Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Childhood Heroes: Great Great Grandmother Irene

I've been a bit lax with this series for which I must apologise! I planned on posting this every second Tuesday, but let's not lie, it's been months since the last. With renewed intentions (and more free time) I'm picking the series back up again, this week with....Great Great Grandmother Irene! "Who?!" I hear you cry out, perplexed. This is not the way to pick this series back up. "We want heroes! We want warrior queens! At the very least we want tubby and slightly confused bears. But Grandmothers?" "Great Great Grandmother" I gently remind you. The greats are your hint that this is no ordinary old lady.(Not that ordinary old ladies are not wonderful, round of applause for old ladies everywhere! Hurrah! But you get my jist) 
I know, you probably have no idea who I'm talking about. Let me elucidate for you!

The film: The Princess and The Goblin (astute readers may point out that this also a book, however I have not had the pleasure of reading it so this is a film only based post)

The premise: An army of goblins are planning on attacking the kingdom (what kingdom I do not quite remember) and it's down to Princess Irene and peasant boy Curdie to save the day!

How the grandmother fits into all of this: She's magic. MAGIC GRANDMOTHER. What is not to like? Not only is she magic, but she gives great gifts. Magic ring to help you find your way in and out of the goblin kingdom? Don't mind if I do...Plus she gives her the magic thread to help her make her own magic. See, teaching your grandchildren to be active participants in their stories rather than relying on others to do it for them! (That might be a bit of a stretch but I'm taking it!)

To be completely honest though, this is one of my more superficial childhood heroes. The main reason I loved the Grandmother was because she was just so beautiful.

I mean, look at her! For someone who is a great great grandmother, she looks very well preserved! (I'm only just noticing that in the above picture, the mouth in the mirror is closed while her mouth is actually open. I know it's nothing, but now I'm imagining them as separate entities...with the magic coming through the mirror or something. Multiple science fiction-ey interpretations abound! Anyway, back on track...) I was determined as a little girl that when I was old I would have long flowing white hair like Irene. I know this is such a superficial reason for her to be a childhood hero, but she is! I just loved her. She only appears for a very short amount of time, but I think she embodied some of the traits that I wanted to achieve when I became a grandmother. (a long way off yet!) She is very kind and wise, gives Irene just enough help, but not too much, so that she learns to do things herself.

This is a very short entry I know, longer ones will follow! I'm currently trying to catch up with all the reviews I need to write but I shall try instigating this series again. Let me know, have you seen this film? Or do you have any other characters/people you like just for tiny details about them?

Monday, 29 July 2013

Recipe Time! Mickey Mouse Oreos

Hello there gentle readers, this week on Recipe Time we have Mickey Mouse Oreos. Perfect for parties or Disney themed events! There are two things you should know about these before we begin:

  1. They are delicious.
  2. They are harder than you would expect! (Or maybe they're not, maybe it's just me. Who knows!)
Now, for ingredients you will need:
  • Oreos. I used normal, but I would highly recommend going for double stuffed if you can find them.
  • Giant chocolate buttons
  • Small white chocolate buttons
  • There are two options for icing, and I actually did both. Either get some red fondant icing, or just use icing sugar with red food colouring. If you are going down the fondant route, I recommend a bit of glace icing to help it stick.
Now, for instructions!

1. You will need to line some trays, or alternative surface, with non-stick paper so the biscuits won't stick.

2. When making icing, don't be too water heavy. I used too much water for my glace icing so most of it ran off of the oreos. If you are just using glace, dip the oreos in halfway, then lay them on the greaseproof paper. While the icing is still wet, put two white chocolate buttons on.

3. For fondant icing, roll it out flat then cut out a square. This isn't very specific but you sort of need to just judge whether the square is big enough. Sorry to not be more specific! So dip your oreo into a little icing, then lay it on the square and use your fingers to mould the fondant icing together.Then push white chocolate buttons onto the icing!

