JNG’s Weekly Round-Up #3

Hello and Happy Sunday!

Today, I’m feeling that it’s a Sunday. Recently, I haven’t been too depressed on Sundays and I haven’t dreaded Mondays all that much, but today I am definitely struggling with the idea of heading back to work already. Maybe it’s because last weekend was a long one, or because I didn’t have the chance to read as much as I would’ve liked to this weekend, but I just feel like the last two days sped by rapidly, and I wasn’t ever able to catch up. I can’t say I’m all that concerned about the summer coming to an end, what with the fact that I’m a Fall/Winter Girl through and through, but I still wish Monday morning didn’t creep up on me so quickly sometimes. Having said that, I’m back with another Weekly Round-Up to discuss just how much I accomplished this week. Here are the items I will be mentioning in today’s post…

  1. What I’m Currently Reading
  2. What I’ve Recently Finished Reading
  3. What I Intend to Read Next
  4. My Favourite Quote of the Week (from any form of pop culture – literature, movies, music, etc.)
  5. My Favourite/Most Listened To Song of the Week
  6. Photo of the Week
  7. My *Weekly Wish*

• Currently Reading •

I’m currently about halfway through Colleen Hoover’s novel It Ends With Us. I’ve been hearing a lot about how incredible Hoover is as a romance writer for the past few months, and when I finished my most recent read (more on this below) midway through this week, I decided it was high time for a lunch hour excursion to the Chapters near my work to pick up a novel that would mark my first foray into Hoover’s catalogue. I chose It Ends With Us because I had seen the best reviews for it on Goodreads, and I am thoroughly enjoying it so far. I caught wind of what the basic premise and main conflict of the novel is, so I’m positive that it is going to break my heart and destroy me, but so far I am intrigued and interested in watching the characters progress. I also really like the narrator, Lily Bloom, and am enjoying reading all about her floral shop and her interactions with her best friend Allysa. Having said that, I know the story is going to get deep and heavy, so I am emotionally preparing myself for that complete 180.

• Recently Finished •

Halfway through this week I finished The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. You can read my review of the novel here. For me, it was an average novel, mainly because I found it hard to connect to the narrator, Professor Don Tillman, and his scientific, logical, straightforward manner of speaking. I sped through it and I didn’t hate it by any means, but it’s not my absolute favourite novel that I’ve read recently.

• What’s Next •

This is tricky because I am still drowning under piles of books I have to read (not a bad thing whatsoever, mind you). This past week, however, I managed to score tickets to see one of my favourite authors of all time, John Irving, in conversation at my old university. He’ll be appearing there in early September, and while I’ve read many of his novels (The World According to Garp most recently, although A Prayer for Owen Meany is my all-time favourite), I have been meaning to read his latest novel, Avenue of Mysteries, for a very long time. It is currently sitting on my bookshelf, so I absolutely will be picking that up before I see John Irving live (Eek, so excited!), either next up after I finish my current read, or in the very near future.

• Quote of the Week •

“It is my intention to astonish you all.” ~ Bathsheba Everdene

Last night, my fiancé and I sat down to watch a movie on Netflix, and I somehow managed to get him to agree to watch Far From the Madding Crowd, starring Carey Mulligan. He is a huge fan of Victorian film adaptations ever since meeting me, and he was more than willing to delve into this story because he generally likes period dramas. I had already seen the movie, but I find Bathsheba Everdene to be such a fascinating and conflicting character that I was eager to watch the film again. And, besides, Garbiel Oak is definitely a swoonworthy hero. What struck me most in my rewatch of this movie, though, is the fact that Bathsheba is such a modern and contemporary heroine. She is strong and defiant in the face of her male counterparts who try to shut her down, and she is quite progressive in her attempts to manage a farm herself. She refuses to allow men to tell her what she is and is not capable of, and although she makes a few blunders in the name of “love”, she has herself mostly figured out from a business perspective. She is also unfailingly confident, both in her abilities and her intelligence, and her dialogues are always pointed and sharp – she never gives her male interlocutors the upper hand. I personally like Bathsheba quite a lot, particularly when she proclaims the quote above, surrounded by the men that she will be the boss of on her newly inherited farm. She is a force to be reckoned with, as are the greatest female characters in film and literature.

• Song of the Week •

And on that same vein, my song choice for this week is “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme”, sung my Carey Mulligan in the Far From The Madding Crowd movie and on the soundtrack. It is such a simple Victorian ballad, but the lyrics are poignant in that they offer advice to women to guard their hearts and their heads. I know this is a bit of an archaic idea, but Mulligan sings the song so simply and I like that her voice is not classically trained, but fits the genre so well. It definitely whisked me back to Victorian times when I listened to it.

