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Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Adventurer - The Curse of the Midas Box Film Review

In THE ADVENTURER: THE CURSE OF THE MIDAS BOX, 17 year old Mariah Mundi's life is turned upside down when his parents disappear and his younger brother is kidnapped by an unknown enemy.  With the help of Charity, his father's friend and partner from the secret government Department of Antiquities, Mariah discovers a world of ancient mysteries and powerful evil as he follows the clues to the Prince Regent Hotel where Otto Luger is searching for a long lost and very powerful artifact, the Midas Box.

Mariah takes on an undercover cover role as a porter at the hotel.  He has the fate of his family and the world in his hands as he faces his quest, where he discovers the mystery of a child stealing monster and what really goes on within the majestic Prince Regent Hotel and on the island upon which it stands.

With an all star cast featuring Sam Neill, playing the awesomely evil villain who will stop at nothing to find the Midas Box, this is an entertaining if not slightly hammy romp into steam driven Victorian England.  It has the feel of a Saturday evening family TV drama (a little old school Doctor Who-ish but without a Tardis or aliens!)  It's quite dark and scary in parts, with guns, fighting, kidnap and dark magic aplenty, but still kid friendly enough for older children, with the promise of hidden treasure and magic amulets to keep up the intrigue.


The Adventurer - The Curse of the Midas Box


Charity, played by Michael Sheen, is a quintessentially British eccentric who hunts the powerful and potentially damaging artifacts from around the world, keeping them out of the hands of the sinister bad guys.  His role adds a splash of colour to the darkness of  the Victorian era.  Lena Headey plays a wonderfully wicked role as Monica the hotel manager. Keeley Hawes plays Sasha who finds herself embroiled in the adventure and ultimately becomes Mariah's love interest.

The very final scene in the film throws a big twist into the tale and opens the door to a potential sequel.  It's all quite tongue in cheek and never takes itself too seriously, making it an enjoyable film for the whole family to enjoy on a winter's evening.

The Adventurer is out on DVD and digital download from October 27th 2014.


       

The Snow Queen - Film Review

The Snow Queen is the magical fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson that inspired the hit Disney film Frozen.  This new release from Signature Entertainment brings the beautiful, original story to selected cinemas from October 25th and to Blu-Ray, DVD and digital platforms on November 3rd, to warm the hearts of children and melt even the coldest of hearts!

Snow Queen

Gerda, a little orphan girl, embarks on a perilous journey across an icy wonderland to defeat the evil Snow Queen who has taken over the kingdom and kidnapped her brother Kai.  They are descendants of a wizard Master Vegard, who according to the prediction of a magic mirrior, had the power to defeat the Snow Queen. Accompanied by her pet Ferret Luta and Orm the Troll (one of the Snow Queen's minions who comes good) Gerda faces danger in her race against time to save Kai and bring warmth back into the hearts of people across the land.

The Snow Queen


Gerda and Kai are lovely characters, nicely animated and with lot of appeal. They both possess special powers and good hearts.  Orm and Luta are great sidekicks adding lots of humour to the adventure. There are some great laugh out loud moments to break up the tension. There are a lot of heartwarming and emotional moments, but also a great deal of mild threat and peril.

This version of a much loved story is definitely a little dark in parts.  Gerda and Kai's parents are taken by the Snow Queen's polar wind and ultimately killed by the Snow Queen in the opening scene. The head of the children's home where the children live is really horrible and Gerda encounters lots of people on her travels intent on destroying her mission.  The ice beasts and ice trolls are quite fearsome and the Snow Queen herself is really evil and so this may be a bit frightening for the very young or very fainthearted children. But slightly older children will love the adventure and the thrills of the movie.

The Snow Queen


The finale of the film is quite intense and a little bit scary, but we find out the truth about the Snow Queen and see good triumph over evil. Gerda's bravery, along with the spirit of her family in her heart, defeats the evil of the queen and we see peace and warmth restored to the kingdom. The Snow Queen learns that having hatred in her heart helps no one and Gerda and Kai are reunited.  So there is a happy ending for everyone.

This is a great take on the traditional story and a perfect film in the lead up to Christmas.

Here is an activity sheet that can be clicked on and printed to entertain the kids!

The Snow Queen

Friday, 24 October 2014

Green Toys Sandwich Shop - Bigjigs Play Patrol

For Freddy's latest Bigjigs Play Patrol Mission, he was sent a Green Toys Sandwich Shop to test out. The set is made from 100% recycled plastic which is free from BPA, phthalates and PVC.  It consists of two halved buns and two slices of bread, plus a range of fillings that all connect together to make a sandwich.  There is an order form included, which enables children to write down what fillings are required for each sandwich and then make them up from the instructions.  This is done using tick boxes against words and pictures of each component part.

