Friday, 16 January 2015

Disney On Ice - Magical Ice Festival (New Frozen dates now added)

Pssst.  Got an Elsa-mad small person running around your house busting out 'Let it Go' at full volume?  Olaf-obsessed infants?  Kids not interested in anything unless it's in that oh-so-frozen-particular shade of blue?

Well then you absolutely have to get yourself tickets for the brand new Disney On Ice extravaganza coming to the UK this Spring.



The Magical Ice Festival will be the first Disney on Ice show to feature Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven from the blockbuster Frozen.





Seriously, could any other Disney film be better translated into an ice performance?  It's just a match made in Disneyland.

Join hosts Mickey and Minnie, along with other characters including Ariel, Rapunzel and Belle for this high-tempo, all-singing, all-dancing performance.

We saw the 100 years of Magic show over Christmas so we can't wait to see Elsa and Anna on the ice.

Tickets are selling super-fast, but there's new dates just been added for London, Cardiff and Birmingham and tickets for the additional Birmingham date go on sale today so grab them while you can.

New dates added:


Genting Arena, Birmingham 
·       Wednesday, April 1, 7pm performance

SE Arena, Wembley, London 
·       Wednesday, April 22, 7pm performance

Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff (29 April – 3 May):
·       Friday, May 1, 11am performance


Disney On Ice presents Magical Ice Festival is appearing across the UK from 11th March - 17th May 2015 in Aberdeen, Liverpool, Glasgow, Birmingham, London, Cardiff, Nottingham and Leeds. See www.disneyonice.co.uk for ticket details and show times.


Check out our review of Disney On Ice 100 Years of Magic

























For Frozen fans, see my Frozen inspired party ideas




Thursday, 15 January 2015

Recipe ideas for your leftover Christmas booze


'Leftover alcohol?' I hear you cry.  'What leftover alcohol?'

Well, bear with me, I'm sure we've all done it.  Picked up a bottle of Aunt Maud's favourite tipple in case she comes to visit over the festivities. Bought bottles of spirits you've never heard of, perhaps you've even got a cupboard full of Snowballs?

You can either leave them gathering dust in your drinks cabinet til next year(ooh get you with your drinks trolley), or you can get 'em open and slosh them into one of these delicious recipes.




Crunchy toasted almonds on top of moist boozy frangipane - what's not to love?




The perfect way to welcome the warmer seasons ahead of us, hints of elderflower, cucumber and gin make this a perfect combo from Cheetahs in My Shoes.




Woah, this is a seriously good looking cake from Belleau Kitchen.  Who doesn't have a bottle of Bailey's knocking about after Crimbo?  I can't think of a more delightful way to consume it.




If you're not man enough to drink vodka neat, how about adding it to this light, citrus cake for a grown-up teatime treat?


Dark and Stormy Cocktail Cupcakes

Using dark rum, these lightly spiced, gingery cupcakes from Fuss Free Flavours look devilishly good.


Bailey's Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

More Bailey's, this time in a rich cheesecake topped with chocolate orange segments from All You Need is Love and Cake (I say all you need is this cheesecake personally).


Bailey's Chocolate Cupcakes

Frugal Family has a whole post of ideas for leftover Bailey's cream, and just look at these glossy little babies!


Cranberry Vodka Muffins

If you're not quite ready to give up on Christmas yet, then these Cranberry infused vodka muffins are perfect - just not sure you'd get away with them for a healthy breakfast!  From The Crazy Kitchen.


Snowball Cupcakes with Advocaat Frosting

Remember those Snowballs I mentioned?  Well Diary of a Frugal Family turns that most peculiar drink into something altogether totally delectable looking.



Chocolate Choux Buns with Bailey's, Maltesers and White Chocolate Mousse

This recipe will not only use up your Bailey's but helpfully any leftover chocolate you may still have *whistles*.  A very grown up take on the traditional eclair from Mummy Mishaps.


Oreo and Bailey's Chocolate Petit Fours

Mummy Mishaps does it again with these divine little bites, so small you're surely allowed more?



And ya know, if you're looking for something to serve up with these beauties, you could do a lot worse than Mummy Mishaps' boozy ice cream.



If all this is getting a bit too unhealthy for you, how about piling on ALL of your five a day atop this super luxurious cake from Belleau Kitchen.  Yes, it's a 'summer' cake, but we all know we can get soft fruits all your round now.



