Saturday, 31 October 2015

30 Day Horror Film Challenge

30 days of horror films

It's Halloween! In honour of the occasion I took on the 30 Day Horror Film Challenge - here are the results, handily condensed into a single blog post.

1. First Horror Film You Saw
The Tommyknockers
The TommyKnockers, 1993. The 'tommyknockers' chant still creeps me out. Watch it on YouTube HERE.

2. Last Horror Film You Saw
Johnny Depp in From Hell
From Hell, 2001. It wasn't very good, but it did have Johnny Depp looking like this which was, I felt, suitable recompense. 

 3. Favourite Homegrown Horror
The Dark 2005 film
The Dark, 2005. Okay, it wasn't actually made in Wales - but it is set here. It didn't get great reviews, but I really enjoyed it all the same.

4. Favourite Foreign Language Horror Film
The Orphanage / El Orfanto
The Orphanage, 2007. Creepy and weepy.

5. Favourite Horror Sequel
Halloween III Series of the Witch
Halloween III: Season of the Witch, 1982. This film has little to nothing in common with any other in the Halloween franchise - and it's all the better for it.

6. Favourite Zombie Film
White Zombie
White Zombie, 1932. Bela Lugosi creates his own army of the undead, using his evil voodoo powers. It's the original and (arguably) best zombie film. Watch it on YouTube HERE.

7. Favourite Horror Franchise
Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street
Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984 - 2010. It's not the 'best' franchise by any stretch, but it's always good fun. Well, until you hit Freddy vs. Jason, at any rate.

8. Favourite Anthology Film
Asylum 1972 film
Asylum, 1972. I love anthology films, they should make more of them. Asylum edges it's way to the top of the list by containing 'Mannikins of Horror', a story which played on my once young and impressionable mind for weeks. Watch it on YouTube HERE.

9. Favourite Horror Actor
Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and Christopher Lee
It's a three way tie between these fine gentlemen: Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, and Christopher Lee.

10. Favourite Horror Actress
Gloria Holden in Dracula's Daughter
Gloria Holden, pictured here in the awesome 1936 Dracula's Daughter.

11. Favourite Horror Film of the 1910s
Theda Bara
A Fool There Was, 1915. Theda Bara was the original movie 'vamp' and, while it might not be of the bloodsucking kind, she still manages to send her beau to the grave. Watch on YouTube HERE.

12. Favourite Horror Film of the 1920s
Korkarlen special effects
Korkarlen, 1921. Known as The Phantom Carriage in English, this Swedish masterpiece really showcases what 1920s cinema was capable of. Just check out that ghost effect! Watch it on YouTube HERE.

13. Favourite Horror Film of the 1930s
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 1936. Tod Slaughter doing what he does best. You can watch it on YouTube HERE.

14. Favourite Horror Film of the 1940s
Dead of Night
Dead of Night, 1945. Horror film production was banned in Britain during WW2, but this anthology film is a fitting comeback. 

15. Favourite Horror Film of the 1950s
Night of the Demon
Night of the Demon, 1957. It's a classic for a reason.

16. Favourite Horror Film of the 1960s
Hammer Horror The Witches
The Witches, 1966. I love this Hammer Horror which even features a guest appearance from Sindy doll's boyfriend, Paul.

17. Favourite Horror Film of the 1970s
The Exorcist levitation scene
The Exorcist, 1973. The spider walk!

18. Favourite Horror Film of the 1980s
The Poltergeist gif
Poltergeist, 1982. Kids today will never understand the terror of the TV static.

19. Favourite Horror Film of the 1990s
Audition - 1999 Japanese horror film
Audition, 1999. Weird isn't the word.

20. Favourite Horror Film of the 2000s
The Hole
The Hole, 2001. I really liked the twist in the tale in this one. It's also great for pointing at the screen and going 'isn't that what's their name off what's it called?' Watch it on YouTube HERE.

 21. Favourite Horror Film of the 2010s
The Woman in Black
The Woman in Black, 2012. It had so many of my favourite horror film elements.

 22. Favourite Remake
The Amityville Horror house
The Amityville Horror, 2005.

23. Favourite Slasher
Fright 1971 British horror film
Fright, 1971. Really a proto-slasher, but still manages to be one of the better examples of the genre. Watch it on YouTube HERE.

24. Worst Horror Film
I Spit On Your Grave
I Spit On Your Grave, 1978. There are many, many, many bad horror films out there. Few come anywhere close to the awfulness that is I Spit On Your Grave.

25. Favourite Vampire Film
Let The Right One In
Let the Right One In, 2008. Swedish horror romance.

26. Favourite Horror Comedy
Shaun of the Dead
Shaun of the Dead, 2004. So many references for the horror nerd to uncover.

