Thursday, 30 June 2011

Teen Read Book review : Buried Thunder - Tim Bowler



Buried Thunder, by Carnegie Medal winner Tim Bowler, recounts the terrifying ordeal of the Munro family when they take over running The Rowan Tree, a guest house in a sleepy village that seems to attract all sorts of trouble for its owners and guests. The basic plot initially reminded me a bit of those classic paranormal horror films of the eighties, such as Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror. A new family moves into a house and experiences a whole lot of strange goings-on.

But what is the cause of these things that go bump in the night ? Is troubled teen Maya to blame ? Could she be an attention-seeker trying to get back at her parents for uprooting her from their former home ? Is she caught up in some strange psychosis or fantasy ? Is it really paranormal ? Or is there a more logical and chilling reason for the whole ordeal ?

The book is a mix of horror story, who-dunnit with suggested paranormal activity and a spine-tingling thriller. I actually would have preferred for it to concentrate on one type of writing instead of mixing up the three as I felt each genre was a bit too diluted. It's a good read but it all seemed a bit too much like Scooby Doo towards the end when the whole mystery unravels - all that is missing is Scooby and Shaggy crying "Yikes!" as they rip the disguise off the scary culprit ! But this is a book aimed at teens after all.

I thought that there were a few too many loose ends, inconsistencies and undeveloped plotlines that detracted slightly from my enjoyment of the book - the disturbing kiss between the brother and sister at the end, the parents who don't seem to bat an eyelid when their teenage daughter starts mumbling repeatedly that somebody is going to die, a very handy poisoned casserole that mysteriously appears and the inexplicable reason that leads Maya to follow a fox into the forest, to name just a few.

The book immediately throws us into the midst of the action which makes for a gripping read but this means that we have no empathy for or understanding of Maya and her motives. I would have preferred a slower start with some more detailed background about the characters so that I could feel a deeper bond with them.

As a teen-read, it'll go down well though and will be a great beach-read this summer.

star rating : 4/5

Book review : How To Be The Best Bubble Writer In The World Ever ! - Linda Scott



The kids at school are constantly making me little posters for me to put on the wall, usually saying "Mrs Pasquier's room" or "English class" or illustrating classroom rules like "Don't forget to turn your phone off" or "Put your hand up before talking" (and it always make me smile to see that the ones who make the posters are usually the worst offenders !). But one thing I have noticed is that they all take great pride in their carefully developed individual style of writing, and the other kids are really receptive to it, often commenting on the "cool tags", as if they're in the presence of the world's greatest graffiti artists !


Well, How To Be The Best Bubble Writer In The World Ever ! is the absolutely ideal book for them and anyone who craves to be artistic and creative, either for fun or because they need to make great posters for their business or fund-raising events. Designed for all levels from kids right up to grown-ups, it starts at the most basic level that even a total novice could do and steadily progresses up to some really complex, original and impressive styles of writing. Each new style - there are forty in all, including some really fun ones such as yeti, caveman, space invaders and rainbows - is introduced with a model to copy and also a page to practice on, adapting it as you go to make a totally unique style of your very own if you so wish.

I love the message at the beginning of the book that says that the only rule is that there are no rules - this is all about getting creative and having fun, so it would be a great book to keep by the phone (I'm showing my age here - does anybody actually keep a notepad by the phone any more, in this day and age of mobile phones ?) for idly doodling as you natter to your mates. But for those who are taking this new skill development seriously, possibly as a way of creating eye-catching posters or business cards, you can learn some nifty tricks of the trade, such as 3D lettering, too.


Tweens and teens will love the little projects to cut out and make, such as envelope stickers, friendship notes and greetings cards, and the book really encourages you to progress slowly but surely, on to bigger and better things, exploring your creativity and imagination as you go.

I've had a good look through and will be passing this on to 9-year-old Sophie to while away idle moments during the summer holidays. It's perfect for keeping kids occupied on long journeys too so will be perfect for stashing in the hand luggage when we fly off on holiday. I can guarantee the grown ups will be unable to resist having a quick doodle or two when the kids aren't looking too !

star rating : 4.5/5

Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Laurence King (31 May 2011)
Language English
ISBN-10: 1856697614
ISBN-13: 978-1856697613
Product Dimensions: 25.8 x 18.4 x 1.4 cm
RRP : £8.95 (but only £5.51 on amazon)



Other reviews you may be interested in :



 

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Eco Friendly Baby Bag review


Having three kids, I've tried my fair share of baby changing bags, so when Eco Friendly Baby Bags offered me one of their bags to review, I was keen to give it a roadtest but wasn't expecting to discover anything particularly innovative or different. Well, I have to say, I was actually really impressed.

Due to the name, I thought that the biggest feature would be its ecological nature. Well, I've had a good look around on the website and apart from the opening paragraph - "Formally known as SBA Ventures UK Limited, Eco Friendly Bag co UK Ltd is a company which specializes in eco bags that are kind to the environment as well as affordable and effective" - I can't actually see anything to explain why they are an eco-friendly choice. The company produces a range of canvas and jute bags for gardening, shopping and storage as well as the baby changing bag I received to review, but I'd like a bit more information about why this is such a green option.

