Happy New Year: 2019 in Review!

2019 is finally wrapped up. It was an overall okay year. Some good, some bad, some average stuff happened. I made some decisions about personal changes in habits and other general life things that I want to do in 2020 for my own sanity and sake. However, we’re all about being positive here and the blog has definitely kept me through a lot of that even if its been so long and some months are much busier than I expect.

Before I get to housekeeping the blog and 2020 plans (coming up in a later post), which should last a good few days, its time to take a moment to reflect on the blog going-ons in 2019 and take a quick look at some stats, faves, and of course successes.

2019 in Review

2019 was something of a crazy year! I covered a few film festivals: some first time ones and then watched a reviewed a ton of movies. The views had some incredibly huge growths and then also had some very low days. At so many years on, stats really is just a number but does make me wonder what makes it grow sometimes. A look at some general stats without digging too deep.

  • Total views: 57,244 (decrease from the previous year but then 2018 was the best year in blogging for me)
  • Top 5 countries reading
    • United States
    • India
    • Hong Kong SAR
    • Canada
    • United Kingdom
  • Top 5 posts written in 2019
    • TV Binge: Rush to the Dead Summer
    • TV Binge: Who’s The Murderer (Season 4)
    • TV Binge: The Inn 2 (Season 2)
    • Restaurant: Yunnan Rice Noodles
    • Announcement: Ultimate 2000s Blogathon

Definitely some interesting stats as I never realized that my TV Binges, especially for Chinese dramas and variety shows did so well. I’m just wondering who is reading them as they are definitely a slow accumulation over time. I do those mostly for my own enjoyment and not thinking that many people will read it.

2019 also has some other challenges and overviews in films and Goodreads Reading Challenges.

Goodreads Reading Challenge

  • Goodreads Reading Challenge was increased from the beginning of the year halfway, which resulted in my failing to reach the goal. I did log a book collection which was 4 books considered as 1 read. Technically I reached the goal, right? The total books read was 27 books! According to the My Year in Books 2019 from Goodreads.
    • I read 7024 pages over 27 books
    • Shortest book: The Princess and the Peacock
    • Longest book: Obsidio
    • My favorite books read in 2019 (not necessarily 2019 releases)
      • A Series of Unfortunately Events Collection: Book 10-13
      • The Dragon Head of Hong Kong: The Ava Lee Prequel
      • Obsidio
      • Always and Forever, Lara Jean
      • Hope
      • Proximity

In the reading department, I actually skewed away from a lot of what I had intended on reading at the beginning of the year probably when I did the 2019 plans. However, I did discover quite a few good reads and caught up with some reads sitting around that was way overdue.

Movies & Letterboxd

While Letterboxd’s Year in Review hasn’t come out yet, I’m going to start a little look over with the help of its stats to see how the movie watching thing was. Do note that my viewings were bloated by short film viewings but also lost some of the films that were premieres at film festivals and wasn’t listed yet but most likely forgot to go back and add them back later on.

  • Total movies watched: 249
  • Out of 249:
    • 80 films were from 2019
    • 5 Netflix Stand-up Comedy Specials
    • 3 Theatre viewings
    • 29 short films
    • 42 rewatches (including Harry Potter franchise, Evil Dead franchise)
  • Favorite 2019 movies (in no particular order – not surprisingly all festival viewings)
    • White Snake
    • Daniel Isn’t Real
    • Dead Dicks
    • Riot Girls
    • Paradise Hills
  • Favorite non-2019 movies (in no particular order)
    • Snowpiercer
    • Us and Them
    • The Hate U Give
    • Murder on the Orient Express
    • Anna and the Apocalypse

TV Binging in Review

Last thing to look at before we wrap up this much longer than expected post (causing me to change the original structure) – TV! Suffice to say that I watched a lot of Chinese dramas and variety shows. Much more than the English stuff. Its been a nice change in pace overall and there’s some really nice Chinese dramas out there, which are also getting acquired by Netflix or released as Netflix series. As I’m a ton of TV binges behind, this is where the What’s Up segment is going to help a ton in compiling this portion (although I have a clear idea of my faves already).

Top 5 TV Seasons of 2019

  • Le Coup de Foudre
  • Go Go Squid!
  • The King’s Avatar
  • River Flows To You
  • Put Your Head On My Shoulder

Honorable Mention: Love, Death + Robots; Umbrella Academy; The Brightest Star in the Sky

Overall, 2019 was a pretty decent year. I had some nice little fun successes like getting a few festival media accreditation and some rather fun little screener links offered for review. Its been rather busy starting from Montreal Comiccon in July then jumping straight to Fantasia International Film Festival, followed by a first time accreditation for Toronto After Dark Film Festival covering short films, then went on to a first time press pass for Festival du Nouveau Cinema and then finally a remote coverage for Blood in the Snow Film Festival. There was a lot of fun little movie discoveries as well as an appreciation for short films. A lot of originally planned things (from what I remembered) wasn’t all that achieved but at the same time, it went relatively smoothly.

