Snow White and the Bore

It is no secret that I enjoy Hollywood movies. I am not ashamed of that fact. I enjoy the visual aids, the romantic story lines and the handsome actors. This movie, Snow White and the Huntsman, seemed to provide all that I need from a Hollywood movie. Unable to convince my husband to see it (who, surprisingly, turned out to be a lot more perceptive than me), I went to see it alone. I know. Going to the movies alone is a not a feat for everyone, but it doesn’t bother me much. Anyway. I thought I would enjoy it so much. Maybe that’s why I was disappointed.

The funny thing that happened to me while watching the movie is that I realized that I haven’t at all thought of the storyline of the traditional fairytale. When the seven dwarves showed up, they meant nothing. I didn’t connect it to the seven dwarves of Snow White. I even vaguely thought about why they were such a big part of the movie. Also when the bit with the disguised queen/witch and the apple started (I would warn about the spoiler, but, duh, it is Snow White), and Snow White was handed the apple and actually ate it, I was actually surprised to see her faint. Then I remembered the storyline and went: “Oh, someone’s going to kiss her now!” So I guess it’s been a while since I saw anything about the Snow White. Even watching the trailer a thousand times didn’t make me think of the plot. That’s just plain weird. I also have to point out that the plot is quite loyal to the storyline, so it’s not like it was so different that I actually forgot I was watching Snow White. Everything is there: the evil queen/witch, the pure Snow White, the mirror. Of course they tweaked the concept of the huntsman a little bit, but that was due.

The thing that bothered me was not that this turned out to be a medieval war movie toward the end. It’s not even because, obviously, the queen is, in fact, fairer than the Snow White, which seems to be the general opinion as well (I can’t stop myself from making this joke: maybe the mirror saw Twilight and that’s why she thought Snow White was prettier. I know. I am hilarious). It has a lot to do with what I expected, and how the movie progressed. It started out well enough, and Charlize Theron as the evil queen is quite amazing. Her mother apparently told her that men will always use her, and her beauty is the only way she will succeed in this world, and casts a spell on her. That spell can only be broken by the blood of the pure. So she spends decades taking over kingdoms and consuming the beautiful. Kirsten Stewart is Snow White, and she spends a decade while the queen prospers outside. Then she escapes, and the Huntsman, aka Chris Hemsworth, is forced to fetch her. Having no love for the queen himself, he decides to help her instead.

Now, for those who didn’t watch the movie, I think I know what they would be expecting at this point: The huntsman sees how pretty she is, and while helping her through the wild terrain of the countryside, they fall in love. Or even another plot: He is very reluctant to help her, but she dazzles him with her goodness. So they argue all the time, and bicker, and after the bit with the apple, he realizes he’s in love with her. At least that’s what I expected. But what I got? A love triangle, to start. I mean, a love triangle may be nice in some story lines, like the Hunger Games for example, but Snow White? Really? And not even a very good love triangle. A poorly constructed one. I don’t even want to talk about the lack of affection between the characters, or even the lack of actual conversation. It just doesn’t work. Believe me, it wasn’t because I was so amazed by Twilight that I thought Edward Cullen would step through magically and sweep Bella off her feet either. In a contest between Chris Hemsworth and Robert Pattinson, I’d always support the former.

All in all, I advise by not being fooled by the amazing trailer. I give this movie 3 stars. I am being generous here, because of the beautiful actors and the fact that it started out fine. But other than that, I would go see it only if there’s nothing better, or if you really, really want to see another Chris Hemsworth movie. Remember though: this is not his fairest moment. I would stick to Thor.

The IMDB site

The Trailer

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Dystopian Matching

Apparently, it’s a dystopian world. Everywhere I look, there’s a young adult book that goes on in another world, a dystopian future. I don’t know how long this this has been going on, since I’ve jumped off the young adult fiction wagon with the release of the last Gossip Girl and Princess Diaries books. I haven’t even finished those series yet, even though I have all the books. I saved them, because I loved them so much, but now I’m 26, and it’s kind of late. As I type this, I realize that this is kind of sad, but oh well.

