31/07/13 - Film review: The Bling Ring

If you follow me on Twitter, you will know just how long I was dying to see Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring.  After seeing the initial trailer and doing some research into the 'true crime' aspects of the story, I was hooked.  So many of the people I follow online - video bloggers and bloggers alike - helped to build up the hype around the film, so when I found that there was a significantly lacking number of showings local to me, I started to become desperate.  I ended up going to the final screening at my nearest cinema (the only one in, it seems, the entire North West of England to show the film) with my dad...he took pity on me so I wouldn't have to go alone.

For those who don't know, the film is based on the real events of the 'Hollywood Hills Burglaries' which took place in 2008 and 2009.  The alleged perpetrators - a group of teenagers - 'burglarized' (what a silly American word) the homes of celebrities including Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom, coming away with millions of dollars worth of swag and taking celebrity worship to new levels.  Seeing their idols on screen and in magazines wasn't enough; they felt entitled to owning a little piece of the Hollywood lifestyle - "the lifestyle that everybody kind of wants" as Marc suggests, words taken straight from real-life Bling Ringer Nick Prugo.

The influence of social media in the film is overwhelming.  The Internet is the only port of call necessary for getting the low-down on the victims, their social engagements and addresses.  The whole debacle is documented through 'selfies' and grainy webcam videos which show the teens living out their fantasies of extravagance, fanning themselves with wads of hundred dollar bills whilst drinking bottles of Grey Goose vodka and lounging on Paris Hilton's couch.  An extended montage shows drug abuse, partying, shopping and 'shopping' through celebrity closets.  Their peers are envious rather than judgmental as they flaunt the wares of their crimes, and the burglars become more brazen as they continue to get away with it.  As technology becomes more advanced and society more concerned with excess, it can be argued that this film shows an example of how everyone's lives are becoming over-displayed and too accessible, not just those of the rich and famous.  

The cast, in my opinion, were brilliant.  Israel Broussard and Katie Chang as the originators of the scheme (in real life, Rachel Lee and Nick Prugo; here, Rebecca and Marc) compliment each other well, with her calm and collected attitude even under pressure and his eagerness to please her.  Emma Watson as Nicki, the doppelganger of the now-infamous Alexis Neiers, was incredible.  Having missed The Perks of Being a Wallflower, this was my first experience of Emma post-Hermione and she played a blinder.  Her research into the role paid off as she nailed the whining Valley-girl accent and the expression of bored indifference.  Some of the funniest dialogue were lines taken verbatim from interviews with Alexis, and Emma delivered them with perfect comic timing.

Personally, I really enjoyed the film and will most certainly be buying the DVD when it's released.  While I realise that Coppola's style isn't for everyone, I found it the perfect vehicle for this story; the scenes of excess and the idea of celebrity-worship at times seemed reminiscent of her 2006 film Marie Antoinette.  Although I don't entirely agree with the way in which this film places the blame for the crimes, it was an enjoyable and visually impressive hour and a half.

Have you seen The Bling Ring? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments.

28/07/13 - Blog Birthday

This weekend has been very birthday heavy on here as my little blog is a whole year old!  When I wrote my first post a year ago, I never thought that posting on here would become such a huge part of my life.  So much has changed since that first little introduction and I couldn't be happier that I have a year's worth of ramblings to document everything that has happened.

The past twelve months have been fantastic for me in many ways and not great in others, but I am so grateful to the medium of blogging for giving me a way to remember the good times and distract myself in the bad.  And most of all, I'm grateful to everyone who has read, shared and hopefully enjoyed what I have to say.

I hope you'll stick around to see what's in store for me in the next twelve months!

26/07/13 - My 21st Birthday

This blog has been a little quiet recently, but for good reason.  Because I've been properly back at work, I haven't had an awful lot of time; a) for actual blogging, or b) for blog-worthy activities.  But last week, I turned 21 and I consider that to be plenty blog-worthy.

I was utterly spoiled presents-wise, and I am so lucky to be surrounded by such caring family and friends.  My 'big' present from my parents was a print of a Quentin Blake illustration from Matilda which was my favourite book when I was little.  I can't wait to be able to hang it up in my first home and every time I see it, remember where it came from.

I got a lot of wonderful things, a few of which I've included below.  I am totally grateful for everything I was given.