27. Most Gruesome Horror Film
Final Destination 3
Final Destination 3, 2006. This is really subjective because the film is only rated 15 but... it's the only horror film that's ever made me consider getting up and walking out of the cinema. The scene with the tanning bed made me feel so sick. I stayed put though, because my younger brother - who wasn't even legally old enough to be in the showing - was sat a few rows in front of me with his friends. My horror film street cred would have been trampled into the dust!

28. Horror Film You Wish More People Had Seen
Rawhead Rex
Rawhead Rex, 1986. Don't be put off by the low budget monster; it doesn't feature for long and the rest of the film is a forgotten gem.

29. Favourite Horror Film Based on a Book
The Innocents
The Innocents, 1961. Brilliant movie based on Henry James' 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw. Watch it on YouTube HERE.

30. All time Favourite Horror Film
The Ring - gif of Samara walking towards viewer
The Ring, 2002. Other films are better, it's true, but nothing has ever given me as many sleepless nights as Samara / Sadako climbing out of that well.

What's your favourite scary movie?

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Friday, 30 October 2015

Take a Break's Fate & Fortune

Marianna and I are in the latest issue of Take a Break's Fate & Fortune magazine. I actually submitted the story months ago as part of my quest to try and make some extra cash via the women's weeklies (read more HERE) and they got back to me to say they would probably use it as a letter at some point this year. Today I got an email to say it was going to be in the December issue of Fate & Fortune so I sent Anthony out to buy a copy.

It's actually a picture of my mum with my nan, but you know...

Sadly, even with a title like 'Spirit nan saved my baby', we didn't win star letter so no cash prize. Still, it's pretty cool to be in a national magazine. I'm going to stick the clipping into Marianna's baby book for when she's older. :)

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In the Press

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Mini Mart: Rabbit Engineering

Commodore PET 2001N.
Supplier: Rabbit Engineering
Website: Etsy store. Website. Facebook. Twitter.

Products: The store's slogan is 'doing retro right' and it's not just talk. They make tabletop arcade machines and, via the wonders of 3D printing, Rabbit Engineering also offers miniature games consoles, ranging from the Xbox 360 Slim to the Hewlett-Packard HP85. I was really excited to find someone making miniature UK consoles like the Sinclair and ended up ordering three items.

My photos show that the scale differs between items so you need to read the listings carefully and make your own calculations. They're not as detailed as, say, the Yujin mass produced 1/6 scale consoles, but for the price the quality is really good.

Nintendo Gameboy Colour - c. 1/4 scale.

Post and Packing: I ordered on September 16th and my order arrived today (manufacture time is listed as 8 - 9 weeks) in a bubble wrap envelope, with each piece in a zip lock bag with an information sheet about the release date / specs / etc of the computer. Postage cost me £6 from the USA.

ZX Spectrum with a copy of The Hobbit - pictured here with a Re-ment television and various pieces from the Yujin Nintendo History series.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

10 Tips for Tackling Christmas on a Shoestring

Christmas on a Budget

I know, I know, it's not even Halloween yet. But. There are only 57 days until Christmas and it's never too early to start preparing... Here are my top ten tips for getting ready for Christmas when your budget is next to nothing.

10. Don't Panic!

It can feel like a bit of a nightmare, with Christmas looming closer and closer, and your bank balance sinking lower and lower. Panic will only make things ten times worse. Tell yourself everything will work out okay. (Alternatively, draw a little doodle of Santa meeting with a violent accident. It will help with the stress levels.)

9. Enter Competitions

You've got to be in it to win it because competitions can really ease the burden of the Christmas shopping. They might not provide you with the 'main' presents, but smaller value items like DVDs, books, toiletries, chocolates, etc, are fairly easy to win and still represent a big saving on all those 'little extras' you end up buying. I comp all year round but in the run up to Christmas there will be thousands upon thousands of prizes up for grabs - click HERE for my guide to getting started.

Me (looking down) as a Christmas angel many moons ago.

8. Nearly New

Don't be afraid to buy second hand. Ebay is full of unwanted gifts, unworn clothes, and unused impulse buys. Lightly used DVDs, computer games, and electronics also abound. Freeads, freecycle, local selling groups (just search Facebook) and even the humble car boot sale can be great ways of sourcing things like bikes and bigger items like doll houses or play kitchens. The savings can be huge and the difference to their brand new counterpart negligible.

7. No Present Agreements

This won't work for everyone, but you might be able to come to no present agreements with some of the people you habitually swap gifts with. My brother and I have a longstanding no present pact, along with another that we pool our resources to buy for our parents. It saves money and halves the stress of finding the perfect present. If you don't want to just straight out ask someone, try bringing it up as a suggestion you read in a magazine and ask your friend / relation / parakeet's opinion of the idea.

Wise owl says it's always a good idea to keep an emergency 'catch all' present (chocolates are always a safe bet) on hand in case someone doesn't stick to the pact.

