The World in Union: #RWC2019 Japan

The 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off today in Tokyo, as hosts Japan take on Pool A rivals Russia. This is a completely new territory for the Rugby World Cup, and is the first time a World Cup has been hosted by a country other than one of the Tier 1 Nations. There is no doubt that the culture of Japan will bring a whole new dimension to the tournament, and it is going to be a cracker!

Legend has it that the game was invented by Rugby School student, William Webb Ellis, when he decided to pick up the ball during a regular football (soccer) game, thus inventing the egg-shaped ball game we all love today. The rest, as they say, is history.

The RWC represents the pinnacle of the international game, with the world’s elite players from twenty nations scrummaging it out to get their hands on the glorious Webb Ellis Cup.

This is the ninth tournament since it’s inception in 1987, and only four nations have ever won the coveted title: New Zealand (1987, 2011, 2015), Australia (1991, 1999), South Africa (1995, 2007), and England (2003).

Rugby has always been played in the spirit of unity, and taking this as its core theme, the tournament’s logo brings together the rising sun and Mt. Fuji with the World Rugby logo. The World in Union.

Over the next seven weeks #RWC2019 will be a global festival of rugby as we will be entertained by a total of 40 group stage games, and 8 knock-out games (quarter finals (played out by the top two teams of each of the four groups), the semi finals and bronze final) which includes the final showdown to be played on Saturday 2nd November at the Yokohama Stadium, Kanagawa.  In the UK, all 48 games will be available on ITV channels.

Here are your 2019 biscuit competitors:

Pool A

#JPN #RUS #SCO #IRE #SAM

Pool B

#NZL #RSA #ITA #NAM #CAN

Pool C

#ENG #ARG #FRA #TGA #USA

Pool D

#WAL #FJI #AUS #GEO #URU

May the best biscuit win!

#RWC2019 #Rugby #GingerBreadOfHeaven

OTD 20 July 1969: We came in peace for all mankind – An Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Party

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first ever Moon landing.   Last weekend, we celebrated this epic achievement at our annual Summer party.

But before we look back at the festivities, here is a short history of the missions’ genesis and its legacy…

 

We choose to go to the Moon

In 1962, President J. F. Kennedy gave NASA the mission to land men on the Moon and return them safely to Earth by the end of the decade.  The Americans were in the middle of a “Cold War” with the Soviet Union, and the pressure was on after the Russians launched Sputnik, the first satellite into orbit in 1957, and in 1961, launched Yuri Gagarin into space.

Kennedy’s Moon-shot challenge elevated the stakes of the Space Race, and the two countries were propelled forwards to become the first to reach the Moon.

 

We have a lift off!

On July 16th, 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 set-off aboard a behemoth rocket called the Saturn V (which stood 363 ft high, and had the power of a nuclear bomb), for their 3-day trip to the Moon.

 

The Eagle has landed

On July 20th, Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on another world, making history as his “one small step” off the lunar module represented a “giant leap for mankind”.  Buzz Aldrin joined him shortly afterwards, and the two of them collected Moon rock samples and carried out a number of scientific experiments.  After just a few hours on the Moon’s surface, Neil & Buzz returned to the Moon’s orbit to rendezvous with Mike Collins, who had stayed behind in the Command Module, Columbia.  The crew finally splashed down in the Pacific Ocean 3 days later, becoming global celebrities after approximately 650 million people globally tuned in to watch their epic achievement.

BUT

 

A collective effort

Whilst the astronauts themselves got all of the glory, the Moon landing would not have been possible without the support and hard work of over 400,000 other men and women who worked tirelessly to fulfil Kennedy’s ambitious goal.  These people included: NASA employees, scientists, engineers and software programmers, with some notable contributors including:

  • Gene Kranz  Flight Director
  • Katherine Johnson  Human Computer
  • Margaret Hamilton  Software engineer
  • Von Braun  Rocket scientist

 

The end of the Space Race

Only 5 more crewed missions went to the Moon after Apollo 11, and the last man to leave the Moon was Gene Cernan, in 1972 (Apollo 17).  Even though we haven’t been back to the Moon since then, we have continued to explore our Solar System and beyond, including:

  • We developed the re-usable Space Shuttle
  • People have been living on the ISS since the year 2000
  • The Voyager missions have now left our Solar System
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has given us incredible insight into the Universe
  • We have landed on a comet (67P)
  • We have sent many rovers to explore Mars

 

The legacy of Apollo

The legacy of the Moon landing continues to influence politics, science and pop culture to this day.  The Moon landing had arguably the most influence on the environmental movement and in the advancement of technology. 

