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Saturday, 13 February 2016

Netflix Night In - what will you watch?

Netflix have sent us the biggest, snuggliest blanket to help keep us cosy while we enjoy some great Netflix Nights In. With so many great series, documentaries and films to choose from, the only problem is choosing what to watch!

netflix


Here are my kids' suggestions from the new titles coming this month for a Netflix Night In.

Freddy 6 - Muppets Most Wanted (available 25th February)

While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves embroiled in a dastardly jewel heist orchestrated by an evil Kermit look alike. This exciting caper sees the real Kermit behind bars while evil imposter Contantine uses the tour as a cover for the crime of the century. Will The Muppets realise there is an imposter in their midst and will they be able to stop him in time?  Starring Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and The Muppets cast, it is a great film for fans to enjoy as a family. There are several cameo roles from famous celebrities, which are fun to spot.

Kezia 13 - Shadowhunters - The Mortal Instruments

New episodes of this fantasy series are available weekly with episode 5 airing on February 10th. Based on the bestselling books by Cassandra Clare, Shadowhunters follows the story of Clary who discovers that she has angel blood and was born to protect humanity from demons. After her mother is kidnapped by a powerful foe, Clary has to learn about her past and what her future may hold, as she is thrown into a new life of demon hunting.

Ella 19 - Enchanted (available 26th February)

This delightful film is one that all the family will be enchanted by!  Beautiful princess Giselle is banished from her magical fairytale life by an evil queen, onto the streets of chaotic modern day Manhattan. Despite the fact that she is a million miles from her home and her Prince Charming, she keeps a song in her heart. When she finds herself falling in love with a handsome lawyer, Giselle questions her feelings for her fairytale prince, who has come to rescue her - but can story book love survive in the real world? And will the evil queen manage to get rid of the princess who she fears will marry her stepson? With a wonderful mix of animation and real life, plus some awesome original musical numbers, this is a lovely family movie for a Netflix Night In.

Megan 24 - Pretty Little Liars

Into its sixth series with episode 15 airing on February 10th, Pretty Little Liars is a drama filled with twists and turns, intrigue and dark secrets. Following the murder of Alison, her friends begin to receive sinister messages threatening to expose their secrets and destroying their seemingly perfect lives. Signed by the mysterious A, the girls band together to discover the secret identity of their anonymous foe and unravel the mystery of the murder of their best friend. The plot is intriguing and you are drawn in as clues are revealed that keep you guessing.


For me, I'm a big fan of Netflix documentaries. After watching Making a Murderer and becoming obsessed with miscarriages of justice. I have found some other amazing, but shocking and often harrowing documentaries on a similar theme. Thin Blue Line, Give Up Tomorrow, West of Memphis and The Central Park 5 all make excellent viewing and pose many worrying questions about the justice system. If like me, you are a self-confessed armchair detective, these are the perfect titles for a grown-up Netflix Night In.

For your perfect Netflix Night In - what would you watch?

Friday, 12 February 2016

Mood enhancing meals for Valentine's Day

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Bertolli with Butter has partnered with Susan Duncan, Professor of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, who has revealed six ingredients you can use in ‘Pheromeals’ (pheromone-laden dishes) for your loved one. Five of the ingredients are vegetarian, which is good news to me...and to the other romantic veggies of the world!

They are:

CHOCOLATE: The sweet, smooth texture of chocolate is psychologically suggestive of sensuality and has been shown to decrease tiredness and increase positive moods for up to 5-30 minutes after eating.

WINE: In small doses has calming attributes which relax us and reduces inhibitions.

CHILLI PEPPERS: Chillies get the metabolism going and increase blood flow – and contain capsaicin which can release endorphins in the brain, perfect for a romantic situation.

TRUFFLES: Contain compounds such as androstenol which are recognized as pheromones.

SPICES SUCH AS SAFFRON, LAVENDER, AND VANILLA: The sensual aspect of spices such as saffron and lavender go a long way to putting you in a romantic frame of mind.  Repeated and extended consumption of saffron has also been shown to increase male sexual function.

They have come up with some recipes suitable for every stage of being in love. I have chosen to make the 'Spaghetti Outta My House' recipe which features tomatoes, full fat yogurt and red wine reduction to produce calmness.

