Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Madhouse Mini Testers have joined the John Lewis Little Panel !

As a mum, it always startles me to see just how early on kids have a definite view of what they do and don't like - not just in terms of food but also clothes and even home furnishings. Try getting a four-year-old to wear clothes you've picked out specially if they've got it in their heads that they're having a pink or blue day and you'll realise just how strong their viewpoints are !

It therefore made great sense to me when I learnt that John Lewis had appointed a new set of product experts to help it appeal to an even wider range of customers: a ‘Little Panel’ of six 6 and 7-year-olds who will help to shape the department store's Children's Rooms homeware range.

The panel, from East London's Maryland Primary School in Stratford, have named new product items, as well as writing product descriptions which can be easily understood by children of the same age - a first for the retailer, and I'd even go so far as to say all retailers.

John Lewis asked the Madhouse Mini-testers if they'd like to get in on the fun and sent over a few products for them to try out and review. Here's what we received :

And here's the Madhouse Mini-testers' verdict :

Animal Fun Tommy The Monkey Soft Toy (£10) - "he's a cuddly toy in the shape of a monkey. He's funny because he's got a big smile and a big tummy. He's nice and snuggly when I take him to bed but he's a bit naughty in the middle of the night !"

Rainbow Flower Colour Changing LED Line Light, Multi, x25 (£30) - "I love these pretty lights because they are so beautiful and make my bedroom look like a fairy princess palace or magic grotto. They're very special because they look like flowers but change colours like a rainbow. I love them because it's like having fairy lights all the time even when it's not Christmas."

Abbey Elephant Plush Shaped Cushion (£15) - "This is a very soft cushion but it could also be a toy. She's very pretty with all her different colours and the dots around her eye. She looks very bright and colourful so she could be a girlfriend for Elmer the Patchwork Elephant !"

Animal Fun Wall Stickers (£15) - "Look, it's the monkey from the toy ! That's so cool ! I wish I could have all my other toys as stickers on the wall - that would be really good. They're really good for covering up all the holes in the paint on the walls where I pulled off my pictures. Now my bedroom looks really pretty and nobody can see the holes !"

Maybe I should take a leaf out of John Lewis's book and give the Madhouse Mini-testers free reign to express their views more often ! What do you think ? They certainly tell it like it is !

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

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Celebrate Halloween at Club Penguin!

WeightWatchers Cake-inspired Hot Chocolate review

One of the hardest things about being on a diet or trying to reduce your calorie-intake is getting a craving for chocolate. Once the thought has crossed your mind that you want to indulge in a bar of chocolate, it stays there until you give in, tempting you to eat a whole family-sized bar rather than just a couple of squares if you wait too long ! If you're a bit of a chocohalic, WeightWatchers have just come up with a great ally - their new hot chocolates.

I couldn't believe it when I saw the flavours -  Jaffa Cake, Cappuccino Cream Cake and Chocolate Cherry Brownie ! I The hardest part was deciding which one to sample first ! With only 1 ProPoint and 38 calories per serving and no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, they're the perfect guilt-free treat when you want something chocolatey to fill your tum mid afternoon. They're also ideal for warming us all up when we get home from the school run on a cold, drizzly day.

So, what do they taste like? Well, it's hot chocolate so you're never going to fool yourself that you're eating chocolate or cake (although it does contain real chocolate), but as hot chocolates go, they're very nice. Chocolate Cherry Brownie is my first choice because it reminds me slightly of my favourite retro dessert, Black Forest Gâteau. The kids prefer the Jaffa Cake one though. The Cappuccino Cream Cake flavour only has a subtle coffee flavour but, as we're not huge coffee lovers (apart from Madhouse Daddy), that was our least favourite. I'll be trying this out in cakes and icing though or it would be lovely sprinkled over a cheesecake or tiramisu style dessert.

The range is available in resealable 88g pouches which contain enough for 8 servings. With a RRP of £1.49, that relates to 19p per serving which isn't bad at all. 

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £1.49

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

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Madhouse recipe : Bacon & Chickpea Soup

Tung Toos - temporary tattoos for your tongue ! (review)

9bar Gave Our Mornings A Boost ! (review)

Celebrate Halloween at Club Penguin!

