Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Of Ye Olde Tymes And Men In Tights

There's nothing like losing yourself in a good historical romp.  One with sword fights and men in tights acting all manly and swoony.

Or maybe that's just me.

Either way there's something about getting lost in the past, whether through a book or a TV show that is immensely addictive.   Even better with the TV shows you get even more swoonish appeal with the likes of  Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston and Henry Cavill to name just a few.

And if you want to know more about some of these real-life people and the times they lived in there is also a ton of non-fiction for you to wade into.  True stories of scandals and mysteries and love affairs and deaths that will make you realise that the past was definitely not an era of the staid and strait laced.

It almost seems fitting then that there are 2 events coming up in Auckland that celebrate this - The Pop-Up Globe Theatre which will be showcasing a series of Shakespearean productions and The James Plays, which is screening as part of the Auckland Festival.  So why not check them out.

After all you can never have too much of a man with a sword...

Friday, 15 January 2016

Alan Rickman: The Perfect Villain And Much More

If you've read some of my previous posts you'll know I have a thing for Die Hard being The only Christmas movie that everyone should watch, and not just because it has explosions and witty one-liners and action galore but because of the superb Alan Rickman.

Forget Bruce Willis.

Alan Rickman is the man.  Charming, debonair with just the right amount of snark and a voice that could turn you into a swoony puddle.

It's no wonder he made such wickedly wonderful villains.   

Then again he was pretty much wonderful in everything he did.  Whether as the suave Hans Gruber in Die Hard or as the evil Sheriff in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or as a the romantic ghost in Truly, Madly, Deeply; if he was in a movie you just knew you had to watch it just for him a lone.

With his sudden passing binge watching all his movies seems like the perfect thing to do so why not check out some of his best work 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

David Bowie: Starman

Artist, Hero, Starman...

David Bowie touched something in all of us and made us feel that it was okay to be different.  An oddball himself, he lead his life with dignity and grace and all on his own terms.  In a world where being different isn't always easy, Bowie shouted out his differences in the only way he knew how - with music.  And what glorious, wonderful music it is.

From Space Oddity to Golden Years to Under Pressure to This Is Not America his talent, passion and artistry shines through, every song unique just like he was.  And it's this uniqueness and inspiration that will live long in each and every one of us every time we hear one of his songs.

RIP David Bowie.  You are a Starman to us all.

Monday, 11 January 2016

The British are coming!

They say write about what you know….so for my first blog post for Auckland Libraries, I thought I’d write about my obsession. It’s one of the best things to have ever come out of the ol’ United Kingdom. You can take your history, your monarchy, castles, and Earl Grey tea, it’s the best thing, ever (I’m sorry Kate).

So, if you have time in your life for a new obsession (which I’m guessing you do, it’s the holidays after all), here are my picks for the best British comedy to veg out on the couch to.

1. Monty Python's Flying Circus
The show that established the comedians John Cleese and Michael Palin’s, and filmmaker Terry Gilliam’s fame, this classic show is the grandfather of the comedy world. It is hard to believe it is forty years old. Renowned for using short animations as ‘links’ between sketches, it allowed the performers and writers creative freedom to not have to use traditional punchlines. There is also plenty of footage dedicated to mid-thirties men dressed as elderly British ladies, which doesn’t hurt. Watch if you love surrealism, and prepare to start quoting the ‘Dead Parrot’ sketch.

2. The Mighty Boosh
Named after the childhood hairdo of creator Noel Fielding’s brother, this show is like a modern-day Monty Python. Just like with Monty Python, the writers star as the main characters in their creation. Combining frequent pop culture references, guest appearances, and even some damn catchy music written by creator Julian Barratt, this show is childlike brilliance.

3. Blackadder 
Ahh, Blackadder. Almost everyone in the English-speaking world will recognise the star of this show, due to his future role as the mute Mr Bean. Rowan Atkinson, with fellow British actors Stephen Fry, Tony Robinson, Tim McInnerny, Miranda Richardson and Hugh Laurie, proves he’s just as funny being vocal as he is with his mouth shut. The four series of Blackadder prove to be like a fun history class; covering medieval times, Queen Elizabeth’s court, the dim wit of George III (played with great ineptitude by Hugh Laurie), and finally, World War One, which ends with a moving tribute to the people who lost their lives in the Great War.

4. The IT Crowd
A contemporary of the Mighty Boosh (look out for the shared actors), this show is great for geeks, and for the people who love them. I challenge you not to fall in love with the protagonists; misanthrope Roy, socially backward but cute-as-a-button Moss, and career-minded Jen. Much of the humour comes from the clash of their respective worlds. Jen is socially adept, but doesn’t know the first thing about IT (in one memorable episode, she lifts up a small black box, and calls it “the internet”) and the intelligent slackers of the IT department who are almost constantly socially awkward. This show comes with so many references that will make your little geeky heart sing.

These are a great place to start, and remember to hit me up in the comments section if you want any more suggestions ;)

Happy New Year!

Friday, 8 January 2016

Sneak Peak: And Then There Were None: Or The Worst Holiday Ever

Murder, mayhem, borderline insanity, creepy and not so creepy goings-ons this latest version of And Then There Were None has got it all.