Although it has been designed for the break up stage of a relationship, providing a comforting plate of pasta for an amicable parting of ways (which, incidentally, I don't intend to do anytime soon!) it can also be a soul soother for other times when you need to chill out. The high-carb, low-protein content of the dish produces a calming effect which is accentuated by the wine in the sauce. Exactly what’s needed when a soul needs soothing.

SPAGHETTI OUTTA MY HOUSE

Mood Changing Ingredients in Dish: Tomatoes, full fat yogurt, red wine, Bertolli with Butter

Serves 2

pasta dish


Ingredients:


  • 1tbsp Bertolli with Butter
  • 500g plain yogurt
  • 175ml red wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • ½ can chopped tomatoes
  • 150g spaghetti

Method:


  • Warm the yogurt slightly in a sauce pan, and stir together with the garlic and parsley. Pour in the red wine, and reduce slightly. Once reduced, add the tomatoes and bring to slight heat.
  • Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and toss together with 2tbsp with Bertolli with Butter.
  •  Place the spaghetti into a large casserole dish and stir sauce through.
  • Serve with a glass of red.


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Yankee Candle True Rose - the scent of love

Love and romance are sure to be in the air this Sunday when Valentine's Day comes round for another year. Most of us enjoy being swept along with the sentiment, and I personally enjoy the excuse to make a special meal, decorate the living room with red balloons and buy little gifts for my loved ones - I say loved ONES because Valentine's Day is also extended to our children, because they enjoy joining in with our celebrations too. We've had many a candlelit dinner for six, complete with heart shaped cakes for dessert! 

If you are looking for a gift for your significant other or if you want to set the scene for romance, Yankee Candle has a gorgeous range of floral and fruity fragranced candles, which perfectly capture the sentiment of Valentine's Day. I was sent a beautiful True Rose jar candle.

valentines day


The rich red coloured wax has an incredible scent of alluring, velvety rose petals.  The fragrance has a good strength that fills the room and is really authentic - very much like the smell of a freshly cut bouquet of red roses. It gives the air a romantic and passionate ambiance that lasts long after the candle is blown out. With 150 hours burn time, the True Rose candle will keep smelling sweet, long after a bunch of flowers will have wilted.

As it is fragrance of the month at Yankee Candle,  you can currently buy one for the reduced price of £16.49 for the large size jar (usual price is £21.99).  Express delivery is available online.

Yankee Candle also have some other lovely gift ideas for Valentine's Day. There is a five votives gift set which includes Fresh Cut Roses, Red Raspberry, Pink Hibiscus, Sweet Strawberry and True Rose for £8.99. They also have a lovely gift set featuring a large Red Raspberry Jar Candle and an Illuma-Lid in a heart design for £29.99.

With a range of jar candles, votives, melts and accessories, and with a load of different fragrances and designs, it is easy the perfect gift whatever your budget, making it simple to share the love this Valentine's Day.


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Monstrously Good Pancakes with a Hotel Transylvanian Twist

Hotel Transylvania 2 is now available to watch on Digital HD, and will be available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray on February 15th, and to celebrate its release, Sai Pancakes has made some monstrously good pancakes based on the characters.  Take a look at the pancake art in this video - it is genius! Drac, Mavis, Wayne, Dennis, Mummy and Blobby all get the pancake treatment and the results are excellent.

       


Using this as inspiration for our own Pancake Day treats, we have had a go at making some monstrous pancakes of our own! I'm under no illusion that I would ever be able to create something as wonderful as the Hotel Transylvania 2 pancakes in the video, so I decided to come up with a easy to make, wholesome, savoury pancake with a fun Hotel Transylvanian twist.

I used Blobby as the character for our pancake design. Using defrosted chopped frozen spinach in the recipe, we created a green batter which still has chunks of leaf in it, making the end result resemble Blobby after he has gone through bushes, getting greenery stuck in his jelly body! Instead of making a round pancake, I let the batter settle in an irregular blobby shape in the pan and finished him off with some cheese and raisin eyes. A blood-like tomato ketchup 'Blobby' written on the plate completes the dish, making a healthy teatime treat that the kids will love. Perfect to eat while watching Hotel Transylvania 2!

pancake day


Hotel Transylvania 2 picks up the story after vampire Mavis and human Johnny's wedding. The loved up couple soon add to their family with the birth of their new monster/human baby Dennis. The red haired little lad seems to take after his dad's side of the family, and isn't showing any signs of his vampire blood, making Drac a bit concerned. So when Mavis and Johnny go on vacation to the human world, Drac enlists his monster friends to help bring out the monster in his grandson. When old school vampire and human hating Great Grandpa Vlad pays the family a visit for Dennis's birthday, things soon get out of hand. With the family under threat we get to see everyone's true colours!

