zondag 31 mei 2015

October in New Zealand

Finally some new journal logs from our travels in New Zealand! That was about time huh ;) They will cover October this time, which was another month spent in Wanaka - our third already! Starting to feel a little bit 'kiwi'... 
In case you missed previous posts and like to read about our travels from the very start: simply click the tab 'travel' on top of this page to find the other travelogues!
Oh, and one little side note: I didn't take many pictures of all the boring daily stuff, but I did shoot a lot on our hike to Isthmus Peak on October 12th. That's why you find them scattered throughout this post, to fill up the gaps a bit.

Click here for the automatically translated Dutch version of the post.

Isthmus Peak: Hayden, Maddie, me and Mark halfway to the top.


Mark had the day off today (still working as a hammerhand, building this crazy beautiful villa with views over Lake Wanaka), because the building inspector was meant to come inspect the site. Which, by the way, can be tense with a boss like Mark's... he is absolutely one of the most absentminded (but nevertheless very kind) persons I've ever met! Since this all meant the builders could have a sleep-in, John (Mark's colleague and carpooler) invited us yesterday night to come have a drink at his place. So we got on the bikes and raced through Lake Hawea like a couple of ten-year old school boys. I don't know what got into us, the amount of fresh air around here probably makes us a bit wild...we rode like idiots through the streets, competing to be fastest while barely having enough light from our small headlights. So much for safety... John is very nice and I think he's pretty smart too. He's very interested in geology and has serious plans to start a goldmine (no kidding!). Mark is - naturally - very interested, and he has insured himself a job already. I think I like where this is going ;)

Today we took our chance and slept in together, followed by playing Contraption Maker in bed.

This is not nearly as naughty and exciting as it sounds, believe me. Contraption Maker is a computer game in which you have to build crazy contraptions using a wide array of objects, creating endless chain reactions to achieve a specific end goal. If you're on Steam and like a bit of thinking and puzzling, you should give this cheap game a try!

A little screen shot of Contraption Maker. Graphically not outstanding,
but still quite addictive!

I think we're a great team of puzzle-solvers together. Mark tries to think first and solve the puzzle from start to finish, whereas I always start adding random stuff in the middle of the contraption. Our solutions are completely different from the official ones most of the time (you can always compare them once you've solved the puzzle). 

When we went through the front door to go to Wanaka - me because I got called to work, Mark to do some grocery shopping - it turned out we had a flat tyre. So instead of giving a massage, I found myself changing a tyre for the first time in my life. I keep learning new stuff! You know what, I might actually become handy one day (or maybe that's a bit too optimistic...?).


Back to work! I could be found in the Spa, and luckily the building site passed its inspection so Mark could get his hands dirty again too. (He probably could've otherwise as well, although it might have been for a grumpy boss then :P) I really started noticing at the Spa that it's holidays here now, it's becoming busy! 

After work today we helped Hayden (Mark's American colleague) and Maddie (his girlfriend) getting their flat car battery started again, which turned out to be quite the mission. Their car was parked front first on their driveway, with no room to get past. Of course the jumping leads were way too short. Lifting up the car (yes, we actually tried that), didn't work (I keep telling Mark we need to eat more vegetables...spinach maybe?). In the end the flowerbed was given up; it got partly flattened and with a lot of driving skills we managed to get the van between their car and the house with a millimeter to spare on either side. It's a good thing that no-one will notice a few more scratches on our van. Finally we managed to reach their battery with the jumping leads, which turned out to be in less than perfect condition, but after about 28 attempts their engine started running. Hurray!

Afterwards Hayden and Maddie followed us to Lake Hawea to stay for dinner, drinks and sleep the night, which was a lot of fun :)

Isthmus Peak: on our way to the top, accompanied by hundreds of
sheep and the cutest little lambs. 


Weekend! Maddie had to work today, but Hayden, Mark and I went climbing. The guys were slightly hungover (which meant Hayden had an almost-throw-up moment halfway on the rock and Mark's climbing skills mainly involved falling off the rock and Tarzan-swinging around). I did climb pretty hard, because somebody had to do some serious climbing.

Climb and be happy!

The second half of the afternoon I had to work, while Mark used John's trailer to get the remainder of our firewood supply to our new house (in return for two weeks worth of power and bills, seems like a good deal to me!). 

