Thursday, 17 August 2017

Movie Review: Silent House (2011)

Jay and I sat down to watch Silent House last night. After about ten minutes, we gave each other "that look". You know that look, right? That are-we-really-gonna-sit-through-this-shit look. But, we stuck with it. Was that the right thing to do?


Silent House is about a young woman, Sarah, who's helping her father and uncle remodel a family vacation home so that they can sell it on. Most of the windows have been broken by local yobs so they're all boarded up, which gives the movie a dark, claustrophobic feel.

Sarah's uncle has to leave. Very soon after, her father gets attacked by a mysterious stranger and Sarah is stuck in the house with her father's assailant. When she finally escapes, Sarah runs into her uncle, who drags her back to the house to find her father. Even weirder stuff happens when they return. Stuff that can't be real...

I couldn't stand the camera angles used in Silent House. Made me want to freaking scream. I don't want to see the back of this chick's head or her left foot, okay? I want to see the freaking action.

Don't get me wrong. I understand why it was done that way. It's a visual way of creating an unreliable narrator. I'm a writer; I get it. But I don't have to like it.

(By the way, Jay called this style Cleavage Vision. Nice to see he was paying attention to the action... Lol.)

Thirty minutes into the movie, I turned to Jay and said, "If this turns out to be all in her head because Daddy and Uncle interfered with her as a child, I'm going to be so pissed off."


What I will say for the creators of Silent House is that they utilised foreshadowing and symbolism extremely well. They set it up perfectly for the reveal. It was an extremely sensitive topic and they dealt with it tastefully. I'll give them credit for that.

But I didn't like it. Not at all.

Autumn 2017 Bucket List

I got into autumn mode at Lughnasadh, the first harvest of the year. While the people around me are trying to squeeze in every last bit of summer they can, I'm digging out my hoodies and getting into the swing of fall. Here are a few things I'm excited about doing this autumn:

1. Pick my own apples. There's a pick-your-own farm not far away. Jay and I try to go every year and usually come back with a massive haul. We're already planning this year's trip. I can't wait!

2. Make apple cider. I miss being able to pick this up anywhere but it's relatively easy to make, at least in small doses. I'm collecting plans for apple presses. Maybe I'll be posting about that soon? Depends on if I can beg Jay's bestie to make one for me...
3. Bake a pie. Jay and I have never baked a pie before. Ever. It's about time we did! You know... I say this every year. We've have GOT to try this!
4. Make caramel apples. Mmm.... caramel apples. I'm thinking of the sliced, on sucker sticks kind.
5. Make apple butter. I'm so lucky to have the amazing friends that I do. I've totally had my apple butter fix this year, thanks to my oldest friend, Rae, but I've been dying to try making my own. I remember we did it once in elementary school. Huh. I was just thinking that I'll need the same amount of adult supervision this time. 😁
6. Enjoy some apple sauce. Jay's mom made apple sauce every week, on Sunday, when she was alive and passed down her methods to us. Since they don't sell apple sauce in the stores here, like they do in America, it's nice to be able to make this whenever we want.
7. Visit a pumpkin patch. Or at least a farm selling pumpkins. Pumpkin patches are pretty rare here. If you're in Wales and actually know of a pumpkin patch, please let me know!

8. Carve pumpkins. I keep threatening to make my husband buy me 31 pumpkins so I can carve one every day of October. He thinks I'm joking... Lol.
9. Nom on some pumpkin seeds. Love, love, love my pumpkin seeds. Why can't I just buy a big ass bag of salty pumpkin seeds? *drool*
10. Eat candy corn until I feel sick. Er... um... who wants to send me some? 😇
11. Make home made soup. My mother-in-law used to make a good vegetable beef soup but neither Jay nor I ever learned to make it. Guess we'd better come up with our own recipe, eh?
12. Enjoy a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Or two. Or twelve. Wondra's Special Hot Chocolate is the best.

13. Have a picnic. While it's cool but not cold. It'll be a trick, doing it with the three mutt-skateers, but should be interesting.
14. Watch my favourite fall movies. Already started! This year, I'm on the hunt for autumn movies I haven't seen. Got any suggestions?
15. Bake cookies. What's better on a chilly day than a melt-in-your-mouth cookie, straight from the oven? I'm thinking these babies look good. What about you? Do you have any favourite autumn cookie recipes to share? I'd love to try them!
16. Hand out Halloween candy. Funny story. We actually HAD A TICK-OR-TREATER last year! 😲 But, because we hadn't had one in over ten years, we weren't home. We'd gotten bored and wandered off. Never again! Castle Vanian welcomes all trick-or-treaters!
17. Do something witchy. This time of the year always makes me feel witchier. I especially love leaf spells.
18. Send a letter to an old friend. Snail mail. Autumn reminds of those first days back at school after summer vacation, and the excitement of catching up with friends. That feeling doesn't have to stop now that we're (supposedly) grown up. Write a letter to an old friend and reconnect. I will too.
19. Take a long walk. Enjoy the changing leaves, the crisp wind, and the golden glow that come with autumn. This is an especially great time for people, like me, with social anxiety. The kiddies are all back in school, which means less stress. (Yes, I am a grumpy, old woman.)

