24 Days of Christmas:Day 13- Nativity

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It’s around this time every year that one of the most important parts of the run-up to Christmas takes place, and that is the Nativity.

For those of us in the UK it’s something we hold dear to our hearts, and usually with bittersweet memories of the terrible parts we got. Although kudos to you if you managed to bag the coveted Gabriel/Mary/Joseph roles, 6 year old me was quite put out being a narrator.

It’s a wonder that it took so long for someone to make a film about such a beloved right of passage, and as a result it’s no surprise that this is arguably one of the most successful Christmas films of recent years. We start with three friends at theatre school Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman),  his girlfriend Jennifer Love (Ashley Jensen) and their friend Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) as they’re about to perform a show. We then flick to a few years later and Paul and Jennifer have split up with her pursuing a career in Hollywood as a producer, whilst Gordon works for a prestigious school running their highly regarded Nativity every year. Paul works in a lesser performing school and by an act of misfortune is placed in charge of the Nativity this year,with the headmistress’s childish nephew Mr. Poppy (Marc Wootton) to help him. After hearing a chance encounter between Paul and Gordon, where Paul is goaded into bragging that a team of Hollywood producers are coming to see their show, Mr. Poppy spreads the exciting news until  the whole town knows. The only problem is that Paul was telling a big fat lie, and that he now has less that a month to contact and convince Hollywood bigwigs to come to see the show…

The success of the film is largely down to the stellar performances of the children who manage to be both incredibly cute and adorable without being sickly sweet, and give great overall performances. Of course the majority of the film is building up to the final performance and to see whether Hollywood does arrive, and boy is it worth the wait. The songs put ‘Away In A Manger’ to shame, and I defy anyone to not attempt to sing along so catchy are the songs, with ‘Nazarus’ and ‘Sparkle And Shine’ being my personal favourites.

Due to the subject matter and performances it’s truly a heartwarming film and the perfect choice for reigniting the nostalgia of childhood, and what you used to love about Christmas. It’s the perfect time to watch it to get you into the Christmassy mood, as even if you’re too old to have your own Nativity this is one you can enjoy again and again. Plus if you’re going to be brutally honest with yourself, you know your Nativity was never this good.

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24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 10-The Night Before

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Gather round children there’s a tale to be told, of an orphan and his friends and holidays old. The boy was so sad his dear friends did think, I know what’ll fix it, a damn great big drink! From that Christmas Eve On, they’d have high-jinks and drink, un-til their friendship did near reach it’s brink.

As this film opens with a holiday rhyme I thought I’d give my hand to attempting one, so please bear with me. This is the most modern film on this list and I tell you know, is definitely one for fans of Seth Rogen’s stoner movies, and those who like their Christmas films with drugs, parties, the odd song and dance number and a lot of inappropriate humour.

We meet Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Ethan on Christmas Eve just after his parents have died and his friends Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Antony Mackie) decide to take him out to cheer him up, and so a Christmas tradition is born. But years later as Chris is a rising major league football star and Isaac is about to have his first child, they decide that this year is to be their final hurrah. As luck(or a Christmas miracle) would have it, Ethan finds three tickets to The Nutcracker Ball, a party they heard about that first Christmas Eve but is so exclusive they’ve been unable to track it down or get hold of an invite, until now.

It has an amazing cast for comedy fans from Ilana Glazer, Mindy Kaling, Michael Shannon, Lizzy Caplan, and of course in true Seth Rogen fashion, James Franco. I kind of can’t help but think of it as a millennials version of a Christmas film, but that shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. It’s pretty funny and the three leading men have enough chemistry between them to convincingly carry the film, but it does lack the convincing sentiment and good-cheer of other classic Christmas films.

Overall the younger members of your family and your friends will enjoy the final party and the sometimes extremely random cameos (here’s looking at you Miley), but this is not one for the parents and extended family. It has it’s highs and lows, but overall I think it’s a great change from the typical Christmas film and one that’s well worth watching this holiday season.

 

24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 7- The Snowman/Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer

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We are now officially 18 sleeps away from Christmas so it’s time that this list starts kicking it up a gear in terms of the Christmassy factor of these films and what better way to start than with two children’s classics.

