Monday, July 16, 2012

Some DVD reviews.

These past school holidays we did a fair amount of DVD watching! 
We had our adventure in Oudtshoorn, a wonderful week at Holiday Club - Wild West Style, bike-riding, rollerblading, a visit to the forest, board games and books etc. but we also spent many hours bundled under blankets, with warm beanbags to fend off the cold, watching DVD's -old and new.
I find it quite hard at times to find DVD's that will appeal to both my children as, with a four and a half year age gap, they are at very different places. 
Already Niave is allowed to watch and has been allowed to watch movies that Abigail wouldn't have watched at the same age. Nothing major but things like How To Train Your Dragon (one of our favourites!) with it's PG rating would not have been on the list when Abigail was 4 - 5 years old, but Niave got there much earlier!
Now with Abigail turning 11 in a couple of months time she is entering a new phase in many arena's, not a phase I'm altogether happy with (!!) but a phase nonetheless! Pre-Teen - Yikes!!

Reading the back of a DVD does not often help me in knowing whether or not it will be suitable as "the world" does not necessarily review movies with the same values as I do!
Strangely enough, it's often the movies that get a bad rap in the media that end up being the nicest - not always, but often!!
A website that I have found enormously helpful in reviewing movies is Plugged-in, an offshoot of Focus on the Family.

Some of our favourites from our own DVD cupboard include Tangled, Annie, Rio, Velveteen Rabbit, Joseph, The Toy Story and Shrek Trilogies and Cars to name but a few!
Here I would like to review some of these and some others so as to be a help to others out there, because maybe you, like me, have the same trouble sometimes...

Tangled made a comeback in our lounge this holiday, we watched it back to back I don't know how many times!! 
And we were delighted to find a sequel "short" movie of the wedding online!
I love the charcaters in this movie and the soundtrack too, the storyline has a little more depth than the old Disney Princess movies.
If you haven't seen it, make sure it's on your list next time!

Annie is also one of our all-time favourites, we revisit it regularly!
There are a couple of versions of this well-loved musical about an orphan in New York in the 1920's - 30's, we (I!) definitely prefer the 1999 Disney version with Kathy Bates as Miss Hannigan. I find Carrol Burnette a bit too "drunk" in the previous one made in the '80's and that scene with them all climbing up a long ladder to who know's where freaked me out forever! This one is a lot more friendly while still maintaining the Annie magic and all the songs etc.

We also hired a couple of DVD's over the holidays, one was Dolphin Tale, the true story of Winter, a dolphin who loses her tail after getting caught in a rope/net. This story held many parallels for us with a strong theme of (dis)ability running through it.
This may be one that we'll have to add to our cupboard!

Mr. Magoriums Wonder Emporium with Dustin Hoffman is one that I always steered clear of for some reason, but this time I decided to take a chance, boy was I surprised! Such a lovely movie. I loved the characters in it and it's simplicity as well as it's wonder.
Niave didn't enjoy it as much as Abigail did, so probably more for slightly older children, about 8 -11 or 12 year olds.

On Saturday night we had a family movie night, I hired 2 movies that none of us had ever seen (quite hard to find!) the first one was We Bought a Zoo with Matt Damon.
This movie irritated me because while it had a sweet story (also based on real events) and was clearly aimed at children or families, it contained a couple of swear words and the sweet little girl Rosie was spoilt for me when towards the end she has a line that had Niave asking me "Mommy, what does 'dick' mean?" I feel that all of that could have been left out without taking away, if not adding to the appeal of the movie. So, be warned, this one may not be what you are looking for on family movie night!

Also on Saturday (it was a late night!) we watched Soul Surfer, the true story of Bethany Hamilton who at the age of 13 was attacked by a shark and lost her arm.
This is one we will definitely own! No bad language, and we all loved it. 
A truly inspirational story that will appeal to young and old.

Maybe it's just me, maybe nobody really cares about age restrictions or parental guidance, but I do, and sometimes I wish there was someone out there giving me advice about this! So I'm giving it to you instead!!
Happy watching!
{I have no idea what these white patches all over this post are nor how to get rid of them, sorry, most annoying!}

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A trip to Oudtshoorn - part 2

With Saturday being our last full day in Oudtshoorn we had to fit both the other 2 planned outings into 1 day.
First up was the Cango Caves, we went with another dancer and his mom who, through a contact, managed to organise a discount so we only paid for 2 people instead of 5!!
This too was a very informative and interesting tour, I was amazed how much of what we heard the girls have actually remembered and retold to other people!

The first chamber boasts this impressive formation called "the organ pipes" for obvious reasons!

And also Cleopatra's finger (Abigail is standing to the left!).

 Niave making herself comfortable!

If I remember correctly these are called "the petrified tobacco leaves of Oudtshoorn" - but I may not be remembering correctly! It does look like drying tobacco leaves though, don't you think??!!

The second chamber.

This looked like a castle to us but it's called "the 12 poster bed" or something to that effect.

These freaky looking things look like witches fingers!

This formation, to me, looked like a drip castle that you would make on the beach, only it took a little longer to make this one!!

The photo's don't really do it justice at all. We went on the Standard Tour which goes half way through the system, after that and after a staircase of 100 steps (that you have to climb twice!) it gets a lot smaller and tighter, but it was quite stuffy and unexpectedly warm in there and we were ready to return to the air!