My love of the Fitzgeralds continues.
My brother went for a cocktail theme, which was very much appreciated!
Not actually a gift, but these were a cheeky birthday
money purchase!
 My actual birthday was spent in work as I couldn't afford to take the time off and most of my family and friends work during the day anyway, so I would have been alone.  The evening, however, was lovely.  My parents, my brother and I headed to Jamie's Italian in Liverpool where we ate some delicious food, consumed a particularly lovely bottle of prosecco, and even sat outside to enjoy the unusually warm weather we've been having lately.  Despite it being the summer, this heatwave is entirely unprecedented and I'm not best pleased to being in work during it!

Gin and Earl Grey martini - utterly delicious and refreshing!
At the weekend, some of my lovely friends from university (namely Lauren, Rosie and Megan) came to visit from their various homesteads around the country and, along with my friends from home, we set about painting the town red!  To save on taxi fares and prevent disturbing my family, we booked an apartment in Liverpool which was a mere five-to-ten minute walk (fifteen when stumbling in heels) from the streets on which most of the city's clubs are located.  It was also the beautiful Rachel's birthday celebration and not far off Megan's 21st, so we got matching birthday badges which gained us lots of unsolicited congratulations!  We had a brilliant time, even with deflating hair and melting make-up in the ridiculous heat - please excuse the shiny, sweaty photos.  We danced until we were ready to drop before heading back to the flat, laden with cheap pizza and aching feet.

Three birthday girls

Sunday was spent in an exhausted stupour after only three hours sleep.  We lounged in deck chairs in a park, stuffed ourselves with Nandos and then it was time to escort the travellers to train and coach stations to wave them off.  Overall, I had a fantastic birthday weekend, and it was great to see friends from two different spheres of my life getting on so well.  

I've been a very lucky girl this year, and I cannot thank my fantastic family and friends enough for making my birthday so special!

12/07/13 - Con-GRAD-ulations!

It's official.  I am no longer a student.  I am a real person with a degree.  This week, I've been back in Hull for the final act of my university career: graduation!

Tuesday was my actual graduation day and it was utterly gorgeous; the sun was shining and it was hotter than it has been for ages, which would be lovely if your plans for the day consisted of lounging on a beach or in a park with nothing to do but enjoy the heat.  However, it is less pleasant when your day involves wearing a heavy black robe, a ridiculously tight hat which ruins your hair, and heels which has rubbed all the skin off your feet within the first half hour of having them on.  

While that makes it sound like I had a horrible time, I really didn't.  I had an amazing day, particularly once the nerve-wracking 'walking across a stage in front of everyone' part was done.  As you can see from the photo, I wasn't exactly bounding excitedly into the spotlight...I was too busy trying to remember how to walk in my shoes and breathe at the same time.

 After the ceremony, which I did really enjoy once the hard part was done, there was plenty of time for taking photographs.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate one of the classic hat-throwing shots.  If I do, then I might have to add it later, because what blog post about graduating would be complete without one?

By this point, I still needed to return my robes and have my professional photo taken - a word of warning: get this done before the ceremony.  The queue was huge, I was so ready to take the heavy gown off and my feet were hating me.  All that coupled with the ridiculous stuffy heat inside and the fact that I'd barely eaten all day meant that my mum had to dash off to buy me some water and a peanut butter Kit Kat to stop me passing out.  Once all the formalities were done, I limped (finally in flats, thank goodness) to a lovely little cafe-bar which looked out over the quay and had a well-deserved celebratory mojito.

It was lovely to see everyone and their families dressed to the nines; not that you can tell because of the way my robe was pinned, but I wore a white blouse and a red pencil skirt from Mango which is my new favourite item of clothing.  There's nothing I love more than a good celebration, and the gorgeous weather put everyone in an even better mood than they already were.  It's definitely a day I will never forget, and now I just look forward to seeing my proper photo!

A huge congratulations to anyone else graduating this summer!  Enjoy your day as much as I did mine.

07/07/13 - Wimbledon 2013

No comments:
Okay, so this is a bit of a departure from my usual blog posts and I know that it won't be of interest to everyone, but today marks a tremendous moment in sporting history.  And anyone who knows me, knows that that is not a sentence you would expect me to care about at all.  Wimbledon is the only sporting event I ever get excited about...and if you follow me on Twitter, you'll have seen that I got very excited.

However, I had good reason.  As the BBC didn't tire of telling us, we have been waiting since 1936 for a British win in the male singles final.  "Seventy seven years of hope, seventy seven years of pain"...I saw that overly dramatic montage so many times, I fear that phrase is etched into my brain forever.  But those seventy seven years of waiting finally paid off as Andy Murray brought a nation to its knees by beating Novak Djokovic, the world's number one seed, in straight sets today on Wimbledon's Centre Court. 

