Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Celebration - Merry Christmas


I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet 
The words repeat 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
But in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;

"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song 
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail, 
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Merry Christmas from Hannah, Luke and Sammy the Cat

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Review - Arthur Christmas

This is Luke, writing a guest entry for Hannah. Since it's only two days to Christmas, I thought I would offer a review of a Christmas movie: Arthur Christmas.
I must confess that this was not a film I had originally intended to see, since stories about Santa Claus and the North Pole are not really my cup of tea. However, it was "showing" at Hannah's family's place when we visited them in Melbourne last month, so I gave it a watch, and was very pleasantly surprised. The fact it is done by Aardman Studios, the makers of Wallace & Gromit, is already a good sign.

The basic plot of the film is as follows: Santa now uses a high-tech sleigh spaceship filled with commando elves to deliver all the world's Christmas presents in a single night. The whole operation is overseen by Santa's ultra-efficient elder son Steve, who hopes that Santa will retire this year and give him the job. When Santa's awkward but kind-hearted younger son Arthur discovers that one little girl has accidentally missed getting her present, Steve and Santa seem unconcerned, pointing out this is a minuscule margin of error. However, Arthur will not settle for even one kid being missed out, and sets off with Grandsanta and his old-fashioned sled pulled by reindeer to deliver the present the traditional way.

I felt there were a couple of things that made this stand out as a great film. One was the array of clever ideas regarding how Santa's high-tech present operation would work, mixing traditional Christmas legend with secret agent-style adventure. Another high point was the clever humour and well-crafted dialogue. Our personal favourite moment is when Grandsanta tries to call his reindeer's names... but I won't spoil that one for you.

All in all, a movie very much worth watching. Here is the trailer:

Until next time :)

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Look - Doppelganger

So I changed jobs about 6 weeks ago, and my new colleagues say that I look like Corinne Drewery - the singer of 80s British pop band "Swing Out Sister". Personally, I have no idea what they're talking about. ;)

Until next time :)

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Outing - Botanical Gardens

When my parents came to visit (a little while ago), we decided to take them to the Wellington Botanical Gardens after church to see the tulip festival. There also happened to be a Dutch Festival on at the same time. As my husband just informed me, tulips are the unofficial national flower of the Netherlands - talk about getting the pick of the bunch (yes that pun was totally intended).

Anyways, I love the Wellington Botanical Gardens because they're so quintessentially...Wellington. They've got to be some of the hilliest gardens I've been to, but they're beautifully laid out with even a little cable car to take you to the top.

Note: to save disappointment, a cable car is a tram pulled by a cable - not a gondola... yep, I made that mistake the first time I rode it, and ended up exclaiming, "But that's just a tram that goes up a hill. We have trams in Melbourne!"

Tulips... they're just so happy aren't they?

My mum and me :)

Me eating a naughty Dutch Sausage

And a tui in a kowhai tree... ;)

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Celebration - Dalek the Halls

What's that on top of our Christmas tree?

Dalek the Halls! Yes that's right our tree topper is totally going to EXTERMINATE the pants off your star/angel on top of your tree!!! Cue "Doctor Who" music Woooeeeewooooo!


We bought this awesome Christmas tree decoration from modcloth.
What's on top of your tree?

Monday, 16 December 2013

The Dress - Little Red Cardigan Hood

So it's time for another peek inside my closet. These photos are the second-to-last of the "archived" ones. Enjoy!

Cardigan: Quick Brown Fox
My mum bought me this cardigan when we were visiting Melbourne 3 years ago and it still gets regularly worn. Nothing like a bold red cardigan to brighten up your day. :)

Shirt: Taiwan
I had to part with this shirt recently. And I'm telling you it was a nightmare to replace! Apparently Peter Pan collars with puff sleeves aren't "in". To that I say - damn you all! I will look and look until I find something I love as much. And I think I have... to be continued ;)

Skirt: Target
Yep, this skirt is going on 7 years old and still doing a fine job. Comfortable and flattering. You can't get a much better combination than that!

Brooch: Gift
I love brooches. They are such a fun accessory that can liven up any outfit. However, I sometimes find it quite difficult to know what to wear them with. My mum bought this for my birthday this year. Isn't it so sweet? Whenever I wear it and see it through the day it always makes me smile.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Verse - Hebrews 4:16

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
(Hebrews 4:16)

The excerpt below is from one of Charles Spurgeon's sermons, and it was so good I wanted to share it with you.