If you're looking for a way to keep the kids entertained during half term, you might like to know that Club Penguin, the free and totally kid-friendly online game, has introduced lots of new content for Halloween. Sophie hasn't played this for a while but I bet this might tempt her back !


Calling all players to help solve a ghostly mystery! Gary, Club Penguin’s gadget guy, is asking players to investigate strange happenings at the Puffle Hotel where his Great Uncle Gariwald has gone missing…

Between Thursday 23rd October and Wednesday 5th November, players can:

· Join the quest to find Gary’s Great Uncle Gariwald;
· Travel through 13 floors of the Puffle Hotel and solve puzzles along the way;
· Collect special items including a Ghostly Suitcase, Magic Hat, Little Jack (a mini Jack-O-Lantern) and Eye of Newt Gumballs.

Members of Club Penguin can get the Creepy Cavern Igloo and other spooky furniture from the Furniture and Igloo catalogue, and can also accessorize with Halloween costumes from Penguin Style. Popular costumes this Halloween include Frankenpenguin, Unicorn, Werewolf and Vampire. Members can also adopt one of the rare and mischievous ghost puffles!

This video shows all the exciting things that players can do at Club Penguin at any time of year.

About Club Penguin

Club Penguin is one of the most popular virtual worlds for kids, with players logging in to explore the colourful online world in the form of a penguin character. Kids can play games, chat to other penguins, design and decorate an igloo home and adopt small pets called ‘puffles’. iOS users can also play for free on the Club Penguin app, enjoying many of the same gameplay and social features found in the online world.

for more information :

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#UnileverHalloween : Cottage Pie with a Pumpkin & Potato Thatch

Madhouse recipe : Bacon & Chickpea Soup

The weather's getting colder and we're getting big into soups again here at The Madhouse. Madhouse Daddy makes a brilliant vegetable soup and we've also successfully branched out into French Onion Soup and Mexican Black Bean Soup but I wanted to try something a bit different last night. A bag of dried chickpeas was the starting point (but you could use tinned instead).

Bacon & Chickpea Soup

ingredients :

half a bag of dried chickpeas
200g bacon lardons
1 large red onion
2 carrots
1 Knorr Rich Beef Stock Pot
1 Knorr Garlic Flavour Pot
1/2 Knorr Chilli Flavour Pot
2 bay leaves
1 tin chopped tomatoes
herbs and spices of choice : I used oregano, garlic salt and lots and lots of lime pepper

Start by leaving the chickpeas to soak overnight. Top up the water every now and then. Drain in a colander, rinse and sift through to remove any discoloured ones.

In a large pot, fry the bacon. Add the onion and carrots and cook in the bacon fat, stirring, for 5-10 minutes until the onions are soft. Pour into a colander to remove excess fat then return to the pot. 

Add the tin of tomatoes and the stock pots. (You could of course use fresh ingredients but these are a great time saver.)

Add the chickpeas and pour boiling water to almost the top of the pan. Drop in the bay leaves.

Leave to simmer for 30-40 minutes until it has thickened and the flavours have developed. The chickpeas drink up a lot of water so be prepared to top up halfway through the cooking time. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required. You may like to add extra salt or chilli - we discovered that lime pepper gives it a nice zesty kick.

You can eat it as a hearty, chunky soup (see above) or blitz it with a stick blender if you prefer. (You'll need to add extra water.) Madhouse Daddy always prefers smooth soup and it usually gets the kids eating more vegetables if they can't see what's in it !

Serve with crusty bread and butter. You could sprinkle grated cheese over the top too.

Link up your recipe of the week

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Madhouse recipe : Cheesy Baked Figs

Giveaway #431 : Win 1 of 2 Adventurer : The Curse of The Midas Box DVDs - closing date 6/11

With enchanting performances from the outstanding cast, including Michael Sheen (The Twilight Saga), Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), Lena Headey (TV s Game of Thrones) and Ioan Gruffud (Titanic), Adventurer - released on 27th October 2014 - will take you to a rollicking, rambunctious world of fantasy and fun! 