I did slightly cheat today by including two films but it’s because I think that with these two depending on your family, the preference tends to lean either way. Whereas some of my friends swear by Rudolph as their childhood favourite and the one that they watch every year, but for my family it was without a doubt The Snowman.

On the surface both films are very different as one is a wordless animated short with a complex hidden narrative, whilst the other is an all singing and dancing holiday TV special of the world’s most famous reindeer. But they both share similar qualities that are the reason they have transcended the films of their time into Christmas classics.

Both like most Christmas films have great songs, whilst The Snowman has the iconic ‘Walking In The Air’ which always makes me tear up a little bit, Rudolph has a original soundtrack which when being sung by adorable elves and reindeers will give you a serious case of the Christmas warm and fuzzies.

They’ve also both got incredible heart at the centre of their stories; in The Snowman we witness one boy create a companion who takes him on a wondrous adventure through the skies and how he learns that eventually everything must come to an end. On the other hand with Ruldolph we learn the story of the most famous of reindeer of all, and how he transforms from an unwanted outcast to a beloved hero who saves Christmas. Both have moments that will have even the hardened of viewers remarking that they have something in their eyes.

There’s always a special place in a persons heart for the things that we have experienced as children,  but having re-watched these at the grand old age of 23 I can testify that they still stand the test of time and are still beautiful to watch. Plus if there was ever a time to embrace your inner child, it’s Christmas.

 

 

 

24 Days of Christmas: Day 5-Jingle All The Way

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I really had to resist just writing “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Christmas film” as today’s blog post, because frankly if that doesn’t sell it to you I don’t know what will.

The main main himself plays a workaholic father who fails to buy his son the one gift he wants, which also happens to be the must have gift of the season. Calamity ensues as he sets off on Christmas Eve to track down the sold out action figure for his son and takes on desperate parents, con-men and the police.

You’re certainly not going to find world class acting or script writing in this film, but it’s pure farcical comedy at its best, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is great as always (although I’ll admit I am biased as he could say boo and I’d laugh). It’s easy going fun for the whole family and any parent watching will empathise with his plight of trying to track down the must have Christmas present for their child. It’s very heavily set at Christmas so there’s plenty of holiday backdrops to get you feeling festive, and if that doesn’t work the classic Christmas soundtrack definitely will.

All in all the film is certainly not life changing but it’s very funny and the perfect type of film to put on when people are tired and fancy something enjoyable that you don’t really need to pay attention to. My family and I watch it every year and the over the top explosive ending still makes me laugh, and I think that the fact that we keep coming back to it year after year and enjoying it is the sign of a truly great Christmas film.

As always let me know if you guys have seen this film and what you thought of it, I know it can be pretty divisive in my friendship group depending on who’s an Arnie fan! I’d love to know what you guys have thought of my choices so far and what you’re hoping will be next!

 

24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 4-Edward Scissorhands

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“Before he came down here, it never snowed.” When people think of Edward Scissorhands it’s often the iconic scene of Winona Ryder’s Kim dancing in the snow that comes to mind, and it’s largely because of that magical winter imagery that I chose it for Day 4.

Romance has played a large part in the previous three films on this list and this film is no exception. It takes the age old tale of the social outcast falling for the beautiful popular girl, but thanks to the incredible Danny Elfman score and the real life chemistry between the two leads, Edward and Kim’s romance transcends the norm to a coupling that has been described as nothing short of iconic. Plus I defy anyone to not feel Christmassy as they watch Kim dance in the snow that Edward creates from his sculptures, as he shows his affection the only way he knows how.

It is in the third act of the film, as the Christmas festivities near its peak that Burton chooses for the climax of his narrative, as Edward moves from a novelty to a threat in the eyes of the neighbourhood. Burton uses this festive setting to emphasise Edward’s role as social outcast, a theme which is common in Christmas films to align him with those who in real life feel at odds with Christmas and the forced family festivity it induces.