There's even a little bit - okay make that a lot - of sexiness in the form of dark, tall and handsome Aidan Turner who once again takes his shirt off.... and a lot more.  Be still my swoony heart.

Beautifully filmed and brilliantly acted this TV mini-series is so good and so addictive that once you start you won't want to stop until the killer is revealed.

And if you can't wait for it to screen here then why not check out the book or one of the older versions that we have got on DVD.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

For those who avoid the non-fiction

I love to learn new things. Learning crafty things, especially - particularly now, with the new crazes on handmade gifts and items and the amount of craft blogs everywhere. Crafting is cool now, and more than once have I made goals to start 'learning how to _____' - it will probably happen again for this New Years.
I am always looking at the latest craft books, and admiring the handmade quilts on pinterest or being envious of my friend who just recently made her first bar of soap (and not from other soap shavings, like you do in Tech at high school, but with all the fandangled techniques and the big cutty wire thing and lye).

However, though it pains me to admit it, I can't read a non-fiction how-to book to save my life.

Oh, I can read, of course. And I know what the words say. I know what all the words mean, separately, but put together in a string like that, it turns into a jumble of nonsense that makes my head hurt. I have to put the book down and am thus left without a clue how to make a handmade tea cosey.
Now, there are ways to get around this, of course. With an abundance of tutorials on almost anything on youtube, there is a video to help get you through whatever you so desire. I bound my very first book (which I made for a friends 21st gift. I was very proud) by watching a very lovely, slow and simple tutorial (this coptic stitch tutorial by Sea Lemon). But even then, sometimes, I just can't stand hearing someone tell me how to do something. I've listened to other tutorials before as well, and half of them just drove me crazy. 

Until I found a perfect little book that was just my speed.

That book was My first crochet book : 35 fun and easy crochet projects for children aged 7+.Using that book, along with my mothers careful instruction and company, I began to crochet. It was amazing - the pictures helped me to understand and it was in such simple language (not that dastardly jargon) that anyone would probably be able to follow the steps. My mind was blown, and before long I had a little bundle of crocheted-something that I was again, very proud of. It's wonky, and missing a few stitches, and overall a general failure as any kind of usable item, but it was my first step into a world of crafts I might actually be able to do.

Since then, some others I've come across include this baking cookbook, and these books about gardeningcooking, embroidery and sewing - so many things I've always wanted to try my hand at but always been put off by intimidating tutorials and books. 

When you have a short attention span like me, I guess it just pays sometimes to be more open-minded about where you get your information from... The important thing is to understand and learn - no matter how you do it or how simple or silly it feels. If one of your New Years Resolutions is to be more crafty or good with your hands, these could help - so get crackin' with these handy dandy kids books (which just happen to be, of course, suitable for actual children as well).

Monday, 4 January 2016

New Years Resolutions

Okay, I was a bit enthusiastic. With last year (oh my gosh, it's already 2016), I had four ongoing reading challenges, and I failed three like a kiwi trying to fly, and managed to 'complete' (to a personal degree) the fourth like a chubby baby sparrow learning to fly and only getting a metre or two away (but hey, it's at least that much!). I started the year with so much enthusiasm, and it quickly dwindled - but never fear.

It's 2016 now, and that can-do attitude is back. Aim for something realistic like sensible minded people? Folly! That's not what MY resolutions are about! It's about trying to do something you wouldn't think you could - I would even say that failing is a part of the process (do I sound like a sore loser yet?).
Where's the fun in saying, 'Well, I did it!' and rubbing it in your friends faces at the end of the year?*

So I've gathered some books that have helped me hone my new 2016 resolutions -

Be nice

Everyone aspires to be a better person (hopefully), and I am no different. That's why A Year of Doing Good is fantastic inspiration to help anyone start doing so.
On January 1st, Judith o'Reilly declares that every day for the next year, she will do a good deed. For the next twelve months, she tries her damndest to keep to it, even when she is in no mood to be helping anyone other than herself.

This is a fun, uplifting (though of course, sad at times) book about the modern woman (read: modern as in completely out of her mind under pressure, full of faults, trying to do a million things, not 'modern' like completely organized and can perfectly fit one good deed in every day, before 3pm in time for her afternoon tea) trying to be good, whether the people she's helping like it or not.
Judith is an inspiration to all good-deed resolutioners (it's a word, promise) everywhere.

Learn something

A (new) addition to my bucket list is to complete the Shikoku Henro Michi pilgrimage in Japan.
It's a lot of walking - about 1,200 kilometers (the North Island here is about 830 km long, to give you an idea) - in one of the more rural parts of Japan, so I have a feeling English won't be much use to me there.
This goal would be infinitely easier if I was able to speak Japanese!

That's why Colloquial Japanese is a handy starter to the resolution: learn Japanese.
I started studying it in high school, but lost interest as I got older (in high school, not in Japanese, haha!) so I think it's time to take it up again - why not have it as a 2016 resolution.
This book is a handy beginners course to learning (or re-learning) the language, and just my speed to get back into it.

