Monday 31 October 2016

Going up and going down in Lanzarote ! #WhatsYourAdventure

Trips100 have teamed up with The Family Adventure Company to inspire people to travel a little more adventurously this year, even with kids in tow, and they've asked bloggers to create a blog post sharing their most memorable family travel adventure. I always think it's sad when people say they can't go abroad because they have young children - Pierre is only six and he's already been to Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Lanzarote, as well as various regions of France and the UK. The first time we took him on holiday, he wasn't even a year old but with a combination of breastfeeding and a baby carrier that folded up so small that it could go in our hand luggage, he really was no trouble at all !

Trying to decide on one extra-special family holiday memory was tough - coming across a herd of wild camels in the mountains in Morocco was pretty spectacular, as was wandering around the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey - but I think, in terms of unique, unforgettable adventures, we hit a high point this year in Lanzarote.

The first glimpse of Lanzarote can be quite unsettling because it looks like you've landed on the moon ! It's rocky, black and totally barren with endless lava fields as far as the eye can see. We couldn't come to Lanzarote and not get up close to the volcanoes, so a trip to Timanfaya National Park was definitely on the cards.

The highlight of the trip, especially as far as Pierre was concerned (he'd have stayed there watching it all day !), was watching a man pouring water down a hole where it was turned into steam by the underground heat and thrown up in a pretty impressive water spout. This guy definitely must have the most enjoyable job in the world, especially as it always makes everyone jump and squeal !

If you want to tick off another "unique experience" box, how about eating chicken cooked over the heat of a volcano ?! Unfortunately, it was mid-morning when we visited, to avoid the rush later in the day, so it was too early to stop for lunch. I'd like to say that we'll do it some other day, but let's be honest, it's highly unlikely !

We did manage to have another totally unique experience though - going down to the sea bed in a yellow submarine !

Pierre was slightly apprehensive but even more excited as we clambered down the ladder and took our seats.

Before long, we were pointing out passing fish and looking at a couple of sunken fishing boats.

Just before heading back up to the surface, a diver came past the porthole, releasing food to attract more fish for us to see.

We'd mentioned that it was Sophie's birthday when we booked, but it was a huge surprise for all of us when the diver swam past holding up a happy birthday sign for her !

Definitely a totally unforgettable experience - and she even got to keep the sign as a special souvenir when we resurfaced !

The question is, where will we go next? We're debating Cuba, or maybe Bulgaria or Corsica. I'd love to go somewhere really far flung where everything, from the landscapes and food to daily life, would be totally exotic and different to what we already know. 

Disclosure : This is my entry for the Trips100/Family Adventure Company blogger challenge.

Kazoops album : Just Imagine – Volume 1 (review)

This summer saw the release of Kazoops, a brand new CBeebies show, which features a six-year-old boy called Monty, who challenges life’s questions both big and small with the help of his limitless imagination and his best friend, Jimmy Jones, the family pet pig. In each episode, the duo enters make-believe worlds to challenge everyday preconceptions such as ‘do things have to be the same all the time?’ or ‘do all games really need rules?’

One of the key elements of the show's success is its music, which is now available in a brand new album Just Imagine – Volume 1. A total of 20 songs from the popular series are included in this first album, and digital service providers include iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora and Youtube. Fans of the pre-school TV series will be able to either buy the album and individual songs or alternatively stream the music online.

What makes the music so special is the variety of genres and whimsical combination of guitars, ukuleles, drums, glockenspiels, retro synths, string vocals and more. Each episode contains a unique song which highlights the magic and power of a child’s imagination, while familiarising young listeners with styles and instruments that they probably haven't heard before.

Patrick Egerton, Executive Producer, Cheeky Little Media, commented: “Music pervades Kazoops at all levels, and not just because each episode contains a unique song. The seed of the series concept came from our song writer and performer Scott Langley. He had written these amazing songs about a boy and a pig who went on imaginary journeys. When we heard how ‘grown-up’ the music was, and how clever and funny Scott’s lyrics were, we knew we had the start of something cool for a pre-school audience. The songs are key to the show, and give us these visually rich adventures at the centre of each episode that are crucial to the story but can also stand alone as mini-music videos in their own right.”

The album will launch in English, followed by a subsequent music release in 2017 in 18 other languages. We've been listening to some of the songs and our favourite is the Dinosaurus Games song, which you can listen to by clicking on the button below to see the youtube video.

Pierre loves the patchwork effects of the graphics and the fun lyrics, including an impressive number of dinosaur names. As a parent, I love the fact that they are not headachey and inane, like many children's songs.

You can buy each individual song or the whole mp3 album of 20 songs for £7.99.

