Things Before 30

Things Before 30 – May.

These posts seem to be getting later rather than earlier, but better late than never at all I reckon.

14. Listen to at least one new (to me) band a month.
According to my trusty list this month I listened to both Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton who I’ve already mentioned in this post. I’m really enjoy the music that they both produce and I think they’ll be artists I’ll listen to for years to come.

Thanks to their appearance in a Christmas episode of The West Wing I also gave The Whiffenpoofs a try. The album I listened to was fun though I enjoyed the songs that appeared in The West Wing episode more. Finally I listened to a couple of albums by Elbow, every time I hear them sing One Day Like This on a compilation I love I think I ought to listen to more of them and so I finally did. I was a bit underwhelmed really, nothing grabbed me as much as One Day Like This always does.

19. Watch one as yet unwatched classic movie a month.
Last month’s classic movie featured an Avenger, and this month’s film featured another. Jeremy Renner has become my latest actor to obsess over so I started with The Hurt Locker. I was warned it was a highly stressful viewing experience, and this was definitely the case. Normally when I settle down to watch a film I really dislike stopping midway through for anything but I was very glad to stop and make a cuppa so I could catch my breath. I thought it was an excellent film and one I’ll definitely watch again, though only when my blood pressure’s good and low.

22. Try out a new recipe once a month.
This month I baked a gluten free version of this Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake after seeing Stella and Helen both make it. It was pretty easy to make, made the whole house smell lovely whilst it baked, and tasted really really good. The moist nature of the cake meant that it stood up to the gluten free flour really well. I think this is a recipe I’ll be making again and again.

27. Read one non-fiction book every month.
This month I read Nurse! Nurse! by Jimmy Frazier, it’s a memoir by a chap who decided to train to become a nurse a little later in life. It covers the three years of his training, from the application process to completing the course. I found it to be a really interesting read, I think the mixture of anecdotes and personal reflections was well balanced. There were lots of bits that made me laugh, a couple that made me cry, and some that have left me thinking about them long after I finished reading.

Things Before 30

Things Before 30 – April.

It was only as I started to write this post that I realised we’re a whole third of the way through the year. Looking at the non-monthly things on the list there’s a few I’m close to being able to cross off but there are some I definitely need to start thinking about.

14. Listen to at least one new (to me) band a month.
I listened to a few different artists for the first time this month. I came across Audra Mae via the tv show Sons of Anarchy, one of her songs has had such an effect on me that it gets its own post tomorrow. I have discovered that I like her music, but the song she did for Sons of Anarchy is by far my favourite of hers. I also gave The Civil Wars a try, I loved their collaboration with Taylor Swift for Safe & Sound and when I saw my brother raving about them I knew I needed to give the rest of their music a try. I really liked what I heard, I think for me it’s definitely music for a very specific frame of mind but that’s never a bad thing.

I can’t quite remember how I came to try Adam Crossley, I think it was probably a Spotify similar artists thing. His stuff was okay but I wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to any more of it. Darius Rucker on the other hand was a very welcome discovery, he features a couple of times on the Obama 2012 Campaign playlist on Spotify, I tried his album and loved it. I only found out after listening and loving his stuff that he’s the front man from Hootie & The Blowfish, I think May might be the time I finally give them a listen too.

19. Watch one as yet unwatched classic movie a month.
This month’s film was a bit of a last minute thing, the end of April crept up on me all of a sudden and whilst I’d been very efficient and done all of the other monthly activities on my list early on in the month I’d forgotten to ask for this month’s film to watch. My first thought was to count The Avengers, I’d like to think that in years to come it could be considered a classic, but that didn’t feel entirely in the spirit of this list. So the nominated film was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I’ve owned it for ages but I haven’t managed to get round to seeing it. I loved the film, I thought it was funny and snarky, just what I want from a film.

22. Try out a new recipe once a month.
When my mom tore a recipe for gluten free lemon biscuits out of the newspaper I knew that would be the new recipe I tried during April. It was a very simple recipe, but the resulting biscuits were really good. So good in fact that when we’d only got a couple left I made another batch, though with a couple of modifications to the recipe to see if very good could become great. I didn’t quite reach great with them, but I think the next time I make them with one tweak undone they will more than likely get there.

27. Read one non-fiction book every month.
I bought Tune In Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries by Tim Anderson when it was one of Amazon’s Kindle Daily Deals, it sounded like it could be a funny read, the memoir of an American teaching English in Japan. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting from the book, but it wasn’t quite the read I wanted. It felt to me at times that the author couldn’t quite make up his mind what he was trying to achieve with the book and as a result it felt a bit patchy. There were definitely plenty of funny moments, but there were an equal number of moments that felt a little self indulgent and these fell rather flat. Definitely an okay book, but nothing more.

