Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Disney's Moana Movie Review

 image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission
My preschooler E is in her second-year at the Montessori school, and they are learning about world cultures and traditions. So while I would have jumped at the chance to get free tickets to see Disney's "Moana" in an advance-screening anyway, it was a particularly appropriate treat for us right now. This movie was full of stories and history and culture of the people of the Pacific Islands, and this movie is a fabulous resource to expose children to its beauty and richness. Plus once again, Disney knocks it out of the park!

 image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission
"Moana" is about a girl named - you guessed it - Moana who is compelled by the water surrounding their island, but who is always kept away for her safety. One day she manages to toddle down to the beach and is "chosen" by some sort of magic. When she is grown and her people start to experience a blight, she learns secret about her tribe's history and is convinced she must leave the safety of their reef to find the god Maui to save her people. Her journey is filled with humor, love, tolerance, respect, and acceptance.

When she finds Maui, his selfishness is surprising to her, although very funny to the audience, and particularly identifiable to children, who are by nature fairly self-centered already. His journey and character development are a joy to watch, and an especially good example for my 8-year-old with a social delay to be exposed to. Like Maui, she is fairly narcissistic, but has a good soul, and is capable of making selfless choices. And likes to eat chicken...
 image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission
My only problem with this movie was the visit to Tamatoa's lair. In a film rich with Pacific Islander culture and history and songs and language, it was very dissonant both visually and aurally to have a psychedelic black-lit 60's scene and song reminiscent of David Bowie. This was also the only part my preschooler E (she'll be 5 in a month) found scary.

My children particularly enjoyed the antics of the chicken HeiHei (voiced by Alan Tudyk, who has made a vocal appearance in each of Disney's computer animated tales!)
 image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission
I definitely recommend this movie for adults and children alike, and E is already making plans to buy it on DVD!

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MOANA is now playing in theatres everywhere!

Monday, July 25, 2016

IFBC 2016 - Sacramento Farm-to-Fork Excursions

I'm excited to be going back to IFBC this year, to hobnob with fellow food bloggers, brands, and sponsors again! I had so much fun last year in Seattle, and this year they've moved it to Sacramento! We get to meet local growers and tour farms - I can't wait!

Since this year the conference isn't local to me, I can't just drive over each day after dropping the girls off at school. So I chose to fly down several days early and take advantage of the amazing pre-conference "excursion" tours! (Hubby's going to work from home the two weekdays I'm gone to get the girls to and from day camp at their school. Maybe he'll even take pictures of their packed lunches!)

For Thursday's excursion, I opted for the tour of some olive farms in the Capay Valley. I'm not a huge olive fan like my 8-year-old, but it will be exciting to see where the magic happens and learn more about curing and how they extract the oil! Years ago when Hubby was moving back to Seattle from Phoenix, I flew down to meet him and we drove back up together with as much of his stuff as he could cram into his car. I remember stopping at an olive farm in California and buying a ginormous jar of garlic-stuffed olives (I hate pimientos!) It might even be one of the ones on this tour! Wouldn't that be something?

After the excursion, there will be a reception generously hosted by Raley's Markets and the California Cling Peach Board ("Millions of peaches, peaches for me...") There will also be nibbles from CA Almonds, artisanal cheeses from Marin French Cheese , aperitifs (that's fancy for "booze") from Jardesca California Aperitiva, and premium local cider sips from Gowan Orchards Cider! Since I don't drink, I'm hoping the cider is non-alcoholic!

On Friday before the conference itself officially opens at 1:30, they set up another group of excursions! I chose the Farm-to-Fork Adventure through Historic Sacramento Delta. We'll get a first-hand look at the indoor growing facility at California Endive Farms where they render endives (pronounced “on-deev”) from chicory roots! And then the California Pear Advisory Board will take us to see a "live action" harvest at a Bosc pear orchard! 
And then they're feeding us! On the banks of the Sacramento River, we'll get a light lunch featuring endives, pears, local wines, and other locally-grown "farm-to-fork" ingredients! Whew! All this, before the keynote speech and panels and such have even begun! It's going to be a full, amazing day! A full, amazing WEEKEND!

I'll be posting loads of pics on my Instagram the whole weekend, so be sure to follow me to see all the yummy foodie fun!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Scrumdiddlyumptious BFG Movie Lunches!

I was given 4 media passes to a pre-screening of Disney's "The BFG," so we had to celebrate with some "delumptious" lunches! My girls and I had fun brainstorming "glumptious" ideas for these lunches. But first, a whopsey look at the movie!

Image copyright Disney, 2016. Used with permission
It's been a few decades since I read the book, so other than generally remembering that I'd enjoyed it,  I really didn't remember the plot at all. So I was unprepared for just how much I was going to love the movie! My brother ended up coming with us because my husband had game night and my mom got sick, and it was so fun listening to a grown man enjoy this movie so much! As much or possibly even more than my kids did! So fun!