Yes, you read that correctly...we found a new room. After the debacle with our disappearing room mate (see previous month), there was not much left to do for us than search for a new place to live. We lived in Lake Hawea with four people, and the rent divided by four was just about payable for us. With one roommate gone, rent got higher for the remaining three of us...which none of us was exactly happy about (or even able to pay). We put some effort in finding a new roommate, but since we're in between high-seasons (winter's over, summer hasn't really begun), a lot of rooms are available in Wanaka too...and nobody is willing to live in Lake Hawea and drive 20 minutes to get groceries if it isn't really necessary. Even though the house is really beautiful and big and all that. So, to the dismay of the house owners - who turned out to be pregnant with triplets and could really use the money, to make things worse - we ended our tenancy with them and got ourselves a room in Wanaka.

Another sad side effect of all those financial disappointments (our housemate's disappearance while still owing us 600$, as well as our broken van - again: see last month), was that when Andy, our backcountry skiing guide, dropped in one night to discuss the details of our follow-up course, the one in which we would finally go to the glaciers...we had to tell him the whole plan was off. It would simply not have been a wise decision to go through with it, we'd be broke afterwards! It was a huge setback for us both, since we looked forward to it so much and we hadn't been able to do all the glacier-stuff as planned in our first course. The decision was hard to make, but at least we both agreed on it, and shared the disappointment... I guess it would've been even worse if one of us still wanted to push through regardless of the financial consequences - and believe me, we both felt the temptation!

Anyway, back to the new place, which is at walking distance from the Spa, so at least we'll be saving money on diesel. The head tenant is a 'granny' (sorry, I don't mean that in a degrading way...but she really is!); an older woman from the UK who seems to be quite neat and tidy and probably won't suddenly disappear (you start judging possible room mates differently after certain things happened). There's one other tenant; a German guy who is studying to become a primary school teacher, and doing an internship at one of Wanaka's schools. Sounds alright, huh?

Oh, by the way, our house hunt got us at some very interesting other places as well...we visited an ultra modern house in the middle of nowhere (we didn't dare asking John to drive about seven kilometers of unpaved roads both ways every morning to get Mark for work - although the house was pretty cool), and looked at a room in some scary single man's house, previously occupied by two Asian girls.... Naah, thank you very much.

Isthmus Peak: I loved how the sun played a beautiful game of light
and shadow on this steep ridge line. 


Today we intended to climb Isthmus Peak, but the weather was really terrible, so that didn't happen. Instead we played Contraption and drank coffee in bed again (help, we're almost out of puzzles!). The rest of the day we spent messing about the house. Mark cut our mattress to fit in the van; it was quite a mission to saw through the springs, but there was no way it was going to fit in our vehicle otherwise. 

And... tonight we went to Cinema Paradiso! Finally! Mark refuses to go to the movies when it's light outside or when it's not raining, so finding a date wasn't easy. It turned out that “Gone Girl” was playing today, the new movie by the director of among others Fight Club, the Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And it was GOOD! Absolutely thrilling :) Paradiso is a very cool cinema. Their two rooms are filled with old couches and even old-timers to sit in, and during the break you can get freshly-baked cookies (oh, that smell!) and local craft beers. Yes, they bake cookies during the first half of every movie they show! Now thát is a kind of service more cinemas should introduce! Omnomnom... 

The famous, still warm, homemade cookies.


Alright, it's really busy at the Spa now. Karen (one of the firm-pressure colleagues who works at the Spa permanently) is on vacation, so Elena (my Spanish colleague, also a physiotherapist in her home country and traveling through New Zealand) and I do practically all massages. Yesterday I did 5 massages (three x 60 minutes and two x 90 minutes), today was good for three 90 minutes... My hands are really sore, I didn't know you could have such bad muscle ache in your thumbs! I'm home late every night because most clients book their massages at the end of the day (we're open till 9pm), but hey, we're making good money :)


Tonight there's a full lunar eclipse, which we are anxiously waiting for. The moon is half blacked out now, but it should turn red shortly... I can't wait to see what that looks like. Thankfully it's a very bright night. Camera ready!

My pictures of the lunar eclipse and the beatiful Blood Moon. After
lots of fiddling with the right camera settings ;)


We're dealing with a mystery. An unexplainable mystery. Our letterbox keeps inexplicably filling up with hay. I think there are only two possible answers. Either the postman puts it in, or the wind blows in (one and a half meter up, through the tiny slit? I don't think so...) We're leaving this weekend, so I'm afraid we'll never find the cause. 

Oh, by the way, we drank beers by the campfire with Hayden and Maddie, who're camping now at the Albert Town Campground (just outside Wanaka), which was lots of fun!

