Friday, 27 February 2015

Book Review: The Hobbit

This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected.

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day, to whisk him away on a journey 'there and back again'. They have a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon...

I wanted to love this book and believe me when I say I really tried to love it but well I just couldn't. I feel by admitting that I've committed some sort of crime against literature but it's my honest opinion.

I'll wholeheartedly admit I think the films have ruined me slightly, you see I'm such a big fan of the films, they're fun and lighthearted with a twist of something dark and exciting. Turns out that's not what the books like at all, I actually found the book to just be too nice. Thorin whips out a harp for a little jam with his fellow dwarves rather than unapologetically announcing his complete lack of faith in Bilbo, there's not so much as a sniff of Azog or any orcs really for that matter and the Necromancer is barely mentioned. OK so I know this was originally written as a children's story but I just wasn't expecting everything to be so flowery, I wanted action and battles.

I guess I wasn't expecting the book to be so different from the films and I just couldn't get into it. It was a struggle to read and frankly I can't say as I particularly enjoyed the book probably as I found it such a chore to read, it just flat out bored me in places. 

As I say, I feel it's some sort of crime to not have enjoyed such a well loved, classic book and if you do fancy reading it I'd still say go for it as you may enjoy it. Josh read it first and he really enjoyed it and he's not a huge reader so it's definitely worth picking up and seeing for yourself what you think.

Rating: ★★


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Making of Harry Potter - Studio Tour Part 2

 Here is the second part of my photo diary from the Harry Potter studio tour. By the way the Butterbeer I'm drinking above was amazing. Highly recommended!

 At the tour there is the backlot area with some more sets from the films including the Knight Bus, No4 Privet Drive, the Potter cottage and the Hogwarts Bridge amongst others.
 The second half of the tour contains a lot of prosthetics used in the films as well as life sized models of some of the cast members that were also used in the films. They are incredibly detailed and very life-like.

 The Diagon Alley set was definitely one of my favourite parts of the tour. I loved seeing all the shops and the detail that went into them.

The Hogwarts Castle model was the perfect end to the tour, it's difficult to judge just how big it is from these photo's but I can assure you it is very impressive. I was a little blown away by it.

We absolutely loved the Harry Potter studio tour and would recommend it to any Harry Potter fan as a must visit attraction, we've already said we'd love to go back as there was just so much to look at it was hard to take it all in. 

You can see part 1 of the trip here and I also have a short vlog from the day which you can watch here.


Monday, 23 February 2015

The Making of Harry Potter - Studio Tour Part 1

We finally visited the Harry Potter studio tour! Ever since we first heard it was opening we've wanted to visit especially me. As time went by and the studio had been open for quite a few years I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever get to actually go until at the end of last year we finally booked a little trip away to visit The Making of Harry Potter! Even looking back over these photos is making me excited. We took so many photo's that I've really struggled to pick out which ones to include but I finally made to selection and I've decided to do two posts about our trip so as not to bombard you with photo's.
 Me and Crookshanks, OK, so it's just a toy!

 The cupboard under the stairs set is to the side as you queue for your tour, it's just a small taster of what's to come. One of the first big sets you see is the Great Hall, complete with some of the props and costumes you see in the films.

Each set has some of the costumes from the films and there's lots to read about each set which gives you a real insight into the films.
 When we visited it was also animal actors week so we got to meet some of the animals from the films. Although the cat above was never part of the films it is now part of the Crookshanks team.

Dumbledore's office and various props from the films.
Magic is Might statue from the Ministry of Magic.

You can see part 2 of the studio tour here. I've also got a short vlog from the day too which can be viewed here. Part 2 of the studio tour photo's will be up on Wednesday.


Friday, 20 February 2015

London Snapshots

 Earlier in the week Josh and I headed to London for a couple of days. We spent a bit of time in London as well as visiting the Harry Potter studio tour in Watford, but more on that in future posts. Today I thought I'd share a few snaps from out wanderings around London then I have two posts on the studio tour coming up next week. We ended up taking soooo many photo's so I've really head to narrow it down!

On our first day in London it was raining quite bad which wasn't much fun at all and made sightseeing pretty impossible so instead we headed to the Imperial War Museum as it's free and we'd heard it was good. I don't think I would have paid for it but it was pretty good to pass the time and take shelter from the rain. The Holocaust exhibition was pretty interesting and made a visit to the museum worthwhile.

 As Beatles fans we just had to make a trip to Abbey Road to see the famous crossing and studios. We didn't want to seem too touristy or piss the London drivers off so we refrained from taking a photo on the crossing but so many people were just jumping out in the road without a care that we stayed to people watch for 5 and laughed at the disgruntled drivers and the tourist with no regards for traffic.

