Friday, 29 July 2016

Madhouse Diaries : Smugglers Adventure/St Clements Caves, Hastings

We often come to Hastings to visit the Madhouse grandparents but, as it's my hometown, we usually bypass the tourist attractions (except for the amusement arcades on the seafront, which may possibly be the Madhouse kids' favourite place on earth !). This time though, we decided to go to Smugglers Adventure, located in and formerly known as St Clements Caves.

The caves have been used for many things in the past, from underground jazz club to world war two air raid shelter for 600 people.

They have been completely renovated as a state-of-the-art tourist attraction but still retain some of their original charm, as you creep through low tunnels and dark passages.

There is lots of atmospheric lighting to highlight natural rock features and the models depicting the history of smuggling in Hastings and the surrounding area, but you can also buy Smugglers Adventure branded torches at the entrance (or take your own along) which can help reassure younger children who might be slightly scared (like Pierre).

 There are lots of things to discover along the way, with video displays, buttons to press for audio descriptions in a choice of languages and signs to read. 

You can also see display cases of some of the seized goods and historic artefacts from the good old-bad old days of smuggling.

Child-friendly displays show younger visitors how the smugglers managed to get away with their illegal pursuits without being caught.

The educational video games and push-button interactive activities are very popular.

And there were lots of "wow, look Mum !" moments as we wandered around.

 And not just from the younger members of the family !

 There are plenty of photo opportunities and you can also buy a souvenir photo with a pirate-themed backdrop on the way out, if you want. We managed to squeeze all eight of us into shot which was worth a laugh !

The kids threw themselves heart and soul into trying out the different displays. Pierre certainly gave it his all (and had us in stitches !) when he had the chance to try to lift a very heavy weight with a pulley system.

The funniest display was definitely this one, where you had to put your hand in the holes to try to locate the lost booty and some of them had sound effects, like a barking dog or screeching cat, that made everyone jump.

We even found our own ways of making people jump, going on ahead and hiding in secret tunnels to leap out at the rest of the family when they rounded a corner. You're left to your own devices and go round at your own pace so you don't need to feel inhibited or crowded by other visitors. 

By now, the kids had got used to the semi-dark and were feeling much braver.

 Until we got to the graveyard and the prison cell, complete with prisoner who rattles the cage door when you least expect it, making you jump out of your skin !

 There are always unexpected things to discover, from wall carvings to skeletons hanging in a crevice.

It was just the right side of funny-scary and even Pierre, who needed lots of reassuring cuddles on the way round, said that he really enjoyed it.

Tickets cost £8 per adult, £6 per child, with family tickets available, but if you go to the Smugglers adventure website and buy your tickets online (at least one hour before you visit - click on "buy discounted tickets now"), you can get £1 off each ticket. There is also a combined ticket with two other Hastings attractions, Hastings Castle and Blue Reef Aquarium, which works out cheaper if you plan on visiting all three.

When it's SoHot, grab yourselves a Soho ! (review)

Pheweee, it's turned into a bit of a scorcher lately ! While kids are happy to strip off to their underwear and run through the lawn sprinkler or throw water bombs at each other to beat the heat, discerning adults need a slightly more sophisticated way of cooling down. A refreshing cocktail or mocktail always hits the spot when temperatures are soaring. Just hearing the sound of ice cubes clinking gently together and seeing droplets of condensation running down the side of the glass are enough to have you feeling chilled in moments.

The Soho Juice Co have launched  a new and innovative addition to the soft drink mixer market for 2016 which is perfect for seekers of summertime refreshment who want something a bit different. The Soho has been especially designed as the perfect cocktail accompaniment, as well as a standalone fruit juice soft drink, and is a deliciously different blend of cucumber, mint, lemon and lime juice. I was initially a bit dubious about having cucumber as an ingredient but it is a very refreshing, summery flavour, similar to melon, that is really brought alive by the mint and citrus top-notes. As has been pointed out to me by friends, the idea of adding cucumber to summer cocktails has already been adopted by anyone who loves Pimms, so Soho is a great way to ring the changes and give your summertime refreshments a vibrant, fresh overhaul.

Drunk on its own, with ice and a slice (of lemon, lime or cucumber, whatever you prefer), it's a sophisticated alternative to the usual soft drinks, that will be a welcome relief to designated drivers, pregnant women or non-drinkers who are fed up of sharing the kids' coke or opting for overly sweet fruit juices ! Where it really comes into its own, though, is as a tasty cocktail ingredient that will have your tastebuds tingling. 

