Tuesday, February 21, 2017

White Night 2017

A couple of years ago I went to White Night for the first time and really loved it but when I went last year it wasn't such a great experience. Now I could say that was because the displays weren't that great, but I think that the reality is that I was in the middle of a gall bladder attack and so it wouldn't have mattered how spectacular the displays were.

This year, though, was back to an amazing experience. We changed our strategy this year. Instead of going in just after dark, we didn't actually go in until around 11.30pm. I have to say I'm a bit old for this going out at 11.30 at night. And that's despite the fact that I had a nana nap before we went into the city. At least I'm still calling it a nana nap, but I am pretty sure that the fact that I laid down in bed with every intention of going to sleep and slept for a good 2 hours means that it was more a sleep than a nap. Not sure where that line is technically. I then didn't get home until 4.30. That would have been fine except I was going out the next morning too! More about that later maybe.

Last year they didn't have any projections on the facade of Flinders Street train station or on the buildings near the Forum so I was very glad to see that they were back this year. On the train station there was a projection with an indigenous theme talking about the fact that there are many nations within indigenous culture.

The next buildings we saw were on a stretch near the Forum building, one of my favourite building facades in the city. These buildings have a fairy tale theme which reminded me in many ways of the Fables series by Bill Willingham.

The Exhibition building is always a highlight and this year was no exception, although a little bit surprisingly, it wasn't may favourite thing this year. More on that at the end. The building really lends itself to projections. It is a beautiful building itself at the best of times, but when done well, it really is a spectacular canvas on which to paint a picture with light and sound.

One of my favourite places in Melbourne is the Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria. Normally it is a place where it is quiet, with stately green lamps filling the desk spaces but come White Night it is transformed into a canvas. This year we found ourselves under the waters of Port Philip Bay in the Sea Dragons Lair.

My highlight this year though was definitely the Pyrophone Juggernaut. We originally arrived just as a show ended so we had to wait over an hour for the next show, but it was totally worth the wait.

The juggernaut is a fire organ, where the percussionists use gas and flames to play organ pipes. That is such a meagre explanation for the experience - amazing performances of percussion on unusual instruments, drama and spectacle. Amazing!

Not everything was a hit. There were a couple of things that we saw that I was underwhelmed by and then reading through some of the news I realised that there was lots of good stuff that we just didn't see. I'm not sure that I have quite figured out how to see everything in any one night. We do tend to go to the Exhibition building and the Library. May need to be brave and venture into new parts of the city. Next year, which I am already looking forward to!

Now to work on the definition of nana nap vs sleep.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

What if you don't really do popcorn?

The last time I posted about going to the movies I called the post Pass the Popcorn Please, but the reality is that I don't really do popcorn. I don't dislike it. It's more that the giant buckets of popcorn you get at the movies are a) too expensive and b) too big!  I do like a choc top icecream but I have usually finished eating it way before the movie starts to that hardly counts does it.

Anyway, I've been to see a few movies since my last post. Here are my thoughts on them.

I went to see this because it's set in WWII and I was also looking for a movie that would appeal to both me and a male of the species, and I think it hit the spot. Even though I had seen the trailer, it didn't really play out the way I thought it would which I guess is a good thing unless you don't actually up with satisfaction. It is interesting because there are some war related scenes in there, but it wasn't really all war, all the time. Marion Cotillard is gorgeous and some of her costumes were very nice, and Brad Pitt is, well, Brad Pitt so it was easy on the eye. I've never really got the  Brad Pitt thing, or the Ryan Gosling thing either I guess come to think of it, but he was good in this.

A couple of weekends ago I went on a road trip to Canberra with a couple of friends. We did lots of very cool stuff, exhibitions, art galleries, food and sight seeing, and on one night we headed to the movies to see this. When I first saw the trailer for this I was trying to place who the Australian actor was in the lead role, so I was very surprised when it turned out that the main actor was Dev Patel. He totally nailed the Aussie accent, and lets face it, there have been some great names who have tried and failed in that regard (Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain anyone?)

