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?

Meh.


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."

Yeah.

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?

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Movie Review: When the Lights Went Out (2012)

When the Lights Went Out is a film about a family in Yorkshire being attacked by poltergeists. It's set in 1974 and is brilliantly faithful to the era. If I hadn't known it was released in 2012, I would have believed it was straight out of the Seventies. (Aside, perhaps, from the film quality, which is better than was available at that time.)

This one's based (loosely) a on true story. (Read about it here.)


In When the Lights Went Out, a family moves into their new home. The daughter, Sally, is less than thrilled - even more so when the house's poltergeist targets her. Clairvoyants and priests are called in but both fail to save the day.

The way that Sally's parents slap her around in this really flipped my triggers. Coming from the childhood I did, seeing that kind of casual abuse made me instantly hate her parents and not give a damn about what happened to them. If anything, it kind of put me on the side of the poltergeist.

Poltergeists. Poor Sally. She has two ghosties working on her: one, the ghost of a young girl, trying to protect her and another, a nasty monk's ghost, trying to keep on doing the nasty stuff he did to girls before he died.


When the Lights Went Out isn't a great title. It's supposed to be set during a nationwide blackout but, to be honest, the movie doesn't touch on that at all - not that it has any real bearing on the movie itself. Just something that bugged me.

Although many of the characters were unlikable and the title is pointless, there were some great jumps in When the Lights Went Out. I won't give too many away but I will tell you that I don't think I'll ever be able to play Buckaroo again. *shudder* The special effects were done well and the CGI was effective. You can't ask much more from a horror film than that.

Autumn: A Treat for the Senses

Autumn is my favourite season of the year. Honestly, it's the only time I'm ever really happy. It brings my senses to life. I was exploring those senses today, that autumn experience, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

autumn smells like...
Autumn brings the smell of wood fires burning in houses along the lane. It's infused with the smell of pumpkin, apple, and cinnamon sugar - especially from the Bath & Body Works lotions I can't live without. 

autumn sounds like...
The sound of autumn is the shuffle-crackle-crunch of leaves underfoot as I walk. I can never resist kicking them into the air like a child and laughing as they rain down around me.

autumn feels like...
Autumn ushers in a chill wind that nips at cheeks and noses. It's a time to dig out scarves and fingerless gloves, feeling the scratch of wool against flesh. Autumn is the comfort of being wrapped in a warm blanket with someone you love, fighting off the cooler temperatures with snuggles and kisses.

autumn tastes like...
No matter how old I get, autumn will always be a cup of hot chocolate scalding my tongue at Friday night football games. Now, the cups are bigger and more expensive, but the taste of hot chocolate always brings back happy autumn memories.

autumn looks like...
Autumn is a riot of color. The world is on fire with reds, orange, yellows, and browns. I get lost for hours in the madness of autumn trees; vibrant leaves flying through the air, piling up at curbsides, and dancing down the streets.

I'm sure I'm missing out on a million things and this list will probably grow as autumn goes on, but I hope it gives you a "taste" of my autumn. What does autumn feel, taste, sound, look, and/or smell like to you? Please share!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Movie Review: Apartment 1303 3D (2012)

Oooh, boy.

Okay. I'm going to take a minute to think of something nice to say about this one. You wanna go get a cuppa or something?

Hmm...

Aww, hell. I've got nothing.


Apartment 1303 3D did not work for me. At all. Didn't ring Jay's bell, either. If we both hated it... well...

When I saw that Rebecca De Mornay and Mischa Barton were in Apartment 1303 3D, I thought, 'Hey. Decent actors. This should be good.' I was so wrong. Rebecca De Mornay is way too good an actor to play such a lousy alcoholic. But, maybe that wasn't her fault?

The characters in this movie weren't likeable in the least. They weren't even consistent. But, hey, if the plot's not, why should the actors be?

I'm getting ahead of myself. Apartment 1303 3D has a pretty basic plot: two young women hate their ageing, rock star, alcoholic mother and one of them decides to rush out into the first apartment she sees, just to get away. Unlucky for her, the apartment is haunted and she ends up killed by one of the apartment's (supposedly) many ghosts.