6. Bargain Hunting

It's so obvious it's painful, but bear with me. There are sales, and offers, and discount stores on the high street which can help you stock up on everything from food, to decorations, to electronics. Then there are the online marketplaces. One of my fave ways to find stocking fillers is to use eBay's advanced search for super cheap items. With a bit of perseverance - and perhaps turning off email notifications for a few days - you can pick up ties, costume jewellery, craft items, nail varnish, and similar items for under 10p a piece, all with free shipping from the Far East. For inspiration, click HERE to see the haul I accumulated a few months back for 22p.

5. Manage Expectations

Let's face it, you're not getting away with a no present pact with the kids. What you can do is try to manage their expectations. Get them to write a 'want, need, wear, read' list, swapping out the categories as appropriate, and so making everything else you're able to get on top is a bonus. When it comes to fellow adults, just be honest and say that things are tight this year.

4. Presentation is Everything

They say we eat with our eyes, and I say we get half the excitement of a present before we ever touch the wrapping paper. By taking a little more time with the presentation you can turn a poundland box of chocs into something your recipient will ooh and ahh over. In this YouTube is your ally; it's full of tutorials for making bows, tying ribbons, and wrapping like a pro. For younger kids, my top presentation tip is to wrap everything. Literally. School socks, a 10p mini pack of sweets, and a huge box full of tissue paper and a balloon are all super exciting when there is wrapping paper to be torn off and strewn all over the carpet.

3. Focus on Food

The temptation at Christmas is to massively overspend on food - even on things nobody particularly likes. (80% of the chocolates in the Christmas tin, I'm looking at you.) Really think about what your family likes and cherry pick accordingly. Try and spread the cost over every weekly shop, and do your best to find some room in the freezer so you can stock up early. Make use of any rewards schemes your supermarket is running, and remember that you really don't need to have twelve different kinds of desert on offer. Anthony's top tip is not to worry about buying cheap booze; after the third drink none of your guests will care anyway...

What do you get the person who has everything? Let me introduce you to the jar of nothing. Attach a label reading something like 'I searched high and low and finally found your dream gift!'

2. Freebies

If you're not having any luck winning your Christmas presents, don't despair. Check out freebies sites like freebiesiteukmagicfreebiesuk and freebiersclub to start building a stash of samples and promotional merchandise. With a bit of imagination these can then be turned into nice little gifts. Samples of tea, coffee and hot chocolate can be combined with a mug, a teaspoon and some fancy tissue paper, ribbon and cellophane. Complete with a printable label imploring the recipient to 'make time for tea' or similar. Free packets of seeds can be teamed with a plant pot as a 'growing pack' for kids, while cosmetics samples and sweets / edibles can be used to form a mini pamper hamper. Remember, it's all about the presentation.

1. Homemade

It all depends how creative you're feeling. You can make your own soap, cookies, cakes and chocolates. (We're doing fudge this year. Yum.) You can up-cycle empty jars into snow globes (or snow globe cookie jars), tubs of baby food into funky caddies, plain tiles into personalised coasters, old sweaters into tote bags, a whole host of things into fridge magnets, etc, etc, etc. Get the kids to help you make your own Christmas cards, as well as your own gift bags and wrapping paper. If that all sounds like too much, there are still some really simple gift ideas you can make yourself. Put together your own gift hampers from all your free and almost free finds, with the help of tissue paper and patterned cellophane. Or create your own super simple reindeer hot chocolate cone.

The possibilities are endless!

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Family Life

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Giveaway: Baby Bundle

"What Do I Do While You're Pregnant?" That's the question Kenny Bodanis of, one of Canada's top parenting blogs, asked when his wife fell pregnant with their eldest. The book is an honest, engaging - and entertaining! - look at what it means to be a dad-to-be in the 21st century.

I recently won a second copy of the book so figured I'd forward the love and host my own giveaway. It couldn't hurt to throw in a few extras, I thought. So here is what is actually up for grabs:

Contents - Paperback copy of 'What Do I Do While You're Pregnant?', crochet bookmark, 2x tubs of Mum Kind soothing ginger and chamomile lozenges, a little tub of cocoa butter, a bar of Johnson's baby soap, a white baby hat with stars from George at Asda, a funky Marimekko newborn long sleeved vest, two non-branded short sleeved vests (0-3 months), baby coat hangers, and an adorable little elephant comfort blanket. In short, a little something for everyone! (Mum, Dad, and Baby at any rate...)

You can get up to four entries by filling out the Gleam widget below:

This giveaway has now ended.

Monday, 26 October 2015

5 Inspirational Quotes

Sometimes Monday morning puts us in need of a little extra motivation. Here are five quotes to help you face the day ahead -

For more inspirational quotes, check out my Pinterest board on the subject.

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