• Photo of the Week •

There is one photo that I am absolutely dying to post, but unfortunately, I can’t. It is probably the best photo of me ever, and I am standing with my back to the camera, wearing my wedding dress. It is just the most gorgeous photo (if I do say so myself) and all I want is to be able to show it to everyone. But, alas, my wedding is still just over 4 months away, so the time for my big reveal of my wedding dress hasn’t come yet.

In lieu of that particular photo, then, I have chosen this photo of my fiancé and I as my Photo of the Week. It is one of the photos from our engagement session, and I just love the joy and happiness that is clear on my face. I don’t think I’ve ever looked more excited or comfortable or at peace in a photo, and the man whose arms are wrapped around me has A LOT to do with that!

• JNG’s Weekly Wish •

To finish things off for this week… My wish is that tomorrow will be the least Monday-like Monday of all the Mondays. I’m hoping it feels more like the start of a new adventure than like the beginning of a daunting work week.

Good luck tomorrow everyone!

xox

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

JNG’s Weekly Round-Up #2

Hello and Happy Monday!

It’s a holiday here in Toronto, so I decided to postpone my Weekly Round-Up until today to give you a full picture of what I accomplished this week. I’ll be following the same format I used last week, and this was an incredibly productive weekend where I was actually able to finish three books and write reviews of them. I was so happy with this and I really feel like my commitment to reading has picked up a lot this year! Last year, I struggled to balance working full-time, commuting, spending time with my fiancé (we were living apart) and reading in the evenings. My only reading time came during my lunch breaks and my evening bus rides. I was quite worried, when I moved in with my fiancé and started walking to work, that without an evening bus commute, I wouldn’t be reading very much at all. But, as it turns out, I’ve been spending more time than ever reading, and I’m actually zipping through books as quickly as I used to in school – this is all down to the fact that my fiancé and I have this amazing routine where we go to the gym right after work, make dinner and then spend the entire night (hours on hours) reading beside one another on our plush, gold couch with steaming teas. My fiancé is big on reading graphic novels, and he gets so excited about reading beside me and pausing to tell me bits and pieces of his stories, and this offers me so much time to delve into my own fictional worlds. I’m obsessed with this new routine of ours, and honestly, I get really grumpy and annoyed if anything at all happens to interrupt it!

Anywho, on to my more formal update for this week. Here is a reminder of the topics I will be discussing in today’s Weekly Round-Up…

  1. What I’m Currently Reading
  2. What I’ve Recently Finished Reading
  3. What I Intend to Read Next
  4. My Favourite Quote of the Week (from any form of pop culture – literature, movies, music, etc.)
  5. My Favourite/Most Listened To Song of the Week
  6. Photo of the Week
  7. My *Weekly Wish*

• Currently Reading •

At the moment, I’m about 20 pages into Graeme Simsion’s contemporary novel The Rosie Project. I’ve been taking this one slow, since I started it yesterday, because I spent a lot of time reading on Friday and Saturday, so I just want to slow down my reading a touch. Having said that, I don’t know how I feel about this novel just yet. I know I’m not very far into it at all, but I can already tell that I’m not really connecting to the narrator, Professor Don Tillman. I should say that I am not at all a fan of the show the Big Bang Theory, and I’ve heard Tillman being compared to the character Sheldon Cooper, so I am a bit wary of that. But, I’ve been meaning to read this novel for a long time, so I’m going to plug through it and give it a chance. Hopefully, it ends up surprising me!

• Recently Finished •

This past weekend, I finished three books in total, two of which I started and finished within a day. The three novels were Shooting Scars and Bold Tricks by Karina Halle and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. You can read my detailed reviews of them here and here.

• What’s Next •

That is a darn good question! I really have no idea what I’m going to read after finishing The Rosie Project, and this is NOT for lack of physical books around me. I have about 20 books sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be picked up. Some of them are standalone, contemporary novels. Others are massive fantasy series. I have no idea what my plan is, or when I’m going to get through all of these. I’m thinking, though, that after finishing The Rosie Project, I may read one more standalone novel, and then delve into the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. I think that will allow me to put a significant dent in my contemporary literature pile, but then get back into the fantasy realm that I’m missing a little bit. One thing I do know for sure is that I want to finish off the year reading a classic, and I’ve already decided that my December read will be Bleak House by Charles Dickens. So, if all goes according to plan, by the time I get married, I will be deep into Bleak House – I think that’s fitting considering I’m having a Victorian-inspired wedding!

• Quote of the Week •

This week’s quote comes from a song, rather than a work of literature. I’ve been listening to Sia’s song Helium nonstop for the last little while, and I absolutely love it! It reminds me so much of my relationship with my fiancé, and it is the song I always rush to put on at work whenever I’m feeling the least bit anxious or depressed.

“But even Superwoman sometimes needed Superman’s soul /

Help me out of this hell /

Your love lifts me up like helium.”

