Monday, 27 July 2015

Entertainment Monday: Civil Twilight (Monday July 27, 2015)

Civil Twilight is a band that hails from South Africa who got their start in 2005 but did not put out their first album until 2010 which is when I first heard of them, but they have been going strong ever since.  I love when I get to share music from bands who span the globe and I believe Civil Twilight is the first South African band I really took a liking too.    The band members are Andrew McKellar, Richard Wouters, Steven McKellar and Kevin Dailey.  One of the reasons I want to feature their music on our Entertainment Monday is because they have recently come out with a new album titled Story of an Immigrant.  Holy Dove, is a single off of Story of an Immigrant that has gotten a lot of radio play here in the Northeastern United States and Civil Twilight recently performed in the Capital Region of New York State even though I was not able to attend the show. =(

Holy Dove

My first introduction to Civil Twilight has a bit of a funny story behind it.  There were two songs I had heard from them that I absolutely loved and yet I did not know who sang them.  I THOUGHT the songs were sung by Muse.  Hopefully I don't offend any Muse fans (or Civil Twilight fans) by the comparison or by what I'm about to say... which is, that in general I don't like much of Muse's music.  Muse has been around for a long time and has a very faithful following. I was convinced that the two songs I loved from Civil Twilight were sung by Muse and I was kind of happy to find out that I actually liked some songs by Muse.  Of course... I was mistaken and eventually found out that Civil Twilight sang Letters From the Sky and River.  >.<  Haha... sorry Muse... I'm still looking for a song I really love from you!

Letters From the Sky

River is probably my favorite Civil Twilight song.  It is likely in my top 10-20 songs of all time actually, if I had to make a list.  With the sheer amount of music I listen too and music I love, that's saying something.

Another new tune from Civil Twilight that I like a lot is Fire Escape.  I think that they do a good job of mixing up their sound as their newer album has a different sound to it then their previous albums.  I like how some of their songs feature guitar and others feature the piano. 

If any of our readers ever have a band that they really love and wish to share that band with Carlyn and I, please feel free to do so in our comments section on a Music Featured Entertainment Monday.  I'm always open to listening to new music and discovering new bands I might love.  Of course not everything is going to appeal to everyone (a la my Muse comments from earlier) but I never have any issues giving a band or singer a chance.  Heck, when you listen to Classical Music, Opera, Rock and Roll, Classic Rock, Indie Music, Folk Music and even some Rap and Country Music, I think my likes cover a pretty broad spectrum.  One of the things I really enjoy too about listening to some of the K-pop bands that Carlyn has shared is that it is music I do not typically have exposure to.  I think their are so many talented performers across a variety of musical genres and while it's good to be discerning in musical tastes, I also think it's good to sample a bit of everything.  Who knows?  By sharing music we might not ordinarily get to hear perhaps we'll find our new favorite band or performer? 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

New Blog Template!

We have a new blog template! Jon and I wanted to change things over to reflect where we currently are in life. The old template was made around the time when we first started the blog. We were new to blogging and the design reflected that playful time. I'm not sure if it is a sunrise or sunset but I chose the new header to reflect new beginnings. 

Old design 2011-2015 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The Babysitters club: Mary Anne and Miss Priss by Ann M. Martin-Review by Carlyn

The Babysitters club is a book series from the late 80s-2000 about a group of girls who babysit. The books focus on the point of view of one of the girls per book. There are seven girls in the babysitters club. Kristy is the leader who is bossy and outgoing, Mary Anne is the shy quiet one, Claudia is the artist of the group, Stacey is sophisticated and fashionable, Dawn is the flower child, Jessi is the graceful one and Mallory is an aspiring writer. Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Stacey and Dawn are thirteen years old while Jessi and Mallory are eleven. Maybe back in those days, it was fine to have kids babysit other kids. I imagine children their age would actually have their own babysitter nowadays.

 I have loved this series since I was a little girl. I am trying to get the whole collection which will take me some time as there are 131 regular books as well as special editions and spinoffs. It’s easy to find babysitter books as many of them are in second hand shops. The books are all numbered but you can start from any book as the first chapter always explains the series. The book that I am reviewing is 73. Currently I have 32 regular books and 18 special edition ones. I haven’t even read all the ones in my collection either but I am working on it. There are new editions of this series but I like to get the old ones from when I was growing up.

In this book, Mary Anne is asked to babysit four year old Jenny Prezzioso on a regular basis. Jenny is a finicky child who is afraid of getting dirty. She alienates herself from other kids, after refusing to play with them in fear of staining her nice clothes. Mary Anne worries about Jenny but doesn’t want to pry into Jenny’s family life.

There is also a subplot involving Mallory who feels frustrated in having to babysit her siblings all the time. Her ten year old triplet brothers feel too old for a babysitter. They form a kickball team with the other kids in the neighbourhood. It doesn’t work out well for them but they are too proud to ask for help.

