Tuesday 24 January 2017

A Series Of Unfortunate Events - A Netflix Series Review

I wrote recently how we'd been hotly awaiting the new Netflix TV series after devouring the Lemony Snicket books - the passion for all things ASOUE is sweeping through Ruby's school like wildfire!

Like all Netflix series, it's had us hooked for the start and we're veering from wanting to binge on it and watch episodes back to back, to delaying the pleasure and holding back, not wanting it to be over.  We've so far watched seven of the eight episodes, which are based on the first four books in the author's collection.  As the books in total number thirteen, we're hoping and praying for more great instalments to come.

It's been really interesting to watch it alongside Ruby who has read the books - personally I've only experienced snippets when she allows me to read a chapter or so as her bedtime story, the rest of the time she's engrossed in them by herself.  She's noticing differences from the written work to the screen adaptation - not major plot changes, just subtle nuances changed I'm sure for cinematographic reasons, and it's shown me just how much she's taken in from the books.  I often wonder if she just skips through stories to get to the end, she's a fast reader, but this has given me confidence she has full comprehension of what she reads.

The screen adaptation is a joy to watch and something the whole family can indulge in.  There's plenty of comedy material the adults can enjoy - who would have thought grammatical discussions could be so entertaining, and it's crammed with suspense and action to keep the kids enthralled.

Following the turbulent lives of the Baudelaire children, we're taken on a fantastical journey with siblings Violet, Klaus and baby Sunny after their parents are killed in a mysterious fire.  Inheriting a fortune when Violet comes of age, this makes them a target for the unscrupulous Count Olaf who attempts to gain guardianship to swindle the money.

The engaging child characters I'm sure are the main appeal to the younger audiences.  Violet, a teenage girl has an astute mechanical mind and is adept at thinking up and producing mind-boggling inventions to get them out of scrapes.  Younger brother Klaus is an intellectual, always engrossed in books and able to research their way out of trouble.  But by far our favourite character is baby Sunny, the sharp-toothed infant who's skills lie in her ability to gnaw their way out of danger.  Her baby gurgles are translated as subtitles, showing her to be a very astute judge of character - her dialogue is hilarious and I'm constantly marvelling at the acting talent of one so young.

The deadpan delivery of narrator Patrick Warburton is just genius, and the evil villainy and extensive, hideous disguises of Count Olaf played by Neil Patrick Harris will have you booing like you're at a pantomime.

Having already read beyond book four in the set, Ruby knows there are lots more weirdly dark adventures to come and we can't wait for more instalments on our screen from this team.

Have you been watching?  All episodes in this 8-part series are available to watch now on Netflix.  We can thoroughly recommend reading the books alongside it too, it's really enhanced the watching experience.

Disclosure: This is a featured post.

Friday 13 January 2017

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan Butternut Squash and Sea Salt Seed Crackers

I was inspired by a recipe I saw in a gluten-free magazine from Eighty 20 Nutrition recently.  She makes her crackers with sweet potato but I'm not a fan, so I've been experimenting with alternatives and have come up with this.

These crackers are nut-free yet deliciously crunchy and still have that 'nutty' flavour.  They're gluten free and dairy free too and perfect for loading up with dips or with cheese (alternatives).

Kept in an airtight container they'll last for around a week - although not in this house!

I'm trying to eat healthier this year and stay away from too many refined and processed foods.  Many of the shop-bought crackers, breads and breadsticks - particularly the gluten-free versions - are loaded with added salt and sugars, so it's great to be able to add only the salt I want (or leave it off entirely) and know exactly what's going into our food.  My daughter loves these in her lunchbox with a little pot of hoummous and they are perfect for crumbling into homemade soups to add a bit of bite.


250g butternut squash - peeled and cut into chunks
450 ml water
400g of seeds - I use a mix of brown and golden linseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds, but use whatever you have
2 tbsp psyllium husk - buy this online or from a whole food shop
2 tbsp coconut oil
Sprinkle of sea salt if desired


Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.  Line 2 or 3 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Place the prepared squash in a bowl with the water.  Cover and microwave on high for approximately 10 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile mix all the seeds together in a large bowl and stir to combine the psyllium husk.

Once the squash is cooked, drain the water into the seed mix and stir very thoroughly.  When the water is added, the husk powder has a tendency to form into jelly-like lumps, so make sure it's well combined.

Set aside for a few minutes, and add the coconut oil to the butternut.  Blend to a smooth, lump-free consistency.  Any lumps will result in soggy crackers - and nobody likes a soggy cracker!

Now combine the pureed squash with the seed mix and stir until thoroughly mixed through.

Spread your mix onto your paper-covered trays as thinly as possible, spreading out and pressing down with the back of a spoon.

Sprinkle with sea salt and cook in the oven for approximately 50 minutes until golden brown and crispy.  I find it helps to have the oven door slightly ajar for the last 5-10 minutes to allow any steam to escape and make sure the cracker gets nice and crisp.

Leave to cool then break into pieces.  Once they are absolutely, completely cooled, store in a airtight jar.

What would you eat with yours?

Wednesday 11 January 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Events - Netflix launches new series

We're on countdown in our house, and have been ever since we heard about the launch of the new 8 part Netflix Series of Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events.

A few of the boys in Ruby's class at school have been reading the books, and even her teacher is reading them and this piqued her interest.  It's not easy to take her out of her comfort zone - although she adores reading, like a lot of children she tends to get stuck on one particular author and reads and re-reads their entire back catalogue.

I'm so glad she tried these books, she was literally hooked from the start.  We were sent the first four in the series to coincide with the release on Netflix, and I've since had to go out and buy books 4-8.  She just can't put them down.

There's something darker and a little dangerous about them.  For kids who are looking for something to stretch them and challenge their imagination, and for those tired of books about kittens and unicorns, ASOUE is a breath of fresh air.

Focussing on the three Baudelaire children, orphaned and soon to inherit their parent's fortune, the tales follow them and the various evil guardians along the way, such as Count Olaf, who try their hardest to get their hands on the riches.  

Both the books and the publicity for the new TV series capitalise on the forbidden, imploring audiences to look away and as most parents know, if there's one sure-fire way to get a kid to do something, it's to tell them that they shouldn't!

The Netflix series, adapting the first four books promises to be gripping. Allowing more time to do justice to the story-telling than the recent film which seemed to slip under the radar, it has a gloriously dark, humorously gothic feel - the director was also responsible for The Addams Family.

I know Ruby's friends are looking forward to the launch on Friday 13th January, and it will be wonderful for her to have that opportunity to share a series socially.  As adults, we pour over our Netflix binges with friends, discussing characters and plot twists, or enjoy the community of a book club to dissect stories as a group, so I'm really glad that kids will now have the chance to enjoy this as a group activity, and with a narrative that's very different from anything else out there for pre-teen kids.

There's still time to get your hands on the books and join the read-along so you can get involved in the chat.  You can find out what others think using the hashtags #ASOUEBooks and #ASOUE on social media.  Friday the Thirteenth was never so eagerly awaited!

Disclosure: This is a featured post.