31 December 2016

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl

2016 has marked 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl - the world’s number one storyteller. Throughout 2016, there were celebrations for Roald Dahl 100, focusing on Roald Dahl's ‘gloriumptious’ stories and characters and delivering a year packed with ‘squiffling’ surprises and treats for everyone.


So during 2016 My Boys have been lucky enough to follow The BFG Dream Jar Trail in London; watch THE BFG at the Tyneside Cinema followed up with themed food; see the James and the Giant Peach Live Show at Northern Stage and enjoy Revolting Rhymes on TV this Christmas; as well as continuing to read some of the best books they will ever read.


2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl


Roald Dahl's short stories are known for their unexpected endings and his children's books for their unsentimental, macabre, often darkly comic mood, featuring villainous adult enemies of the child characters. His books champion the kind-hearted and feature an underlying warm sentiment. Some of his best-known books for children include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Twits and George's Marvellous Medicine.

His stories have gone on to capture the hearts and imaginations of children and adults across the globe, making him the world's number one storyteller. Many of the books have gone on to be adapted into movie blockbusters, plays and musicals.


The BFG Disney Movie at the Tyneside Cinema


At the start of the summer we took a trip to the Tyneside Cinema to watch the new Steven Speilberg blockbuster ‘The BFG’. A magical adaptation of the book it is definitely a scrumdiddlyumptious feast for the eyes and ears.

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl


The film offers magic and visual delights but undoubtedly it is the scene at Buckingham Palace that steals the show. It’s here that the BFG introduces the Queen to the majesty of “whizzpopping”, the bottom-burping “sign of true happiness” brought on by the downward-spiralling bubbles of his favourite fizzy drink, “frobscottle”.

I can still hear the raucous laughter that came from two gentlemen sat towards the back of the cinema – they didn’t even have children with them but enjoyed the film as much as anyone else there that day. Their laughs were infectious.

To top it all off we then enjoyed a Big Friendly Giant Meal and Whizpopping Pudding in the Cafe.


2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl


The BFG Dream Jar Trail


In summer 2016, the streets of London were transformed with magical giant Dream Jars as part of The BFG Dream Jar Trail celebrating Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday and The BFG movie release. 

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl
2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl



The BFG Dream Jar Trail brought to life the long-held dreams of celebrities and artists with 50 Dream Jars across London and beyond over seven dream-filled weeks. The Dream Jars could be found in iconic spots such as Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace. In August on our trip to London we managed to see a few including On The Wings Of A Dream By Aston Martin and The Duchess' Dream.


2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl


When the “wondercrump” trail ended the Dream Jars were auctioned, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for children’s charities.


James and The Giant Peach – Northern Stage


James and the Giant Peach was Roald Dahl’s first classic novel for children. Published in 1961 it tells the story of James Henry Trotter to whom something rather peculiar happens after living with his aunts for three years.

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl


When we first meet him, James is a lonely boy living with his two aunts "in a queer ramshackle house on the top of a high hill in the south of England." This is because, right at the beginning of the story, poor James is orphaned when his parents are killed by an angry rhinoceros. His aunts are horrible. They make James do all the cleaning and never let him away from the house to meet other children or make friends.

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl


But James's luck starts to change when he meets a mysterious old man who hands him a magical gift that will change his life - and introduce James to some of the most unusual friends a young boy could ever have...

2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl


The live show adaptation at Northern Stage is wonderful. It is so full of energy, songful and has so much interaction with the audience through seagulls, bubbles, sharks, tentacles and beach balls that (especially when sitting in the front row) that you feel as you’ve actually been part of the show, not a passive viewer.

Sadly there are very few tickets left for the performance at Northern Stage but if you don’t get the opportunity to see it there is still the very magical book to read. It's at Northern Stage, Newcastle, until 31 December.

  

Revolting Rhymes Christmas special

The Revolting Rhymes book is a favourite in our house, my eldest has also performed in two of the short stories at school so we are well versed in them. So we were very excited to see that Roald Dahl’s mischievous Revolting Rhymes were to be brought to the screen this Christmas as a festive highlight on BBC One this year. And they certainly didn’t disappoint. 