As the hysteria in the town reaches fever pitch, Edward retreats back to his secluded, solitary existence and his castle to attempt to repair the damage he’s done, and in doing so sacrifices his only hope at love and companionship. It’s a bittersweet ending as although there is no typical happy ending for the couple, in contrast to the other films on this list, we are sated by learning at the end of the film that even after many years have passed, Edward still continues to craft ice sculptures in his castle purely so his beloved Kim may continue to dance in the snow. Now I don’t know about you, but as far as romantic, festive endings go I think that’s a pretty good one.

Whether you love this film for its social commentary or simply for the beautiful Tim Burton imagery and Danny Elfman score, this film truly has something for everyone and I think provides the perfect dose of escapism for those cold Wintery evenings.

 

24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 3- Sleepless In Seattle

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Day three and whether you’re one of the people that still haven’t quite got round to putting up your decorations and are still easing yourselves into the festivities, or whether you’ve had them up from day one and maybe even before, I think you’ll enjoy today’s film.

From the opening of the film you are thrown into Christmas as we meet Tom Hanks as a recent widower as he struggles with the holiday season with his young son and Meg Ryan and her fiance as they tackle their first Christmas as an engaged couple. As Meg Ryan drives home she tunes into the radio and hears Tom Hanks’s young son plea for a new mum and a partner for his dad. She’s so taken with their story and becomes so enamored with this man and his son that she sets about tracking them down.

It’s the Christmas framing of the film that stays with you throughout especially with the cumulative scene taking place on the Empire State Building in New York, which to me is a city that exemplifies Christmas. The heartfelt story of this little boy’s search for a new mum combined with the undeniable chemistry between Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan makes it a rom-com for the ages. It’s the perfect film to snuggle up with during the cold Winter evenings and again it has a beautiful soundtrack which is perfect to leave you feeling festive.

24 Days of Christmas Films

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Over the years it seems that escaping from the cold and getting cosy in front of a Christmas film has become an integral part of the holiday season, and I think it’s often the easiest way to get yourself into the festive spirit. It’s certainly one of the things I look most forward to in the run up to Christmas, so I thought what better way to mark the run up to December 25th on this blog than to compile a list of what I think are some of the top Christmas movies to get you in the mood .

From tomorrow I’ll be sharing my favourites starting with the ones that give you a sprinkling of Christmas for those who are wanting to dip their toe before diving fully into the festive season, slowly building in festivity until we reach the full force Christmas favourites we all know and love. Hopefully it’ll help build the excitement for you guys and as there’ll be a few more adult choices as well, I’ve tried my best to incorporate alternatives in those cases so whatever your taste you’ll never have to miss a day!

So starting from tomorrow I hope you guys will be following along and as always I’d love to know if you guys have any particular favourites that you love to watch or hope to see on the list!

Edinburgh in a Day

dsc07335dsc07349dsc07330dsc07333It seems like only yesterday I was writing my last blog post apologising for my absence but here we are again and needless to say it’s been a chaotic few months. I’m working on a post currently to give you guys a full catch up, but in the meantime I thought I’d show you what I’ve been getting up to! My boyfriend recently moved to Glasgow to work and so I thought I take a little holiday to visit him, and while there’s a special Glasgow post coming soon, I thought in the meantime I’d share my top places to visit from our recent trip to Edinburgh!

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Urban Angel

First port of call on our arrival in Edinburgh was food and a quick google took us to Urban Angel. We realised later that this popped up in Zoella’s recent Edinburgh blog post, so we were inadvertently already on to a winner. There was a little bit of a wait when we arrived but we managed to snag a table in the cafe to have a little pre-brunch coffee before it seemed like the whole of Edinburgh arrived, and soon there was a queue down the street! We eventually got taken through into the restaurant which has a beautifully simple, rustic vibe which really reflects the menu. I went for the poached egg and avocado with homemade lime ricotta which was so amazing whilst the boyfriend went for the traditional eggs benedict we both agreed that it was definitely worth the wait and the perfect choice to set us up for our day of adventures.

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Mary’s Milk Bar

Now I know that going an ice cream bar isn’t the most first thing you think you when planning a trip to Scotland but the fact that this place is packed come rain or shine means you know it’s something special. The gorgeous pastel front gives you a hint of the treats inside and the sheer variety meant we spent a good five minutes at the till while we tried to decide! In the end we went for salty peanut, cinnamon and chilli (strange but we couldn’t help but going back for more), chocolate mocha sorbet and violet, which was definitely the favourite although we couldn’t help but tuck in so quickly that I didn’t even have time to grab a photo! I definitely recommend checking out their Instagram though for some drool worthy shots.

