20 Photos that will make you want to visit Northern Ireland

I’ve been to N. Ireland four times now, and it’s my home away from home. Every time I find something new to love, good food to eat, and a desire to stay longer.

Have you ever wanted to visit Northern Ireland? Here’s what you might experience should you decide it’s time!

A brewery factory, such as Bushmills which makes some amazing whiskey

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The Giant’s Causeway, a natural phenomenon with a fantastic legend to go with it

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Traditional parades celebrating William of Orange

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Castles, castles, castles

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History museums full to the brim of interesting information, lessons and silliness

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Tours of Crisp Factories with delicious samples

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Beautiful churches

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Ruins and burial sites around every other corner

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Beautiful, green and vibrant walks in the woods

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Cityscapes that reflect age and charm

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Hidden nooks and gems

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Fried scallops, the way the food gods intended them to be

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Excellent planetariums

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Amazing ice cream dishes with alcohol in them

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Living history museums on life thousands of years ago

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And living history museums that explore Irish life in America as well

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Statues of famous writers

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Cities that have a rocky history, but a hopeful future

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Have you been to Northern Ireland? What’s one of your favorite experiences? Or what do you really hope to see if you go to visit?

Escape Room Live- Alexandria

During my time in Berlin preceding College of Wizardry, I got to explore some of Berlin, and one of my favorite experiences was being introduced to Escape Rooms.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with escape rooms, here’s what they are:

A mind game. It’s all about intellect. You’re “locked” in a room, with a clock counting down. You have to use clues, objects, and other people to help you solve the puzzle, and beat the clock to escape the room. It’s fashion for each room to have a theme, and I’ve read of everything from mobster, to titanic, to zombie.

My first one was at Claustrophobia Berlin, in a pirate themed room. I’d never met the two girls I was doing it with before, but we were all going to CoW together, and we did an awesome job! And I was hooked.

So when thinking about what to do for my 25th birthday (which was on Tuesday, June 20th!) I thought how much fun another escape room would be, especially since my parents and my fiancee Sierra hadn’t done one before.

We ended up going with Escape Room Live- Alexandria, which is right in the historic district of Alexandria.

As I am a huge lover of Sherlock Holmes (let’s be clear here, the original stories and the RDJ version plus others, not the tv show) we went with ‘Moriarty’s Madness’

As Sherlock, you have broken into Professor James Moriarty’s office… and he isn’t happy. What does he have planned and can you stop it from happening?

The clock is ticking…   Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.”

The biggest difference for me from the escape room in Berlin was that this did not feel like you were in a different world. The room itself was lovely, but you didn’t feel locked in, you could see out onto the main street of Alexandria, and there were big glass windows above Moriarty’s office that while you couldn’t see anything out of because they were so high, you did know you weren’t really in an office.

But the clues were interesting and fun, with a variety of things. There were seven of us, one exchange student, me and my fiancee, my parents, my sister, and my brother in law. At first I felt pretty darn useless, but it eventually got to a point where it was all hands on deck. I figured out several things on my own and felt quite proud of it. And when it was time, I got to be the one to stop the bombs.

We ended with twelve minutes to spare, which I thought was pretty good, but apparently with seven people it was relatively sub par. Oh well, I was still proud.

Of course, no Escape Room would be complete without the posing in costume

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Escape Room Live has three other rooms in Alexandria: The Wizard’s Apothecary, Sherlock Holmes: A Matter of Time, and Poe-Ranormal Activity. 

They also have two other locations, in Georgetown and Glover Park.

Escape Room Live is  a lot of fun, well put together, and what it might lack in realism, it makes up in puzzles and mind benders.

Book your room at Escape Room Live!

 

 

20 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit the Pacific Northwest

I miss the Pacific Northwest everyday. I’ve made a new life for myself out on the East Coast, and I like to think it’s whole, and special. But the West coast was my home for 13 total years. I hope these photos inspire you to visit, and see what I love about it.

