story of the sinking of the Whaleship Essex that was attacked by a sperm whale in 1820, and what also became of the ships survivors. The movie features Aussie Chris Hemsworth in the lead role and by the looks of the trailer, audiences can look forward to one epic adventure.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
From the author of Gone Girl, one of 2014’s most buzzed about films, comes another psychological thriller with a twist, and this time it's about a woman struggling to recover from the murder of her family and contend with the secret society determined to revisit the crime to investigate what really happened. The movie adaption has assembled Hollywood heavyweights like Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christina Hendricks and Nicholas Hoult.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
On a similar wave length to The Hunger Games series, Insurgent is the second book of the thrilling ‘Divergent’ trilogy, which follows Tris Prior and her unshakable bravery in attempting to led a revolution against an entire government body to restore peace.

Paper Towns by John Green
From the author that brought us the tearjerker of the century - ‘Fault in Our Stars’, comes the classic tale of Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl takes boy on a revenge fuelled midnight adventure, only to mysteriously disappear afterward. You know, that old tale? This unconventional love story is equally quirky, humourous and charming.

- our thanks to Sophie Buchan for the fantastic guest post!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

6 Movies that are Better than the Books they were Based on (IMHO)

Books that are better than the movie are ten cents for twelve (you know, a dime a dozen) but I really had to do some serious pondering to come up with some movies that surpassed their source material. Here’s my list of 6 movies that succeeded in spite of being based on books that were all just like blah blah blah.

American Psycho
It’s kinda hard to read a book with your eyes closed but that is how I got through ‘American Psycho’. The promising beginning soon descends into page after page of murder! madness! misogyny! mutilation! without really going anywhere - at least, nowhere that I wanted to go. The movie has all of that, but one thing the book doesn’t have but really needed: character development.

Once Were Warriors
Am I allowed to say that? The movie just made such a massive impact and was so accessible in a way that a novel could not be. Of course, the movie succeeds in part because of the depth of the source material but…it’s just BOOM! you know?

The Devil Wears Prada
A chick-lit novel about fashion would be easy to slate, but it’s actually not a bad read. It’s entertaining enough: there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. There’s just something that the movie has that the book does not: Meryl Streep. She gives her fashion editor character a depth that the book lacks.

I owned this book for years before I even got past the first few pages, what with all that Scottish dialect and no speech marks. Just watch the movie, it’s so much easier. And it has a great soundtrack.

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Yawns all round! But the movie has Colin Firth, so it wins by a smidge.

Anne of Green Gables
This is highly controversial of me to say, but mostly because Anne of Green Gables was technically a miniseries, not a movie. Come on! You know I’m right. The book is great, lots of chapters about Anne’s various shenanigans in Avonlea, but it’s all a bit old-timey in structure and I want a bit more direction from my novels. Many of the books’ scenes just work better after being tweaked a bit for the movie to really bring out the humour, drama and sadness. Plus, Megan Follows is the Best Anne Shirley Ever and Gilbert Blythe is a stone cold fox. Facts.

Well, I’m done dancing with the devil for now. There’s nothing left to do but invite the outpouring of offence in the comments below. Do you agree or disagree with my 6 choices? What movies do you think are better than the books? Who’s hotter, Colin Firth or Gilbert Blythe? Post your comments below!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Getting in The Zone

In late 2014, the Sky network launched a new Entertainment channel called The Zone, which features TV shows and movies from the Science Fiction, Cult, Fantasy, Superhero and Horror genres. I squealed rather loudly in delight when I read about it, because I have long wished that NZ had its very own version of the SyFy channel available overseas. At this stage I should mention I am well well WELL behind in watching TV shows. Something had to give when I became a parent to my mini-geeks, and sadly TV was it L

So when I read the initial line up for The Zone there was even more squealing, or squee as it is fondly known as. My mysky unit then very quickly filled up with all sorts of shows, many of which got the one episode watch and then the flick. (Sorry awesome shows, I only have so much mysky hard drive space and evening viewing time). But the following oldie yet extremely goodie shows made the final cut, and I am now well addicted!

