Monday, 21 August 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017 Playlist

Music is life here at Castle Vanian so when we saw NASA's interns had created an eclipse playlist, it seemed like a good idea to make one for ourselves. Here are our picks:

You can enjoy the whole list here:

(Hey. Don't forget to give my channel a follow for other great playlists, yeah?)

What do you think? Did we miss any of your favourites? Got any suggestions for us? Let us know in the comments below!

Monday's Meme of the Week

With the solar eclipse imminent (at least in the US), there was only one choice for today's Meme of the Week spot:

Sadly, we're not going to be able to see the total eclipse here but they say we should see a partial eclipse, at least for a while, before sundown - as long as clouds don't get in the way. (Ha, ha, ha. This is Wales.)

I hope you all enjoy the eclipse safely!

Autumn Date Night Ideas 2017

Fall is the perfect time for snuggling. If you need any help thinking of reasons to cwtch up with your honey, here is a list of date night activities. Grab your coats, blankets, and/or cameras and...

  1. Take a walk or go for a bike ride. Leave the phones at home and spend an hour or two alone, surrounded by the beauty of fall. Even a path that you've travelled a hundred times can look different when you're looking together.
  2. Check out your local farmer's market. Pick out fresh produce together. Maybe scope out some handmade items for your home.
  3. Grab a coffee while shopping for fall clothes. Hello, sweater season. Grab something toasty in to-go mugs and get your shop on. The hubs and I get pretty excited about fall fashion because, let's face it, we're not built for summer. 
  4. Watch the sunrise or sunset. No matter what time of the year it is, there's nothing more romantic than watching the day start or end together. 
  5. Attend a harvest celebration. Sometimes it's nice to get out and be part of the community. Join in with your neighbours as they celebrate the harvest. 
  6. Clear out your closet and donate unwanted clothes to charity. Not only is it great to help others; it's also a great way to get each other undressed. I mean... you have to try them on, right?
  7. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Every now and then, you need a reminder of how lucky you are. Volunteering together can be a good reminder. 
  8. Have a fall photo shoot. Either have someone take photos of you and your partner playing together in the leaves or, grab your cameras and go hunting for the perfect autumn pics. 
  9. Visit a corn maze. If you can. Nothing like getting lost in a place that's both fun and a little spooky. 
  10. Enjoy a hayride. Again, if you have any available. Cuddle up, enjoy the scenery, and listen to the sounds of autumn. 
  11. Watch a football game. In person, if possible. Autumn is football. Cheer for your favourite team. Get riled up. Tailgate, if you can. If you can't get to a game in person, rustle up some snack foods and watch the game together at home.
  12. Go apple picking. This is one of our favourites. Wandering through an orchard is incredibly serene. You can make a game out of trying to nab the highest apples. Try different types of apples. Find out which is your favourite and talk about the experience.
  13. Have a bonfire. Get messy making s'mores over a crackling fire. Snuggle up close and let flames warm your cheeks. Just make sure you don't get too close! (To the fire. You can get as close to each other as you want.)
  14. Go camping. If that's your thing. It's not mine. I can see why so many people love getting away from it all for a couple of days, though. 
  15. Have a picnic. Ahh... now we're talking. This is definitely a favourite at Castle Vanian. There's a lovely park by a lake that we love to picnic at when the leaves start to change.
  16. Watch an autumn movie. When you've got jobs, and kids, and everything else going on, it's nice to curl up together and watch a movie. Check out my list of Best Movies for Autumn for suggested viewing. 
  17. Binge watch a show you've never seen. The new fall schedule is a pretty exciting time at Castle Vanian. What can I say? We're couch potatoes. Rather than waiting for each new episode to be released, why not binge watch a finished series together? 
  18. Take turns cooking fancy meals. It's time for what my husband calls ''stodgy food''. Thick, hot, and rich. The kind you avoid all summer because it makes you feel like a blimp. Yup, that. Never fails to bring on a serious cuddle session here.
  19. Make caramel apples together. It's playful, it's cheap, it's juicy and sticky - you know what I mean.
  20. Visit a pumpkin patch. Always a great bit of fun. And a great place for cute couple photos. Plus, there's always the chance that you'll stumble over a vine and fall into your companion's arms. (Or, have to save your chronically klutzy wife from breaking her neck when she trips over a vine.)
  21. Carve pumpkins. Obviously. I mean... you've got the pumpkins now. This is a tradition at Castle Vanian. We pick them out together, we carve them together. Always a laugh.
  22. Have a horror movie marathon. Fall is the best time for horror. And horror is always better when you've got someone to share it with. Or, you know, hide behind when things get too spooky.
  23. Go to a haunted house. A good scare gets your heart racing and makes you cling to one another for safety. Sounds like a good time to me.
  24. Celebrate Oktoberfest. Because beer. I'm not a beer person myself, but who can say no to drinking and dancing? 
  25. Create your own bucket list for winter. As a couple. Make plans together. Think about the future. Winter will be here before you know it. What do you want to do when it arrives?
(Reposted from 2016 because it's a damned good list.)