Design-wise, the bag reminds me of the type of rucksacks that you see serious backpackers carrying, with saucepans and roll-up sleeping mats and Swiss army knives and bottles of water and everything but the kitchen sink hanging off cleverly designed straps and stuffed into a multitude of interior and exterior pockets. It's got a place for everything you could possibly ever think you might need, and if you're a first-time parent, that's an awful lot of stuff ! Nappies, wetwipes, bibs, bottles, food, a change of clothes, blanket, toys and books, dummy, pushchair raincover, sunhat, nappy cream ... you name it, there's a pocket for it somewhere on the bag.

A very clever and handy bonus pocket is secretly tucked away at the bottom of the bag. With a unique (well, I've certainly never seen one like it before anyway !) spiral cross-over zip (imagine a kind of helter-skelter zip !), there's a whole separate section of the bag that you can pull down and use for storing a pooey nappy or sick-covered clothes until you get home, totally separate from the rest of the contents of the bag to avoid contamination or smells crossing over. You won't appreciate how good this is until you've experienced a child with particularly smelly projectile vomiting or an extremely toxic leaky nappy but take my word for it, it's a fabulous idea!

There is also a lightweight changing mat in one of the pockets, which is very handy but didn't impress me quite as much because it's a feature that you can find on many other models.

Another aspect that I absolutely love is the fact that the bag is fully machine-washable. One thing that you'll quickly learn when you have a baby is that they are extremely generous when it comes to sharing their bodily fluids with you and anything in the surrounding area, so your bag will quickly be splashed with various unsightly (not to mention unhygienic) stains. You only need to have a bottle of milk leak in your bag once to know how bad that can smell too, so being able to throw it in the machine is a godsend and, surprisingly, quite rare for a changing bag.

It's very lightweight and comfortable to use as well as being extremely practical. I have to say I think the light colour is maybe not the best choice for a changing bag as it shows up the stains too easily but the fact that it's machine washable makes up for this. It's got everything I would ask for in a changing bag, and a few things I'd never have thought of added in for good measure !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £17.95


Other reviews you may be interested in :

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Hasbro Pop Goes Froggio review



The girls were really pleased when I got an email from Hasbro a little while ago asking if I'd like to review a couple of their games. The first one we tried out was Pop Goes Froggio, a game I'd never heard of before. The box shows a cheeky orange frog whooshing up in the air so the girls were immediately enthusiastic.
Inside the box, you get a footpump which you can attach to a spinner, in the middle of which sits a lily pad housing the frog. You also get a series of lily pad shaped cards which, on the reverse side, have pictures of the different animal characters matching those on the spinner.


The girls loved discovering all the different parts and it's really quick and simple to set up. The rules are also easy to explain. You put the different lily pad cards in different places around the room, face down or face up depending on the age of the children and how difficult you want to make it. One player spins the spinner, everyone looks at the character it lands on then goes racing off around the room to find the matching lily pad card. Once you've found it, you race back to the Froggio lily pad, stomp on the foot pump and try to catch the Froggio that goes shooting up in the air. If you catch it, you keep the card, but if you drop it you have to put it back (although the rules can be modified to fit the age and ability of the different players). The first player to win a set number of cards wins.


Although, if your house is anything like ours, the kids will soon give up playing properly and just have fun stomping on the foot pump to make the frog fly in the air ! It's actually quite difficult to get the frog to fly - it needs quite a forceful stomp - so 6-year-old Juliette got quite frustrated when she couldn't always manage it.

I love the way the game gets kids up and jumping/running around the room and this aspect reminded me of Elefun, another game we own which has an elephant with a long polythene trunk attached to a fan that blows little butterflies up in the air that you have to catch with a net. Sure enough, a closer look at the box and it says "Elefun and friends".

It's a fun game with simple rules that can be adapted to suit various ages, but the foot pump is quite hard to operate for smaller kids. I love the fact that it uses foot power rather than batteries and the energetic aspect of the game. You do need quite a lot of space to play it in though and it can be a bit dangerous if you have big kids charging around trying to find the right lily pads while their little brother is crawling around on the floor and trying to touch the Froggio lily pad just as they're getting ready to stomp on it !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £15.99 (but only £9.94 on amazon)

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Giveaway #96 : Go Green with Chuggington ! - closed - winners @mummiafelice @clareandtribe



Last week, I told you (here) about Recycle Week and the Chuggington toys that are ideal for getting your little ones thinking about the environment and recycling. Well, I'm happy to be able to offer two of you lucky blog-readers some lovely Chuggington toys - two of you will each win :

 1 x Irving's Rubbish & Recycle Cars (worth £15.99)

 ©2011 Learning Curve. All rights reserved. ©2011 Ludorum PLC

and 1 x Repair Shed (worth £19.99).


©2011 Learning Curve. All rights reserved. ©2011 Ludorum PLC
for more information : http://www.learningcurve.com/


To be in with a chance of winning this fabulous prize, just do the following two things:



(1) leave me a comment in the comments box with a way of contacting you (twitter name or email). If I don't hear back from you within a week, I'll have to pick another winner.

(2) comment on any of my other blogposts and tell me where you commented (other giveaways don't count and each comment only counts for one giveaway !)

Bonus entries :

You can do any or all of the following for bonus entries - just make sure you leave me one comment per entry so that they're all counted !


(1) Follow me on twitter (@cherylp59) and tweet about my comp - this is now dead easy if you click on the tweet button on the right-hand side bar. Feel free to shorten if necessary, or you can make up your own tweet. Make sure you copy in @cherylp59 so I can track this.