• Song of the Week •

Naturally, my song choice of the week is Sia’s Helium. Having said that, my fiancé and I recently signed up for a Spotify account, so that has made sooo much music available to us! This past weekend, we’ve been obsessed with listening to the soundtrack for the musical Hamilton, and I’m literally addicted to it. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius (okay, everyone knows this already, but I felt I should restate it), and if I had to select one favourite song from Hamilton, I’d go with Helpless because it is adorable and harkens back to all these incredible love songs from the 50’s. I LOVE it! Everyone needs to listen to this soundtrack! (I’m actually currently listening to it, as I write this, and My Shot is such a catchy song too – it is just way too difficult to pick a favourite!)

• Photo of the Week •

My favourite photo of this week is another one my fiancé took of me during our bookish photoshoot a couple of weeks ago. I originally thought this photo was too ridiculous to post and that it was a bit embarrassing, but after I put it on Instagram, so many people complimented me on it that I started to see it as cute and endearing. And really, my whole inspiration for it was to look like Eliza Doolittle, balancing books on her head in the hopes of becoming a dignified lady, as paradoxical as that may seem!

• JNG’s Weekly Wish •

My wish for this week is that it will go by quickly. I have so many fun plans for next weekend already, including going to a Greek food festival downtown and celebrating my mom’s birthday, and I just can’t imagine sitting at my desk for hours and daydreaming about freedom. I’m also going out tonight with my fiancé and my dad – we’re heading downtown to see the WWE’s Monday Night RAW live. I am actually so excited about this because I LOVE wrestling and I grew up watching Monday Night RAW with my dad, so I cannot wait to be watching it live, in such a big venue (I’ve been to see WWE wrestling at a smaller venue in Oshawa, but this is Monday Night RAW we’re talking about)! Amidst all this excitement, and considering that my wedding is just over four months away, I really am over work – but I mean, aren’t we all, especially on long weekends? And all things considered, my job and work environment are pretty awesome…so maybe my weekly wish should be that I’ll feel inclined to complain less…???

Enjoy your Monday everyone! I know Mondays can be tricky days, but isn’t it nice to get a fresh start every week? Let’s all try to embrace it!

xox

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

Somewhere – #JNGWatches & #JNGListens

“There’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us. Peace and quiet and open air, wait for us, somewhere.” – West Side Story

This is a subject I don’t really want to talk about, but I feel I have to.

I am one of the extremely privileged FEW who has never had to deal with severe racism. I’m thoroughly Canadian, born and raised, and I have never been discriminated against because of my culture or physical appearance or anything of that nature. But, we’ve all been following the news lately, and racism is a very prevalent part of our society’s culture. In Canada, I think we’re a bit better off, but every now and then there are those stories of people facing prejudice and hatred because of the place they were born, the beliefs they ascribe to, the clothes they wear, any number of things. I’m not qualified to speak about these specific issues because, like I said, I’ve never been in the position to be discriminated against in this way. However, I can state my opinion, which is that racial, religious, discrimination of any kind is wrong, horrible and detrimental to our overall society and well-being.

This past Monday night, I watched West Side Story in its entirety for the first time ever. It is my mom’s favourite musical and has been since she was a child, and although I’ve always been familiar with the songs and the story (especially considering that it was derived from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), I can’t say I’ve ever seen all of the scenes of the movie adaptation. On Monday, when I stumbled upon the film on Turner Classic Movies, I sat myself down and watched all of it…and ended up crying a few times along the way. Now, I should say that I’m not really a crier – a movie has to be downright depressing to get me to shed a tear. I’m much more likely to cry while reading a book because I’ve journeyed with the characters for longer. Anyway, something about West Side Story really got to me. Maybe it’s the fact that Maria doesn’t die at the end like her counterpart Juliet and is instead forced to live without her newfound love Tony. Or, perhaps and probably more likely, it’s the fact that Tony dies for absolutely NO GOOD REASON. Discussions about gun violence are prevalent enough nowadays that I don’t have to get into that. But what I do also find ludicrous is that Tony is murdered in cold blood simply because he is hated by another group of people. The Sharks despise the Jets, the Puerto Ricans and the “real Americans” just can’t get along, and so a young man with his entire life, a fine future full of love and happiness ahead of him has to die. This seems utterly senseless to me.

Like I said, I’ve never faced true discrimination. I’m incredibly lucky in that way. But, I have experienced hatred and racism and prejudice on a smaller scale, even within my closest circles. There are a lot of people in this world who refuse to accept those who don’t think exactly like them. My father, mother, brother and I are pretty open and honest about our beliefs and this isn’t always easy for us because not everyone, sometimes not even those people who are supposed to know and love us best, chooses to respect our opinions. Furthermore, my fiancé is from the Middle East, as is my mom’s family, and that carries its own difficulties and sources of misunderstanding. It’s all a little pathetic in my opinion because I pride myself in being open-minded under all circumstances – I was raised to never be judgmental. But fine, I can handle if someone wants to judge and criticize me – I just think it’s sad and is going to ruin what little peace and dignity there is left in our world.

