John Wick (3 Stars)

Probably not a film to be praised about for it’s script of plot line, it is a simple enough storyline. John Wick (Keanu Reeves), is an retired assassin who has just loss his wife. His wife who knew she was dying organises a gift to her grieving husband in the form of a dog. Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, Theon Greyjoy in a Game of Thrones) sees Wick’s car and offers to buy it. When Wick refuses, Tarasov breaks into his house and steals the car and kills Wick’s dog.

Unbeknown to Tarasov, he didn’t just break into anyone’s house, he broke into the Baba Yaga (The Boogeyman)’s house. Wick comes out of retirement and back his assassin’s ways to seek revenge for the murder of his dog.

The film is gripping and some of the stunts of brilliant. I think Keanu Reeves is very well suited to the film and gives a great performance, maybe because he has so much empathy with his character giving his personal experiences with loss.

It’s not a film to win for screenplay but in terms of all out violence and a good dose of ‘What the Hell’ did he just do! It’s well worth a watch.

 

Munich (3 Stars)

It’s funny that even when I am taking a break for working on German history I am drawn to German history film topics. Although this film focuses a little more on Israel than Germany. In 1972, The Summer Olympics are held in Germany, during which members of a Palestinian terrorist organisation known as Black September. Walk into a very relaxed Olympics Village and kidnap and eventually massacre 11 members of the Israeli Olympics team in what is known as Operation Iqrit and Biram (which were two Palestinian Christian villages forcibly obtained during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and became part of the State of Israel). The film dramatically shows those events in the opening film.

In revenge for the massacre, Israel launches Operation Wrath of God, under Mossed control. What is surprising is that this is one of Spielberg’s lowest grossing films, one of the reasons for that could be arguably the nature of the topic. It was quite a controversial topic choice, and one which in 2005 had received very little debate of discussion about. Perhaps in somewhere making the film helped bring it out in the open to be discussed. The film itself is interesting and has a lively dialogue throughout and at some points is very white-knuckle interesting. However, I found elements of it quite difficult to follow, and in some areas it became confusing – particularly around the breakdown of the operation.

Elements I particularly liked about this was Eric Bana’s character Avner Kaufman, who is the leader of the operation and his ‘breakdown’ as the operation continues. There are elements of this film I really like and I think it was great, however I don’t think key actors – such as Daniel Craig, were well cast in this film and I don’t think those bad casting decisions bought much to the film.

I thought it was a good and interesting attempt, but it wasn’t brilliant.

Cinderella (3 Stars)

Although a predictable Storyline and one you’ve probably all watched before I did enjoy watching this version of Cinderella. I really like the Brother’s Grimm and I am trying to read them in German at the moment so it is nice to watch them as a film as well. Although largely based on the Children friendly version of the story, this film just breath new life in the beginning of the film – so it is not a rematch of previous films. It also adds new breath with great performances by Cath Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter. It also had some lovely costumes.

Revenger’s Tragedy (1 Star)

 

I found this film weird, complicated and elements of it just left me puzzled. The film is based on Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean play of the same name, written in 1607. The language of this film is true to the original play and is in Middle English. Yet the film itself is set in a modern day if not slightly futuristic setting, which I didn’t think complimented the film at all. There was elements of the film that just didn’t seem to flow or make sense because they were difficult to interpret with the opposing modern vs. traditional spheres of the film. I felt I had to work to hard to understand the film and in doing so elements of the film were very much lost in translation. It was a fair attempt but I think it needed to be either modernised entirely or kept completely traditional.

The Boy Next Door (4 Stars)

This film has a relatively low Rotten Tomato score, which is not unsurprising. I was a little apprehensive about watching it because I didn’t think it would be good. I was pleasantly surprised. Some scenes were chillingly creepy and produced some chills and genuine excitement, which made up for the films shortcomings of average performances and predictable and dull in places storyline. Ryan Guzman was a thoroughly convincing certified weird psychopath with superficial easy to fall for charm.