4. Leave these in the fridge overnight to set

5. This is the step where having double stuffed oreos will be really useful! I recommend getting the oreos out of the fridge a little bit before as well so that they filling is soft. Get the giant chocolate buttons and push them into the top of the oreo. Below is a picture of the first one I finished!

6. Do this for all of the oreos, then they can either be eaten straight away or put back in the fridge.

And that's pretty much it! They are very easy, the only difficulty being the slightly fiddly application of the icing. There is an entire parties worth of people who can attest to these being both delicious and very cute. 

As an side note- other party food included:

Vanilla Frog Cupcakes

Chocolate Poison Apple Cupcakes

and Vodka Jelly! You need to use your imagination with this one as I couldn't find any blue jelly to fulfil my plan of it looking like the sea with starfish.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Summer Reading Challenge: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Brace yourself guys, I'm about to make a big statement. This is my favourite book I've read for this challenge. I will even go so far as to say that it is now one of my favourite books of all time. I don't want to go on, but I seriously adored every moment of reading this. I finished and wrote the review of the last book on Monday. As I write this opening introduction it is now Wednesday and I am leaving for my holiday this evening. I may have read this in a short amount of time, but I feel as if I have savoured every word, every wonderful image, and since the first page I have known that I will love this book. If I'm being honest, I should probably have started a different book on Monday. One that wouldn't consume me so much, as the thought of going away without having finished this book was unacceptable to me! It is just one of those delightful books that is filled with such wonderful ideas and such evocative imagery. It has truly been a pleasure to read! The rest of this review will be written by Future Sophie when she has returned from all her many voyages!

Well, Past Sophie was certainly very enthusiastic about this book! And rightly so. This was one of those books where you get about three pages in and a massive grin forms on your face as you realise that you are going to enjoy every second. All that is on the blurb is this:
"The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it.
It is simply there, when yesterday it was not"

Suffice to say, I was intrigued. And I was not disappointed! The Night Circus is filled with wonderful imagery, an interesting plot and was a very enjoyable read. It's set around the Victorian age but the narrative isn't chronological. Instead it skips from past to future, slowly unfolding the events. I personally enjoyed this as I felt it helped build the mystery of what would happen. The two main characters, Celia and Marco, have been pitted against each other by their mentors in some kind of magical competition of which very little is known. The Night Circus is created as the setting for their game/competition/whatever it actually is and thus begins their contest. I must admit, although more detail was given about the competition as the book progressed, I still don't entirely understand it. Mostly, I don't understand how it would end. The book builds the competition up to be some grand life or death thing, but it sort of seems like they could just keep competing indefinitely. If anyone has read this, let me know what your take on it was in the comments!

I think part of the reason I loved this book so much is the amount of wonderful ideas that are in it. I have a very visual mind and this book really tapped into that, especially in the circus. Morgenstern gives such rich and enchanting descriptions of the different tents that it makes visualising them incredibly easy. Added to this is the simple yet bold colour scheme. In the circus, everything is black and white, with splashes of vivid red for the rêveurs. These are people who love the circus and follow it around the world and wear a splash of red so they can recognise one another. In a sense you as the reader becomes one of the rêveurs as well. (But only if you are actually enjoying the book I suppose!) In my review of The Stone Gods I mentioned that one of my favourite parts was when the description of other planets, just because they were such wonderful, stand alone ideas. They didn't need to have an entire book dedicated to them, they were just little jewels in the midst of the narrative. I feel like the circus fills this role as well. The nature of the competition means that there are tents that are only fleetingly mentioned and never returned to, but they still linger in your mind as a wonderful idea. I particularly liked a tent that was filled with bottles, that as you smelled them they conjured a particular memory or moment in your mind, such as a visit to a beach or a hot summer night. It was the small details like this that enchanted me.