I thought this Babysitters book was alright. It isn’t one of my favourites from the series. I thought the issue with Jenny wasn’t really resolved, she just suddenly snapped out of it at the end.  The reason for Jenny’s behaviour was to get attention from her parents. She tried to be the perfect child for them. Her behaviour is discussed by Mary Anne and Jenny’s parents but they say that are too busy to give the attention.

As for the subplot, I can sympathize with the triplets as they are only a year younger than Mallory. Reading about the kickball team reminded me of my own childhood. While I didn’t play kickball at home, I use to play cricket with the other kids in the neighborhood. I remember some of the arguments over getting out or fetching a ball which was featured in this book as well.

Have you read The Babysitters Club before? Who is your favourite babysitter?

Monday, 20 July 2015

Entertainment Monday: Spy (20 July 2015)

I was eager to watch this film as it looked so fun. I love action comedy spy movies, everything from Johnny English to Jackie Chan movies. I think there are not as many action/comedy movies where a woman is a lead star so I wanted to see what the differences would be.

Spy stars Melissa McCartney as Susan Cooper. She’s a CIA agent who is the dowdy handler for Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law).  Susan guides Bradley through his mission by providing him information through an ear piece. While on a mission, Bradley gets shot by Rayna Boyanov (Rose Bryne), a woman who is selling a nuclear bomb to the highest bidder. 
Susan vows revenge on Rayna and goes on her first mission. Her boss is reluctant to send her as she’s never been on a mission before and the other agents think of her as a joke.
I thought this movie was just as good as any other action/comedy movie. Melissa McCarthy was awesome in the fight sequences. I’m glad that they didn’t speed up the fight scenes and there were no obvious body double switches in the sequences.

I saw her character as the female version of the average Joe. Susan Cooper starts off as a mild mannered, downcast person into a confident bad ass. The situation kind of reminds me about Susan Boyle and how everyone underestimated her at Britain’s Got Talent and she showed off what she could really do.

The other actors in the film were awesome as well. Jason Statham who is known for his action movies plays Rick Ford. Rick is a send up of an action hero, who doesn’t think Susan Cooper is capable of the job and will ruin things. I thought his character was a little annoying but he’s supposed to be that way.

My second favourite character to Susan Cooper was Rayna Boyanov. Rayna is an arrogant gangster aristocrat who says some cruel barbs to Susan. Rose Byrne and Melissa McCartney had such good timing when trading insults.
The film has some nudity and the profanity might be a bit much for some people. I was okay about it and would even watch it with my parents. My friend thought the movie was hysterical but I thought it was a little bit funny. Humor is subjective after all.

I think this movie would be good as a date movie. It’s perfect for when you don’t want to watch a chick flick nor do you want to watch an action movie. I hope they make a sequel.

  Another spy genre review you might enjoy:

Friday, 17 July 2015

Remembering The Victims of Flight 800

Aaron Burden
* Posted on Jon Bear's behalf 

July 17, 1996 is a day that lives deeply in my memory and something I recall this time every year with a mixed degree of sadness and of hope. My sadness is in the reminder of the pain suffered by the families of 230 victims who lost their lives off the shores of Center Moriches, Long Island, New York that day. The flight they were on to Europe had a catastrophic explosion in an empty fuel tank which brought the plane down mere miles away from where I lived at the time in Mastic, New York. Particularly of note to the media was the story of a group of high school students from Montoursville, PA who were headed to France with some chaperons who perished in the crash. In 1996 I was attending college at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA, not far from Montoursville and some of the students I went to the college with were graduates of the high school.

On the day of the crash my mother, twin brother and I were returning home from a trip to New York City when we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts in the town of Shirley or Mastic and heard numerous fire trucks and police cars zip past. The cashier at the Dunkin Donuts told us what had happened.

My memory of that day sticks with me forever, not because I knew any of the people on board of have ever met any of the family members effected by that tragedy, but because of a link that I had to that day, July 17, six years earlier in 1990. July 17, 1990 was the day that I was hit by a car when riding my bicycle home from my friend Mark's house after having gone swimming. While I broke my leg and bumped my head during the accident I was fortunate enough to live and recover fully from my injuries. My family was spared the sense of loss and heartache that six years to the day later befell the many families and friends who lost loved ones on Flight 800. My heart bleeds for those families/friends and I have never taken the opportunity to express that to any of them.

I feel a kind of connection to them because of the difficulty that befell me on July 17 and the fact that the crash happened on the same day six years later very close to my home. I have been to the memorial on Smith Point Beach in Shirley New York and it's a moving tribute to the lives lost that day.

My hope comes from family and friends who survived and have to live with that loss of their loved ones each and every day that passes and each July 17th that passes. Many of those people have urged others to participate in Acts of Kindness on July 17th each year, in memory of their loved ones. It's a wonderful testament to the power of people and their capacity for love in the face of tremendous suffering and loss. By sharing their story here I hope that it might resonate with a few of our readers and might give us all pause to think about them and do a simple, random act of kindness on this day each year.