It is easy to see why this film was overlooked and it isn’t particularly a game changing in it’s genre but for a chill out easy to watch film that is somewhat exciting whilst not regarding you to think to much, it’s a good film worthy of any rainy day.

All Stars 2016: My favorite smoothie recipe! 

Hi. My name is Priscilla and as part of 2016 All Stars I am Emma’s blog today to share with you my favourite smoothie recipe that I make. First, a list of ingredients and a few of their benefits:

Ingredients:

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1 banana – rich in potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure. Good for improving and/ or maintaining blood sugar levels and insulin levels. This is helpful if you are diabetic, or want to avoid unplanned (and usually unhealthy) snacking caused by sudden hunger pangs from the sudden drop of blood sugar levels. Plus they are naturally free from fat! 

1 large pear – high in fiber and low in calories. This helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer without consuming too many calories! Pears are also approximately made up of 84% water, which is good for keeping the digestive system flowing and flushing toxins out.

1 avocado – a super fruit! The Avocado is a naturally nutrient-dense fruit that has nearly 20 kinds of vitamins and minerals in it. On top of that, it contains a lot of healthy monosaturated fatty acids. This helps in improving/ maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and also is thought to help reduce belly fat.

plain yoghurt (half full or low fat) – contains probiotics, calcium, and protein. Probiotics are “good” bacteria and helps to maintain a natural balance of  organisms in the intestines, which of course directly effects your digestive and immune system. Calcium is good for your bone mass, and protein is needed for building muscles. More muscles = higher metabolism rate = higher fat burning rate at resting status. That’s right, just by having more muscles, you burn more fat whilst doing nothing!!! 

low fat cottage cheese – contains a protein and complex B vitamins. Cottage cheese has been very popular in the diet community. This is because you get a lot of protein (which also makes you feel fuller for longer) without so much calorie intake. Cottage cheese is also a cheaper source of protein than meat, so great for the wallet! Complex B vitamins are help our body convert food into fuel.

honey (optional) – raw honey is a fat-free, cholesterol-free, and sodium-free way to sweeten up your drink. 

water – …do I need to explain? 😀

Tools needed:

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A blender/ food processor of some sort, a knife, chopping board, a peeler (for the pear), and a cup/container to serve/take the smoothie with you on the go.

You can decide to use a vanilla flavoured yoghurt if you’d like a sweeter taste, but then I would skip the honey. I prefer to use half full or low-fat products instead of no-fat products for a number of reasons. First being that I fat is also good in keeping me fuller for longer. Secondly, a lot of no-fat products have high levels of sodium (salts) and artificial flavouring substances so that the product tastes better. Therefore, I prefer to use less amounts of a “full fat” product (and avoid the artificial stuff and salt) that more amounts of a “no-fat” product.

Method:

There are no measurements because I usually eye-ball everything :D. But let’s say I put in about 1.5 – 2 table spoons of cottage cheese. You put everything in a blender and blend away. What you end up getting is a very thick smoothie. Of course you keep on adding water until you get the consistency you desire. I like my smoothies kinda thick.

You also end up with a large amount of smoothie, so you can refrigerate it, or share with a friend. Because I leave the house early, run around the whole day, and come home late, I don’t always have time to eat or buy something to eat during the day. Therefore I carry about a litre of this with me for the day, and because of the filling nature of the ingredients, it’s enough to sustain me the whole day until I’m home and able to have dinner.

 

Doubt (4 Stars)

After watching Spotlight and being really impressed by the film, I thought I’d look at other films that explore the Catholic Church. I had wanted to see doubt at the time of it’s release but ended up missing it and never got round to seeing it, until now.

