HAPPY BIRTHDAY HARRY!!!

The 31st of July is a somewhat special date – mainly just an excuse to get the DVDs, books and memorabilia out, as well as quoting the hell out of Twitter. ‘Why so Special’? I hear you ask. Today is the day that one of the most anticipated quotes of all time (in the Potter-universe) was uttered – ‘Harry – yer a wizard.’ On this day, Harry’s 11th birthday, The Keeper of the Keys, Rubeus Hagrid, brought Harry Potter his Hogwarts acceptance letter, and from that point we were sucked into the wizarding world.

Not only is today Harry Potter’s name day, but also his creator’s J. K. Rowling’s. I cannot thank her enough for giving me the escape, passion, hobby (lifestyle choice) of Harry Potter. From the stories that inspired me to read and write, to the best friend I have made through a common interest, it is all thanks to J. K. Rowling.

Both Rachel and I hope you have the most wonderful of birthdays.

jkrowlingharrypotter news-graphics-2007-_641337a

‘STOP! I FORBID YOU!’ yelled Unlce Vernon in panic.

Aunt Petunia gave a gasp of horror.

‘Ah, go boil yer heads, both of yeh,’ said Hagrid. ‘Harry – yer a wizard.’

There was silence inside the hut. Only the sea and the whistling wind could be hear.

‘I’m a what?’ gasped Harry.

‘A wizard, o’ course,’ said Hagrid, sitting back down on the sofa, which groaned and sank even lower, ‘an’ a thumpin’ good’un’ I’d say, once yeh’ve been trained up a bit. With a mum an’ dad like yours, what else would yeh be? An I reckon it’s abou’ time yeh read yeh letter.’

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

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Remembering Cory Monteith

Today, the world lost a talented young actor, taken far too early.

Cory Monteith, best known as Finn Hudson from Glee was found dead in a hotel room in Vancouver after failing to check out. Whilst it’s unclear what happened, the police are not treating it as foul play.

Fans and celebrities including fellow Glee cast members have been posting tributes about the actor all day. I awoke to the news this morning and was shocked and hugely saddened. The actor had voluntarily checked into rehab back in April but was last pictured looking happy and healthy last month. As a huge Glee fan, I cannot imagine how his fellow cast members and Cory’s family and friends are feeling right now, as well as the countless fans.

In this situation, my heart and prayers go out particularly to Lea Michele, who plays Rachel Berry on the show and is also Monteith’s real-life girlfriend. They were together for 2 years, and she has openly said in interviews how happy she was with the actor.

Even after watching episodes of Glee and listening to the songs, I’m still shocked that he won’t be back on our screens and his talent will be sorely missed. I don’t think it will sink in properly until season 5 airs but for now, I’ll leave everyone with a performance from Mr Monteith.

Rest in Peace Cory – a star will be shining brighter in the sky tonight

5 Things to do on a Sick Day

I’ve come to the conclusion that when you are feeling ill, feeling sorry for yourself  and you’ve taken a sick day off work there is a number of things that you can do -almost like a checklist:

 

1. Watching typical daytime TV – all that trashy daytime TV you miss out on when your at work can now finally be seen – you can stare at Phillip Schofield and judge the guests on Jeremy Kyle.

2. Catch up TV – you can finally catch up on all the things you’ve either recorded or just been meaning to watch-there’s hours to waste and there’s hours of TV to see.

3. Feel-good movies – remember that movie that you just love and haven’t seen in ages? Well now is your opportunity to watch it, just as your feeling sorry for yourself the most. Dig out your favourite movies or ones that just make you smile, get your duvet and camp out

4. TV Boxsets – Alternatively, you can dig out a boxset of a  beloved TV series and feast on that. Just by watching your favourite episodes or watching a whole season just to remember why you fell in love with the series in the first place will make you feel ten times better!

5. Eat what you want! – your feeling sorry for yourself already, and whilst your watching tv etc. your going to need snacks. Ice cream will help with a sore throat, team it with some chocolate and you’ve got a winning combination.

 

I know that I’ve certainly ticked a few of these boxes during my own sick day today – when your next feeling ill, go ahead and indulge, just for a day!

 

A Rollercoaster Ride With John Bishop…..

Thanks to Sport Relief John bishop is somewhat of a family name these days, the happy chappy from Liverpool is now a regular on comedy panel shows, and since he teamed up with James Cordon on A League of Their Own Bishop has sky rocketed to comedian fame. Having been a fan from his smaller days and in anticipation of his third UK tour I bought tickets (a year in advance) and the night has finally come round.