That afternoon Grant had to dance so we went "home" to help him get ready and drop him off before heading to our next destination, Cango Ostrich Farm.

Here he is looking very flamboyant in his new Latin top - so much bling!!! 

Next up we were off to the Cango Ostrich Farm to learn about Ostriches.
I wasn't that impressed with this tour, but the girls enjoyed it and we did learn a lot, including that ostriches are really rather smelly and it is a very good thing that they can't fly!
 It's quite hard to get a decent picture of an ostrich, they are not still for a minute!

Hope those eggs don't break!!

With Grant at the dancing until well into the early hours of the morning, we were on our own for supper so we headed to the Spur before going home to bundle ourselves up in warm pyjamas - although we had 3 beautiful, warm sunny days there, the mornings and nights were very cold.

Sunday morning was spent packing up and getting ready to leave, by lunchtime we were on the road, this time we went via George and the Outeniqua Pass having come in via Mossel Bay and the Robinson Pass. 
We hadn't gone far when we were once again brought to a sudden halt when Grant yelled "Hey, look, what's that? Giraffe!!"

There were about 6 in total.

I just love giraffe.
And so our holiday was drawing to a close, the loooong road ahead of us. 

As we came over Sir Lowry's Pass after sunset with Somerset West and Cape Town below, Niave exclaimed with great astonishment "Wow! We went into the desert and we survived"!!!
We had a wonderful time but we were glad to be home in our own beds and to see our 3 kitties who were well looked after and fed by Ouma and Oupa.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A trip to Oudtshoorn - part 1

A few months ago Grant heard that he would be going to the World Trials for Dancing to be held in Oudtshoorn and seeing as it overlapped with the school holidays we decided that the girls and I would go along and have a little holiday in the Klein Karoo!

Finally the day arrived that we were to leave for our first family holiday in more than 4 years - very exciting!! I don't think Niave can remember the last time we went away!
With a 6 hour drive ahead of us we set off on Thursday morning with what seemed like all our worldly possessions! Actually I was amazed that we fitted everything in - including a wheelchair without using a trailer, but there was even room to spare - quite something if you know that I don't pack light!! I believe in being over prepared!!!!

I'd forgotten what a beautiful countryside we have and the vista's were breathtaking.

After seeing many fields full of sheep, cows, the odd horse and miles of bright yellow Canola we were not expecting to see 2 elephants in a field just outside Albertinia! 
At first I thought "wow, that is a really big horse"!! and then realized that they were elephants, Grant nearly crashed the car!!!

None of us have ever seen game before so it was quite a moment!!

After a loooooong drive we arrived in Oudtshoorn at sunset and found our "home" for the weekend - Klein Plaas (Small Farm).

It was a lovely place, very comfortable accommodation for a very reasonable price.

There are about 50 chalet's and a lovely caravan/camping area beautifully shaded, with a lovely pool and pristine ablution block.
(Emmy, this is the answer to our "wheelchair friendly campsite with chalet's" problem! Just a bit far:-))
After we arrived and unloaded our car, we drove into town to find supper and get a few supplies at Pick 'n Pay, by then it was cold and dark and we were exhausted after the long drive so we set up Grant's laptop to play a DVD and hibernated inside!!

Initially Grant had thought he'd be dancing on Friday and Saturday, but as it turned out he had Friday free and would only need to dance on Saturday afternoon/evening.
So on Friday morning we headed to the only wheelchair friendly spot on our list: The Cango Wildlife Ranch (formerly the Cango Crocodile Farm) - and only 2km from our chalet!!
It was a bit pricey but in hindsight we realised that it was worth it - a very interesting, well presented place, the best I've seen in S.A. so far.
Our tour was in the morning with the sun in just the wrong spot but the girls and I went back in the late afternoon and got some much better pics:
These baby crocs are kinda cute, in an eerie kinda way!

Cape Vulture - enormous!

And we found King Julian!!

Not quite as cute as their offspring but just as eerie!! They were so still, hard to tell if they were even breathing, apparently they don't get fed between April and September because their metabolism is so slow in winter that they get poisoned by whatever they eat, these guys have got "least amount of energy exertion" down to a tee!!

This gorgeous Otter gave us a real show, swimming and diving like a pro! So cute!

The 2 pygmy hippo's were lying so still at first, they could've been fake - or dead, but when we came back in the late afternoon, they had surfaced from their slumber and were contemplating the water.

Then it was on to Cheetah Land, where they keep the big cats, about 6 cheetah's - Niave's favourite;

2 leopards - so beautiful

and a pair of white lions, this male was guarding his ribcage very closely! He looks so cuddly but then you realise that his paw is the size of your child's head and he's not so cuddly any more!!

My favourite photo of the trip!

Of all the cats, I liked the white tigers the best. 
They were feasting on fresh donkey head when we arrived, ears and fur included!! When we went back later they were so stuffed that they were lying on their backs, feet in the air!!

All that remained of the donkey was it's skull - stripped clean.

There were also a number of smaller, non-deadly animals and a petting zoo.
There is also a snake exhibit, but my camera didn't cope well with the lighting and glass barrier.

All in all a very good outing and one that I can definitely recommend if you find yourself in Oudtshoorn or surrounds.