2016: A Year Celebrating Roald Dahl


Shown as two half-hour animated films, shown early evening on Boxing Day and the following Bank Holiday, rather than go through each story individually as we were expecting, all five rhymes - Little Red Riding Hood, Snow-White, Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella - were ingeniously interwoven into one story told by a narrator. 

If you haven’t seen it watch it on Iplayer now.


My Boys Favourite 5 Roald Dahl quotes


1) ‘A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.’ – The Twits

2) ‘You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips. I’ve also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it. So watch out, I say, when someone smiles at you but his eyes stay the same. It’s sure to be a phony.’ – Danny the Champion of the World

3) ‘So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.’ – Matilda

4) ‘Well, maybe it started that way. As a dream, but doesn’t everything. Those buildings. These lights. This whole city. Somebody had to dream about it first. And maybe that is what I did. I dreamed about coming here, but then I did it.’ – James and the Giant Peach

5) ‘It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.’ The Witches


Although he died in 1974 his books, writing and storytelling thankfully live on and Roald Dahl's stories continue to inspire children and adults around the world.


The  Roald Dahl website, has amazing resources for kids, parents and teachers – go check it out.






What is your favourite Roald Dahl book?

Deb x


James and the Giant Peach Press Image Credit: Topher McGillis


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Share your 2015 - Belle du Brighton

30 December 2016

Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar

We all know that Newcastle is a City that is ‘Alive after Five’.  But now the City has an additional reason to celebrate with the new ‘After 5  & Weekend Menu’ plus cocktails on offer at Zapatista Burrito Bar on Grainger Street, close to Central Station. We were invited to come along and sample the new menu just ahead of its launch earlier this month.



Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar in Newcastle



With an ethos to serve fast, fresh, healthy and delicious Mexican inspired food Zapatista was Newcastle's first dedicated Mexican inspired Burrito Bar. With an outlet also situated on Ridley Place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, both outlets pay homage to the Mexican culture and the food stands proud, although the new menu and cocktails are only available at the Grainger Street Zapatista.

So what’s on the new ‘After 5 and Weekend’ menu?


First up me and some fellow North East Bloggers tried the nachos, which had a great crunch and came with some lovely accompaniments (refried beans, salsa verde and feta cheese), and then were completely spoilt by the Taquitos, Tacos, Wings (3 kinds), Calamari and Jalapeno Poppers that followed.

Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar in Newcastle


Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar in Newcastle


Taquitos are two tortillas rolled and fried into crispy cigars and served with shredded salad and salsa. They come in different flavours, with two choices on the menu being vegetarian …

  • Frijoles – creamy black turtle beans garnished with crumbled cheese chipotle honey and lime mayo
  • Squash & Chickpea – roasted in honey sauce topped with honey and lime mayo – this was definitely my favourite, absolutely delicious. At this point, I wished I wasn’t sharing!
  • And Chilli con Carne – using the family beef chilli recipe.


Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar in Newcastle



With the Wings you can pick your own spice …
  • MILD - As they come in a simple marinade sauce
  • MEDIUM – Chilli Spiced lightly dusted to perfection
  • HOT – Fiery Habanero smothered in hot sauce.

As a non-meat eater, I can’t actually tell you how these tasted to me but I can tell you that my fellow diners thought they were delicious. With the fiery one being hot but not explosive.


Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar in Newcastle



Then we tried Tacos, first came Baja Fish – lightly battered cod with salsa verde, chipotle honey and lime mayo and shredded salad – this is the first time I have tried fish in a Mexican restaurant and it won’t be my last – it was so tasty.

There are also Meatballs, hand rolled and cooked in a rich chipotle sauce and served with house slaw. The slaw I must say is lovely. Light and refreshing rather than loaded with mayo. A refreshing change. But again I can’t tell you how good the meatballs were but they didn’t take long to disappear on our table.


Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar in Newcastle



Then we had Calamari and Jalapeno Poppers to try. Again I couldn't fault the crispiness, tastiness and overall presentation of the dishes at all.

Amazingly we still had room for dessert, which is just as well as there are three great puds on offer. Pineapple and Caramel – where slices of fresh pineapple are glazed in a spiced caramel sauce, Key Lime Pie – the bittersweet American classic and Churros – Mexican doughnuts.


Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar in Newcastle



Individual dishes cost between £4.50 and £6.10 and are accompanied by a new margarita and cocktail menu with drinks at £5.50. 


Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar in Newcastle



Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar in Newcastle



The house tequila – El Jimador – is 100% hand-harvested blue weber agave. It’s a crystal clear tequila crafted with care and is uncommonly smooth. As Zapatista says “If you are taking salt and lime with it … you’re drinking the wrong tequila!


Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar in Newcastle



The new 'After 5 Menu' is perfect for an evening when you fancy doing something different after work, and it is also available all day on Saturdays and Sundays adding to the great mix of food now available in Newcastle.


Review: After 5 Menu and Cocktails at Zapatista Burrito Bar in Newcastle



Zapatista also has a children's menu which I’m yet to try, but at £2.90 for a Children’s meal with either pork, vegetables or chicken with cheese, rice, lettuce, nacho chips and two mini tacos. Oh and a carton of juice I’m sure it won’t be long before I return in 2017, and this time with My Boys.


Have you tried the new menu?

Deb x

29 December 2016

Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year

Looking for plans to celebrate this New Year's Eve? There's plenty of free events to choose from in the north east, including Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland and South Shields that'll help you and your family see in 2017 in style.


Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year


Christmas Wonderland at South Shields


Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year

Head down to St Hilda's Church Gardens (just next to The Word in South Shields Town Centre) and discover illuminated festive characters including penguins, polar bears, Santa and his reindeer and sleigh.


Discovery Museum Lanterns 11am – 3pm


Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year

Try your hand at lantern making at the Discovery Museum – there is a drop-in workshop between 11am and 3pm before heading to the Newcastle Winter Carnival and joining in the procession



Newcastle Winter Carnival 4.30pm – 6pm


Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year


The Newcastle Winter Carnival Parade is an early evening family celebration which rings in the New Year in style. The Winter Carnival Parade can be viewed for free as it moves through the city centre and culminates in a dramatic fireworks display at Newcastle Civic Centre. The best viewing points for the Winter Carnival Parade will be at Monument and along Northumberland Street. Then enjoy the Carnival Parade finale and fireworks at Newcastle Civic Centre, bringing the celebrations to a spectacular close. 



Sunderland New Year Celebrations 5pm – 6pm


Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year


Transformers, fire-performers, live music and a fantastic firework finale will be helping visitors celebrate the start of a new year at the seafront in Sunderland. Sun FM will host some great entertainment for all the family at Seaburn’s Cliffe Park including Sunderland based artist Penella Bee and her team performing a range of dazzling acts using fire and lights. Other attractions on the day include a children’s fairground, on-site catering and live music performed by local singer Ashleigh Humble. The fireworks display will start at around 5.50pm, with perfect viewing from Cliffe Park and along the seafront.



Special Service at Durham Cathedral 6pm


Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year


Join with the churches of Durham and gather for a service of reflection on the past, of thanksgiving for the blessings of God in the present and of hope for the year to come. You are invited to gather in Durham Market Place at 6.00pm with lanterns and join the procession up to the Cathedral for 6.30pm.

Midnight


And don’t forget just before the clock strikes twelve, step outside on Newcastle Quayside to see the free Midnight Fireworks display, drawing 2016 to a close and welcoming the start of 2017 with a bang.

Five Free North East Events for Families to Celebrate New Year



Happy New Year!

Deb x

Please note: Events details and timings are subject to change - please check with event organisers.

28 December 2016

A Good & Proper Place - We Try Out George's GBK

A Good & Proper Place - We Try Out George's Great British Kitchen


Although it opened in October we hadn't yet had the opportunity to try out the food at one of Newcastle’s newest restaurants – George’s Great British Kitchen in the multi-million redevelopment of intu Eldon Square, called the Grey Quarter. That all changed last week.

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

The idea behind George’s Great British Kitchen is all about being different. From its beach huts to gin bar, it is all about bringing proper British dishes all with a unique twist to the heart of Newcastle. As they say, it’s a ‘good & proper place for jolly good times and seaside shenanigans’.