 

If you visit the PNW, you might see:

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Rocky, jagged beaches that you can see from hilltops

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Driftwood covered beaches on sunshine filled days

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A herd of caribou casually grazing in a state park

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Rushing rivers that go over old, old lava tubes

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Dormant volcanoes that leave their mark on the land and the people

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Serene rivers that become a place for two people to get engaged

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Mountain hikes that let you see over into another country (literally)

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Sandy beaches for walking on

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Gorgeously manicured gardens

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Cultural events honoring our dead

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Snow covered mountains in July

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Snow tubing!

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Surprise walks in the snow on a Sunday morning

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Seals begging for food next to a fish and chips place

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Very fashionable and delicious high tea

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Suspension bridges over rivers that make your heart race

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Views like this as you travel through a pass

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Rainy and misty days

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Fresh, ripe strawberry picking

 

 

Favorite Photos of Myself from International Travel

So today we’re going to-well, I’m going to be a little vain, and share with you some of my favorite photos from my international adventures. I’ll talk about what’s happening in the photo, where I am, and why I love it so much.

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Rome, Italy 2007

I’m fifteen here, and this was my first time abroad without anyone. I stayed with a family, through an exchange with airline employees. Here I am in front of one of the many ruins in Rome, which as a history enthusiast, I loved. I love the sunlight, the shadows, and my outfit in this shot.

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London, England 2008

My mother gave me the most amazing birthday gift for a 16th birthday: a four day trip to London. Here I am at the end of the London Dungeon, a historical tourist attraction that takes you through all the Penny Dreadful history and mythos of the city. I hated it at first. But I was going through a big Sweeney Todd phase, and when we got to that part of the ride, I was fine for the rest of it. Seriously, what a nerd.

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France, 2009

Going to France to stay with a family was…an experience. Honestly a lot of it exhausting and frustrating. Eating vegetarian was super hard, I was with a huge group of kids so instead of getting to choose anything I wanted to do, like we’d done for the girl who stayed with us earlier in the summer, I was dragged along doing things I was not at all thrilled about. That being said, there were things we did that while I dreaded, turned out to be fun and I would like to do again. Such as canyoning, and like here, ropes courses. I love the determination on my face, me being upside down, and I remember how triumphant  I felt afterwards.

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Barcelona, Spain 2009

As part of my time in Europe, I spent a week in Barcelona with the girl I was with and her older sister. This was by far my favorite part of the trip. Hot, hot dry weather, my hair super easy and cute, sun, mojitos, weird parades at 1 in the morning, gorgeous fountain shows. Love my hair in this, love my dark skin, love the memories.

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Zurich, Switzerland 2009

The day before New Years, my sister and I flew over to Zurich for a quick four day trip, as that was what we’d asked for that year at Christmas. I commend my sister for being the one in charge at only twenty one, it wasn’t always super easy. But we saw gorgeous snow, cityscapes, mountains, and all the Christmas decorations still up in the city. I love how this tree is decorated, I love my hair in this, and I really hope to take another sister trip very soon.

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Ireland, 2010

For my graduation from high school trip, I said so long Wooster, skipped my graduation ceremony, and took off to the Republic of Ireland, to see a very different part of the island. I love this photo mainly because I loved that trip. I’ve gotten to see Northern Ireland many times, but the republic only once, and I badly want to see it again. That smile on my face is so genuine, my hair blowing in the wind, free from high school. Happiness at it’s purest.

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Statia, 2011

Living on the dry, oil driven, forgotten island of St. Eustatius was almost always hell. There wasn’t that much to do, it was only 11.8 sq miles in total, and I didn’t get along with my coworkers. But there were days like the one in this photo that were wonderful. A quiet, secluded beach with just me. Snorkeling. The sun and an idea. This photo helps remind me there were some good things about those long three months, like tings, the ocean, the dogs that followed me around the island. Good things can be found anywhere.