However, no one is too good to read the Hunger Games, so after I read that and enjoyed it, I decided to give Matched by Ally Condie a try. This is the first book of the Matched series. This book is followed by Crossed and Reached (to be released in November).

The idea behind it seemed interesting: that you are matched to the person your genes goes along the best with, and you can only marry him and have kids. The Society, which rule the country through the Officials, decides this match, along with where you work. The Society has destroyed all the cultural heritage, including books, paintings, songs etc. They only kept a 100 paintings and a 100 songs. You cannot create anything either: there’s no writing, no painting, no singing. The saddest of all: there’s no shopping. This just breaks my heart.

Cassia is an ordinary girl in this society, and she’s really happy on her Matching Banquet, which is the day that she’s going to be matched with her match. However, there’s a glitch and when she’s looking at the info chip of her match, another face pops up. This creates a love triangle, and believe me, it’s not simpler when it’s in another world. The beginning drags on quite a bit, while the author tries to paint this world in front of our eyes. There’s nothing ultra romantic about it, she gets closer to both the guys and it’s kind of boring. I almost gave up on it, but then the story picked up after she actually fell in love and really started to question the Society. Another problem for me was that the main male character, at the beginning, was really random. However, he began to pick up after a while.The ending really left me intrigued, so I had to pick up the sequel. Cassia suddenly turned into this other person, who’s brave and romantic. It’s kind of cute.

I give this book 3 stars, because the beginning seriously gets boring. Also because it’s incomparable to the Hunger Games. Although I don’t want to compare too much, since I haven’t read the whole thing in either series. I also strongly believe the Divergent series must be better as well.

You should go check out the website. It includes the funniest trailer.

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Cooking with Vitale

Previously I have mentioned that I have developed some new hobbies. One of them is cooking. I’ve always loved cooking, but was way too lazy to actually do it until I got married. So instead I developed an extensive cookbook collection, saved thousands of recipes online and just ate out. However, since I got married, it’s been necessary to actually cook something, since there was another person in the house, and he just wasn’t going to make a meal out of biscuits and Ice Tea. Plus, there was a horde of people coming over for all kind of meals, especially for teatime and dinner, and they actually expected to eat something, too. And it turns out it adds a certain glamour to say that you actually cooked it yourself. So I decided to enter my fully-equipped kitchen (its newest addition is a crepe maker, don’t ask me why) and actually cook.

However, since my cooking and baking history was limited to some occasional lessons and web browsing, I found myself lacking in the techniques department. This was nothing that an online search couldn’t fix. Some clicking led to my greatest YouTube invention yet: Laura in the Kitchen.

Laura in the Kitchen is a YouTube cooking show starring Laura Vitale. She’s an Italian living in the USA, and she cooks and bakes. I’ve always loved baking, but thanks to Laura, I really get a kick out of cooking as well. She doesn’t usually use ingredients that are impossible to get here, since she believes in keeping everything simple. She has a no-nonsense approach to anything she makes, and it’s really relaxing to watch her cook. It’s really simple to understand, and she explains everything so well. I’m sure people with a lot less experience would get a kick out of it. She has basic recipes, also, like pesto sauce, pizza dough, granola etc. You just can’t go wrong with Laura.

Here’s a bunch of my favorites:

Pasta with Broccoli – Not as simple as boiling pasta and pouring canned sauce over it, but much, much better tasting.

Pesto Baked Chicken – Great chicken dish! I cook it frequently for guests, and it’s simple enough for a weekday meal. It becomes extra special with homemade pesto.

Chicken Francaise – Another great chicken dish. I never cook it for guests, since it requires slaving over the stove, but it’s so simple and delicious that you might just want to.

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes – I just realized that I always cook her chicken dishes. Anyway. This is another great one, and it’s good enough for guests, if you don’t mind them wrestling with chicken legs. I don’t mind at all.

Baked Mashed Potatoes – That much cheese in anything would taste divine. Since parmesan is quite pricey here, I make it with a bunch of other cheeses, and it turns out great every time.