I will admit after the first DVD I was expecting big things, but then the second came out and I was slightly disheartened. So it was with apprehension that I took my seat and waited what could either have been a night of comedy gold, or a massive disappointment.

Luckily for Bishop (I say this as though my opinions are going to have a major effect on his career) he didn’t disappoint. Although his entrance was a bit tacky it did get a few laughs. The first half of his show was incredible, it was fast paced and not all about his kids – which I had expected the whole thing to be about; again. The second half, although still brilliant, was slower, the jokes were longer and the repetitiveness made a small appearance. Considering this I have seen worse attempts at long winded jokes so it wasn’t too bad.

Bishop was owning the stage, his speech pace was perfect and he was a real joy to watch. The best thing though, whether this was real or not, was that he looked like he was really enjoying himself. I’ve been to plenty of comedy tours, and they’re always better when the comedian is having a good time. Bishop’s jokes reflected his life, but unlike most comedians he showed us the good times rather than whining about the crap parts

If you haven’t got tickets to the tour, make sure his DVD is on your Christmas list.

The Joys of Full Time Employment

So, this week has seen the start of my brand new job and my first taste of a 9-5, graduate, working real life. Even though after I finished my final year I had a temporary part time job (which pretty much turned into full time), it was unsociable hours and I got used to long lie-ins so the prospect of getting up before 9am was a shock to my system, considering the last time I was in this routine was when I was a sixth form student.

The week isn’t over yet (one more day) but I’m already incredibly tired. It didn’t necessary help that I decided after finishing my day, I would then go socialise until 10/11pm at night, thus tiring myself out even further. I do however love having a job – the role isn’t necessary something I saw myself doing –it’s IT help for a global company, but without knowing all the technical information. Even though I had endless lie-ins, no sort of restrictions with my time and my endless hours camped out with my laptop, films and TV, I was getting quite bored with it all, and my lack of money was becoming an issue.

It’s a great feeling to be employed so quickly after I graduated, knowing that I am employable and that life after being a student in full time education is exciting and a new challenge. It will take me a while to get used to the job, the people and the general routine of it all, but I do know that at the minute, I feel incredibly thankful that life is still good.

Th Wizarding World…

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was like being picked up and literally dropped into the magical world. The blistering heat of the state of Florida, the masses of people in complete awe of where they are, snow gracing the roofs of Hogsmead buildings – yes, you read that right. One moment you are basking in the Heat of The Lost Continent then the next minute you are being greeted at the gates of Hogsmead by the station master, welcoming you into a world a snow-capped houses, slanting roofs, and the hustle and bustle of an English market street. Okay so the heat is still scorching, and the hustle and bustle is made up of excited tourists rather than shoppers but the effect is there.  Everything from the window displays in the shops to the lockers to store your bags in while you ride the roller-coasters are in theme. Entering as though on the platform of Hogsmead station, a replica Hogwarts Express stands pride of place and a photo opportunity with the station master (who is British may I add!) arises before being able to run wild in your new surroundings.

The shops include Dervish and Bangers selling all types of merchandise like t-shirts, gloves, scarves and brooms; Honeydukes Sweet Shop which has the legendary Chocolate Frogs and Every Flavour Beans; and Zonko’s Joke shop selling all types of pranks and jokes seen in the film. There is also an Owlery where letters can be sent to anywhere in the world (or taken away on the spot) with the Hogsmead stamp upon it signifying the place of dispatch.

But also included – which goes against both the films and books – is Ollivander’s Wand shop. This is clearly the marketing strategy coming through, as of course you can’t go to the world of Harry Potter and not return with a wand! But rather than stand out like a sore thumb it fits in nicely to the atmosphere and architecture, not only can you purchase a wand but you can also have ‘the wand experience’ whereby the wand chooses you, just like in the real magical world.

On top of the shops there are the food options, the Three Broomsticks offers a sit down restaurant offering fast food such as fish and chips and pies (real English food), although the food options aren’t fantastic the reason you have gone there is for the design and the atmosphere inside. It’s dark and dingy, a real reflection of the inside of a British pub on a rainy day, although a lot bigger and accommodating to the hoard of hungry tourists. Outside there are is the option to purchase Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice; real refreshers on a hot sunny day; however I personally found the drinks equally disgusting, but that could just be my tastes buds as the queues for each stretched out down the street.

