TUESDAY'S 10: 10 Favourite Christmas Movies


Found on thelovecats

Found on thelovecats

My efforts to ward off, postpone or simply avoid the first of December have been futile and so I am reluctantly succumbing to the fact that Christmas is indeed upon us! 

Usually I am the biggest festive fiend around and can’t wait to start getting the decorations out, watching Christmas movies, making and writing cards, wrapping thoughtful gifts, having friends over, crafting, creating, baking and simply enjoying all the festivities that the silly season brings…

However, this year it has taken me by surprise and I find myself completely unprepared (and slightly overwhelmed/reluctant)! Relocating, setting up a new home, helping the girls to settle into a new school and kindergarten, both of us starting new jobs, trying to meet people and make connections, a very sad loss in the family as well as simply trying not to get lost on a daily basis has consumed the past month. So this is my first attempt at embracing the festive season, by recommending some lovely movies for you to enjoy.

December here in the Southern Hemisphere isn’t quite the same, with long, hot, sunny days and Christmas lights that seem almost superfluous for the few hours they are actually visible. But I still like to curl up on the sofa when it does get dark and enjoy the warm, fuzzy, festive glow you get from watching a predictable but feel-good Christmas movie. (Or embrace my inner child on the occasional cloudy afternoon by snuggling up with the girls to watch one of their choosing.) Put your feet up, relax with a hot drink or glass of wine and switch off from the stress and pressure that December can bring - you know you want to. (Perhaps I am allowing/urging myself to do the same!) 

Love Holly x

Movie covers from imdb.com

Movie covers from imdb.com

  1. The Holiday (2006 - Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black) 
  2. Love Actually (2003 - Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth etc.)
  3. The Family Stone (2005 - Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton etc.)
  4. It's A Wonderful Life (1946 - James Stewart, Donna Reed)
  5. Holiday Inn (1942 - Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire)
  6. Miracle on 34th Street (1994 - Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins)
  7. Four Christmases (2008 - Reese Witherspoon, Vince Vaughn)
  8. Santa Claus The Movie (1985 - Dudley Moore, John Lithgow)
  9. How The Grinch Stole Christmas  (2000 - Jim Carrey)
  10. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992 - Michael Caine)

And one extra that's a very special short movie I enjoyed with my siblings as a child (I even had the soft toy snowman and boardgame) and have enjoyed for the past few years with our girls, who also love it...

The Snowman (1982 - David Bowie)

 

 

TUESDAY'S 10: 10 Perfect Pastel Pinks


My favourite colour combination... Pastel pink, gold and cream/white. This soft, grown-up girly colour scheme is lovely for clothes, accessories and home decor. Here are ten current items from my everyday life that make my day just that little bit rosier (clockwork from left):

  1. Oversized PJ's - Kmart (A great bargain to fit over the huge leg cast I'm still sporting!)
  2. Pink & Gold Pen - The Langham Hotel, Auckland (A lovely token from a happy visit)
  3. Chanel Lipgloss Nr 347 - Chanel (Every handbag deserves a little glamour)
  4. Storage Container - Freedom (The perfect little pot for my green tea bags)
  5. Pink & Gold Charms - Pandora (Years of saving for my favourite piece of jewellery)
  6. Phone Cover - Goospery (Plain, simple, functional and perfectly pastel pink)
  7. Ice Glam Pastel Silicone Watch - Ice (The perfect watch for summer)
  8. Butterfly Hairclip - eQUIP (Part of a 1920's costume that became a regular accesory)
  9. Long Brooch/Hatpin - Vintage (A lovely gift from my godmother over 15 years ago) 
  10. Leather Notebook - Aspinal of London (Fits in my handbag and so nice to write in)

What is your favourite colour combination? Have you seen any products out there you think I'd love? Feel free to point me in the right direction!