Hayden and Maddie had to leave their house because the rental contract had ended, but they want to hold on to their jobs for another one or two weeks. So...camping it is, which I find quite impressive, because they have a station wagon (and not a van). I would already find it a challenge to travel & sleep in that size vehicle (although lots of people manage it, even though you pretty much have to move all your stuff the whole time - to the front seats when you want to sleep, to the mattress when you have to drive...aargh!), but imagine you live in it AND also have a job. And that one person takes the car to his or her job, and the other one is pretty much homeless then... Maybe I'm still too attached to luxury and comfort though :) It's eye-opening to see that people actually do this, without making a fuss about it. Even if it's not for me; it ís possible!

Isthmus Peak: halfway to the top, with Lake
Wanaka in the background.


Today was The Great Cleaning Day. It's really nice to have a big house, until you have to get it completely clean and neat and tidied up because you're leaving. Mark, my hero, put on his cleaning face and has been very busy while I completely lost the overview and mainly ran around like a lunatic. What would I do without him? Meanwhile he managed to also help Elena and her French boyfriend Quentin with their van, which they brought to our place. They needed some carpentry work done and were pretty much clueless about it, so Mark helped them on their way, cleaning scrubs in one hand and a hammer in the other. How's that for multitasking?! In the meantime I did three 60 minute massages at the Spa. Productive day!

This is the view from our Day Spa room at the Edgewater Resort,
another location the Spa operates from. Could be worse, huh?!
I gave quite a lot of massages, dreamily staring out over the lake
in the meantime...


Pfew, we managed to move today. Only just though, it was quite a struggle fitting all our stuff in the van! Of course I panicked about how this was going to work later, forgetting we also carried a massive bag of stuffing, a lot of wood off-cuts, an extra mattress and another half mattress. 

Did I ever write about that bag of stuffing? I was looking for some filling for amigurumi's (crocheted animals) and such, when I was still preparing the crochet courses I was meant to teach at the craft store. I couldn't find anything in Wanaka, so went online to score something on TradeMe (a New Zealand kind of Ebay). I found a bag for 7 dollars, photographed on a floor or something, with no size reference at all. I just automatically presumed it would a small to medium sized plastic bag, nothing special.
So...I asked our housemate Jessica if she could pick it up for me in her hometown (Dunedin). Next thing I knew, after the weekend, there was this absolutely GIGANTIC bag full of stuffing standing in the hallway. Poor Jessica could barely fit it in her tiny car, and was constantly wondering what the heck I would need thát for... 

The bag of stuffing. With a girl attached to it.

After we unloaded everything at Niger Street - our new address, we went to pick up Hayden and Maddie (who also moved, to the hotel Maddie's working at...camping and working wasn't all that ideal in the end) to climb Isthmus Peak. A 16 km hike, about a thousand meters up and a thousand down again. Oh, my legs...we definitely need more training, if we ever want to get used to this kind of hiking. 

Isthmus Peak: Hayden & Maddie, just leaving the van to start the climb.

The view was definitely worth it though, from the summit you can see both Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea! The track went through a sheep farm, with lots and lots of little lambs, which were unbearably cute. Some of them had only just been born, making their first uncertain steps with the umbilical cord still attached. Aahw!

Isthmus Peak: "Baaaaaaah!" was our soundtrack. 


Back to work again! With bad muscle aches...I got some sympathy from Elena, who - having hiked Isthmus Peak about a week earlier herself - knew exactly how I felt. She asked if we'd like to come for a barbecue with her and Quentin and some friends after work. They live in a resort, with communal spaces with barbecues, a gym, a sauna and hot pools. Yes, that's right: hotpools! Oh my goodness, I can't even start describing how nice that was for our sore muscles!


I had a lovely day off, finally time to unpack, organise and relax. Untill I got called around dinnertime to do a Body Blitz (60 minutes massage + 30 minutes facial) on a barely English-speaking Russian man of about 50 years old. My goodness he was scary (and of course I happened to be alone at the Spa!), and really, which guy wants a facial?! Believe me, gently scrubbing in lotions on a stubbled chin that smells of nicotine very badly is something I wouldn't recommend to anyone. I was quite relieved to have him snoring deep asleep on the table after 10 minutes, which made the rest of the massage a bit less uncomfortable for me ;)

Isthmus Peak: the most dramatic photo.