Cooking and baking her stuff also lead me to other places and other recipes, since her recipes provide a great starting point. I realized that I just love Italian Cuisine. The wonderful parmesan is now a staple in my fridge. I also began to save breadcrumbs in the freezer for future use, since she uses them a whole lot.

A few things I would watch out for: Laura tends to over-salt everything. If you love your food salty, then that’s fine, but it tends to be a bit too much for my platter. Also, I wouldn’t expect anything on the healthier side. Laura’s dishes have plenty of heavy cream, butter and salt. You’ll be amazed at how thin she stays. She has another channel, called Laura’s Topics, and she addressed this very issue. She says that she works out 6 times a week and eats in moderation. Now, I’m all for moderation, but working out 6 times a week? I’d rather not eat. My point is, just be careful.

Laura also bakes a whole lot, and has lots of nice cupcake recipes and such, but I really prefer her cooking, mainly because I have enough literature on baking. But I would watch a couple of her baking videos, since she gives some great tips like putting cinnamon in chocolate dishes so it will feel more chocolatey. They are worth trying. One tip though: Put a lot less chocolate chips then she tells you to. Believe me.

Now go check it out. I’m sure that even if you are not interested in cooking at all, you’ll feel like heating up that skillet. Laura’s YouTube Channel and Laura’s Website.

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After a Year

I have just been idly surfing the net when I remembered that it’s been ages since I wrote anything here. The last time I wrote was over a year ago. Since than, I have actually gotten married myself, read tons of books, watched tons of movies. been to tons of places and actually developed a few more hobbies. All these things are worth a mention. But instead, I have been doing nothing.

Well, I’m about to tell you that it’s all going to change. Just because I’m not researching flower arrangements on the net anymore doesn’t mean I should stop blogging. It doesn’t matter that I might be the only person who actually reads these posts. It’s just some good practice until I write my book (!).

Tomorrow, I’ll continue writing this blog. The wait is over.

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Anatomy of an Indian Wedding: Part I

One of my better summers in life was spent at an all-girls finishing school in Montreux, Switzerland, about 3 years ago. I was there for a month, but the friends I made there have since lasted and still going strong. A few months ago, my house mate invited me to her wedding in Delhi, India. Our rooms were adjoining, and we had a lot of laughs during my stay, and I really wanted to go to her wedding, for two reasons: first, she was a good friend and I loved her, but more because, well, it was an Indian wedding. So my father, my fiancee and I packed our best evening attire, hopped on a plane and went to India.

After receiving a glamorous invitation as big as a coffee table book in the mail (which included two rows of chocolate, delicately adorned with the same design as the invitation itself), we knew for a fact that we were in for an extravagant affair. The invitation was for four nights, and that made me feel really bad for the bride, and for the amount of make up and hair dressing it was going to take. But it made us feel pretty excited.

The first night was hosted by the bride’s parents (apparently these things are important) and it was called Musical Evening. It was held at what I can only call “wedding venue”, which I guess was a tent, though I’m not sure about the details. The whole place was made up in a night club atmosphere with a huge stage, a huge bar which proudly displayed Black Labels of as many years as I, and extravagant flower arrangements. My own engagement party had been held only two weeks prior, so I had an eye for that kind of detail, and I was like a hawk looking around the table settings. The musical entertainment was in three parts (or at least we left during the third one) and the first one was “India’s answer to Shakira”, whose name was Sophie Choudry. She spoke flawless English, but we found later that this was not extraordinary in the least, or the fact that she spoke only in English. Her show was a huge affair with many  male dancers in the background, lights and special effects, and it was amazing. After her, there was a less famous person who sang, and afterwards, a couple of what I only can describe as “rappers” came on the stage, and they were also really, really good. By then, our jet lag was making itself known, and we had fed ourselves from the amazing buffet. It was all vegetarian, but still, pretty delicious and with a huge range that can’t be described but felt.

