Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The August "Back to School" Degustabox review

The long summer holidays will soon be drawing to a close, so to help the kids (and the teachers, like me) to keep a smile on their faces as they ease into Back To School mode, Degustabox have come up with a boxful of snacks, treats and speedy meals this month. I can honestly say, there is nothing in this box that I wouldn't buy so it's a great box for us. 

Starting off with the drinks, we loved the Orangina Limited Edition Summer Bottles (2 x £1.20). I do miss the original dimpled glass bottles from its beginnings that always made it seem so unique and exotic, but these fun clothed plastic bottles make a great alternative. The slightly sparkling, pulpy, orange drink is as refreshing as always, whatever the container.

Twisted Halo (£1.50) is a brand I'd never heard of before. It's a blend of coconut water, ginger and vodka which I wasn't sure about when I read the label but it actually works really well. The coconut water isn't overly sweet and gives a sophisticated base, with a subtle ginger warmth coming through and a zesty topnote of lime. A 275ml bottle contains only 90 calories.

There was also a very generous multipack of Seabrook Crisps (£1) containing six bags in three flavours : Sea Salted, Sea Salt & Vinegar and Cheese & Onion. They are the original crinkle cut crisp brand and they are very tasty. Perfect for packed lunches or snacks for ravenous teens when they get home from school !

Another savoury snack is Light Bites Popped Chips (2 x 99p), in both Sweet & Smoky Chipotle and Pesto & Sundried Tomato flavours. This virtuous snacking option comes in at under 100 calories, is gluten free, low in saturated fat and packed with fibre and protein, so they fill you up more than regular crisps. I wasn't sure about a soya and chickpea popped chip but they are actually very nice.

Maggi Fusian Noodles (2 x £1.39) are great for speedy suppers or lunches when we're back at work and I need something quick. I use them for family-friendly stir fries, adding them to chicken and veggies in the wok, but they could be eaten on their own if you want something simple for one. We got two varieties, Sticky Hoisin Duck and Fiery Sweet Chilli.

Bahlsen PICK UP! Black 'n' White (£1.69) are a firm favourite at The Madhouse. A generous white chocolate slab sandwiched between two crisp chocolate flavour biscuits - a gorgeous combination. Sadly there are five of us in the family so we only got one each - we'll be buying more though !

We love the original Refresher sweets but this is the first time we'd tried the Refresher Softies (£1). We thought that they had a totally different taste to the original sweets but are equally nice, with a satisfying chewy texture and a nice fruity fizz.

Cadbury Curlywurly Squirlies (£1.99) have the same great chocolate-covered caramel taste as the original Curlywurly but they're much easier to eat (especially in public !). Yum !

Cadbury Dairy Milk Big Taste Toffee Whole Nut (65p) delivers exactly what it says on the label - a lovely combination of flavours and textures. Another unanimous thumbs up.

Fruitypot Jelly Squeeze (2 x 69p) is a fun new way to eat jelly in a resealable pouch. No mess, no fuss and no spoon needed. They're school compliant so they're perfect as a lunchbox treat.

The final two products could be used in sandwiches and salads for packed lunches - Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise (£1.69) is a store cupboard staple at The Madhouse. We love the creamy texture and tangy but mild flavour, as well as the fact that it is made with 100% free range eggs.

Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce (£1.89) is made with mild green jalapeno peppers, vinegar and salt. It offers a slight kick and tang to numerous salad dressings and dips, without the intense heat of the more well-known red version.

This month's recipe card features a cocktail and a dish - Gin Gina and Grilled Korean Short Ribs with Salsa Verde.

There is also a money-off voucher for Seabrook Crisps.

A subscription to Degustabox costs £12.99 per month including delivery, with each box having a value of much more than that, but the great news is, I have a discount coupon code for you which gives you a whopping £7 off the price of your first box, so you'll get it for just £5.99 - just enter code 0BS6T at the checkout.

for more information :

Also now on Instagram @DegustaboxUK

Disclosure : We received the box in order to write an honest review. As a Degustabox blogger, I receive all of the products that go into the monthly boxes, but subscribers may not get exactly the same selection.

The delicious new Num Noms have arrived ! #NumNomsSeries4 (review)

Num Noms Series 4 has landed with a menu of cute new characters and delicious scents – including the launch of a new variety of Noms, available in scented Nail Varnish and flavoured Glitter Lip Gloss. Cue squeals of delight from Juliette ! Cookies, Fancy Cakes, Creamery, Baked Goods, Creme-Filled and Pasta are amoung the yummy variety of children’s collectables for this season’s tasty foodie theme. Juliette has been a fan of Num Noms for quite some time so she already has quite a large collection of culinary cuties, but this series seems extra appealing. They smell totally delicious too. Let me introduce you to some of the new recruits.

This tantalising trio are Wintergreen Crème, Terry Berrywich and Berries N Crème.

Next up we have I C Sandwich, Orange Crunch and Nilla Shake.