Hotel Transylvania 2 DVD


We loved this sequel! The mix of hilarious, madcap monster action with some very emotional and touching family moments, makes this a great movie. The characters are fun, the humour is spot on, there are some great observations on family (and humanity as a whole) and there are some genuinely moving scenes. The cast of actors bringing their voice talents to the film include Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Adam Samberg and Mel Brooks. We loved that Nick Offerman and Megan Mulally (from Parks and Recreation) play Mike and Linda, who are Johnny's parents. The film is 89 minutes long and is a certificate U, perfect for family viewing.

Hotel Transylvania 2


Hotel Transylvania is out now on Digital HD and on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray & DVD 15th February.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Encouraging birds into our garden with Wilko

My dad has always loved birds. He's always enjoyed feeding his feathered friends and watching them in his garden. He is very knowledgeable about all the different types of bird and gets very excited if he spots something rare. His enthusiasm and love of the birds is quite contagious, and I've found myself happily watching many a wood pigeon, jay, wren or buzzard because he has pointed them out to me.

When Wilko offered me the chance to be one of their Wild Bird Bloggers, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to introduce my own children to one of their Grandad's interests, as well as a great chance to encourage wild birds into our garden, supporting our native wildlife.

Birds bring colour and movement to the garden and can provide lots of entertainment as you watch them feed, sing and defend their territories. Helping them survive the winter months keeps them well fed and encourages a variety of species into your garden. Feeding birds is so mutually beneficial - you provide them with something to eat - you get fabulous display of nature in return.

We received a lovely box of items from Wilko, designed to attract wild birds into the garden:

  • Wilko Wild Bird Nesting Box
  • Wilko Wild Bird Wooden Bird Table
  • Wild Bird Cage Seed Feeder
  • Wilko Wild Bird Food

Wilko Wild Bird Range


The bird table needs assembly using a screwdriver. Once assembled it is quite sturdy and provides a table with a roof to keep food dry and offer some shelter. At £10 it is a real bargain. The cage seed feeder is a clever way to keep little birds safe while they feed from the tube, protected by the wire cage. It also stops big birds or squirrels from stealing their food. The top can be lifted off to fill the feeder and clips on securely afterwards. For £6, it is a great quality feeder that does the job really well, while offering extra security to small birds as they feed. The nesting box is made of natural wood and is easily mounted to a tree where it provides a great spot for small birds to make a nest. The front panel can be removed to make an open fronted nesting box. At £2.50 it is extremely good value and will provide a wonderful opportunity to watch birds as they nest and rear young.

Freddy, who is six years old, had a great time helping his daddy build the table, fill the feeder and position the nesting box. Everything is sturdy and well made and is a welcome addition to the garden. The wooden designs of the bird table and nesting box fitted in very naturally and looked really good. Freddy was very interested in the idea of feeding the wild birds and asked lots of questions about which birds will come to eat the seeds. Introducing children to the wildlife on their doorstep, helps them understand their environment and nurtures a respect for the local flora and fauna. He got very excited to see a friendly robin hopping around picking up the seeds that had been dropped on the floor. Taking time to notice the local bird population, hearing the birdsong and spotting familiar breeds really is a lovely activity for children to engage in. We really hope that a family of birds take up residence in the bird box, because that will be amazing!


Wilko Wild Bird Range


Activity around the new bird feeder has been a bit slow, probably due to the windy, wet weather, so I haven't managed to catch any shots of the birds making the most of their new bird table or seed feeder. However, we are hoping that once the birds start 'tweeting' about the new place in town where they can get free food, word will get around and the peckish birds will make a bee-line for the garden. Then we will have a lot of activity from our feathered friends that will make us all into keen twitchers!

The types of bird we will be hoping to attract include tits, finches, sparrows, blackbirds and thrushes. Wilko's wildly tasty seed mix contains sunflower seeds, millet and red dari, which is a perfect, nutritious feed for table, feeder and floor, and at just £1.50 for 2kg is great value and will encourage birds into the garden. Bird spotting is fun and free and can be done from the comfort of your own home as you watch out of the window to see the birds in action. Children can keep a tally chart, write a bird diary or draw sketches of the birds that visit, making an opportunity for some creative learning at home.