Green Toys Sandwich Shop


This toy is for children aged 2 and up, but its potential for role play, following instructions, communication, vocabulary, developing fine motor skills and construction play for older children is very good. The order pad is a lovely touch adding the extra dimension to the toy for older children.  As each food item is named in three different languages, it's a good introduction to learning a few foreign words too!

Green Toys Sandwich Shop


The Sandwich Shop is a good stand alone toy or would equally be a nice addition to a play kitchen or shop.  The pieces fit together well with a bump and dimple style connection between each piece, and are compatible with other Green Toy stacking play food. 

Green Toys Sandwich Shop


Freddy enjoyed making the biggest, most filled sandwiches that he could in his pretend cafe.  Here is how he got on putting the fun to the test playing with the Green Toys Sandwich Shop.

Green Toys Sandwich Shop


The Green Toys Sandwich Shop is available from Bigjigs priced at £15.99 and is perfect for budding chefs and sandwich lovers!!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Dhruv Baker's Perfect Curry Recipe for Diwali

Tilda have released their first Rice and Spice Guide in conjunction with Masterchef winner and rice sommelier Dhruv Baker, to help people understand the complex characteristics of rice and develop the perfect mealtime pairings. Based on the top rice and spice pairings, Dhruv has come up with some wonderful recipes to coincide with Diwali.

rice, spice


I was invited to try out one of Dhruv's recipes for myself and I chose to try Dhruv's Perfect Chicken Curry, adapted to make it vegetarian of course, teamed with Tilda's Pure Basmati rice.  Often referred to as the 'Prince of Rice', Basmati is the perfect accompaniment to a curry, with Star Anise being its ideal spice partnership.

Dhruv Baker


The recipe involves roasting up some wonderful spices in a pan, including fennel seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and star anise.  The fragrance was just amazing!  It is so much nicer than using a jar of sauce or using a ready made curry powder to make a curry.  Using real ingredients feels so authentic and is well worth the effort.

star anise

The recipe makes enough curry paste for two curries, so half can be frozen and used for a future meal.  The combination of tomato, onion, garlic, coconut and spices is a great base for a deliciously authentic curry.

curry, cooking


The beauty of the recipe is its versatility.  Whereas Dhruv's vision was of the perfect chicken curry, I went for a perfect Quorn, pea and spinach curry.  I omitted the optional green chillies and I also added a splash of coconut cream to sweeten it up a little and make it more kid friendly.  The result was absolutely delicious!

curry, Indian, vegetarian


I served it with Tilda's Pure Basmati, which was the perfect rice to complement the dish, paired with the star anise in the spice mix.

curry and rice, Indian


The Pure Basmati is grown on the foothills of the Himalayas, and has a delicate fluffy texture, a fragrant aroma and good flavour.  It is the most nutritious rice with high amino acid and nutritional content.  It is naturally gluten free.  I used a microwave pouch of steamed Pure Basmati rice for convenience.

Indian, curry


Dhruv's Perfect Chicken Curry Recipe from tilda.com

Ingredients

75g desiccated coconut
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
3 whole dried red chillies
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp fennel seeds
3 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp cinnamon powder
½ tsp salt
5 tbsp vegetable oil
3  red onions, finely chopped
4  cloves garlic finely chopped
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
6 tbsp fresh curry leaves
8 tomatoes finely chopped (or a tin of chopped tomatoes)
500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs or Quorn fillets cut into chunks
200ml water or stock
1 small bunch fresh coriander finely chopped
A squeeze of lemon
1 green chilli finely chopped (optional)

Method

Toast the coconut in a pan over a low heat, stirring until it turns golden brown.
Set aside the coconut and into the same pan add the cinnamon sticks, dried chillies, peppercorns, star anise and fennel seeds. Roast in the pan for 3-4 minutes then add the ground coriander and chilli powder and stir for 1 minute. Add 100ml of water to form a paste and cook for 2 minutes.
Remove the cinnamon sticks, star anise and whole chillies and put aside for later. Add the toasted coconut, turmeric and salt to the pan. 
Add everything to a spice grinder and grind to a smooth paste.
Heat the oil in the same pan and slowly cook the onions until they are soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a couple of minutes then add the curry leaves and cook for 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes and spice paste, return the cinnamon stick, star anise and chilli to the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove half the mixture and freeze to use on another occasion.
Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes. Add 200ml chicken stock and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. (I used Quorn pieces and added a handful of peas and frozen spinach).
Remove the star anise, cinnamon and chilli, stir through the lemon juice and green chilli and scatter over fresh coriander.


