Friday, 17 August 2018

Schleich Bayala Unicorns review

Schleich figures are always so realistic and highly detailed that they are a great way for children to discover animals that they may not be able to get close to in real life, whether that be because they live in exotic lands, such as the Schleich wildlife figures that Pierre was totally fascinated by (in particular the chimpanzee !), or a completely different time period, like the Schleich dinosaurs that we also reviewed. Schleich also has a magical collection featuring the mystical, mythical creatures that inhabit the enchanting world of Bayala though. Along with the elves, mermaids and flying horses, there are now a selection of beautiful unicorn figures to add to your collection.

We received two of the new models and while it may be paradoxical to talk about realism when discussing unicorns, if you look at them as horses, there is no denying that the high quality paintwork and attention to detail really make them look lifelike. They also stand up really well and don't keep falling over, which is great news when your children are letting their imaginations run wild and creating make-believe fairy stories in the fantasy land.

The first figure is not actually a unicorn but rather a pegasus, or mythical winged horse. Some of the figures are doubly magical, being both a unicorn and a pegasus. This is the Decorated Pegasus Stallion (Item number: 70574) and we love the intricate embellishments painted on his body, his impressive shimmery wings and the luscious mane and tail. If you need a little inspiration for your imaginative roleplay, the Schleich website is a great place to start : "When the magnificent Pegasus spreads his shimmering wings and soars into the sky, you can see what a majestic creature he is. Elves often stop by, comb his glistening mane and decorate him with flowers – and he loves the attention. He now spends all day protecting his little foal and slowly teaching him how to fly. Would you like to fly with them?" They even add little fun facts : " A Pegasus flies as fast as the wind. It is the fastest creature in all of Bayala." 

Our second figure was the Decorated Unicorn Mare (Item number: 70573) who makes up for her lack of wings with the mythical horn in the middle of her forehead. "The unicorn mare lives with her family in a glade, not far from Soleyas. She loves watching her foal playing and delights over visits from the elves, who adorn her with flowers and beads. You can help your elf friends to do this!" With her beautiful shades of pastel pink, her highly detailed decorative accessories and her elegant, almost regal, way of standing with her hooves delicately poised on tip-toes, any little unicorn-fan could not fail to be blown away.

Other new additions to the range include rainbow unicorns, unicorn and pegasus foals, a feather foal and a special blue king foal, who have matching colour schemes with some of the elves from the Bayala collection.

Having spent the last two weeks bobbing about in a pool on holiday, avoiding giant inflatable unicorns floating past bearing as many adults as children, I think it's safe to say that the new additions to the range are bound to appeal to any fans of mystical creatures and fantasy lands, whatever their age. They retail at £14.99 and, given the long-lasting quality that is synonymous with the Schleich brand, they are a great investment, as they can be played with for a long time, even when putting up with some fairly rough treatment in the sand pit and shady glades (otherwise known as flowerbeds) in the back garden !

for more information :

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

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Giveaway #689 : Win a three-month supply of the Proceive Women & Men Dual Pack (worth over £130) - closing date 31/8

Advanced fertility supplement Proceive supports National Fertility Awareness Week

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With deep understanding and expertise in the emotional and physical challenges 1 in 6 couples face on their conception journey, Proceive offers more than just superior nutritional support.

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The range consists of five fertility and preconception nutritional supplements:

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Proceive Women Max contains 33 vitamins and minerals and is designed for women over 35 years of age or women over 18, who have been trying for a baby for 12 months or more.

Proceive Dual Pack for him and her: the PROCEIVE WOMEN pack and the PROCEIVE MEN pack

Proceive Men is designed to support the nutritional demands of the male reproductive system. Key benefits of Proceive Men include healthy sperm support, energy support, antioxidant supports and blood flow support.

Proceive Men Max contains 33 vitamins and minerals for men and is designed for men over 40 or any men over 18 years of age who have been trying for a baby for 12 months or more.

Take Baby Steps. Take Proceive.
Be #ConceptionBodyReady with Proceive, the UK’s most advanced fertility supplement

Proceive is sold via Holland and Barrett but can also be purchased online via the Proceive website.

Instagram: @ProceiveGB Twitter: @ProceiveGB Facebook:

Proceive have kindly offered to give away a three-month supply of the Proceive Women & Men Dual Pack (worth over £130) to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries via the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UK only. Closing date : 31/8/18

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after 28 days, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. The winners' personal contact information will be passed on to the PR / Brand responsible and used only for delivery of their prize. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Book review : Wrapped in White - Kevin Brooks

I can never resist the 3 for £5 crime fiction section of The Works, so when I spotted this one on the shelf with a sale sticker on it for £1, it was a no-brainer - that's even cheaper than a magazine !