As you make your way up the main street of Hogsmead, through the hustle and bustle, you are suddenly in full view of the magnificent Hogwarts Castle. Towering on the top of a cliff in full glory, overlooking the entire Island of Adventures, Hogwarts Castle is captivating. You instantly stop mid step as you take in its beauty, its architecture, its detail. It takes your breath away. The drive is fairly lengthy but you barely notice it as you take in your new surroundings. What’s amazing is not only does the castle hold a spectacular ride inside its walls, but it also holds a tour. For those not wanting to ride, you are able to walk the hallways and corridors of the castle, visit Dumbledore’s office and the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. The ride itself is spell-binding, taking visitors on a voyage over the castle grounds, it is truly indescribable. As well as the castle ride there are two others which are (although less popular queue wise) still fascinating: the Flight of the Hippogriff and the Dragon Challenge.

As I mentioned earlier, the Hogwarts Castle hosted a walk though tour for those who didn’t want to ride, but this was in fact also the queue. It was brilliant, you barely felt you were queuing because there was always something new to look at, and it all fit in so well: walking through the champion’s tent while queuing for the Dragon’s Challenge; passing Hagird’s Hut while queuing for the Flight of the Hippogriff. It was all surreal.

Visiting the Wizarding World was amazing, one of the best experiences of my life so far, and I would recommend it to anyone. It was beautiful a true work of art that shouldn’t be missed by anyone. If you are wanting to experience the world of Harry Potter then this is where you need to be, to walk the paths of your imagination and be captivated by what is possible.

‘Now if you two don’t mind, I’m going to bed before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed – or worse, expelled.’ Hermione, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Happy and Glorious-A Day To Be Proud To Be British!

 

So after my post the other day, I promised myself I wouldn’t blog about the Olympics again until after the games was over. However, my excitement got the better of me after yesterday’s phenomenal day for Great Britian – 6 Gold medals and 1 Silver, 3 of those Gold coming from Track and Field Athletic events! It was just such an incredible feeling and so emotional to be watching this day unfold, and be apart of an event that will certainly inspire a generation – or perhaps generations young and old.

This Olympics has been a constant build up since the day we found out we had won the bid to host. At times there has been criticism over certain choices the games organisers have taken (that Logo for instance). But I think it’s fair to say that ever since the games have started, this country has felt nothing but insane pride at what we have achieved – from the opening ceremony, to the Olympic park and all the venues that have been invovled, to the thousands of volunteers, whom the athletes have praised for their hard work and utter friendliness throughout.

The pride that we felt at the Opening Ceremony has swelled with our success in the games on a sporting level, with athletes commenting on the home crowd support, often referring to it as ‘overwhelming’. Indeed even witnessing it on the tv is giving me goosebumps, and I can only imagine the positive atmosphere that is around London.

Yesterday, I actually got to experience a small chunk of the atmosphere courtesy of my partner in crime, the one blonde Kat! Part of the Olympic football is happening in Newcastle and a spare ticket was going and I jumped at the chance to be apart of a slice of history. I admit even though I never went for tickets when they were on offer, I do wish I had done, just so I could be apart of it (although thanks to the BBC’s coverage I do feel very involved).

The atmosphere at St. James’ was incredible, a sea of colour and brightness, with music playing all around the stadium and an overwhelming amount of support for both countries playing (neither of them were Great Britain) Brazil vs. Honduras was a nail-biting game, and for me that is saying something, considering I am not a fan of football most of the time, something which I openly admit. I’ve been so amazed at the level of home crowds that the games have drawn, lining the streets of London for the marathons and cycling road events, and I was so pleased at the level of nosie that erupted from the stadium yesterday. There was a lot of Brazilian support across the stadium, but I like to think the crowd got behind Honduras as well, the underdogs going into the match. And who doesn’t love an underdog – I know I certainly do.

The match ended 3-2 to Brazil, and Honduras put up a brilliant fight, faced with a ref who loved his yellow cards, and perhaps favoured Brazil slightly too. But I was so incredibly pleased to be there, in a fantastic atmosphere and it really summed up to me that these games have producted a nation that is united!

My final point about yesterday goes back to what I was saying in my previous post about the expectations that have been put on British athletes to perform. Yesterday we saw the ‘face’ of the games Jessica Ennis achieve her dream of a Gold medal in the Heptathlon, rising above the immense amount of pressure she has been under. Even in her interviews after the last event, she stated the pressure had been intense but that she had simply ‘focused on what she knew she could do’.

