Sunday, 26 October 2014

Half-term fun with ALDI Halloween Specialbuys

If you're wondering what to do with the kids during half-term, ALDI have got everything covered. Firstly, they have a fab range of Halloween goodies in their Specialbuys range (but don't hang about - they hit the stores on 2nd October and are only there while stocks last).

Here's the complete product list :

Children’s Halloween mask : £0.79
Halloween gel stickers : £0.99
Halloween spiders web : £0.99
Children's Halloween tights : £1.29
Children’s Halloween headband : £1.49
Halloween hanging decorations : £1.49
Halloween wooden hanging signs : £1.49
Trick or treat bag : £1.49
Adults Halloween accessories : £1.99
Glow in the dark torch : £1.99
Glowsticks : £2.99
Halloween DVDs 1 : £2.99
Children's dressing up set : £3.99
Halloween battery operated lights : £3.99
Halloween table decoration : £3.99
Halloween Play-Doh : £4.99
Halloween berry lights : £4.99
Adults Halloween costume 2014 : £7.99

With prices that low, you could really go all out and decorate the whole house for Halloween ! ALDI sent us through some of the products and the Madhouse Mini-testers' absolute fave was the Halloween Bag of Play-Doh.

I regularly buy modelling clay for the kids to play with but, I must admit, I'd gone over to the cheapie poundshop version. Going back to proper Play-Doh was a revelation - that inimitable sweet smell is so nostalgic and it feels softer to play with. The kids also said the colours are brighter but to be honest, within a few hours of play, they are all mashed together into a purpley-brown mess anyway - that's all part of the learning experience though ! 15 mini tubs for under a fiver is a bargain and is the perfect boredom buster for half-term.

That's not the only trick (and treat) that ALDI have up their sleeves for keeping the kids entertained. They have put together a range of downloadable Halloween crafts, games and activities. We love the bunting and loot bags and unsurprisingly the kids loved the idea of wrapping rolls of toilet roll around each other for the Dress The Mummy game !

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

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Celebrate Halloween at Club Penguin!

Sunday Weigh-in : A Soup-er Week !

It seems so much longer than a week ago that I was in Poland - where is the time going ?! Poland was a 5-day-long mammoth eating contest with daily cooked breakfasts and three-course restaurant meals twice a day so I was relieved (and stunned) to only put on 1kg.

This week, I was on holiday with the kids so we managed to get in a few long geocaching walks and I've been cooking up lots of soups and veg-packed warming casseroles. I must admit, I do love autumnal comfort food.

I wanted to get back to my pre-Poland weight this week and I did, and then some ! The scales say 83.8kg, so that's a loss of 2.7kg this week - wow ! I have no doubt a lot of that is lost water (it was that time of the month last week) but even so, I'm over the moon ! That's got me way back on track for hitting my next target  - "get my "kg lost" badge back into double figures by Halloween". In fact, I've just done the maths and I've done it already - 9.9kg lost now, yay ! Ooh, on to the next target -  get my "weight loss" badge higher than my "still to go" badge

Positives of the week

Everything seemed to happen all by itself this week - I guess that shows the healthy eating and exercise has become normal routine, not requiring any effort on my part

- I had to go to the doctor for Sophie, he spotted my FitBug and asked about it. When I said I walked a lot, he asked how many steps and looked very impressed when I said 15000-18000 per day !

- My badges are hugely motivating today - from 7kg lost on the ticker to 10kg and the badges changed from 16lb lost/45lb to go to .... 22lb lost/39lb to go :)


- My Fitbug app smiley has changed again on my goal page ... so far, it's gone from this to this ...

... to this. Getting ever closer to a smile !

Current targets 

Last week's target : Get back on track. Track all meals on the FitBug. Hit my steps target every day on the FitBug. Listen to the SlimPod and the FitPod at least once. Get back to pre-Poland weight (85.5kg)

This week's targets :  I know it's not sustainable to have a loss like this every week so I'll aim for any loss. (Part of me is expecting the scales to go back to last week's weight and tell me the batteries need changing !!)

