December Spotlight 2016

The Final Countdown…

Guess who got her learner’s permit today?  This gal!  I believe it’s only customary to say, “The roads just got a little more dangerous.”- though the only roads I’ll be driving down are wide, safe, empty ones, since I don’t actually desire to commit vehicular manslaughter.  Other than that little bit of news, December’s been a pretty unspectacular and altogether pleasant month.  School stress peaked in the first week of December, since teachers finally seemed to realize- all at the same time, apparently- that the first semester is almost over, and subsequently went on to hurl quiz after assignment after exam at us.  Winter break came as a breath of fresh air, and I was very happy to be free from both scholarly and social activities.  Holidays, more like time to become a total social recluse!

(Really sorry if I ignored your text messages, though.  I was probably sleeping.)

I also got quite a bit of a creative kick during these past two weeks, what with all this free time on my hands.  Did a little bit of sketching, doodling, creative writing- some of it might be going up on this blog soon!

But for now, my last post for the year 2016 (or one of my last, we’ll see): December Spotlight 2016!  

Enjoy!

Image result for new years comic
credit: Debbie Ridpath

 


 

Yuri!!! On Ice (Spoiler-Free Thoughts!)

Oh god, where do I begin?

I’m not an anime person.  At all.  Ask any of my weeaboo friends who tried to convert me, and they will tell you how stubborn I was about not getting into anime.  I thought that the whole subtitle-animation thing was utterly and totally not for me.

And then Yuri!!! On Ice came along.

 

Image result for victuri screencaps

If you’re in any fandoms online, chances are that you’ve heard of this anime (we crashed Tumblr when the season finale aired), which centres around main character Yuri Katsuki, a figure skater who is trying to win gold in the Grand Prix Competition.  He had suffered a crushing defeat in last year’s Grand Prix, and has a long way to climb back up this time around.

Enter the legendary, world record-setting Viktor Nikiforov, a fellow figure skater whom Yuri has idolized for years.  After Yuri’s friend posts a video of him skating one of Viktor’s programs online, Viktor himself miraculously shows up at Yuri’s house in a matter of days, offering to coach Yuri for the coming Grand Prix Competition.

That’s the beginning of the journey, in a nutshell.

Yuri Katsuki, Pork Cutlet Bowl Fatale

There are many notable things to be said about Yuri!!! On Ice, but perhaps one of the most important ones (at least, to me), is the way that Yuri’s character is portrayed.  Throughout the course of the show, Yuri demonstrates great character development in a wholesome and realistic way.  He is introduced as a shy, nice guy who suffers from feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.  He loves food, maybe a bit too much (relatable), and he’s really just a sweetheart, bless his soul.

Image result for yuri on ice episode 7
My tiny son, Katsuki Yuri
Image result for yuri on ice
Protect him, please, he is so smol

As the episodes progress, we also get to see different sides of Yuri, such as his passion, frustration, seductiveness, joy, and kindness.  We see his interactions with other characters- all of whom, might I add, are complex and multidimensional in their own ways, as well as effective character foils for Yuri and Viktor- which contribute to the strength of Yuri’s character.

Finally, we get to see his relationship with Viktor blossom and grow.  The theme that Yuri chooses for the Grand Prix is love, and it’s also the main theme that the writers have chosen for the show as a whole.  In the show, we see explored: familial love, platonic love, and the love between the two main characters, Yuri Katsuki and Viktor Nikiforov.  Their love for one another is truly like something out of a storybook, yet emulates a healthy relationship from real life.  It’s a treat to watch.  (And totally shipworthy, might I add.)

Image result for victuri screencaps
Exhibit #1 out of 10 million for ‘Why You And Everyone You Know Should Ship Victuri’

Dealing With the Problems

Throughout the series, Yuri’s problems, both external and internal, are never solved magically and instantaneously for plot convenience.  His anxiety in particular is realistically and truthfully depicted, and is not treated with stigma.  I really have to commend the showrunners for handling the portrayal of Yuri’s struggles with such depth, finesse, and consistency, as it makes the show extremely gratifying to watch.  You know that they’re never going to let you down in that aspect.  Yuri Katsuki is a beautifully written character, a lovable and relatable protagonist for this type of show- where it is essential that you are emotionally invested in the characters.

There was one scene in particular that cinched the deal for me.  It took place in episode 7, and, without giving away any huge spoilers, I will say that Yuri’s anxiety puts him and Viktor in a situation that displays both of their weaknesses, and forces them both to learn and grow as characters.  I’m a real sucker for character development.

Also! It’s important to add that, while the show juggles major themes and morals, it’s also definitely very comedic.  It’ll make you laugh, and it will also make you cringe at times.  This is a wholly light-hearted show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is meant to tell an entertaining, touching, uplifting story- and that it does well.  Enjoy the ride!

Image result for yuri on ice funny

Animation & MUSIC!!

I can’t really say much about the actual animation itself since I’m a total anime noob, but I have heard people deem the animation as visually stunning, fantastic, amazing etc. etc.  Also, as a person with eyes that work, I can testify that it was a pleasure to watch.  So there’s that for you.