If baking's not your bag, then you could try out these romantic Valentine's cocktails from The Ana Mum Diary.  Sure to get pulses racing!



And hold on to your Guinness for St Patrick's Day to make up these rich, moist cake pops with suitably green decorations.



Which is your favourite?  Have you got any half opened bottles lurking around?





Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Disney On Ice - 100 Years of Magic review

A while before Christmas I booked us tickets to go and see the Disney On Ice Show as an extra Christmas treat.  We went down to the O2 at Greenwich between Christmas and New Year and with a stopover in a hotel, made a mini holiday of it.  It was a great way to break up the Christmas holiday and I remember the magic of being taken to Disney on Ice when I was little over 30 years ago, so I thought this would be some great memory making.

The show itself is a montage of many different hit Disney films, stretching back to Pinocchio and right up to modern times with Toy Story and The Incredibles.  I guess the idea is to offer something for everyone, but I can't help thinking their choice of stories and characters missed the mark for the majority of the audience.  I can think of more loved films to have included, and as a parent I was too old to remember many of them, and the younger audience (mostly 3-6 year olds dressed in Disney Princess dresses) were too young to recall the likes of Mulan and Aladdin - I heard lots of children around me asking their parents "who's that?".

However, you didn't need to be familiar with all the shows to enjoy the spectacle and become enthralled by the skill of the skaters.

The costumes were spectacular.  I have no idea how some of the dancers even stood up in them, let alone perform on the ice.  I spent a lot of time staring at feet to see if they actually were wearing skates because the boots and blades blended in so well with the costumes.  Some of the animal characters who were two people to an outfit astounded us in their synchronisation.

Disney on Ice Mickey and Minnie Mouse

The show is hosted by everyone's favourite mice, Mickey and Minnie who are greeted with smiles and cheers every time they appear.  It opens with an Aladdin spectacular and a whole rink full of Genie's which is a captivating start to the performance.

Then we have fabulous costumes in the Finding Nemo section, with the smoke breathing Bruce the shark and bubbles falling from the sky to make us feel under the sea.  The costumes of all the underwater creatures were just incredible.

Disney on Ice Finding Nemo

Next we moved on to some princess action with Beauty and the Beast and a moving rendition of the touching tale, which moved seamlessly into a whole gallery of famous princesses with their partners all dancing in pairs.  There was Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, Snow White and Pocahontas, and this was Ruby's favourite part.  So romantic!  I'm no Jayne Torville so I can't tell you the technical names but the lifts and jumps these guys did where breath-taking.

Disney on Ice Beauty and the Beast Belle

Disney on Ice Beauty and the Beast Belle

We had a quick zip through Toy Story with Woody, Jessie and Buzz and a whole platoon of green 'plastic' soldiers before ending the first half with a tribute to the famous Disney 'It's a Small World' ride. Again, lots of the children around me were a bit confused about this, but it was spectacular dancing, illumination and national costumes from around the world.  It's only now looking at the picture I'm realising quite how phallic those arches look, I can't say I noticed it at the time!

Disney on Ice 100 Years Of Magic

Disney on Ice 100 Years Of Magic Mickey Mouse Balloon

The interval came at about the right time for youngsters and it was time to get fleeced for merchandise and refreshments.  This was my biggest grumble about the show.  I know you've got to expect high prices for official merchandise, but let me warn you, if you want to buy drinks and refreshments, get them outside the arena itself.  Everything came with something else so it wasn't possible to just buy a drink.  Ruby wanted some candy floss, but the seller insisted you had to purchase it with a plastic gold crown with Mickey ears, and for that a bag of candy floss set us back the princely sum of £9.  She also wanted a drink and the slush she chose had to be bought in a grotesque flashing light-up cup with a Mickey gloved-hand straw and scoop, and that robbed us of a further £11.  Seriously, I've never paid so much for a bag of sugar and air and some frozen flavoured water in my entire life!

Anyway, after being relieved of the weight in our wallets, we sat down to the second half.

It reconvened with Pinoccio which I'm not sure was the right choice.  I think at leaf half the audience had no clue who Jiminy Cricket was and it wasn't really up-tempo enough.  When we moved on to Mulan I thought we might be bored through that one too as it's not a film we're familiar with.  But I couldn't have been more wrong.  It actually turned out to be my favourite part of the show with brilliant dancing, a tension building battle scene, an incredible Chinese dragon, great pyrotechnics and a very clever costume change for Mulan right in the middle of the ice.  I'm really not sure how they managed that so seamlessly, it reminded me of a magic show.  I was so enthralled I totally forgot to take any pictures.