Discover ancient mysteries, powerful evil and a fearless hero s quest through a fantastical realm of steam-powered wonders in THE ADVENTURER: THE CURSE OF THE MIDAS BOX

Seventeen-year-old Mariah Mundi s life is turned upside down when his younger brother is kidnapped from the streets of Victorian London. Following a trail of clues to the darkly majestic Prince Regent Hotel, Mariah discovers a hidden realm of child-stealing monsters, sinister strangers, deadly secrets and a long-lost artifact that grants limitless wealth but also devastating supernatural power. With the fate of his world, and his family at stake, Mariah will risk everything to unravel the Curse of the Midas Box!

***You can see my review of the film here.***

I have two copies of the DVD to give away to Madhouse Family Reviews readers. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 6/11/14

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 a week, 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 !

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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

DVD review : Adventurer : The Curse of the Midas Box

Next week (27th October) sees the release of Adventurer : The Curse of the Midas Box, a family fantasy adventure set in Victorian London. We received a preview copy of the movie.

It's an action-packed movie with an exciting storyline. 17-year-old Mariah Mundi finds his life is turned upside down when his parents vanish and his younger brother is kidnapped. After an encounter with a charismatic stranger, Mundi follows a trail of clues to the majestic Prince Regent Hotel where he discovers a hidden realm of child-stealing monsters, deadly secrets and a long lost artefact with the potential to grant limitless power at a devastating supernatural cost...

As this clip shows, it's a very atmospheric movie and realistically shows what life was like in Victorian London as the steam age took hold. At times, it reminded me of a cross between Oliver Twist and Indiana Jones ! Secret artefacts that can grant unlimited wealth or be used as a powerful supernatural weapon, ruthless villains and the occult give the film a slightly dark edge that may be scary to very young viewers but as long as you're watching with them for a quick cuddle, it's a good family-friendly movie.

The film has an impressive cast list, which includes Michael Sheen (The Twilight Saga, Frost/Nixon), Sam Neill (Jurassic Park, Escape Plan), Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four, The Secret Of Moonacre), Lena Headey (TV’s Game Of Thrones, 300: Rise Of An Empire) and Keeley Hawes (TV’s Spooks, Ashes To Ashes).. It's a bit slow to start but once it's built up its momentum, it's an enjoyable film.

If it sounds like a film you'd like to watch, don't go away - I have a giveaway coming up where you will be able to win a copy.

star rating : 4/5

  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Signature Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 27 Oct 2014
  • Run Time: 90 minutes

Disclosure : We received a preview disc in order to write an honest review.

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Kids DVD review : Daddy I’m a Zombie 2, Dixie Saves The Day !

Kids DVD review : Alpha and Omega: The Legend of the Saw Tooth Cave

Madhouse recipe : Cheesy Baked Figs

Having a glut of figs to use up quickly, and having googled for recipe inspiration, I decided to try making these extremely simple but rather impressive-looking baked figs. They be great on a cheese platter, accompanying cured meats or just as a simple side dish for a tapas-style meal. I love the way they open up like flowers.

Cheesy Baked Figs

ingredients :

fresh figs
goats cheese
optional : pancetta, honey, pine nuts or walnuts

Using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross in the top of each fig. Cut about halfway down.

Cut a small wedge of soft cheese - goats cheese is ideal but any soft cheese like brie or camembert would work well - and push it into the top of each fig.

Bake in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes until the fig is soft and the cheese has gone gooey. That was all I did, as I was already adding honey, pancetta and pine nuts to the Figgy Pizza (recipe to follow), but with hindsight, it would have made the baked figs even better to wrap a strip of pancetta or cooked bacon around the outside and drizzle with honey and pinenuts as they come out of the oven. Half a walnut pressed in the top of the chsse would work well in place of the pine nuts too.

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Globe-cooking recipe : Jaegerschnitzel (Germany)

#alphabetphoto : x is for ... x-rated !

He's such a cheeky boy at times !! Definitely another photo to bring out when his first serious girlfriend comes round !