 

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Medellin, Columbia, 2011

Way back when I was only six years old, we had an exchange student from Columbia. She lived with us for a year, and I adored her. Then she went back home, and we didn’t see her for years. We kept wanting to go visit, but in the late 90s and early 2000s, Columbia was not a safe place to visit. Then at last some things began to change, and we finally felt we could go there. Medellin is called ‘garden city’ and there’s a reason for that. It’s lush, beautiful, with crazy nice malls, and fruit restaurants. Coming off the high of finishing LEAPYEAR, I was still tan, my hair was growing out, my smile was big, and my jewelry fab. ❤

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Yokohama, Japan, 2012

At the end of my first year at Evergreen, I did three weeks abroad in Tokyo, as part of a cultural exchange. We attended English classes, and other classes, and honestly that part was pretty dam boring. What was really fun was interacting with all the Japanese students. These two lovely students invited me to go with them to Yokohama, a city in the Tokyo area, with gorgeous waterfronts, amusement parks,and shopping centers. I love this photo because I look so darn cute (thanks photo booth filters), and I was really, genuinely happy that day.

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Finland, 2012

In case you haven’t noticed, or don’t know me very well yet, I’m a huge dork/nerd and I will play dress up given the chance. Despite being hung up on a girl that ended up being not good for me at all, I still managed to enjoy my time in Finland. Discovering the character Moomin, eating amazing food and drinking too much coffee, seeing historical sights. I think this photo sums up my happy place: traveling aboard, learning things, and playing dress up

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Belfast, Northern Ireland, 2013

See, what did I just tell you in the photo before? This is me not even a year later, in the Belfast History Museum (I think that’s its name?) It’s an excellent museum that I took Sierra back to a year later. Here I am dressed as Sherlock Holmes, because even if the TV series is not good, the character endures in so many other ways, and he means a lot to me. Plus, aren’t I adorable, playing dress up at 20 years old?

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Germany, 2013

I just wrote a post on here about things that baffle me about Germany, and that’s not even including the stuff with my au pair family. But I don’t really feel the need to go into it here. Because one of the most upsetting things about my family not working out, was that I really do like Germany. I was starting to get a better grasp on German, I liked the culture, the food. The landscape. So here’s a photo of me before things started going down hill, surrounded by a gorgeous Autumn backdrop, loving it all.

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Northern Ireland, 2014

How many times have I been to Northern Ireland again? Honestly, I’ve lost count. And I would happily go again. It’s my home away from home. In ten years I might walk into my friend’s kitchen, watch an orange cat crawl into the sink, drink a cuppa, eat something Cadbury, and watch Brit tv, while looking forward to a toastie and crisps, and it would feel like I’d just been there the day before. I love Northern Ireland, I honestly think I would be happy living there. And if I look perfectly at ease here at the observatory, it’s because I am. No better way to feel.

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Paris, France 2016

Despite having been to Paris three or four times before, I’d actually never been up in the Eiffel Tower before! For shame, I know. So when my sister, my mother and I decided to take a last hurrah trip to Paris, I knew I needed to actually get up there! I love this photo because of how nice my hair looks, and just the view of the city.

 

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Czocha, Poland 2017

This comes from College of Wizardry, the larp I wrote about a couple months ago. Here I am, pretending eat a fresh, mad man’s eyeball as a cure for a potion I volunteered to try. The reason I love this photo is that it displays the amount of creativity and improve involved, and the whole immersion. It looks like I’m super disgusted, right? The candy was actually pretty good! Hooray for pretend.

 

 

 

Baffling Things in Germany

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So since my traveling has been at a dead lull, with work schedules and my webseries I’m making, I thought I’d do a little blast to the past as it were, and talk about things I learned during my 2 months and so many days time in Germany.

Living in Germany was very interesting

A caveat that this is just what the family that I lived with and their extended family did.

 

No Ventilation

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According to the people who I was living with, houses in Germany have no ventilation system. Which means that you have to open all the windows every day, or you get black spots on the wall from humidity etc….Very strange, given that neither of the houses I stayed in were very old.