However even though yesterday saw some incredible moments there was some moments that were quite painful and heartbreaking to watch. The rowing pair of Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase, who were Olympic champions in Beijing had much expectation and were unfortunately pipped by Denmark who had an outstanding last 500m. Still the pair were Silver medalists and they absolutely gave it everything – physically, mentally and emotionally as we saw post-race. Viewers saw as the British pair slumped in their boat, tears falling as they look simply exhausted. Indeed Sir Steve Redgrave went down to the dock to help hold Mark Hunter up. As the rowing pair continually apologised, saying they had let people down, it really was a heartbreaking moment – these boys had let no one down and they had done us proud! Anyone that said otherwise clearly did not see how utterly exhausted these two boys looked. I was swelled with pride at these two men, who in my eyes, were winners in their own right.

Indeed the BBC commentator John Inverdale could not hide his emotions after the interview, as he was visibly close to tears.  Sir Steve Redgrave has also been a constant at the rowing finish line with Inverdale and it’s truly lovely to see him greet every British athlete with a massive hug. It’s truly beautiful (and proves what a softie I am) Indeed, a friend summed up the role of Sir Steve as like the ‘Dad’ of Team GB – and for rowing that certainly seems the case. Another moment like this was the post race interview from the Swimming girls 4×100 medley team with Sharon Davies with Fran Halsall apologising for not being unbelieveable when the crowd had been. Davies immediately came back with ‘that’s not true’ and whilst she was mostly off camera, viewers soon realised that Davies was in tears, with Halsall hugging her and Davies struggling to get the words out for her next question.  In moments like this you realise how close these commentators are to the athletes in the sports they cover.

Overall, yesterday was a day to be immensely proud of. And for me it was in more ways than one. I was proud to be a part of this historic games, and period for this country – a games which proves to the world that we DID deserve to host these Olympics and that we still are a great nation! I was proud of our amazing athletes, athletes that I don’t think get the credit that they deserve a lot of the time. I was proud of their determination, their stamina, their resiliance and just utter talent. And lastly I’m proud to be British.

Rachel

John Inverdale “We’ve had the crowd almost be encouraged to boo the Austrailians

“Very upset, that’s not British. We don’t do that, we support everybody. Whoever’s guiding the crowd to do that, I’m very disappointed in them” Sir Steve Redgrave, just before the start of the Rowing finals yesterday

Too Much Pressure and Too Much Limelight

So, the Olympics are upon us and can I just say I am loving them this year! Every day I’m glued to the tv and to the BBC’s incessant coverage. relishing in every moment of it. I always enjoy them whenever they come around as I enjoy seeing the sports that we don’t often get to see. I always say it and it may be part of the reason I don’t particularly like the sport, but this country puts far too much emphasis on football, even though we never seem to get very far with it. Whereas you look at sports such as Rowing and Cycling, where a lot of medals have come from this year, sports that we never hear much about it.

I just thought I’d post my views on the pressure of being an Olympic athlete -a pressure that surprise surprise is mainly coming from the media. The media have their favourites – their poster boys/girls that they tend to hone in and focus on to ‘bring home the gold’s for us’. But sometimes things don’t always go to plan. Mark Cavendish for instance -a fantastic sprinter and cyclist unfortunately was out of the hunt for a medal and he blamed other countries tactics after the race. Other times things do go to plan – Sir Chris Hoy yesterday rode to his fifth Olympic Gold medal equalling Sir Steve Redgrave’s record. But wait a second, there was also two other guys in the team pursuit that helped him bring home the gold – Philip Hindes and Jason Kenny. Such a shame that the media don’t really mention them and they tend to show pictures of Hoy rather than all three men.

But then this tends to be the case for a lot of things. Prime example number 1 goes to Tom Daley – the media’s no. 1 poster boy. Young, good-looking and he can dive as well! Now I’m not a massive fan of Tom Daley and I don’t really get what all the fuss is about but, I’m not taking that away from the fact he’s obviously a great athlete. The media kept re-iterating he would be going for the gold in the synchronised dive earlier this week. But, wait a second. Synchronised? Doesn’t that imply he has a partner. Step forward Pete Waterfield -Tom Daley’s unsung partner. In the 2002 Commonwealth games he won the gold medal for the 10m solo dive and then 4 years later won the silver medal. However the poor guy has had to contend with being an afterthought in the media’s love of Tom Daley, with a constant barrage of Daley love, you have to feel sorry for him.

Now I’m not naive enough to think that the media don’t focus on people that aren’t ‘deserving’ to be focused on – however in team events, surely it’s about the team effort not about the individual? Cyclist Chris Froome has had a fantastic year -2nd in the Tour de France and a bronze in the Men’s Time Trial, and all the time supporting his Team Sky and fellow GB teammate Bradley Wiggins.