(2) I love reading your comments so leave me some extra comments on my other blogposts (maximum 5) and I'll give you a bonus entry for each one ! Just remember to leave me a comment here each time to tell me you've done so.

(3) I've created a facebook page for Madhouse Family Reviews so I'd love for you to become a follower on there too - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Madhouse-Family-Reviews/144910798898626  

(4) Subscribe to my blog by email (near the top of the right-hand sidebar) so that all the new posts pop into your inbox in a handy digest every morning

(5) follow my blog with Google Friends Connect (over on the side bar on the right) - I'm hoping to hit 500 before the end of the month ! :)


UK only. Closing date : 10/7/2011. Good luck.


Other current giveaways you may be interested in :


Book review : Girl in Translation - Jean Kwok



Girl in Translation is the enchanting tale of Kimberley Chang, eleven years old and freshly arrived in New York from Hong Kong with her mother. Neither of them speak more than a few words of English, they have no money and the "caring" Aunt Paula who is supposedly looking out for them and helping them to settle into their new life would be perfectly cast in the role of one of Cinderella's wicked stepsisters. The only part of the Big Apple accessible to them is the rotten, maggoty core so they end up in a horrifically insalubrious appartment, full of mice and cockroaches, where the broken windows taped up with rubbish bags let in air cold enough to make the soy sauce freeze over.

Aunt Paula "kindly" puts her niece and sister to work in her clothing factory, working long hard hours for ridiculous pay. I've often wondered where the term "sweatshop" comes from but this book makes it all too clear - the horrific conditions, the child labour, the inevitable injuries and the exploitation all make tough reading because it is so realistic.

Despite a cast of characters who make you want to line them all up and slap them - a sneering unhelpful teacher, pupils with their nasty taunts, corrupt factory inspectors, the heartless Aunt Paula - Kimberley uses her intelligence and sheer determination to make a difference and move them on to higher things. Through sheer guts, hard work and willpower, Kimberley starts making the American Dream come true.

But the problem with making more and more doors open for yourself is that you have to start making choices and sometimes, it's hard to know if you've made the right ones. Being forced to choose between your dreams of success and the man you love is a tough call and I read the final chapters with a huge lump in my throat.

The book reminded me at times of Angela's Ashes, in the poignant descriptions of extreme poverty and dire hardship, and of Forrest Gump, in the tale of the underdog coming out on top and overcoming all odds. Your heart will be by turns warmed and broken as you follow the narrative of Ah-Kim's life. The insight into the Chinese way of life and mentality add a whole new level to the text, and I couldn't help but wonder how much is actually autobiographical.

It's a powerful read that cannot leave you unmoved and I wouldn't be surprised to see this turned into a Hollywood blockbuster, along the lines of Slumdog Millionaire.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £8.99 (but £5.64 on amazon)

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Penguin (2 Jun 2011)
ISBN-10: 0141042745
ISBN-13: 978-0141042749
Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 2.2 cm


Other reviews you may be interested in :

Monday, 27 June 2011

Giveaway #95 : 2 x Heartland : Season 2 DVD boxsets - closed - winners @littleboo_21 @ali991



Heartland : Complete Season 2 is out on DVD today, so to mark the occasion, I have two boxsets to give away. The boxset contains 18 episodes over 5 DVDs, with a total running time of ... get ready for this ! ... 15 hours and is on sale for £24.99. It also offers 10 Behind The Scenes Featurettes featuring extensive interviews with the cast and crew.

For those who don't know the story, the plot summary is as follows :

A Family Ranch… A Horse Whisperer… A Fight to Save a Dream...
The Hit Family Series Based on the Best-Selling Books by Lauren Brooke

The town of Hudson in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is home to Heartland, a family ranch dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating troubled horses. After a tragedy puts the ranch in jeopardy, fifteen-year-old Amy (Amber Marshall) must use her talents as a horse healer to save the family business. Her sister Lou (Michelle Morgan) reluctantly leaves city life behind to help Amy and their grandfather Jack (Shaun Johnston) run the ranch. With tough times ahead, the family now must pull together to keep the dream of Heartland alive. The series continues from the bestselling first series.

To be in with a chance of winning, just do the following two things:

(1) leave me a comment in the comments box with a way of contacting you (twitter name or email). If I don't hear back from you within a week, I'll have to pick another winner.

(2) comment on any of my other blogposts and tell me where you commented (other giveaways don't count and each comment only counts for one giveaway !)

Bonus entries :

 

You can do any or all of the following for bonus entries - just make sure you leave me one comment per entry so that they're all counted !

(1) Follow me on twitter (@cherylp59) and tweet about my comp - this is now dead easy if you click on the tweet button on the right-hand side bar. Feel free to shorten if necessary, or you can make up your own tweet. Make sure you copy in @cherylp59 so I can track this.

(2) I love reading your comments so leave me some extra comments on my other blogposts (maximum 5) and I'll give you a bonus entry for each one ! Just remember to leave me a comment here each time to tell me you've done so.

(3) I've created a facebook page for Madhouse Family Reviews so I'd love for you to become a follower on there too - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Madhouse-Family-Reviews/144910798898626

(4) Subscribe to my blog by email (near the top of the right-hand sidebar) so that all the new posts pop into your inbox in a handy digest every morning

(5) follow my blog with Google Friends Connect (over on the side bar on the right) - I'm hoping to hit 500 before the end of the month ! :)

UK only. Closing date : 9/7/2011. Good luck.