The film centres around predominately three characters played by Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. Despite a relatively small class and a lack of complexity to the film in terms of locations and storyline, this film marvels in it’s simplicity. This simplicity allows you to really focus on the relationships of Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Sister James (Amy Adams) and explores Father Flynn’s relationship with Donald Miller (Joseph Foster). Sister Beauvier seems to take the close nature of the two to be something more than it should be and strives to protect the child. Sister James, at first seeing the good in Father Flynn defends him until her experiences and recollections are altered when discussing them with Sister Beavier.

The extended metaphor of doubt, it sustained throughout the film so there is no clear resolution to the film, which begs the question, what was the relationship between Father Flynn and Donald Miller and was Sister Beauvier right in her suspicions and right to act the way she did.

The film reminds me alot of the song ‘A Thousand Trees’ by the Stereophonics…it only takes one tree to make a thousand matches, it only takes one match to burn a thousand trees.

I can’t help but really feel for sorry for Father Flynn, because I presume it to be innocent until proven guilty and so to tarnish someone’s reputation with only suspicions.

 

Buying and Selling Planners: What you need to know!

Lately I’ve been seeing quite a few posts of people buying and selling planner related goods online and people have been scammed. Firstly people pay and the goods never show up, or they send the goods before money has been sent. The condition they turn up in is terrible etc. So I thought I’d share sort of a code or guidelines of what buyers and sellers should be doing.

Buyers

  1. If you see an item you like – make sure you request photos of the entire planner – inside and out – close up of the rings etc.
  2. When buying always use paypal. It protects you and makes life stress free.
  3. Never pay via Penpal’s friends and family. That is not designed for buying and selling and does state in Paypal terms and conditions that if you use that method to send goods your account can be suspended and even restricted.
  4. Unless a Seller states a specific date on when to expect your goods, they seller has up to 30 days to send you the item after paying for it.
  5. Check the seller’s return policy before buying. If the item arrives in good condition and you simply do not like it. Tough. The seller does not have to accept returns or refund your money if the item is exactly as they described it.
  6. If you get the item and there is something wrong ie. The item is not fit for purpose or is faulty. You can request a repair, replacement and as of October 2015 you can request a refund. Bare in mind that if the item is faulty, the cost in you returning it, such as bus fare/petrol to a post office and postage costs should be met by the seller. You as a buyer do not have to be out of pocket for a faulty item. A faulty item is if the item has a fault when you buy it…or it develops a fault within a reasonable time frame – usually set at 30 days. Your dog getting a hold of it and wrecking it, your toddler drawing ink on it or you dropping it and scuffing it are not developing faults, that is life and the seller cannot be held responsible for your maltreatment of the item.
  7. Be sure to take photos of the condition of it if you are not happy and send these to paypal when requesting a refund. Time stamp photos.
  8. When returning the item. Keep the original packaging – including any cable ties or little bits that came with it. You can providing the packaging is in good condition repackage it and send it back with a return address on it. If possible record a weight of the item. Ask this to be recorded on your proof of purchase receipt. Where possible send the item tracked. Recording the weight lets the seller know you are sending the item – see scams section below.
  9. If you are unsure about a purchase and you are on a Filofax group. Check out the sellers previous posts. See if there has been any trouble. Try searching planner groups for a seller’s name or say selling on a site such as gumtree. Sometimes warnings come up and people tell you to avoid certain buyers as they have known to have scammed in the past.
  10. If the goods don’t turn up – file a dispute with paypal. The Seller has to send proof of postage to paypal, if they can’t prove they’ve posted it they can’t proof they’ve sent it. So you’ll get a refund.
  11. Shipping can be expensive, but remember sellers can charge a fee that includes, post, packaging and handling. If you state, or they state they are going to send it a specific way – such as Royal mail recorded delivery, request a tracking number. If what you get is less than what you paid for you can dispute that. But if you pay £10 for packing, handling and postage and the postage you get is what is started, only it’s higher than the cost of the stamp – you can’t dispute it. Postage can factor in petrol to post the item etc.
  12. Do your research and see how much a planner cost new. If you are buying a really great filofax and it’s at a steal of a price…stop and think. Yes it may be a good deal, but it may also be a scam. People are out there scamming. So do your research. Check the person out on facebook groups. Sometimes there is no such thing as a good deal.
  13. Share you experiences with the community. If someone has been a great Seller, tell the facebook groups. If you’ve had problems let people know. Often you may find it’s a repeat offender and by working together and telling people that person can be stopped.