Now if it’s summer, this is great, I’m sure. Fresh air, warmth, nice smells. But I was there in Autumn. And apparently this is normal to do all year round. That means in the middle of January you’re supposed to be opening all your windows. Guess what that means the house in Germany never was? Warm. It was never warm.

Mail Boxes

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The mail boxes in Germany only go one way. You can only receive mail from your mailbox. If you want to mail anything, no matter what it is, you have to go to a public box, or the post office. So you can never just send something, from the convenience of your home. It confuses me, since the post man or woman is coming anyway….couldn’t they also take the mail?

Sparkling Water

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I’ve drank this in France, in Germany, in Ireland, in Poland, and it will never.ever.taste.good. I have been to Europe so many times, yet I will never understand why you would pay to have carbonation added to your water. The little boy who I “took care of” actually preferred his water this way. They had a machine to give it bubbles. Just…just why?

Showers with no ledges

I think this is pretty common in Europe, since several places I’ve stayed in have had showers like this. And I think I might dislike them as a much as I dislike sparkling water. These showers have no bottom, there’s just tile, and the shower curtain didn’t even go all the way down. So yes, that meant the whole floor was soaked after I took a shower, no matter how low the spray was. Which then meant I had to go and try and mop up all the water every time.

 

 

 

My Top Movies Featuring Travel

There a lot of movies I love, yet there’s also a plethora of ones I cannot stand. The same can be said when we narrow it down to movies that feature travel. There are the stupid, chick flick, lazy ones. The ones that are over the top. Gratuitous. Yet there are others that for one reason or other have my heart, even with their flaws. So today I’m going to tell you all my top movies with travel in them, and tell you why I love them.

 

  • Wild

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I read the book before watching this movie. The person who I got the book from told me they found it boring, and pointless.  Given that the main character is also who wrote the book, perhaps even self centered. Yet to me, that’s what makes the story compelling. Cheryl decides, after a failed marriage, abuse, and the loss of her mother, to go hike almost the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail, with no prep, no experience, and no companions. A stupid thing to do really.

Yet the author never shies away from this fact. She talks about her crap sandals, her bleeding toes, her total cluelessness. It’s a brutal tromp, and the movie goes above and beyond to represent this visually. You feel how alone Cheryl is, and what that does to us, for a long period of time. How we think, how we feel. The pain, the loss, all the memories that we are unable to suppress. Actors so often get type cast, and I feel Reese Witherspoon has been absolutely subjected to this. Yet here she is able to shine in a role very different from her normal fare, and the almost entirely solo affair works in a way similar to the movie 127 Hours.

  • Under the Tuscan Sun

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I grew up with this movie, and it continues to hold a place in my heart. The story is simple on the surface, woman flees life in the US and unhappy marriage, finds fancy place in Italy, falls in love. Yet the story is so much more than that. The gorgeous, romantic man is a player, her friend winds up pregnant on her doorstep with no where to go, an aging woman befriends the MC yet is absurd, fun, drunk, and sexy. In the end, the main character doesn’t get the man, she doesn’t have it all figured out.

A handsome man shows up at the end, hinting he might be the one, but that isn’t the point of the movie. The point is a little like the movie The Waitress, it’s about finding your own slice of hope and happiness, of finding friends who will be there, and standing on your own.

  • Eat, Pray, Love

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As with Wild, I read the book of this before the movie came out. Actually read it whilst being in India, though of course what the character was experiencing in India was very different from what I was doing in India, for the most part. Yes, I did spend some time meditating in an ashram, but not like the one she did, which was very western, very touristy, very popular.

But I feel this book, and thus the movie, gets a bad rap. Sure I know there were legions of women in book clubs who wanted to go and take life changing tour packages to these countries, all to have some magical enlightenment. But the book and the movie weren’t some tourist trap for me. For me the story is about exactly what it says it is: one woman, learning to overcome these ideas that have been forced upon us since we were small. (And this movie has Javier Bardem, I mean, come on)

Really though, we all can take a lesson from the people and cultures she visited. To eat wholly, not gluttonously but because it pleases, because it fills, it creates. To pray, to open ourselves up to the divine, no matter how that translates for us. To create an empty, quiet space. And to love. Love not just romantically, but love in every sense.

  • Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel features a huge cast of British greats, who,if you watch BBC or Brit movies at all, you will recognize every single one. The movie tells the different stories of several British retirees, some who live in India full time, others who supposedly are there just for a stint. This movie is hopeful,funny, poignant, and sad. I never felt it cheated its characters, and they were all fun, engaging, and unique. The quest to keep this little hotel running is endearing, and this is one of my favorite movies, period.

  • Tracks

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Tracks is fairly similar to Wild. Blond young woman leaves everything behind in order to go across unfamiliar, treacherous and rough land, on a whim. Yet while Wild is a character piece, and a story about moving on and facing inner demons, Tracks is very much a journey piece. Upon deciding to cross the Australian outback and reach the western ocean with only camels and her dog,the main character ends up having to put up with a photographer from National Geographic  showing up every couple of weeks,as per her agreement for them to fund it.

The photographer is awkward and uncomfortable, there’s no romance, and there’s not some huge lesson to be learned. All it is, is the story of this girl going through this environment that everyone thinks she is crazy for, and succeeding. And that’s all it needs to be.

 

Review Friday: Doctor Who-Pilot (S10)

Welcome to another edition of Review Friday. Completely missed last week but here we are, back on track!

Today I will be reviewing the premiere episode of Doctor Who’s 10th series: Pilot. 

First off, let’s give some context for this series.

It’s been 12 years since the new series of Doctor Who aired on TV, under the creative hand of Russell T Davies.

Since then, the show’s gotten stranger, more convoluted, and it’s changed hands once, about to again.

We’ve lost Rose, found strength in Martha, wept for Donna, said goodbye to Amy, forgotten Clara, and now here we are, ready to jump into the fray with Bill.

This series is Steven Moffat’s last series of the show, after having taken over back in 2010. And between you and me, I’ll be glad to see him go. Moffat is strange, sometimes I really love individual episodes of his. But personally, I don’t like the story arcs he creates, nor the way he makes the female companions in the show the end all be all for the Doctor (more importantly, how he makes sure the other companions from old Who and Russel T Davies are left in the dust as it they never existed).

Not to mention my distaste for Sherlock, which is a show I will dissect another day.

Starting in 2018, Doctor Who will be taken over by Chris Chibnall, best known for Broadchurch and work on Torchwood. I’m excited to see where he takes the show, and believe he has great potential.

But we still have one more season of Moffat to go, and that’s important to remember as we watch this series. Given the amount of insanity (both good and bad) Moffat has tried to shove into the show thus far, I’ve no doubt he’ll try and do everything he can to shape future Who in Series 10.

So without further ado: Pilot

I don’t feel the need to give a recap of everything that happened, why ruin the episode? Instead I’m going to talk about the key elements that stood out to me.

The Characters

Bill:

For the most part, I really liked Bill. She’s fun, she’s cheeky, she asks the kind of questions you and I would ask (she’s not a know it all like Clara). She’s in some ways a combination of Donna and Rose. (Though based on the actress’ age, older than Rose). She’s black, apparently an orphan, and serves chips.

She’s also gay, which is fantastic and all I can do is pray Moffat treats her well and doesn’t do crappy things with her sexuality. The first openly queer companion of the Doctor means a lot to me for obvious reasons.

Unfortunately they gave her a moment right of the bat that I wasn’t fond of: she talks about liking this girl and everything and essentially treating her with Pavlovian rewards, then acting like: oh my god she’s fat. The point of the story is more: she did that by treating her, but really, why the heck is this even a scene? Bill herself says straight out it has nothing to do with anything. So good, we know the black lesbian doesn’t like fat. Cause god forbid anyone likes fat. I hated it. I really like Bill other than that, but why was that even in there?