My #alphabetproject so far :

To see what everyone else found for this week's letter or to join in yourself, head over to PODcast

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Kärcher MV3 P Multi Purpose Vacuum review

As a Kärcher Clean Ambassador, I've already tried out several of their products over the past few months - a Floor Polisher, a Window Vac, a Compact Pressure Washer and a Steam Cleaner - but the product that I was really keen to put the test was their vacuum cleaner. This month, I was very excited when we received the MV3 P Multi Purpose Vacuum to review.

The kids loved it as soon as I took it out of the box because they decided it looked like a cute cross between R2D2 and a Minion ! It does look very funky - I love the cheerful yellow colour that Kärcher use for their products that puts a smile on my face when I do the chores ! - but I was more interested in how well it would work.

It has some very impressive credentials. The official blurb on the Kärcher website says : "The MV3 P multi-purpose vacuum cleaner has a 17-litre container and a power-tool socket with automatic on/off switch. The device impresses with its high suction force and energy efficiency." It has an extra powerful 1400w motor for unbeatable pick up of debris.

It's not just a regular vacuum cleaner though.  Kärcher explain : "The new range is the strongest ever thanks to its intense suction power. The MP Vacs can be used to clean up more than just dust and suck up both wet and dry debris, making them ideal for cleaning the garage, car, workshop or for use with DIY renovations. Featuring robust motors, which are designed to outperform ordinary Vacs and pick up not only heavy duty mess such as rubble and saw dust, but also sludge and spills, the high-suction machines are even able to unblock sinks! The new Vacs are designed to maximise output and conserve energy consumption, making them Kärcher’s most energy efficient Vacs yet."

As a vacuum cleaner, it does a great job, picking up dust and dog hair that are deeply embedded in the rugs and carpets that our old vacuum cleaner used to leave behind. It's also great for sucking up the heavier things like beads and marbles that are scattered across the kids' floors. (They've been warned !) One function that we discovered by accident (when we plugged the hose into the wrong hole !) was the blow function - this is fabulous for blowing all the dust and cobwebs out of hard to reach areas that the vacuum cleaner can't get to, such as the grooves in the radiators, under the beds and settee or in the corners of the room where the spiders like to lurk !

I'm sure the novelty will soon wear off but I love the fact that everyone is queueing up to use it too ! Juliette has hoovered her room (most unusual !), Sophie has offered to vacuum the bedrooms and Madhouse Daddy offered to take over when I was doing the rugs ! If you have a DIY enthusiast in the house, there is another handy function - a socket allowing you to plug in a power tool such as a drill or a sander so that the vac will switch on simultaneously and suck up all the dust as you go - how cool is that ?!

Given the efficiency of the vacuum cleaner plus all the extra fuctions, I was impressed with the price - at £119.99 it's a great investment for the home, on a day-to-day basis but especially if you have any DIY or renovations planned. This would have been a Godsend when we had the loft converted.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £119.99

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

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An autumnal helping hand from Zippo (review)

Get ready for a #doraandfriends twitter party on 3rd November !

Pierre loves watching Dora the Explorer on TV. Big sister Juliette used to love watching it too, but now that she's 9, she's outgrown the series. We were therefore over the moon to discover that alongside the traditional pre-schooler Dora series, there is a new programme coming to Nick Jr - Dora and Friends Into The City

In a nutshell, Dora has grown up. I think this is a fabulous and very innovative idea. Imagine if all your childhood heroes could grow up with you. The Rugrats would be out of nappies, Diego could be a dad and the Scooby-Doo gang would all be grey haired pensioners ! Dora has only aged by a few years though. The official blurb for the series says : "Dora's growing up and still going on magical adventures! She uses her problem-solving skills to discover new things about her city, her friends and in two languages. A musician, singer, athlete, and devoted student, Dora tries to find new ways to give back to her family and community. As always, Dora is an active girl, ready for any adventure that may come her way." 

To help launch the new series, there will be a twitter party on Monday 3rd November from 4-6pm and we were delighted to be picked to be a party host. During the party there will be online spot competitions and more fun and games to take part in, so make sure your laptop, PC or smart device is ready to go as the party starts. I'll be back with more details but keep an eye on the hashtag #doraandfriends and follow @NickJrUK to stay in the loop.

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