Something which has angered me to no end has got to be the mantra that ‘Nothing but Gold is good enough’. After the first couple of days of having no Gold medals, we constantly heard about it from the BBC commentators -when will our first Gold medal come? It didn’t matter that we had already got a bronze medal in men’s team gymnastics – something which hadn’t happened for 100 years. When the Gold’s started to come through, suddenly it didn’t matter so much about the other medals we were picking up. They were seen as an casual afterthought.

Not again I understand that the goal is to ultimately WIN and that’s what these athletes come here to do – but ultimately every athlete and team have a goal and an objective that they want to try and achieve. Ultimately though, goals and objectives sometimes have to be changed or re-thought.

I come to the main point of why I decided to write this post (or rather semi-rant) Rebecca Adlington – double Olympic Gold medalist at Beijing, who was fully expected to try and equal that again this time around. When Adlington qualified last for the final of the 400m freestyle despite winning her heat the BBC was then forced to backtrack claiming that it wasn’t her stongest forte. When she won the Bronze medal Adlington was ecsatic and so were we-obviously remembering the information the BBC had fed us. The commentators re-iterated that the 800m were still to come and we waited anxiously for tonight’s final. The BBC hyping it up as a two horse race between Adlington and Danish athlete Lotte Friis. Out of no where a 15 year-old US swimmer Katie Ledecky made a go for the gold – leading from the front pretty much from the outset, swimming under world record pace for the majority of the swim and Adlington just couldn’t catch her up, ultimately winning Bronze for Great Britain.

You could obviously see the frown on her face after the race had ended, possibly a sign of her frustration but ultimately she had won another Bronze medal at this Olympics – a great achievement!  However, this soon appeared on the dedicated  BBC Olympics page. The quite frankly disgusting headline of  ‘Adlington beaten by US teenager’ makes it sound like she achieved nothing in the final – frankly an extremely negative viewpoint. The BBC commentators were forced to apologise after the match in case their comments sounded ‘negative’ pointing out they were disappointed for her (something which is probably true). Even tonight’s BBC report questioned whether the expectation and pressure was too high, and Adlington even mentioned that herself after the race. This could perhaps be a wake up call to the media -a signal that putting full page pictures of athletes on newspapers, with headlines proclaiming their success, before the actual event, is too much pressure and perhaps causes a negative effect.

This Olympics so far is proving to be an extremely successful one: After Day 7 we are 4th in the table with 8 Gold medals, 6 Silver and 8 Bronze medals – a total haul of 22! We’re already up on this time last year and we still have a lot of events still to come to add to our success. The media need to remember, that this country is proud of every single athlete taking part in this Olympic games -our Olympic games! The support of the British crowd is phenomenal, and we need to see that when we do win a medal -whether that is a Gold, Silver or Bronze it is a medal to be proud of and not something to be ‘disappointed with’!

Rachel

“I am proud to get a bronze, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. I hate it when people say it is losing because you have not done my sport. Swimming is one of the hardest events to get a medal at. It’s not like other sports. Hopefully the public will be proud of me getting that bronze.” Rebecca Adlington, Double Bronze Medalist at London 2012 Olympics

Cup Cake Monsters

So I spent my Saturday afternoon attempting to make these Cookie Monster and Elmo cup cakes.

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They went reasonably well (make your own decision when you a) see the recipe photo b) attempt to make them yourself). However there are a couple of Top Tips I’d like to mention for anyone who is going to pursue this challenge. Follow this link to the recipe, then read below for some tips which will make your baking better.

http://www.mychocolate.co.uk/2011/02/cookie-monster-cupcakes/

Top Tips.

1) DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT, follow the butter icing measurement guide. You will literally need about a fifth of what they suggest. I have two bowls of butter icing left over… I cant even imagine what they used it on.

2) I didn’t wait 2 hours for the coconut to dry (mainly because I am impatient) but it didn’t affect my cakes. I just left them in the bowl I coloured them in and then spooned it onto my cakes after.

3) For anyone who doesn’t like coconut, I found chocolate sprinkles worked the same (but you obviously can’t colour them so you have to have brown monsters).

4) Use white chocolate buttons for the eyes instead of more butter icing.

5) Make sure your cakes are BIG, they need to rise a lot so that it’s easy to get the cookies in.
I hope these tips make your baking experience easier! Aprons on, Ready, Steady, BAKE!

Kat