You might like to try a Soho Foam, which is made with white rum and Soho mixed with lemon juice, honey and egg whites, shaken not stirred with a dash of bitter and topped with a leaf of fresh mint. It sounds very sophisticated and looks cool - I could see James Bond sipping on this ! -  but I don't think I could bring myself to drink raw egg whites, even if it is one of the personal favourite cocktails of the creators of the Soho Juice Co.

Much more up my street is the Ruby Highball - a blend of raspberry liqueur and gin, poured over crushed ice and topped with The Soho, then garnished with fresh berries, mint leaves and a slice of lemon.

The Soho Martini is another possibility and is made with gin, dry vermouth and a splash of Soho,

Or you could give an old classic a bit of a makeover with a Soho Margarita - a blend of tequila and Soho served in a salt-rimmed glass.

As I was feeling hot and thirsty, I decided I wanted a long drink so I mixed a bottle of strawberry and raspberry cider with a dash of limoncello and a glug of The Soho, adding a slice of cucumber to the rim. It was very nice and very refreshing and the Soho and limoncello cut through the sweetness of the cider.

What's your favourite summertime tipple ?

for more information :

Disclosure : We received a Soho Juice Co cocktail kit to optimise our summer refreshment !

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Madhouse recipe : BBQ Fried Chicken

I haven't had a deep fat fryer for years, having swapped over to an Actifry that we were sent to review years ago that was permanently adopted. I usually bake or roast chicken thighs but, as I had a few centimetres of vegetable oil in a pan after making prawn crackers, I decided to use it for cooking the chicken for a change. I never manage to recreate fakeaway KFC in the oven so maybe this would help mimic the Colonel's flavour ! As I was in the middle of a #KitchenClearout and was using up my bottles of BBQ sauce, I decided to use that in the coating which was very successful. Still nothing like KFC but very tasty nevertheless !

BBQ Fried Chicken

ingredients :

8 chicken thighs
1/2 a bottle of honey BBQ sauce (or similar)
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
salt, pepper
vegetable oil for frying

Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl. Pour over the BBQ sauce, salt and pepper and stir to coat evenly. Then throw in the breadcrumbs and toss around until all the chicken pieces are covered.

Heat the oil in the pan and drop a piece of breadcrumb coating in - if it bubbles up, it's hot enough. Put the chicken in and cook for 8 minutes on each side. Pierce with a knife in the deepest part of the meat and check that the juices run clear.

Drain on chicken paper to absorb excess grease. In honour of KFC, we ate this with Actifry chips and coleslaw but it would also be lovely with rice and mango salsa.

This used up a half bottle of BBQ sauce so I'm adding it to this month's #KitchenClearout linky.

Everything's Hunky Dory ! #FindingDory toys review

When school first broke up for the Madhouse kids, the weather was far from summery, so I told them that they could choose a film to go and see at the cinema. Their decision was instantaneous and unanimous : Finding Dory ! I have to admit, even as a grown-up, I thought it was a cute story and it was great to see Dory getting as much attention as her fin-tastic friend Nemo ! We were delighted to receive a selection of Dory toys to review, which have all been met with squeals of delight.

First of all, we discovered this box set of four Dory-themed jigsaw puzzles from The Disney Store. Each completed puzzle measures 28.5cm x 24.5cm but the pieces are different sizes, so they contain 16, 24, 32 and 48 pieces. This is a great way for young children to challenge themselves to gradually increase the difficulty of their puzzles.

The pieces are chunky, easy to slot into place and they stay firmly attached when you slice sections around on the table to move them into position. For added wow-factor, all four of the designs have sparkly foil detail in the pictures.

Pierre started off doing the first puzzle but big sister Juliette soon put in an appearance and started on another one ! With four puzzles to complete, there were plenty to go round so there was no squabbling.

It's a great way to while away a wet afternoon. My only very slight criticism is that they should have put the puzzles into resealable bags to help keep each one separate inside the box. (RRP £6.95)

We also received this gorgeously cuddly Dory toy from Disney Store (RRP £18.95), which Pierre can't stop hugging - he even ended up trying to perfect his fish face so that he could look just like her ! The attention to detail is amazing, with sparkly details, big expressive embroidered eyes and - our favourite thing of all - the yellow plastic tag on her fin, which you will recognise from the film if you've seen it. She's beautifully soft and the plush is so silky that you won't be able to resist stroking her. It's a pretty big toy (20 x 12 x 44cm approx) so it's perfect to use as a cushion when you've finished cuddling her at bedtime !

Zuru have also introduced a Finding Dory range to their popular ROBOFish collection (£9.99 each). As well as the Dory ROBOFish that we received, you can buy Nemo, Marlin and new character Bailey from the film, as well as a Dory Coffee Pot Playset just like in the movie and a Nemo Track Play Set complete with ROBOFish Nemo.