What am I trying to say here? Well, I’m not trying to get all preachy, although it seems like I have. All I want to say is that I watched West Side Story this week and I loved it…but I also hated it, because fiction has become far too real recently, and it doesn’t seem like anyone is learning from the stories around them anymore. And in that sense, I think the readers of all sorts of fiction are starting to fail themselves these days.

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Black Hearts – #JNGListens

If you follow along with me on Twitter, you’ll have noticed that midway through this week I started quoting lyrics from some popular rock songs. These lyrics were selected from the songs played by two of my favourite rock groups at the concert I went to exactly a week ago. Obviously, you’ve heard it here time and time again, I’m a huge fan of concerts – I love the experience of watching my favourite musicians perform live and witnessing their artistic genius come to life before me. I’ve attended MANY rock concerts, but I’ve mostly only seen male artists (such as my all time favourite, Bruce Springsteen, quite recently). I’ve been desperately wanting to see a specific list of female rock stars for the longest time, and last Sunday I was able to check two groups off my Concert Bucket List.

Joan Jett and the BlackHearts Heart Concert

Last Sunday, I got to see Joan Jett and the Blackhearts open for Heart.

Now, I know a lot of people find it funny that I like these particular artists so much, considering that most of their music was released before I was even born. I absolutely love all of their songs, though, and I chose to select my #JNGListens quotes for this week from two of my favourite songs.

“Yeah, my, my such a sweet thing

I wanna do everything” – Crimson and Clover, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

“Come on home, girl

He said with a smile….

Try to understand…

He’s a magic man” – Magic Man, Heart

Although these two songs are definitely my favourites by Joan Jett and Heart, I have so many other favourites that I can sing along to as well, such as I Hate Myself for Loving You (Joan Jett), Alone and What About Love (Heart). What I didn’t expect, however, was for the songs to be performed so well. Joan Jett has an incredible presence: she’s naturally really badass, but she also comes across as genuine and excited to engage her fans. As for Heart, Ann Wilson has an amazing voice and she sang effortlessly. Nancy Wilson is a great guitarist, and it was so cool to see these females get a crowd so excited and engaged. I loved the fact that the rock music was just as hard and edgy as if a male artist was performing (and why shouldn’t it be?), and I had fun dancing and singing along for hours.

This is my first of what I hope will be many concerts showcasing female rock bands. Next on my list is definitely Pat Benatar – what can I say, I love my 80’s music! 😉

❥ ❥

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Once Upon a Dream – #JNGListens

~ “I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream….

But if I know you, I know what you’ll do,

You’ll love me at once / the way you did once upon a dream.”

~ Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

I’m posting this week’s #JNGListens entry a touch early because I have plans for another blog post this weekend. I realized when I was thinking about and mapping out these two posts that they treat very similar themes, and so I thought, why not post them both in one weekend…but that, of course, takes some manipulation and some strategic moving around of my regular #JNGReads / #JNGListens post. So, instead of getting my quote selection of the week on Sunday, I’m delivering it up to you all today. And stay tuned for another blog post later this weekend as well!

Today’s quote, or I should say quotes, is a long set of lyrics from the song Once Upon a Dream, featured in the popular Disney movie Sleeping Beauty. Now, I have to admit, I’m not a huge Sleeping Beauty fan in the least – honestly, I find the story a little bit boring (the main character is, after all, asleep for most of the action) and I’ve never been overly fond of the older Disney movies – the old-school animation creeps me out a little. But, for whatever reason, when SS and I were staying at the Hotel Victoria in downtown Toronto last weekend, this was the song that was stuck in my head on repeat, and I couldn’t stop humming it for the whole weekend…and actually, yes, I am listening to it right now.

Why was I so touched by this song? I think it may have something to do with the book I just finished reading and was in the middle of last weekend (Spoiler Alert: this is what my second post of the weekend will be about), but I think it was also largely due to the fact that my mind was totally preoccupied with my incredible boyfriend. SS’s birthday just passed on Tuesday, and so I’ve been ridiculously grateful for and totally in awe of his existence for the entire week, beginning with our hotel stay last weekend. There is a moment every single day where I am stunned into silence by the fact that such a perfect (for me at least! haha), caring, loving and genuine man exists and that Fate or the Universe or whoever decided to gift him to me. I feel lucky beyond words for this.