That was one of my problems. You see the ghost of the girl that dies and one other ghost - even though at least five are supposed to be haunting it. Where did the others go? Do ghosts go on vacation?

Then, there's the unnecessarily sleazy super and the annoying child next door who are, surprise!, also ghosts. But... why? Why aren't they included in the police reports? Why are they the only two other people you see in the whole apartment building?

Why does the cop keep changing his mind about whether the girl's death is an accident or a suicide - in the same freaking conversation? Why does the sister decide to stay in the apartment where her sister died? Why does the girl's boyfriend keep spending the night with her sister (even though he's married)?

I have a lot of unanswered questions about Apartment 1303 3D - most importantly: why did I waste my time watching it?

Movie Review: October Kiss

Hallmark, you finally did it! October Kiss is exactly the kind of feel-good movie I needed for my Best Films for Autumn list.


Poppy is the kind of woman who'll give anything a go once - but has a hard time making any of it stick. She's got a serious commitment problem, which extends to potential boyfriends, jobs, and... well, everything but her sister and nephews. Poppy is great with her sister's boys, which makes her sister, Megan, think, 'Hey. Nanny.' (Obvs.)

Workaholic widower, Ryan, is all business. He's determined to land a deal with a big Japanese firm for an app he's developed and it all looks good on that front. His home life? Not so much. Ryan's children, Zoe and Zach, are tired of always coming second to their father's work and definitely do not want a new nanny.

Things work out, of course, (this is Hallmark, after all) and it's fun to watch the pieces fall into place. Unlike Autumn Dreams, in which autumn seems almost an afterthought, October Kiss is all Halloween and I love it. It probably could have taken place at any other time of the year and still have been as enjoyable but Halloween is the perfect backdrop for Poppy's wacky personality.

The characters are believable and likeable. The plot is strong and the movie has a good pace. The acting is stronger than some of the Hallmark movies I've seen, too. Rom-coms aren't normally my thing, but I really enjoyed October Kiss.

Taste of Autumn: Apple Crumble

Apple crumble is one of my favourite fall treats. Jay and I enjoyed one last night. Wanna see? (Of course you do. 😉)


Nom. I like my crumble with a bit of ice cream on top but Jay likes his with warm custard on top. I gave in for once and let him convince me to try it the British way.


Verdict? Good! (But ice cream is still best.)

If you were wondering how we make our crumble here at Castle Vanian, you can check out this blog post from 2013. Got a crumble recipe you love? Share it in the comments below or link us and we'll give it a try!

Monday, 14 August 2017

Movie Review: Autumn Dreams

Autumn Dreams is another sappy Hallmark movie I watched, looking for the next perfect addition to my Best Films for Autumn list. And... it's another one that didn't make the cut.

This one wasn't as corny as the last one. The acting wasn't as over the top but it was a bit on the wooden side. The story, on the other hand, was stronger. It was a good, solid (if unoriginal) story.


Autumn Dreams tells the story of two high school sweethearts, Anabelle and Ben, who elope the night of their town's harvest festival. Their dreams of running away together end when Anabelle's father shows up and convinces Ben that Anabelle will have a better life without him in it.

Fast forward fifteen years. Anabelle and Ben had their marriage annuled by post and they're both about to marry other people - until they realize the annulment was never actually completed and they're still married.

Awkward!

Well, you can guess where it goes from there...

This is a good movie with a good plot and, unfortunately, some mediocre acting. I enjoyed it. Yes, it's cheesy as hell. It's Hallmark. But, Autumn Dreams the kind of cheesy movie you need when you've had a bad day and you're hiding under the duvet with a pint of ice cream.

It's not the kind of movie that makes me think of autumn. We'll try again tomorrow.

Autumn Blog Post Ideas 2017

As summer fades into fall, it's time to start thinking about what we're going to be blogging over the next few months. I don't know about you, but I'm already feeling it. Let's not wait for back-to-school and falling leaves; let's start an autumn blog-fest now!