Love Holly x

TUESDAY'S 10: 10 Lovely Movies With a Lot of Heart


10 Lovely Movies - images from imdb

10 Lovely Movies - images from imdb

I love good movies! I have been lucky enough to have seen some truly wonderful ones in my lifetime that have inspired me, moved me, touched my heart, uplifted me when I needed it, made me cry or made me laugh out loud. On the flip-side I have also had to sit through and endure some absolutely disastrous excuses for filmmaking. There are a lot of hours I'll never get back, but hey, I learned a lesson and am able to be a lot more discerning about what I will and will not watch nowadays, especially at the cinema. We have a 20 minute rule now for new movies we get and if we're not engaged by then, we vote with the remote. If you're watching a good movie, even a fairly slow moving one, you'll be into it by that point! 

From the time we moved to Austria when I was nine years old, we didn't have an actual working TV. We had a VHS player and a stack of videos that we would watch over and over again - everything from Star Wars, Back to the Future and Indiana Jones to Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz and Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang to My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music and Pride & Prejudice. We saw them all so many times that we'd memorised the lines, recreated the scenes and ended up becoming a lot more interested in what was involved behind the scenes. 

Some childhood favourites - images from imdb

Some childhood favourites - images from imdb

I studied Film, Photography & Drama at University and then spent three months in L.A. which intensified my appreciation for the whole movie making experience and all of the different elements that go into producing a picture. I've been on several sets and have assisted behind the scenes, which I found truly fascinating. I love the costumes, the intricate sets, interesting lighting, clever cinematography, well thought out dialogue and the use of colour that goes into setting the tone for a movie. Some of my biggest role models, both male and female, are actors - not just because of their movie making choices and the effect these films can have on people's lives, but also for the good that they are able to do in the world with the status they have earned. In another lifetime I always dreamed of being an actress or otherwise a production designer just to work in the film industry... Never say never.

Here are 10 LOVELY MOVIES I'd happily recommend you watch either with your partner, a great girly friend or even on your own. All of them have a lot of heart, some are true stories and one or two might even make you cry ;) Enjoy!  

10 Lovely Movies - images from imdb

10 Lovely Movies - images from imdb

  1. Saving Mr. Banks (2013 - Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks)
  2. The Help (2011 - Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer)
  3. Woman in Gold (2015 - Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds)
  4. The Blind Side (2009 - Sandra Bullock, Quentin Aaron)
  5. Julie & Julia (2009 - Meryl Streep, Amy Adams)
  6. Miss Potter (2006 - Renée Zellweger, Eway McGregor)
  7. Belle (2013 - Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson)
  8. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008 - Frances McDormand, Amy Adams)
  9. The Hundred Foot Journey (2014 - Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal)
  10. The Theory of Everything (2014 - Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Prior)

To be followed with 10 More Lovely Movies...

Happy Viewing,

Love Holly x

QUESTION: What is your all time favourite movie & why? Do you have any lovely movie suggestions you'd recommend I see? Word of mouth is always a good bet. Thanks! x

TUESDAY'S 10: Lists of 10 Favourite Children's Books


We read a LOT of children's books... We have done since the girls were babies and it has been a thoroughly enjoyable journey of discovery. We have bought and been given lots of lovely books, scoured other families' bookshelves for ideas, spent hours at the library with the girls and are always on the lookout for brilliant new stories to add to the collection. We have come across some absolutely dreadful stories and very poorly written books over the years, but have also found some definite favourites and wonderful treasures that we have in turn passed on to others. In honour of International Literacy Day we wanted to share them with you today...

 Before getting started though, if I could give new parents only one tip, it would be this:

READ, READ, READ TO YOUR CHILDREN!!

(Allowing myself a follow up tip I would highly recommend you read any children's books first that you are considering buying. Trust me on this one, you will be reading the same stories over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again for years to come, so it really does pay to find ones that you enjoy and approve of!)

Nothing quite compares to the quality bonding that you get from reading to your children, sharing great stories, looking through books together, discovering and revisiting well-loved characters and supporting them on their literary journey. By reading aloud, using interesting voices and engaging your children in the storytelling experience, you are not only helping them with their language, vocabulary, speech, pronunciation and reading skills but you are also feeding their minds, fuelling their imagination and instilling them with a joy for books and a love of reading that will last them a lifetime...