The pictures of the Earth taken by Apollo 8 (“Earthrise”) & Apollo 17 (“Blue Marble”) highlighted the Earth’s fragility and true uniqueness, and it was said that “on the way to the Moon, we discovered the Earth”. 

The Apollo programme made micro-electronics more affordable, and led to the development of the pocket calculator and the smart devices we all use today.  Rich business-men have been inspired to create their own space companies, including:

  • Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder) – Blue Origin
  • Richard Branson (Virgin Atlantic) – Virgin Galactic
  • Elon Musk (PayPal founder) – SpaceX

 

Back to the Moon

NASA recently announced that it will be sending crewed flights to the Moon by 2024 and they will build a space station that will be the gateway for future missions to Mars. The new lunar programme is called, Artemis, the Greek God and Apollo’s sister.   I can’t even start to express how excited I am to be able to follow this next step in humanity’s space adventures.

 

Celebrating Apollo 11

 

As we celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Moon Landing, we had plenty to get our party started for the big five-oh this Summer, and had a blast with family and friends.  Here’s a brief “how-to”:

 

Welcome to Mission Control!

Our invitations were designed by Ollie and Lulu from Etsy, and we found some vintage US postage stamp for the envelopes.

 

Re-creating the Summer of ‘69

Reflecting the patriotism and national interests synonymous with the Space Race was an easy task, and involved adding plenty of the Star Spangled Banners around the house and garden.   We covered our dining room with a foil backdrop, representing the innovative new foils developed by NASA to withstand the extremes of space. Finally, it wouldn’t be an Apollo party without a life-size cut-out of the legend, Buzz Aldrin, and so we set one of these up next to the buffet table.

We also set up our 1969 Dansette Prince with some original Moon Landing vinyl and a Pana-Vue Automatic kitted out with an Apollo 11 commemorative slide deck to add some authenticity to the room. Thanks to Clare for the awesome blue orchids that looks fab in our MGM cocktail glasses and Diesel astronaut vase:)

 

We pulled together a Spotify “Apollo 11 50th Party” soundtrack mix, comprising of a selection of the songs actually played by the Apollo 11 crew on their 8 day mission to the Moon and a mixed genre of “moon-themed” tunes thrown in for good measure.

 

Retro snacks & hydration station

We served traditional American fare, including hot dogs, mac & cheese and pulled pork, and served pineapple and cheese sticks Sputnik style.  One of our friends was celebrating a birthday, and so we created a moon cake especially for the occasion.  For desert, we re-created the planting of the flag scene using Lego spacemen and edible Rice Krispie moon-rocks and served retro Tunnock teacakes and Milky Ways. As we were blessed with an unusually sunny day, we also offered classic Zoom lollies to our guests.

 

As those of you who have read my blog before will know, a party is not a party unless it involves a box of dry-ice (available from ChilliStick).  We set up a well-stocked and spaced themed “hydration station”, featuring Moon Shot gin (where its botanicals have actually travelled into space), Aviation Gin, Special Edition Kronenbourg 1664 and a selection of space worthy wines.

 

It was a pleasure to have another reason to use our amazing Libbey Apollo glasses which document the missions of Apollo 11, 12, 13 & 14.

 

Mission Log

Two of our lovely goddaughters did a fantastic job compiling a memory book for us, using a vintage-style FujiFilm Instax camera. It was so lovely to spend the afternoon with friends and family.

 

Inspiring the next generation of space scientists

We had a few kids coming along to the party, and we set up some activities to help keep them occupied during the day.  We made a “Shoot for the Moon” Corn-hole game using a panel left over from our new kitchen and gave everyone a book about space.  We also set up our trusted projector in the shed and showed the recent BBC documentary, “8 Days to the Moon”. 

 

Thank you all for coming and here is a small selection of the wonderfully thoughtful gifts we received.

 

What the Moon Landing means to me

 

I have always had an incredible passion for all things space. Whilst I will never be a scientist or an engineer, I still find it awe-inspiring to think about what so many men and women have achieved on our behalf over the past five decades.