Autumn Blog Post Ideas: 
  • your autumn wishlist
  • autumn self-care ideas/routine
  • a day in the life: fall edition
  • explore fall through the 5 senses
  • your favourite memory of fall 
  • write an autumn poem
  • an Instagram challenge
  • Instagram hashtags for fall
  • leaf photography
  • pumpkin photography
  • apple photography
  • your favourite things about autumn
  • fall date night activities
  • fall crafts
  • leaf art
  • a playlist for autumn
  • your favourite autumn books
  • best autumn movies
  • box sets to watch this fall
  • fall telly preview 
  • drinks for fall
  • best autumn snacks
  • fall recipes
  • a pumpkin recipe
  • a soup recipe
  • an apple recipe
  • decorating for fall
  • fall fashion
  • scarves/socks/hats/coats/sweaters
  • share a MOOC experience
  • best back-to-school movies
  • favourite memory of school
  • old photos from first days of school
  • best football movies
  • your favourite things about football
  • football crafts
  • write about your favourite football team
  • best Halloween movies
  • your favourite things about Halloween
  • the history of Halloween
  • Halloween crafts
  • Halloween decorations
  • Halloween costumes
  • your best ever Halloween costume
  • couples costumes
  • favourite memory of Halloween
  • write a scary story
  • what scares you most
  • best Thanksgiving movies
  • your favourite things about Thanksgiving
  • the history of Thanksgiving
  • Thanksgiving crafts
  • favourite Thanksgiving memory
  • most cringe-worthy Thanksgiving family moment
  • conversation starters for awkward family dinners
  • list what you are thankful for
  • share your Thanksgiving menu
  • a turkey recipe
Did I forget anything? Let me know!

Monday's Meme of the Week

Well, of course it has to be a Game of Thrones meme (again) this week. There are just too many good GoT memes going around. Here's my favourite one:


This one came a pretty close second. If you have any great GoT memes to share, drop it in the comments below!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

A Song for Sunday: Awake At Last - Purgatorium

Here's an interesting one for you:


Ladies and Gentlemen Gather around 
Martyrs and Murderers don't make a sound 
Cause darkness comes here everyday 
And that's when the monsters come out to play 
(lyrics from AZ Lyrics)

The song is "Purgatorium" and the band is Awake At Last.

Thoughts? I love it. Jay was "so disappointed" - but he's disappointed by everything that wasn't made before 1990 so I don't worry too much about that. 😉

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Movie Review: Harvest Moon (2015)

Autumn is on the way and that means it's almost time for my annual Best Films for the Autumn list. As always, I'm on the hunt for new movies to add to my list. Will Harvest Moon be the one?

Er...

No.

But I did enjoy it.

Harvest Moon is about a spoiled little rich girl whose daddy goes bankrupt, leaving them with nothing but the pumpkin farm he'd purchased in her name. Jessy Schram's Jenny is spoiled, yes, but her go-getter attitude wins her fans at the farm, even though, at first, Jesse Hutch's Brett is determined to make her life hell until she gives up the idea she has of turning the farm's fortunes around for a profitable sale.


When I saw the Hallmark logo come up at the beginning of Harvest Moon, I admit I let out a little groan. The sugary-sweet sappiness of Hallmark movies are so not me. But, I'm a autumn baby at heart so I decided to give it a chance. I'm glad I did. It's just So. Darn. Cute.

Harvest Moon is a chocolate chip movie - no substance but a nice treat. It's all smiles and happy endings. Everyone loves everyone, no one gets screwed over, they all get exactly what they want.

If this shit was any sweeter, I'd need to be tested for diabetes.

But that's just me being my grumpy self. If you're the kind of girly girl Harvest Moon was made for, you'll love it. While I'm not sorry I watched it, I won't be hurrying to watch it again anytime soon.

Movie Review: The Innkeepers (2011)

After the bomb that was Lost Creek, The Innkeepers was a welcome return good horror here at Castle Vanian.

The Inkeepers follows Claire and Luke as they spend their last weekend working at the doomed Yankee Pedlar Inn. Luke is an amateur ghost hunter who's supposedly seen the ghost haunting Yankee Pedlar Inn and encourages his co-worker, Claire, to do EVP recordings while he dozes upstairs. (Nice guy, eh?)