The library - where little Matilda started her reading journey - is always a fantastic place for discovering new books as you can usually let your children choose a pile each to bring home. You will soon figure out what you and your family enjoy and the more you read, the easier it becomes to quickly find decent material. For some inspiration though, the girls and I have spent some time putting together a few recommendation lists for you - as you can see we have way too many books for them to just choose 10 favourites, so we thought we'd give you a few categories that will help get you started! 

Ten Favourite Board Books:

Ever since the girls were babies we've always had a basket of board books on the floor where they could reach them. Some would get chewed, some got ripped and some we've outgrown but here are ten that we've had for years and still enjoy. I could tell you a story about each - there are countless memories wrapped up in all of them - but for now I'll just leave you with the pictures. They've survived car journeys, airplanes, being stacked into towers, spread across the floor and just countless hours of young children flipping over the pages - board books really are brilliant and I can't recommend them highly enough!! 

  1. Rainbow Rob - Jo Ryan & Simon Mugford (Priddy Books)
  2. Each Peach Pear Plum - Janet & Allan Ahlberg
  3. How Do I Love You? - Marion Dane Bauer
  4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle
  5. Room on the Broom - Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler (UK edition)
  6. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy - Lynley Dodd
  7. The Gruffalo - Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler
  8. Dear Zoo - Rod Campbell
  9. Where is the Green Sheep? - Mem Fox
  10. No Matter What - Debi Gliori

Ten Favourite Picture Books:

As above, each of these books could tell a story - I know exactly who gave us each one or where we discovered them and they have all provided hours and hours worth of quality story time. Brilliant stories, lyrical rhyming texts, great illustrations and ones that the girls choose time and again. ("What am I? asked Butterfly" came from Chester Zoo near where we used to live and was the very first book Arabella learned to read all by herself!)

  1. Shoe Baby - Joyce Dunbar, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
  2. Fatty Cat - Simon B. Montgomery, illustrated by Alexandra Colombo
  3. What Does Daddy Do? - Rachel Bright
  4. Baby Brains - Simon James
  5. Biscuit Bear - Mini Grey
  6. What am I? asked Butterfly - Stuart Trotter
  7. Madison Moon and the hot air balloon - Chris Gurney, illustrated by Catherine Foreman
  8. Bumpus Jumpus Dinosaurumpus - Tony Mitten, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees
  9. The Big Yawn - Monika Spang, illustrated by Sonja Bougaeva
  10. Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo - E.S. Redmond 

Ten Favourite Books from NZ:

Had we not moved to NZ, we'd have missed out on discovering some of the books that have become our absolute favourites! We have sent Marmaduke Duck & Piggity-Wiggity all over the world and the Cork books are so lovely that we've even given them as wedding and Christmas gifts to adult friends. There is actually a whole series of Piggity-Wiggity books that we've had from the library and will be buying whenever we find them.

  1. Marmaduke Duck and the Marmalade Jam (1st book) - Juliette MacIver, illust. Sarah Davis
  2. Marmaduke Duck on the Wide Open Seas(3rd book) - Juliette MacIver, illust. Sarah Davis
  3. Marmaduke Duck and Bernadette Bear (2nd book) - Juliette MacIver, illust. Sarah Davis
  4. Down in the Forest - Yvonne Morrison, illustrated by Jenny Cooper
  5. The Wheels on the Bus - illustrated by Donavon Bixley
  6. Two Little Pirates - Ruth Paul 
  7. Piggity-Wiggity Jiggity Jig - Diana Neild, illustrated by Philip Webb
  8. Cork on the Ocean - Mark Somerset, illustrated by Rowan
  9. Cork and the Bottle - Mark Somerset, illustrated by Rowan
  10. The Song of the Ship Rat - Ben Brown, illustrated by Helen Taylor

Ten Favourite Books about Friendship & Kindness:

Here are some lovely books that are a joy to read and are all about kindness, sharing, friendship and making a difference. There are hundreds of books out there that deal with similar topics I'm sure, but of the ones we have, these are the girls' favourites.