More quiet days. One massage a day at most (holidays are over and Karen is back...), which isn't very good for the money, but perfect for recovering, answering emails, and working on dolly assignments (which brings in a little money as well). I sold my vacuum cleaner for the same price I bought it for 2 months ago, and skyped with the two cutest Dutch little girls I know (my mom looks after them, and the occasional skype-date with them means lots of giggles and funny faces) . Meanwhile, our granny housemate (the neat, do-it-my-way, but nevertheless nice main tenant) is on holiday for a few days, so we can be a little less cleaned-up. We found out that we have to tiptoe our way around the house a bit, but right now I can actually leave my coffee cup on the counter top for a few hours before washing it. 

Our new bedroom in 'granny's' house :)


YES! This lady managed to obtain a 500gr bag of possum-fur carded with merino, how awesome is that? 

Dublin Bay Pottery, where I bought my possum-merino fiber.

A quick video I shot at Dublin Bay (yes, I just drove the
van right onto the beach :P ), looking out over Lake

Mark finished early today and was bought lunch by Carl (his boss) together with Hayden and John, because today was Hayden's last day at work. After that we went to mess around on the van a little bit. Mark has finished cutting the mattress to size, which I'm sewing shut now. Meanwhile the shelves in the kitchen have been upgraded and a herbs-and-spices shelve is being made. Tonight we went on a pub crawl with Hayden, Maddie and John to say goodbye to Hayden and Maddie, who are leaving tomorrow, such a shame :( Had a great Mexican meal and laughed hard about Mark who couldn't find the toilet in Fitzpatricks. 

The cut-through mattress, that I'm sewing shut again...
yes, by hand. Best job ever.

Haha, that last part might need a bit of explaining. It was at the end of the evening, so there might have been some alcohol involved... Fitzpatrick is an Irish pub with quite a classic interior, so the old-fashioned bookshelf that is actually the secret door to the toilets is not really prominent. I have to admit, I had some trouble finding it myself the first time! The thing is though, Mark hád actually used that toilet before...so the fact that he was completely clueless and even gave up in the end when he had to use the little boy's room for the second time, was quite hilarious ;)


Today I had to do a massage in the Lookout Lodge, a location in the middle of nowhere high on a hill that's available to rent for weddings and such. This weekend however, there was a yoga retreat happening. The client, an overly-tired mother, was so grateful for the massage that afterwards it seemed like she could burst out in tears and hug me, which was great :) Tonight we sharpened our skis and snowboard using online tutorials and youtube videos. Way cheaper than getting it done professionally, but important to get right, especially with such expensive gear! We want them to last a couple of years at least, so hopefully this will help. Next week we're going to buy an iron, so we can give them a good wax as well.

Isthmus Peak: almost on the top!


We both had the day off today, and the weather was good, so we finally went climbing again. But, oh, my hands get so soft from all the massage oil, which really sucks. Hopefully the weather will soon be good enough to explore the climbing on the other side of Hospital Flat. 

Hospital Flat, the climbing area, is divided by a road that runs right through it. On one side the walls mainly face north, which means lots of sun (we're below the equator here, remember?). In winter this is absolutely perfect, you can even climb in your top while you see people skiing at the Treble Cone ski field in the distance, but in summer it's way too hot, you'll burn alive. That's when most people go to the other side, where lots of walls are facing south - meaning shadow. During winter, those south facing walls stay wet for too long to be really climbable. All in all this makes Hospital Flat a perfect year-round climbing area, the inhabitants of Wanaka and surroundings are really lucky!

Isthmus Peak: more dramatic ridge lines...


I haven't been called to work at the Spa for 2 days now, not making much money this way. Luckily we got most of our bond back. Not all of it, because they had a few things to whine about, which we thought was quite ridiculous and unfounded, but we accepted it... Maybe it's not the best idea to rent out your house if it's already sold? We're glad to be out of there anyway. It was a nice house, but all the unpleasant events with our housemate and the houseowners' cold reactions to that made me happy to leave. Sigh, sometimes I get so tired of the fact that I take everything too personally! Anyway, I finished and sent 2 alpaca/mohair batches (= doll hair) and secretly took photos in the library of the Wanaka Rock Topo. Oh, there are so many more climbing routes to be discovered in the area!

I took the photos secretly because Wanaka's rock climbing guidebook is sold out, and the new version is not coming out before next year. In the meantime, we can't borrow the library's guidebook, nor are we allowed to make photocopies, because of some silly copyright rules according to the library lady. Well, how on earth are we thén supposed to know where to climb?! So I went on a mission, sneakily hiding behind my backpack, looking very innocent every time someone passed my table...hah, I felt a bit like a spy!