Other current giveaways you may be interested in :

Nicolites e-cig : special offer on Groupon today and tomorrow


I've heard a lot about e-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, lately but without really knowing what they were. Well, when I was asked if I'd share a fabulous 62% discount offer on groupon with you, I went and did a bit of homework.

Nicolites is an e-cig containing no tar, no tobacco, no carbon monoxide and none of the 4000 other chemicals found in ordinary cigarettes. You can buy Nicolites with or WITHOUT nicotine. Though if you need your nicotine rush and that's why you smoke deadly cigs, this is the healther option. Celebs such as Charlie Sheen, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cheryl Cole and Johnny Depp have all tried Nicolites. You can use them on trains, planes and all other public transport, as well as public places too.

I thought they would just be a bit like a grown-up version of kids candy cigarettes with added nicotine but it turns out that you get all the pleasure of smoking because they create vapour so you really feel like you're smoking, and you inhale the nicotine into your lungs the same way you would with normal cigarettes.

They are sold for £6.95 (Nicolites Disposable) or £19.95 (Nicolites rechargeable) and are available from all good chemists and welcome breaks nationwide.

Nicolites has a special offer on http://www.groupon.co.uk/  that goes live this Monday- Tuesday (ie today and tomorrow). They will be selling:
1 Nicolite Rechargeable Starter Kit
4 Boxes of Cartomiser Refills

This normally retails at £47.79, the Groupon voucher will be sold for only £18.00 which gives you a 62% discount.

for more information about the product :http://www.nicolites.co.uk/ 




Tiger Beer Know The Not Known Campaign

 

Curiosity may have killed the cat but that hasn't put big cat brand Tiger beer, Singapore's oldest locally brewed beer, off creating a new campaign called Know The Not Known, which revolves entirely around encouraging curiosity. Based around the four cultural domains of art, music, design and film, the brand is encouraging consumers to discover new, up-coming and so far unknown (or should that be Not Known !) talents, rewarding their curiosity with invites to underground Tiger-sponsored events and other exclusive content. The campaign is being featured across a wide range of media, including magazines (such as Vice and Empire), billboards, online, PR and events so keep your eyes open and get spotting the Tiger references in the artwork which will unlock your special rewards, via a special Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tigerbeeruk.

 

There are three main campaign elements : a partnership with Vice to generate content about urban spaces that have been creatively reinvented (for example, turning an abandoned building into an art gallery or recording studio), a series of eight "Not Known" events across London (which I will tell you more about in a minute) and a partnership with Empire magazine called "Undiscovered Treasures", which will offer screenings of fabulous but largely unknown films.

 

The "Not Known" events I mentioned took place across London and 8 London based promoters were challenged to bring ‘Know the Not Known’ to life with event sponsorship from Tiger. They did this in a number of surprising and onnovative ways, which is hardly surprising given that Tiger chose them for their talent, enthusiasm and creative thinking.

 

 

The first event was a Halloween music and horror film extravaganza at The London Fields, with promoter Ben Rymer (owner of The London Fields) and curated by Nathan Gregory Wilkins (founder of secretsundaze), two of London’s biggest and most successful promoters. Next up was Tayo’s infamous Tracksuit Party, whose  theme was an 80’s / 90’s New York block party. The third collaboration was with Off Modern, a creative collective based in South London, who put on an evening of arts and music focused on the theme of ‘Know the Not Known’. The fourth promoter, Get Me! And Reely & Truly took over Corsica Studio’s teaming up with Boiler Room to do a live broadcast and create excusive podcasts from the evening.

 

 

 

There are still a few more 8 Not Known events to go, including Dirty Canvas Vs. Dirty Rhythm this month in a secret East London warehouse, followed by Dante’s Fried Chicken. The Boiler Room have been invited back to Dirty Canvas Vs. Dirty Rhythm after the success from Get Me! 

Keep an eye on the facebook page to find out more and hunt out the hidden content and rewards.

for more information : www.TigerBeer.co.uk



Sponsored Post

 

*****A Sponsored but nevertheless 100% honest post ! ****

Viral video by ebuzzing

Give a hoot ! Competition to Help Barn Owls Thrive


GIVE A HOOT!

Jordans Launches Competition to ‘Adopt A Barn Owl’


Jordans Cereals, a passionate advocate for preserving Britain’s beautiful countryside, is launching ‘Adopt a Barn Owl’ - a competition that gives owl lovers the chance to name their very own barn owl chick. This marks the start of Conservation Grade’s™ Project Barn Owl research, in partnership with Jordans.


There are four chicks waiting to be named, so simply visit http://www.jordanscereals.co.uk/ with your suggestion. The winning names will be chosen by Bill Jordan founder of Jordans Cereals and the Conservation Grade™ team. Each winner will receive an adoption certificate, picture of their chick, a free family pass to Bill Jordan’s Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in Norfolk - which is also a Conservation Grade™ farm - plus a year’s supply of delicious Jordans Cereals.


The deadline to enter the competition is Sunday 4th September 2011 (terms & conditions apply).


PROJECT BARN OWL


Project Barn Owl will use barn owls as ‘scientists’, to study whether more barn owl chicks survive to fledge because of the healthier habitats found on Conservation Grade™ farms versus conventional farms. Monitoring the presence and breeding success of barn owls on Conservation Grade™ farms and comparing it with data from other barn owl studies* will reveal how successful Conservation Grade™ farming is.