I enjoyed exploring the relationship between Celia and Marco as it grew and changed. It really isn't a spoiler to say that a romance develops between the two, as I think it is quite apparent early on in the book. In fact, in my opinion the only other option for them would be absolute hatred. Celia and Marco's lives are built around the competition. Celia spends her time as the illusionist for the circus, and Marco spends his organising it from afar. They are constantly wrapped up in the world of the competition.  They will always be having to think about the next move they will make and trying to second guess their opponent. With so much of their time occupied by thinking about the other person, it seems impossible that they could have an entirely neutral relationship. Throughout the book there are questions raised about how the competition will be affected those involved in the circus. Whilst it may seem like a magical, enchanting place, there is a cost to it and Morgenstern makes you think about what this price might be. Yes the competition has resulted in the creation of this wonderful place, but what else? In addition to this is the question about the final outcome. The competition causes these two people's fates to become entwined, but only one of them can win. What happens to the victor at the end of it all? I won't give away any spoilers, these were just questions that I found myself wondering as I read. 

As you can tell, I really enjoyed reading this and I will definitely be on the look out for any more of Morgenstern's work. Have any of you guys read this, and if so what did you think? Are there any books you would recommend based on this one? And was there anything about this book that left you unsatisfied? Let me know!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Disney Themed 20th Birthday Party

Hello lovelies! It has definitely been a while so please accept my many apologies! You can't really be mad at me though because TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY. See, that's how dedicated I am. Writing blog posts on my birthday. Which is fitting as this post is all about my party! I do have book reviews on the way; having written about how I'm not sure I'll be able to complete the challenge I actually have four reviews that are in various stages of completion and I'm reading my fifth. So I need to hurry up! But for now, here are some photos from my lovely party.

I went as Minnie Mouse because what could be more classic Disney? To be honest with you though, I think I went through about fifty different ideas before settling on this one. I'm still slightly heartbroken that I couldn't find a box to make a wardrobe costume, but clearly it was not meant to be! Other ideas included Merryweather, Jiminy Cricket and Belle. However, ebay came to the rescue and voila! My costume was complete! I am particularly in love with the sunny yellow pumps, managed to get them in the sale from Schuch so you can probably still catch them if you're interested!

Shameless selfie moment! For any makeup gurus out there, the mascara is Benefit They're Real! and the lipstick is a Rimmel lip butter in Candy Apple.

And here is the full group! From left to right starting at the back we have The Genie, Lumiere, Peter Pan, Maleficent, Zazu, Minnie Mouse, Jasmine, Zeus, Grumpy and Hades. I'm so impressed at the quality of everyones costumes, my friends certainly know how to go all out. This has definitely been the hardest theme yet as there was just so much choice. Not only that, but characters tend to either be really simple (and we tend to like to fully embrace dressing up in my crowd!) or they are too hard (animate objects are not the easiest!)

I genuinely had the loveliest evening! We played a few drinking games, did a bit of dancing and had just a wonderful night. It's been a while since we have all met up together so it was really nice.

There's not really much more to say, it was just a really lovely evening. I'll write about the food and bunting I've made soon, I think I should finish at least one review first though!

Do any of you guys do themed parties? Or have any birthdays coming up? And if you had come to mine, what would you have been? 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Summer Reading Challenge: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

I've tried to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible so it should be safe to read!

This is one of those books where it is extremely hard to give a plot summary. As an attempt, I can say this: a man's cat goes missing. He is looking for it. This sparks off a string of events that it becomes increasingly clear are connected somehow. Kind of. I know, you're probably thinking right now "sounds thrilling..." (sarcasm of course, don't think I can't tell dear reader!) This is an incredibly simplistic summary of course, and as it turns out the novel is actually full of many different stories that interweave with one another. However, I won't lie to you, when I started this book I wasn't sold on it. I remember thinking that I would get through it, but I probably wouldn't read any of his work again. How wrong I was! I think part of what put me off was Murakami's writing style. It is that sort of detailed, I'm going to tell you everything I'm doing, way of writing. Toru Okada (our protagonist for this tale!) is narrating how he cooks his lunch (al dente spaghetti don'tcha know...) then how a strange woman phones him, then the precise way he walks to this abandoned house etc etc. At the time I wasn't hating it or anything, it just all seemed a little irrelevant. Add to this the fact that when the novel begins, it doesn't seem to have a particularly interesting plot-line and I was feeling uncertain about it. Okada is unemployed, he has nothing really to do, so he's searching for the cat. Not the most thrilling premise. I can happily say that all of these impressions were banished as the book progressed.