And, I suppose, the song Aurora (the original Sleeping Beauty) sings about her Prince Charming spoke to me because of my (healthy, I promise) obsession with and overwhelming love for SS. I found myself listening to the song and thinking, like Aurora, that I must’ve encountered SS before, that he must’ve been a fixture in my forever green heart long before I sat across from him at our university. (Sidenote: You can read the story of how we met here.) I never expected to meet him on that day, and I don’t think I consciously thought throughout the exchange, Oh, this is him! This is the man I’ve been waiting and longing for! But, when I think back on the events, I remember that there was something between us as soon as we locked eyes on each other: there was a definite spark, that feeling of warmth and fuzziness I’m always going on and on about. I just knew, in an instant, that I had to give him my number when he asked. I didn’t know anything at all about him, but I felt comfortable and at ease, and I never had a single doubt about my interest in him. I was intrigued from the start.

Why is that? Listening to Aurora’s song has helped me arrive at an answer to the questions I’ve been asking myself for more than two years now: Where did SS come from, how did he find me and why did we have such a profound and irresistible connection? I want to say, especially based on the quote above, that I’d already met SS, in a dream, a fantasy, in the world of my imagination. I’d seen him somewhere before, in my romantic mind’s eye, and I was searching for his physical embodiment, for his representation in the real world, for years and years without even realizing it. If there is such a thing as soul mates, which I think there is, SS must be mine, because my heart recognized him before my mind even did. And isn’t that what Aurora is talking about? She’s dreamed about her prince for so long that she knows him at first sight, and she knows exactly what he’ll do: love her purely and without limit.

I think that we are meant to meet certain people in our lives and Fate has a large hand in bringing them to us or us to them. But I also think that there’s something to be said for human instinct, for that love-at-first-sight sort of feeling. Maybe we’ve met all the people we’re supposed to know and love in our dreams before…and seeing them in real-life is only an extension of the wonderful and fantastic world of dreaming?!

It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

“That was The River.” – #JNGListens

*Note: This post was written on Wednesday, the day after the Bruce Springsteen concert in Toronto, so my reaction and reflections were fresh and immediate.*

I’ve gushed about Bruce Springsteen here on the blog many times before. I’ve talked about how amazing I think his music is, how much fun it is to go to his concerts with my father, and even about how much he reminds me of a certain Victorian literary hero I’m quite fond of. I’ve used lyrics from his songs several times on Twitter as part of my #JNGListens posts. But, one thing I haven’t had the opportunity to do is write a detailed post about the experience of going to one of his concerts, about the sheer brilliance and scope of a 3-plus hour performance by a veteran rocker. There’s nothing quite like being in the room with a seasoned performer, one who doesn’t need any frills or gimmicks to get the crowd excited.

This Tuesday February 2nd, I had the chance to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform for the sixth time in my life. Obviously, I enjoy Springsteen concerts more than a little, and I’ve even travelled to Hamilton and Buffalo with my dad to see the exact same performance, during the exact same tour, multiple times. I would say that the Wrecking Ball Tour concert in Hamilton was hands down, without doubt the BEST concert I have ever seen in my life – and I’ve seen a lot of concerts, from boy bands like One Direction (NOT ashamed!) to hard rockers like ACDC. But, there’s just something about a Springsteen concert that’s unlike any other show you can go to. Like I said before, the man doesn’t use or need frills for the show to be enjoyable; his music speaks for itself, and nothing portrays that more than the fact that, on Tuesday, Springsteen sauntered casually onto the stage with the lights on in the beginning of the show, not even using any introductory music or huge light show or anything like that. He didn’t need it because we were all just excited to see him and hear him, and unlike so many artists nowadays, Springsteen’s voice, lyrics and artistry are enough to make the show spectacular. No cheesy dance moves required!

I do have to include a little disclaimer here though: The River is not my favourite Springsteen CD. That accolade would have to go to the album Magic, which I know is not as popular as some of his more iconic CDs (I’m thinking Born in the U.S.A. as an example), but which I think is totally brilliant and a true masterpiece. I could listen to the CD over and over, and I actually have done that in the car many times late at night. There’s nothing quite like listening to Radio Nowhere while driving on the highway!

Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed The River Tour 2016! The River isn’t Springsteen’s most cohesive or thematic album, but it has some really catchy and touching songs. My favourite is probably Out In The Street, because lines like the one below are just so relevant to life:

“When I’m out in the street / I talk the way I wanna talk.”

– Out In The Street, Bruce Springsteen

During the concert, I also experienced a new appreciation for certain songs on The River that I hadn’t really paid attention to when listening to the CD. Springsteen’s performance of Point Blank was incredible, toned down and moving, and I would have to say that my favourite performance of the night was Drive All Night, which is a new frontrunner for my affections on this album.