We have had the pleasure to meet some amazing astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin, Chris Hadfield, the late Alan Bean and Bruce McCandless.   We use the term “legend” far too often these days, but these men are genuine legends, having put their lives on the line for the sake of discovery and progress.

 

We were also very lucky to visit the Kennedy Space Centre in 2012 just after the retirement of the Space Shuttle programme, and got to see the iconic, Discovery space craft being prepped in the magnificent Vehicle Assembly Building.  This was a total surprise to us, as the tour guide didn’t tell us the shuttle was at the VAB, and I could hardly contain myself when I caught a glimpse of NASA’s most dependable work-horse.

 

More recently we visited an exhibition of our very own Tim Peak’s space capsule and space suit, and Tim is doing some incredibly work to engage with the next generation of space engineers and astronauts.

 

We were also very proud to be able to contribute to the restoration of the historic Mission Control centre in Houston, which recently re-opened in time for the 50th anniversary celebrations. Without Mission Control, it is unlikely NASA would have landed on the Moon in 1969.

 

I can only hope that one day we will get the opportunity to see a live launch of a space rocket, which by all accounts is a sight to behold.  It would be fantastic to get to see NASA’s newest rocket, the SLS (Space Launch System), which will rival the majesty of the largest machine ever built by humans, the Saturn V.

 

It was very fitting that we experienced a partial lunar eclipse on the 16th July, exactly 50 years from the day Apollo 11 launched from Cape Canaveral and making us all gaze up and appreciate the splendour of our closest neighbour.

 

I hope that the new Artemis missions will serve to inspire a new generation to have a keen interest in science and space, in the same way that the Space Shuttle missions sparked my love of space, and the moon landing did for the generation before me.  Here’s to the next 50 years of space exploration!

Celebrating Reclamation Day: Fallout 76 Party

It’s been three years since our last Fallout party, and with the release of Fallout 76, it felt right to use Reclamation Day as an excuse to host another.

As I have mentioned on previous occasions, I am not a gamer myself, but there is something about the Fallout world that really appeals to me.  The aesthetics of the 1950’s retro-futurism, and the nostalgic easy listening soundtrack continues to draw me to the franchise, and it was exciting to have a new game to draw some inspiration from for our next re-creation.

Our decision was also fuelled by our visit in November, to the Bethesda Studios in concert event at the Hammersmith Apollo, London. The event (supporting the work of War Child) delivered an incredible performance of Bethesda’s most popular game soundtracks, including from Fallout and the Elder Scrolls, with some of these pieces conducted by the legendary games composer himself, Inon Zur.

It had certainly whetted our appetite for more Fallout.

War. War Never Changes: Introduction to Fallout 76 & Critical Reception

Fallout 76 is a prequel to the previous games, set only twenty five years after the “Great War” of 2077, during which a brief nuclear exchange gave birth to the post-apocalyptic wasteland that gamers are now very familiar with.  Earlier iterations were set much later in the alternate-reality timeline, with Fallout 4 set in 2289, some 185 years after the bombs fell. Fallout 76, as a result, has a vivid and rich quality to it, in direct contrast to the decaying and muted colours of its predecessors.

The franchise has players assuming the role of a vault dweller (except, of course, in Fallout:New Vegas where the player is a courier rather than a vault dweller). Vault dwellers survived the initial fallout by taking refuge in one of the US’ many fallout shelters run by the sinister Vault-Tec corporation.  Vault-Tec were prolific in the art of jingo-ism, and the parallels to some of the rhetoric of the franchise is startlingly similar to that of the Trump administration we are witnessing today.

This time, players emerge from Vault 76 on Reclamation Day and into the vast lands of Appalachia (representing West Virginia), which is four times the size of the world of Fallout 4, with the main objective to re-colonise the wasteland.  This task is interrupted by a number of quests that result in the investigation, and ultimate neutralisation of a Scorchbeast hive, which threatens to thwart the primary goal.

(My selfie outside Vault 76)

Fallout 76 has been slammed across the gaming community since the BETA release in the Autumn, and Bethesda has had a challenge on its hands trying placate those who feel that this wonderful franchise has been compromised by bug infested game play, server issues and notable absence of NPCs.  Bethesda has also faced a number of controversies regarding the sale of the Power Armor special edition which helped fuel the criticism aimed at the studio (although I am pleased to report that, having ordered this special edition version, a replacement canvas bag can be expected over the next few months).