Despite being a relatively quick match of only three sets, it felt like a five-setter.  The intensity and skill of both players were undeniable throughout and the last few games were insanely close.  Djokovic shone right up until the very end, not showing any signs of flagging even as Murray approached championship point.  As my mum said, you don't get to be the world's best tennis player by giving up when it's not looking good.  But after letting it nearly slip away from him three times, Murray claimed the title he's worked so hard for after little more than three hours of play.  I was over the moon see Andy win, especially after Sabine Lisicki - my favourite in the women's final - was beaten yesterday by the totally deserving and very talented Marion Bartoli.

Tennis courts the nation over will now be full of people of all ages, donning the sweatbands and digging out the rackets, inspired to take up the sport for at least the first couple of weeks of the summer before they lose interest.  I won't pretend that I won't be among them.  My brother (who plays regularly and is actually pretty good) has promised to help me improve my abysmally lacking skills on the court, so don't be surprised if you see us smashing the mixed doubles very soon...I wish!

All that's left to say is a huge congratulations to Andy and everyone in his little team of supporters, especially the ever-animated Ivan Lendl and Murray's gorgeous girlfriend Kim Sears who has the best hair and selection of blazers I've ever seen.  Honestly, most of my Wimbledon highlights have been seeing what gems the WAGs are wearing. 

And of course seeing these two cuties having a lovely day out!

I feel like I really missed a trick by not doing more for Wimbledon on this blog; I realised too late that there is plenty that I could do without having to talk too much about actual tennis at all.  There are plans already in the pipeline for Wimbledon 2014, so get excited!

Let me know your favourite bits of Wimbledon 2013 in the comments!

04/07/13 - The World's Greatest Nachos

No comments:
Normally, I'm not one to brag but this next recipe needs to be shared with the world.  And, unfortunately, I cannot credit myself with its single-handed creation.  This was a meeting of minds, carefully honed over two years, and the dish for which myself and my two gorgeous housemates - Charlie and Emma - became infamous.  I give you...drum roll please...the Heathcote Street Nachos.

While this dish is far from healthy, it's so quick and easy that I don't even care.  It's a perfect sharing meal if you're having people over or just want something simple to munch on in front of the TV.  The portion sizes can be easily adapted to suit your needs and tastes; you will see very shortly that much of this 'recipe' is a very inexact science.

For this recipe, you will need:
Tortilla chips - you can use whatever flavour you like, I tend to go for salted;
Sour cream and chive dip;
Tomato salsa - it's up to you how spicy you go.  Personally, I'm a wuss and went for mild;
A big old lump of cheese, grated.

A casserole dish type affair, or any deep oven-proof bowl.

You should probably pre-heat your oven as well, but I couldn't tell you what gas mark or temperature it should be.  Is 'middle-ish' a valid instruction?  It's best to use the oven to start with and maybe finish it off under the grill to crisp up the top if you think it needs it.

The number of layers you can form entirely depends on the depth of your dish.  The one we used to use at uni could make three layers from the ingredients pictured above but honestly, I wish I'd bought more for this dish.  It was a bit bigger than I expected so I ended up with two thinner layers than I'm used to.   

The preparation is easy: cover the bottom of your dish with a layer of tortilla chips, top with (in this case) half of each of the tubs of dip and cover with cheese.  While we convinced ourselves that there was a specific order in which to apply the dips for optimum enjoyment, it really doesn't matter (sour cream, guacamole, salsa for anyone wondering).  Make sure everything is as evenly spread as you can get it, and then repeat as many times as you can.

Once you've used up all your ingredients and/or filled your dish, whack it all in the oven and wait.  Keep checking on it; a combination of the size of the dish and the heat of your oven can make your cooking time anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour.  Our university oven was utterly awful with a door that didn't properly close and all the writing rubbed off the dials.  We had to cook everything on the highest heat possible or it would never be finished.  For this reason, the time and temperature of this is very much a case of trial and error.

When it's done, pop it in the centre of the table with a big serving spoon and dig in!  The layered effect mean that - unlike nachos you might get at a pub or restaurant - this isn't a case of a dry patch underneath piles of toppings that totally soak one or two crisps.  Everything mixes and melts together, the flavours from all the dips really come through and it's just a really tasty meal or  snack.

I don't think I'll ever get tired of these nachos; they're simple to make, delicious to enjoy, and they'll always remind me of the fantastic times I had in my university house with my favourite people.  It's great for informal entertaining and best of all, it comes in at less than a fiver for all the ingredients - perfect for a student budget.

Do you have any special recipes that remind you of a certain time or certain people?