Image copyright Disney, 2016. Used with permission
The visuals were truly stunning, and the jokes and plot were appealing and logical to any child's mind. My favorite parts were when they were catching "phizzwizards" (good dreams) and "trogglehumpers" (bad dreams) and then mixing them together to create custom dreams. But of course both my kids liked the "frobscottle" (giant's special fizzy drink) and "whizzpoppers" (rocketing farts!) the best!

Sophie and the Phizzwizards
Strawbumbles, pickled snozzcumbers, Frobscottle, Phizzwizards and Trogglehumpers, and Sophie
For Sophie, I used a Bread Head sandwich stamp on a gluten-free tortilla and added glasses by gently using a small circle cutter. My preschooler doesn't like cheese, so she chose some Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter for her tortilla sandwich. This stamp was designed for bread, so the imprint was recessed a bit for some reason. So I had to push the cut tortilla inside and hand-press it into the stamp to make the impressions. It was annoying, but not terribly hard. And luckily both these sandwiches were able to recover from the tortilla being cut through in a few places by accident!

Image copyright Disney, 2016. Used with permission
My 4-year-old also helped me pack some natural dye-free jelly beans into a mini muffin cup because they reminded her of the phizzwizards [dreams] the BFG caught to mix into good dreams to blow back into the world. Plus jelly beans are delicious, and I don't pack treats into lunches often!

Frobscottle and Snozzcumbers
Phizzwizards and Trogglehumpers, Frobscottle, Sophie quesadilla, pickled snozzcumbers, strawbumbles
The snozzcumbers in the movie were pretty disgusting looking, and these mini pickles represented them perfectly. Plus bonus, both my kids love pickles, so they actually ate their veggies this day!

Apparently "strawbumbles" are only mentioned in the movie, but Sophie enjoys a big bowlful of them at the palace, so they had to make an appearance too!

I happened to find the perfect little 2oz glass bottles at a novelty shop just in time to send some homemade frobscottle for lunch! Mine was made with some Zevia Cream Soda and a dab of natural green food dye powder. Both girls noticed that the bubbles in mine went up, instead of down like the BFG's. I told them that I can't bend the laws of physics! I am assured that the resulting whizzpoppers were still plenty fun! [Note: the bottles leaked when set on their sides for too long, so I ended up packing them tucked snugly upright between the EasyLunchboxes and the sides of their lunch bags. The bags didn't come home sticky and green, so I assume it worked out okay!]

I'm really pleased with how well these turned out, and both girls ate practically every bite, which rarely happens lately! If you're a fan of more rummytot rumpledumpuses, check out these fun Roald Dahl lunches (including some BFG giant ear flatbread sandwiches!) from Bent On Better Lunches!

Tools of the Trade
Image copyright Disney, 2016. Used with permission
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Friday, June 17, 2016

Finding Dory Lunches and Movie Review

I was given two tickets to see a pre-screening of Disney-Pixar's "Finding Dory" in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own. Well, except for what my 4-year-old tells me to say... Since I was only offered one ticket in addition to my own, I couldn't take both girls. My youngest won the coin toss.
image copyright Disney-Pixar 2016, used with permission
The basic story (without too many spoilers, I hope!) starts one year after Nemo was rescued, with Dory living "next door" to Nemo and Marlin. Being someone with no short-term memory must be pretty frustrating and scary, but living and caring for someone with this condition has unique and frustrating challenges too. Which Marlin learns all too well. Along the way, Dory gets a flash of memory from her childhood, which prompts a quest to find her parents. After reminding Marlin and Nemo that they know all too well what it's like to love someone who is lost to them, the three of them embark on a grand oceanic adventure! And find some new "family" along the way!

image copyright Disney-Pixar 2016, used with permission
The title suggests that this movie is about Dory getting lost and (hopefully) found. And while this does happen (a few times!) this story is really about Dory finding herself. Finding her own strengths and trusting in her own abilities after a lifetime of being treated as "less than" - and realizing that she's not "broken" after all! This movie resonates a lot with me personally, since as a mother of a child with an "invisible" cognitive disability, I love stories that feature characters who are loved and accepted and even valued as "different, but not less." I can't wait for her to see it!

Since the oldest one didn't get to come, I wanted to make her a special lunch to celebrate getting to see the AMC Sensory Friendly showing coming soon (Regal also offers My Way Matinees now.) And I had to make a Dory lunch for the little one too, of course!

Dory and Nemo
GF goat cheese quesadillas, organic grapes and carrots
My 2nd-grader loves cheese, and has been asking for quesadillas. Normally I just use corn tortillas, since they're naturally gluten free and easy to find. But I happened to grab some gluten-free flour tortillas the other day, and it turns out they take cookie stamper imprints fantastically well! I foresee a lot more tortillas in our lunches next school year!