Whilst the move towards an online multiplayer RPG format promised a better playing experience, the reality of the technical issues has meant that the multiplayer function has succeeded only in creating an even more desolate world than the one the developers intended.  However, all that notwithstanding, there is significant promise in the game, and the introduction of a more structured story arc, and some well developed NPCs in future patches would go a long way to redeem the franchise.

But enough of that, let’s get into the details of how we set out to organise the party!

Find Me There: Welcome to Vault 76!

To make the invitation, I used the original game text from the Fallout Wiki page, and customised it to fit our party details.

You can find the link here:

http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Letter_from_Vault-Tec

Wandering Appalachia: The Wasteland

Having now hosted quite a few Fallout parties (Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4) we have accumulated a good haul of Fallout merchandise (including a Pip Boy and carry case, Quantum bottle, New Vegas coaster and bottle caps), but this was the first time we have hosted a Fallout party at our new house which meant we needed to re-asses how we would plan the party.

The four giant West Virginia tourism posters, the Reclamation Day post card and the Vault-Boy masks were acquired these from the goodie bag we received at the Bethesda in Concert event in November. Such a good stash!

The T-51b Power Armor helmet was also a new addition, having been provided as part of the controversial Fallout 76 Special Edition.  It is pretty impressive – fully wearable with functioning head light and voice changer!

I also managed to find some inexpensive promotional bunting on eBay which looked great.

In the spirit of trying to avoid buying too much new stuff, I re-use our awesome LED strip lighting (changed from the white I recently used in my DS9 party to a radioactive yellow) and re-used the bottle labels for the Nuka Cola from last time.

Reclamation Day:  A birthday celebration

Whilst I wanted to use the traditional blue and yellow Fallout colours, I was keen to re-invigorate our previous styles and decided to add a touch of sparkle and iridescence to the mix.  The gold sequin table runner we had bought for Christmas was perfect for the occasion, as were the oil slick cutlery, both working well with the blue and yellow palette.

My trusted vintage pie dishes and drinking cans added some wabi-sabi vibes alongside my favourite blue uranium glasses (sadly i didn’t manage to get a blue light to really make these beauties glow) and amber Habitat champagne saucers (again a nod to the mid-century preferred design).

To recognise that this was a birthday party, the promotional bunting came with a promotional Reclamation Day party hat. I also found one of the iconic Party Quest hats I’d made for our Fallout 3 party.

Guests were invited to have a go at a Fallout version of the retro board game, Operation, the buzzer styles as a Geiger counter warning!

The evening was accompanied by a playlist of soundtrack pieces and old school swing.

Gather Around the C.A.M.P Fire:  Consumables

Fallout 76 doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the usual wasteland “consumables” and ability to craft and cook using those scavenged finds. Some of the well known items include InstaMash, Sugar Bombs and the refreshing Nuka Cola.  Guests were provided with an emergency supply of Rad Away, a wasteland essential (pomegranate juice).

Our menu included a Nuka Cola glazed ham, Sugar-bombed carrots, Stilton InstaMash, irradiated broiled broccoli, and BlamCo Mac ’n Cheese. 

If that wasn’t enough, a Mississippi Quantum Pie (with a meringue mushroom cloud thrown in for good measure) and a cheeseboard followed.  Many of the recipes were courtesy of the recently released Fallout Cookbook.

We Are One: Friends Welcome

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IcqE8kT3KA

Despite the shortcomings of Fallout 76, we still had a blast celebrating James’ birthday in the Wasteland with our friends. Bethesda certainly got one thing right, at least, that Fallout is better with friends.

For more Fallout inspiration

Vault Dweller’s BIRTHDAY Survival Guide – Fallout 4 Thanksgiving Party 2015

Fallout: A Party Quest

NELSON, NV: New Vegas’ Most Notorious Ghost-Town

 

Have a very Harry Christmas!

This Christmas we were hosting both our parents and we wanted to plan something magical for their stay with us.