Claire is the best part of the movie. Sara Paxton channels Gilmore Girls's Rory Gilmore HARD. I had to stop the movie and look her name up because she was SO much like Alexis Bledel that I was convinced that's who she was. She even moves and talks like Rory, which is hella amusing. Her character is likeable and believable. You're with her every step of the way, even when she humiliates herself in front of the celebrity guest, Madeline O'Malley. (But who hasn't done that? Lol.)

Sadly for Claire, this is a horror movie and they don't always have happy endings. The ending isn't happy but it is perfect for the movie. And, The Innkeepers was a perfect movie to distract me from my Trump's-gonna-kill-us-all funk.

(I won't tell you how much time I spent hiding behind my blanket while watching The Innkeepers. I have my dignity.)


There was only one thing I didn't like about this one - and it wasn't the old, black & white style "chapter" cards. Those were well timed and fitting for the film. No, the problem I had was with Bred Cooney's Madeline O'Malley. Not her, specifically, because her crotchety attitude is basically me in ten years, but the fact that she uses a pendulum to communicate with ghosts.

Yeah... that's not how it works. I guess if you're not a witch or a psychic, that doesn't matter, though. Even if you are, it's not annoying enough to ruin The Innkeepers. This one's a winner.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Movie Review: Lost Creek (2016)

You know how good acting can save a movie with a weak plot? Or, how a strong plot can save a movie with weak acting? Well...

Let's talk about Lost Creek.


Lost Creek is a film about three children who have to face their worst fears to save their town. That's about the only bit I understood. The explanation wasn't really clear enough, which I found frustrating. You eventually learn what the big bad is but not how it came to be, which makes Lost Creek feel all holey.

I'd like to say that the weak plot of Lost Creek was rescued by superior acting. I'd like to, but...

*cringe*

It was not. Man, that's some bad acting. From the whole freaking cast. Yeouch. The worst part is that the dialogue was actually outstanding. With better actors, the dialogue alone might have saved the film. Alas...


The one exception was Henry Stockman, who played Lost Creek's smart-mouthed sidekick, Bill. That kid was a freaking legend. He stole every moment of screen time he had. (He should've been in a lot more of the movie.)

As poor as Lost Creek was, it managed a few good scares and did a pretty good job of working up atmosphere. Some of the camera angles were particularly effective too - but that's all I can say about this one.

Movie Review: The Tall Man (2012)

Jay and I are still on the hunt for horror movies we haven't seen. The search took us back to 2012 and The Tall Man.

The Tall Man is on the thriller side of horror, more suspense and less scare. That's not a bad thing, just not what the title led me to believe. I went into it expecting some weird creepypasta shit. So not what I got - but not disappointing either.


Cold Rock is a dying town. The mines have shut and the future looks bleak. Even bleaker when the towns children start to disappear. The story follows, it would seem, one mother's attempt to rescue her son from what the locals have dubbed The Tall Man.

Except nothing is what it seems.

The Tall Man doesn't exactly twist; more like it stops dead, does a 180, and strides off purposefully in the opposite direction. Twice. By the end of the movie I didn't even trust myself anymore.


I was 100% behind the "baddies" in this. Seriously. I didn't like the tearful monologue from one of The Tall Man's "victims" at the end, though, because it felt preachy. It was like it was trying to undo all the work the rest of the movie had done in getting us to support the cause. I can make up my own mind about right and wrong, thanks.

Have you seen The Tall Man? Drop me a comment and let me know what you thought.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Movie Review: The Taking of Deborah Logan

The Taking of Deborah Logan is one of those mockumentary films that makes you rely on the person holding the camera who, of course, is almost never where they ought to be when they ought to be there. Jay decided almost as soon as the movie started that he wasn't going to enjoy it because he hates found footage/mockumentary movies. By the end, though, he was willing to concede that it "wasn't bad."


In The Taking of Deborah Logan, a film team lead by Mia Medina follows Alzheimer's victim, Deborah Logan, and her daughter, Sarah. Deborah's disease develops at an alarming rate and it's soon obvious that it's not just Alzheimer's working its evil on the old woman.