One of the good things about going to the movies while on holidays is that I didn't have to drive and so I thought I would be totally decadent and have a glass of wine during the movie. Great plan....until I knocked it over when it was still 3/4 full.

So what about the film you ask? I enjoyed it a lot. It was a very moving story about a young Indian boy who gets separated from his family and ends up being adopted by an Australian family and then needs to go back and find his home. This one is based on a true story, and any film based on a true story is instantly a degree better than it would have been if it was just made up. And I'm not sure that you could necessarily believe the story if it was made up. It was very moving, and the final scenes were very emotional

Last night this was our choice to go and see, mainly because it was the main move that we both had some interest in seeing. I was hoping to see Live by Night but it looks like we may have missed it unfortunately I am just getting to know my movie watching companion and so it felt like it could be a movie that had them not necessarily enjoying it, but I think he did.

It was once again a very moving story, and Casey Affleck's performance was stellar.  As the story unfurled to the point that we learned why Lee was so reluctant to return to his home town under any circumstances, no matter how much his nephew wanted to stay, you couldn't help but feel for Lee, to understand why he was so melancholy and angry all at once.

I was surprised by how humourous the film was, particularly in it's observations about life with a teenage boy who is dealing with unexpected loss the best way he could.

It was slow in parts, but I can totally see why the movie and the performances of the cast are receiving so many accolades during prize season.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The movie list

I mentioned making a list of the movies I wanted to see over the next few months and so here it is!

Coming out soon

Loving - Feels like I have been waiting for this film to be released for months.

A Monster Calls - Bring the tissues!

Beauty and the Beast - I think I might do this one in Gold Class.

Hidden Figures - Story sounds fascinating

Moonlight - Was interested in seeing this after the Golden Globes where it did so well.

Rules Don't Apply - Not sure why but it looks good.

Manchester by the Sea -

Jasper Jones - Film of the book by Aussie author Craig Silvey

Fences - Don/t need to say anything more than Denzel Washington

Tulip Fever - Read the book a few years ago so interested to hear that it

Already out and I still need to see

Lion - Nothing to do with the movie, but Dev Patel's Aussie accent sounds very good

Rosalie Blum - We keep on saying we are going to go and see some foreign films but never quite get around to it.

Saw yesterday 


Movies I definitely don't want to see

50 Shades Darker

What are you looking forward to seeing soon?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pass the popcorn please

So, here's a thought that I should have considered a year ago. While I am slowly getting back to reading (I think), I do go to the movies quite regularly, so I could, you know, talk about the movies I have seen. I have already been lucky enough to see 3 very enjoyable movies so far this year, and there are so many films coming out that I want to see. So many. Maybe I need to create a list to keep track.

Firstly, I saw LaLa Land. I know that it is getting mixed reviews from my amongst my friends, but I enjoyed it. I loved the homage to the magic of jazz, musicals, and Hollywood. I loved the way that the movie was shot, the colour and movement. I must confess I was a little surprised that it is a current setting. I think I was expecting that it was set in the 1950s or 60s but no. There was a particularly fun little section in the film which featured some 80s music which was amusing and enjoyable.

At first, I wasn't keen on the ending  of the . The friend I went with and I both agreed that we were left feeling a little bit melancholy at the end of it, but maybe it had the effect of leaving you with something to think about rather than walking out of the cinema and just forgetting about it. Or maybe the ending didn't quite work. Maybe one day I will decide, after watching it again.

The next film I saw as A United Kingdom.

I am part of a group that meets up once a month to watch movies. It's kind of like book club, but for movies instead. Part of the reason we meet on a Monday is that the cinema we go to is super cheap on that day, but is also central for us all. One of the good things is that we all take turns to choose the movie. This means that we have on occasion seen movies that we didn't like, or that we did like despite the fact that we possibly wouldn't have chosen to see it ordinarily, some Australian films, some mainstream films, some foreign films, some documentaries. Basically, it's help broaden all of our horizons.