It's still very quiet at the Spa. It's always all or nothing, it seems. Luckily Mark is still doing long hours, and enjoying the work (especially when his boss is buying sushi for lunch! :P). Meanwhile I picked up on my spinning course again, it's really time I finish it by now. It can be pretty hard at times, but it's very interesting. The guidance by the tutor - through email, post and Facebook - is very good as well. Plus it's a New Zealand course (even though international students can sign up and I started it back in the Netherlands already), it's nice to be in the same timezone as my tutor now! Makes asking quick questions a bit easier :)
I went bouldering for an hour at Basecamp (the local climbing gym) and we waxed our skis and board with our new iron. They're well protected for summer, and we learned something new.

Mark giving his skis a good fat summer wax. 


Mark had an emergency job at work this morning (Saturday), as they delivered some doors yesterday that turned out to be the wrong size. Normally he doesn't have to work Saturday, but this week the extra money was more than welcome. Quentin en Elena were supposed to come to work on their van a little bit, but they were too tired/hungover...so we ended up doing some work on our own van instead. I've almost finished sewing the mattress shut and Mark started on the second closet, where I can put my crafting stuff in. It even has a fold-out table for my sewing machine. He also found the perfect place for our solar panel, on the back of the closet, behind an opening window. Goodness, everything is turning out so cool!
We watched the worst movie every tonight, I don't even dare to call it by name. Talk to Jenny if you want to know, she máde me watch it.

How's that for a van's kitchen?!

Mark being very proud of his
folding-out countertop.


Today I had to work at 11.30 and 16.00, and in between we went climbing. We went to Mt. Iron this time, which is a small climbing area at a 10 minute drive away. Not by far as big as Hospital Flat, but three times closer by! There were actually more good routes than we expected. It's Labour Weekend, and the Red Bull competition is being held in Wanaka these days as well, so it's very busy in town. But, in the sun on Mt. Iron it was great! It's less than 10 minutes from the town center but it feels like you're in the middle of nature. Thankfully climbing went a little better than last weekend. At least less work means less softening of my fingers...always look on the bright side!

Looking out from Mt Iron over Albert Town, a kind of suburb from

Tonight we discovered a new game, called Road not Taken. We had to find a new obsession, because we solved all Contraption Maker's puzzles. I have no idea why, but Mark absolutely enjoys sitting next to me and watching me play the game. I think it's because I'm so bad at it, it's just a kind of malicious pleasure...

Some of the wonderful creatures of 'Road Not Taken'


Today Quentin and Elena did feel good enough to come by with their van, Mark helped them make the bed slightly longer (they're both very short, but still tall enough to have their feet in their kitchen). Meanwhile I cut fabric for the curtains and pillows, because it's almost time for furnishing now. 

Our 'house granny' put on her best face today and showed a lot of interest in our friends and their van. It was quite funny when Quentin started selling her stuff they don't need in the van (she only took some nails, but his efforts were very amusing to watch!). I'm glad they were all friendly and nice together though; living with granny isn't always easy as it turns out. She is just SO neat and focused on her own way of doing things, she even tells me how I am supposed to do my laundry and starts cleaning up after me (with lots of obvious sighs) if I leave something laying around - on purpose, because I want to use it again 15 minutes later! Let's just put it this way: our current accommodation came with free training in patience ;)

This afternoon we all went to Hospital Flat, Quentin & Elena and some of their friends came along. They were keen to try outdoor climbing, so Mark and I led routes for them to top-rope. They found it pretty hard (it's completely different than climbing indoors, which they had tried once before!) but I think they enjoyed it. We felt we all deserved the BBQ and hot pools after all that torture on the rocks.

Isthmus Peak: Team America on the way down.


Yesterday, as always, no work at the Spa, then today I all of a sudden had three 90 minute massages in a row! Worst timing ever, because we also wanted to finish Quentin and Elena's van and have dinner with them afterwards. With Elena and me working non-stop from 4 till 9.30 that turned out a bit different than planned... Anyway, Mark en Quentin finished the van (a solar panel is now glued to the roof - like, forever. It is never coming off again!). And by 22.15 we were finally eating delicious home-made pizzas, absolutely worth the wait. 