Since I was trying to make Little Sister's lunch at the same time, I opted to cook these quesadillas in the oven instead of a frying pan to free up some time. I accidentally overcooked them a tad. Which turned out to be a good thing, since my oldest prefers "crispy" cheese. She didn't even notice that these were quesadillas - she thought they were just fun cheese crisps! Ha!

I got the Nemo and Dory cookie cutters and stamps as part of my Disney Cakes and Sweets subscription. So many lunch-able Disney goodies! I didn't have any whale or octopus picks to represent other characters from the movie, so I grabbed some cartoony sea life cupcake picks just for fun.

Dory-tilla Sandwich
GF Dark Chocolate Dreams "fairy bread" tortilla sandwich, organic blueberries and spinach, rosemary vinaigrette
My preschooler (4) isn't a big fan of cheese, except on pizza, so instead of a quesadilla, she agreed to try a "chocolate peanut butter quesadilla." (Yes. I know "queso" means "cheese." To them "quesadilla" means "tortilla food." Ha!)

After cutting out three Dory shapes from the tortilla, pressing the stamp firmly into one of them, and carefully spreading the the Peanut Butter Co Dark Chocolate Dreams between the layers, I lightly buttered the stamped top. I then spent an agonizing amount of time carefully applying dye free natural-colored blueyellow, and black sanding sugars. (The black one was found at Whole Foods.) I used a tiny spoon to help scoop, pour, spread, and corral the different sugars, and had to resort to my bento tweezers a few times to move errant grains of sugar. For the eyes I used tubes of natural-colored blue and black icings sent from a friend in Australia (loads of dye-free food options there!) and added some natural purple sugar over the blue for the irises.

A few sea life cupcake picks finish the theme (naturally I don't have the octopus or sea turtle from that set, since the store selling them as singles only had these two options! Pfaugh!)

This lunch was definitely more time-intensive than I can normally be bothered with. "Luckily" we slept in so late that I had to just take the girls to school and go back home to pack lunches. This gave me a few hours before I had to head back to school to deliver them, so I could take the time to do them fancy!

Tools of the Trade
image copyright Disney-Pixar 2016, used with permission
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FINDING DORY is now playing in theatres everywhere!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Alice Through the Bento Glass!

Image copyright Disney 2016, used with permission
My girls had seen a few previews for Disney's new Alice Through the Looking Glass movie and were excited. The visuals and costumes alone are stunning, and add in a few adorably fuzzy creatures and my 7-year-old is smitten! Plus they happen to be doing a version of Alice Through the Looking Glass for her classroom's annual school play! So when I was offered free tickets to an advance screening for the movie earlier this week, I knew we had to go!
[I received 4 tickets, no strings attached. I was not compensated in any other way, other than some free promotional items that were offered to anyone attending. All opinions are my own.]

Image copyright Disney 2016, used with permission
Once again the star-studded live-action and CGI cast joins together for an amazing adventure through Underland - this time with Alice on a quest through Time himself to try and save the Mad Hatter! [So many fun time jokes and puns in this movie!]
Image copyright Disney 2016, used with permission
Sasha Baron Cohen does an amazing job as the personification of Time, with a fun blend of human and elemental traits, and makes a great addition to the world of Underland. There were a lot of subtle undertones to his character that added a depth and richness that I enjoyed a lot. The "fallen soldier" line when he meets Alice for the first time had me in tears, once I realized what he was talking about.
Image copyright Disney 2016, used with permission
My girls both agree that their favorite parts of the movie involved the Cheshire Cat, mostly because they are huge cat lovers! But when Alice travels back to the Hatter's childhood, the Cheshire Kitten was definitely their favorite scene! Alice learns a valuable lesson while travelling through time - that while you may not be able to change the past, you can learn from it! A great lesson for anyone!

I was going to celebrate the film's release with some fun themed lunches, but I don't think I can ever top my "Curiouser and Curiouser" lunch from a few years ago... My creative juices haven't been so juicy lately, now that I have two kids to pack for, and not enough time to play Candy Crush pack in the mornings. But not to worry! I've found tons of great ideas for lunches and treats to share with you below!

Bento Ninja has some great and easy Wonderland bento ideas - my favorite one is the talking flowers, but her Mad Hatter lunch is a good fit for this new movie! Her Red Queen ones are a great fit too!

Check out a "full deck" of other Wonderland lunch ideas shared at the Through the Looking Glass linky party over at Bent On Better Lunches!

Need some fun Wonderland party ideas? 
Check out these fun Mad Hatter marshmallow treat hats from What's For Lunch At Our House? A fun and easy-looking treat that would fit in a lunchbox!

These Cheshire Cat Cupcakes are perfect (and look easy!)... and disappear just as quickly!

Don't these character macarons look amazing! Check out the video here!

If you have the Time [see what I did there?] be sure and check out these cool clockwork gear cookies!