These gorgeous creations are Confetti Cookie, Madelyn Macaron and Violet Contessa (which, I think, is my favourite, with her lacy icing design).

 Finally, we have Sugar Crème, Lemons Pinkfill and Hottie Chocolate.

As well as the squishy, stackable Nums, we received three glitter lip balm Noms - Bubbly Drop Gloss-Up, Mint Swirl Gloss Up and Lemon Drop Gloss Up. If you're unfamiliar with Num Noms, the Noms also come as erasers, motorised, light-up, stampers or nail varnish. Peeking out at the back is one last Num who was hiding when I took the photos - Tia Tea-time.

Each new series has a different foodie theme - the new series 4 covers Cakes and Cookies, but earlier series have included fairground treats and savoury options, so you can create some very weird and wacky stacked combinations. We've even recreated some in the Madhouse kitchen, including pineapple-inspired Donapples and Sananas-dwiches, Num Noms-inspired Pancakes for Pancake Day, Gory Marshmallow Brains for Halloween and some fruit desserts for the Num Noms Wacky Bakers Challenge. It can be a great way of getting the kids to try out new flavours or combinations.

Series 4 Num Noms are available in Starter Packs (RRP £9.99) which come in eight delicious varieties of Cookies & Milk, Tea Party, Ice Cream Sandwiches, Frozen Yogurt, Snack Break, Princess Cakes, Frosted Donuts and Bundt Cakes; Num Noms Series 4 Lunch Box Deluxe (RRP £16.99) with Sweets Sampler and Desserts Tray in the style of super cute Lunchboxes, which can be re-used to carry your collectables; six different choices of Num Noms Surprise in a Jar (RRP £9.99) with flavours including Smores, Rainbow Pop and Sugary Glaze. You can also buy Num Noms Series 2 Lights (RRP £4.99), Num Noms Nail Polish Maker (RRP £49.99) and Num Noms Collectors Case (RRP £19.99).

Is it too early to say that they'd be great as a Christmas gift for girls right up to their tweens ?!

Disclosure : We received the product in order to write an honest review.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Shnooks review

The official blurb says : "Welcome to Shnook Brook – a magical place where a rainbow meets a waterfall and little Shnooks are born in rainbow bubbles ! Shnooks magically grow 8x in size from their unique shubble-bubble pack ! Check out the stylish Shnooks in their brand new commercial. Pop the bubble, shake the Shnook, and style their colourful hair ! Collect them and they’ll SHNOOK after you !"

When we saw the "grows 8x in size" bit on the packaging, both myself and my daughter Juliette first thought that you'd need to soak them in water or inflate them or something, but you actually just shake them to fluff up their hair.

They start off in a very flat vacuum-packed bag, which reminded us of the quilt storage bags that you can use with a vacuum cleaner to make them go all small.

They already look very cute, albeit squished, in the bag.

After slitting the bag, you hear a little hiss as the air comes in, then you need to fluff up the troll-style hair. 

Juliette was slightly disappointed that they only grow in width, not diameter - she thought they would be eight times bigger all round.

You can have great fun giving them a makeover and creating weird and wacky hairstyles.

The Shnooks come with a bag full of hair accessories, that you can use on your furry friend or even on yourself !

Some of the hair came out in the comb but there was still plenty left on our Shnooks' heads to make ponytails or bouffant backcombed quiffs.

There are six different Shnooks to collect - Shmiley, Shnuggles, Shine, Shweetly, Shazam and Shay - and in order to further support the re-launch (they were first on the market in 2008), ZURU have partnered with New Zealand animation studio, Huhu Studios, to produce an exciting new Shnooks TV series set for worldwide distribution later this year. The series will include adventure, magical hair tricks, friendship lessons and a whole lot more in the currently planned 26, seven minute episodes with supporting online content.

RRP: £ 7.99

for more information : Facebook: | Website:

Disclosure : We received the product in order to write an honest review.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Book review : Rain Falls on Everyone - Clár Ní Chonghaile

Last year, I discovered author Clár Ní Chonghaile when I read her debut novel, Fractured - you can click through for my review of that book. It turned out to be an edgy, thought-provoking read set in Somalia, so I had no idea what would be hiding behind her latest enigmatic title, Rain Falls on Everyone.

I soon discovered that it is a tale of two cities, or more precisely two countries, both of which come together in the central character of Theo. He has picked up the Dublin accent and even learnt to speak Gaelic but just one look at his black skin marks him out as an outsider for the locals. He is, and always has been, struggling to create a new identity and put his past, escaping from the genocide in his native Rwanda, behind him.

The story begins with Theo fleeing from a scene where a man lies in a pool of blood - we don't know why or what has happened but the impression is given that it's not really his fault. There are obvious parallels with the apocalyptic scenes that he witnessed as a child - his nightmares reveal glimpses of his family being butchered without ever letting him see the complete picture. Theo's predicament is left unexplained and the story shifts back in time, showing how he came to be involved in the whole sorry tale.