On the other hand, I can confidently vouch for music, especially the opening theme song, which would be lovely and cheerful and catchy even if it wasn’t the theme song of such a great show.  Somebody tell me if it’s on Spotify!

I also love that the animations for the opening theme starts out relatively plain in Episode 1, and gradually becomes more colourful and complex with each new episode until its completion in Episode 11.  It makes the opening sequence feel like a part of the show, and you’re always on the lookout for what new colours and animations have been added.

See for yourself below!

The OST (Original Sound Track) that Yuri uses for his free skate program is also amazing, and I could probably listen to it for five hours on repeat.  It’s a piano piece called “Yuri On Ice”, and it’s amazing.

 

(An honourable mention for favourites of mine would be the piece for Yuri’s short program, In Regards to Love: Eros.  I think I’ll try to make a cover for it on my flute if I can find sheet music! Link to that can be found HERE.)

Is Yuri!!! on Ice for Me?

Do watch the show if you’re ok with semi-explicit scenes (I would not watch some of this with my parents).

Do watch the show if you’re a sucker for multilayered characterization and character development, because that’s exactly what you’ll be getting.

Do watch the show even if anime is your God-forsworn enemy, because it was mine, trust me, and now it’s not.  I’m really berating myself right now for being so narrow-minded.

And finally, do watch the show if you’d like another ship to add to your platoon, because Vikturi is so very, extremely, painfully, beautifully canon (tip: watch out for Episode 7 because that’s when it really REALLY starts to pick up).

The Fandom

My sole regret for the Yuri!!! on Ice fandom is that I didn’t join it sooner.  The internet has been marvelling over the dedicated fanbase that the show has quickly garnered -some sources have even compared it to the likes of Superwholock!- and when I delved into the fandom on Tumblr, it sure did not disappoint.  Anime fandoms, in general, are known to be replete with cosplay, fan art, and other forms of creativity that are splendid in both quantity and quality, and YOI is no exception.

Also, did I mention that we crashed Tumblr and Crunchyroll when our finale aired?  So proud.

The previous fandom that I had been in, NBC Hannibal, had been on hiatus for over a year, and its future was still unsteady.  So I said a temporary goodbye to the Fannibals and hopped on the YOI wagon.  Let me tell you, the amount of new content rolling hot off the Tumblr presses everyday (textposts, edits, art, metas, fics, gifsets, and memes galore) was exactly what I needed.  My fangirling reached new levels of manic.  Just last night, I stayed up until 3 AM reblogging on Tumblr and rewatching a few episodes. And the finale?  The episode itself completely and utterly emotionally obliterated me, so naturally I had spend hours surfing Tumblr after, sobbing at gifsets of particularly amazing moments of the episode.

(Still can’t believe the season’s over.  Gosh.)

Final Thoughts

Joining the YOI fandom felt very much like a crush: the obsession came on suddenly and without warning, and once it set in, was all-consuming.  I mean, look at me.  I just wrote over a thousand words elaborating on how amazing it is!

Oh, YOI, how good you have been to me.  I’ve laughed (silently, in the dark, on my laptop, trying to not make a noise in fear of waking my parents), I’ve cried (especially while watching the finale, oh man), I’ve screamed (internally and online, of course).  Thank you so, so, so much to Kubo and all the other lovely, fantastic writers, artists, actors, and showrunners who created the first anime that I ever fell in love with.  (And thanks to my friend Matthew for insisting that I watch some form of anime.  I’ll get around to Kimi No Na Wa one of these days.  Probably.)

And now, the painful wait for the next series begins.  Until season two, my lovely people!


Healthier Christmas Baking

Christmas is upon us, and you know what that means.  It’s time to indulge in some serious sugar: cupcakes, brownies, fudge, cheesecake, cookies, ice cream, pie, and more.

Image result for december comic
credit: David Kellett

But wait!  Today’s blog post is not just about your average, basic ‘gingerbread man’ recipe (not that there’s anything wrong with those).  Since one of my goals this year was to become more health-conscious, I decided to take to the internet to scour for recipes of slightly healthier renditions of my favourite baked goods.  Luckily, the internet did not disappoint. While I can’t say that all of my baking enterprises have been successful, they certainly have been interesting.

Read on for two accounts of my semi-successful, semi-healthy baking adventures!

Avocado Brownies

If I had to pick a favourite sweet treat, it’d definitely be brownies.  And one of my favourite breakfast foods is avocado on toast.  So basically, avocado brownies are a blessing sent from heaven, and I am eternally indebted to whoever came up with such a glorious invention.

I looked through many baking blogs in search of a recipe, mainly because the majority of them used coconut flour as a main ingredient, and I, as a baking novice, unfortunately do not have any.  In the end, I finally found a recipe here that used plain old white flour- along with many other commonplace ingredients that most people have in their pantries- and got to baking.

Image result for avocado brownies
source: The Healthy Maven

The recipe is fairly straightforward.  It’s pretty much the exact same as a normal brownie recipe, except butter is replaced with a mixture of mashed avocados and melted coconut oil.