The River is a 2 hour CD in itself, but of course, Springsteen didn’t stop there, and he still performed an hour long encore. During this incredible spectacle, Springsteen finally played one of my all-time favourite songs, Brilliant Disguise. This song basically sums up why I love Springsteen so much: it is pretty much a poem. And it’s a really well written poem at that. Brilliant Disguise tells a story, one that isn’t necessarily uncommon but that is treated with a unique clarity and honesty by Springsteen. I’ve known every single lyric since I was in high school, and it was so special to see Springsteen perform it live. It was definitely a Bucket List moment.

Basically, this concert gets a 10 out of 10 from me, as would any Springsteen concert. This man, even as he gets “older”, is a force to be reckoned with, and probably any person who appreciates true songwriting ability and commitment to art would follow this man down to any river he chose. He’s just that good.

Springsteen #1 Springsteen #2

Springsteen crowd surfing because he’s basically a god.

Springsteen crowd surfing because he’s basically a god.

My weekend advice: Get out in the street everyone, and listen to some Springsteen as loud as you can!

JNG

Girl with a Green (Rocker) Heart

my green heart

The Holidays – #JNGListens

Happy Holidays Dear Readers!

I know there are technically 5 more days until Christmas, but let’s be real, the holidays are already in full swing…especially because so many different religious holidays have already happened and secular Christmas is booming!

I’m personally beyond excited for work to be done, family to be over and delicious food to be on the table! I also love presents…giving them, and okay, also receiving them, and I am so excited for the multiple exchanges that will take place in the next few days! I have tons of holiday plans, from family dinners to date nights with my boyfriend to a trip to Niagara Falls to celebrate New Year’s Eve! It’s going to be a crazy, whirlwind of a season, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Because of the Christmas chaos (which I love beyond words), I’m probably not going to be posting many #JNGListens or #JNGReads quotes on Twitter for the next two weeks…but I figure everyone deserves a vacation, and you all will forgive me. I’m hoping to write a few blog posts in the coming weeks, but I’m not sure how regular and routine they will be, so this is my apology-in-advance post. I will have tons of updates once the holidays are over though!

And, despite how busy everything will be, I am planning to post many more pictures of Christmas trees for the #JNGChristmasTreeSeries on my Instagram, as well as many photos of my holiday activities! I’ll leave you with two of these photos now, as well as a festive quote for your enjoyment!

“It’s the holiday season…”

Downtown Christmas Eaton Centre Christmas

Happy Holidays to you all! ❤

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

Introductions – #JNGListens

“…no thoughts within her head, but thoughts of joy! No dreams within her heart but dreams of love!” – The Phantom of the Opera

In most relationships, there’s always that tricky moment when you have to introduce your new love to your first (and usually former) love. This is exactly what I had to do yesterday. In my case, however, it wasn’t a situation where I wanted my current boyfriend, SS, to hate my first love and feel competitive. On the contrary, I still love my first love too, and so I desperately wanted them to get along and learn to love each other.

If you read Friday’s blog post, you’ll know what I’m talking about – my first love, the love I developed from childhood and have held onto for so many years, is not another person, but rather the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera. In Friday’s blog post, I detailed how truly important and formative the musical was for me, and how I continue to give it an extremely important place in my green heart.

So, naturally, when I brought SS with me yesterday to see the play, I knew that it was his first time ever encountering the story, the music, the characters, all of it, and I so badly wanted him to love it, to see in it exactly what I saw when I was a child. SS and I have similar taste in most things (except for graphic novels and Star Wars, really), so I was quite confident that he would find the play very interesting and intriguing. The problem was that I myself hadn’t seen the new production of POTO, complete with new and updated set designs, and I had no idea how the actors would portray my favourite roles…and, perhaps more importantly, if their voices would be adequate to make the music sound as perfect as I know it to be.

I’m happy to say that both SS and I were truly impressed by the whole production, and SS has been eagerly asking me questions about the story and expressing interest in seeing the musical again soon! 😀 YAY!

Let me start by saying that the new set was absolutely, beyond words INCREDIBLE! It was so unbelievably intricate, with this sort of spinning design that allowed for multiple different sets to be hidden all within the one stage. The set designers expertly recreated so many different rooms of my beloved Opéra Garnier: the Phantom’s lair was dark and sinister, but also full of candles, and luxurious burgundy and black fabrics, especially fitting to a Parisian style; the manager’s office was richly upholstered with gold and red hues; the roof of the opera house was complete with gold statues and even seemed to be delicately accented with a bit of snow. My favourite set had to be the one used during the Masquerade scene: the entire set was transformed into a room of mirrors, very similar to the one that can actually be found in the Opéra Garnier. There were golden statues all around, which reflected brilliantly in the mirrors, and it really brought me back to my time at the Opéra Garnier. I was so ridiculously impressed by how everything moved and operated to allow the actors to move effortlessly between the different parts of the set, and to allow my friend the Phantom to play tricks from above and below and all around.