2018 has been a bit of a Potter-fest year for us. Following our visit to the West End to experience the magical Cursed Child play in May, I was propelled to re-listen to the Harry Potter audio books read by the fabulous Stephen Fry and visited some well known Potter sights in the city Including the temporary Fantastic Beasts: Wizarding World Wands installation outside St. Paul’s Cathedral supporting Lumos (thanks Craig and Leroy for taking us there!) and also visited the MinaLima design house (the incredibly talented team who created the unique and mesmerising wizarding world’s graphic art). We have also attended a wedding with Harry Potter accents as well as a Harry Potter themed Halloween party and have regularly frequented a local Harry Potter themed coffee garden (Cafe 46).

With Christmas playing such an important part of the Harry Potter novels, it seemed like an appropriate theme for our Christmas celebrations. I can’t really take credit for the ideas in this post, as I was heavily inspired by my long-standing Harry Potter Pinterest board, but I was pleased with how it all came together.

It was lit by thousands and thousands of candles that were floating in midair over four long tables… It was hard to believe there was a ceiling there at all, and that the Great Hall didn’t simply open on to the heaven.

Recreating the Great Hall of Hogwarts appeared to be the biggest challenge, but a chance purchase from Amazon made this far less difficult than I expected. The floating candles are perfectly proportioned for the room and being remote controlled, were easy to switch on & off and even had different flicker settings. We attached them to the ceiling beams using fishing wire which was barely visible which meant they really did look like they were floating. Much better than making my own versions using toilet rolls and battery lights for sure!!

We decided not to replicate the table decor (mainly due to lack of time and resources), and instead opted for a simpler design with some nods to key parts of the books/movies. The runner was created using a piece of wrapping paper from Primark featuring the Marauders Map, with a sequin overlay. Platform 9 3/4 place names were customised from Etsy and the golden snitch furnished from a classically festive Ferrero Rocher with printed wings from Party Delights.

I was particularly pleased with my new crystal wine glasses that I bought at a local charity shop the week before Christmas. They looked gorgeous next to the gold glasses and the water glasses that James’ godparents bought for him back when he was a child.

Bottle labels were printed from Over the Big Moon online, and attached to old prosecco and gin bottles. The crackers (M&S) were sadly not quite wizard worthy with no rear-admiral hats or love white mice, but I thought the unusual design would be perfect!

The Christmas Feast

We sourced our bronze turkey from a local farm (Old Castle Farm, Neath) and had a selection of sides and my favourite Ina Garten cornbread stuffing. To finish we had a butterbeer semi-freddo adorned with a 70% finest croakoa chocolate frog.

We also filled a jar full of chocolate galleons for snacking.

Yer a wizard Harry!

It was fun to create the memorable acceptance letter fireplace scene using fishing wire and Harry Potter envelopes from a writing set. I was also very lucky to receive a set of MinaLima Hogwarts journals for Christmas and these will look stunning alongside my exercise book and train ticket wallet. Elf was in full dress robes for the occasion and we arranged for a direct route to the Ministry of Magic to be installed in the bathroom.

Finally, I made james a Weasley’s wizard wheezes themed advent calendar filled with sweets, chocolate and MTG trading cards. He was thrilled. The design was created by MySweetPaperCard on Etsy.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Supply List

Mina Lima https://store.minalima.com/house-of-minalima

The Cursed Child https://www.harrypottertheplay.com/uk/

Lumos https://www.wearelumos.org

Floating candles Raycare 12 PCS Led Flameless Taper Candles, Flickering Battery Operated Waterproof Electric Window Candle Lights, Warm White

It’s only a paper moon

There is no doubt that the epic television shows that we have all grown accustomed to owe a significant debt to the writers and creators of Star Trek:Deep Space Nine.Introducing DS9

The show first aired in 1993 (with The Next Generation, “TNG”, still running), but never gained the same degree of commercial success as its predecessors. This was largely due to the bold decision by the producers to move away from the franchise’s well-established episodic structure, and to opt instead for thematic and series-stretching story arches (which, of course, is now the norm in all of our best television shows).

With what started as innocuous mentions of the “Dominion” in series 2, we witness the literal infiltration of the Founders into the Alpha Quadrant, and the increasing undertones of menace results, by season 7, in all out inter galactic war between ever shifting alliances.