Wrapped in White is the third novel featuring private investigator John Craine. I've already read and reviewed the second one, Until The Darkness Comes, but you don't need any background information from the previous episodes to fully understand and appreciate this one.

John Craine is approached to investigate the brutal murder of a young Somali man. The police are writing it off as a drug-related gang crime, but the boy's family think it's a cover-up. Before he has a chance to get his teeth into the new case, news arrives that his friend and mentor (not to mention father figure, since his own father's death several years ago) Leon Mercer has been killed in a tragic house fire, along with his wife. It doesn't take long to realise that both cases are deeply suspicious, but, as John starts digging, his nemesis - bent cop Mick Bishop - comes to warn him off. Mick may not care much for his own life, but he does have to think about the safety of his loved ones.

Although John's heart is undoubtedly in the right place, he is a very hard character to like and empathise with. He is an alcoholic and he takes a lot of hard drugs, yet he constantly drives everywhere, even when he knows he shouldn't. He has blackouts and stomach pain, but won't face up to or deal with his health issues and addictions. The same is true with the problems in his private life - both with his current and former girlfriend. He just seems to go with the flow, drifting along with no idea where the tide of drugs and alcohol will take him. I just wanted to give him a shake and tell him to grow a backbone and take control of his life. 

I felt that there were a lot of loose ends thrown out there that were never tied up or even really developed - the initial murder fades into the background (the aunt who employed him never even gets another mention), the big boss of the seedy underworld is let off the hook, his woman troubles are left undealt with ... he gets closure on a couple of thorny issues but many more are left hanging, which was unsatisfying as a reader. It's a fast-paced, action-packed read that could hit the spot if you want an exciting thriller to devour by the pool with minimum effort, but one to avoid if you're feeling depressed as it's all very bleak.

star rating : 3.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (11 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009955383X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099553830

Monday, 13 August 2018

Hastings diaries : North's Seat

When we were visiting the Madhouse grandparents last month, it was lovely to go out wandering around all my old childhood haunts with the kids. This little track which runs up the side of the fence from Hastings Academy, which was Hillcrest Comprehensive in my day, will forever remind me of muddy, drizzly cross country runs (or, more often than not, cross country grumbling walks) during school PE lessons !

We didn't appreciate the scenery back then (and, to be fair, it was an autumn/winter activity so not when it was at its best) but this is all actually part of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve.

We didn't see any animals but there are loads of pretty flowers to look at, including lots of wild foxgloves. The manmade additions to the landscape are quite impressive too.

I love the way it's all been left wild to do its own thing, with rosebay willowherb, also known as fireweed, covering vast swathes.

Some areas have been fenced off as protected wildflower meadows.

How can these be classed as weeds?!

 Standing 575 feet above sea level, North's Seat is the highest point in the town, and you can see for more than 60 miles across the Downs and Weald in the westerly direction. On a clear day, rumour has it that you can even see the coast of France with the naked eye!

A strategically placed fence for leaning on while you take in the great views !

There was once a windmill on this spot, which was destroyed by fire in 1872, and later a look-out platform, which was used as a look-out during the Second World War, but it was vandalised and removed when I was a kid, back in the eighties.

It was replaced by two seats, with a large round direction plaque, which helps you know what you're looking at.

By now, dusk was drawing in, so it was time to head for home.

It's all well signposted, with numerous stiles and gates, and there are various paths you can follow.

Some of them are a bit overgrown though !

This was at the start of July and it was already looking dry and in desperate need of some rain.

The horses were already covered up and ready for bed, so it was time for us to head for home too.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Book review : Dark Pines - Will Dean

A little while ago, I was lucky enough to win a copy of the gripping thriller Dark Pines in a twitter competition and, along with the book, author Will Dean kindly sent me a little piece of Scandinavian pine forest to really immerse myself into the story ! With the atmospheric descriptions of a frigid Swedish village on the edge of a dark and menacing forest, it was the perfect reading during the recent heatwave, as it gave me the impression I was brushing ice crystals off my eyelashes rather than sweating my socks off !

The leading lady is deaf newspaper reporter Tuva Moodyson, currently working for a small-time local newspaper while she is staying close to home for her ailing mother, but hoping for bigger and better things. All journalists live in the hope of finding the one story that will make their career and Tuva has struck gold. Two bodies are discovered in the thick forest around the town, both presumably killed by the same murderer as they both have their eyes removed. Even more worryingly, these horrific crimes echo an unsolved murder from twenty years ago. Is it a coincidence, a copycat murder or is a serial killer back on the prowl?

