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. Monday, 18 February 2019 .

I'm not sure how exactly I've wound up eating a stack of Mcdonalds hotcakes in bed at 3:24 pm on a Sunday while wearing a designer robe (my most luxurious splurge. Bought years ago when I decided I wanted to be one of those people who owned silk robes and I found this Stella McCartney one. It was the last one and it was my size and if that isn't serendipity then I don't know what is...

Anyway, this was my Sunday afternoon before I started cooking because my parents had guests over for dinner. A little bit of chill, lots of New Girl (I'm now on season 6 and I do not want this to ever end), and reading. I'm starting to feel a little burnt out so this year I'm gonna take better care of myself. So I put all my 'to-dos' on hold until tomorrow and just trying to do things that I actually love doing for now. If you have any tips on how to avoid burn out, please send them my way x

. Friday, 11 January 2019 .

I grew up knowing I could be a Disney princess because of Aladdin. Let me explain - as a 90's kid I was lucky enough to grow up in the golden era of Disney. The years of Cinderella, The Lion King and many other classics equated to the happiest years. One Disney film, though, was particularly special to me. In the animated Aladdin film, Princess Jasmine's singing voice is voiced by Lea Salonga (she is also Mulan's singing voice, by the way. Yeah she's that amazing). Throughout my childhood, I heard Lea Salonga's voice frequently. Mum worked with Lea when she was just starting out and often played her songs on tape. "A Whole New World" was often on rotation and to this day it is still my karaoke song (I don't do it justice at all, FYI). To see that Filipino girls can grow up to be Disney princesses was so inspiring for me as a kid and probably one of the reasons why I'm not afraid to dream the biggest of dreams. So thanks, Aladdin!

Princess Jasmine has always been a great example for many of us who grew up watching her. She's headstrong, not afraid to voice her opinions, and go after what she wants even if it means risking what's comfortable and safe. Shubshri Kandiah's Princess Jasmine is just as empowering and watching her on stage is such an experience. You just know that she was born for this role! Sometimes you watch a show and you see the actor playing the character, but Shubshri doesn't just play Jasmine. She becomes her in every sense of the word. The resemblance is uncanny and whoever casted her for this role needs to be applauded right now!

In fact, I'd say all the characters was perfectly cast. Graeme Isaako brings a certain charm and vulnerability to his Aladdin. He's cheeky and sings with so much expression and conviction that you just can't help but root for him, even if Aladdin is a thief and a bit of a liar. He shines in every musical number he's in, but I think one of the standout scenes for him is when he's at his most vulnerable. When he sings 'Proud of Your Boy' looking up to the sky singing to his mother, it's emotional and raw and deeply moving that I couldn't help but, well, be proud of your boy!

Then there's Genie. Oh, Genie. Where do I even begin? Gareth Jacobs absolutely shines as Genie! It's hard to step into a role that's so well-loved and iconic, with Robin Williams playing the original role no less, but Gareth Jacobs takes Genie and make it his own. Aladdin The Musical's Genie is your sassiest best friend. I love that he breaks the fourth wall quite a lot and interacts with the audience. His jokes are local and relatable, the comedy delivered so perfectly natural that by the end of the show, you just want him to be your BFF.

Of course none of this would be possible without the rest of the cast and the amazing ensemble. Adam Murphy brings Jafar to life in the most terrifying way. I got a little bit scared everytime he looked at me. That make-up was spot on, the evil laugh sinister and creepy. Adam brought to life Jafar exactly the way I think a Disney villain is. He was complimented perfectly by Doron Chester's Iago, Jafar's trusty sidekick. Those two were evil personified and they commanded the stage like they really were Jafar and Iago. The rest of the ensemble was just as much of a highlight as the principal leads. All those costume changes, musical numbers, and live singing. What an absolute dream of a job they have! The stamina they must have to perform like that night after night for months at a time is mind blowing.

We haven't even touched on the musical numbers, set design, and costumes yet. The set design is incredible. I couldn't believe the detail and thought they've put behind it - the cave of wonders is probably the most intricate set I've ever seen. The detail of the costumes were absolutely spectacular too. 34 cast members, 337 costumes, 1,225 different fabrics and 712 different styles of bead used... and they all changed costumes in record breaking time! The detail, time, and thought into bringing this show to life for us is not lost on me.