The recipes and the Rice and Spice guide are available to download at http://www.tilda.com/.

Spooky Fruit Creations with Aldi - Making Ghoulish Apple Teeth

This Halloween why not make some scary ghoulish teeth...a horrifyingly healthy snack for your little ones to munch on.

Halloween activities


Simply take a red apple and cut into eighths.  This will make four pairs of teeth.  Using flaked almonds or whole almonds cut into slithers, make teeth to press into the apple gums!  Freddy was able to push the nuts into the apple with a little help to create some scary looking, jagged false teeth!

You can experiment with the shape and size of the teeth, making pointy vampire teeth or scary fangs.

Halloween food, Halloween activities for kids


Freddy and I had some fun trying out our new gnashers.  They are quite simple to make with a little adult help. He thought they were fab, and enjoyed eating them afterwards as fruit and nuts are some of his favourite foods.  

The teeth look great and will make a great addition to a Halloween party table. They make a nice, healthier alternative to the usual candy based Halloween treats

We added some Halloween embellishments to one of our Ghoulish Teeth selfies, just to add a spooky effect to the end result.  Me and my 'ghoul' really had a lot of pre-Halloween fun with this activity!

Halloween


You can buy the ingredients to make the Ghoulish Apple Teeth  from Aldi:  Pink Lady apples are £1.99 for an 8 pack and Whole Almonds are £1.29 for a 185g bag.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Sleep Tight with a GoGlow Night Bright Light

With the nights getting longer and darker, little ones might need a little extra help at bedtime to feel safe and confident about getting to sleep.  A survey of 1000 parents revealed that 67% of under fives named monsters in the darkness as their biggest nighttime fear.  Little imaginations can run wild wondering about what lies lurking in the dark, especially with Halloween coming up.  Many parents admit to having to do a sweep of their child's room to assure their child that it is monster free, and three quarters of children will get out of bed to seek reassurance from mummy and daddy during the night.

A simple and reassuring solution for stopping spooky shadows and banishing scary monsters is a night light.  A comforting glow helps children feel safe and sound and keeps those imaginary monsters at bay.

GoGlow Night Bright Light


The Worlds Apart GoGlow 2 in 1 Rechargeable Night Light and Torch is a brilliant idea for empowering children to feel secure in the dark.  It comes in one of two designs featuring kids' TV favourites Peppa Pig or Thomas the Tank Engine. When picked up, it makes a cool easy-grip torch, perfect for night time toilet trips or for a reassuring peek under the bed.  When set down on a surface it becomes a gently glowing nightlight with up to 16 hours glow time once charged.

GoGlow Night Bright Light


Freddy received one to try out.  He opted for a Peppa Pig design and was pleased to see both George and Peppa on the night light so it wasn't too 'girlie'.  He loved that he could pick it up when he needed a torch and it was right there by his bedside.  The night light function is nice and soft making his room bathed in its gentle glow.

GoGlow Night Bright Light


I love that the night light is rechargeable using a base that plugs into the mains, so there is no need for batteries.  It is a really nice design and the functionality is great.   It is easy to turn on and off by pressing the top of the nightlight, so there are no fiddly switches to contend with.

GoGlow Night Bright Light


The torch is nice and chunky, and easy for little hands to grasp.  They simply have to pick it up and it switches from night light to torch light automatically.

GoGlow Night Bright Light


It has given Freddy some extra night time confidence and he loves having the night light on while he drops off to sleep. He thinks the torch is a lot of fun and anything that makes him feel safer and more in control in the dark is a hit with me!

You can find the GoGlow Night Bright Light on the Worlds Apart website and can buy it from Argos and Amazon for £19.99.

Friday, 17 October 2014

How to prepare children for when the clocks go back

The nights are getting longer and at 2am on October 26th the clocks will be going back, This extra hour can often affect the delicate sleeping patterns of pre-school children and for many parents this will mean that rather than enjoying an extra hour in bed, they will be woken up by children getting up even earlier than normal. I still remember 4 am wake ups after the clocks going back with my eldest son!

Putting children to bed can be hard enough without the complication of having the clocks change twice a year. Children often don’t understand why it gets light earlier in the morning and why they have to go to bed at a different time.  It can all become very confusing!

This video discusses bedtime routine research findings, conducted on behalf of In the Night Garden. Sleep expert and founder of Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic, Mandy Gurney talks about the importance of wind down time and bedtime routines and the simple changes you can implement in the run up to the clocks changing so your children can be prepared. 


           


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