That’s it for this 2019 in Review!
We’ll be planning out 2020 later today (or maybe tomorrow).

Restaurant: ChuChai (Montreal, Canada)

A random Friday evening outing and a sudden change of plans due to the original spontaneous restaurant visit my friend and I chose had a huge line-up lead us to go check out ChuChai, or according to my friend who had gone a few times before a few years back, a more hip and lounge version of it. I didn’t take any pictures of the decor but you can check out their site HERE.

ChuChai is a Thai restaurant with vegetarian and vegan foods, although to me, I think the menu is pretty much vegan as a lot of stuff worked for me. I’ve never been to a vegan restaurant before and its a nice feeling to know that I can eat everything on the menu even with my lactose intolerance. Of course, with any benefit you get, there is always a premium to be paid for the atmosphere and the vegan angle so just something to think about, for myself, it was pretty much expected.

ChuChai

Appetizers/Tapas

Spring Rolls (1pc – $8)

I’m a huge fan of Spring Rolls. I actually had learned how to do them from my best friend before but then its been years since I’ve done these. However, I always prefer them over the deep fried versions. ChuChai does a good one. It has a nice bite and its wrapped really firmly. The peanut sauce has a little spicy kick to it that really compliments the roll well. The roll does seem to also be a bigger piece than other restaurants.

Main Meal

Chu Chai

Royal Pad Thai

Vegan shrimp and vegan duck makes its appearance in this dish. Its been a while since I’ve had any vegetarian or vegan versions of anything. I do think that the vegan duck is better than the vegan shrimp in terms of how genuine in texture. But then, it was a decent taste so seeing as I don’t really go to vegan restaurant to go eat meat and have the meat taste because in my mind, its not about that. The Royal Pad Thai was alright. The noodles were done well and it wasn’t too much sauce and just right. Its a Pad Thai and it tasted like one.

Vegan Duck with Spinach

My friend took the Vegan Duck with Spinach and ordered a bowl of steamed rice to go with it. I had a little taste of it. The vegan duck is really great. The texture and the taste was pretty good. The spinach is also decent. My only deal, also a preference issue, was that the dish itself was really salty. Of course, with a bowl of rice, this might just work really well.

A little something aside from my personal preference is that the presentation for all of the dishes (appetizers, main meals & desserts) were done really well and matched the atmosphere and class that the restaurant itself presented itself as.

Dessert

Fried Banana with Maple Syrup

The dessert menu has a lot of nice little things to it that I would consider trying out. Of course, the one with the most representation is Fried Bananas with Maple Syrup. It tastes the asian dessert and adds a little Canadian twist to it. To be honest, the fried bananas were fantastic. Probably the best part of this entire meal.

Overall…

ChuChai is a decent restaurant. It targets a certain audience that appreciates a nice atmosphere and ambiance and raises the level of how we’d normally view Asian cuisine in general, in this case, Thai food and then giving it a nice little twist of vegetarian and vegan specialty. I won’t say its a challenge to make vegetarian food tasty because its doable and I’ve been to other restaurants that have done it well but vegan food has the impression (from those that haven’t had it before or less frequently) of being a lot of healthy and not so good food so its nice to see restaurants such of these pop up where it not only benefits those with allergies (like myself) but also provide a place to enjoy some good food. In terms of food and creativity and ambiance, ChuChai is a good choice. For my own standards, I think the food is still fairly basic and for that, the premium paid for the vegan angle is a bit on the higher side. If you were to ask whether I’d go back. Maybe, mostly to try out some of the other desserts and some of the tapas/appetizers/soup (they have a lemongrass one which caught my eye).

Additional discussion: The question (which I’m not vegan so don’t know how to answer): would it matter so much to someone who is permanently converted to vegan or is vegan in their eating habits from the start whether there is vegan meat on the menu? Or is it more for the normal person going in for a vegan experience to have an easier point of entry into this type of eating lifestyle?

Wine Recap – February 2019

wine recap

With colds plaguing me yet again this month, I took it a little easier on the whole drinking front so that it was mostly for relaxation when I needed it and not coughing my lungs out or sniffling away. However, let me just say in advance that the three choices here were all quite decent wins.

Let’s check it out!