The great news for you, our lovely library customers, is that we have most of these terrific shows on DVD for you to borrow, just in case you missed them on The Zone, or don’t have Sky TV at home. Or maybe you just want to revisit the awesomeness.

First up is Eureka. Eureka is a quirky wee town like no other. Jack Carter, a U.S. marshal who stumbles across the town, is quickly drawn into mysterious events, which we soon learn are pretty par for the course in Eureka. In a town made up of America’s top geniuses and scientists, things definitely get a bit interesting! I’m so in love with Sheriff Jack and the way he meshes with the town, and can’t wait to see more. Luckily for me I have 5 more seasons to look forward to J

Next is Warehouse 13. This is a spin off show from Eureka, but stands on its own just fine.  Secret Service agents Pete and Myka are ‘seconded’ to Warehouse 13, a highly secretive storehouse of supernatural artefacts. They are sent on missions to retrieve such objects when they wreak havoc in the world. There is just such a fun dynamic between the leads. Again, I’m pretty happy to see I have another 4 seasons after this one to go, wahoo!

Third on the list is Supernatural. This is a show I have been missing out on for so many years it’s a bit embarrassing really. I have several good friends (and family members) who have been telling me how much I would love it, and yep, they were all right. Supernatural follows the adventures of brothers Sam and Dean Winchester as they battle a legion of supernatural and demonic creatures. I may have come to this show because, lets face it, that’s a whole lot of hot right there with Sam and Dean, but I’m staying because it is nail biting and terrifyingly good (although I MAY watch from under a pillow a chunk of the time). The dynamic between the brothers is just that good – it really is what makes the show what it is. Not to mention the incredible supporting cast, I am hanging out to get to Charlie episodes. And yay - now I understand so much more on Tumblr!

Lastly we have Teen Wolf , which has almost completely taken over my mysky, as since The Zone launched, they have already played the first three seasons and are just starting the fourth. I’m quite ok with that, but my other half not so much; he seems to be missing the attraction (ahem) somehow. Teen Wolf is (very) loosely based on the 1985 movie of the same name that featured Michael J Fox. I am actually old enough that I loved this movie at the time (although not so much its sequel). This modern take on Teen Wolf is a whole lot more gruesome and gritty, but is still filled with just the right amount of teen angst. Scott McCall is the said Teen Wolf after being bitten in the pilot episode, and he is not only navigating some very complicated wolfy politics and vendettas, but is dating the daughter of the family of hunters that have hunted his kind since way back when  - awkward! His best friend Stiles is just THE best, full of zingy dialogue and witty one liners. His mysterious werewolf mentor Derek Hale is full of smoulder, tension and general hotness, and I am never sad at all when he has to remove his shirt, although usually he is in pain at the time, oh dear *fans self*.

So these are just a few of my new (old) favourite things, courtesy of The Zone. If you’ll excuse me, I believe I may have some more TV to catch up on J

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Thank you Lego!

I’ve recently been playing two of the biggest comic book franchises this earth has ever known; DC comics’ LEGO Batman 3. Beyond Gotham and Marvel Comic’s LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. I have to say that it has been pretty good effort on both.

First off, if you’re a big fan of Batman, like I am, you will love the fact that you will get to see 150 characters from the DC Universe waiting to be unlocked. The game play is what you would expect from other LEGO Games but the effort they put in to immersing the player in the world of Batman is great. Each Lego game is a world unto itself and this game is no exception. If you’re into co-operative play and puzzles then this is for you. I think kids and adults will get a kick from playing it.

Secondly, Marvel Super Heroes is equally as good. You get to play as the entire cast of Avengers: Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Captain America and other superheroes from Fantastic Four to X-Men. If you love Marvel Comics you will pretty much encounter and unlock all the characters you recognize and love. I think there is nothing more fantastic than seeing Bruce Banner turn into the hulk or flying through the air doing a whirly as Iron Man.

If you’re a fan, or not a fan, play these games and it will enrich your knowledge of DC comics and Marvel Comics, while seeing the lighter side of the two franchises. Thank you LEGO for making these two games.