Category Archives: reviews

“Jazz Loves Disney,” and I like jazz, and I like Disney. This ought to work out just fine.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post from Disney Music and One2One Network. Nichole was compensated for this post. All opinions are her own.

We were at Disney World when I got the email from One2One Network asking if I’d like to review “Jazz Loves Disney” from Verve Records. I immediately said “Yes Please,” because I like jazz, I like Disney, and I knew I was going to need something to help me ease back into real life after our vacation. It was obviously meant to be. I’m going to tell you what I thought about the album in a minute, but first let’s talk about

Nichole’s Top Five Disney Movies

5. “The Little Mermaid”

Ursula is my second-favorite villain, and I will sing along to “Part of Your World” and/or “Under the Sea” every single time. And Sebastian? Always dropping truths.

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4. “Beauty and the Beast”

Belle’s love of books and Beast’s library are enough to get this one on the list. But then there’s also Every Single Song in the movie. And it’s beautiful, and it stars the greatest duo of all time, Lumiere and Cogsworth.

Lumiere and Cogsworth

3. “101 Dalmatians”

I don’t think I can properly express how much I love the “dogs who look like their owners” scene in this movie. It cracked me up when I was a kid, and it cracks me up to this day. I love the jazzy soundtrack, and of course Cruella de Vil and her song are beloved as well. But the guy that clinches this spot for “101 Dalmatians” is Rolly, because I am him and he is me, forever and ever amen.

rolly

2. “Sleeping Beauty”

Maleficent is my favorite villain, because she scared the daylights out of me when I was a kid and she is also a dragon. I love the animation and the font and styling of the credits in “Sleeping Beauty.” The scene where the fairies are making the cake and the color-changing dress are still pure magic to me. And of course, there’s “Once Upon a Dream.” I sing it often enough to make “Sleeping Beauty” likely nowhere near the top of Rockford’s list of favorite Disney movies.

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1. “Inside Out”

I was dubious when I first read about the premise of “Inside Out.” Then I saw it. It’s so beautiful and inventive, and Poppy was just starting to head into the age Riley is in the movie. And that abstract thought scene? My jaw dropped. “Inside Out” isn’t just one of my favorite Disney movies, it’s one of my favorite movies in general.

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So about that album.

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You might have noticed a common thread in most of my Disney favorites. If it has a great soundtrack, chances are I’m going to love it. I’m thrilled that my kids have inherited my love for a good Disney tune — even if they don’t appreciate it when I “cover” their favorite tunes. Pete frequently puts the “101 Dalmatians” soundtrack on while he’s playing, and sometimes he’ll even dance to “I Wanna Be Like You” with me in the living room. He draws the line at the “Frozen” soundtrack. I suspect that has something to do with the number of times Poppy has listened to “Let It Go” on repeat.

Regardless of whether Pete is telling me to stop singing “Let It Go” or Poppy is squashing my dreams of luring chipmunks in to fold the laundry for me by gently and whimsically humming “Someday My Prince Will Come,” the Butterscotch Sundae household is thoroughly saturated in aural ephemera of the Disney kind.

“Jazz Loves Disney” is a compilation of musicians giving classic Disney tunes a big band jazz twist, and it works very well. For the most part. There are a few songs on the album that don’t especially shine. The nonsense words in “Bibbidi Bobbodo Boo,” for example, don’t quite translate well as scat — especially in contrast with The Hot Sardines’ version of “I Wanna Be Like You” — and Anne Sila’s “Let It Go” doesn’t quite measure up to Idina Menzel’s original.

That said, the rest of the album is a delight. Grammy nominee Melody Gardot lends a smoky note to “He’s a Tramp” from “Lady and the Tramp,” and Italian singer and pianist Raphael Gualazzi brings a little extra zing to the already infectious “I Wanna Be Like You” from “The Jungle Book.” Jamie Cullum’s high-energy version of “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” had Pete and I dancing through the living room, I love Laika’s silky smooth and appropriately dreamy take on “Once Upon a Dream,” and Nikki Yanofsky’s “Un Jour Mon Prince Viendra (Someday My Prince Will Come)” is soaring and tender.