 As it was a much nicer day we also did lots of walking. We headed to Covent Garden where we stupidly decided to walk up the 193 steps from the tube station, it nearly killed me! I also found the best cookies in existence - Ben's Cookies so a purchase of a chocolate orange cookie and a peanut butter and chocolate cookie was made, I can highly recommend both flavours!

We then walked from Somerset House right down to Tower Bridge (with a quick coffee stop half way) to enjoy the sunshine and the sights. We also had to get a super touristy shot in front of Tower Bridge. Feeling tired with achey legs, it was then time to head home after our few busy days in London.

The posts of the Harry Potter tour will be up next week and in two parts so I don't overload you with lots of photo's all in one go!


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A letter to 18 year old me

 Dear Lauren,
You've just turned 18 and you know that that criminology course just isn't for you so don't be worried about everyone else's opinions and do what's right for you. Don't go to university. You'll spend another year at college but you'll come to realise that that one year is far more productive, enjoyable and useful than the previous two you've done. You'll end up with two of the best tutors during that year who really inspire you so make the most of it. Just actually try to get to lessons on time because your lateness really bugs your English Lit tutor!

You'll go to uni eventually and have the best three years of your life, OK so maybe the course you chose wasn't totally right for you but guess what it introduces you to an amazing new hobby, blogging, and 4 years on you'll still be continuing with that hobby so every cloud and all that. You'll also get to live with Josh which is one of the best things you'll do. Embrace every second of university life because you will never get to live life like you do during that time, carefree, worry free and having all the time in the world to do whatever you want. Oh by the way your neighbours will be the most annoying people on the planet but you'll seek revenge when you start singing...really 6am after a night in Birmingham!

When you leave university I'm going to tell you straight, you're going to feel really lost. Having to go to the job centre for the next 5 months really gets to you and you're going to feel pretty unhappy, probably the worst you've ever felt. It's also hard to adjust to not living with Josh anymore. You get through it though, just remember things always work out in the end. Josh does a pretty good job of trying to help you remain positive and it turns out his new cat Lexi becomes a source of happiness for you. Yes she's weird and a bit hyper at times and she definitely deserves the reputation of a 'naughty tortie' but it turns out the crazy cat people were right - cats really do have a calming influence!

2014 turns out to be a bit of a strange mix of emotions, you get a job in a school which you really enjoy (see I told you things work out in the end) but it's only a 6 month contract which doesn't get renewed. Determined not to go back to square one you start volunteering and enjoy the 6 weeks holidays and sign up to a supply agency ready for the new school year. Be patient the agency isn't too quick at processing paper work and just when you think you're going to have to head back to the job centre an amazing opportunity presents itself, say yes to it. You'll be scared and left wondering why on earth you agreed to a supply job in a secondary school but I'll let you into a little get a full time job there in the end and despite vowing you'd never work in a secondary school you love it more than you could've ever imagined.

You enter 2015 feeling happier and more positive than you ever have. Things are finally working out. Have an amazing 5 years. Have fun, keep smiling and say yes to new opportunities and experiences. There's more I could tell you but there has to be some surprises along the way it's all part of life.

Lauren xx


Monday, 16 February 2015

Need to Read #4

It's hard to pick a top one from this list, I'd have to say The Woman in Black, The Girl With All The Gifts and Lolita in that order because I can't pick one.

Have you read any of these books? What books have you being loving lately? Let me know!


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

SAVING MONEY: Staycations

Liverpool / York / Wales / Portsmouth / Scarborough

Having not had a holiday abroad since 2010, Josh and I have become quite the staycation experts. While we tend to have a couple of days away somewhere if it's just us two we've also done week long holiday's in the UK with family as well. The fact is we've just not been able to afford a holiday abroad until recently and I know we're not the only ones in this position so we thought we'd throw a few tips out there on how to make the best out of a staycation!

  1. City's are the best option for a few days away and the easiest option in terms of travel if like us you can't drive which brings me nicely onto the next point...
  2. If you're traveling by train book tickets in advance on sites like Raileasy and The Trainline. You can book up to 12 weeks in advance and save quite a hefty amount
  3. When it comes to accommodation unless it's for a special occasion you're basically just looking for a clean place to sleep and shower. I know I'd rather spend money on exploring and eating some good food rather than on a room I'm not really going to see because I'll only be sleeping in it. We always stay in a Travelodge and haven't had anything to complain about yet. 
  4. Research what you'd like to see and do before you get there, that way you've more time to explore
  5. Definitely check out the free attractions. Some of the best places Josh and I have visited have been free. It doesn't hurt to look if you're not paying!
Next on our staycation list:

 Let me know if you've had a really nice staycation somewhere in the comments.