As far as twists and turns and surprises go, The Taking of Deborah Logan is completely predictable. It moves at a slow pace, too, which gives you plenty of time to think, 'Hey. I bet that one's up to no good.' Nothing shocking or original, I'm sorry to say, but there are some good jumps, which always redeems a slow film.

I think Jay enjoyed this one more than I did. Usually, I like this style of film but this one was just too slow for me. It was a clever idea and it was certainly nasty in places, but I doubt I'd bother watching it again. As the man said, The Taking of Deborah Logan wasn't bad - but it wasn't great, either

Throwback Thursday

Since I'm posting some pics to Facebook for Throwback Thursday, why not here too? Let's throw it back to 2005, when Jay and I met the girls from Nightmare on Elm Street at Autographica.



Here at Castle Vanian, we also know it as That Convention We Needed the Nightmare on Elm Street Poster but Stupid Here Left it at Home. It will never be forgotten...

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Movie Review: Late Phases

Ever stopped to wonder what Death Wish would have been like if the baddies had been geriatric werewolves? Wonder no more!


I admit the premise for Late Phases is a bit strange. (Seriously, that wasn't even a joke. It's Death Wish, with geriatric werewolves.) Even stranger when you realize the Charles Bronson character (Nick Damici's Ambrose) is blind and the victim isn't his wife, but his dog.

But still totally bad ass, of course!

It sounds so stupid on paper but, you know what? It works.


Everyone in Ambrose's new retirement community is a little odd (to say the least), even the police who constantly show up to harass the poor old, blind man for every imagined crime in the neighborhood. It's fairly obvious, fairly quickly who the goodies and baddies are. In fact, everything is pretty obvious, all the time.

That's another reason Late Phases shouldn't work. Everything's out there in the open, right from the beginning, so there's no big reveal and no real twist. You know where it's going but it's so much fun getting there, you get to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Oh, did I mention the monster suits? So corny - and, yet, somehow not cringe worthy. They're kind of... cute. Really.

Have you seen Late Phases? I'd love to know what you thought. Drop me a comment below.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Movie Review: Summer Camp

Two good horror movies in a row? We must be in for a real rotter here pretty soon...

It's been difficult lately to find a horror movie (of decent quality) that we haven't seen. Last night, Jay went on to YouTube and started searching for trailers. He came up with Summer Camp.


Summer Camp follows three Americans who have travelled to Spain to work at a camp set in an old villa. It's the day before the campers are due. Last minute preparations are going on to get the place ready - starting with getting the water supply back up and running. Just when it looks like they've got everything set and all they have to do is get some serious necking in before the kids arrive.

That, of course, is when all hell breaks loose.


This one is all about the misdirection. You can never be sure who the baddie is, what's causing the infection tearing through the countryside, or how they're all going to die. (Yeah... don't expect any happy endings.) Summer Camp sets you up and lets you down so many times you stop waiting for it - which is when it gets you.

If you liked the raged out "zombies" of 28 Days Later, you'll enjoy this one too. Maybe more, even since it's comical in places and, as my husband said, is "just fucking off it."

Monday, 7 August 2017

Movie Review: Flight 7500

Jay and I struggled for something to watch last night. The movie we started to watch (The Happening), we quickly realized we'd seen before. The next movie we started (Take Shelter), was just way too slow to keep either of us interested. We finally settled on Flight 7500.



A horror movie set entirely on a plane is no easy thing to pull off. Flight 7500 does it incredibly well. All eyes on the creepy guy that dies suddenly and you won't pay attention to the real tragedy: a broken seal that causes a major drop in cabin pressure. The whole movie is a red herring, which makes for dropped jaws at the end.


Flight 7500 is surprisingly atmospheric, considering the setting, and is full of jumps. If you're afraid of planes, like me, there's another level of "Holy crap!" too. The characters are rounded, believable, and often infuriating (by design.) The "point" is spelled out a little but not in a way that feels condescending and, even though it's a horrible ending, you kind of feel good about it.

The hubs and I can't agree on this one. I loved it. He felt like the pay-off was stolen from him. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: BRINGING IT BACK

Time's running out to get your subs in for this one!