My favorite track on the album, though, is Gardot & Gualazzi’s “The Bare Necessities.” Their voices play off one another perfectly, and this version is so bouncy and fun you can’t help shimmying when it’s playing. (I’m chair-dancing as I type!)

“Jazz Loves Disney” would be a great gift for the Disney-phile in your life. It’s available November 18 from iTunes or Amazon, so you have plenty of time to order it for the holidays. Here’s the full track listing:

  1. Jamie Cullum, “Everybody Wants To Be A Cat” from “The Aristocats”
  2. Melody Gardot, “He’s A Tramp” from “Lady And The Tramp”
  3. Stacey Kent, “Bibbidi Bobbodo Boo” (French version)” from “Cinderella”
  4. Gregory Porter, “When You Wish Upon A Star” from “Pinocchio”
  5. China Moses, “Why Don’t You Do Right” from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”
  6. Raphaël Gualazzi, “I Wanna Be Like You” from “The Jungle Book”
  7. The Rob Mounsey Orchestra, “A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes” from “Cinderella”
  8. Hugh Coltman, “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” from “Toy Story”
  9. Anne Sila, “Let It Go” from “Frozen”
  10. Melody Gardot & Raphaël Gualazzi, “The Bare Necessities” from “The Jungle Book”
  11. Laika, “Once Upon A Dream” from “Sleeping Beauty”
  12. Nikki Yanofsky, “Someday My Prince Will Come” from “Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs”
  13. The Hot Sardines, “I Wanna Be Like You (French & English version)” from “The Jungle Book” (US release only)


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Pete finds a new love in the All-Day Breakfast at McDonald’s

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post for McDonald’s All Day Breakfast. Nichole was compensated for this post.

We very rarely went out to eat when I was growing up, because our very small town had only a few places where you could feed a family on a budget. But every now and we’d have a big treat, and 75 percent of the time that treat was a trip to McDonald’s.

My order at McDonald’s was always the same — a McNugget Happy Meal with “orange drink” and honey dipping sauce — until I reached that nebulous age when my mom let me order something that wasn’t on the Happy Meal menu. And that was when my allegiance to my one true McLove, the Filet-O-Fish, began. In the 20ish years since, my loyalty to the Filet-O-Fish has not wavered. Not even when they went to half a slice of cheese and stopped toasting the bun and started steaming it instead.

Until recently, I never would’ve fathomed ordering anything other than fish-sandwich-small-fry-and-a-medium-orange-drink-please. But a few weeks ago our regional McDonald’s restaurants invited me to try out their all-day breakfast offerings. The all-day breakfast does not include the Filet-O-Fish, sadly, so I had to branch out.

We visited two McDonald’s restaurants in our area to sample the all-day breakfast. The first was after Pete and I had dropped Poppy off for classes downtown, and Pete (as he generally is) was hungry. We shared the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit with a side of hash browns and some orange juice. Pete was very excited to have the opportunity to share his review of it with you. Here’s what he thought:

“McDonald’s Breakfast: Day One.

The Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit was pretty good. The biscuit had a sort of crumbly texture and it was kind of buttery. I like a buttery biscuit. The egg was flat but delicious. The bacon wasn’t as crispy as I’d like it to be, but the cheese went well with it. I think the hash browns weren’t as good as some other stuff I’ve had, like french fries and sweet potatoes. I expected the texture to be more crunchy and the flavor to be more french fryish. The orange juice had the exact right flavor of oranges, and it was just delicious.”

I agree with him almost entirely. The biscuit was really flaky and buttery, which is exactly what I look for in a biscuit, and the bacon was flavorful but could’ve been crispier. I’m not a big fan of eggs, but the egg component was innocuous in combination with everything else. The hash browns were a little too salty for me, and the only thing wrong with the orange juice was that it wasn’t that fake and delicious orange drink that I just can’t quit.