There are too many moths here in this house. Tonight we had one fluttering through the room again, and studied it closely. Now we are wondering: are those things blind or something? They fly full-speed into stuff áll the time. And then next they sit down somewhere to easily be picked up - which I have to do, as Mark has a moth phobia. You should see him when a moth enters his personal space :P. They're curious creatures really.

Isthmus Peak: back at the van again. As always, patiently
waiting for us to hop back on :)


Did 2 massages today, and afterwards had a free dinner with Mark at Red Star, where Quentin works. It's a burger restaurant, but very fancy and very good! Afterwards we were invited to the pub to celebrate Vanessa's (my boss) birthday and say goodbye to Elena. Sadly she and Quentin are leaving Wanaka really soon now! I played pool for the first time in my life. I know, I'm 26 years old... But I made up for it by beating Mark 3 times! Ha!

It was actually Quentin's last day at his job, and it also happened to be Halloween. So he was dressed as a banana. Quentin is already a funny guy to see, quite short (you should see him next to Mark!), quirky dreadlocks and always a smile. But as a banana, he's even better! He had sayings written all over him in permanent marker (such a good idea) and made us the best hamburgers we ever ate. He's also very keen to learn stuff, even though he is absolutely clueless when it comes to rebuilding their van for example, or repairing clothes for that matter. He came to me earlier with his favorite jeans and a piece of colorful fabric, with the question if I could show him how to repair it. I'm not sure if he'll ever learn, he went off to work halfway and I finished the job, but when he turned up to Vanessa's party this evening he was proudly wearing them, totally happy with how they turned out! :D

Mark and Banana-Quentin. Notice the different in height, lol!

And that's it for October! I hope you enjoyed this travelogue again - even though there's not much traveling involved yet... The plan is to spend one more month in Wanaka, which will be covered in the next blogpost, and then really start touring around the South Island. Something we both really look forward to!

woensdag 1 april 2015

My last year's favorite reads & sees - part 3 (series)

Okay guys, this is the last part of my ‘2014 favorites’ blogpost series. If you missed out on the books or the movies, go check them out to see if there’s anything you might like! Today it’s time for the series…so all you fellow serie-junkies: settle down for a moment with a hot cuppa, and don’t forget to leave your own recommendations behind in the comments!


This series was just perfect for us to watch last year, at the end of 2014: it takes place in the beautiful area around Queenstown, the city where we spent our first week in New Zealand (and lived only about an hour away from for the subsequent 4 months). The director of this series did an absolutely fabulous job in capturing these breathtaking surroundings (because they dó take your breath away, believe me!), and turning them into the mysteriously serene backdrops for a not-so serene event: the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year old girl named Tui. 

Main character Robin Griffin is called in to investigate the case. Coming back to the area where she grew up, she quickly finds herself submerged in the secrets of a tight-knit community, while at the same time some ghosts of her own past start showing up. Elisabeth Moss, who plays her, definitely knows how to act and gives her character exactly the right amount of guts and fragility. She’s not your average perfect photo model actress (enhanced by the fact that Robin is not really a make-up kind of girl), which I always find refreshing, often adding to a series' (or movie's) credibility. 

Another storyline that’s neatly woven in, is that of the women at Paradise (a small place at the ‘top of the lake’ Wakatipu), under the seemingly unaffected guidance of GJ (another female role that's played só well in this series!). These broken women, searching for love and direction in their lives, add a bit of humour to the dark story. They have the weirdest backgrounds and often reminded me of a big bunch of helpless, lost and slightly dumb sheep. But beware, looks might mislead…

All in all, I highly enjoyed the six long episodes of this miniseries, it was almost like watching six good thrillers. I discovered it got some critique as being too feministic, but I never actually noticed that while watching it. I'm not sure if I just ignorantly missed a feminist agenda here, so I just asked Mark: he must have missed it too then. Yes, there are some very nasty male characters...but then there are good ones too (I absolutely loved Johnno, for example (not an unpleasant actor to look at neither ;)), and the series just deals with a couple of issues that unfortunately are a reality in current society, mainly seen through the eyes of the (female) main character. I don't know if I would call that 'feministic'... Either way; every episode’s ending had me expectantly waiting for the next, looking forward to seeing more of the mystery unravel in such eye-pleasing surroundings. Wonderful, really! 

Mark and I watched all 5 seasons of this series in the second half of 2014, starting just after we arrived in New Zealand. I can still remember the first episode, in our tiny bedroom in a hostel in Queenstown…we were hooked from that very start!