Destroy opponents Get fitter

That resolution everyone tries and then ruins by eating the leftovers from your New Years party: exercise.
I hate exercise books that tell me that I, too, can trim and tone my body if I work out for five seconds a day. I hate books that lead you in with a pleasant looking, not-sweaty-at-all woman doing some running with a big smile on her face.

Those books like you to think that it's not hard work, when it's ONLY hard work - I know, I've been training with my siblings for a while now.
By the end of it, we're all tired and ready to kill each other (but in a way where we don't have to actually move anymore) - and that's why I like this book: Men's health workout war: lose pounds, gain muscle, destroy your opponents.

Just the subtitle is enough for me. Destroy my opponents? I'm in.
More or less a more straight forward how-to exercise book, this one also encourages you to be more competitive with your workout friends (or, my sister) and thus how to destroy them. Perfect.**

Craft it up

And finally, The Year of Cozy is just the kind of year I need - a year of getting better at cooking, crafting, and, well, being creative. This book is a lovely little craft compendium, with some simple how to's and inspiring ideas.
Ready to help you get your creative energy a-flowin', The Year of Cozy shares some lifestyle tips as well to make sure you start 2016 with an aim of being happier and more purposeful (and of course, cozy).

So, those are some of my ideas for resolutions - how about yours? Any plans for some goals to get you over the new year?

*Actually, this does sound like fun.

**While the book is 'Men's health', I find that much of the exercise is the same for women. 
I'm no fitness pro, and suggest that you also try and find some good women's training books too if you like, but many of the exercises in Workout War are ones I do and know I can handle
Just as a precaution (and disclaimer, please don't sue me), never try anything too strenuous when you start, or find yourself someone who can show you the ropes. 
You're a baby deer, learning how to crush your enemies. You may still have to learn how to walk without falling over first.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Not Your Usual New Year Resolutions

New Year Resolutions are hard.  Really hard. And every year we break them.  So it's time that we throw the usual resolutions out the window and opt for resolutions that are a little more realistic.... or at the very least attainable

1.  Eat what you like when you like especially if it comes in a mug (see yesterday's post Can't Cook Won't Cook for some inspiration)
2.  If you want cereal for lunch then have cereal for lunch... and dinner too.  Because cereal is the ultimate comfort food
3. Try a boozy shake. Go on I dare you
4.  Paint your nails a different colour... every week
5.  Embrace your inner mad cat lady (see post Purr, Purr, Meow, Meow for all the cat books you could possibly want)
6.  Take up a craft.  Whether it's making friendship bracelets or Pride and Prejudice characters or pixel blankets.  Just think of all the gifts you'll be able to give your friends.
7.  Follow Shona Rhimes example and say yes to something at least once a week
8.  Clean out the clutter... you're going to need room for all those gnomes
9. Drink at least one cup of tea day.  Even better try a tea cocktail (see post The Elixir of Life)
And finally...

10. Read all the books mentioned in this blog post and all the others.

Good enough: The final reading challenge update

Yeah, my family can't read it either.

Haaaaappy New Year! It's 2016, the time when we can reflect on everything we did last year and say, of course I'll do better this year.

Speaking of reflection, does anybody remember way back when, when I started doing a reading challenge? Well, I may have stopped updating you all on it, but I didn't quite stop doing it! However, I'm not writing this to update you on what I've completed lately, but to wrap it all up so that I can start a new challenge (and wish you a good one, while we're at it).

Did I finish it? Well... no. Am I disappointed? No! In fact, while I didn't always stick to the required list, it meant I always had a prompt in case I ever got stuck without a book, which is a great idea in case you're ever wondering what to read next.
And I'm not upset that I failed at my challenge, because I've come to terms with the idea that failure just gives you another chance to do it again (and because it turns out that 52 books is a LOT).

No doubt my new reading challenge will come around with January, and no doubt I'll grab it by the horns again and try to cross everything off of it.
But fifty two books is a heck of a lot, so I'm quite chuffed with myself at having finished how many I did - especially as I did read more books, just nothing I could fit into these categories.

Just to show you how I got on, I thought I'd include the latest and last update of the list, and how much I crossed off. Next year, the goal is to cross off a few more than this one.

What did I miss? Well, about half. But half is half, and that's like, 27 more than zero. I even cheated and reshuffled them so I could put others in categories I had 'already done', but I'll take what I can get. Some of these books were... well, not my cup of tea. Some of them are now on my to-buy list. No doubt you'll see a few of these in future blog posts where I gush all about them (and some I already have)!

My family is now in the process of making a new and revised book list. It's made of two parts - those who have less time to read can tackle the one-book-a-month challenge, and the others have an extra list that doubles it.
It seems like a few of us never got around to completely finishing our list, but not for trying (we shared our progress on a family page). I wasn't the only one! It does mean that hopefully, I'll finally be able to finish a challenge I set for myself - but we can only see.

How did everyone else do? Did you guys have any reading (or otherwise) challenges that you pulled off magnificently, or failed miserably, or finished like me and did so-so? And do you have any more plans for a new one this lovely new year? Let me know!