We do not come, as it were, in prayer, only to God's almonry where he dispenses his favours to the poor, nor do we come to the back-door of the house of mercy to receive the broken scraps, though that were more than we deserve; to eat the crumbs that fall from the Master's table is more than we could claim; but, when we pray, we are standing in the palace, on the glittering floor of the great King's own reception room, and thus we are placed upon a vantage ground.
In prayer we stand where angels bow with veiled faces; there, even there, the cherubim and seraphim adore, before that selfsame throne to which our prayers ascend. And shall we come there with stunted requests, and narrow and contracted faith? No, it becomes not a King to be giving away pence; he distributes pieces of broad gold; he scatters not scraps of bread and broken meat as poor men must, but he makes "a feast of fat things, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." When Alexander's soldier was told to ask what he would, he did not ask stintedly after the nature of his own merits, but he made such a heavy demand that the royal treasurer refused to pay it and put the case to Alexander, who in right kingly manner replied, "He knows how great Alexander is, and he has asked as from a king; let him have what he requests." Take heed of imagining that God's thoughts are as your thoughts, and his ways as your ways. Do not bring before God stinted petitions and narrow desires, saying, 'Lord, do according to these,' but remember that as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are his ways above your ways, and his thoughts above your thoughts; ask, therefore, after a godlike manner; ask  for great things, for you are before a great throne.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Trip to Europe - Paris Part 4

Okay. So I think this is my last set of photos from our trip to Europe. More Disney. Since this was a year ago, it's probably time I started posting photos from our more recent trip (see, I told you I would make them last till my next holiday!). I thought I would share some of the things that happen to you when you spend 4+ days in a Disneyland Theme Park (please note the pictures probably don't match, but hopefully you'll find it amusing anyway...)

Things That Happen to You When You Spend Four Or More Days at Disneyland

1. Hat Buying
When you first arrive at Disneyland you start to notice that every second person is wearing a hat that would in all reality look completely ridiculous outside the theme park - whether it be the classic Mickey Mouse ears, a hat with Goofy ears or a beanie covered in fur with ears (Laura). The crazy thing is, normally after a day or so you actually start to think about buying one of these hats, and by the end of the second day you have purchased something really only fitting to be worn in the Park or on Halloween and are wearing it as an everyday accessory. NB: However, in the photo above, I must say mine is pretty tame and I think I could possibly get away with it outside the gates... maybe...

2. Character Spotting
  If you're anything like my sister and I, you will want to tick off every character possible. For this you need a keen eye, as you will inevitably keep seeing the same characters again and again (damn you Goofy!), while the one you want never seems to be around. The only problem is after a few days you'll get a little bit too eager to spot characters and you'll end up saying things like:

 "Look, there's Peter Pan!... Oh no wait, it's just a small child wearing green..."
"Hannah, I think I can see Daisy Duck over there!" says Laura on her tippy toes. "Oh no wait, it's just someone selling cotton candy..."

 3. Sugar Highs
It's true. By the third or fourth day, the only way to survive Disneyland is through large-volume and fast consumption of sugary sweets (see photo above). On Day 1, you will look at a rocket-shaped container of popcorn which you can hang around your neck for 9 euro and say, "Holy Moley! 9 euro for sugary popcorn, and you'd look like a dope with that thing around your neck." But by the fourth day, you purchase said popcorn, enjoying the glorious sugar rush, and think to yourself: my, it's handy to wear this around my neck, it's like my very own feeding bucket - brilliant!

4. Knowing the Best Times
After a few days at the park you also know the best times to hit the rides. If you're lucky enough to stay at Disney Hotel, this means you can go into the park at 8:00 AM (yep, that's right, 8:00 AM), so you'll probably be waking up on a roller coaster rather than with your usual coffee. Also, if you've seen the fireworks or the parade before and aren't too fussed about watching it again, then this is the best time to hit the rides as there are no queues. And if you pick the right ride, sometimes you can see the fireworks while you go screaming around Thunder Mountain Railway anyway!

5. Thinking You Could Be That Character
If you're as much a fan of Disneyland as my dear sister and friend John, your motivation to meet the characters is sometimes twofold. 1) You need to get that photo. 2) You want to suss out how tall they are to see if you could fit into their costume.

6. Child-Like Wonder
There's no better place to feel like a child again than at Disneyland. One great thing is how the characters keep up the act even though you both know they're just some guy in a suit. We particularly loved Jack the Pumpkin King, who blew us away with his perfect Jack voice in English and French!!! We just all stood there with our mouths open.

7. Walking So Much You Just Want To Die
  When you look back at your photos, all you will see (hopefully) is the smiling happy faces of you and your family/friends. But be warned: I have done some hiking in my time, including the Himalayas, and I still say I walk much further and longer when I visit Disneyland! By the end of the third day, you will be dying to go on any ride as long as you can sit down. Conversations will go like this:
Laura: "Let's go on Space Mountain."
Me: "No, my feet are too sore to stand in that line. Look, we're really close to Pirates of the Caribbean - let's go on that so I can sit down."