Wilko Wild Bird Range, bird spotting


The Wilko Wild Bird range is excellent value for money, so much cheaper than similar products bought from a garden centre. Everything is such good quality, well made and well designed. I really can't fault any of the products for the price.

I might not have captured any photos of the products in action, but here is a snap of a blue tit enjoying the fat balls in my sister's garden from last summer. I hope I will be able to get lots of beautiful wild bird photographs of my own soon!

Wilko Wild Bird Range


You can see the full range of Wilko Wild Bird Supplies online.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Shadowhunters - new to Netflix #StreamTeam

For teens looking for something fresh and new to watch on Netflix, Shadowhunters is a new TV show based on the bestselling fantasy book series: The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. The series follows Clary Fray, whose life is turned upside down on her eighteenth birthday, after discovering that she comes from a long line of Shadowhunters - humans born with angelic blood, who protect humanity from demons. After her mother is kidnapped, Clary begins a journey of self-discovery in the Shadow World, along with her best friend Simon, while learning how to hunt demons, under the guidance of the very handsome but mysterious Shadowhunter Jace Wayland.

Netflix


Here is a beginner's guide to the lingo of Shadowhunters, so you can work out who is who and what is what!

Shadowhunters – Half human, half angel hybrids sometimes referred to as Nephilim. These warriors are responsible for hunting demons, protecting humans and keeping order in the Shadow World.

Downworlders – Half-demonic creatures such as warlocks, werewolves and vampires who live in the Shadow World. They have human souls and live alongside Shadowhunters.

Mundanes – Mere mortals who do not have the ability to see the Shadow World. They are referred to as "Mundies" for short.

The Clave – Collective name for the political body of active Shadowhunters. It is the Clave’s duty to protect the helpless, safeguard humanity, and ward of evil on Earth.

The Accords – Peace negotiations written to maintain order among Shadowhunters and Downworlders.

Runes – Symbols used by Shadowhunters to grant supernatural powers or protection. They can be drawn onto any surface and are often tattooed onto their skin before fighting demons.  The older or more experience a Shadowhunter, the more Runes they will have on their body.

Stele - A slim cylindrical wand used by Shadowhunters to draw runes.


Seraph Blade – A slim blunt tube that once activated transforms into a sharp, clear glowing hilt. Each blade is named after an Angel and is activated when the name is called. Shadowhunters use these in battle.

Shadowhunters has a cast of good looking young characters thrown into an exciting fantasy storyline with plenty of action to keep the viewers entertained. It is perfect for a younger audience with a great soundtrack, beautiful visuals and plenty of attitude. 

Watch Shadowhunters now on Netflix, with new episodes added weekly.


netflix

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Stick Man out on DVD #StickManDVD

On Christmas Day, 10 million of us settled down with our little ones to watch the BBC transmission of Stick Man, and what a wonderful treat it was! The latest Julia Donaldson adaptation really captured our hearts and imaginations, with its emotional storytelling and magical animation.

julia donaldson


The DVD of Stick Man is available to own on February 1st 2016. Starring the voice talents of Martin Freeman, Hugh Bonneville, Rob Brydon, Jennifer Saunders, Russell Tovey and Sally Hawkins, the short film tells the story of Stick Man's epic journey home, after unintentionally ending up miles away from his family tree. His marathon adventure features many predicaments where he finds himself in a swan's nest, being used as a dog's toy, in a fire and on a sandcastle as a flag. But he knows he isn't an ordinary stick - he's Stick Man and his family are waiting for him to come home.


Stick man


Stick Man promises to be a real classic and a family favourite. At 27 minutes long it is perfect for little ones. We have received a copy of Stick Man to enjoy together along with some of the lovely merchandise accompanying the film.  My family loves it - we may even have shed a tear or two, sharing in Stick Man's adventure as he journeyed home to his loved ones who wanted him back so desperately. It's a tale of love, bravery, family and self belief. The animation is beautiful, true to the illustrations of Alex Scheffler, creating a charming visual experience.

Fans of Julia Donaldson and the Stick Man book  will love the DVD, which comes with some special features including an artwork gallery, a live performance by the author and illustrator and a behind the scenes documentary.

stick man
Click and print out this activity sheet for some Stick Man fun.

Stick Man is the latest film adaptation from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler based on their timeless classic, which is available on DVD from 1st February 2016, courtesy of Entertainment One.

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