The next morning was the Mehendi Celebration (mehendi basically means henna). It was held at the bride’s house, and included a nice breakfast buffet. We have the same thing here, though apparently the customs and the reasons for it are different. I believe theirs have something to do with an official invitation to the wedding, for the bride’s side. Anyway. Professional mehendi artists were employed, and I got to have these intricate designs on my palms, and they had this huge assortment of bangles as party favors. There was also live music of more traditional nature. Then there was the whole ritual, and the bride crying, which are similar to our traditions as well. A tradition they have here is that the bride gets the groom’s name written somewhere in the mehendi, and he’s supposed to find it – this shows that he has a sharp eye and an active brain. I had my fiancee’s name written as well, but mine looked bad since I kept accidentally closing my palm. You’re not supposed to touch anywhere for two hours so the material dries up and falls apart itself. It’s been almost a month since I got it done, and it just came off a few days ago. The decoration was also reds, oranges with lots and lots of flowers and flowing materials, which was again wonderful.

According to Indian tradition, the henna motif symbolizes the transformation of the bride from a young virgin girl to “a temptress for her husband”. Also according to Kama Sutra, henna is one of the sixty four arts of women (now this got me curious about the other sixty three, but I’ll think about that later). It is also said that the more the henna stains, the more the bride will be loved by her in-laws.

In the Turkish tradition, the henna tradition is a bit different. We only put a blob of henna on our palm, keep it there for about half an hour, and that’s about it. The henna itself is placed on the palm of the bride by her mother-in-law, and she also places a golden coin in her palm. The rest is similar, though in Turkey more people are prone to dancing than Indians, which is a surprising fact I have observed, but will address later.

I guess the Indian weddings are more of an elaborate affair than I thought, since I have two more nights to go and I’m running out of time. I’ll write the rest later. Stay tuned.

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After A While

It’s been quite a while since I wrote anything. After discovering Tumblr and reblogging anything pink or cute or flowery, I realized that maybe it was time I wrote in this blog as well.

Earlier today, I was at the last class of a beginner’s photography workshop. Even though our teacher was a bit on the cranky side, which I think is because of his age and the quality of the questions posed by the students, I realize now that I am a bit sad that it ended. I learned quite a bit, especially since he repeated the same thing each lesson. At least I learned how to use my new Nikon D7000, which I bought in Hong Kong for a quarter of the price here. That makes it even more valuable that it already is.

Photography is a fascinating art, though a bit on the complicated side. You have to remember lots and lots of variables, and the camera itself might take months to discover. It also offers endless choices and opportunities. There are tons of stuff to buy, and each with a huge range of prices and qualities. It must be a real challenge to stay on top of it all. You need to have the equipment, but that isn’t enough. You can have all the equipment in the world, but you still need vision. And that isn’t really enough either. You have to catch the moment. You need to be somewhere at least a bit interesting. As I was saying, you need all these variables, and they all have to be in the right place to take one good photo.

We looked at the pictures of many masters, but the one the teacher kept returning to was Steve McCurry. He’s the world famous photographer who took the Afghan Girl. I find that picture a bit on the overrated side, but alas, here it is.

He has many more, that are a lot of the times more interesting. I now leave you with his website. I believe he had it all: the vision, the equipment, and the chance to see it all.

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My New Obsession

My Tumblr: Lovely Pink Book

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Great Trip with The Tourist

I just realized that I haven’t written in months. It’s mainly because I’ve been preoccupied with, well, life, starting school again (my masters) and deciding to get married etc. I haven’t been reading manga much, nor many books, but I still can read, and I’ve seen my share of movies. That’s one thing about dating- you see every single movie. So I decided I should just get back in the game and write about them as time goes on. So as you can understand from my very generic post title, today’s post will be about…

The Tourist

I finished watching this movie and said to myself: “This is what I love about Hollywood.” But then I read somewhere that this is actually a remake; and a remake of a French movie at that.. Anyway, I’m sure this is much better than the original. Hollywood has that effect. You take two famous actors, toss them in a movie, and voila, great one. I know some people don’t agree. Most people find them, well, bad. Here is a mini list of movies with two famous actors:

–  Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts: The Mexican. Mediocre? Maybe. Did I like it? Loved it.

– Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock: The Lake House. Not the best movie in the world, but I still found it watchable. Others didn’t.

– Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in in Knight and Day. Plot? Scarce. Made you think? Almost never. Did I like it? Hell yeah.

Of course this list is one for famous actors who formed couples, not like Ocean’s Eleven or Tropic Thunder where you toss the lot of them in a pot and make them jump and run with clever conversation (though I love them as well). These are more like the cast director thought that if both are famous, the end result will be hot. And though most people don’t think so, it usually is. But this one, The Tourist, is even better than most. Much better.

I don’t know if I should even talk about the plot. You probably read it everywhere. Johnny Depp plays Frenk Tupelo, an American tourist. He’s a math teacher, and he’s going to Venice to mend his broken heart. Angelina Jolie plays Elise Ward, a mysterious British woman. She under surveillance and Paul Bettany plays the inspector who’s obsessed with finding Alexander, her lover who stole millions of pounds from a gangster and disappeared. She gets on a train in Paris on Alexander’s instructions, and meets Johnny Depp there and engages him in some fascinating conversation to make the police think that it’s actually Alexander. They go to Venice and the rest is set there, with nice chase scenes on the canals. There’s also one scene where Johnny Depp runs away from the Russian mob in his pajamas, and he jumps from these rooftops and it’s really good. I’ve been looking to buy these pajamas, but so far, no luck.

After you get over the fact that Angelina Jolie has gotten old (but she did snag Brad Pitt first, so the joke’s on us), she looks pretty amazing in some evening attire. The plot thickens as the story goes on, with witty side characters who also have their own agendas. When I say the plot thickens, I don’t mean it’s really deep like The Inception or anything (was The Inception deep? Hmm.) but it’s still good. Nice, clean fun that doesn’t make you feel guilty for liking it. Because some movies have that effect, like the previously mentioned Knight and Day. You can walk out of this movie and say you like it, and no one will say “You’re a loser because you like Hollywood movies with overpaid handsome actors,” because this one is actually good.

In a nutshell, go see it. Go see it for one of these reasons:

– If you don’t agree with my thesis that famous people make a movie good, go watch this to test your own theory.

– Go watch Angelina Jolie, if that’s your cup of tea.

– Or watch Johnny Depp, which is rarely a mistake.

– See magnificent shots of Venice.

– Fantastic clothes and jewels. Yum.

– Go see if it’s better than the original. I know there are some French movie buffs out there.

Rating: 9/10 – Go see to restore your belief in Hollywood.

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Series of Movies

I have realized that I haven’t been writing for a while, mainly because I thought there was nothing worth writing. But then I noticed that I have been going to the movies a lot lately, and most of the stuff I saw was very well below average. So I decided to write about these particular movies I have seen in the last two months, in chronological order. Here we go.

1. Bounty Hunter

I don’t know why I do this to myself. Although the trailer might seem promising, I must learn that if Jennifer Aniston is in it, I must not see that movie. Hollywood people are genius about making amazing trailers out of crap, and I must learn to accept that fact. But since I can be pretty naive, I went and sat through this.

Of course, I’m exaggerating a little bit. It’s not that bad. It’s about this bounty hunter guy, Gerard Butler, who gets the assignment to bring in her ex-wife, Jennifer Aniston. He’s really happy about this, since he “hates” her, and she “hates” him back. But it turns out that, yes, they’re actually still in love. The plot is totally see-through, but still, it could have been handled more tastefully, because it actually starts out pretty promising, but turns out the 2-hour ride gets bumpy and awkward.

You get to laugh at some stuff, and Gerard Butler is nice to look at, and he plays this dirty guy, one you expect will spill stuff on his shirt while he eats. There’s nothing wrong there. The chemistry is not bad either, since we know for a fact that these two have got in on in real life. But after a while you don’t understand what all the drama is about and wish that those two can get just get the sex over and done with. It can get surprising at times (not oh-my-god surprising, more very-hollywood-romantic-comedy surprising), and it can be nice to borrow as a dvd if you have friend who actually purchased it, but I wouldn’t bang my head on the wall because I missed it. I think Jennifer Aniston should just sit back and spend the millions of bucks she made during Friends, but who am I to talk.