So, the visual aspect of the play was a HUGE hit, especially with SS who is so interested in set design and has a very artistic nature. The chandelier was also newly designed, and it was sparkly and full of diamonds…and when it fell from the ceiling, with flashes of fire and light, it was truly dazzling! I admit, I missed the old design of my favourite chandelier, but the new one definitely got the job done as well!

And what of the actors who played my three most favourite roles? The entire cast was absolutely incredible (shout out to Carlotta and Piangi, as well as Messieurs Firmin and André, who were truly hilarious!), and the actors who played the Phantom (Chris Mann) and Raoul (Storm Lineberger) hit the notes exactly how I wanted them to – they evoked the exact feelings I was hoping for, and they played opposite each other really well. The audience really got the sense that the Phantom and Raoul are totally different men, each with something unique and intriguing to offer to their ingénue. The actress who played Christine was Celia Hottenstein at this performance, and she was excellent as well – she had a powerful but delicate and lovely voice, and she really shone during Think of Me and Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again. She perfectly nailed the combination of innocence and strength that is so crucial to Christine’s character, and I thought she looked very elegant in all of her incredible costumes!

Overall, I’d say that the production was a hit! Obviously, I have my favourite Phantoms (Colm Wilkinson forever and always, and recently Ramin Karimloo) and Christines (particularly Sierra Boggess, but also Rebecca Caine), and I will never stop hearing their voices when I play the famous songs in my head. But, every new production has a new cast of wonderful actors, and I was not disappointed with yesterday’s performances whatsoever! I was very impressed and so so pleased…and the main thing is that SS was moved and totally in awe of the whole production! I think he very quickly became a Phan!

And that’s all that matters to me, in the end! For the first time in my life, I allowed the man I love to experience and become acquainted with the music and story that has made me into the woman he loves. It was a risk, but it all went perfectly…and now, I will never have any passions or loves to hide from the man I hope to have beside me forever. As my #JNGListens quote from today suggests, there was so much love in that theatre last night for me, and all of my hopes and dreams were totally fulfilled!

The Phantom of the Opera

With a full heart,

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart

By Heart – #JNGListens …over…and over…and over…

Today, I’ll be interrupting the recent Christmas cheer here on the blog to discuss one of the greatest influences in my life.

I know that’s a pretty bold and serious statement to make, but I think it’s definitely true.  The piece of pop culture that I’m about to talk about has been a significant part of my life for longer than anything else.  Yes, I fell in love with Jane Eyre as soon as I encountered it, but I did not meet that incredible novel until I was in my last year of high school.  Of course, I’ve always adored Beauty and the Beast, but my obsession with Disney comes and goes, and I feel like my child-self on certain days more than on others.  But, my passion for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera knows no bounds and is constant and fervent.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about this play and have a piece of its music playing on repeat in my mind.

My obsession began when I was just a little girl, probably around the same age Christine Daaé was when her father first introduced her to the Angel of Music.  My grandfather (most definitely not my father who basically hates musicals of any kind) decided to bring me to the production of POTO in Toronto.  What possessed him to bring someone so young (I can never seem to remember my exact age when I saw it for the first time, but I want to say that I was somewhere between 8 and 10 years old) to a play of that genre, I will never know…but I will forever be grateful.  From the moment I heard the opening piece of music, I was totally taken and captured.  I was, quite frankly, in love with all of it…the story, the orchestrations, the lyrics, the beautiful sets and costumes…the whole thing left me intoxicated and forever changed.

And since that first performance, I have thought of the play and the story at least once a day.  The music became a source of comfort and solace to me – in my high school years, when I was plagued by homework and when I was upset or confused about the guy I had a crush on or an altercation with my friends, I would turn on the first version of the soundtrack I ever purchased (or rather, my wonderful grandfather purchased for me), and lose myself in Colm Wilkinson’s gorgeous and moving rendition of the Phantom.  As I entered university, I had the chance to see the 25th anniversary performance of the play at the Royal Albert Hall from my local movie theatre (another National Theatre Live performance), and I immediately grew to love Sierra Boggess as the innocent but strong Christine and Ramin Karimloo as an attractive and tormented Phantom.  I remember watching at least one clip from this performance every evening that I was in my final year of university – after spending long and grueling days studying, I would wind down and get ready for bed with Boggess and Karimloo, who had quickly become my favourite actors to portray two of my dearest friends.

I was also equally obsessed with finding ways to see the play.  In Toronto, we don’t have the Phantom running all the time, like they do in New York or London, and that’s something that I’ve never been able to fully accept.  It is probably better for my wallet because, realistically, if POTO was constantly playing in Toronto, I’d be going to see it at least once a month.  But, I’ve had to content myself with seeing it every time it returns to Toronto, and I even made sure to see it on Broadway when I made a trip to New York in my third year of university.