At 450 calories and 24 grams of fat, the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit wouldn’t be a great everyday choice if you’re looking for a healthy breakfast. The Fruit and Maple Oatmeal, which comes in at 290 calories and 4 grams of fat, would be a much better option. But if you’re looking for a savory breakfast indulgence, the Bacon, Egg and Cheese is where it’s at.

mcdflapjacks

Poppy reluctantly joined us in our second McSampling, which took place when I neglected to pack our lunches for homeschool co-op. (Thanks for saving my pun-definitely-intended bacon, McD.) Poppy is a very particular eater, and she didn’t like my plan to give her something other than a cheesy tortilla for lunch. Once I presented her with a platter[ref]One of my fellow homeschooling moms questioned the use of Styrofoam in their pancake packaging, and that did give me pause. I know they changed over to cardboard on everything else a long time ago, and I wonder why they’ve stuck with Styrofoam for the flapjacks.[/ref] of pancakes, though, she was perfectly happy. “They tasted like butter cakes,” she said after finishing them off.

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Pete tried a Sausage McMuffin with Egg for his second all-day breakfast option, and he wished he had stuck with the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit. He probably would’ve been fine with the whole thing if it had the same scrambled-ish sort of egg that was on the Bacon, Egg and Cheese, but he thought the egg on the McMuffin had a “weird texture.” So he ditched the egg and added the sausage patty that his sister had rejected from her pancake platter and made a double-stacker Sausage McMuffin.

Overall, I was impressed with the items we tried from the McDonald’s all-day breakfast menu. I’m not about to denounce my allegiance to the Filet-O-Fish, but it’s possible that I’d consider a biscuit as an alternative every now and again. I know that isn’t the last McDonald’s biscuit Pete will eat, and I’m hopeful that discovering that she likes their pancakes will make McDonald’s another option on Poppy’s list of acceptable stops.

How to hide a whole salad in your front yard

Farmer Ted is a gentleman in our circa-1955 neighborhood who has converted nearly all of the property around his home into an urban farm. He has fruit trees, a small pond and some ducks in the back yard, and a grid of raised beds covers his fenced-in front yard. He has chickens, too, and he made an ingenious wheeled coop for them that he moves from raised bed to raised bed every season. I admire the whole set-up every time I walk past it, and I almost always notice a small detail or smart feature that I’d never spotted before.

The neighbors across the street from him, however, are not so impressed. According to Farmer Ted, they’ve reported him to the city for all sorts of infractions in an effort to shut down his sustainability efforts. I haven’t discussed the matter with them, but he says they want the neighborhood to look like it did 55 years ago — with a green lawn and some nice, tidy landscaping.

So Farmer Ted wants to grow his own food on his own land, but his neighbors want the view from their living room to be more landscape than farmland. Is there a compromise to be found? Well, maybe not for Farmer Ted and his neighbors. I’m pretty sure the neighbors listed their house for sale recently, so I guess Farmer Ted won that fight.

Angela England's "Gardening Like a Ninja"It may be too late for our neighbors, but you can avoid a lot of gardening-related contention with your neighbors by becoming a Ninja Gardener.

Angela England’s new book, “Gardening Like a Ninja: A Guide to Sneaking Delicious Edibles into Your Landscape,” tells you which edible plants are most easily hidden in your traditional landscaping and shows you how to arrange them to look picture-perfect, but it’s a great resource even if you don’t have cranky neighbors to assuage. The book contains impressive lists of edible plants, their uses and their ideal growing conditions. Angela shows you how to build your edible garden from the ground up — lingonberries or strawberries down low and lavender or persimmon up top, perhaps? — which is very helpful for gardening novices like myself.

The list of edible plants in Angela’s book is as eye-opening as it is informational. You’d expect a plant like rosemary to be in such a guide, but did you know you can eat parts of a hosta? Dice that into your salad and eat it. (Or wrap it in bacon and broil it, maybe. Angela says the tender, leafy shoots are somewhat asparagus-like.)

So far we’ve kept our gardening efforts confined to the back yard, but “Gardening Like a Ninja” has me looking at the long-neglected island bed in the front yard in a new way. There are two dogwood trees and a big bush whose name I don’t recall anchoring it, and there used to be a lot of lavender around the anonymous bush. As much as I’d love to have some fruit trees, I’m not going to take down the big guys already there to make that happen. The lavender is pretty well dead, though, and everything else out there is ornamental, so I’m going to spend some quality time with “Gardening Like a Ninja” over the next few weeks and see if I can’t come up with an appetizing way to bring that sad space in the yard back to life.

Disclaimer: Angela England sent me a copy of “Gardening Like a Ninja” for review.