Short-term targets 21kg to lose sounds a lot but breaking it down, aiming for 1kg a week, that's only about 5 months -
first target, get my "weight to lose" badge down into the 40's (it's currently on 51lb) by next week (done),
 second goal - get back to 85.6kg, my pre-holiday weight, by the end of September(done)
third goal : get my "kg lost" badge back into double figures by Halloween
fourth goal : get my "weight loss" badge higher than my "still to go" badge
fifth goal : get back into my (smallest) bright blue jeans comfortably
sixth goal : get back to 77kg - my lowest weight since my pregnancies

Longer-term targets :  Hit my target weight of 68kg. 

STILL TO GO : 15.8kg

Feel free to add your weightloss posts to my weekly linkie - it's great to see how everyone else has been getting on and give each other support and encouragement. You can even grab the linkie code and add it to your own blog if you like. :)

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

 MyFitnessPal - Nutrition Facts For Foods

We Will Do It! Support Linky on The Purple Pumpkin Blog

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Unibond Aero 360° Pure Moisture Absorber System review

When The Insiders launched their latest campaign and explained how the Unibond Aero 360° Pure Moisture Absorber System can help get humidity levels down to healthy levels in your house, I knew I had to apply.

They provided a checklist of the signs to look for :

- Rooms with limited ventilation or big temperature differences between day and night-time
- Wallpaper peeling off, blistering paint, mould, mildew and damp patches etc.;
- Condensation and lingering bad smells around the house;
- The feeling of being cold or having a cold on a regular basis;
- General allergies and joint problems.

Well, I didn't even have to check the list. This is the nightmare section of our bedroom wall that is just awaiting repairs. Eeek - perfect for Halloween, not so great on a day to day basis though ! To be fair, there was a leak on the outside wall, which has now been fixed, but that corner has always been a problem area for damp. When the Moisture Absorber arrived, I knew where it would be installed.

It's dead easy to set up. You press the button to open the device, place the tab on the axle with the blue side facing downwards, close it up and place it in the room  at least 10cm from the wall. One tab (made from ultra-absorbent crystals) should last approximately 3 months in a 20m² room.

I was impressed that it needs no batteries or electricity and that it is very discreet - once it's there, it does its magic and you can forget all about it. The official write-up on The Insiders page said : "If you don’t notice any drops, the humidity level in your room is balanced", so I wasn't actually expecting it to do much, especially now that the leak has been fixed. I was stunned to see a couple of centimetres of water in the bottom within a few hours ! The great thing about the Aero 360° is that it's totally portable so I like to move it to the bathroom when the bath or shower are in use or put it next to the tumble drier or steam iron when they're on the go. You can literally see it working because you can see drops of water appearing in the bottom almost instantly.

If you know have a problem with damp or even if you just want to check how humid your house is, it's a great little product. It gets a bit addictive though and we all keep going to see how much water is in the bottom ! I probably wouldn't use it over the summer, when the windows are open and the house is naturally less damp, but over the colder months, it will definitely be on the go non stop.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP: £19.99 for UniBond® Aero 360 Device and £9.99 for UniBond® Aero 360 Refill Tabs (2X)
(Both Device and Refill are usually available at promotional prices in October, November and December & January.)

Available in the main Grocery stores (e.g. ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons), DIY stores (e.g. B&Q, Homebase, Robert Dyas etc.), Value retailers (e.g. Wilkinsons), Amazon and many other retailers.

Disclosure : As a member of The Insiders, I received the product in order to share honest feedback.

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Children's book review : The Girl Who Wasn't There - Karen McCombie

On the back of the book, The Girl Who Wasn't There is described as "a ghostly friendship mystery from a much-loved author". I was intrigued by this description but, having finished it, it's actually a good description, albeit a rather big spoiler !

Young teen Maisie has just moved house and school, with her dad taking up a new job as a school caretaker. While her big sister Clem stomps about in a bad mood because she hates the house and the fact that she's been uprooted, Maisie is relieved to have escaped her old school where her old best friends all turned against her after some mysterious incident. In a very short time, Maisie is delighted to find a new friend who she can share giggles and adventures with. Kat isn't like the other girls, and they soon find a common mission, trying to elucidate the mysterious ghost story focusing on the school art room.

I'm sure the title and the blurb on the back of the book have given the game away by now - Maisie soon discovers that her new best friend, Kat, is actually the ghost whose story they are trying to discover. It's a lovely tale of friendship but also of moving on and putting the past behind you - Kat needs to understand the past to be at peace and Maisie needs to realise that she can turn the page on all the bad things from her old school but they're not the only ghosts that need to be laid to rest.