I made a few mistakes here and there (forgetting to mash the avocado before mixing in coconut oil and melted chocolate, and having to go without a sifter for the cocoa powder), but the end result was still pretty darn good.  In comparison to an old-fashioned brownie, I’d rate the avocado brownie’s texture 7.5/10 and taste 7/10.  Despite my pathetic baking skills (I’ve set a toaster oven on fire while baking brownies before, haha), I was still very pleased with the outcome.  My one and only complaint would be that the aftertaste was vaguely green and vegetable-y, but that was totally fine considering the health benefits of these brownies vs. regular ones.

And when your recipe calls for eight ounces, it actually makes a huge difference!
source: Buzzfeed

Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies with Sea Salt

Flourless, vegan, gluten-free, packed with protein.  What’s better than all that, and in such a delicious package, too?  With 3.5 g of protein and 1.8 g of fiber in every serving, you’ll definitely feel a lot better after eating these than you would after eating old-fashioned blondies.

Additionally, it’s super easy and fast to whip up- you just need to stick the ingredients in a food processor, and let ‘er rip.  After that, you fold in some chocolate chips (vegan chocolate chips if you want the recipe to be completely vegan), and bake.

Here’s the full recipe.

source: Ambitious Kitchen

The process itself is simple enough, but I screwed up.  Wow, what else is new?

Our food processor was way too small, as I discovered way too late, and I had to scoop out half of the half-processed chickpea mixture and process the mixture half by half, which was super tedious.  Then, after I had folded in the chocolate chips, spread the whole shebang out in a pan, and popped it in the oven, I realized that I had forgotten to add baking soda!  Nice.  And as a final insult to my ego, I sprinkled the salt (regular table salt, since I don’t have sea salt) before baking and not after.  Oops.

My blondies AFTER coming out of the oven- they looked extremely uncooked, but apparently that’s supposed to happen?

When these bad boys first came out of the oven, it was as if they hadn’t been baked at all.  Thinking that I had completely flopped the recipe, I sadly ate a spoonful of gooey cookie-dough-textured mixture.  And then another, and then another, just because.  It tasted like super sweet peanut butter, mashed up chickpeas, and disappointment.

However, when I checked up on the pan again the next morning, to my delighted surprise, the mixture had solidified into crumbly-but-definitely-solid bars!  Now the finished product resembled the photos on the website.  Unfortunately, the taste and texture were still virtually the same as the night before, except it was in crumbly bar form instead of goopy mush form.  It was also slightly grainy and tasted like beans- which was technically what it was made of, but still.  Beans are a no-no in baked goods.

At the chocolate chips tasted good, though.  If only all of life’s problems could be solved with copious amounts of chocolate chips!

Final thoughts: Texture 3/10, taste 3.5/10


Music

Here are some music recommendations to check out this winter break!  Clickable Youtube links are included, enjoy!

1.Boys Will Be Boys – Benny – single (2016)

2. Girls Your Age – Transviolet – Transviolet (2015)

3. Out on the Town – Fun – Some Nights (bonus track) (2012)

4. Sleep On the Floor – The Lumineers – Cleopatra (2016)

5. How – Daughter – Not To Disappear (2016)

6. Mother and Father – Broods – Evergreen (2014)

7. TOPxMM – twenty one pilots & MUTEMATH – 5 remixes (2016)

8. Hope and Legacy – Joe Hisaishi (mix of View of Silence and Asian Dream Song) – (1986, 1996)

(PS. I especially recommend track 2 and 3– I stumbled upon them on Spotify one night, and holy crap.  Please listen to them so we can fangirl about them together!)


 

Hey there!

Wow, 2016 is over (at least, almost, at the time I’m publishing this).  It’s finally freakin’ over.  Endings are always bittersweet, but I must say that this year’s is more sweet than bitter.  If 2016 has been a roller coaster (terrifying), than I hope that 2017 is more like a log ride (still exciting but considerably more fun).  On the other hand, one positive thing that I can credit to 2016 is a lot of personal growth.  I turned fifteen, cusp of maturity and teenagehood, went through life experiences that changed me forever, yada yada yada.  Another year, another blink of an eye.  Now that this marathon of a year is over, we can start running our next one.  This time, I’ve trained more, invested in better shoes, and will hopefully get ahead in the race.  Cheers to a fantabulous 2017, everyone!

And as always, thank you for being here and taking the time to read my blog post!  If you liked this and would like to see more stuff like it, it would be awesome if you liked this blog post and subscribed to my blog!  The follow/subscribe button can be found in the top section of the sidebar and the like button is at the bottom.  Finally, I’d love to know how you’re going to be celebrating New Year’s Eve!  I’m going to a potluck with some family friends, and I hope it’ll be fun.

Thank you so much for reading, and may 2017 bring us all happiness, good luck, and productivity!

-Yi Nuo

Related image
credit: Debbie Ridpath

 

 

2 thoughts on “December Spotlight 2016”

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