  1. Arabella Miller's Tiny Caterpillar - Clare Jarrett
  2. Night Monkey, Day Monkey - Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Lucy Richards
  3. Betty and the Yeti - Ella Burfoot
  4. My Friend Bear - Jez Alborough
  5. The Chimpanzees of Happy Town - Giles Andrae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees
  6. Sharing a Shell - Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Lydia Monks
  7. Frog on the Log - Leyland Perree, illustrated by Joelle Dreidemy
  8. The Snail and the Whale - Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
  9. Hamilton's Hats - Martine Oborne, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
  10. The Lion Who Wanted to Love - Giles Andrae, illustrated by David Wojtowycz 

Ten Books that are just Lovely!

Here are ten books that are simply lovely. Either stories of love and heartwarming animal friendships and/or simply beautiful illustrations that will be a pleasure looking through again and again.

  1. Can I Cuddle the Moon? - Kerry Brown, illustrated by Lisa Stewart 
  2. Sleepy time Stories - Sam Taplin & Francesca di Chiara
  3. How Do I Love You? - Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by C.J. Church
  4. If Kisses Were Colours - Alison Jay
  5. Guess How Much I Love You? - Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram
  6. Alice in Wonderland - J. Rhatigan & C. Nurnberg, illustrated by Eric Puybaret
  7. No Matter What - Debi Gliori (2005 UK edition)
  8. Possum Magic - Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas
  9. Dear Bunny, A Bunny Love Story - Michaela Morgan, illustrated by C.J. Church
  10. The Tail of the Whale - Ellie Patterson, illustrated by Christine Pym

Ten Classic Books I am looking forward to reading with our children:

As well as the popular children's books mentioned in my favourite authors post, all of the classic fairy tales and fables and the obvious things like Harry Potter, here are some outstanding books I look forward to reading with the girls as they get a bit older:

  1. Charlotte's Webb - E.B. White (1952)
  2. Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren (1945)
  3. A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett (1905)
  4. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)
  5. The Velveteen Rabbit - Margery Williams (1922)
  6. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (1908)
  7. The Narnia Series - C.S. Lewis (1950)
  8. Mary Poppins - P.L. Travers (1934)
  9. Heidi - Johanna Spyri (1881)
  10. The Just So Stories - Rudyard Kipling (1902)

I hope this post has inspired you to switch off your phones, scour your bookshelves or head to the local library with your children and encourage a love of reading. They will thank you for it one day!  

For a list of our 10 Favourite Children's authors and book collections click here... 

For Roald Dahl's amusing take on just why you should choose books over TV, see here...

Happy Reading,

Love Holly x

QUESTION: What are some stories that have become part of your lives? Which books are your personal favourites? As you know I love recommendations so please feel free to comment and let me know what we should be reading next! x

 

 

Annual Cheesecake Festival @ Smith & McKenzie, Hamilton


Smith & McKenzie Cheesecake Festival

Smith & McKenzie Cheesecake Festival

I love the fact that the now legendary annual Cheesecake Festival at Smith & McKenzie originally started out as a bit of a joke... Sitting round trying to come up with ways of doing something to support and give back to the local community whilst simultaneously promoting their venue, somebody who'd spent time in America suggested a Cheesecake Festival. Originally laughed at as something that wouldn't take off, they decided to explore the idea, got some local schools and community groups on board and now, in its sixth year since launching in 2010, it has become their most successful annual event!    

Every year the participants are sent out a letter with the basic idea, general guidelines to follow and a few suggestions to help them in creating their cheesecakes. Each school or community group then generally submits 2 entries and these are judged by the chefs and staff at S&M to ensure that there is variety across the board. Once the selection has been decided on they are made continuously throughout August, displayed in the glass cabinet at the entrance way to the restaurant and available to purchase by the slice.

A Visual Feast!

A Visual Feast!

$1 from every slice sold gets donated back to the school or organisation that created it and everybody gets a glass voting bead with their selection to vote for their favourite. At the end of the festival, these votes are combined with the top sales per cheesecake to determine the winner. The winner of the most sales and votes gets either a $500 book voucher or bar tab at S&M. The top two cheesecakes are then featured on the Smith & McKenzie dessert menu for the whole next year! A pretty cool idea.