Things Before 30

Things Before 30 – March.

I can’t believe another month has been and gone, this one’s been pretty busy uni wise for me so I’m sure that’s why it feels like it’s flown by.

14. Listen to at least one new (to me) band a month.
This month’s new music came to me via Twitter. @fraserallan tweeted a link to his band Skyless’s EP, I gave it a listen and really liked what I was hearing. I’ve got it on my iPod now and am looking forward to listening to it lots more. You can give it a try here.

19. Watch one as yet unwatched classic movie a month.
After we both watched Paul McGann on The One Show, my film selector chose Withnail & I as this month’s film for me to catch up with. I’ve always been a little put off by the fact that everyone loves the film so much, what if I was the one who didn’t like it?! I’m pleased to say that my fears were unfounded, I thoroughly enjoyed it and am sure I’ll continue to do so for a long time.

22. Try out a new recipe once a month.
I had a real craving for coffee cake so I had a go at making some gluten free coffee cupcakes. I found a recipe and just switched the flour. They worked really well and were very tasty so I’m sure I’ll be baking them again. I also used them as an opportunity to try out my new icing bottles – I’ve tried using piping bags but for various reasons they don’t work for me, I was thrilled that the squeezy bottle worked and I managed my first ever piped finish to cakes.

27. Read one non-fiction book every month.
I saw Margaret Rhodes talking on the tv about her memoir The Final Curtsey and was intrigued by the fact she’d worked for MI5 during the war. A lot of the book covers her family life, she is cousin to Queen Elizabeth II and worked as a lady-in-waiting to the Queen Mother. Her life has certainly been very full, and it makes for interesting reading. I’d like to have read a bit more about her time at MI5, but that’s just personal preference. I did find at times that the tone grated a little with me, I think this is probably to do with the different attitudes between the generations.

Things Before 30

Things Before 30 – February.

Better late than never here’s how I got on with my monthly contributions to my Things Before 30 list in February.

14. Listen to at least one new (to me) band a month.
I’m struggling to remember all of the new music I listened to in February, so it clearly can’t have made a great impression on me. I know that I gave Ute Lemper a try, but she didn’t really do it for me. I also heard The Maccabees for the first time right at the end of the month, I was interested enough by what I heard that I’ll definitely be giving them more of a tryout.

ETA: A few hours after posting this I’ve remembered the first new band I listened to in February was SafetySuit. I’m still making my mind up about them, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to get their own post sometime in the future.

19. Watch one as yet unwatched classic movie a month.
This month’s classic movie was a modern classic, Speed. When everyone else was watching it all those years ago I was still avoiding anything with explosions and fire. I’ve got over this aversion and so I was really keen to see why people held it in such high estimation, I wasn’t disappointed. It was hugely entertaining, and I know I’m going to end up rewatching it plenty of times.

22. Try out a new recipe once a month.
This month I tried out the gluten free version of the five minute mug cake. I thought it would be a good recipe to try, if it worked then providing I kept the ingredients in stock I would always have the option to make a quick pick me up. It was definitely more of a chocolate sponge pudding rather than a cake, but with custard it was absolutely delicious. I’m confidant I’ll be making more cakes in mugs.

27. Read one non-fiction book every month.
I read Rachel Johnson’s A Diary Of The Lady as my non-fiction this month. I already reviewed it here.

Things Before 30

Things Before 30 – January.

I can’t believe one month of this year has already gone! It’s been a slightly odd month for me, the first couple of weeks were very busy with uni assignments and exam revision and then the last couple were almost completely empty and a very welcome chance to take things a bit easy.

On my Things Before 30 list there are four things to do every month, so here’s how I got on with each of them.

14. Listen to at least one new (to me) band a month.
This month I listened to two new singers (I probably shouldn’t have used the word band). The first was Josh Kelley, I heard his cover of To Make You Feel My Love in the background of a film I was watching and paused it to find out who was singing. I listened to his Georgia Clay and BackWoods albums on Spotify, they were okay but I don’t think I’ll be rushing to buy them.

The second singer I listened to was Michael Kiwanuka following a recommendation from a twitter friend. I have listened to the five songs he has available on his MySpace page countless times since, I really love his style. His album isn’t available until March but I shall definitely be buying it.

