Friday, 24 March 2017

Giveaway #616 : Win 2 x Drumond Park Wordsearch Junior - closing date 7/4

*** Check out our review of Wordsearch Junior - how young do the girls look ?! ***


Drumond Park's Wordsearch Junior (rrp £22.99, age 4 upwards) uses clever circular wordsearch grids, which become more advanced as the child progresses, as an exciting way to reinforce early reading skills. It can be played as a fun, fast-paced, multi-player race to find patterns, pictures (balls, animals, foods, etc.) and simple words, placing coloured counters over the images or letters on the turntable board when you spot them, or as a calmer one-on-one learning activity.

The nine double-sided circular puzzle disks have three different levels of play, covering a myriad of topics. Little ones can dive in straight away, searching for images and patterns on the starter-level blue picture pattern cards. The red level takes players through the picture hint cards – finding words with picture hints to help them. Using the green word-only cards, they’ll be looking for consonant clusters and vowel combinations - increasing their reading skills without even realising it!

For more information and stockists, visit

I have a Drumond Park Wordsearch Junior game to give away to two lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UK only. Closing date : 7/4/17

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 !

You may also like to enter my other giveaways :

Giveaway #615 : Win 2 x Anne of Green Gables on dvd - closing date 29/3

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Norway diaries : Climbing up Dalsnuten

This week, I'm on a teacher exchange project in Stavanger, Norway, and, although we're spending almost all our time in a conference room of the university working on a project about critical literacy, the Norwegian teachers did take us out on our first day to see some of the beautiful scenery. They all had loads of hats, gloves and scarves in their car boots so the first job was making sure we were all wrapped up warm enough.

That's not all they had though - despite the temperatures bouncing around zero and a few snowflakes falling from the sky, they gaily announced that we'd be having lunch outside and started unpacking water, cooking supplies and wood !

From the car park, we could see our destination - that big hill in the background. If you look closely, you can just see the little pillar on the top.

Stavanger is in the southwest of Norway and our hike was in Sandnes, the town just next to it. 

Dalsnuten has an altitude of 324 m and the excursion is described as "a refreshing walk through easy terrain to the summit which rewards you with a marvellous view". This is by Norwegian standards though and it involved lots of pretty energetic scrambling over slippery ice-covered rocks to reach the summit ! Picking our way back down was even trickier but it was worth it for the views.

Just a few metres from the car, the beautiful Norwegian scenery kicked in, with pure mountain lakes and woodland - Norwegian woods !

It's fabulously serene and untouched.

Our hosts said that we'd leave our provisions at the base of a tree and pick it all up a couple of hours later when we'd finished our hike. We laughed that if you did that in France or the UK, you'd come back and half of it would have disappeared ! They did say that this would be the same in the big towns but here in the mountains, there were just families so it was no problem. Sure enough, other people were leaving their food and possessions lying around in the woodlands.

There were a group of little wooden huts in a clearing in the woods that could be used by hikers and families as a rest stop. Little did we know that we'd find out more about them on the way back !

It was described as an easy walk but it was recommended to wear good walking boots - we soon found out why as we went stomping through waterlogged, boggy ground !

Then we climbed over the Norwegian version of a stile.

I didn't take many photos on the way up as it was complicated trying to find hand and foot holds and not slip on the rocks, but luckily the Sherpas had been through long ago to cut (very uneven) steps into the rock to help with the ascent. Two days later, I can still feel the burn in my thigh muscles though !

The mountain peaks in the distance were white with snow.

The wind really picked up as we reached the summit.

But the views out across the fjords made it all worthwhile.

The photos don't really do it justice.

But adding a couple of people to the photo gives you more of a sense of perspective.

This is the headteacher of one of the schools that we'll be visiting later in the week.

Right at the summit is the stone pillar (or cairn) that we could see from the car park.

There is a stone with a plaque telling you something but goodness knows what it says. Even if you could speak Norwegian, most of the letters have been rubbed off by the weather !

There is also a book for you to sign to say you reached the top.

I'm sure there must be a geocache lurking in one of these holes too !

A final look at the views and it was time to head back down - easier said than done, picking a path down through the rocks !

And back through the swamp !

The car park was full when we set out but we barely saw another person, except at the summit.

When our hosts had told us we'd be eating outside, we thought they were joking, but sure enough, we had a barbecue with snowflakes floating down around us !

The Norwegians had brought a big iron cooking tray, plastic food dishes, cups, cutlery, water, firewood and lots of vegetables that were already sizzling away by the time we got down to the base camp !

Next to us was a family with the kids cooking sausages on sticks which was really cute !

It was a bit smoky but the Norwegians even have a saying that the smoke always heads towards the prettiest girl. This makes you feel a bit better when you're spluttering and rubbing your eyes because the wind has changed direction !

On the way back, we stopped off at Sverd i Fjell, three 10 metre high bronze swords planted into the rock of a small hill next to the fjord to commemorate the historic Battle of Hafrsfjord in the year 872, when King Harald Fairhair gathered all of Norway under one crown. 

The largest sword represents the victorious Harald, and the two smaller swords represent the defeated kings. The monument also represents peace, since the swords are planted into solid rock, so they may never be removed.

We only took a quick photo though because the light was staring to fade and the wind was whipping across the fjord so it was freezing cold !

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Grrrr-eat fun with Schleich Dinosaurs (review)

You might remember me showing you a few weeks ago how much imaginative fun Pierre was having with some Schleich Wildlife figures. He was intrigued by the realistic detail, especially some of the anatomical features (!), and spent ages making up stories involving the various animals.