I really enjoyed this choice. It is the story of the last king of Bechuanaland (modern day Botswana) who fell in love with an ordinary English white girl in London just after the end of World War II. It covers the opposition that they faced both in the UK and in Africa when they decided to marry, but also the constitutional crisis that it prompted in the Commonwealth, particularly in respect to the fact that neighbouring South Africa was introducing the policy of apartheid at the time.

One of the things that I didn't make the connection to until very late in the film was that it was about Botswana, but as soon as I did make that connection it made me think of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. The main character in that book often talked about the beloved president of Botswana and it was this man that she was talking about.

One of the movies I am looking forward to seeing when it comes out here is Loving, which is another film about mixed race relationships. I think I am attracted to these stories because my ex is African, or maybe I just love a good story where love overcomes the odds, and if it's based on true life...even better.

The third movie I have seen this year is Jackie, which stars Natalie Portman, and tells the story of what happened in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of her husband, President Kennedy.

Given the subject matter, it is quite a heavy movie, but it is so well done that it didn't feel overwhelmingly heavy. Natalie Portman was excellent in her portrayal of a woman facing the loss of her husband, and to a degree her identity as the first lady.

One of the things that was a bit odd about going to see this movie was a bit of a drama around allocated seating. I know that it is pretty much normal now for cinemas to have allocated seating but I really don't get why it has to be this way. That is especially the case when the ticketing system breaks down and they still insist on manually allocating the seating. Whhhyyy. Once we got inside there were all sorts of issues as people were complaining that people were in their seats etc etc, It's not like there weren't any empty seats because there were, but they wanted their exact seats, to the point where one woman refused to move one seat over to help resolve the issues because she had paid for THIS seat. I'm pretty sure you paid for a seat, not that exact one, but never mind. One of the bonuses with all this dramas was that the movies were all running late, so they chopped out all the ads and the previews. It's not uncommon for those to go for 15 minutes or more these days, so that was a welcome omission for me.

And actually...don't worry about the popcorn. I will have a couple of pieces if someone else has some but other than that I am not particularly fussed about it.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

When Sylvester, the Duke of Salford, first meets Phoebe Marlow, he finds her dull and insipid. She finds him insufferably arrogant. But when a series of unforeseen events leads them to be stranded together in a lonely country inn, they are both forced to reassess their hastily formed opinions, and begin a new-found liking and respect for each other. Sylvester calls to mind the satirical genius of a Jane Austen novel and is adored for its wit and a fast-paced plot that ranges across a myriad of settings

I first listened to this book just under 3 years ago, but I never did post anything about it, which was remiss of me but I think not really unexpected. After I finished The Passage and then another audio book, I was trying to decide what to read next. I do have a few books that I have already purchased but not yet listened to, as well as a list of books I'd like to get to someday, but none of them really tickled my fancy. And then I hit on the idea of listening again to a Georgette Heyer novel as narrated by Richard Armitage, mainly because it is my idea of aural bliss to listen to him read anything, but he does seem to be particularly suited to narrating Heyer novels.

He has the right tone in his voice that lends itself to upper class accents and his characterisation is so good that it doesn't matter whether the character is old or young, or female or male, each character is individual and recognisable.

Now, I should mention up front that this is an abridged audiobook, but it is a well done abridgement. I don't think I have missed anything through the story so it might be interesting to read in full one time to see what was cut out. That's not always the case. Years ago I listened to a novel where the abridgement wasn't quite so good. At one point the main character was regretting having kissed someone other than her husband and I was like wait...what.

What about the book itself. It is Heyer, so it is all Regency ballrooms and dukes abound, but it is a fun read. I don't want to recap the plot as such because I don't want too start to feel like I should write a full review, rather than just commentary. I will see that I did find myself wondering how much of the language that Heyer used was made up. I am sure that I heard somewhere that she did.