The Doctor:

I’m just not crazy about 12. Capaldi is amazing, and I don’t dislike 12. But after all the crap with Clara and everything, I’m just tired of how 12 talks. How everything is riddles and secrets and it always sounds like 12 is trying to make grandiose out of plot points that then go nowhere. I do enjoy his guitar playing, and I like him having actually settled down.  (Even if it’s for ulterior motivations) Also him going taking all of the photos

Nardole: 

Nardole has been updated to Rory or Strax level, after appearing in two Christmas specials, where he worked for River Song in ‘The Husbands of River Song’ and then in ‘The Return of Doctor Mysterio’

I just hope they give him some real character development, rather than him being comic relief and just a side kick for the Doctor. I like the actor and I think Nardole could actually have a really nice personality if he’s allowed to go beyond quips and funny antics.

Bill’s foster mother:

Not a fan. Makes me feel sad for Bill, that this who she’s ended up with. Someone who clearly cares more about herself, and doesn’t look at herself as a mother figure. I kind of want to look up Moffat’s relationship with his own parents now, as Amy’s parents didn’t even exist at one point and then were barely mentioned, Clara’s parents are in one episode for five minutes (or at least her gran is?) and now Bill.

The Plot

It moves slowly. That’s the first episode of a season for you. They almost always do. We spend a lot of time building up the characters and the meeting, etc etc. And most of the time I hate when they waste half the episode doing that, but it’s the first episode with a new companion. It’s expected. The plot is there to give the Doctor and Bill something to connect on. That being said, this was the first episode in a long time I’d felt nervous or anxious by the “monster”

Heather the possibly queer monster/girl constantly soaking in water is done creepily well. Maybe it’s just my thing with water in horror films and drains and stuff, but honestly there were parts that I was legit creeped out. And while I love Doctor Who for many reasons, getting the chills often just isn’t one of them. Kudos to Heather’s actress and special effects team.

Bill ends up getting to keep her memories, as we all knew she would. Now the biggest question left is: what is this vault the Doctor is protecting/warding against?

 

Overall:

I like Bill. I think I could like Nardole. I have some concerns but over all am much more excited for this season than I have been for the last two.

Allonsy, geronimo and run!!

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Mantras and Chants

My spirituality is a thing that keeps flowing and changing every day. Some days I identify as Unitarian Universalist more (which is a topic for another day), and other days I feel more pagan. The two also have a bit of overlap, especially since being pagan can feel so loose.

One of the most important aspects for my paganism, are chants and mantras. I prefer them to straight talk or silent meditation, and it allows me to channel something inside of myself that I feel is untapped far too often.

It may seem strange to share these on a travel blog, but I hope they inspire some of you, and they are reflection of my travels, both physically, and spiritually.

The River is Flowing

The river is flowing, flowing and growing

The river is flowing down to the sea

Mother Earth carry me, your child I will always be

Mother Earth carry me, back to the sea

 

The moon, she is changing, waxing and waning

The moon she is changing, high above me

Sister moon challenge me, a child I will always be

Sister moon wait for me, until I am free

 

Daughter of the Elements

Daughter of the elements, daughter of the rain

Daughter of the thunder, daughter of the flame

Daughter of the dawn, and daughter of the light

Daughter of the stars, and daughter of the night

Daughter of the earth and daughter of the trees

Daughter of the storms and daughter of the breeze

Daughter of the moon, and daughter of the seas

Daughter of the winds and daughter of the leaves

(repeat twice)

Replaced daughter of with I am for fourth time round

I am the elements

Powerful Woman

I am a powerful woman I am, I am a powerful woman I am

I connect with myself in everything

I am a powerful woman I am

 

I am a passionate woman I am, I am a passionate woman I am

I express myself with power and love

I am a passionate woman I am

 

I am a feeling woman I am, I am a feeling woman I am

I accept all the things expressing through me

I am a feeling woman I am

 

I am a loving woman I am, I am a loving woman I am

I love myself in everyone

I am a loving woman I am

 

I am divine woman I am, I am divine woman I am

The Goddess is fully awake in me

I am divine woman I am

 

I am a powerful woman I am, I am a powerful woman I am

I connect with myself in everything

I am a powerful woman I am

 