Phantom in NY #1 Phantom in NY #2

The strangest thing about my obsession is probably the fact that I can’t pinpoint why exactly I love this musical more than any other.  When I was younger, in elementary and high school mostly, I desperately wanted to be a musical theatre actress.  I took drama and vocal lessons and I envisioned this whole future for myself, playing all the roles I adored and had memorized all the words for.  I dreamed of being Eliza Doolittle and Eponine and Elphaba, but I knew that all of these desires stemmed from my urgent wish to portray Christine Daaé.  I knew all the words she sang and spoke in POTO by heart (I still do!), and I just wanted to wear her costumes more than anything!  I held onto this dream from the first time I saw the play until grade 10, when I realized that my voice was okay (that’s probably generous actually), but not anywhere near good enough to stand out at an audition.  My passion probably wouldn’t be enough to land me a role with such substantial technical requirements.  And, to be honest, it broke my heart a little that I would never be able to fulfill my dream…and it breaks my heart a tiny bit more every time I see the play and watch someone else perform the role that I’ve always coveted.  But, the point is, the narrative I constructed of my future was shaped for such a long time by The Phantom of the Opera, and honestly, I think it still is…

…because, if I have to be really critical of the whole situation, I think that quite possibly I was meant to love The Phantom of the Opera because I was meant to study and become passionate about the French language.  Not long after I saw the play originally, I discovered that it was based on a French novel by Gaston Leroux.  Now, naturally, at the time I wasn’t old enough to read the novel in the original French because I only had a few years of French class under my belt.  But I eagerly read a translated version and I absolutely adored it!  Something about the French culture just absolutely spoke to me and gave me chills, and I became so interested in the Opéra Garnier and in the culture of the 19th century in France.  When I reached my grade 11 French class (because, obviously, I couldn’t give up studying French if it was Christine Daaé’s language), I got the opportunity to read Leroux’s original French novel for the first time, and I loved it even more.  The language was beautiful, eloquent, and just as passionate as the subject matter.  I knew that I had found my niche, the language and culture that I wanted to study and make a part of my life.

And, I have!  I use French on a daily basis now, and I am always beyond proud that I am able to speak quite fluently and with confidence.  I truly believe that I owe at least part of this to my exposure to French culture at such a young age.  And, isn’t it a coincidence that Leroux’s novel takes place in the 19th century in France?  Isn’t that startlingly similar to the 19th century, or Victorian era, in England that I devoted the English half of my brain to studying?  So yes, I would say that POTO opened my eyes to a new language and a new time period, both of which have become fundamental aspects of the person I am and will always be.

Now, you may be wondering, why would I bring all of this up right now on the blog?  Well, the answer is simple: TOMORROW I will be seeing The Phantom of the Opera in Toronto, for probably the millionth time!  Yes, that’s right, the play has returned to my hometown, and I have tickets…and yes, you guessed it, I’ll be going with my dear grandfather, the man who gave me this gift of music from the start.  I cannot wait, and if you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ll notice that I’ve been quoting lyrics from the play all week…lyrics that I am able to document from memory, by heart.

Obviously, a full review of this recent production will appear on the blog on Sunday.  But, to leave you all now, I’ll share one final anecdote.  Two summers ago, you’ll all remember that I took a trip to Europe with my friend SN.  Arguably the most important and exciting stop on our trip was Paris, the city I had longed to visit since I was a child.  You’ve probably guessed by now, but my main priority in going to Paris was to visit the Opéra Garnier, to see that beautiful building that inspired my favourite novel and play, that location where my dear Phantom (known as Erik in literary circles) was supposed to have lived.  My expectations were SO HIGH, dear readers – I had an image in my mind of how that opera house had to look, and I so did not want it to be destroyed.  More than anything, I needed to see the famous chandelier, hanging right above the stage, and I wanted it to be everything I had imagined.

And oh, it was!  It was MORE than I imagined – the opera house was absolutely perfect, right down to the red velvet seats, the flickering lights, the dark passageways.  It truly was like stepping into one of my favourite works of fiction, and I never wanted to leave.  I got to see the inside of the Opéra Garnier, the outside in daylight and at nighttime…and I got to visit with my beloved chandelier, which looked absolutely, 100% exactly the way it looked every time I saw the play adaptation!  I was amazed, mesmerized, shocked to find that everything was just how I wanted it to be!  I’m surprised SN was able to drag me out of there…I could spend my whole life in that one building and be perfectly content!

...and it can be very pretty, as an outsider looking in. Buchanan's characters, who are on the inside, feel differently.

I hope that wasn’t too much gushing for you all on a Friday…but, after all, what is this blog for but to gush and rave and rant with intense emotion and feeling?!

Talk to you all again on Sunday,

JNG

Girl with a Green Heart

my green heart