Bringing it Back - Bringing what back? From where? Who's going to receive it? Who doesn't want it? Who's longing for it to be brought back?

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Bringing it Back – ‘your story title’”.
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Dorothy Davies will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to: dorothystaticm@gmail.com
Deadline: August 15th, 2017
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Monday's Meme of the Week

The world is in the grips of Game of Thrones mania. Castle Vanian is no different. So... this week's chosen meme must be...


How about a couple of GoT runner-ups? Here's a Breaking Bad crossover. And, here's a Walking Dead one too.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: BLOOD ON THE TREE

Got a good Christmas-themed horror story? Get it in!

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Blood on the Tree – ‘your story title’”.
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Dorothy Davies will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to: dorothystaticm@gmail.com
Deadline: September 30th, 2017
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: HALLOWEEN HAUNTS

One of my favourite stories of all time, "Halloween Night", is joining this collection. What have you got? Submit soon, before time runs out!

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Halloween Haunts – ‘your story title’”.
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Dorothy Davies will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to: dorothystaticm@gmail.com
Deadline: September 15th, 2017
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

A Song for Sunday: Andy Black - We Don't Have to Dance

Have I already shared this one? Possibly. I'm sort of obsessed with it right now.


I was never a huge fan of Black Veiled Brides but I am loving Andy Black's new look. Ever wondered what a Fae would look like if they decided to become a rock star? Now we know.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Signing: Cardiff Anime and Gaming Con

Heads up, folks!

I'll be making an appearance at Cardiff Anime & Gaming Con this 19-20 August.


Come along! Tickets are still available: www.cardiffanimecon.com.

You'll come and see me, won't you?

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: REVENGE

Here's another one from Thirteen O'Clock Press:

REVENGE - Who's revenging who (if you see what I mean) and what and why?

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Revenge – ‘your story title’”.
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum.
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Dorothy Davies will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to: dorothystaticm@gmail.com
Deadline: August 15th, 2017
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Movie Review: Intruders (2015)

Our movie choice for last night was Intruders (2015), which we watched on Amazon Prime. Intruders is a horror movie about a woman, Anna, who looses her terminally ill brother but is unable to attend his funeral due to crippling agorophobia. The three men who invade her home are unfamiliar with her mental illness and she catches them by surprise when they break in.

What do you do if you're faced with home invaders but can't leave the house? Fight back, of course.

Intruders does a very good job building tension. It's not jump-out-of-your seat scary, but it is suspenseful - especially when you start to realize agoraphobia is only the start of Anna's problems.


The twist is fairly easy to spot, if you're paying attention, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Personally, I was 100% behind Anna and her recently deceased brother, rather than the intruders who become the movie's victims very quickly.

The movie's underrated character is Dan the delivery boy, played by Rory Culkin (yes, Macaulay Culkin's brother). I was a little disappointed that he wussed out and ran for his life. The relationship between Dan and Anna - and the potential for some really crazy shit - would have made for an interesting sequel.


I enjoyed Intruders but the ending spoiled it for me. It just didn't make sense. Agoraphobia isn't something you just get over. Less than a day after peeing herself because she was thrown on the porch, Anna just strolls out like nothing's wrong? Doesn't happen that way.

Also, I'm still struggling to understand the whole burning-the-place down thing. A house that she hasn't left in more than a decade, she lights on fire and walks away. Why? WHY?!

If not for the end, Intruders would have been a very good movie. Because of the end, it's just okay.

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: BURIED

Deadline's closing in on this one. Get your subs in now!

BURIED - What’s buried? Treasure, bodies, loot, feelings, knowledge, things that need to be hidden from the light… things that never should have seen the light in the first place… 

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Buried – ‘your story title’”.
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Dorothy Davies will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to: dorothystaticm@gmail.com
Deadline: August 15th, 2017
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Movie Review: Power Rangers (2017)

I had a rough start to the week (Yay, mental illness!) so the hubs got me the new Power Rangers movie to cheer me up. Guess he didn't reckon on having to watch it with me. (Mwah ha ha.)

