Saturday, May 23, 2015

What I'm Listening To: Rejected 2015 Eurovision Performers


Hello Everyone! It's one of my favorite times of the year- Eurovision season! I have been a huge fan of the Eurovision song contest for many years now (even when I was living in America). I just love the national pride, the flashy costumes, the special effects and all of the camp that goes with it! It's also the perfect excuse to host an international food party or make up your own drinking game.

If you haven't been following along, so far the 2015 Eurovision song contest has held the first 2 semi-finals where 17 country's musical acts were whittled down 10 in each episode. The big 5 countries (the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and Italy), the 2014 winning country, Austria, plus Eurovision's special guest, Australia, do not have to perform in the semi-finals because they are the largest economic contributors to the contest and are automatically entered into the finals.

THE FINALS ARE TONIGHT!

The countries participating in the finals are:

Albania 
Armenia
Australia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Belgium
Cypress
Estonia
France
Germany
Georgia
Greece
Hungary
Israel
Italy
Latvia
Lithuania
Montenegro
Norway
Poland
Romania
Russia
Serbia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
United Kingdom 


Even though the participants that made it to the finals are great (my vote is Sweden for the win), a lot of my favorite acts didn't make it into this year's finals. Here are a few of my favorite rejected countries performances:

Moldova- a.k.a. The hot cops.
 Moldova always brings out the campiest acts and this was no exception. This would have made the finals WAY more interesting!


Finland-
 The country that brought hard rock to Eurovision in 2006, brought out the punk this year and I thought it was great! Interestingly, all of the bands members are middle aged and mentally challenged.


Malta-
 I know that there were 2 singers with songs called "Warrior" but I thought this was pretty good.


Were any of your favorite acts already eliminated? Do you with Conchita was running again (I do)? Have you been missing Graham Norton's commentary as much as I have? Let me know in the comments below. And remember to check out the 215 Eurovision finals tonight at 8pm UK time on BBC1, YouTube or www.eurovistion.tv

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Woollen Woods 2015


For the second year in a row, I am participating in the Woollen Woods Project, a wool themed outdoor instillation in support of the Campaign for Wool. This year the project is going nationwide across the UK with six different locations participating and showing displays from May 15-24th. Each location has selected their own theme and signature flower and are accepting donations of knitted, crocheted and felted plants, animals, and other woodland creatures. I knitted the Henry's Bunny, Spring Rabbit, and I crocheted the  Leaf Garland pattern using leftover wool yarn from my stash. This was a very satisfying and rewarding way to use up some yarn in my stash pile!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What I'm Listening To: Alabama Shakes- 'Gimme All Your Love'

The new Alabama Shakes album called Sound & Color was released April 20/21, so in honor of it's release I thought I would share the Alabama Shakes' recent performance of their new song 'Gimme All Your Love' from Saturday Night Live (SNL).


The Alabama Shakes will begin touring the US, UK and parts of Europe in May. For full concert information, check out their website.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What I'm Reading: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr


The last book that the A Beautiful Mess Book Club selected to read (in March) before taking a brief hiatus was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I haven't read a lot of historical fiction, so this was a book I probably would not have chosen to read on my own but I'm glad I did. The author's writing style is very poetic and the chapters are short so it was easy to fly through the book. It was no wonder that this book is a Pulitzer Prize winner!

The book takes place during WWII and primarily follows the story of two characters, Marie-Laure and Werner. Marie-Laure is a blind girl from Paris who lives with her father near the museum of Natural History before the Nazi occupation. And Werner is an orphan who lives in a German mining town orphanage with his sister and has a talent for building and creating radios. Throughout the story we discover how their lives are effected and forever changed by the war.

Discussion *warning spoilers ahead*:

1. First of all, did you like the book overall? Why or why not? Along with that, did you like Doerr’s style of writing?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It was such a page turner! Even though it's a BIG book, I enjoyed the author's poetic writing style and flew through the chapters in less than a month.

2. Along with style, how did you feel about the time going back and forth between future and present?

I read the book so quickly, that the time flipping back and forth didn't bother me.

3. Favorite character?

My favorite character was Marie Laure. I loved how spunky and bright Marie Laure was and how she carefully observed the world around her through feel and touch. I liked that she was a female character interested in science and biology. And I loved how brave she was hiding in the attic, picking up messages at the bakery for Madame Manec and broadcasting messages with the radio when her uncle was unable.

4. What do you think? Do you agree with Madame? Is doing nothing a kind of troublemaking…as good as collaborating?

I think that one of the overall themes in this book is that doing nothing is as good as troublemaking- or that if you're not voicing yourself against the violence than your are for it. I think that there have been times in our global history where that has been easier said than done- like during WWII when being caught voicing your opinion against the Nazi's meant certain death, but that also made those who did voice their opinions more brave by doing so.

5. What did you think of the main character being blind? How did this change the story for you?

I think that Marie Laure being blind helped the reader to gain a broader and more detailed perspective of the world around Marie Laure, Paris, the museum, and Saint-Malo, as she described the number of drains she passed by, the sounds and feel of the creatures in the sea.

6. Is it easy or difficult for you to believe in curses and things of that nature? The supernatural, if you will? More specifically, did you believe that if Werner had had the stone at the end, he might’ve been saved?

I find it difficult to believe in curses and things of that nature, but the book does lead the reader to believe that Marie Laure and her family were cursed by the stone. I believe that if Werner had the stone in the end, he might have been saved but his sister and orphanage caregiver might have been lost.