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Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

This is definitely the most touristy item on the list but with rave reviews from everyone I asked we figured it was worth a go and boy were we proved right. As the name suggests it’s full of optical illusions and tricks which means it’s perfect for a fun and silly day out and the perfect place to get some great photos!

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National Museum of Scotland

Now while my boyfriend is very big on museums and galleries, I’m a bit more picky and being the big kid I am, I tend to prefer the museums that are big on interaction. So I can’t lie when we arrived I was dragging my heels initially, but within 10 minutes I was running amongst the 8 year olds having the time of my life (needless to say the boyfriend was a bit more composed about the whole situation). It’s such an interactive museum that it reminded me of when I was little and how fun science and history seemed. I’ve been to quite a few of the “big” museums of the world but this one has definitely become one of my favourites, and it was free! Even if you’re not a typical museum buff I can’t recommend it enough as there’s something for everyone, and it’s worth a trip for the interiors alone!

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Civerinos

Now we didn’t actually eat here on this trip as we were still so full from brunch, but it’s one of my favourites to visit when I’m in Edinburgh so I couldn’t leave it off this list. It’s a relatively simple menu but everything is made with the freshest ingredients (the pesto especially is my absolute favourite) and it is aaaaall good! Plus its self proclaimed mix of “high art and low culture” makes it one of the coolest Italian restaurants I’ve been to and makes it perfect for everything from a casual lunch to a night out with friends. Not to mention they do a mean nutella calzone…

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Other honourable mentions;

Paper Tiger-The perfect gift/stationery shop with everything from Rifle Paper Company to Ohh Deer, it’s great for picking up some souvenirs and presents.

Red Door Gallery-Another brilliant spot just off the Royal Mile it’s like the Etsy shop of your dreams, especially for pop culture junkies with pieces inspired by everyone from Steve Zissou to Dana and Scully. Whether it’s jewelry, cards, stationery or prints it’s amazing for quirky, individual pieces from local artists and I can’t recommend it enough!

Coco Chocolatier- A chocolate shop with a difference, it has everything from the more classic Espresso to the slightly more adventurous Haggis Spice, Earl Grey Tea and Bergamot, and even Lavender. The packaging is beautiful and although you have to keep a eye out to spot this hidden treasure it’s a treat in every sense of the word!

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So that’s it for my tips on how to spend 24 hours in Edinburgh, I hope you guys like it and if there’s anything I’ve missed please let me know as I’d love to have some new places to explore for my next visit!

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A Trip To The Market

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Borough Market is one of those places that has long been on my wish list to visit as it is the ultimate treasure trove of different and fresh produce, the Aladdins cave of wonders of food if you will. Since the 13th Century it’s been bringing lovers of food from all around the world to share in the best of British and international produce. So with one of my best friends by my side who happens to be a chef and highly experienced in traversing food markets, I was ready and willing to be led on a culinary journey (and to eat my own body weight in food along the way).DSC06095DSC06096

Walking through the market I was overwhelmed, as it’s truly a sensory experience like no other where you are encouraged to touch and smell everything so you can truly immerse yourself in the fresh produce.
DSC06098DSC06103DSC06105DSC06094 On our travels we couldn’t help but swing by the Ginger Pig to get something to take away for later, as a massive fan of their cook books I couldn’t miss the chance to try their sausage rolls straight from the source! We tried a sweet chilli as well as a pork and stilton  one, which was my favourite thanks to the quality of the meat as well as the richness of the stilton, topped off with the buttery flakyness of the pastry. Needless to say it’s a stall that I’ll definitely be revisiting again!DSC06106

The best part of going anywhere like this with someone who works with food everyday is the sheer amount of knowledge they bring to the table. It truly richens your experience as she was able to tell me what to go for depending on what was in season and the signs to picking the best produce, not to mention answering all my questions about things I didn’t recognise. For example those longer, grey looking carrots? They’re called salsify which can be cooked similarly to any root vegetable but have a kind of oystery taste. See, learn something new everyday!