The show featured not just songs I grew up with but new songs as well. And even though I've only heard it for the first time on Thursday night, they're the kind of Alan Menken magic that just has that certain familiarity. As if I had been singing these songs all my life! I still cannot pick a favourite musical number because each was spectacular in their own way. I liked the old songs just as much as the new ones, and find myself gravitating towards 'Proud of Your Boy' and 'These Palace Walls' in the Spotify playlist I've been listening to since from the Broadway musical's album. But "A Whole New World" will always have a special place in my heart and I actually mentally prepared myself for the tears. I just knew that the moment they got on that magic carpet I was going to be moved but even then I couldn't prepare myself enough to just how breathtaking it was seeing it fly in the flesh. Another amazing number for me was "Prince Ali". In the film it's one of the grandest, most ridiculous numbers and I was so curious to see how they would bring that grandiose on stage. But they did. Oh they really did. There was confetti (as you can tell from the first photo), multiple costume changes, and a pyro display. ON STAGE.

Aladdin opened to a standing ovation in Auckland and just the energy of standing there applauding with that sold out crowd was electrifying. And at curtain call when Graeme Isaako took a bow, holding back tears, so was I. Aladdin The Musical is Disney magic at its best and absolute most spectacular and we are so lucky to have it in Auckland. Thank you Aladdin for showing me that magic is real and for inspiring me to dream bigger dreams. We all need a little bit of magic in our lives and you've given us just that! Thank you so much for having us, 818. I have truly never seen anything like it. And thanks to my mum for taking me to all those musicals when I was growing up, for playing all the Disney movies on repeat and rewinding it before putting it on the VHS player. My childhood was so magical because of this and I'm inspired to create because of the influences I grew up with.

Aladdin The Musical is Disney magic in real life, happening right before your very eyes. I'm still not convinced it really happened in real life and that I didn't just dream it so I booked eight tickets to go see it again with my entire family. I absolutely cannot wait to see it again and to see my little brother's faces as they take it all in. I'm planning to see it as many times as I can because I really do believe if we want to keep hosting incredible shows like this in little ol' NZ, then we must absolutely support the arts. Besides, the show really is that good that you'll want to see it again and again!

Aladdin The Musical is playing now at The Civic and you can still get tickets here. The show closes early March though so hurry and book now! I promise it will take your breath away.

Images from the show supplied. Dress from H&M. Make-up by Larry from Giorgio Armani. 

. Thursday, 10 January 2019 .

Instant Family. The kind of movie that I just really wanted to see instantly again after watching it for the first time! Going into it, I didn't really know what to expect. I've seen the trailer ages ago and for some reason in my head it didn't really register what the 'instant' in the title symbolised. So I thought I was in for an evening of laughs in this heartwarming, feel-good comedy. What I didn't expect was the tears.

Oh, man. The tears. They flowed freely in several scenes. By the time the credits rolled, I, along with the rest of my row were ugly crying our hearts out. The premiere should have been sponsored by Kleenex because you are going to need it.

Instant Family centres around Ellie and Pete Wagner (played by Rose Byrne and Mark Whalberg), who could no longer pretend that there was something missing in their seemingly perfect marriage/lives. They end up adopting three kids including teenage girl Lizzie (portrayed by Isabela Moner). Chaos ensues. It's hard enough being a first time parent, but to be parents to three kids in very different stages of live overnight? Now that's another story.

The film is loosely based on director Sean Anders' life and I'm glad it's told from a 'real' perspective. It's based on a true story - or as the film says - it's based on a real family. And that shows in the film. You could really tell that these experiences have been lived, that it was done genuinely with good intent. Anything that involves vulnerable children is a difficult thing to portray and this film did it with such empathy, compassion, sensitivity, humour, and reality. It takes a lot of work to make a film like this happen and I'm glad that they did. It not only showed the reality of adoption, but more than that, the film gave us the why.

Some of the film's most comedic moments are from the social workers played by the ever brilliant Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro. I read somewhere that these characters were inspired by real people too and from their experience, social workers do have a bit of a dry, dark humour. With the nature of their work and the stuff that they deal with on a daily basis, all the heartbreaking horror situations they deal with... it's no wonder they use humour to cope.

And so does this film. It has a lot of laugh out loud funny moments which makes the heartwarming scenes even better. By the end of it, you feel like you're part of their family and in those two hours or so, you've grown with them and recognise your own family in theirs.

This film couldn't have come at a better time. In today's current landscape where we put children in cages at the border and separate them from their families. In a time where the world is just so over populated and yet we have so many children in foster care and orphanages. In a world where we are more accepting of the fact that the definition of family is more than a mum, dad, and biological kids and that modern families are just as good as any family... this film is not only needed, but necessary.

Instant Family really is the perfect movie to start 2019 with. It comes out in NZ today and I really hope you do go out and see it. And bring tissues. Like, a lot of them. Heck, bring a whole bloody box. You'll need it.