Unlike the original series and TNG, DS9 is based not on an exploratory ship, but on an ageing Cardassian space station, located at the final frontier of Federation space adjacent to a wormhole connecting the Alpha Quadrant with the previously unexplored Gamma quadrant. The core characters include both Federation and non-Federation species, which gives a unique perspective of the (to date, unquestioned) federation way of doing things. For the first time in Star Trek history, we see imperfect and flawed characters in continual conflict and often making questionable decisions. None of the characters are one dimensional and the main protagonists’ have greater affinity to characters such as Jaime Lannister and Walter White than they do to any Star Trek character seen before. The introduction of Section 31, in particular, represents, and indeed exposes, the darker side of the Federation.

It was also well ahead of the curve in terms of the significant screen time is gives to issues of race, PTSD, religion, war, discrimination and sexuality and the show also gives us strong and inspiring role models in Sisko, Dax and Major Kira.

As you may be able to tell, I absolutely love this show! I have watched the entire series twice and it continues to stand up to the high standard I have come to expect despite being 25 years old, which is a testament to the talent of the original production and acting teams. It is also showing on Netflix, and so I recommend that you give it a try (and accept that Season 1 is not a reflection of the series as a whole. I would be inclined to say skip season 1 but then again it does help with much of the character development of the main ensemble).

You are cordially invited: A DS9 Party

I wanted to celebrate this wonderful show by using it as the backdrop for my birthday dinner last weekend and it was such fun recreating a little part of DS9 at home.

Welcome to Vic’s

One of my favourite parts of DS9 were the holosuite episodes, particularly those invoking visits to the 1962 Las Vegas casino of Vic Fontaine. For the party, we recreated the bar’s backdrop and played music from the real life Vic Fontaine, Darren James.

The Replimat

The food was all lovingly replicated from the Replimat area of the station (except, of course, for the live Gagh*, imported especially from Kronos, the Klingon home world for the occasion). You May even notice that we borrowed the black plates from Captain Sisko’s quarters;) The Promenade’s favourite sweet treat, the jumja stick, also made an appearance.

Quark’s Bar

The beverage selection (including Trixian Bubble juice, Blood wine, Kanar and Romulan ale) procured from Quark in exchange for a hefty quantity of gold-pressed latinum. We were also very fortunate to find some authentic Raktajino mugs for after dinner.

Gateway to the Gamma Quadrant

And it wouldn’t be a birthday party without a cake, and we managed to also find a vintage DS9 micro machine (what could be more 1990s!!) to sit atop the wormhole cake.

Manual

1.Tube Grub Cocktail: your regular retro prawn cocktail and tempura prawns

2.Thanksgiving Turkey and Seasonal Bajoran Sides: Turkey crown, romanesco cauliflower with lemon and garlic, purple sweet potato pie, roast potatoes, roasted heritage carrots, cornbread and pepper stuffing, red cabbage

3.Gagh: Delia Smith chocolate mousse with jelly worms (lots of DIY instructions on Pinterest)

4.Jumja Sticks: Root beer and Sarsaparilla jelly shots

5.Romulan Ale: Blue colour changing gin (Aldi)

6.Table Decor: H&M Star table cloth, battery operated strip lighting (Amazon), metallic self-adhesive lining (Wilko’s), sequin backdrop (Amazon), Raktajino mugs (Hotjo), Menus (Cafepress), Invitation (Etsy)

7.T-shirt: Infrablack (Etsy)

Thanks to the Gravelle’s for coming:) We missed you Nesta and Shelley!

Welcome to Jurassic Park

1993 was another momentous year for the summer blockbuster: Every kid who’d had the pleasure of seeing Jurassic Park on the big screen left the theatre absolutely awestruck by the thrill and terror conjured by their beloved Spielberg.

After the frenzy of the opening scene, Spielberg masterfully builds the tension thereafter, culminating with a rippling glass of water, ominously approaching footsteps and a disappearing goat, as the king of dinosaurs himself, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, makes his terrifying entrance.

Whilst never going to fully replicate the brilliance of Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name, the movie succeeds in capturing its essence, in part due to the skills of the CGI and animatronics teams. It is difficult to believe that this movie is now 25 years old, as it is still just as impressive as it ever was.

To mark this cinematic anniversary, we decided it would make a perfect backdrop to our summer garden party.

Clever Girl

Invitations were employee ID cards accompanied by a park information guide replica. The gorgeous vintage postage stamps were from Etsy (ArtStamped).