20. Take a scenic drive - with no destination. With petrol prices so high these days we never just go out to go out. It would be lovely to drive around and see how the changing season has affected the rest of the country - if we get the chance.
21. Spend a night watching scary movies. Time to cuddle up under a warm blanket and scare the crap out of ourselves! We watch a horror movie most nights, here at Castle Vanian, but I'd love to have a proper horror movie marathon one night.
22. Watch a football game. American football, of course. You wouldn't think it but I'm a huge NFL fan. Go, Pats!
23. Play in the rain. Autumn in Britain is definitely the rainy season. Since we can't avoid the rain, we might as well go out and play in it!
24. Stay warm in flannel. Flannel is so snuggly and warm and it just screams cold weather. I've got a stack of flannel shirts, just begging to be worn. Let's do this...
25. Play in the leaves. I love the crunch of fallen leaves and I can't help kicking them up as I walk.
26. Leaf art. Instead of just sticking them in a big old book, it's time to get creative. I especially want to try a leaf bowl. What are your favourite leafy crafts?
27. Photograph the leaves. Although we don't get the vibrant reds and oranges that I'm used to, Wales in autumn is still beautiful.

28. Write poetry. I always get a little more poetic this time of the year. Keep an eye on this blog for some of my (terrible) autumn poetry.
29. Knit. I'm not a particularly skilled at knitting but now is the time to practice. Scarves for everyone!
30. Crochet. I've got two crochet blankets already in progress so the first step is getting those finished. Then? We'll see. Got a fun crochet project to share? Drop it in the comments below.
31. Visit a craft fayre/farmer's market. Support local artists, crafters and farmers this autumn!
32. Dress up. I love dressing up for Halloween. (It's one of those things you become obsessed with when your birthday is Halloween.) I don't have a costume yet for this year. What should I be?

33. Make a scarecrow. In time for Mabon. This is one of my favs. Do you put up a scarecrow in the fall? Do you make your own or buy one?
34. Upcycle clothes. Especially sweaters. I love turned old kiddie sweaters into hats. This year, I want to make mittens from an old sweater.
35. Make doggy sweaters. It's nippy 'round here this time of year - and poor Blod's nipples touch the ground! 😨
36. Stock up on fingerless gloves/wristwarmers. I'm thinking that I need to make a whole bunch of wristwarmers and buy a bunch of cheap gloves to cut the tips off of. Cold weather really bothers my poor arthritic hands so I need to keep them warm, even while typing.
✅37. Bake a lovely crumble. We just couldn't wait for this one! What are your favourite fillings for a crumble? Apple is good but I'd love to try something new.
38. Pick blackberries. They grow wild around here. Like, in our garden. All over our garden. Our garden is basically a blackberry patch. We might be in danger of being eaten by blackberries...
39. Spend a day reading. Because autumn is a perfect time for it. I've had a hard time concentrating on one book long enough to finish it lately (It's "symptomatic of the disease".) so I've got a few to finish. Maybe I'll actually hit my reading goal this year?

40. Perform Random Acts of Kindness. Not exactly autumn-themed, I know, but it needs to be done. Especially with all the hate in the world right now.
41. Cook Thanksgiving dinner. I force my husband to celebrate Thanksgiving every year. Downside? It's the one meal he insists I cook myself. *gulp*
42. Have an autumn photo shoot. I'd like to shoot some models in the fall but I'd also like to have some photos of me/Jay done. Takers?

I feel like this list gets bigger every year! Did I forget anything? What's on your bucket list for autumn?

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Movie Review: When the Lights Went Out (2012)

When the Lights Went Out is a film about a family in Yorkshire being attacked by poltergeists. It's set in 1974 and is brilliantly faithful to the era. If I hadn't known it was released in 2012, I would have believed it was straight out of the Seventies. (Aside, perhaps, from the film quality, which is better than was available at that time.)

This one's based (loosely) a on true story. (Read about it here.)

In When the Lights Went Out, a family moves into their new home. The daughter, Sally, is less than thrilled - even more so when the house's poltergeist targets her. Clairvoyants and priests are called in but both fail to save the day.

The way that Sally's parents slap her around in this really flipped my triggers. Coming from the childhood I did, seeing that kind of casual abuse made me instantly hate her parents and not give a damn about what happened to them. If anything, it kind of put me on the side of the poltergeist.

Poltergeists. Poor Sally. She has two ghosties working on her: one, the ghost of a young girl, trying to protect her and another, a nasty monk's ghost, trying to keep on doing the nasty stuff he did to girls before he died.

When the Lights Went Out isn't a great title. It's supposed to be set during a nationwide blackout but, to be honest, the movie doesn't touch on that at all - not that it has any real bearing on the movie itself. Just something that bugged me.

Although many of the characters were unlikable and the title is pointless, there were some great jumps in When the Lights Went Out. I won't give too many away but I will tell you that I don't think I'll ever be able to play Buckaroo again. *shudder* The special effects were done well and the CGI was effective. You can't ask much more from a horror film than that.