He was therefore delighted to receive some more Schleich models to add to his collection, this time from the Schleich Dinosaurs range. Generations of kids of both sexes have been fascinated by dinosaurs and although books and websites are the obvious first place for learning about them, involving hands-on playing is often a great educational booster. (I won't bore you with the psychobabble but the brain stores information better if you're using your hands and movement at the same time.)

The box contains the Feathered Raptors set which has an RRP of £13.99 and features Utahraptor, Velociraptor and Microraptor. I have to admit, I'm no expect in dinosaurs so, while I'd vaguely heard of velociraptor, I was not even aware of the names of the other two. I've done my homework though, with a little help from Schleich ! Dinosaur researchers found quills on the arms of a Velociraptor and flight feathers on Microraptor and they believe that Utahraptor had feathers too. However, none of the three was actually able to fly. Microraptor weighed at most one kilogram, Utahraptor around 5 kilograms. And there was me thinking all dinosaurs were big !

Most of them were though, to be fair, and at least I'd heard of the next Jurassic reptile and even knew a fair bit about it.

Tyrannosaurus Rex is called the King of the Dinosaurs and carries the Latin name rex, which means king. It is famous for its short arms, which were much more powerful than we would imagine. It could use them to lift as much as 200 kilograms. It was also one of the biggest land-based carnivores of all time. This T-Rex Mini has an RRP of £2.99.

The final figure was another Utahraptor, this time a Mini with an RRP of £2.99.

They are all highly detailed and scientifically realistic, so turning them around to look at them from all angles is a great way of learning more about them and spotting features that you may have skimmed over in books or online.

They are all also absolutely perfect for adding to the fabulous Schleich Giant Volcano that Pierre helped me review last year.

This huge playset (with an RRP of £99.99) already included a stegosaurus and a T-Rex but now, they have some new friends to play with or enemies to fight with, depending on which particular story Pierre has decided to act out this time. I absolutely love toys like this that are powered by a child's imagination rather than batteries.

See the full collection at

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

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Putting the squidge into breakfast with Soreen Fruit Toast Me's (review)

Soreen recently sent us through some packs of their new Fruit Toast Me's to try out. We all love their classic malt loaf - it's so rich and gooey and squishy and satisfying - but there is one thing that always annoys me : the loaf gets smaller and smaller as you go because it gets compressed every time you cut it (or is that just me ?!). I was keen to see if the Fruit Toast Me's would avoid this slight niggle of mine.

They come in a two-pack or a four-pack and visually, they reminded me of extremely brown hot cross buns ! They are described as raisin & malt toastable teacakes and in terms of flavour, I found them very similar to the regular malt loaf that we love.

I cut them in half (very badly, as you can see if you look at this photo closely ! I would have preferred for them to be pre-cut in half for convenience) and, for a real taste test, I smothered one half in butter straight from the pack and popped the other half under the grill before smearing on some butter.

We loved them both ways but toasting them does give them a lovely bit of crunchy crispiness before your teeth break through to the inimitable squidginess beneath. Other people like them with jam or honey, which seems superfluous to me as they're sweet enough as it is, or blue cheese, which could make for an interesting blend of flavours. I don't like blue cheese but I'd experiment with mature cheddar or brie, maybe.

Each 70g Toast Me provides 205 calories, not counting whatever you put on top !

RRP : £1.25 for 4

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

Monday, 20 March 2017

Norway diaries : A first look around Stavanger

This week, I'm in Stavanger, on a teacher exchange seminar with Norway, working on a European project based on Critical Literacy. We won't have much time outside of conference rooms and classrooms but as our hotel is right in the town centre, we managed to have a quick look around on Sunday morning.

As you can see, it snowed - quite unusual in Stavanger apparently, but the mountains in the distance are permanently snow-capped.

These white wooden buildings seem to be the most common here and we strolled up and down the pedestrianised streets, soaking up the Nordic atmosphere.

It was very quiet - all the people you see in the photos were in our group - but it was Sunday morning and everything was shut, which probably explains it.

We may be in Norway but they still have an Irish pub (we think). Alcohol is extremely expensive though so I'm not sure we'll be popping in !

Norwegian is the official language but people speak English pretty fluently and many signs are in English. It seems to be a country of extremes, love or hate !

I giggled at some of the quirky shop signs. This should be for a hairdresser's but it's actually a vintage clothes shop.

After all the white clapboard houses, we moved into a brightly coloured street.

We couldn't help but laugh because one of our teachers' clothes perfectly matched the colour scheme of this shop !

There's lots of street art dotted all over the town.

This one reminded me of trolls ...

... which was funny because five minutes later, we saw some in a shop window !

As well as the street art, there are an awful lot of statues dotted about.

Even with the shops being closed, there was lots to see.

You can't really see it from this photo but the bench slopes steeply downwards so it's hard to sit straight.

This appears to be a theme in Stavanger !

It's a really interesting place to wander around, with lots of old churches and this tower to discover.

This is the Domkirken or cathedral and there were lots of police and armed military wandering about. I asked at the hotel (this is literally two minutes away) and she said they were welcoming in a new bishop and the King of Norway was in attendance. We kept seeing women in traditional Norwegian costume walking past too.

 There is a little lake just next to the cathedral - I'm sure I'll have to pop back here because there is a geocache nearby ! 

Just next to our hotel there are several coffee bars and, despite the snow, they were all putting benches outside, complete with sheepskin rugs and warm throws !

It's a very compact town - we saw all of this in a half hour walk just around our hotel. Hopefully I'll be back to share some more news of our time in Norway over the coming days.