19. Watch one as yet unwatched classic movie a month.
My lovely friend Emma has volunteered to steer in me in the direction of the 12 films I should watch this year to fulfil this part of my list, January’s film was The Philadelphia Story. I really enjoyed it, if all of the films this year are as good then I think this will have been a really good item to have on my list.

22. Try out a new recipe once a month.
This was the one that I nearly didn’t achieve, there was a sudden panic when I realised there were just two days left in January and my knee was playing up so I couldn’t stand for long. I flicked through my copy of Phil Vickery’s Seriously Good! Gluten-free Baking and found that the recipe I had most wanted to cook was incredibly simple and quick, so a perfect match. The recipe was for Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge cookies, and they were absolutely delicious.

27. Read one non-fiction book every month.
This month I read Heloise Goodley’s An Officer and a Gentlewoman which tells the story of her experience going through the Sandhurst training process. I shall be reviewing it in a couple of weeks, it was certainly an interesting read.

I have made some initial progress on a few of the other things on my list, but there’s nothing I can cross off completely yet.

Blog Tour

Guest Post : Keris Stainton’s New York Playlist.

I’m thrilled today to be hosting the very lovely Keris Stainton, author of YA titles Della Says: OMG! and the recently released Jessie Hearts NYC. She’s popping up on various blogs at the moment talking about Jessie and she’s here today to talk about the music that helped to inspire the book and share the playlist. Over to Keris.

Obviously when I set a book in New York I knew I’d need a playlist to go with it – some of my favourite songs are New York songs. A friend had recommended Alicia Keys’ version of Empire State of Mind (Part II) to me and I absolutely loved it. When I was writing Jessie Hearts NYC, putting that song on was always the first thing I did and it would immediately get me in the writing mood. Once I’d heard it – and Paloma Faith’s New York – I was good to go. (I’ve just put them on to see if it still works and it really does.)

Next was Jason Mraz’s If It Kills Me, which is the song that inspired the character of Finn:

Hello, tell me you know
Yeah, you figured me out
Something gave it away
It would be such a beautiful moment
To see the look on your face
To know that I know that you know now

And baby that’s a case of my wishful thinking
You know nothing
Well you and I
Why, we go carrying on for hours on end
We get along much better
Than you and your boyfriend

I LOVED the idea of a boy in love with his best friend’s girlfriend and secretly thinking he’d be better for her than his friend would. And hoping that she’d guess, but also being terrified that she would because what would that mean for his friendship? Finn came to me pretty much fully-formed (hailing a taxi, holding a bunch of flowers) just from listening to this song. I love Jason Mraz.

Now don’t judge me, but there are two Barry Manilow songs on there: New York City Rhythm and Give My Regards to Broadway. (I would also have liked to have another of his songs, Brooklyn Blues, on there, but I figured two was plenty. Brooklyn Blues has my favourite line from a New York song: “You know the river looks a hundred miles wide when all your dreams are on the other side.”) New York City Rhythm is a New York mood song, but Give My Regards to Broadway is just fabulous for singing at the top of your voice. If I was disheartened with writing, I’d put it on and just bellow the “Sing me a tune by Bernstein, Gershwin, Lerner, Loewe or Lane, with words that rhyme by Rogers, Hart or Hammerstein…” which of course also fits in with Jessie’s mum having a play on Broadway.

I absolutely love New York Minute by Don Henley so that had to be on there. Plus it reminds me of The West Wing – there’s an episode called Somebody’s Going to Emergency, Somebody’s Going to Jail, which is a line from this song – and I found a reminder of the brilliance of my all-time favourite TV show inspiring.

While I was writing Jessie, I asked on Twitter for some more New York song suggestions and the rest came from there. (Mainly from @annemariet123 and @wurdsmyth I think, so thank you to them!). New York State of Mind by Billy Joel is a classic, but I didn’t know New York, New York by Ryan Adams at all. Native New Yorker by Odyssey doesn’t really fit with the book at all, but it makes me happy so I left it on there.

I wasn’t familiar with New York City by They Might Be Giants and as soon as I heard it I knew it was PERFECT for the book:

We kissed on the subway in the middle of the night
I held your hand, you held mine, it was the best night of my life
‘Cause everyone’s your friend in New York City
And everything looks beautiful when you’re young and pretty
The streets are paved with diamonds and there’s just so much to see
But the best thing about New York City is you and me

Says it all really. 🙂

What a lovely lot of New York music! I’ve been listening to the playlist since Keris sent it to me and it has certainly left me wanting to visit the city again.

You can find Keris blogging here, tweeting as @Keris and on Facebook here.

Make sure you come back tomorrow for my review of Jessie Hearts NYC