Sunday, 20 August 2017

A Song for Sunday: Twenty One Pilots - Trapdoor

"Trapdoor" is one of Twenty One Pilots's more underrated songs. This one is all angry pain and it makes my chest hurt. What do you think of it?

Everyone gather around for a show
Watch as this man disappears as we know
Do me a favor and try to ignore
As you watch him fall through a blatant trapdoor
(lyrics from AZ Lyrics)

This song is from Twenty One Pilots's 2009 self-titled album. It certainly doesn't have the popularity of Blurryface but it's a much deeper album. Give it a try, if you haven't, and let me know what you think of it.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Taste of Autumn: Brothers Toffee Apple English Cider

Jay knows how much I love fall so, when his bestie gave him this cider to try, he ran out and bought me one too. Isn't he good? 😍

Ya know what else is good? This shit!

My first thought, when I opened it, was, 'OMG. This smells just like a caramel apple!' Then, I took a sip and screamed, "OMG! It tastes just like a caramel apple!" (Yep, I'm a screamer Lol.)

Seriously, you have got to try this cider! The thing that makes it so tasty is a "delicious blend of cream soda and smouldering toffee". The cream soda mellows the cider's natural acidity and makes for one smooth drink.

There are definitely going to be a few more Brothers Toffee Apple English Cider in my shopping cart next week.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Movie Review: Silent House (2011)

Jay and I sat down to watch Silent House last night. After about ten minutes, we gave each other "that look". You know that look, right? That are-we-really-gonna-sit-through-this-shit look. But, we stuck with it. Was that the right thing to do?


Silent House is about a young woman, Sarah, who's helping her father and uncle remodel a family vacation home so that they can sell it on. Most of the windows have been broken by local yobs so they're all boarded up, which gives the movie a dark, claustrophobic feel.

Sarah's uncle has to leave. Very soon after, her father gets attacked by a mysterious stranger and Sarah is stuck in the house with her father's assailant. When she finally escapes, Sarah runs into her uncle, who drags her back to the house to find her father. Even weirder stuff happens when they return. Stuff that can't be real...

I couldn't stand the camera angles used in Silent House. Made me want to freaking scream. I don't want to see the back of this chick's head or her left foot, okay? I want to see the freaking action.

Don't get me wrong. I understand why it was done that way. It's a visual way of creating an unreliable narrator. I'm a writer; I get it. But I don't have to like it.

(By the way, Jay called this style Cleavage Vision. Nice to see he was paying attention to the action... Lol.)

Thirty minutes into the movie, I turned to Jay and said, "If this turns out to be all in her head because Daddy and Uncle interfered with her as a child, I'm going to be so pissed off."


What I will say for the creators of Silent House is that they utilised foreshadowing and symbolism extremely well. They set it up perfectly for the reveal. It was an extremely sensitive topic and they dealt with it tastefully. I'll give them credit for that.

But I didn't like it. Not at all.

Autumn 2017 Bucket List

I got into autumn mode at Lughnasadh, the first harvest of the year. While the people around me are trying to squeeze in every last bit of summer they can, I'm digging out my hoodies and getting into the swing of fall. Here are a few things I'm excited about doing this autumn:

1. Pick my own apples. There's a pick-your-own farm not far away. Jay and I try to go every year and usually come back with a massive haul. We're already planning this year's trip. I can't wait!

2. Make apple cider. I miss being able to pick this up anywhere but it's relatively easy to make, at least in small doses. I'm collecting plans for apple presses. Maybe I'll be posting about that soon? Depends on if I can beg Jay's bestie to make one for me...
3. Bake a pie. Jay and I have never baked a pie before. Ever. It's about time we did! You know... I say this every year. We've have GOT to try this!
4. Make caramel apples. Mmm.... caramel apples. I'm thinking of the sliced, on sucker sticks kind.
5. Make apple butter. I'm so lucky to have the amazing friends that I do. I've totally had my apple butter fix this year, thanks to my oldest friend, Rae, but I've been dying to try making my own. I remember we did it once in elementary school. Huh. I was just thinking that I'll need the same amount of adult supervision this time. 😁
6. Enjoy some apple sauce. Jay's mom made apple sauce every week, on Sunday, when she was alive and passed down her methods to us. Since they don't sell apple sauce in the stores here, like they do in America, it's nice to be able to make this whenever we want.
7. Visit a pumpkin patch. Or at least a farm selling pumpkins. Pumpkin patches are pretty rare here. If you're in Wales and actually know of a pumpkin patch, please let me know!

8. Carve pumpkins. I keep threatening to make my husband buy me 31 pumpkins so I can carve one every day of October. He thinks I'm joking... Lol.
9. Nom on some pumpkin seeds. Love, love, love my pumpkin seeds. Why can't I just buy a big ass bag of salty pumpkin seeds? *drool*
10. Eat candy corn until I feel sick. Er... um... who wants to send me some? 😇
11. Make home made soup. My mother-in-law used to make a good vegetable beef soup but neither Jay nor I ever learned to make it. Guess we'd better come up with our own recipe, eh?
12. Enjoy a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Or two. Or twelve. Wondra's Special Hot Chocolate is the best.