Now this was December, and during a weekday Christmas shopping trip, me and the hubby decided to try it out. As we walked through the new Grey Quarter in intu Eldon Square, from Grey’s Monument entrance we were impressed by how many new places there are to try. It’s not that long since Newcastle had hardly any restaurant chains at all in the city centre, but a healthy balance of independent restaurants and cafes, alongside small and large chains makes for a vibrant feel.

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle


It was only a quick lunch so we skipped starters but there seemed to be plenty of choices for another visit for meat and fish eaters, as well as vegetarians. Cod Pakora and Mushy Pea Fritters took our eye.

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle


There is a gin bar but on this occasion, we stuck to soft drinks. And with Ginger Beer and Dandelion and Burdock (a personal favourite) on the menu it’s a hit for us. Not sure I need an alcoholic drink when I’ve got that option, but the drink topped with candyfloss served to the table next to us, did look amazing.

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle


A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle


Instead, we decided on two dishes that we could share. A Proper Fish Finger Sandwich (£7.95) and a Cod Dog (£9.75). The sandwich had cod goujons inside two doorstep slices of brown bread, layered with chunky tartare sauce and mushy peas and served with a pot of ketchup on the side. I’ve never had mushy peas inside a sandwich before. I don’t usually like mushy peas and never eat them when just dolloped on a plate but inside the sarnie was fine. 

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle

The Cod Dog looked like a hot dog but was actually crispy battered giant cod finger in a brioche bun with a layer of mushy peas and a topping of chunky tartare sauce. A nice twist.

The Fish Finger Sandwich was served with twice-cooked chips whilst the Cod Dog comes with a side order of your choice. We chose Stilton chips – one of my favourite cheeses. The hubby wasn’t sure if he’d like them, but I was disappointed when he did – less for me!

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle


The food was tasty, a little different and quirky but delicious all the same. The service was excellent, friendly and efficient – there is plenty of time to have a quick lunch and get back to work if you need to. Luckily we were just heading to more shops!

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle


A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle


As it was just after 12 noon when we arrived we easily got a ‘beach hut’ table. Seahouses to be exact – but it did quickly fill up inside. The outside area, with blankets, although not really outside (simply within the shopping mall) remained empty though – it’s the little quirky things like the condiment trays, the cuddly fish, beach huts and blankets on ‘outside’ seats, as well as the traditional English seaside cut-out to have your picture taken in, that make this place really welcoming and comfortable, as well as the delicious food.

A Good & Proper Place - food review of George's GBK Newcastle



Cost: Drinks and food came to £23.20 for two people.
Location: The Grey Quarter, intu Eldon Square, Newcastle.
Boys Club Rating: At less than £25 for two people, it’s a great place for a spot of lunch. Can't wait to try it again in 2017.


What's your favourite restaurant in The Grey Quarter?

Deb x

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22 December 2016

Festive Food: Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls

I love this time of year. Have you guessed I really like Christmas yet? One of my favourite things about this time of year is the food. It's not a time to be worrying about how much you eat, as long as you don't overdo it - a little bit of everyone does you good, right?


I love trying out new ideas and was inspired by an image of a Chelsea Bun Christmas Tree for this recipe. However, it's not Chelsea Buns but Pizza Swirls, made out of ready rolled puff pastry, that are creating my foodie Christmas Tree this year.

Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls


So what's a Pizza Swirl? I saw a recipe on Pizza Swirls on the Feeding Boys blog and have been making them for my boy's packed lunches at school, however, I fancied a more grown up version for my tree.

Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls


I know it's not to everyone's taste but I adore blue cheese. The combination of blue cheese with red onion, mushroom and fresh spinach to me was going to be a winner. Fairly classic, I can easily see it actually topping a pizza, but with a Pizza Swirl it runs through the middle - a bit like a swiss roll.



Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls

  • Makes: Two trees of 16 individual pieces
  • Prep time: 10 mins
  • Cook time: 15 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 pack ready rolled puff pastry
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 100g blue cheese crumbled
  • 4 mushrooms, sliced thinly, dry fried to take out any moisture
  • A handful of fresh spinach

Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls


Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Grease and line two baking trays or use a re-usable baking sheet.
2. Unroll the sheet of puff pastry and spread evenly with a layer of the sliced red onion. 
3. Then crumble the blue cheese over the onion, before topping with the chopped mushrooms and spinach.
4. Tightly roll the pastry back up, like a swiss roll, being careful that the filling does not fall out. Cut into 16 equal slices.


Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls


Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls


5. Place the slices on the baking sheet. For our usual pizza swirls, you want to keep them, apart however for the Christmas Tree you need to place them in the shape of a tree, close together so there are no gaps in between.
6. Then bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Allow to cool then serve or store in an airtight tub.


Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls


Festive Food -  How to make Christmas Tree Pizza Swirls


It really is that easy and the filling was so tasty. My next combination to try is going to be brie or camembert with cranberry and then maybe a sweet filling of coffee and walnuts.

If you are having a family gathering or celebrating with friends this festive season why not try a making a Pizza Swirl Christmas Tree?

Deb x

21 December 2016

Hubby's Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

We all love a great Christmas film. Whether you're looking for a classic black and white film, a romantic comedy, a kids' flick or even an action movie, there's a Christmas go-to for everyone. 


However, Christmas films don’t all have to be about Santa or be an over-sentimental festive flick. Luckily, there are many Christmas movies that are guaranteed to charm, entertain and in the odd case terrify. 

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies


As an antidote to all that sugary over-indulgence this year, hubby has come up with his Top Ten alternative Xmas movies.

1: Die Hard 1 & 2

Like the meme says "It's not Christmas until I see Hans Gruber fall off of the Nakatomi Tower". Everyone has adopted Die Hard as their alternative festive flick these days but I'd have to go as far as to say that Die Hard 2 is probably, even more, Xmassy.


2: The Empire Strikes Back

Imperial Walkers in a Winter Wonderland. What can I say, I'm a hardcore Star Wars fan, of course, I'm going to include Empire! 

And if you want to know what I thought about Rogue One (NO SPOILERS) click here.

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

3: Gremlins

Little ones causing chaos at Christmas and loving it... Need I say more.

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

4: John Carpenters The Thing

A close knit group are cooped up amid harsh winter weather conditions. Cabin fever is setting in and those sprouts seem to be causing all manner of physiological horror! Sounds a lot like Christmas to me.


5: Edward Scissorhands

It's a fairytale much in the mould of the Brothers Grimm and while it's set in the masquerade of sunny suburbia, it's festive love fuelled heart is revealed during its wintery climax. It's also the tune we walked down the aisle too.

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

 6: A Nightmare Before Christmas

A slice of Halloween that you can also watch with the kids at Christmas?... Perfect!




7: It's A Wonderful Life

You could argue that this film belongs at the top of a traditional Christmas movie list, what with its uplifting 'Christmas bells and angel wings' concept and It's prophetic 'gloom to glory' theme which is very much akin to Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'. However, that opening gambit of George contemplating suicide is so stark that it has to be firmly wedged in my category of dark alternatives

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

8: The Wizard of Oz

There were only 3 channels on TV when I was a kid and this was the default festive blockbuster. They repeated it EVERY SINGLE YULETIDE! It's a great movie but it's only really on the list thanks to some prepubescent brainwashing.




9: Trading Places

What better way to distract you from over-exuberant indigestion than with a good belly laugh at the expense of evil big Corp owners receiving a vengeful comeuppance.

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies

10: Batman Returns

It seems Tim Burton knows how to satisfy my alternative festive needs with his 3rd entry into my list. Batman battling a circus of killer penguins and clowns in a bizarre film-noir winter wonderland. Why would this film ever NOT make the list?


Honourable mention: The Exorcist 3

I'm not sure exactly why I always think of this movie at Christmas? Maybe it's the use of iconic religious imagery or maybe it's purely and simply because it heavily references 'It's A Wonderful Life'. Either way, Christmas just isn't Christmas until you've purged festivities with a good old fashioned supernatural chiller, don't you think? 

Top Ten Alternative Xmas Movies



Merry Christmas everyone!


Which films would make your top ten list of alternatives?


Deb x
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