7. Was anyone else annoyed by the conversations that happened at the end of the story???

Kind of. As I was reading I had thought (and hoped) that Marie Laure and Werner might end up together in some way. When it became apparent that that would not happen I began to hope that Jutte and Marie Laure's conversation might inspire a friendship or rekindle some unrequited love from Marie Laure towards Werner, but in hind-site I realize that the characters barely knew each other.

8. What did the title mean to you?

I initially read the title literally as pertaining to Marie Laure and her blindness and later referring to the good inside each of us. I didn't catch the radio reference as quickly.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

What I'm Listening To: Jessie Ware- 'Say You Love Me'

I've been hearing the song 'Say You Love Me' by Jessie Ware everywhere lately: from the Fifty Shades of Grey movie trailer, to The Voice UK, to HBO TV series advertisements. Last week Jessie Ware performed this song on the Graham Norton Show and that's when I decided that I needed to share it with you. Check out the music video below:


If you like this song, you can find Jessie Ware's album, Tough Love on Amazon.

Friday, May 1, 2015

What's Making Me Laugh: Avengers Family Feud

A few weeks ago, Jimmy Kimmel invited the cast of The Avengers: Age of Ultron (including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner) onto Jimmy Kimmel Live! for a post-premier interview session and a little game of drunken Family Feud. As a fan of both The Avengers and the game show Family Feud I was thoroughly amused. 


The Avengers: Age of Ultron was released in the UK on April 23 and I was able to catch it on the 25th, but my US friends have to wait until May 1 so I won't spoil it just yet. Have you already seen the film, or are you planning to see it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What I'm Reading: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

It has been awhile since I updated you on what I've been reading lately. In February the A Beautiful Mess (ABM) book club read and discussed Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (which will soon be made into a movie). The book was a fitting read for February because it is a story about young love- between a new girl in school with big red hair and a quiet, half-Korean boy. Once I started reading this story, I couldn't put it down until I finished. I really liked this book and all the memories it brought up of being young, nerdy and in love in high school. 

Check out my responses to the ABM discussion questions below *spoiler alert*:
1. Did you like the ending?! 
I totally agreed with Emma's (the ABM book club discussion leader) feelings about the end of this book and felt conflicted about the ending of this book. For those of you who haven't read the book, in the end Park drives Eleanor cross-country to Minnesota so she can escape an abusive step-father and live with her uncle, even though it means Eleanor will also be away from Park. After that, it seems that Eleanor and Park loose touch from one another and Park tries to continue on without her. But after some time passes, Park receives a postcard from Eleanor containing 3 words, but the reader isn't told what it says. 

It's easy to want to assume that the three words in Eleanor's postcard are "I love you" or "I miss you," because throughout the book the reader is cheering on Eleanor and Park to overcome all obstacles and be together even though they are young and now living hundreds of miles away from one another. I think the story would have been more true to life if no postcard was sent and the pair just carried on with fond memories, but perhaps the author wanted to leave the reader with a snippet of hope that these two would meet again. 

2. Eleanor's family situation
Growing up my family was more similar to Park's in that we almost always ate dinner together and my parents were supportive and accepting of my friends and I. I did have friends that had more difficult family situations, but not to the same extent as Eleanor had with her family. I like to think that my home was kind of a refuge for some of my friends when we were growing up. 
3. Love is larger than the sum of its parts
Throughout the book we watch Eleanor and Park transition from being complete strangers who are tossed together by circumstances (needing a place to sit on the bus and sharing a few classes) even though they are actively trying to avoid other people and each other, to fast friends, and then fall in love. At various points throughout the book the pair ask one other to describe why one love the other, and both have difficulty defining an answer because there is no clear and logical reason for the two to have come together, but they have. The way the author depicts their relationships seems very true to life and makes this book such a fun read!

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about young love or reminisce. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

What's Making Me Laugh: Obama's Anger Translator

This weekend, President Barack Obama attended the 2015 Correspondents' Dinner where he brought along his "anger translator," Luther (Key & Peele's Keegan- Michael Key). Check out the hilarious clip below:



If you're a long-time follower of my blog, you'll know that I'm a fan of watching the president's attempts at comedy. Check out my previous posts:

White House Correspondents' Dinner 2011

White House Correspondents' Dinner 2010

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Virtual Paintout: Liverpool Part 2

When I created my first sketch of Liverpool for The Virtual Paintout I really enjoyed drawing a place that I had actually visited, so I decided to create another sketch of Liverpool. This time I drew the site of the former Sgt. Pepper's Bistro at the roundabout on Church and Allerton Road. I remembered seeing this place on The Beatles themed Magical Mystery Bus Tour and I thought the building had an interesting shape. It was here at the roundabout that the "pretty nurse" (or more likely Nurse Cadet - not a full-time nurse) stood. It is thought that this nurse was in fact Beth Davidson, a childhood friend of John Lennon, and later to become Lennon's best friend Pete Shotton's wife. She would stand there and meet up with her friends while raising money selling poppies.

Church & Allerton Rd., Liverpool
watercolor, watercolor pencil, pen
6 x 6

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Virtual Paintout: Greenland

In March, The Virtual Paintout explored Greenland- which is surprisingly less green than the name suggests. Since Greenland is sparsely populated, there were only a few areas available to explore via Google Maps, and I decided to draw a Street View of Hvalsey Church. According to WikipediaHvalsey Church was a church in the abandoned Greenlandic Norse settlement of Hvalsey. The best preserved Norse ruins in Greenland, the Church was also the location of the last written record of the Greenlandic Norse, a wedding in September 1408. I took my time with this drawing and didn't finish it until the beginning of April, so it doesn't appear on the official website.

Hvalsey Church, Greenland
watercolor, watercolor pencil, pen
6 x 6

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