Finally we had appearances from charters from The Lion King and a slap-stick routine from The Incredibles which left us on just the right note - all smiling and giggling.

All the characters returned to the ice for the finale and to wave a sad goodbye until next time.  We've already decided that seeing the Frozen special is a MUST this Easter.  Check here for tickets to Disney on Ice Magical Ice Festival.

One of the most surreal sights is to see hundreds and hundreds of mini Disney characters spilling out from the O2 and roads jammed with little girls in princess dresses and boys in Woody outfits, but after fighting our way through the crowds we headed to our hotel, The Holiday Inn Express which was only a 10 minute stroll away from the arena.  It was the perfect location for us and we had a very comfortable family room for the 3 of us for £90.  We all had a great night's sleep and with free breakfast thrown in I was pretty impressed with the hotel.

That evening we hopped on the bus using our travelcards and headed to Greenwich village, one of my favourite places in London.  We had a fabulous Italian meal at Bianco 42, a small independent string of pizzerias.  A rather lovely chilled Orvieto and a delicious pizza, the place was cosy and the staff very friendly and attentive to children.

Greenwich is a fabulous place to spend the day, with plenty to do from exploring the Cutty Sark to the wonders of the Royal Observatory.  Enjoy the peace of the park and the spectacular views from the top of the hill, or mooch around the many independent shops and vintage boutiques around the market before catching the river boat into central London.  If you're planning a trip to the O2, it's definitely worth a stay over.

Disclosure: We paid for all our tickets ourselves and any views expressed are personal.

For more reviews on the Disney On Ice show, check out Mari's World and Tired Mummy Of Two to see what they thought.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Magpie Monday - A Clean Sweep

Happy thrifty new year to you!

As promised before Christmas, Magpie Monday is back on the first Monday of each month, sharing my second-hand finds and helping us discover other's treasure and beautiful new blogs through the linky, so do please hook up any pre-loved items you've rescued lately.

The new year is often a time of resolutions, promises to do and be better.  I'm not huge on resolutions, but I am going to make a concerted effort to live by the doctrine of the great William Morris - have nothing in your home you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

Incidentally, we visited the William Morris Gallery just before Christmas and had a fabulous day out, if you're in London pop along to Walthamstow and go see for yourself.

Anyway, I digress.  The annual-panicked-clear-up-the-house-before-Christmas - which generally consists of cramming everything into boxes and stashing them into the loft or garage - proved to me that I have waaaaaay too much stuff.  I must be more disciplined and stop buying things just because they're a bargain.  Unless I absolutely HAVE to have it, it's staying on the shop shelf, and that includes charity shops.  I know, I've said it before, but this is the year of the garage conversion and pretty soon I won't have anywhere left to hide things so I'm going to have to try.

These beauties were bought at a jumble sale before Christmas, and even with my new self-imposed rule, I think I'd have still bought them. Especially as they were only 50p each!


The little dustpan and brush is for sweeping crumbs from the table.  Our table tends to be covered more in splashes and spills than delicate little crumbs so I doubt that it will be used for it's intended purpose.   However, with a small child about, there's always little accidents to sweep up, so I'm sure it will come in handy - see useful AND beautiful.


The little silver plate dish was also too pretty to leave behind, and I'm sure you'll see it cropping up in a blog photo or two in the future.

Incidentally, Christmas and January sale shopping reinforced to me the fact that I abhor 'normal' shops.  I find them so uninspiring with their rows and rows of identical products.  The only thing I've found in one lately to make my heart sing was these tiny little fairy dust stoppered pots of glitter.  Only £1 for 8 from The Works.  Who knew you could be so happy for such little money?!

Please join me and link up your second-hand finds so I can pop over and say hi.  Grab the badge and join the linky.

See you back here on 2nd February - happy thrifting.


    


Sunday, 21 December 2014

At the movies this Christmas

We've recently been spending a fair bit of time at the cinema, so I thought it was worth reviewing the current offerings for kids at your local multiplex.  Stand by for me to go all Claudia Winkleman on you.

Here's our thoughts on the new Tinkerbell movie, Paddington and Get Santa.