ROBOFish are water-activated so you just drop them in your bowl, bath, paddling pool or swimming pool and they'll go swimming around, using movements that mimic a real fish. They automatically stop when you take them out of water and dry them off and they have a “power save” mode, which automatically switches them off after one minute to save battery power. With the all-new ‘tap-tap mode’, just tap the side of the tank to reawaken your fish and enjoy more underwater fun. I was very impressed to see that not only do they come with batteries installed, you also get extras in the box - huge kudos to the manufacturers !

To celebrate the release of the much-anticipated Disney Pixar film Finding Dory, out in UK and Ireland cinemas on 29th July, Disney Store is hosting a series of exciting instore activities for kids and families taking place from 24th July to 3rd September. The Dory’s Quest activity, which takes place in Disney Stores across the UK and Ireland (except Covent Garden and Manchester Trafford Centre), sees guests take on the role of underwater explorers who will join Disney Store Cast Members to help Dory find her family, navigating around a giant board game to get Dory from start to finish. The journey takes Dory to many locations where she meets familiar and new characters from the film. Guests will undertake a range of tasks as Dory lands on different locations. They will learn about life under the sea, test their knowledge of the ocean, learn to speak whale and even test their memory in true Dory style. Sounds like a great way to keep the kids busy during the holidays.

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

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Giveaway #575 : Win Drumond Park's Sshh! Don't Wake Dad! game - closing date 21/8

Careful now … you can tiptoe about, working your way around each noisy hazard, but whatever you do …SSHH! Don’t Wake Dad!

Here’s another brilliant electronic board game from Drumond Park - the highly entertaining SSHH! Don’t Wake Dad! (rrp £22.99, for 2 to 4 players,age 5+). The central figure in this novel new game is a ‘Dad’ who snores loudly (yes, really!) throughout the game. And wait for it… he jumps bolt upright from his bed when he’s woken from his sleep by mischievous children on their way to find treats!

 The aim of this delightful new game is for young players to make their hungry way along a truly hazardous route from their own beds around -and even right over! – Dad, who is sleeping in the middle of the board.They’re all racing to reach the kitchen fridge - where a slice of tempting chocolate cake awaits. But on their way across the board, they have to avoid landing on the howling cat, the tinkling bell and the hooting owl… That’s because if one of them wakes the slumberous Dad from his dreams – Aaghh!!, he’ll rise up with a start and staring eyes… and send them scurrying back down the board - to where they left their slippers!

*** Head over to read our review and see how much fun we had ! ***

I'm delighted to have a Sshh! Don't Wake Dad! game to give away to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries via the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 21/8/16

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook, twitter 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 #574 : Win 5 x a 3-month subscription to Kidloland app - closing date 31/7

Drumond Park's Sshh ! Don't Wake Dad ! game (review)

Drumond Park recently launched a new electronic family game called Sshh ! Don't Wake Dad ! and it's had us in fits of giggles ever since it arrived !

After putting Dad to bed - you have to raise his arms, turn him over so that he's face down and press him into position, which sounds complicated but it only took Pierre seconds to work it out - you have to spin the spinner and move the cheeky tiptoeing children past the gently snoring dad to pinch the chocolate cake in the fridge.

There are even two squares on the bedsheets meaning that you have to scramble over the poor unsuspecting sleeping dad, which made the Madhouse kids laugh even more when they landed on them !

Along the way, there are all sorts of obstacles and booby traps, from drawing pins on the floor, a noisy cat's tail to step on and numerous toys scattered across the floor. If you have the card that corresponds to the space you land on, you're safe, but if you haven't, you have to push the alarm clock for the number of times on the square and hope that dad won't wake up.

If you do wake him up, he springs up into a sitting position and, even if you know it's going to happen, it still makes you jump every single time !


As you can see in this little clip - squeals and giggles guaranteed ! 

It's simple to set up and quick to play so children of all ages can have fun joining in, especially as it's purely down to chance when he wakes up so the odds of winning are pretty even, regardless of age.

 We often play board games here at The Madhouse but I will admit that for me, it's often more a case of parental duty than personal enjoyment. Sshh ! Don't Wake Dad ! is just as much fun for the grown-ups though and I've been asking to play it as much as the kids !

It's suitable for ages 5+ (but I think younger players would be fine, with supervision) and 2-4 players can play at any one time. If this looks like your sort of family fun, don't go away - I have a giveaway coming right up in my next post where you can win the game.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £22.99

For stockists and to play games online, visit

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