Breaking Bad has been a very popular series over the last couple of years, and scored high critiques all over the world. I’m not gonna say too much about it, chances are high you saw it already anyway :) But, in case you haven’t: go give it a try! I always was a bit afraid it might be more of a men’s series, a bit of action and crime and drugs, male main characters…you know, all the standard presumptions. Nothing turned out to be less true though, the characters are all very human, real and vulnerable in their own ways. The series is full of universal themes, emotions and different types of motives. It doesn’t exactly promote drugs either, if that’s what you’re worried about…it just takes a bizarre situation as its starting point (a chemistry teacher starting to produce and sell meth after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer) and then, very intricately, shows the viewer all the complex consequences on smaller and bigger scales. All the while  excellent insights in the temptations of money, of power and of escape are provided; different motives that are all somehow woven together, sustaining each other. 

See? Not just plain stupid men’s series shit :P Walter's wife Skyler actually has quite a prominent role in the series. Anna Gunn, who plays her, definitely earns her spot in the list of all the female actresses I’m raving about in this blogpost with her powerful performance in Breaking Bad. A lioness, that’s what she kept reminding me off throughout the series. Oh, and did I already mention that I really liked the setting of the Breaking Bad? It takes place in New Mexico, with excellent screenshots of this dry, stifling area. Maybe not America’s most beautiful place, but definitely unique in its own way. 

The mobile 'Meth lab', under NM's beautiful wide skies.

I love how series can open your eyes for new things (like a geographical place, in this case).
Breaking Bad came to its glorious end and is sadly over (at the right moment though, admittedly), but…we just found out that the annoyingly optimistic lawyer in Breaking Bad: Saul Goodman, got his own spin-off: Better Call Saul. We haven’t watched any episodes yet, but will surely give it a try! I'm always a bit afraid of bad rip-offs with these kind of things…but who knows: maybe it’s actually worth watching, Vince Gilligan surely proved his talent for making a highly enjoyable series before!

I must honestly admit that this series is on the verge of what’s really too bizarre for me. I started watching Hannibal because I loved ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ and the other Hannibal movies when I was younger, and because I find Mads Mikkelsen terrific, fascinating actor (okay…and I don’t really mind looking at Hugh Dancy for 50 minutes at a time *grin*). But where the movies were a bit disturbing already, the series take this ‘disturbingness’ to a whole new level. Which, at the same time, probably also secures the series' tension and shocking effect that keeps me coming back after each previous episode. 

‘Hannibal’ the series takes place somewhere before 'Red Dragon', and explores the growing relationship between forensic profiler Will Graham and his psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. Both of them have a brilliant mind, but the conflicted Will is being more and more haunted by his imagination and his ability to emphasize with serial killers. In his vulnerability and confusion he forms the perfect prey for Dr. Lecter's subtle manipulation. Hannibal's methods are sophisticated and misleadingly elegant, but oh-so dark, slowly bringing Will deeper and deeper under his control and leading him into the shadows of mental torment. 

The series could probably best be called 'psychological horror'. It has it's fair amount of gory scenes, but personally I find the twisted, perfectly hidden ways in which Hannibal abuses Will's mental instability more unnerving than all the gore, and I believe that the relationship between them is where the real horror aspect of the series takes place. But no matter how you put it, you have to like this kind of stuff to enjoy the series. If you don't, I can relate to that too...I sometimes even wonder myself why I'm fascinated by a tv series that can be so distorting at times.

One last thing: if you liked the movies and maybe even read the books, and are afraid this series will somehow be a poor rip-off: don't be. Besides the fact that the series don't really follow the continuity of the books or movies and has some (un?)pleasant surprises in store for its viewers, the directors also did an exceptional job with the casting. Even the biggest Anthony Hopkins fan will - maybe reluctantly - admit that Mads Mikkelsen has taken our era's most notorious monster killer to a whole new level.

I can’t believe I actually had the guts to put this one on the list (I’m a little bit ashamed) but yes…I really do like it, despite every single episode being complete and utter nonsense. Anger Management is the series Mark and I watch when we’re not in the mood for anything serious or complicated (come on, you have a favorite series for those kind of moments too, admit it!). 

No one can beat Charlie Sheen, and his little anger therapy group consists of some hilariously stereotypical personalities. I must say I do miss Kate a bit, I love Selma Blair as an actress anyway, and the chemistry between her and Charlie was quite good. However, her successor Jordan (a recovering alcoholic and also a therapist) does not a bad job at all. So yeah, not too proud of this one, but it deserves its place in the list.