I fully expect to listen to more of the Heyer books Richard Armitage has narrated. It is a totally enjoyable treat.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Weekend Cooking: Triple Berry Jellies

You wouldn't think so if you so me chowing down on dumplings last night, but I am still trying to eat a bit healthier. That also means that I have gone back to doing the things I was doing when I lost all that weight before I stopped doing all those things and put it a lot if it back on.

So, what are the things that I was doing, stopped and now I am doing again.

On the food front, it is to watch what I eat (so make better food choices), how much (portion sizes) and, in theory, move more (exercise), although I am not doing so great on that one.  For the other aspects, I have gone back to keeping a food diary, studying (yes, studying) food magazines and diet related cookbooks. The most important aspect is planning and preparation, having some idea of what food we are going to be eating for lunches and dinners rather than having takeaway several nights a week.

Sttudying food magazines mean getting ideas for snacks and new recipes. Sometimes it is the simplest of ideas that strikes a cord. For instance, because I was a bit slack and didn't get to the shops in time, I ended up just having egg, ricotta, spinach and tomato on toast for dinner. Simple, but tasty. And something I saw in a magazine as a breakfast suggestion. Breakfast for dinner. Yes please.

This is definitely a simple idea, and one that really should have occurred to me before. I mean, when we were kids it was a treat to have canned fruit set into jelly, but because the boy doesn't really like jelly I don't make it very often. This time instead of making a giant bowl of jelly and fruit I have made the individual serves as suggested and I am hoping that will mean that,  for this week at least, if I fancy something sweet I can just grab one of these and maybe have some yoghurt with it. Or ice cream maybe.

Oh, and expect to hear more about dumplings because I had two of the best dumplings I ever ate last night and I am so going to go on a quest to eat more egg custard dumplings. You have been warned. Not part of the plan but oh, so good.

This recipe came from the January/February 2017 issue of Diabetic Living.

Triple Berry Jellies

125g punnet blueberries
125g punnet raspberries
125g punnet blackberries
4 strawberries, cut into thin wedges
9g sachet raspberry diet jelly crystals
250ml (1 cup) boiling water
250ml (1 cup) cold water
2 Tbspn strawberry liqueur (optional)
500g extra berries, to serve
Mint leaves, to serve (optional)

Divide berries evenly between 4 185ml (3/4 cup) capacity glasses.

Put jelly crystals in a heatproof jug. Pour over boiling water, stirring until jelly crystals dissolve. Stir in cold water and strawberry liqueur, if using. 

Pour jelly evenly over berries. Put glasses on a tray and refrigerate for 4 hours or until set.

Serve topped with extra berries and mint leaves, if using.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Audiobooks as noise reduction

I recently went on a cruise and one of the things I realised was that if I was going to be listening to audiobooks at all, possibly I needed something a little lighter than The Passage, which I was listening to at the time.

Little did I know, that I would listen to something for a while but not quite just for the joy of the story.

I went on the cruise with my friend and her son as well as my son. The boys have just turned 18 so before we went away there was a bit of discussion about changing rooms so that they were together and my friend and I were together. Once we were on the boat pressure was bought to bear to do just that and so I acquiesced.

My friend had mentioned that she was a snorer, and so I should have been prepared, but oh my goodness..... The first night I didn't get a lot of sleep. The second night I tried to get to sleep but I was unsuccessful so in the end I decided that I would try putting on my audiobook to block out the noise.

It was a good plan. It really was. There was, however, one flaw.

I assumed that listening would block out the noise, and it certainly muffled it a bit, but not totally so I did still keep on waking up but now there was the added complication that I would wake up and hear something in the audiobook and think things like wait, who's Jack? Why is this character talking to a truck driver at a truck stop. Wait. did she just say she's married.

So then I had to contend with the thoughts in my head and the snoring.

After the second night, we swapped back. And I started listening to the book again so that it made some kind of sense.


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