As the reader follows the unfolding backstory, Theo is on his own voyage of self-discovery, as sights, sounds and smells appeal to his innermost memories, unexpectedly unlocking snatches of his past life and helping him to piece together his story (and history). For him to create a meaningful future for himself, he has to first come to terms with his past.

As with Fractured, the characters are complex and realistically multi-dimensional, with both good and bad sides to their personalities. Theo has had a horrific, tragic start to his life so it is easy to feel sorry for him, but you also want to condemn him for getting in with the wrong crowd and throwing away his new chance of happiness with petty drug-dealing. Even the villains of the tale have moments of poignancy and humanity, and you can understand, without ever condoning, the actions that they have felt forced to carry out due to the momentum of their lives.

There are only a few graphic scenes of violence described to portray the Rwandan massacre, but they are sufficient to give you an idea of the horrors that went on. It's a gritty, poignant tale, with characters that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (15 July 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1785079018
  • ISBN-13: 978-1785079016

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Ravensburger Disney Castle 3d Puzzle review

This year, Disneyland Paris is celebrating its 25th anniversary, but if you're not lucky enough to have a cross-channel trip on the cards, Ravensburger have the perfect way to bring a little of the Disney magic into your own home, courtesy of their fabulous 3d Disney Castle puzzle.

It looks like it will be very complicated to put together and when you open the box, there are a daunting number of pieces to deal with.

However, once you take a closer look, many of the larger plastic parts are easily identifiable as turrets and roofs, so it all starts making more sense.

The full colour instruction booklet shows you exactly what to put where, and gives you the most logical place to start. From there on, it's all plain sailing.

There aren't a huge number of actual puzzle pieces to put together - 216 to be precise - so the first job is creating the panels, using the plastic puzzle pieces that you will instantly recognise if you've already tried a Ravensburger 3d puzzle. They are numbered on the back with an arrow to show which direction the next piece goes in, and some of them are hinged, so putting them together is child's play.

It will soon start taking shape as you slot the different sections into the plastic base.

More plastic pieces slot on top of the puzzle sections to give it extra stability, so you can move it around or even pick it up without worrying about it all falling apart.

The attention to details, such as the portcullis, make it look extra special.

We found the trickiest part was the assembly of the turrets and towers, because the curved strips need to be slotted in between two plastic rings which is a bit fiddly and they keep falling over. They look fantastic when you've managed though.

The finished castle is truly magnificent and we were very proud of our finished work. It only took about an hour to put together so it's a great family project for a wet weekend.

The castle features a whole host of Disney characters from a wide variety of films - there are 116 for you to try to spot, and you can even make a game of it, challenging each other to locate a specific person or making a list of as many different characters as possible in one minute.

Unsurprisingly, in pride of place on the front balcony, are Mickey, Minnie and their closest friends. It's a fitting tribute for such a special pair in their anniversary year !

Disclosure : We received the product in order to write an honest review.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Sun-Pat Fuelling Families this summer

This summer, Sun-Pat have been busy Fuelling Families, not just with their peanut butter but also with their fabulous competition, offering families the chance to win one of 420 sports kits to help keep kids busy and active. The competition is running until 4th September and there will be ten lucky winners every day until then.

Each kit comes with a football, cricket set and skipping rope and is packaged in a convenient bag so you can throw it in the back of the car and have a great sports-themed day out at the park or on the beach.

We received one of the kits and I thought Pierre would be first to grab it, but Juliette got in first ! She was soon bending it like Beckham (well, she did her best anyway !).

She had great fun with the skipping rope and showed that she was actually pretty good at it.

She also enjoyed playing with the cricket set and even developed her own hybrid game of cricket and tennis when I was busy taking the photos and stopped bowling !

Sun-Pat have also launched an activity guide featuring 42 cheap or free activities for kids over the summer – an activity for each day of the holidays. If you're starting to get stuck for ideas of ways to keep the kids entertained and away from their screens for the remainder of the holidays, it's well worth a look. Research has shown that 85% of kids wish they spent more time outside over the holidays so they will almost definitely be up for it, and there are plenty of activities that the grown-ups will enjoy getting involved in too !

Here are some of our favourites :

Create a set of bug bingo cards featuring garden bugs like ladybirds, ants and woodlice. Challenge the kids to find them in the garden to complete the set.

Create a rock zoo! Collect unusual shaped rocks and use watercolour paints to turn them into a variety of animals, arranging them in different pens in the garden.

Visit a local pick-your-own fruit farm and use your pickings to create a tasty summer dessert – if you don’t eat them all on the way home!

Choose a favourite toy and take it on a summer adventure, taking a shot of it in as many places as possible to create a travelling toy diary!

Make the most of a rainy day by laying out blankets on the floor and having a picnic inside for a change – try Sun-Pat and Banana sarnies as a great picnic lunch.

For both the competition and the activity guide, head over to the Sun-Pat Fuelling Families website.

Disclosure : We received a Sun-Pat sports kit.