Power Rangers (2017) is a reboot of the 90's TV and film series - which, by the way, I was a huge fan of. (Like you didn't know I'm a massive geek?) So, I guess the big question is this: is it a worthy reboot? The answer? Oh yeah.


Straight away, I knew Power Rangers (2017) was going to be a winner because they did three things that impressed me. 1: The Black Ranger is no longer a black guy. 2: The Yellow Ranger is no longer Asian. 3: The Blue Ranger is autistic. If I have to explain why these things are important in today's society, you can go ahead and leave. I'm not interested in your opinion, anyway.


If, like me, you were a fan of the original, there are a few moments you'll be waiting for:

  • "It's morphin' time!"
  • "Make my monster grow!"
  • The Zords joining together to become the Megazord.

You won't be disappointed.

Bryan Cranston makes for a very good Zordon and Bill Hader's re-imagined Alpha 5 is an absolute riot. My favourite part? The obligatory end-of-credits scene. I won't say why and ruin it but fans of the Green Ranger will be pleased.


The only part of Power Rangers (2017) I'm not stoked about is Rita Repulsa's new look. I'm not sure why she changed so much but I suspect it has something to do with trying to make her character "sexier". (Okay, the original Rita was pretty hokey but still. It's the Power Rangers - how serious do you want it to be?)


Overall, Power Rangers (2017) was a total win for me. The hubs? Not so much. He kind of lost the will to live during the team-building scenes but he's an old fogey so don't judge the movie by him. I think there'll be a sequel pretty soon and I'm totally down with that.

Thirteen O'Clock Press Call for Submissions: SACRIFICE

My short, "Important Things", will be appearing in this one. Get your submissions in before it's too late!

SACRIFICE – human, animal, willing, unwilling, sacrifice of self, of possessions, of money, of emotions … it means many things to many people. How far can you go in exploring the theme of Sacrifice?

Submission guidelines:
Please submit your manuscript as a *.rtf, *.doc or *.docx file.
The email subject line must read: “SUBMISSION – Sacrifice – ‘your story title’”.
No headers, footers or page numbers.
Reprints are OK as long as all rights have been reverted back to you.
Up to 5000 words preferred, no minimum. 
No extra lines between paragraphs and all new paragraphs and dialogue indented using the TAB key.

Dorothy Davies will be presiding over this anthology.
Submit to: dorothystaticm@gmail.com
Deadline: August 15th, 2017
Payment: Exposure and Royalties
60% of profits received
50% off RP paperback contributor copies (cost)

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Cover Reveal: The Corona Book of Horror Stories

We have a cover for The Corona Book of Horror Stories!


Creepy, isn't it?  😁

Guess what else we have... a table of contents! Whoot!

Here's the lineup:

1. "Nizzy's Egg" by S.L. Powell
2. "Ticks" by Lewis Williams
3. "The Tale of Samuel and Gordon" by Keith Trezise
4. "The Box" by Sue Eaton
5. "It'll Rot Your Teeth" by Wondra Vanian
6. "The Rose" by Suzan St Maur
7. "Doing Time" by Martin S. Beckley
8. "Framed" by T.R. Hitchman
9. "A Health and Safety Issue" by Rosemary Salter
10. "Bad Boys Don't Get Dessert" by William Quincy Belle
11. "The Castle of Lune" by Philip Onions
12. "The Angel's Kiss" by S.J. Menary
13. "Told You So" by Mark A. Smart
14. "The Ornament" by C.J. Riley
15. "Baby's New Body" by Joanie Chevalier
16. "Death by Appointment" by A.H. Sargeant

For more info, check out Corona Books UK's website: http://www.coronabooks.com/corona-book-horror-st…/4593955189

'Nothing to Lose' has landed!

I received my copy of 'Nothing to Lose' from Thirteen O'Clock Press today. I'm a happy writer.


The publisher made the call to publish as was, rather than combining it with another title to add page numbers. It's a bit on the slim side but I think it works better this way.

You can get your copy of 'Nothing to Lose' (and read my short story, "A Normal Little Boy, of course) at http://www.horrifiedpress.com/.