Air I Am

Air I am

Fire I am

Water, earth and spirit I am

Earth My Body

Earth my body

Water my blood

Air my breath

And fire my spirit

Shri Ram Jai Ram

Shri ram jai ram

Jai jai ram

Shri ram jai ram

Jai jai ram

Shri ram jai ram

Jai jai ram

Shri ram jai ram

Jai jai ram

Sita ram sita ram

Sita ram sita ram

Sita ram sita ram

Sita ram sita ram

I Bow in Tremendous Gratitude

(this particular mantra has movements that go with it, they will be added it italicized text)

I bow in tremendous gratitude for all that I am given

Bow in gratitude 

I open in acceptance to what is

Pull your arms open to accept things

I let go of the past

Mimic letting going of something

I push back my fear and delusions

Push your fear and delusions away from your body

I open to the heavens

Reach your arms up the heavens and spread them far apart

I take the power to manifest from the earth

Pull up power from the earth

I offer all that I am to the divine

Offer it upwards

I pull down divine inspiration

Pull down inspiration

And will spread it to the four corners of the earth

Mimic spread it in four directions

I will gather all the suffering and ignorance of all that I meet

Pull all of this in towards you, into your chest

And carry it to Mother Earth to be transformed, through compassion, into love

Bring it down to the ground, as you come back up,swirl your hands back and forth, and bring them to your heart

 

Have a mantra or chant that means a lot to you? Share in the comments! I always love learning new ones.

Review Friday: City of Stairs

Good morning, on a tired, cold Friday. I nearly forgot about this, but glad I remembered!

Today I will be reviewing the book:

City of Stairs

City of Stairs is the first book in the soon to be completed Divine Cities trilogy by Jackson Bennett (with the last novel out this month).

The story is about a young diplomat Shara, who comes to the broken and despondent city of Bulikov in order to solve a murder. Her investigations lead her to face the terrifying truth that the God that once ruled might not be as dead as history has lead everyone to believe.

Overall, I immensely liked the novel, and can’t wait to read the sequel, City of Blades. 

The book has a host of interesting characters, but I think my favorite was Shara’s bodyguard, who’s known as her ‘secretary’. He’s bulky, stoic, and takes joy in bloodying up enemies. He’s great.

Shara, the main character, was likable enough, and more importantly, interesting. But she falls under the good old typical trope: skinny, underestimated and jaded. Boy, I’ve never read a book with that kind of main heroine.

Honestly what really shines about this book is the world building, and the mythos it creates. Upon reading it and having a think back over, it’s not all that revolutionary. Yet I haven’t come across another fantasy novel that has done what this story does, and the ones that have touched on the ideas haven’t done it as well as City of Stairs does. Without giving too much away, it’s reminiscent of the Greek gods, and the ideas behind how they could have ruled, but it has its own unique, fascinating and unpleasant history.

The biggest problem I would say the book has it that I wasn’t sucked in. It took me almost half the book to really get into and become fascinated with the ideas it was presenting. Once I did, I couldn’t put the book down, but I wished it hadn’t taken me so long to get into the story.

There’s a character in the novel who’s supposed to be gay, having come from a culture where that’s highly taboo, yet they still have him sleep with women, but the implication is always that he wants to be with men. I’m all for trying to represent a broad spectrum of sexuality, but to me what was trying to get across was muddled. I’d be curious to hear other readers’ opinions.

I thought the build up, character development, and world building in the last 1/3 of the novel was excellent, and it’s left with me with an insatiable desire to find the next book as soon as possible and find out what’s happening with Shara.

If you want a book that:

  • Has a female lead who isn’t a teenager
  • Creates its own complex mythos and world
  • Has a variety of compelling characters
  • Evokes fantasy in a middle eastern setting
  • Presents thoughts on gods and religion that leave questions lingering in your head far beyond just the story the book is telling

Then I recommend City of Stairs

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Review Friday. If you have a specific movie or book you’d like me to review, let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email. 

 

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