Monday, 9 February 2015

Having it all

A few nights ago I was sat thinking how I really want my own place with Josh, it quickly spiralled into all the things I wish I had and I don't. I'd gone from wanting to rent an apartment to wanting a house with a garden and a cat, wishing I could drive, owning a nice car, wanting to book holidays to New York, New Zealand and other nice places and then I stopped and realised something.

Dreaming is nice, it's even perfectly normal but when it starts to get you down it's not fun. We're surrounded by other people blogging fun days out, lovely holidays, home wishlists for their new places, perfect pinterest images, tweets and status updates that portray the 'perfect' life. It's been said thousands of times before but we don't often get to see the real stuff because lets face it no one wants to blog about the day out they had planned that went tits up because they missed their train then argued with their boyfriend over who's fault it was, no one wants to expose their 'floordrobe' or upload that picture of the cake that sunk in the middle and no one wants to tweet about shoving down two chocolate biscuits before going to pilates (ahem - true story right there). OK so some people keep it realer than others and it's down to each individual how much of themselves they expose online but no one presents of gritty detail of their life online, we're all guilty of editing our lives to just include the nice things - and I'm not saying that that isn't fine.

My point is we're all guilty of thinking that others have a better life than us at times, of wanting it all without realising what we already have. I may not have my own place yet but at least I know Josh and I working towards it and in the meantime I have lots of other things to be grateful for from the big stuff like the fact we've booked our dream holiday down to the little stuff such as not only having someone to share amazing experiences with but who I can also just snuggle down with, watch a film and eat all the snacks available! 

Be happy with what you already have, it's great to plan and dream but don't get so wrapped up in it that it stops you from seeing that you already have a pretty amazing life.


Thursday, 5 February 2015

Valentines Day

Ah the time of year people either love or hate. I see so many people moaning about Valentines Day, just ignore it and get on with life if it isn't for you! I personally see nothing wrong with the day. Josh and I don't go over board, we don't go out anywhere or spend a load of money we just embrace it for what it is, a nice (kinda cheesy) day. With that in mind I've picked out some nice Valentines bits and pieces I've found and thought I would share them with you.

  1. Rosie of Autograph set 
  2. Lush Heart Throb Bubble Bar
  3. Lush Cupid's Love Soap
  4. Yankee Candle Love is in the Air
  5. Yankee Candle Sweetest Valentine
  6. Home is wherever I am with you print
  7. His and Hers mugs


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

FILMS: What We Watched #6

Our weekend routine usually consists of watching a couple of films. There's nothing we like more on a Friday and Saturday evening then getting in our pj's, grabbing some snacks and a drink (or maybe just a hot chocolate!) and watching a film. We have quite a Blu Ray collection these days but the same thing happens every weekend in that we can never decide what to watch. 
We thought we'd share with you what films we watch each month and our thoughts on each film.
The Rise of the Planet of the Apes
2011 | 105 min | Science Fiction
J: I never saw this film when it first came out and I'm not too sure why. It has fighting and it's quite a sci-fi kind of premise, so it's rigth up my alley. Anyway, someone offered to lend us a copy and it's a great film! Andy Serkis's motion capture is amazingly ape like, and I'm not going to lie...I want a little baby Caesar of my own!

L: I never thought this film would be my sort of thing until the second one was released and I heard people talking about how good the Planet of the Apes films are. So I gave it a go and do you know what, it's such a good film! It even has me holding in the tears in one part. It shines a light  on the effects of testing medicine on animals but also why sometimes it has to be done. Aside from that though it's a really good sci-fi kinda film with a cute baby Caesar to boot!
 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
2014 | 131 min | Science Fiction
J: We went to see the sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes at the cinema owing to the fact that the first one was so good. It's a post-apocalyptic world so the apes have run of most of the joint until some humans come along and throw a metaphorical spanner in the works. The animation is even more spot on, as is the character evolution, and before long you find yourself rooting for the apes and not the humans! 