Jordans has been working with Conservation Grade™ for over 25 years, sourcing all its cereals from nature friendly farms. In all, it is estimated that Conservation Grade™ farmers are now managing around 65,000 acres of wildflower meadows, hedgerows, grass margins, woodlands and wetlands so creating habitats for many of the UK’s best-loved wild creatures, including the barn owl.



The reason the new study is focusing on barn owl fledging rates is that the birds are at the top of a countryside food chain and only thrive where the eco-system is healthy enough to support a rich variety of other animals and species.



Another factor is that although barn owls are a defining icon of rural British life, their numbers have fallen sharply since the 1930s when there were an estimated 12,000 pairs. Today it is estimated that there are just 6,000 – 8,000 pairs in the UK (Source: Barn Owl Conservation Network - BCON). The reasons for this decline include a loss of nesting sites, connected habitat, lack of winter food and severe winters. Typically, the survival rate of barn owls in their first year is less than 30% (source: BCON).



The project will be managed by licensed experts who will be recording the results. These will be announced in September 2011.



So what are you waiting for? Get behind Project Barn Owl and enter the ‘Adopt A Barn Owl’ competition to help barn owls thrive.



* The results will be compared to barn owl monitoring data available from the Barn Owl Conservation Network, British Trust for Ornithology and RSPB.

Barn Owl Facts


They’re excellent at detecting the subtle noises of their prey – they also have a strong memory of noises

Barn Owls like to live in barns; that's how they got their name. They've adapted to man-made structures like attics, silos, steeples, and, of course, man-made nesting boxes

Barn Owls eat mainly small mammals like voles, shrews and mice.

It’s a common misconception that barn owls hoot, they in fact screech

A barn owl is about the size of a small cat, but on average only weighs a pound

The barn owl’s huge wing area accommodates a slow silent flight. It’s silent due to soft fringe-edged feathers that don't "swoosh" as they move. A silent flight means curtains for an unsuspecting rodent

Other blogposts you may be interested in :
 

Sunday, 26 June 2011

B Record Plus energy supplement review

When I saw a call-out recently for mummy bloggers to trial a new liquid supplement designed to give them a much-needed energy boost, my curiosity was piqued so I went to have a look but I was sure it wouldn't be suitable for me. Since my first pregnancy, I've had a problem with high blood pressure so taking a huge shot of caffeine is not a good idea. I'm also always wary of the crash-and-burn effect that I half expect when taking a quick fix energy drink, worrying that I'll feel even more tired once the initial effects wear off.

But - hallelujah !! - B Record Plus isn't like all those other energy drinks out there. They explain that it is "the only liquid food supplement to provide a unique blend of four key amino acids and vitamin B-12, designed to help sustain energy, overcome fatigue and improve concentration and intellectual performance". These micronutrients help to boost your metabolism and give you more energy. It contains no caffeine at all and, unlike many energy drinks, doesn't have a horrible aftertaste. It's very very sweet but it comes in a tiny bottle so in one gulp, it's gone !

Unlike caffeine-packed energy drinks, it's not designed to give you an instant and short-lived energy rush - this is meant to be a more long term solution. You should take one 10ml bottle every morning on an empty stomach and - although you should start to feel results after two or three days - you should continue taking them for ten days for best effects, although you can carry on after this period if you wish.

I have to admit, I came to this trial as an open-minded sceptic, hoping it would work but not really expecting it to. As a teacher, I'm in the end-of-year mad rush at the moment and the kids are going loopy as they get more and more excited about the impending holidays, so I've been coming home from work feeling absolutely shattered every day. On top of this, Pierre has gone through a phase of waking up (and waking us up, yelling "Muuuuummmmm" at the top of his voice) at 5am so I've been feeling tired when getting out of bed too, which I hate.

Well, the first couple of days I didn't really notice any difference but I have to say, after three days I did start to feel less exhausted. I'd sit down in the evening after getting the kids off to bed and think "right, what shall I do now ? TV, book or blog ?" whereas usually, I would just veg out in front of the TV because I'd be too tired to do anything else.

The people behind B Record Plus say that it’s recommended for people who need an extra energy boost and is ideal for:
· Busy mums
· Mothers recovering from having a baby
· People moving house
· People sitting exams
· People recovering from an injury
· Business people working under intense pressure
It’s also suitable for people over 12 years of age.

Despite my intial scepticism, I have actually been pleasantly surprised by how much extra energy I seem to have since taking a daily dose of B Record Plus - although obviously, it could be a total coincidence ! It will be interesting to see if the effects continue after the ten days are up and I stop taking them, but it's definitely something I'll use from time to time in really busy periods when I have an extra workload such as parent-teacher evenings or exam marking.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £12.99 for 10 x 10ml

for more information : http://www.brecordplus.com/

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Two free books for every child starting school in England - Booktrust 2011 titles revealed



1.38 million books for free from Booktime: two free books for every child starting school in England
Booktrust and Pearson announce an elephant story you’ll never forget

Booktrust and Pearson today announce the 2011 titles for Booktime, which is offering two free books to every child starting school in England this autumn: Tinga Tinga Tales - Why Elephant has a Trunk, from the Puffin imprint of Penguin, and Face Painting, from Pearson UK, marking the first time Pearson's education business has provided books for Booktime.