Autumn: A Treat for the Senses

Autumn is my favourite season of the year. Honestly, it's the only time I'm ever really happy. It brings my senses to life. I was exploring those senses today, that autumn experience, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

autumn smells like...
Autumn brings the smell of wood fires burning in houses along the lane. It's infused with the smell of pumpkin, apple, and cinnamon sugar - especially from the Bath & Body Works lotions I can't live without. 

autumn sounds like...
The sound of autumn is the shuffle-crackle-crunch of leaves underfoot as I walk. I can never resist kicking them into the air like a child and laughing as they rain down around me.

autumn feels like...
Autumn ushers in a chill wind that nips at cheeks and noses. It's a time to dig out scarves and fingerless gloves, feeling the scratch of wool against flesh. Autumn is the comfort of being wrapped in a warm blanket with someone you love, fighting off the cooler temperatures with snuggles and kisses.

autumn tastes like...
No matter how old I get, autumn will always be a cup of hot chocolate scalding my tongue at Friday night football games. Now, the cups are bigger and more expensive, but the taste of hot chocolate always brings back happy autumn memories.

autumn looks like...
Autumn is a riot of color. The world is on fire with reds, orange, yellows, and browns. I get lost for hours in the madness of autumn trees; vibrant leaves flying through the air, piling up at curbsides, and dancing down the streets.

I'm sure I'm missing out on a million things and this list will probably grow as autumn goes on, but I hope it gives you a "taste" of my autumn. What does autumn feel, taste, sound, look, and/or smell like to you? Please share!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Movie Review: Apartment 1303 3D (2012)

Oooh, boy.

Okay. I'm going to take a minute to think of something nice to say about this one. You wanna go get a cuppa or something?


Aww, hell. I've got nothing.

Apartment 1303 3D did not work for me. At all. Didn't ring Jay's bell, either. If we both hated it... well...

When I saw that Rebecca De Mornay and Mischa Barton were in Apartment 1303 3D, I thought, 'Hey. Decent actors. This should be good.' I was so wrong. Rebecca De Mornay is way too good an actor to play such a lousy alcoholic. But, maybe that wasn't her fault?

The characters in this movie weren't likeable in the least. They weren't even consistent. But, hey, if the plot's not, why should the actors be?

I'm getting ahead of myself. Apartment 1303 3D has a pretty basic plot: two young women hate their ageing, rock star, alcoholic mother and one of them decides to rush out into the first apartment she sees, just to get away. Unlucky for her, the apartment is haunted and she ends up killed by one of the apartment's (supposedly) many ghosts.

That was one of my problems. You see the ghost of the girl that dies and one other ghost - even though at least five are supposed to be haunting it. Where did the others go? Do ghosts go on vacation?

Then, there's the unnecessarily sleazy super and the annoying child next door who are, surprise!, also ghosts. But... why? Why aren't they included in the police reports? Why are they the only two other people you see in the whole apartment building?

Why does the cop keep changing his mind about whether the girl's death is an accident or a suicide - in the same freaking conversation? Why does the sister decide to stay in the apartment where her sister died? Why does the girl's boyfriend keep spending the night with her sister (even though he's married)?

I have a lot of unanswered questions about Apartment 1303 3D - most importantly: why did I waste my time watching it?

Movie Review: October Kiss

Hallmark, you finally did it! October Kiss is exactly the kind of feel-good movie I needed for my Best Films for Autumn list.

Poppy is the kind of woman who'll give anything a go once - but has a hard time making any of it stick. She's got a serious commitment problem, which extends to potential boyfriends, jobs, and... well, everything but her sister and nephews. Poppy is great with her sister's boys, which makes her sister, Megan, think, 'Hey. Nanny.' (Obvs.)

Workaholic widower, Ryan, is all business. He's determined to land a deal with a big Japanese firm for an app he's developed and it all looks good on that front. His home life? Not so much. Ryan's children, Zoe and Zach, are tired of always coming second to their father's work and definitely do not want a new nanny.

Things work out, of course, (this is Hallmark, after all) and it's fun to watch the pieces fall into place. Unlike Autumn Dreams, in which autumn seems almost an afterthought, October Kiss is all Halloween and I love it. It probably could have taken place at any other time of the year and still have been as enjoyable but Halloween is the perfect backdrop for Poppy's wacky personality.

The characters are believable and likeable. The plot is strong and the movie has a good pace. The acting is stronger than some of the Hallmark movies I've seen, too. Rom-coms aren't normally my thing, but I really enjoyed October Kiss.

Taste of Autumn: Apple Crumble

Apple crumble is one of my favourite fall treats. Jay and I enjoyed one last night. Wanna see? (Of course you do. 😉)

Nom. I like my crumble with a bit of ice cream on top but Jay likes his with warm custard on top. I gave in for once and let him convince me to try it the British way.

Verdict? Good! (But ice cream is still best.)

If you were wondering how we make our crumble here at Castle Vanian, you can check out this blog post from 2013. Got a crumble recipe you love? Share it in the comments below or link us and we'll give it a try!