Rating: 5/10 – Keep your focus on Gerard.

2. Remember Me

Now, this one is a real gem. Ever since I saw it, I’ve been telling everyone who will talk to me about this. I believe this is as low as Hollywood can ever get. I just don’t understand how the people who made this movie saw it and said: “Well, it works”. Their reaction should have been same as mine: “I can’t believe Robert Pattison can’t save this movie”.

I am a sucker for a pretty face, and will watch Brad Pitt recite poetry on big screen (of course, if he doesn’t have that homeless beard). So I thought that Robert Pattison might be nice to look at. And the poster seemed all nice and romantic. But as soon as the movie actually started, I realized that I just made a huge mistake. Robert Pattison is a college student, whose brother committed suicide a few years back, and of course it has taken its toll on the family. Emilie de Ravin has also seen tragedy, when her mother was shot by two muggers at a subway station when she was just a kid. You get a picture of their families and there’s this stupid kid sister of Robert, who’s being bullied by the “cool girls” at her school, because she’s “weird”, but she’s actually just hoping her father will speak to her once in a while blah blah. The plot is just too boring to tell.

There’s this independent/the camera moves around too much vibe to it, and sometimes you want to slap the hell out of the characters. And no, Robert Pattison can’t save the movie, and neither can Pierce Brosnan (who is the only thing that’s worth watching, though he’s kind of awkward there), Chris Cooper or any of the other people. The only thing that’s just bit nice is the very end. Not the “after 6 months” part, but the part before that. I have to hand it out to them, it’s good. Still not good enough though.

Rating: 2/10 – Recommend it to people you hate, and tell them to go alone.

I’ll write some other movies later. I just wanted to share these two because they’re the worst of the lot. It will get better. Or we would be in big trouble.

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I Do Love Beirut

I’ve recently been to Beirut. Beirut is not one of those places I wanted to go to, but an opportunity presented itself, and I said “why not”. I really didn’t know what to expect, because you hear all these stories about the Middle East, but hey, it’s only an hour and a half by plane. So I went there, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s so amazing. The new Downtown district has been completely rebuilt, and looks as posh (or even posher) as any European city. The restaurants are top notch, the food is better than anything I’ve tasted. The nightlife is enough to satisfy anyone. The people are actually nice, as far from snobbery as can be. All of them speak English (and usually French, too) so communicating is never a problem. I would recommend it to anyone.

Since I have to go to a bookstore in each country I go to and browse every English title, it’s no surprise that I loaded up on books. I read in Time Out Beirut about this book called Beirut, I Love You: A Memoir by Zana El Khalil and I had to give it a read. I finished it yesterday, and I really can’t decide if I like it or not. The writer, Zana El Khalil, is an artist. She lived in Nigeria and USA. She moved to Beirut for college, after the war, as the city was just getting used to peace. It’s sex, party and rock’n roll for the people. How nightlife was a must for everyone, because that’s how people forgot. She talks about September 11, when she actually watched the towers go down in New York, and she actually had to move back after people began to give her the evil eye. She makes some good points, on how American TV series gives us the feeling that our lives are just not cool enough, how everyone has a better living experience in New York etc. How NYC gives people freedom, one that is difficult to find in the Middle East. She talks about the war, of course, and how people began to “get used to it”. It’s heartbreaking.

Since it’s a memoir, she mostly talks about the people in her life. Many, many men in her life, and how dysfunctional each one of them was. Her best friend, Maya, who helped her stick to Beirut in times of difficulty. But mostly, this is a love letter to Beirut. She identifies herself with Beirut on every level. When Beirut is drowning, so is she. She stays in Beirut through thick and thin, though she has a foreign passport, she just can’t bring herself to live.

She uses brilliant imagery, though sometimes it’s disturbing. Mostly it’s describing things. Short dialogues and strange events. But you really get a vivid picture of what’s going on, both in the author’s mind and in Beirut at that time. It helped me get a better insight into what’s happened, though that shouldn’t be the reason you read it, since it won’t be enough on that front. It’s just a different read, something fresh and original.

This is her artwork, and this was her blog during the last war in Beirut.

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