L: Much darker and grittier than the first film, Dawn is set around 10 years after the first film and apes have pretty much become the dominant race due to many humans dying from Simian Flu. Due to faults on both sides, humans and apes clash once again leaving any hopes for peace behind. The film was left wide open for a third installment so I'm not at all surprised to hear that one is set to be released in 2017.
 Monsters University
2013 | 104 min | Animation / Comedy
J: Another Disney/Pixar film! Wahaaaay! I didn't have too high hopes for this to be honest, as Monsters Inc is one of my least favourite of the Disney/Pixar movies, but the story is really good and there's some great characters in there and some genuinely funny comedy moments. I was chuckling away to myself quite a lot and it made me appreciate the original a lot more!
L: We love a good Disney/Pixar movie over here so this time we went with a lesser watched one, Monsters University. It's pretty cracking film and although it's been a long time since a watched Monsters Inc, I'm thinking this is the better of the two films. It's great to see how Mike and Sully started out and the instrumental version of Gospel by Marchfourth is one of the jolliest tunes ever so it's amazing that it's featured throughout the film.
 Anchorman 2
2013 | 143 min | Comedy
J: Now, Ron Burgundy is a legend. There is no disputing that. The moustache, the hair...the moustache again. And the original Anchorman was an amazing film, so naturally I was hoping for the same amazing quality worth this sequel. And while it's still a brilliant film it's also an infinitely more random one. In a good way. I think. Now here's the catch...we watched the special edition version thinking it would be the normal one but with a few extra scenes in and stuff. No, it's basically a whole other movie made up of alternate takes, different dialogue, a slightly different plot...still brilliant, but...yeah, confusing! Oh but the Big World/The Gay Way musical medley is great!
L: Where do I even begin with this?! We popped on the 'dirctor's cut' (though not officially named so) version of this thinking there'd be an extra joke here and there, an extended scene or two maybe. When it had finished we looked at each other with faces that said "what have we just watched?!" this version of Anchorman 2 follows the same story mostly but every joke and line is pretty much different to the original with a few scenes panning out differently. You need to be a die hard fan of Will Ferrell's odd humour to go with this version. The musical medley though is pretty great and left me wondering why has an Anchorman the musical not been made yet?
 The Book Thief
2013 | 125 min | Drama
J: I assumed this would be a boring chick flick as it was a girly looking book to begin with, and because of these assumptions my ears may or may not have turned off when Lauren was telling me about it. Anyway I half-grudgingly sat down to watch it and do you know what? It's a pretty good film. Geoffrey Rush is really good in it (despite the fact I couldn't help thinking 'Barbossa' all the way through it) and Sophie Nelisse did a nice job as the young 'book thief'. Lauren liked the book better. But what does she know?! 

L: I read the book years ago and loved it so I was very pleased to receive the Book Thief film for Christmas. Don't get me wrong it's a really good film and the performances by all the characters are spot on. I cannot fault a single one of them but I'm afraid it's nowhere near as good as the book. There's a lot things different on screen than on paper and it's just not as hard hitting. It seems to skirt around the war and the Holocaust which the book doesn't do. Give it a watch but read the book first!
 The Full Monty
1997 | 91 min | Comedy / Drama
J: A classic 'local' film set in Sheffield! Some guys are out of work and turn to stripping to make some money. What an odd premise but what a brilliant film. Every one of the actors is great, the helpless situations they are in are relatable (til they start stripping) and all in all it's such a Northern film. This is up there with Brassed Off as a great Northern film. And to top it all off, the soundtrack is spot on. Everyone loves that scene in the Job Centre queue when Hot Stuff by Donna Summers comes on..!
L: A proper Northern film! We live quite close to Sheffield so we have to appreciate this film! It is a good 'un though. Six unemployed men stripping isn't my usual viewing but it's so lighthearted and funny I can't not enjoy this. Everyone plays a really good part too bringing something different to the mix of guys. Plus the Job Centre/Hot Stuff scene has to be one of the best movie scenes in existence. 
The Theory of Everything
2015 | 123 min | Biographical / Drama
J: This film was hyped up a lot, and after watching it I reckon it deserves every award is has or will get. Eddie Redmayne is brilliant as Professor Stephen Hawking, as is Felicity Jones as his first love Jane Wild. The story tells of Stevens time in university and about him developing and working on the theories that made him world famous. It also shows his own personal battles with the debilitating Motor-neurone Syndrome. But at the heart of it, the films is a very personal one, focusing on his relationship with Jane. Top film!
L: I'm not sure I can even write this review without crying. The Theory of Everything is one of the best films I've watched in a long time. Moving, beautiful and real. I'm sure the romanticism has been giving the Hollywood treatment but we'll skirt over that. No review I write can do this film justice, Eddie Redmayne is just amazing as Professor Stephen Hawking and the whole film really struck a chord with me. I knew I'd cry but I was effected for a good hour after the film. It emotionally really got to me and OK I cry at pretty much everything but for it to still be on my mind, then to me that's the mark of a bloody excellent film!

If you only watch one of these films it should be...
 J: The Theory of Everything
L: Without a doubt The Theory of Everything