690,000 children in reception classes will receive a free book pack in their first term of primary school, each pack containing two books to keep. In total 1.38 million books will be given away, weighing the equivalent of more than 20 African elephants.

The book packs are given away through Booktime, the national free books programme for reception-aged children. Booktime aims to inspire a lifelong love of reading by encouraging families to have fun reading together.
Peter Hughes, head of corporate responsibility at Pearson, said:
“A passion for reading is one of the greatest gifts we can give. Good reading skills are the basic cornerstone that helps all of us progress throughout our lives. Books inform, educate, but also inspire. Good reading starts early. Booktime is an incredibly important programme as through it, we and Booktrust offer a gift of inspiring books and, more importantly, another way for teachers, families and Pearson volunteers to help hook the next generation on reading.”

This year’s story book is Why Elephant has a Trunk (Puffin), from the Tinga Tinga Tales series created by Claudia Lloyd. Why Elephant has a Trunk is a lively, laugh-filled story ideal to read aloud. Families will discover the fable of how Elephant got his trunk in a mishap with a very snappy crocodile and find out how he puts his new nose to great use. Its vibrant illustrations inspired by the Tingatinga artwork of Tanzania make Why Elephant has a Trunk an exciting and engaging title for families to enjoy reading together.


For the first time, book packs will also contain a title from Pearson UK, the education business. Face Painting (part of the Rigby Star series) is a non-fiction book to share, with colourful photos of children with their faces painted. There’s a design every child will enjoy, from a beautiful butterfly to a fearsome pirate and a scary monster. Face Painting, by Monica Hughes, lets children have a go at sharing a book with an adult by describing what they see and reading the words they know.


Viv Bird, CEO of Booktrust, said:
“Booktrust is tremendously proud to work with Pearson to bring these wonderful titles into hundreds of thousands of homes, encouraging more family reading. Booktime, now in its sixth year, continues to give magical books to children at an important time for them as they start formal education, signalling the continuing importance of reading for pleasure as well as for learning.”

Tinga Tinga Tales series creator Claudia Lloyd, Head of Animation and Childrens at Tiger Aspect Production, said:
“It is very exciting to have the Tinga Tinga Tales book Why Elephant has a Trunk included in 2011’s Booktime packs for reception-aged children. We very much hope families will enjoy sharing this book, inspired by a traditional story from Africa, and that Booktime’s celebration of shared reading will be as big a success as ever. It is a real honour to be associated with the long list of fantastic children’s authors and illustrators whose titles have been given to millions of children through Booktime since 2006, most recently the brilliant Ed Vere and children’s books legend Eric Carle.”



Booktime will be supported by a range of downloads and games on the website: http://www.booktime.org.uk/

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Friday, 24 June 2011

The Madhouse version of Eric Lanlard's Baking Mad Light Fruit Loaf !


Now, I told you a little while ago (here) that the lovely people at Baking Mad had sent me through a fabulous baking kit containing everything I needed to try out one of the recipes presented on the Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard show, which is on every Monday on Channel 4 at 2.40pm.

Here is a picture of Eric Lanlard's masterpiece :


I can tell you now, mine won't look anywhere near as impressive as that one ! If you want to have a try yourself, you can find all of Eric Lanlard's Baking Mad recipes here on the Channel 4 website or here on the Baking Mad website. The recipe we tried is this one :

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Light Fruit Loaf



Light and fruity, this fruit loaf from Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard is perfect for a picnic or afternoon tea


Serves 12

Ingredients

300g soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing.
300g golden caster sugar.
4 eggs.
4 tsp orange blossom water.
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 medium oranges and 2 unwaxed lemons.
350g plain flour
200g glace cherries.
200g chopped mixed peel.
200g raisins.
200g golden sultanas.

To decorate

4 tbsp apricot jam, sieved.
2 tbsp water.
Large pieces of colourful glace fruits, such as candied orange, lime, melon, lemon and mango*.
75g glace cherries.
50g peeled pistachios.

Method

1.Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3 and grease and double line a large terrine or loaf tin.

.2.Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light, pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time, and mix gently until incorporated.

.3.Sieve the flour and fold this into the mixture, then add orange blossom water and the zest and juice of the lemons and oranges.

.4.Place all the dried fruits in a bowl and dust with a couple of tablespoons of plain flour. This will prevent the fruits from sinking in the cake as it cooks. Finally fold the fruits into the creamed mixture using a spatula or large metal spoon.

.5.Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for a further 1½ hours, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the tin, removing the paper and allowing to cool completely.

.6.To decorate, gently warm the jam with the water until reduced slightly. Cut the glace fruits into strips and arrange on top of the loaf cake, arranging cherries and pistachios in between the strips of fruit to add a splash of colour. Finish by gently brushing the apricot glaze over the top of the fruits.

.*Find glace fruits in specialist delicatessens

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Well, they did say that we could follow the recipe to the letter or customise it as we saw fit so I did make a few changes. Firstly, I decided to make it as a round cake rather than a loaf (because I'm pretty sure it never would have fitted in my loaf tin). Secondly, I totally skipped the glazing with apricot jam and decorating with crystallised fruit stage, because I didn't have any. And thirdly ...


I divided all the measurements by half and made a half-sized cake (which was still big enough for a family of five to eat all week !) because I scared myself silly when I saw how much 300g of butter actually represents.


First of all, I creamed together the sugar and butter ...



