Thursday 23 December 2010

9 months... the length of time since I've written about the great Blu-ray DVDs we've received from Think Parents. Oops. I'm very grateful that they continue to send us the movies, despite my sporadic blog updates. Without further ado, I present you with "Nine Months of Film Blurbs, and Many Apologies to Digital Outlook".

Dumbo and Toy Story 1 & 2:

Disney have re-released quite a few of their "classic" films on Blu-ray, with digitally remastered animation and some bonus bits. They are still hugely dated, which is unavoidable (unless they want to re-record the voices and update the songs), but Jack and Mia didn't seem to mind or notice. "Dumbo" doesn't disappoint if you're into Disney's Dead Mother formula of storytelling and their trademark catchy tunes. I was surprised at how short the film is, which actually works quite well for children with fairly short attention spans (i.e. mine). Jack and Mia enjoyed watching the film, but the true test is the number of times a film gets requested in future - and "Dumbo" has sadly failed.

Here's a clip from "Dumbo":

Now, the Toy Story series - I cannot say enough good things about it. And now it's in Blu-ray! Granted, the animation (particularly in the first film) is slightly out of date and not nearly as slick as the remarkable graphics we now see in films like "Up", but the storyline and characters are so incredibly endearing and likable. "Toy Story" is a favourite in this house, amongst both the big and little people. And yes, I'm one of those people who cried in the cinema (quietly, behind the 3D glasses) during "Toy Story 3". Such a brilliant trilogy of films.

The Princess and the Frog

Even though the word "princess" appears in the title, Jack admits that he still likes this movie and it's been on our television screen several times since we received it. Every time we see the ad for this DVD, Mia shouts out "WE HAVE THIS ONE!" So, accolades all around. I admit, I've not actually paid much attention to this film when it's been playing so I can only pass along my childrens' seal of approval.

Some clips:

Alice in Wonderland

I was going to buy this one for Paul, who is a Tim Burton fan. Again, I haven't managed to watch this one myself but Paul did watch this with Jack. I don't think this was a hit with Jack, and it's likely because this film isn't really aimed at small kids. I'm also a Burton fan, so I will sit down and watch this one day.


Tea Party

Hatter Futterwackens

Eat Me Cakes

Beauty and the Beast

I don't think this one was very popular as it hasn't been requested again. It was never one of my favourites either, but this is likely due to my extreme dislike of Celine Dion.

No clip, but here is a list of bonus features, as provided by Disney:

Blu-ray bonus features

  • Backstage Disney
-        Beyond Beauty: The Untold Stories Behind The Beauty and the Beast
-        Broadway Beginnings
-        Composing a Classic: A Musical Conversation with Alan Menken, Don Hahn and Richard Kraft
  • Deleted Scenes
-        Alternate Story Open
-        Belle in the Library
  • Family Play
-        Enchanted Challenge: A Disney Quest Game
-        Bon Jour, Who is This? A Disney TelePlay Game
  • Disney Channel Music Video
·        Classic DVD Bonus Features

Tinkerbell and the Great Fairy Rescue

We took this one with us to Center Parcs and in one weekend, it was watched at least twice. Mia goes nuts for anything Tinkerbell so this was always going to be a hit with her. Jack sat through it, completely riveted. After one viewing, he said to a friend of ours "Don't tell anyone that I watched Tinkerbell." So shhh, don't tell anyone that Jack likes this film.

Clips ahoy:

And finally, this isn't a film review but a site review. Disney's "What Shall We Do Today" site has games, activities, songs, and other interactive bits for kids based on their Disney Channel programmes. This channel is very popular amongst the Durbin children, so they were eager to dive into the site. Unfortunately, none of the games would load, so we've had to postpone our review. I will say that the site is very easy to use (Jack was able to navigate through the menus without any difficulty) and your child will only need a basic reading level to get through the activities. Which means very little adult supervision is needed, which means mummy can go make a cup of tea while the kids play on the site. Win/win.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

party time

Mia's playgroup are having their annual Christmas party tomorrow, and I was asked to bring savoury finger foods for the adults. Having completely forgotten to buy anything specifically for the party (because that's how I roll these days), I was at a loss. I had a look through the fridge and freezer and had a bit of a "Ready, Steady, Cook" moment. Bacon and...erm...cucumber and...uhh...ranch dressing on...on...crumpets? Pea and cottage cheese fritters? Carrot sticks poked into Babybels? Tell the kids they're "porcupines"! Yeah, that's it. In a moment of inspiration/desperation, I came up with an idea based on a half pack of puff pastry lurking in the back of my freezer. Who has half a pack of pastry? Seriously? What did I do with only half a slab of puff pastry? At any rate, it gave me an idea, and this is the result.

The edges aren't burnt, they're "caramelised".
Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Tartlets

(Makes 12 tartlets)

1/2 pack of all butter puff pastry
3 plum tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp garlic oil*
Fresh mozzarella, chopped into 12 1" cubes
Freshly grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

*I'm lazy and sometimes resort to garlic oil (I have a jar of extra virgin olive oil with several whole cloves of garlic in it) rather than chop up garlic for a recipe. 

Preheat the oven to 220C (non-fan assist, 200C fan assist).

Divide the pastry into 12 equal portions and place each portion into a muffin tin. Squish the dough down until it covers the bottom of the tin and comes up the sides a little. You're not aiming for perfection, just tart bottom coverage. In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil, garlic oil, and season to taste. Place about a teaspoon of the mixture on top of each pastry bottom, and top with a cube of mozzarella. Grate some parmesan over all the tarts, just to cover. Bake for around 15-20 minutes (depending on how thin you smush your pastry), and leave to cool on a wire rack.

These are bigger than a canape (i.e. it's more than a mouthful, unless you're like me and have a really big mouth and no sense of decorum), but are easily nibbled with a glass in one hand. You can make these a day ahead and serve them at room temperature.

Witness the uneven cooking of my oven. Bad Neff! Bad!
I wanted to make something else to help feed a hungry crowd of parents while their children run around, fuelled by chocolate Santas. My friend Helen pointed me to a recipe the other day for cheese straws on the fabulous Smitten Kitchen site, and having all the ingredients, I decided to give them a go. They are light, buttery, and absolutely delicious. As Helen said to me, these would be perfect with a glass of wine.

I left out the chilli only because children might be eating these, but I would definitely include it if I was serving these to adults. The other thing I would like to add is that Smitten Kitchen's cheese straws look a little more appealing, because American cheddar tends to be orange while ours is usually white. In future, I will use a strong orange cheese to give it that extra colour, and add a little cayenne to the dough.

Now before anyone accuses me of being all Martha Stewart-like and wondering how anyone could find the time to make stuff like this, I promise you, both recipes were simple and quick. From start to finish, the tarts and cheese straws took me an hour to complete both recipes. 10 minutes of that was preparation, the rest was sitting on my arse having a cup of tea. Well okay, that's not entirely true. The 10 minutes also included wrestling Christmas baubles out of the clutches of my baby's hands, rescuing her from falling off the sofa headfirst, and attempting to roll out dough while she held on to my legs like a rugby player.

Simples. Promise.
i iz not lettin u cook.