You need to be a special kind of person to enjoy living almost off the grid in the remote Swedish backwoods, so as Tuva looks around for suspects, she unearths a motley crew of eccentric residents, including a pair of Norwegian troll-making sisters, a reclusive ghost-writer, a taxi-driving single dad and numerous macho huntsmen. As she uncovers secrets and reveals the darker side of life in the remote village to the outside world, Tuva seems to be annoying the locals, including the police. Is she getting closer to unmasking the culprit or are her gut feelings way off the mark?

It's a slow-paced, rather claustrophobic tale with only a handful of residents, and therefore suspects, in the village, surrounded by the sinister, unfathomable depths of Utgard forest. As Tuva constantly returns to the same suspects and the same places, you get the sense that there is no escape and the sheer size and density of the forest makes its human dwellers seem insignificant. Tuva feels constantly unnerved as she strays away from the road and into the trees and as a reader, it is easy to understand and ultimately share the intrepid reporter's sense of unease. Tuva is an intriguing character - I'm sure she has her own share of deep dark secrets hiding just out of reach - and, as this book is the first Tuva Moodyson mystery, I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series and discovering more about its multi-faceted central character.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Point Blank (14 Jun. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1786073854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1786073853

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Globecooking recipe : Blanquette de veau - creamy veal stew (France)

First things first, this is not a traditional version of blanquette de veau - the potatoes should be cooked separately and it should be left to bubble away on the hob for an hour or so with the carrots in with the meat, so if you're looking for a classic recipe, move along ! This is a #KitchenClearout version that was designed to wind down the fridge and use up all the perishables before we went on holiday. I would have loved to have added leeks and mushrooms to the meat, but I didn't have any in the fridge. If, for ethical reasons, you don't like the idea of cooking with veal, you could use chicken or pork instead and it wouldn't change the dish much.

Blanquette de veau

ingredients :

knob of butter
1 onion
400g veal/chicken/pork, cut into strips
salt, pepper, garlic granules
(2-3 mushrooms/ 1 leek if you have them)
2 carrots
4 potatoes
30cl crème fraîche
2 egg yolks
squeeze of lemon juice

It's way too hot to be slaving over a stove for hours on end, so to speed things up, I started off by chopping the potatoes and carrots into smallish pieces and boiling them in salted water for 10-15 minutes, while I prepared the meat.

Melt a large knob of butter (salted is best) in a pan and gently fry the onions until they start to go soft and translucent.

Add the meat chopped into thin strips and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. If using, add the mushrooms and leeks at this point. Season with salt, pepper and garlic granules.

Whisk the egg yolks into the crème fraîche and add the lemon juice.

Drain the carrots and potatoes and add to the meat. (Or keep separate if you want to be more traditional, but reduce the amount of cream.) Toss through the meat.

On a very low heat (to avoid the eggs scrambling), pour in the cream mixture and heat through, stirring, until it just warms up and starts soaking into the potatoes.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up all my fresh veg, cream and eggs.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Hastings diaries : Park life !

Every time we go to Hastings, we always have to go to Alexandra Park to feed the squirrels. Last time we visited, there weren't many to be seen, but this time they were back in force.

They're very tame and come really close. Even when they scamper off when a dog comes running towards them, they soon come back once the danger has passed, tempted by our peanuts.

This video from a few years ago (4 years in fact - the kids have grown up so much ! And it's lovely to have special memories of Madhouse Daddy) shows them coming right up to eat out of our hands.

This time, they weren't quite so tame but they did come very close so we still got some great photos.

From here we walked up past the reservoir, which offered a slight fresh breeze in the sweltering heat.

Then on to the fishing lakes and the swannery. In one pond, there were masses of waterlilies.

We couldn't spot any frogs hiding amongst the lilypads, but there were some waterlily flowers peeking through.

This is the wilder end of the park and the shady paths were perfect for beating the heat.

We'd picked the top path, which turned out to be a bad idea, because Pierre dropped his brand new football (which he'd chosen with his birthday money) and it rolled all the way down to the lower bank.

He ran all the way round and managed to get it back though. I'm sure the squirrels were sniggering !

There were no swans in the swannery, but there were some ducks, lots of seagulls and a lone cormorant.

We commandeered a couple of benches and got in some selfie practice !

*sigh* There's always one !

We almost got photobombed by this little fella - I'm not sure if he's a rat or a vole but he was certainly not shy, coming up to a couple of feet away.

You can't have a trip to the park without going on the swings, so that was our final stop.

I like the way they've incorporated natural elements into the equipment in some places. Watch out for the alligator's teeth !

Poor old Madhouse Grandad got roped in to playing football - I was just glad it wasn't me for once !

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