8. Lining Up in Queues is a Big Disappointment
This is more a post-Disneyland thing. But after spending four days lining up in queues for rides and to meet characters or other generally good fun stuff, when you get back to the "real world" and have to line up to get your bag scanned at the airport and there's NOT a rollercoaster at the end, you feel kind of disappointed. 
But at the end of the day, you do realise that Disneyland is a very magical place and may even be the happiest place on earth. Now where's that popcorn seller damn it, I need a sugar rush stat!

Until next time :)

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Review - Like Father Like Son

So at this year's NZ International Film Festival (NZIFF), my friend and I went to see the Japanese film Like Father Like Son, directed by Hirokazu Koreeda. I've actually reviewed another one of his movies before, called I Wish. Although less magical and fun than the previous film, Like Father Like Son is one of those movies that will stay with you for a long time.

The story goes like this: two babies, accidentally swapped at birth, are raised by families of differing social status. When the boys turn 6 and the parents are told this world-changing, life-altering piece of news, they must make the impossible decision whether to exchange these young boys, whom up to that point they believed to be their biological sons, or keep things the way they are knowing that their "real" son is living with another family.

Would you choose your natural son, or the son you believed was yours after spending 6 years together? Sophie's choice, right? It's particularly interesting being set in Japanese culture, where "blood" is seen as such a powerfully connecting force between people.

Anyway, the acting is superb - you really feel for the parents and children. I especially thought the child of the rich family was very, as the Japanese would say, kawaii!!! (cute) Halfway through the movie I turned to my friend and said, "Damn I really want a Japanese child! They're so cute!" Watch it and you'll see what I mean.

The Trailer: 

Until next time :)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Outing - Film Noir Ball

So a few weekends ago (and I literally mean a few, see how good I'm getting at posting relatively frequently - hooray for me!), Luke and I attended the swing dancing event of the year: the Windy Lindy Ball. This year's theme was Film Noir - which I had to admit I had to research a little bit.

I was planning on wearing just a "normal" 1940s dress, the dress that Luke got me for my birthday, which would have been fine. However, on the morning of the ball I went op shopping with a good friend of mine and found the perfect dress. A long fittted black dress, it fits me so well you'd think it was tailored. And better yet, I could dance in it.

Anyhow, so at the actual event they had a photographer who was taking shots of people in Film Noir poses. So Luke and I thought we'd give it a go. What do you think, could we be Film Noir stars?

 Artful Dodge Photography

 Artful Dodge Photography 

The ball was great fun. We danced until late in an atmospheric studio with film noir clips playing on a screen in the background. Everyone was decked out in wonderful costumes - there was even a guy wearing an entirely black outfit complete with black balaclava (it was incredible, at a distance he looked like a shadow). It was probably one of the best Windy Lindies that Full Swing have put on, and we look forward to seeing what the next one is like!

Until next time :)

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Dress - Qipao Power!

While living in Taiwan, I decided the one thing I really needed before I returned home was a qipao (a traditional Chinese dress). You know how it is. I wanted to get one that was kind of modern and also not too expensive. So one Saturday my friend Emily and I headed off to Wufenpu (pronounced Woo Fen Poo), the largest outdoor market in all of Taipei. It is HUGE. Think of the largest shopping mall you know, and then picture it all on one floor with fabric instead of walls, bags of clothes instead of racks, crazy tiny mazes of paths, and so much clothing, shoes and handbags that you have no idea where to look. I hate to think how many tourists have gone missing in this labyrinth. 

So obviously Emily and I didn't get lost. Hooray! And as a bonus, I also found this awesome qipao, which believe it or not is an XXL (yes, Taiwanese women are tiny!)

I've worn it a few times, mostly to fancy dress parties. Actually, come to think of it, it's what I changed into after our wedding reception when Luke and I were heading off, so if you like it was also my "Honeymoon outfit." 

When I was at university studying Asian Studies, I actually wrote a paper on Chinese women's clothing and researched the qipao. I'd like to highlight how it really displays the female form, while being conservative with its high collar (and traditionally its length). What I didn't realise, though, was how bloody uncomfortable they are! I literally cannot bend in this dress, and after a while I feel like my arms are going to drop off just below the sleeves due to lack of circulation.

But do you know what? It's pretty. And I still love it, despite it being something of a torture device.
So here's me wearing the qipao before heading off to a "Dress as your ethnicity or whatever ethnicity you would like to be" party.

Qipao: Taiwanese market

Shoes: Faith
Believe it or not, these little white kitten-heel sling backs are actually the shoes I wore to my high school debutante ball when I was 17. I fell in love with them at a shoe shop in Sorrento, Victoria, Australia.

Asian pose!

Until next time :)