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Not to mention the sheer quality and beauty of the produce makes it a beautiful experience in itself, I mean just look at the colours! This is something that you definitely won’t see at any supermarket. It makes for a foodie’s paradise, strolling through the stalls imagining and dreaming of everything you could make.DSC06109DSC06110DSC06116

But finally came the time to stop dreaming and start eating and my friend promised me we had saved the best till last, and judging by the 30 people strong queue I was inclined to believe her. We went for the salt beef sandwich by The Northfield Kitchin, which I was assured was one of the best stops in the market. The smell of the freshest local beef combined with pickle and just enough spicy English mustard to provide a bit of a kick meant I was drooling at the mouth before we’d even got close.
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Each one loving prepared in respect owed to the excellent quality of product means that you can taste the care and devotion in every mouthful, which combined produces one hell of a sandwich and one that was worth every second of waiting.

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From the look on our faces you can tell it was pretty much love at first sight bite.

DSC06136Thoroughly stuffed and satisfied we took a moment to revel in the magic of what we had eaten until we decided it was finally time to move on to see what the rest of the market had to offer, and you never know, potentially pick up a couple more snacks along the way.DSC06140

The best part of the market is that for those of you that aren’t quite so carniverous there’s still plenty of treats to tempt you, from fresh scallops to fallafal and haloumi burgers that would make even the most devout meat-eater go weak at the knees. Unfortunately due to my fixation on sandwiches and sausage rolls I didn’t take any photos of these treats (bad blogger award I know) but be sure to check out @boroughmarket’s instagram for more drool worth photos.DSC06142DSC06144

I couldn’t help but pick up a few of my all time favourite blood oranges along the way, which might be making their way to a recipe soon…DSC06151DSC06156DSC06157DSC06161DSC06162One last look around the treasure trove and I had finally literally had my fill of Aladdin’s cave of wonders. But of course we couldn’t leave without taking a jewel or two for the road…

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I would love to know if you’ve been to Borough Market and what your favourite stalls are or if there’s any other markets around the UK that you love to visit please let me know! In the meanwhile I’ll just be dreaming about those doughnuts for a little while longer…

A Halloween Film For Everyone

BeFunky CollageMy favourite time of year is finally upon us, Halloween! For those of you that don’t fancy venturing out this year I thought I’d suggest some of my favourite spooky films to get you in the Halloween mood. There’s something for everyone from classic horrors, an indie take, one for those who aren’t a fan of scares and some blasts from the past, so let’s get cracking.

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Halloween

A cult classic and one of the few original horror films that still stands the test of time in delivering heart-stopping moments, so a perfect one for true horror fans. Not to mention as the title suggests, it’s perfectly suited to watching at this time of year, although not one I’d recommend watching alone (trust me on this).

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It Follows

This is one of my standout films of 2015 and one of the few films I’ve seen recently that’s genuinely scary. It’s a great choice for hardcore horror fans that are looking for something different although I warn you after seeing this film you’ll probably never want to have sex again…

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Hocus Pocus

Possibly the most famous Halloween film of all time, and trust me it’s a cult classic for a reason. With songs, magic and brilliant 90’s fashion it perfectly epitomises everything that’s good and fun about Halloween and makes you wish you could go trick or treating again.

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Monster House

This is one of those films that although being a children’s film it is deceptively scary. Playing on the classic scary neighbourhood house idea, it’s about three kids who find out once they get trapped inside it that it quite literally has a mind of its own. It’s the perfect mix of being brilliantly creepy but with a heartfelt story at its core and is definitely one that people of every age will love.

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Sleepy Hollow

Another lesser known spooky film starring Johnny Depp (when he was still making brilliant films) and made by Tim Burton which should give you an idea of how brilliantly Gothic it is. With Christina Ricci (who holds a large place in my heart due to Wednesday Addams), some swoon worthy costumes and lashings of blood and beheading it treads the balance between gore and guts and a genuinely good storyline at its core.

I hope this post has given you a couple of ideas of what to watch this weekend and let me know what your favourite Halloween films are as I’d love to know. Finally I just hope that whether you’re staying in or heading out tomorrow night you have fun!