Bulles de Nuit Mimosa

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Producer: Bulles de Nuit
Alcohol Content: 6.9%
Location: Montreal, Canada

After trying the other three varieties: Original, Rose and Pinot Grigio, Mimosa was the last one to try out. I don’t usually drink a lot of mimosas. Perhaps only one or two times before. Its a nice light drink and its usually fruity in my memory. The mimosa for Bulles de Nuit tasted a bit like spiked Crush. Its not a bad thing but I still think the other three products are much more to my taste.

Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling 2017

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Producer: Ste Michelle Wine Estates
Alcohol Content: 12%
Location: Columbia Valley, Washington, USA
Taste Tag: Fruity and Sweet

A huge thanks to John Rieber for recommending this wine to me in the last wine recap.

Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling is quite accurate in their category. Being a big fan of riesling usually, this wine is fruity and sweet. There’s a lot to love about it from the way it tastes to the undertones. Its very smooth. There’s a bit of acidity but its balanced really well. I’d say the last riesling I had that had a similar texture and taste would be Kung Fu Girl. I’m not sure if I’ve ever talked about that one in any of the recaps.

Peter Lehmann Layers

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Producer: Peter Lehmann Wines
Alcohol Content: 11.5%
Location: Australia
Taste Tag: Delicate and Light

I found this wine while browsing the sales on the SAQ site. Its unique because it has 4 varieties in one wine and three of them, I like quite a lot and one I haven’t tried any before so have no opinion on it. Its hard to find moscato in general but the few that I’ve really loved have been from Australia. With that said, this one gave me quite a bit of hope and I’m glad to say that this is one of those spontaneous purposes that turned out to be a pleasant experience. This one worked on many levels. Its a nice blend and a unique experience. If you haven’t tried it before, its worth giving it a chance.

That’s it for this wine recap!
I have to say that the two white wines are pretty good.

What have you been drinking?

Overview of 2018 & What’s Happening in 2019!

Welcome to the annual overview post. I didn’t get a chance to get to it yesterday so I’m doing a quick one with the look forward to 2019. We could do two posts but I’m honestly not really in the mood to overload anyone with these posts. Its more of a reminder of what I’ve achieved in 2018 and new or adjusted plans to work with for 2019!

OVERVIEW OF 2018

2018 was a rough year in general. I had some PC issues in the beginning of the year which caused a whole lot of crazy as I had to get another PC built which put a lot of stuff behind. We had some other personal issues that caused a lot of worries and issues. However, 2018 is over now and as I look back, there were some really nice achievements and that is what matters. I started Tranquil Dreams to focus on the positives in the first place so that is what we’re going to do right now.

How about some stats to start? I haven’t done those in a while, it feels like at least.

Total Posts in 2018: 374 posts
Total Views: 69,450
Top 5 Countries: USA, India, Canada, UK & Hong Kong SAR
Top 5 posts published in 2018

And then for some achievements:

  • Goodreads Challenge – 30 Books
  • Fantasia Festival coverage of 20 films
  • Festival du Nouveau Cinema coverage of 9 films
  • Blood in the Snow Festival – remote coverage of 8 films
  • Montreal Comiccon coverage for Game Warp Podcast
  • Ultimate Decades Blogathon co-hosted with Drew’s Movie Reviews
  • Started up and co-host Movies and Tea Podcast with Elwood
  • Set Up the Facebook page for Tranquil Dreams
  • What’s Up segment on Youtube
  • Set Up a Weibo social media account

What to Expect in 2019!

2019 is here! A lot was done last year when I look back so I’m hoping to keep up and polish some social media skills and hopefully promote the blog a little better. Its all about working on the content right now. A lot of my issues this past year when I look back is procrastination and that sprouted from lack of organization or following through with tentative schedules and just not having the motivation from all the garbage that life threw at me. Then I added on a few segments as well (probably should of mentioned in the above section).

Resolutions: Less Procrastination (because none would be impossible) & Better Organization

BOOKS

  • Goodreads Challenge: 40 Books (might increase to 50 depending on what happens)
  • More focus on Graphic Novels and Comics
  • Getting back to reading Classics
  • Other TBR books that I own, outstanding book requests and blog tours

MOVIES & TV

  • What stays the same: Most movies and TV from Netflix and rentals and Web series on Youtube as well as film festival coverages
  • Adding in focus on Chinese language Asian movies and TV series (could be China, Hong Kong SAR, Taiwan, Singapore)

FOOD & DINING

  • Battle of Ingredients, Goodfood recap, Food Festivals and Restaurants
  • Baking Through Disney revival (whether its Disney reviews and conceptualizing baking projects)