Tinkerbell and the Legend of the Neverbeast




Whilst not especially Christmassy, this is a thought-provoking movie and the latest in the Tinkerbell series and is well worth a watch.

The main character this time is the feisty but caring Fawn the animal fairy who has a special affinity with all beasts.  Venturing into the dark cave she discovers the injured Neverbeast, and after fixing his wound, slowly but surely builds his trust and gains his friendship.

The rest of Pixie Hollow fear for their safety, but only Fawn can see past the scary face, and see what's in Neverbeast's heart.

It has the potential to be a hugely uplifting movie with morals of never judging a book by it's cover, the importance of understanding when to listen to your head or your heart, when to admit you're wrong, and most of all, the importance of doing the right thing.

Younger viewers may find it difficult to follow in places - I found myself having to give a quick science lesson about lightning and conductivity - and those of a sensitive disposition will more than likely shed a tear at the end.  Not wishing to give the game away, it's not exactly a bereavement, but near as, and incredibly sad.

Overall, we found this a fun and action-packed movie, with gentle laughs and big messages.

We rate it 4/5.



Paddington



The much anticipated Paddington movie will appeal to adults of my generation who remember the 2D cartoon drawings and the unmistakable narration of Micheal Horden, as well as a whole new generation of younger viewers.

Yes, Paddington Bear has had a makeover, he's been CGI'd and his face is altogether more 'beary' but it doesn't take long to acclimatise yourself.


From the opening scenes in deepest darkest Peru where we see his pre-London life with Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo, there's an almost Jungle Book feel to the frivolity and some of the bizarre Heath Robinson contraptions they've rigged up to make a bear's life easier.

Be prepared to shed a tear or two as natural disaster befalls the bears and sets Paddington off on his journey to London.

Once arrived on our shores, much adventure awaits once he's taken in by the Brown family - reluctantly on Mr Brown's part, but the kooky Mrs Brown is keen to show the famous welcoming British characteristics Paddington's long heard about.

This is a film full of belly laughs, slapstick comedy which will have kids (and pretty much most adults in our cinema) screaming with delight and exclaiming with disgust.

There's been much debate about whether it warrants it's PG rating, and I personally don't believe it does.  It's been suggested that Nicole Kidman's taxidermist character is too scary for little minds, but frankly I don't see her as any different to Cruella De Ville or Captain Du Bois from the Madagascar movie.  You need an 'evil' for good to conquer anyway but in fact, I found Kidman's portrayal of the character pretty lame.

She was outshone by Hugh Bonneville as Mr Brown, who plays an excellently uptight Englishman, Sally Hawkins as the bohemian Mrs Brown whose entire wardrobe I coveted, and the inimitable  Julie Walters as all-knowing Mrs Bird.

As much as this was a story about the loveable bear and the nation's acceptance of foreign visitors it was an unfolding love-story of Mr and Mrs Brown who've slipped into the inevitable married life rut.  As Mr Brown shakes off his over-cautious personality and re-discovers his sense of adventure, so the flame is rekindled.

Showing a dysfunctional family, the typical teenage angsts of parental embarrassments and the need for acceptance from peers, it's simply a delightful tale of Britishness.

We absolutely loved this movie, it's the first time in longer than I can remember where the whole audience erupted into applause at the end and we rate it 5/5.




Get Santa

Definitely the most Christmassy of the showings at the flicks this year, this is another heart-warming and thoroughly British film.


Starring the wonderful Jim Broadbent as Santa who has accidentally crash-landed while testing his new sleigh, he needs the help of young Tom and his dad Steve who's freshly released from Her Majesty's pleasure.


The poignant story of the estranged dad and his determination to prove himself a reliable and worthy father takes them on an action-packed race against the clock to save Christmas.

But will he believe he's the real Santa?  Will anyone?

More tears, this time when Santa is wrongly banged up in prison for trying to rescue his reindeer, and proves he's the real deal to hardened inmates by revealing their childhood secrets and opening up long forgotten memories.

There's no getting away from the farting reindeer, and let's face it what child doesn't find farting highly hysterical?

Excellent performances by Jim Broadbent who makes a very convincing Santa and Rafe Spall as the desperate dad, but also from Kit Connor who plays 9 year old Tom trying to rebuild his life while his dad's been inside for 2 years and his mum's life has moved on.

There's real magic in the film, and we finally get explanations for how the reindeer fly, what the Northern Lights really are and how all the letters get to the North Pole. In my opinion the only thing spoiling it is the rather Benny Hill stlye antics of the police and the probation officer.