This month's culinary journey is now boarding - destination The Philippines !

This month's Kitchen Trotter box is taking us to the Philippines. I only have one recipe on my blog so far from the Philippines - turon, or caramelised banana egg rolls - and they were delicious so I have high hopes for this destination.

The first thing out of the box was a bag of dried green mangoes, followed by garlic flavour corn snacks.

Next was a jar of coconut sport in heavy syrup, then a sachet of sinigang seasoning mix for tamarind soup.

There was also a tub of shrimp paste (I still have one from the Indonesian box) and some rocou seeds, mainly used for colouring in rice dishes and sauces. There was a sheet of stickers which appealed to my globecooking mentality.

 There should also have been a bottle of banana ketchup but there was a problem with deliveries due to a tropical storm, so they will be sending this on later and have provided a recipe to make your own for the time being.

On to the recipes - first is sinigang soup, a mild fish soup.

The main meal is binagoongan talong, which is hopefully easier to make than it is to pronounce ! A pork dish with flavours of the sea apparently - sounds intriguing !

Next is Java rice, which can be served with the aforementioned binagoongan talong.

And for dessert, a bukayo-style coconut creme.

The bonus gift in this month's kit is a bag of incense cones - they might come in handy after cooking with the shrimp paste ! I'll be back soon to tell you how I got on and share the recipes.

Savisto Ice Cream Maker review

Savisto is a newly launched company that specialises in homeware and kitchen accessories, with a focus on modern, innovative cooking and meal prep accessories for style-conscious homeowners. They intend to stand out from the competition by offering quality products at competitive prices. That sounded good to me, so when they asked if we'd like to review something from their range, I popped over for a look and something immediately caught my eye. Over the summer, my mother-in-law regaled us with her sumptuous homemade ice creams - I must ask her for the recipes for her salted caramel, mango and coconut milk versions - so I plumped for an ice cream maker.

I had no idea where to begin with making homemade ice cream, but luckily, the ice cream maker comes with both an instruction guide and a recipe book, containing a multitude of ideas for ice creams and sorbets, but also sauces and toppings. There are some really unusual ideas alongside all the traditional flavours, so you're bound to find something that appeals to you.

The first step is putting the bowl part of the machine in the freezer overnight. It needs to be kept upright but it fits in our freezer drawer with no problem. Check the dimensions though and make sure your freezer isn't fit to bursting with frozen food when you want to use it !

I decided to start off with a very basic recipe for vanilla ice cream - the first one in the book, in fact. This required ... get ready for this ! ... FIVE egg yolks mixed in with some sugar.

The remaining ingredients should be simple - full fat milk and double cream - but I had wrongly assumed that blending the semi skimmed milk, full fat crème fraîche and marscapone that were in the fridge would do the job.

When I heated them together in a pan, rather than creating a thick, creamy base to mix with the eggs, it separated and looked horribly curdled like cottage cheese. A quick look online saved the day - some people said they made "cheat's ice cream" by mixing equal parts of milk and cream with the eggs/sugar, then the vanilla extract, without ever heating it.

I decided to give this a go and retrieved the frozen bowl from the freezer - it would have been nice to have an insulated handle to hold as I carried it back to the kitchen, rather than almost giving myself freezer burn ! The plastic paddle is easy to slot into place - it seemed a bit flimsy but it did the job perfectly - then you clip the motor/paddle unit to the top of the bowl, plug it in and you're good to go.

There are just two buttons - power and reset. It switches on with the timer automatically programmed to 40 minutes but you can press reset then add time by 5 minute increments. Twenty minutes should do it. Apparently over-churning can make your ice cream too hard so don't leave it on for the full forty minutes. There is an opening to allow you to pour in your ice cream mixture.

And that's it ! Leave it to do its stuff, not forgetting to add in any inclusions such as nuts or biscuit pieces, and when you come back twenty minutes later, you'll have ice cream !

Ours had the consistency of Mr Whippy type ice cream and was utterly delicious - really smooth and creamy with a lovely vanilla flavour. If you want a firmer texture, you could put it in the freezer for a while to firm up.

There was no way the kids were going to wait that long though ! There was plenty for five generous bowlfuls and the kids said I definitely had to make more. I can see this will be used a lot so after washing out the bowl, I'll be putting it straight back in the freezer so it's ready and waiting for the next time we want to use it.

Here's a quick video to see it in action. I love the look of the strawberry ice cream - I may have to try that next !