WEEKLY/MONTHLY SEGMENTS

  • Music Obsessions (first weekend of each month)
  • Wine Recap (10th of each month)
  • Weekly Adventures (15th and 30/31 of each month)
  • What’s Up (everyday Wednesday – possibly back to video format)
  • Sunday Lists (biweekly to monthly frequency)

The main shift this year is the focus on Chinese language Movies, TV and possibly books since I’ve been meaning to get back to some Chinese reading. I’ve felt like a part of what started off a lot of my interests in the first place so when I moved into blogging and gave up a lot of it, its been always something that I’ve been trying to get back to. Its a risky move because no one really reads those posts but this space is about my interests and I do want to share those interests with you especially since a lot of it is now moved to more modern platforms like Netflix and Youtube having access.

Other than that, after some thought, I’m also heading back to more food-oriented content. It might be a slow start but I have changed my approach on the Baking Through Disney project and will start on reviewing Disney films while figuring out how to approach the design for baking. That way the project doesn’t get held up and ends up falling apart again.

As for What’s Up, as I’ve mentioned before, will end up going back to a video and written format. Both formats are fun to do so depending on time, I will work on trying to have both of them  paired up.

Its kind of long but quite a bit of the same going on!
A lot of the repeat for those new to the blog to see where you can navigate.

2017 in Review!

2017 is only a few hours away from midnight! I’ve waited all day to think about how to put this together. We’re looking back at 2017 and thinking back, this year has been a really tough one. While the stats for Tranquil Dreams have been dropping slightly in the last two years, I don’t mind so much because I’m actually happy with the content I put out because I put a lot more time and effort in everything. This year has had a lot of fun stuff of course, the tough parts all really go to the personal life part being difficult, in particular the biggest aspect being that my health wasn’t great with getting hit with one infection after the next. Hopefully 2018 will bring better times. At least I have things I’ll talk about tomorrow that I hope for 2018 to accomplish that might add some balance. The wonderful balance that we all try to strive for when juggling blogging and real life.

Taking a look at the dropping 2017 stats, I’m still fairly  happy with it.

Views: 53, 757
Followers: 2419 (went up 300 followers exactly..you all rock)
Top 5 countries: USA, Indie, Canada, UK & Australia
348 posts published (excluding this one)

Another fun fact is that Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter actually brought in more readers this year. I’m really happy to see that because hey, I’ve been working hard on social media and especially on the Twitter front. I can’t say that I’m a pro by any means but I’m trying really hard to figure it out a little more.

According to Letterboxd, I watched 137 movies. Most of them new viewings with a few exceptions that were repeats. To be fair, I might not have logged it but a few of my faves and were on Netflix were watched on repeat on the tougher days.

My top 10 movies watched (not only 2017 releases in no particular order):

  • Mr. Right
  • Singin’ In the Rain
  • The Edge of Seventeen
  • The Vampire Cleanup Department
  • Better Watch Out
  • A Taxi Driver
  • Blue Jay
  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Fast Convoy

However, I did fall short technically of my Goodreads Challenge although two of my selection were three book packs so I should have surpassed the goal. However, I’ll put some thought in how many books I’ll set for next year. In terms of book reviews, this year I took on some book tours from Shannon from Reads and Reels who has her book tour gig. If you are an aspiring author and need some promotion, go seek her out for some book tours. She’s offered up some great reads in the past year. If not, you should still check out her blog for some fantastic content on both book and movie reviews.

2017 also saw the official start of a TV Binge index since I’m enjoying having more TV binge posts. Diving back into more TV series has been a refreshing turn in events that has been a fantastic journey. I have a few series that I’m looking to catch up on next year.

Its been a great 2017 despite personal issues that has hindered some blogging motivation but overall, I’m happy with how things are going. Sure, some things like the Classics and the Baking Through Disney hit a snag but next year, you’ll see that I have some rather concrete plans for them. I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

Its almost midnight here and I’ve sneaked up away from my guests to finish up this post!

Hope you’ve all had a fantastic 2017 and I’ll be sharing my plans for 2018 tomorrow!
Happy New Year, my lovelies!

Horror Marathon Wrap-up & Overview!

And we are at the end!!! Happy Halloween!

If you missed any of the posts, the Halloween Horror marathon page is updated with this year’s movie reviews and TV binges. You can find it HERE.

Its been quite a month. Hooray to slight organization! I won’t lie that I started the Saw franchise in mid or late September because I was anticipating the work craze in the last week and still, it wasn’t quite enough to not skip two days. However, I am pretty happy with it. We discovered some great movies and TV series. The Autopsy of Jane Doe being the indie that scared me a lot even if it wasn’t perfect and one that I honestly love a lot. Unfortunately, books and recipes didn’t quite get their appearance because I took on a huge task however I did work hard so I am near the end so those reviews will go up and I will proceed to try and complete my Goodreads challenge which is incredibly behind because of IT. As for IT, I plan on working on some compare and contrast piece of the adaptations/remake/source material.