Then mixed in the eggs and flour and all the dried fruit and glacĂ© cherries (wow, talk about a blast from the past, I couldn't stop eating them out of the tub because they remind me of being a kid and making cherry buns in cookery class at school - I'll be looking up the recipe for those and getting nostalgic with the kids in the kitchen during the holidays).

I flattened it down a bit with a fork, which made it look strangely like a cottage pie ! Baking Mad have a great tip when using dried fruit in cakes. If you roll the fruit around in flour before incorporating it into the cake mix, it shouldn't sink to the bottom. Well, time will tell !



Straight out of the oven - yummmm ! You can smell the butter and sugar and dried fruit smells wafting around the kitchen. Strangely enough, the kids magically appeared in the kitchen at this point !


The flipside - the fruit does still seem to have sunk to the bottom a bit but there is still loads at the top and all through the cake though. Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating - and that works for cakes too so time to get the mini-Madhouse testers in.


Thumbs up from 2-year-old Pierre ...


and from Sophie who loved the crunchy sugar/butter texture on the top of the cake ...


and even from Juliette, who didn't like the candied peel but loved the cake so much that she sat there picking the bits out and eating the rest ! I even offered a slice to the girls' friends, who apparently don't like raisins and sultanas, but they ate it all up and declared it delicious.

It's a surprisingly simple but delicious recipe that I'll definitely come back to and I now want to try out some of the other recipes from the Baking Mad website. This baking challenge also introduced to a lovely ingredient I'd never tried before - Orange Blossom Water. It's a really potent alcohol imbued with a delicious orange flavour - not at all what I was expecting but definitely something I'll be using again !

Many thanks to Baking Mad for setting me the baking challenge and providing the lovely ingredients !

You can find the recipe (and many many more) on the Baking Mad website : http://www.bakingmad.com/

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150th anniversary of the unification of Italy + Gucci's 90th anniversary = Fiat 500byGucci

This summer, all eyes won't be on the catwalk to see the newest fashion accessory but on the car park ! To celebrate both the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy and Gucci's 90th anniversary, the Fiat 500 has been reimagined as the a special edition of the iconic Fiat 500 customised by Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini in partnership with Fiat's Centro Stile.

 a special edition of the iconic Fiat 500 customised by Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini in partnership with Fiat's Centro Stile.

 a special edition of the iconic Fiat 500 customised by Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini in partnership with Fiat's Centro


Fiat 500 by Gucci, a special edition of the iconic Fiat 500 customised by Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini in partnership with Fiat's Centro Stile.

Now, I don't very often get excited about new cars but I have to say I love the design. It has the cuteness and the compactness of the classic Mini (which is great for the environment, in place of fuel-guzzling oversized SUVs and 7-seaters running around with just a driver in them, and also makes it a breeze finding a place to park in busy towns and resorts this summer), and the beautiful rounded curves remind me a bit of the iconic Beetle. The result is a car with real character that won't pass by unnoticed.

But it's not all about looks. This cool collaboration between two of Italy's most respected brands represents the perfect combination of craftsmanship and style. Launched on the opening day of Milan Fashion Week, the 500byGucci was also presented at the Geneva International Auto Show (3-13th March) in a dedicated Gucci pop-up store within the Fiat stand.

 

This funky little Italian car will be available in the UK with two brilliant engines: the nimble yet economical 1.2 litre – which will cost £14,565 OTR – and the award-winning 0.9 litre TwinAir, priced at £15,765 OTR. The black and white colours of the 500byGucci, in unique eye-catching glossy pearl glass paint complement one another: black – with detailing in shiny chrome paired with interiors that contrast sharp black and white – for a contemporary and racy feel; white – with satin chrome detailing and ivory and black interiors – for a softer, sophisticated look. I love them both and must admit it would be hard to choose - the black paintwork really makes the green and red stripes stand out but I wonder if the white might reflect the heat more and be the perfect summer car for keeping cool while looking cool !

Fiat 500byGucci will be available in the UK this summer. Initially the new car will be available exclusively online  - the fully automated on-line sales scheme allows customers to pay a deposit, order it directly from the factory, track the car’s progress, make a final payment and even arrange special delivery of the car to their home. Customers will be able to visit www.fiat.co.uk/500bygucci when it goes live later this month. This is also available as a link from the official www.500bygucci.com  website. As a woman, I have to say I really like the idea of buying a car online because I always find car salesmen to be particularly condescending and patronising when it comes to dealing with women buyers !
I'm sometimes a bit sceptical of fashion brands collaborating with other companies but if this new car is anything to go by, they should definitely keep it up ! It's the perfect stylish city runaround for fashionistas to discover new designer boutiques on city breaks over the summer !

**** This is a sponsored but nevertheless 100% honest post ! ****
Viral video by ebuzzing

Summer ways with Tilda rice - Thai Fish Cakes recipe and rice salad ideas



Rice is more than just a winter warmer served alongside curry. It’s also a delicious ingredient in summer salads or BBQ recipes. And, with summer around the corner it’s time to think about more exotic, lighter options.

Basmati is a naturally healthy supergrain as it is gluten free, low in fat and sodium, and has near zero cholesterol. Basmati is also a complex carbohydrate with a low to medium Glycaemic Index, meaning energy is released at a slower, steadier rate avoiding the bloated feeling – so not only is it a healthy option, but it also gives you more energy to enjoy the summer sun!