Sellers

  1. If your goods come from a smoke free, pet free home. Please state this. A large amount of items appear to come stinking of perfume and cigarette smoke. If you are sending them please make sure you send them in a condition you would like to receive them in. Keep them away from strong perfumes. Make sure they smell ok. If there are any imperfections on the planner take a photo and show them. Make sure the buyer can really see what they are buying. Make sure it is fit for purpose, ie. if it’s a personal planner state that. If it’s a Filofax state that. If it’s not a filofax don’t mislead people, state it’s a no named planner. If you are not sure of the details. Do your research and check before you sell. Pick a realistic price for it, again research.
  2. Sell good through Paypal, do not send through Paypal friends and family. You are not suppose to sell goods through friends and family – if you do you can end up with your account being restricted – it’s in those guidelines you agreed to when you signed up and probably didn’t read.
  3. Do not send any goods until you have received payment. Once you have payment send goods within 30 days. If payment is sent and you break your leg tripping over the dog and you can’t send it. Contact the buyer. Make them aware. Let them know it’s going to be a few days. You’ll let them know when you’ve posted it. They can know when to expect it etc.
  4. Sometimes people like to package things with certain goodies and extras. This can be sweet and a thoughtful gesture but bare in mind certain things. Some people send Haribo sweets which are not always vegetarian or religious dietary observance friendly. Lavender seeds might be a nice touch too, but people are allergic. So just keep it simple and stick to the items being sold.
  5. Package the item well. If you are selling a planner, make sure the ringers are protected. Take a photo of the condition of the planner as you are selling it. This will protect you if the item gets damaged in the post you can then claim through royal mail. Time stamp photos.
  6. State quite clearly what your returns policy is. If you do not want the item to be return. Specify no returns and no refunds but bare in mind that if an item is faulty or has been misrepresented and therefore is not fit for purpose, the buyer has the right to expect a return within a reasonable time frame. This is UK law and unless stated it a reasonable time frame is set at 30 days. State whether seller or buyer is responsible for paying return postage. If it is not specified UK law states the Seller must pay return postage.
  7. Record the weight of your parcel when you’ve sent it – see scams below.
  8. Where possible, pay for tracked shipping. If you stated you would send it a specific way – ie. Royal Mail first class. Send it Royal Mail first class. It is your responsibility to make sure you sell it as specified.
  9. Obtain proof of postage. Email an electronic copy of it when you send this to the seller.
  10. If you get a dispute and the item is faulty. Request photos of the condition the buyer received it in. Send the photos of the condition you posted it in. Send proof of postage to paypal in the dispute. Request the item be sent back. If the item is sent back you should expect to return postage, it’s the law the buyer should not be out of pocket. However respond within a good time. Ask for the seller to send recorded and ask for the recorded weight to be recorded as well – see scams below.
  11. Share you experiences with the community. If someone has been a great Buyer, tell the facebook groups. If you’ve had problems let people know. Often you may find it’s a repeat offender and by working together and telling people that person can be stopped.

Scams

Below is a list of some of the scams I’ve seen/heard of.