One aspect of this novel that I loved is the way that it built. Gradually it introduces a host of characters that were really interesting. I liked the way that details about their lives were released gradually, it kept an air of mystery to them and really aroused my curiosity. Certain characters end up being linked to other ones in ways that make you feel proud when you realise it. There generally featured a lot of moments where these characters were imparting the story of their life to Okada which I found effective. By breaking up the perspective it allowed various threads of storyline to start developing, which were then able to be woven together at various points to create little moments of revelations. These connections between characters and their stories was one of the elements that I found most interesting. I could tell I was warming up to the book as I increasingly found myself trying to puzzle out certain characters and their stories. The further I got into the book, the more I found my mind wandering to it throughout the day. I don't particularly know anything about Japanese history, so the stories told by the characters was an interesting way to learn more about certain periods.

The world of this book is not bound by our laws of reality. I'm finding it very hard to come up with a fitting phrase to describe it. I suppose you could say there are mystic elements to it (or rather that it is an example of 'magical realism'). For example, there feature various characters with forms of psychic/unexplainable powers, and dreams that are not always just figments of the imagination but have meaning to them. It encourages you to question whether truth and fact are the same thing. It raises interesting questions about the difference and relationship between fact and truth. In this novel, the two are not mutually exclusive. Questions are raised about the truth of the stories that are told within the novel. Sometimes events have been recorded or narrated by characters who could not have been present at the time. It raises questions over whether you should just accept the stories at face value, or if you could be wary of believing them. I tended to lean towards the first option as the mystical elements of the novel made me accept that they would have this knowledge. The novel contains many different ways of presenting events. There is the standard main narrative, but splitting off are letters and memories and magazine articles. This puts you, the reader, in a position of having more knowledge of certain events than the characters do. I enjoyed this as it increased my attempts to try and piece together what was happening.

Having started at a position where I was not entirely enjoying this book, by the time I was nearing the end I was sat up in bed in the early hours of the morning devouring the last few pages. I definitely ended up feeling a sense of satisfaction when it finished, but there are a few elements that were left ambiguous or not explained as fully as I would like. It does get slightly confusing at times, trying to figure out what information you can trust and puzzling out certain elements. As a result I think I developed this frantic need to finish it and get the answers I wanted. It is after spending the day mulling it over that I am finding various questions being raised in my mind. There are various 'clues' that I wish had been explained a bit more. Certain characters that I liked, I wish had been expanded more. Some just seem to disappear from the narrative without a great explanation why.  

However, I would say that my experience of reading this book was ultimately positive. By the end I was relishing all of the details that were included as they helped me try to solve the mysteries. I would read more of Marakami's work in the future and am very glad that I had this on my challenge! I have tried to not include any spoilers in this review in order to encourage those who have not read it to give it a shot. If you have already read it do leave a comment, let me know what you liked/disliked about it! And if you haven't, do you think you will?

This will be my last post for a little while as I am off for all my festival fun on Wednesday, so I wish you all a lovely two weeks or so! That's also why this review is a bit shorter than the others, I am currently packing and organising everything. I'm going to take the next book with me for travelling (although I won't take it to France, just in case!) so will hopefully be able to crack on with some of that. The books for uni are all starting to arrive in the post which is very exciting. So what I am essentially saying is that trickles of activity should continue quite nicely! Farewell for now my lovelies!