I know, I’m terribly late with this one. This series ended, what, five years ago? It’s all my bestie Eef’s fault really, she started watching Lost back in 2013 (only just thréé years after it finished :P ) , and kept on telling me how good it was and all that. In the end, I had not much of a choice but to see it for myself…and of course she was right. 

I think I began watching 'Lost' myself around the beginning of 2014, and came to halfway season 4. In that period, our big trip came closer, and preparations took over…leaving me with not much time for more Lost episodes. When I finally wanted to pick it up again in New Zealand, I realized I had completely 'lost' (sorry, bad joke) its storyline! So I developed a strategy to trick Mark into starting the series as well (just like Eef did with me). It really seemed like the perfect solution: shared fun = double fun, and by starting again at episode 1 (which I absolutely didn’t mind…did I already tell you I really like Lost?), I would pick up on the storyline once again, hopefully with even more attention to all the wonderful layers and details.

Getting Mark into watching Lost costed some effort, he didn’t think he would like it. And I must admit, I can’t blame him…if you’re surfing channels and end up in the middle of a random epidsode of Lost, chanches are it might make no sense at all and will look kind of weird and unrealistic. But, I managed to make Mark promise to give at least the first season a try, and if he didn’t like it, I wouldn’t push him any further. We’re almost at the end of season 4 now :) 

Some of the strongest points of Lost are, in my opinion, the characters, and how incredibly realistically and well they are worked out. No matter what type of person you are, you’re bound to recognize yourself in at least one, but probably more of the ‘islanders’. Sometimes (or maybe often…) fictional characters stay quite stereotypical and flat, lacking the complexity that would make them human…but not in Lost, I find. Enhanced by the flashbacks and later the flash-forwards you will feel like you get to know the main characters – such a diverse group of people – quite well. They could be real. And that’s probably exactly why all the mystery and weird stuff and not-really possible things the series is indeed full of, are very easily accepted (in contrast to when you accidentally happen to see a random episode and didn't got to know any of the characters at all). 

I hope this doesn’t sound like I don’t really like that sci-fi, mystery aspect of the series though…because I do, tremendously even! I’m just blown away by the balance between science-fiction and reality, by how perfectly they complement each other. One adds to the credibility, the other to the suspense and enchantment.

Since I haven’t seen more then four seasons just yet, I can’t really say anything about the whole series… All I can say is that if you haven’t watched it already (read: if you’ve been living under a stone for the last decade, just like me :P ), go give it a try! It’s not out-dated, nor will it be for another long time I think, the themes are just tóó universal and timeless. As is surviving on an island, for that matter… I must say that some of our own adventures in New Zealand made me vaguely feel like an ‘islander’ myself, does that sound silly? We hiked for 10 days through the bush, slept in a handmade driftwood hut on the beach…I’m just glad we can get off this island though (if we would ever want to ;)). 

This can by no means be an official Lost photo and must be some kind of
fan art...but I thought it's quite hilarious either way.

If you’re a bit of a pop-culture fanatic and like analysing the storylines and episodes of your favourite series: Lost can be taken to that next level and will offer you plenty of food for thought. There is só much going on in this series in terms of hidden references, philosophy, easter eggs and symbolism, you’d probably have to watch it at least 5 times to notice it all. The makers really put a huge effort in this aspect of the series, hence the impressive amount of online discussions, blogs, groups and websites dedicated to it. I myself found it quite a shame to let all that stuff go unnoticed, so I recently purchased the book ‘Lost – Humanity’ for my Kindle, to guide me through these hidden gems. I can’t wait to explore more, and to ultimately find out how the whole Lost-story will end!

Okay, this one’s my guilty pleasure. It’s very girlish, might be lacking some real depth and Miss Hart can be quite annoying at times. But I just need one series like this in my life, a little escape when I need some simple, feminine distraction :) I already wrote a review about the first season of Heart of Dixie a little while ago, you can read that one if you’re unfamiliar with it. 

I’m in the third season now, still enjoying it despites its flaws (or maybe not flaws, just despite the fact that it’s quite different from the other stuff I like to watch). I just can’t believe how much more I came to like Lemon during the second and third season! And another silly thing: it took me a little while to connect the dots and recognize Dr. Breeland’s girlfriend Shelby as Charlie’s therapist colleague Jordan in Anger Management. I must admit: this girl (Laura Bell Bundy's her name) doesn’t get to play the smartest, most world wise girls…but she definitely pulls off her ‘blondie’ characters with flair!

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