We were fortunate to have a day of good weather, which meant we could fully utilise the outside space to try and re-create the park.

It was quite easy to find plenty of Dino-themed decorative pieces online, helped no doubt by the recent release of Jurassic World, and so we picked up a couple of Natural History Museum cardboard cutouts, some large wall murals and the fantastic When dinosaurs ruled the earth replica banner (Amazon.com)! A large cardboard box (housing the cutouts) was transformed into the iconic Jurassic Park entrance gate. A selection of toy dinosaurs, a velociraptor sound effect mask and some print outs of movie signage from the internet completed the look and the John Williams soundtrack playing on vinyl.

Don’t get cheap on me Dodson

The menu focussed on classic American dishes, including the always amazing Martha Stewart Mac n’ cheese, pulled pork and turkey dinosaurs. We also created a nacho volcano with blue nachos and blue cheese dip and for pudding, some green jello, red velvet cupcakes and mud pots. It wouldn’t have been a JP party without some reference to the plot that led to it all: that doomed attempt by disgruntled Denis Nedry to smuggle Dino embryos off the park in a Barbasol shaving cream can (which here was a whipped cream).

We also placed some old 1980s Natural History Museum toys amongst the food.

Life finds a way

Guests were met with a G&T from our cryo bar and we had imported Jurassic World Dr Pepper and Mexican coke for the kids and drivers.

It was also an excellent effort on the part of our guests: we had a Lex, Hammond and a number of park rangers and a raptor keeper.

As the sunshine started to wane, we all settled down to watch the movie on a “small” big screen in the garden!

Whilst we have come a long way in dinosaur knowledge since 1993, it is still one of the most exhilarating and exciting action movies of all time and there is now doubt the first in the Jurassic Park franchise will continue to inspire budding palaeontologists for years to come.

Thanks everyone for coming!

“Two young people fell in love, and we all turned up”

There is little doubt that Meghan and Harry have set the standard for a reformed and more progressive British monarchy with their gorgeously diverse and inclusive wedding ceremony. It was incredible.

It was quite unexpected too. I don’t think any of us really thought we would see such a dazzling divergence from the usual royal traditions. The passionate and engrossing sermon about the redemptive power of love from the wonderful reverend Michael Curry (quoting from MLK), the most beautiful performance from young cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason (Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria,” Gabriel Fauré’s “Après un rêve” and Maria Theresia von Paradis’ “Sicilienne) and the moving rendition of Ben E. King’s Stand By Me by the gospel Kingdom Choir collectively made this a truly remarkable and historic moment for the Monarchy.

Meghan’s solitary yet bold entry into Windsor’s St George’s mediaeval Chapel and her speech at the evening reception were both statements of intent in terms of what influence Meghan, the feminist and all round good cause supporter, may wield over an institution that has only very recently started to fully embrace the increasingly diverse and tolerant modernity in which we live. The use of native plants in the floral displays was yet another positive statement made to show how the newly weds value environmental issues. This is a couple who promise to use their influence to make our planet a better place, one small step at a time. Their wedding was proof of that.

After all of the nay- sayers’ negativity over the past few months, it was refreshing to see such an overwhelmingly positive response from all around the world to the lovely couple as more than 100,000 well wishers descended on Windsor with another 13 million of us watching on our television sets.

Harry & Meghan: may the power of love bring you a wonderful and happy marriage!

Star Wars Fiesta

As you all know, I am a HUGE Star Wars fan.   Any excuse to celebrate this wonderful franchise, and I’m game for it!

I bought my first set of Think Geek Star Wars Geeki Tikis a couple of years back, and last year I acquired series 2, as well as the limited edition Jabba & Salacious Crumb set.  They are incredible (thank you ThinkGeek!), and I am hoping series 3 will feature some of the newer characters we were introduced to since the Force Awakens…  

But they had just sat looking pretty on the kitchen shelf for some time, and I hadn’t found the right opportunity to use them.

And so, when I was thinking of a theme for my birthday last year, I decided to use these fine specimens as my inspiration, and worked around them to create a “Star Wars Fiesta”!

I was particularly pleased with the end result:  a bright and exotic twist on my previous, more traditional, Star Wars events, with plenty more sophistication than your usual Mos Eisley cantina.