  1. People sending empty boxes both in returning and sending the item in the first place – why you should record weights. If a seller has proof of postage it will be proof of postage for an empty box. You won’t get a successful claim. If it’s empty. Call the police, report it and get a crime number. That way you’ll get paypal should then give your money back.
  2. Items being in an unsellable condition – which is why you should always request full pictures.
  3. If the rings arrived damaged and they weren’t in the photo try opening and closing them a couple of times to see if they realign. It could just be a slight hiccup in postage. If it can’t be fixed send a photo. If you’re a seller request a photo – remember claiming an item is photo is a way to get your money back. So request they return the item. If the item is in the condition you sent it in – take photos again. Time stamp them. So you can clearly show before and after. If they’ve scammed saying it’s faulty then request that the buyer pay for postage, because after all why should you be out of pocket for their dishonesty.
  4. If you are scammed. Do report it to the site you buy from and warn others. If you are on ebay, gumtree, facebook they can block and stop people from selling. It means that scammers can and still be stopped eventually but only if they are reported. You can even report the crime to local police and get a crime number.

Remember communication is key. Keep communicating to ensure a channel is always open and you are post happy with the process.

If you are buying from overseas be aware that buyer’s protection is different and the laws are followed from where the seller is. If the seller has a UK website, they are bound by UK. European countries share European law – which is the same as the UK.

If you buy outside the UK you may be subject to customs so do expect to pay them.

Do not take people at their word. Remember the great Dr. Gregory House: Everybody lies. But you do enter into a contract buying and selling. So clearly state what that agreement is ie. what goods for what price and service. If the contract is broken in anyway you can dispute it, you can report it you can be protected by it. Report it to the police. Don’t get calling 999. Just call the local police and report it. If more people stopped and reported it to the police, it would make buying and selling community less of a horrid scam invested place.

Above all do your research. Know your rights. Be professional, calm and polite. It costs nothing to be polite and if people were nicer and kept communication open the process would often be a lot smoother.

Using a Van der Spek a5 Writing Case

*I did mean to post photos with this although time and other commitments have prevented me from doing so currently*

So it’s been a couple of months since I received my VdS A5 Writing Case, so I’d thought I’d give a update about it and how I have been using it.

The leather is still in really good condition, despite a few very close calls when a cat decided to stand on them. It still looks absolutely brand new.

What I really like about this case is how small and lightweight it is compared to a regularly a5 binder. It feels very compact.

The left side can hold a surprising amount, however the more you put it in the more it does bulk out the top begins to lift away from the rest of the binder as there is no clasp to hold it in place. When I went to transport this to University as someone wanted to see it I did end up taking about half the contents of it out. Other than that trip it has never left the house, because it is a letter writing kit and I don’t usually write letters away from home.

The case itself is very nice to write on. I use the VdS pad as a pad and I write on it. Being left handed I thought that the left hand side would get in the way but when I sit on the sofa I just prop it up slightly against the side of the sofa and write as normal. When I write on my lap I also do not find it an issue to write with the left side, as you might expect it to be with your left arm having to go over it to get to the right side to write. Although I am sure VdS would consider reversing it for left handers if you wanted to. The left side cannot be folded back on itself, as their is something under the leather preventing that, although again, I am sure VdS could change that if you requested. It is strong and sturdy that it just lies flap and holds it shape, it’s not floppy and I just write as if writing a birthday card. It doesn’t get in the way at all.

I love the pad with it’s matching strip of leather. I had planned to use it after I had finished my current pad of paper but I think it’s too pretty and works too well as a hard surface to write on that I think I will keep it for the time being.

If you have any questions about the writing pad please let me know and I’ll be happy to answer them if I can.

The Great Gatsby (5 Stars)

A story ahead of it’s time and one that had been relatively shadowed upon it’s release. The 1920s are seen as a decadent and wondrous time filled with opportunity and promise: The American Dream. Who better to protray the endless hope of achieving the American Dream than the mesmerising Leonardo Dicaprio. He is spell-boundingly brilliant as the man who literally would move heaven and earth to be with the love of his life. He captures innocence, love, ambitious, endless optimism seemingly effortlessly. He is truly a joy to watch.

Fitzgerald’s brilliant story comes to life so beautifully. The decadence and the beauty of the American Dream, and in reality the fact that beneath the luxury and the gilded façade lies the smearing of darkness and dirt.