Definitely one to get you in the mood for Christmas, and where else can you see farting reindeer?  We rate it 4/5.




Have you seen anything at the flicks lately?  Got any recommendations for us?

Disclosure: We attended a gala screening of the Tinkerbell movie but the others were at our own expense.  All opinions are my own.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Make your own Marshmallows


Marshmallow recipes aren't something you often see people talking about, so I had assumed they were incredibly difficult to make and would perhaps require magical ingredients and equipment.

However, Sainsbury's now sell their own DIY kits so I thought I'd give it a go.


Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without bowls of sweeties and treats dotted about the house, and what better than light and fluffy marshmallows in snow white to pop into your mouth as the mood takes you.

Turns out, they are incredibly simple and quite quick to make - you need to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before cutting, but the actual making part only takes about 20 minutes.

They'd make a lovely personal handmade gift too presented in a cellophane bag or pretty box, and just right for a last minute present.

As I said, the process is so simple, just boiling the sugar, dissolving the gelatine and whisking together.  The kit contains everything you need, you just need your own square tin and some cling film.




Frankly, the hardest part was turning it out from the cling film lined tin and cutting it up, but that's because I was a little frightened of it.  As it happens, marshmallow is quite robust stuff and can take a bit of tough love, you've just got to go for it.

The kitchen did look a bit like a snowstorm afterwards with all the icing sugar flying around, but then I'm not the tidiest of cooks.  It did however result in possibly the best bowl licking session of my life - warm, melty mallow straight from the spoon - ahhhhhh.

And the final result?  Delightful pillowy soft marshmallows - little squares of heaven.  Now I've made my first batch I fancy getting more adventurous with flavours, colours and shapes.  Cut with cookie cutters into different shapes they'd be even prettier and swirling through some lemon curd or Christmas candy canes to add colour and flavour is my next plan.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go and make a fire so I can try toasting these babies.


Disclosure: The marshmallow kit is available in store from Sainsbury's priced at £2.50.  Not suitable for vegetarians. I was sent a kit for the purposes of this review.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Have a DIY Christmas with Worx - Power Tool Giveaway

With the trend for a homemade Christmas, power tool firm Worx are asking us to take on the challenge of making a gift this yuletide.

Do you remember receiving a homemade present as a child?  I certainly do.  I remember the much-loved rag doll my mum made for me and the beautiful doll's house my dad toiled for hours in the freezing cold garage making me.  He'd crafted the doors and windows, the stairs and even wired it up so it had working lights.  I can't say I remember too many other gifts I got as a child, all those games and mass produced toys fade in my memory, but those two items which had taken hours and hours to painstakingly make will always be remembered.

Worx have come up with three projects, complete with comprehensive instructions and videos that you can make your child this year.  There's a simple pair of stilts, a pull-along wooden dog which is a little more challenging and for those who like to think big, there's plans for a doll's house.

We tackled the stilts and they really were straightforward, and took only about 10-15 minutes to assemble.  I love that you can customise or decorate them how you want, and I spent some time painting them for Ruby.

I'm so pleased with how they've turned out, what do you think?



We used the Worxsaw circular saw which has a very useful laser light, perfect for guiding your straight cuts.  It has adjustable saw cut depth and is powerful but so small and lightweight it can be used one handed.  Capable of cutting wood, tiles, brick, plasterboard and metal it's perfect for the hobby DIYer.


We also used the Worx Sonicrafter as a powerful and compact mini sander, but it has lots of other uses too including cutting pipes and removing tile grout.







The full details can be found on this video, and there's a link on the youtube with all the written instructions and dimensions.



Further projects can be found on the Worx channel.

To get you started, Worx are offering you the chance to win a Worx SD Cordless screwdriver.  Perfect for all those little DIY jobs round the house, or for crafting a Christmas gift of your own. It's pre-loaded with 6 different bits and the easy to operate slide action means you can flip from flat-head to Phillips quickly and easily.  It has a built in light making it perfect for those tricky jobs or working in poor light.


To be in with a chance of winning, complete the rafflecopter below before midnight on Sunday 21st December 2014.

Open to UK entrants only.  One winner will be selected at random.  The prize is supplied and fulfilled by Worx. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: The prize is kindly supplied by Worx and we received the tools to complete the project outlined above.