It has some great life lessons - Maisie has to deal with the fallout from her old school but also get on with life after her mum's death - but it is above all an exciting and intriguing story that will appeal to tweens and young teens.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £6.99

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic (7 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1407138901
  • ISBN-13: 978-1407138909
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2 cm

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

Other reviews you may be interested in :

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Globe-cooking recipe : Maftoul Couscous (Jordan)

In last month's Jordanian-themed Kitchen Trotter box, there was a packet of maftoul, a large-grain, wholewheat, hand rolled and sundried couscous from Palestine.

Time to try out the accompanying recipe for Couscous Maftoul.

Maftoul Couscous

ingredients :

5 chicken thighs
250g maftoul
1tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
1tsp curcuma
1tsp cumin
250g chickpeas (tinned are fine or dried, but they'll need soaking overnight)
150cl chicken stock (boiling water + 2 stock cubes)

First brown the chicken on all sides and put it in a dish in the oven to keep cooking for 20 minutes. Prepare the chicken stock. Fry the onion in the chicken fat. 

Put half of the onion in a separate pot and reserve for the maftoul. Add the chicken to the onions (you may need a bigger pot) and sprinkle over half of the spices, plus some salt and pepper. Pour on half of the chicken stock and half of the chickpeas.

This needs to cook until the sauce has thickened and the juices run clear in the chicken - allow about half an hour.

Fifteen minutes before the chicken is cooked, reheat the onion, add the maftoul and gently fry for a couple of minutes. Add the remaining half of the spices, chickpeas and stock. 

Once it's reached almost boiling point, reduce the heat to very low, cover and leave to simmer for 15 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed.

Serve the maftoul, then the chicken and pour the chickpeas/onions sauce over the top.

I wasn't sure if it was a mistake in the recipe to put the same quantities of chickpeas, curcuma, cumin and stock in both pots. It does work but it would be easier to put all of the chickpeas in the maftoul really. I kept the kids' chicken in the oven rather than cook it in the sauce but I needn't have worried - it wasn't spicy at all.

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Globe-cooking recipe : Jaegerschnitzel (Germany)

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Madhouse Diaries : Exploring in Gravelines

Sophie wanted to go and visit one of her friends who lives in Gravelines, a 40 minute bus ride away. We decided it was a bit too far for her to go by herself so I told Juliette and Pierre that we'd go on an adventure and explore the town while she was at her friend's house. We started off by having a good look at the huge statue of a bull on the way into town.

Then we discovered vast colonies of mushrooms pushing their way up through the ground.

Pierre had brought his magnifying glass along to have a close look at anything interesting !

We just HAD to go geocaching ! To be honest, it isn't a great place for caches because most of them have disappeared or, as it's a fortified town with ramparts and moats, you often end up on the wrong side of a wall with no way of getting to the other side, but as always, the geocache coordinates gave us an idea of places to explore (and meant that we could find our way back to the bus stop to meet Sophie !).

The first cache took us to the Jardins de la Poudrière, where they used to store the gunpowder in times gone by. Pierre liked hiding behind the gate saying he was in prison !

We were surprised to see cabbages growing in a flower bed.

Especially as this one appeared to have a face !

From the town walls, we had a good view out to the channel that leads to the sea.

We explored lots of tunnels and spotted lots of statues.

Some were scarier than others !

Pierre liked the topiary because the trees look like the ones he draws !

The gardeners of Gravelines have done themselves proud. We discovered a horse and cart made entirely out of foliage.

There was even a snail made of plants !

The Jardin de la Liberté is a very pretty garden that must demand hours of upkeep.

There's even a pretty little bandstand.

After examining the insects, it was time to move on !

We headed out of the town walls into the surrounding woodland. A big tree stump made a great seat when we needed a rest. (We walked 12km in total so I can't blame them !)

Into the woods, crunching through the leaves ...

Ooh another sports trail - the hurdles got used for doing rolypolies !

And swinging off the bars is much more fun than doing pull-ups.

Skipping off to see what's around the corner ...

Yay, a climbing frame !

And slides ! (Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is great fun !)

Ooh, it's time to go and get the bus home already. Where did the afternoon go ?!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Madhouse diaries : Visiting Gdansk (Danzig) in Poland