It's a small way to honor those who passed, which perhaps has the chance to bring a smile or brighten the day of someone who is down, and thereby reflect the light and brightness and joy that those who passed away brought to so many people while they graced our lives. They could be our brothers, our sisters, our parents or even us. None of us know if or when or how we might be touched by tragedy. Despair and Grief are understandable and expected. But Love and Caring and Kindness are the legacy of so many who were lost.

I am so thankful for each and every day I have with the people I love. Those I have lost and even those I still have are best remembered in their laughs and smiles, in their hugs and kisses, and in their joy and love. I wish to say a truly heart felt thank you to the families and friends of the flight 800 victims for their reminder to me each year of how precious and valuable those moments are. Those lost are not lives to be lamented and forgotten. But the lives of wonderful people who are to be celebrated and remembered in kindness and love. 

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Cairns Story Part 4

Paul and I had no set plans for today. I was in charge of organizing the holiday but I left some days open for spontaneous activity. We didn't know where to go so we got some pamphlets from the hotel lobby. It’s always good to pick up a few travel brochures as you may discover an interesting but lesser known attractions.
We decided to go to Coffee Works, a coffee emporium and museum. The brochure had a tagline that said, ‘Coffee World… it’s like Disney Land for Coffee’ which we thought was hilarious so we had to go. Coffee Works is located in Mareeba which is a one hour drive from Cairns. There is also a boutique in Cairns city for people who only want coffee.

When we arrived at Coffee Works, we were delighted at abundance of trinkets, home furnishing and outdoor decorations that were on display through the entrance and gift shop. We had brought the Coffee Works brochure with us as it was written that if you bring it, you get a discount on admission. After we paid to get in, we were shown around the facilities. There was a room with heaps of coffee and tea dispensers and chocolate for tasting. Also, there was a museum with coffee machines from around the world.

We decided to do the coffee tasting first and we were given cups to try whatever we liked. I decided to only take a sip of everything so I wouldn't become hyper from the caffeine. Paul couldn't drink much coffee because of his health so he mostly drank the teas. There were coffees from around the world, Swiss coffee, Ethiopian, Colombian, Indian, Mexican and all varying in strength. I found that the African coffees tended to be the strongest. I liked the hazelnut, Irish cream and vanilla flavoured coffees. I drank a few of the teas too but I can’t remember what I liked.

There were also chocolates to try out such espresso, white, mocha and chilli chocolates. I like the chilli chocolate the most.

After the tasting, we decided to head into the museum. At the start of the museum, there are interactive phones that you take while you walk around. Most of the displays have codes on them and you typed up the code on your phone and you could listen to a recording about information about that object.

We had lunch after the museum and then left Coffee World for the next adventure. 

Previous entries

Monday, 13 July 2015

Entertainment Monday: Simon and Garfunkel (Monday July 13, 2015)

Entertainment Monday: Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel were an iconic American band from the 1960s.  Many of their songs came to reflect the social and political strife of one of the most transcendent eras in American History.  Paul Simon was the featured writer of the group, but Art Garfunkel wrote a few of the duos songs.

The reason I wanted to share some of their music on Entertainment Monday was because Simon and Garfunkel have always been a band that gives me peace of mind and comfort.  I've had a pretty good but somewhat stressful week both inside and outside of work.  I did have a nice visit from my sister in law and mother which was great, but my sister in law is going through a challenging health issue that we hope has been resolved.  Any prayers for her full return to good health are very much appreciated. 

Work just had some issues that needed more time than typical to fix and having to try and fix those issues during the busiest times of the week when you work alone can be a little overwhelming sometimes.  I got through it though with the help of some of my coworkers who were kind enough to do what they could do while I tried to resolve the errors.  It was just stuff that we all must deal with from time to time, and yet it was enough to raise the blood pressure a bit. 

So here are some of the Simon and Garfunkel songs that I personally love, even though a few of them may not be counted among their most famous. 

Song Title: America

Song Title: Scarborough Fair/Canticle

Scarborough Fair is actually a very old folk song about a young man who goes off to war and sings to his girl back home that Simon and Garfunkel made popular during the turbulent 1960s.  


Song Title: Old Friends/Bookends

Old Friends/Bookends always makes me think of growing old and sitting with my twin brother Clifford who I am very close to.  
 Song Title: I am a Rock

I am a Rock is one of my brother Robert's favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs.  

Song Title: Leaves That are Green

Leaves That are Green is another song about growing older that I love. 

Song Title: The Dangling Conversation

The Dangling Conversation is the last of Simon and Garfunkel's songs I will share even though there are so many others that I love dearly.  This song is about a couple who remain together but do not share the love they once did for one another.  It's a very sad song.

There are so many attachments to family memories via the songs of Simon and Garfunkel.  Bridge Over Troubled Waters was a favorite of my grandfather.  They are a band that I have always and will always love to listen to, and especially so when I am stressed or put out.  They help bring my feet back to solid ground.
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