13. Have a picnic. While it's cool but not cold. It'll be a trick, doing it with the three mutt-skateers, but should be interesting.
14. Watch my favourite fall movies. Already started! This year, I'm on the hunt for autumn movies I haven't seen. Got any suggestions?
15. Bake cookies. What's better on a chilly day than a melt-in-your-mouth cookie, straight from the oven? I'm thinking these babies look good. What about you? Do you have any favourite autumn cookie recipes to share? I'd love to try them!
16. Hand out Halloween candy. Funny story. We actually HAD A TICK-OR-TREATER last year! 😲 But, because we hadn't had one in over ten years, we weren't home. We'd gotten bored and wandered off. Never again! Castle Vanian welcomes all trick-or-treaters!
17. Do something witchy. This time of the year always makes me feel witchier. I especially love leaf spells.
18. Send a letter to an old friend. Snail mail. Autumn reminds of those first days back at school after summer vacation, and the excitement of catching up with friends. That feeling doesn't have to stop now that we're (supposedly) grown up. Write a letter to an old friend and reconnect. I will too.
19. Take a long walk. Enjoy the changing leaves, the crisp wind, and the golden glow that come with autumn. This is an especially great time for people, like me, with social anxiety. The kiddies are all back in school, which means less stress. (Yes, I am a grumpy, old woman.)

20. Take a scenic drive - with no destination. With petrol prices so high these days we never just go out to go out. It would be lovely to drive around and see how the changing season has affected the rest of the country - if we get the chance.
21. Spend a night watching scary movies. Time to cuddle up under a warm blanket and scare the crap out of ourselves! We watch a horror movie most nights, here at Castle Vanian, but I'd love to have a proper horror movie marathon one night.
22. Watch a football game. American football, of course. You wouldn't think it but I'm a huge NFL fan. Go, Pats!
23. Play in the rain. Autumn in Britain is definitely the rainy season. Since we can't avoid the rain, we might as well go out and play in it!
24. Stay warm in flannel. Flannel is so snuggly and warm and it just screams cold weather. I've got a stack of flannel shirts, just begging to be worn. Let's do this...
25. Play in the leaves. I love the crunch of fallen leaves and I can't help kicking them up as I walk.
26. Leaf art. Instead of just sticking them in a big old book, it's time to get creative. I especially want to try a leaf bowl. What are your favourite leafy crafts?
27. Photograph the leaves. Although we don't get the vibrant reds and oranges that I'm used to, Wales in autumn is still beautiful.

28. Write poetry. I always get a little more poetic this time of the year. Keep an eye on this blog for some of my (terrible) autumn poetry.
29. Knit. I'm not a particularly skilled at knitting but now is the time to practice. Scarves for everyone!
30. Crochet. I've got two crochet blankets already in progress so the first step is getting those finished. Then? We'll see. Got a fun crochet project to share? Drop it in the comments below.
31. Visit a craft fayre/farmer's market. Support local artists, crafters and farmers this autumn!
32. Dress up. I love dressing up for Halloween. (It's one of those things you become obsessed with when your birthday is Halloween.) I don't have a costume yet for this year. What should I be?

33. Make a scarecrow. In time for Mabon. This is one of my favs. Do you put up a scarecrow in the fall? Do you make your own or buy one?
34. Upcycle clothes. Especially sweaters. I love turned old kiddie sweaters into hats. This year, I want to make mittens from an old sweater.
35. Make doggy sweaters. It's nippy 'round here this time of year - and poor Blod's nipples touch the ground! 😨
36. Stock up on fingerless gloves/wristwarmers. I'm thinking that I need to make a whole bunch of wristwarmers and buy a bunch of cheap gloves to cut the tips off of. Cold weather really bothers my poor arthritic hands so I need to keep them warm, even while typing.
✅37. Bake a lovely crumble. We just couldn't wait for this one! What are your favourite fillings for a crumble? Apple is good but I'd love to try something new.
38. Pick blackberries. They grow wild around here. Like, in our garden. All over our garden. Our garden is basically a blackberry patch. We might be in danger of being eaten by blackberries...
39. Spend a day reading. Because autumn is a perfect time for it. I've had a hard time concentrating on one book long enough to finish it lately (It's "symptomatic of the disease".) so I've got a few to finish. Maybe I'll actually hit my reading goal this year?

40. Perform Random Acts of Kindness. Not exactly autumn-themed, I know, but it needs to be done. Especially with all the hate in the world right now.
41. Cook Thanksgiving dinner. I force my husband to celebrate Thanksgiving every year. Downside? It's the one meal he insists I cook myself. *gulp*
42. Have an autumn photo shoot. I'd like to shoot some models in the fall but I'd also like to have some photos of me/Jay done. Takers?

I feel like this list gets bigger every year! Did I forget anything? What's on your bucket list for autumn?