The overall feeling of I have of Saw is pretty underwhelming. Yet again I remind you that gore and blood doesn’t impress me. Making me sick and making me scared or anxious are two very different things. I loved the direction of the first one a lot and the last two did alright but everything in the middle was really meh. I’d have to say, after so many years of these marathons, I like even the most nonsensical slasher films in Halloween or Friday the 13th over any of the Saw films in the middle. Plus, Saw has to really been considered as an entire story since we spend each movie catching up with Jigsaw and his grand plan. It does show his genius and in a certain way if you look at it, it does make sense since the 7 movies aren’t really that far apart from each other on a timeline. It would be interesting to see how it would measure up if put on a timeline and see if it all makes sense. That was the original plan but work took over and here we are, struggling to get this final wrap-up before the clock strikes midnight here in the Eastern Time Zone.

With that said, I’ll keep this short and sweet since I’ve wasted enough time trying to record a video and having that fall apart.

My top 3 faves of this year in terms of movies would be (in no particular order): The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Pulse & IT (2017) & Saw is somewhere there but I can’t decide which. As for fave TV series, Stranger Things takes that one for sure. Actually the TV Binge for Stranger Things Season 2 should be coming up also. 🙂

That’s it for this Horror Marathon!
Any suggestions for next year’s horror feature?
Are you a Saw franchise fan?
What movies are your horror marathon picks?

Fantasia Festival is Here!

Fantasia International Film Festival is in town (aka Montreal)!

Fantasia Festival started today in the evening, opening with Korean film, The Villainess. It runs for the next three weeks! It runs from July 13 to August 2.

Luckily, I’ll be covering it this year, like past years! This year, I did think ahead and tried to get myself media accreditation and it happened! That is awesome and I’m really excited. I’ve generally gotten my calendar set on what movies to fit in and I’m being a little pickier with times and what movies I see. The first review goes up tomorrow afternoon as I ponder over a documentary and how to word it properly in a review, as you all know that I don’t review documentaries a lot.

No double features on this one. Fantasia Festival will be getting all full reviews and I’ll hop back to double features after the festival is over.

With that said, I’ll try to keep variety here, however, excuse me if the festival gets on and I don’t have as much time or energy to think in advance for it. Between balancing actual work, Fantasia Festival and Game Warp, its going to be a intense scheduling and efficiency practice on my part. And no, this festival has jumped back to its roots a little more and dives into a lot of foreign films as well as straying a little more away from horror this year. Its a nice change although I do potentially have some in my schedule. I won’t bore you with the technicalities of having the press pass, because honestly, I’m feeling incredibly grateful to even have it so I’ll be working extra hard.

With that said, every year I talk about hte movies that I’ll be going to see. I feel like I can’t promise anything this year as it can change anytime so instead, I’ll talk about the movies I plan on seeing and the movies that are in my maybes and has me intrigued:

  • Abu: Father (2017)
  • Tilt (2017)
  • A Ghost Story (2017)
  • Vampire Clean-Up Department (2017)
  • Savage Dog (2017)
  • Replace (2017)
  • Radius (2017)
  • Origami (2017)
  • Most Beautiful Island (2017)
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable (2017)
  • Friendly Beast (2016)
  • Better Watch Out (2016)
  • Overdrive (2017)
  • Fashionista (2016)
  • Bushwick (2017)

Movies I considered but can’t seem to fit into the schedule (or trying to):

  • Shockwave (2017)
  • Mohawk (2017)
  • Senior Class (2016)
  • Bad Genius (2017)
  • Rage (2016)
  • 68 Kill (2017)
  • Napping Princess
  • Bitch (2017)
  • Boyka: Undisputed (2016)
  • Dead Shack (2017)

Looking at the listings, there are over 200 films, both shorts and full lengths and an awesome lists of guests that will be hosting their films from directors to writers to cast members and even crew members. Looking at the calendar and blog archives, I’ve been covering Fantasia unofficially for the last 3 years (maybe 4 but first year, I only saw 2 movies), and the Festival has grown so much over these years and the movie choices have been incredible. Its always a positive experience going and if you are in Montreal, I urge you to go check it out!

If you do, give me a shout! Maybe we can hang out and talk movies! It’ll be fun…if time matches up, of course 🙂

Have you heard or seen any of these movies?
The full list of films can be found HERE
What movies peaked your interest?