ThinkGeek GeekiTikis

Series 1: R2D2, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Boba Fett, Yoda & Stormtrooper

Series 2: Jawa, C3PO, Wampa, Taun Taun, Wicket & Tusken Raider

Special Edition: Jabba the Hutt and Salacious Crumb

http://www.thinkgeek.com

 

Fright Night @ the Englands 2016

Ok, so I totally didn’t get around to posting about this back in 2016!!  But finally, here is a breakdown of our first Halloween party in our new house, and for the first time, we had plenty of space to buy extra pumpkins!DSC_1181

I decided to have another traditional Halloween theme, and I hope to be able to re-use what I have for years to come, and merely supplement what we have rather than changing the theme every year.  This is part of our attempt to avoid having too much waste and to re-use and recycle where we can.

Creep it real

As I said, this was the first time we have been able to decorate more than one room for Halloween, and to have outside space to use – I took full advantage of this, and had a perfect excuse to visit a local pumpkin patch to fill a wheelbarrow full of them!

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Eat, drink & be scary!

I love coloured pasta, and bought the monochrome bow variety for our party.  The cheeseboard was sourced from Pong.com, and for pudding, we had chocolate mousse graveyards.  The bar looked particularly macabre too.

Double double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble

It wouldn’t be a party either, without some dry ice from Chillisticks.com – this stuff is just so amazing!

Hell is empty and all the devils are here

Thank you to our lovely guests for joining us, and for making such an effort with the costumes:)

Happy Force Of July – Another Star Wars Party

It is an important year for us Star Wars nerds. Not only are we looking forward to the eighth instalment of the franchise being released in December, but 2017 also marks the 40th anniversary of the original theatrical release of Star Wars (later re-named Episode IV) a long time ago way back in May 1977.  

It is difficult to think if a world without our favourite space opera and it is incredible to think that forty years on, it continues to be as popular as ever.

I always try and choose an appropriate theme for my annual Independence Day parties.  Over the years we’ve had a Wild West theme, Captain America and Apollo tributes with last year marking the centennial of the National Park Service.   For this year’s event, I couldn’t help myself in choosing Star Wars as our theme in light of its own very special birthday this year.

As regular readers will know, this is not the first time I have used this theme.  I pretty much try and think of any excuse to have a Star Wars themed party or event.  It is such a good theme, after all!  Without wishing to duplicate previous ideas, I set out to devise an entirely new backdrop for the party.  As it was an Independence Day party, I used the red, white and blue pallete as the basis with a touch of grey and black mixed in.

Mos Eisley’s Cantina 

You can’t have a Star Wars bar without making some reference to the notorious watering hole.  I found some labels online and uses my limited IT skills to produce the Qui-Gon’s Gin label disguised as the well loved Hendricks brand.

We also purchased some truly magical Sharish blue gin which turned a paler pink when tonic was added.  A flourish of dry ice (from Chillisticks online) made the drinks worthy of any Tatooine villainous scum!


Bar snacks

I reverted to my usual party fare, but enhanced with some pretty easy adornments.   The pulled Rancour sliders (recipe from Whatsgabbycooking) were accompanied by a Maz ‘n cheese (Martha Stewart Four Cheese Macaroni Cheese) and BB8, Death Star and Millennium Falcon pizzas.   To follow, cloud city puddings (aka jelly/jello fluff), Rebel Alliance cookies, Stormtrooper Pez, Ewok biscuits, M&Ms, Skittles and Milk Bar galaxy cake truffles continued the theme.  And May the S’Mores Be With You…


Scene setters

I’ve accumulated plenty of red white and blue items over the years as well as an array of Star Wars props.  I raided our Star Wars guest room and used our Skywalker lightsaber light and figures to decorate the table.  Guests were serenaded with the New Hope vinyl soundtrack and my vintage 1980 Empire Strikes Back napkins looked awesome.


We had some great costumes too: a Darth Vader, Princess Leia and I went as a female Han Solo.  The costume was easier than I had expected to pull together.  A utility shirt with a cut up t-shirt for the tank top with blue jeans decorated with small pieces of red electrical tape.  I purchased a toy blaster that I spray painted to look more like the original and managed to find a holster on Amazon.  img_0694

I hope everyone has an amazing holiday and Happy Force of July everyone! 

#HappyForceOfJuly