Sampling the Lemon, Coconut & Passionfruit cheesecake and Hukanui's White Chocolate, Caramel & Smarties cheesecake

Sampling the Lemon, Coconut & Passionfruit cheesecake and Hukanui's White Chocolate, Caramel & Smarties cheesecake

The school kids and community groups who've created the cheesecakes love the fact that people are sampling their creations, every child from each competing school gets a free cheesecake voucher to come and enjoy a slice with their family and at the end of the day, who doesn't love cheesecake?! This year there are 10 entrants and some really interesting creations:

  • Lemon, Coconut & Passionfruit - St. Joseph's School
  • White Chocolate, Caramel & Smarties - Hukanui School
  • Toffee Apple - Rototuna School
  • Salted Macadamia & Caramel - Woodstock School
  • Jaffa - Te Totara School
  • Baked Red Velvet - Gordonton School
  • Affogato - Wanderers Football
  • Piña Colada - Rototuna Rebels
  • Chilli Chocolate - Chartwell Volunteer Firefighters
  • Dark Chocolate & Raspberry - Star Jam      
10 delicious cheesecakes to try... 

10 delicious cheesecakes to try... 

Last year they got through 1500 slices of cheesecake and this year they are hoping to hit 2000. So I encourage all of you to pop on down to Smith & McKenzie, sample a slice and support your local schools and community groups. They are available all day and the lovely staff will happily help you choose if you can't decide, they all love the Cheesecake Festival as much as the diners do, because they know it is for a great cause and they are giving back to their community. Even some of the suppliers get on board sponsoring the event and they couldn't do it without Tatua, Bidvest & Gilmoures. And in case you need one last bit of persuasion, each slice bought also comes with an entry form to win a whole cheesecake - one given away each week!

Now if someone would just come up with an annual crumble festival, I'd be in double heaven...

Thank you Smith & McKenzie for such a fabulous, fun festival and wishing all of the schools and organisations Good Luck!!

Love Holly x 

www.smithandmckenzie.co.nz

Wentworth Wooden Puzzles


Peter Pan & Cinderella Wentworth jigsaws

Peter Pan & Cinderella Wentworth jigsaws

As you will soon discover as this blog grows, I absolutely love things that are a bit unique, different, creative, lovingly handcrafted or well made by small individual companies. I also love it when these things come as thoughtfully selected surprise treasures that someone else has found for me. So when we opened these jigsaws last Christmas morning, I was absolutely delighted and extremely impressed! I have loved doing jigsaws since I was a little girl and these are the best ones I've ever seen - that is saying something! They are precision laser cut pieces that are all different irregular shapes, with the added feature of having a series of "whimsy" pieces that suit each jigsaw - which the girls unsurprisingly loved picking out. I knew they would no doubt become firm favourites in our house...

Nautical shaped pieces for Peter Pan and storybook pieces for Cinderella

Nautical shaped pieces for Peter Pan and storybook pieces for Cinderella

These two jigsaws were bought for us by Simon's Mum, who got them as a set of 4. We received two and his brother's family (also 2 gorgeous girls) got the others. They came with one pre-cut board, but she very cleverly had her neighbour make a matching one so that there would be no arguments and the girls could do them at the same time - what a resourceful and fabulously thoughtful Grandma!

Hard at work concentrating, with their whimsy pieces neatly piled up ready to put in last

Hard at work concentrating, with their whimsy pieces neatly piled up ready to put in last

In the time we've had these we've done them countless times and the girls are doing them again now as I type - I'm sure we will enjoy them for years to come. We'd love to get some more, so perhaps we shall drop a little hint to Grandma to send the other two for Christmas this year... I have been on the Wentworth website and they have a whole series of gorgeous ones that would make perfect gifts if you are looking for something that is great quality, timeless, fun to do for all ages and just a little bit different.

Have you seen these before? Do you have any surprisingly lovely gift ideas you'd recommend?

Happy puzzling,

Love Holly x