For the price, I think it's a great piece of kit - it is currently £34.99, was £44.95, with free UK delivery, and if you sign up to their newsletter, you are entitled to 20% off your first order. 

star rating : 4.5/5

for more information :

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

Sunday 30 October 2016

Project Mc2 McKeyla's Light Bulb Doll review

We've already reviewed a couple of the Project Mc2 dolls - click through to see what we thought of the McKeyla's Lava Light Doll and Bryden's Light Up Bracelet Doll - so when the opportunity arose to review another one, we jumped at the chance. 

What I love about the Mc2 dolls as a parent is that they offer such positive female role models and promote the idea that S.T.E.A.M subjects (that’s science, technology, engineering, art and maths) are cool, not geeky. Forget the likes of Velma and other nerdy, unflattering representations of girls who are a whizz at science and maths. The Mc2 girls are as beautiful and funky as the fashion dolls like Bratz, while offering a fresh-faced, wholesome look and clothes that you wouldn't mind your tween-aged daughters copying.

McKeyla is fully poseable and articulated so she can sit up unaided. She also comes with a few accessories, including a comb for her luscious long locks (some of her hair tends to fall out if you brush it too enthusiastically though !) which is in the shape of a beaker, showing that a love of science and beauty are not mutually exclusive !

She also has a very funky owl backpack that can be opened and closed.

But the most exciting accessory is her light bulb, because it can be used to carry out a fun but educational science experiment in your own home. Most people know that wires conduct electricity, but this experiment will show that tap water can as well. To turn on the light, you need electricity to flow from the battery to the light and back in a complete circuit. Turning the bulb right side up allows electricity to flow through the water and reach the light.

Adding glycerine thickens the water, making it more like syrup, so the glitter will fall slower. So far, I've failed to find glycerine in the shops - someone suggested I could use a little golden syrup or similar instead, but I'm worried about messing it up, so it's been put on hold at the moment.

The really cool thing about Mc2 is that the dolls relate to a Netflix Original show which launched last summer. This summer and autumn saw the franchise return with two new seasons (six episodes in August, six episodes in October), new stories, new products and two new characters, Devon D’Marco and Ember Evergreen, joining the four original members of secret organisation NOV8 (aka innovate), McKeyla McAlister, Adrienne Attoms, Bryden Bandweth and Camryn Coyle. As well as promoting STEAM subjects, themes such as hacking, cyber bullying, anarchy and the threat of technology blackouts are all tackled in the show.

Whether or not your children have watched the Netflix show, it is incredibly cool to see the doll "come to life" with the real life actress, wearing the same clothes as her mini-me, carrying out the experiment to show you what to do. 

Other doll with experiment sets available in the range include Create your own colourful and scented bath fizz with Project Mc²'s culinary chemist, Adrienne Attoms, Create your own colourful puffy paint with Project Mc²'s artist extraordinaire, Devon D'Marco and Build your own hanging garden/terrarium with Project Mc²'s earthy scientist, Ember Evergreen.

Christmas is just around the corner and would be a great time to start a collection of the STEAM Dream Team dolls !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £24.99

Watch Project Mc2 on Netflix – with exclusive content on AwesomenessTV and Dreamworks TV

Play games and find out all the information at

Download the Project Mc2 Case Files App at the App Store

Follow on Facebook (Project Mc2 UK), twitter (@ProjectMc2UK) and Instagram (Project_Mc2UK)

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

Madhouse diaries : Getting into the mood for Halloween !

Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaa ! Happy Halloween ! Here at The Madhouse, things have been getting very spooky lately - we've been making spider cupcakes, monster bagels, a graveyard cheesecake, Night Terror Tortemarshmallow brains, a pizza box Minion vampire and I'm sure we're not done yet !

To get even more into the spooky spirit, we went to visit our local zoo which was holding a Halloween-themed crafts session.

They'd dotted lots of pumpkins around the animal enclosures which provided some lovely splashes of colour.

As well as this gruesome zombie head coming out of the ground - ewww !

There was a surprise waiting for us in the underwater viewing area for the seals. Don't turn around, Sophie !

It's behind you !

There was a spooky treasure hunt which involved running around the zoo looking for the answers to questions about the animals, which in turn revealed the missing letters in a secret message. Once you had that, you had to go and say it to a man dressed as a witch, who gave you a mysterious scroll. This was a second series of questions which revealed the combination for a safe, which contained tickets for a diploma on the way out.

It was a fun way to spend an autumn afternoon and the weather was gorgeous - we'd taken coats and jumpers but all ended up too hot.

To help us get even more into the spirit of Halloween, Circus Circus sent us a selection of spooky goodies - fake blood, horror fangs and spooky white make up.

I'm not sure how the Madhouse kids will be dressing up this year for trick or treating but I've no doubt they'll be put to good use !
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