Enjoy Tilda Pure Basmati as part of your spring or summer picnic recipes or BBQs. It’s perfect as an accompaniment or in your main course. Try adding some Tilda Pure Basmati rice when cooled to cubed feta, olives and cherry tomatoes for a tasty, easy and healthy salad. If you want something you can cook on the hot plate alongside a BBQ, try Tilda’s Thai Fish Cakes recipe using Tilda Steamed Basmati Lime & Coriander. They make a perfect, easy to prepare lunch or light and simple supper and any leftovers can be made into a quick and easy packed lunch option for the next day.


 
Thai Fish Cakes

Preparation Time: 10 minutes, chill for 30 minutess
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Serves 3-4


Ingredients:

½ bunch spring onions, finely chopped
½ red chilli, finely chopped
1cm ginger, peeled and grated
1-2 tsp Thai Green curry paste
4 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 pack Tilda Steamed Basmati Lime and Coriander rice
Small can white crab meat, well drained
Zest of 1 lime
1 small bunch coriander, chopped
1 beaten egg
Breadcrumbs

Preparation:

Mix together Tilda Lime & Coriander rice, spring onions, chilli, ginger, curry paste, coconut, crab, lime zest, and coriander

Add one beaten egg to bind

If you find the mixture is too wet, add a handful of the breadcrumbs until the mixture binds

Make into small balls

Chill for 20-30 minutes (or make the night before and chill overnight)

Coat in the breadcrumbs

Fry in a little oil until crisp and golden brown and piping hot all the way through (approx 7 mins each side).

Serve with a sweet chilli dipping sauce and lime wedges


Visit www.tilda.com http://www.tilda.com/ to see celebrity chef Jo Pratt demonstrating this recipe, and check out other summer recipes.


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Brand new upcoming TV shows for Foodie-lovers on Food Network UK, the cookery and lifestyle channel

I know the recipe posts and foodie reviews on my blog always go down well so I thought I give you a sneaky peek of July's Programme Highlights on The Food Network (Freesat channel 405 and +1 on 406 and Sky channel 262 and +1 on 263). There are some brand new series coming up that look well worth watching. Read on for more details :

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This month Food Network prepares a special treat for Italian food lovers - premiere of two brand new shows: Extra Virgin and Lidia's Italy.



Lidia’s Italy, Series 4 *New Series*
Weekdays (Double Bill), at 12pm & 6pm, from Wednesday 13th July



Leave the UK behind, and join Lidia Bastianich as she travels down the Italian coast meeting the country’s wonderful cooks, winemakers, prosciutto makers and others. Watch as she then welcomes viewers to her rustic kitchen; where she re-creates classic Italian dishes taken from her travels, adding her own unique twist. You will absolutely believe her closing mantra that her kitchen is your kitchen...

In the first episode of this Emmy-nominated series, the beloved chef travels around southern Calabria, where the humble pepper is king. She stops off at the location where Ulysses himself got lost on his travels, taking the viewer with her to understand a little more about the region’s rich cultural history – with a spot of haggling for deliciously fresh swordfish along the way.


Extra Virgin, Series 1 * New Series*
Weekdays at 12pm & 6.30pm, from Monday 4th July



She's a modern girl from the streets of Queens and he's a food purist from the hills of Tuscany. Seasoned New-Yorker actress Debi Mazar (GoodFellas, Entourage series) and her Italian husband, Gabriele Corcos, invite you into their home as they share tremendous passion for classic Tuscan food and each other, whilst providing important lessons that you just won't find in your average cookbook.


In Holy Guacamole, the premiere episode of the series, Gabriele is determined to bring Tuscany to their home in Los Angeles, bringing out his inner handy man by building a traditional pizza oven in their back yard. Debbi shows some of her own Italian passion as she does her best to assist with sous chef duties, but ends up giving viewers advice on using guacamole as part of her beauty regime –from the bath!

Three Sheets...and a Drunken Monkey, Series 1 &2 *New Series*
Weekdays, at 11pm, from Monday 4th July (S1) & Friday 8th July (S2)



You’ve seen The Hangover – now it’s time to watch Zane Lamprey on his hilarious hunt for the ultimate tipple, as he travels just about anywhere to find it. Follow Zane as he journeys round Europe on a drunken escapade meeting locals and learning about their culture and traditions – whilst not forgetting to have a right good knees up!


The first episode takes Zane to Moscow, where in his own words he; “drinks vodka, beer and a guy hits me repeatedly with a branch...” All will become clear when you watch! He breaks down how Russians enjoy their favourite drinks, joins in with the locals in watering holes and houses around Russia and trying out everything from Vodka to moonshine.

Tailgate Warriors with Guy Fieri *New Series*
Saturdays at 10pm, from 2nd July


Our favourite all-American blonde bombshell is back! Chef, Guy Fieri, hosts this no-holds-barred cookery show, with the rousing words of “It’s Time to Tailgate!” The Ace of Cakes star travels around the US to see which tailgate team serves up the best grub in the game. These crazy drivers open up their back doors (quite literally) to the public, with eccentric foods such as Carrot LightSabers! Each team brings their own truck, grill and quirky attitude to see who has what it takes to be Guy Fieri’s ultimate tailgate warrior!


One episode sees football team rivalry heat up as East meets West in the car park, with the 49ers taking on the San Fransisco Raiders. The teams compete to impress the judging panel, to see who can pull off the tastiest ribs in just one hour. It’s a taste test against time!

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