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.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

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.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

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

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

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.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

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.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Globe-cooking recipe : Jaegerschnitzel (Germany)

Jaegerschnitzel is similar to the better-known Wienerschnitzel but is made with pork instead of veal and with a different sauce. (Jaeger means hunter in German so it's a mushroom sauce.) This went down so well with the whole Madhouse Family that I actually forgot to take a photo of the assembled dish and we were all halfway through our plates before I remembered - oops  !!


ingredients :

1 pork chop per person
1 egg, beaten
salt, pepper, garlic granules, parmesan
toasted breadcrumbs (mine came out of a pack but you could make your own)
250g bacon lardons
4 large mushrooms
beef stock (or leftover gravy)
crème fraîche

Cut the bone off the pork chops (I used scissors for this) and use a rolling pin to flatten them slightly. Set up a dish full of beaten egg, a dish full of breadcrumbs, mixed in with salt, pepper, garlic granules and parmesan, and an empty plate to stack up the breaded cutlets. Dip the meat in egg then breadcrumbs on both sides.

In a large frying pan, fry the bacon lardons. Remove from the pan and reserve.

Chop and fry the mushrooms in the bacon fat. Reserve with the bacon.

Add a little butter and/or oil to the remaining bacon fat and fry the pork for 5 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked all the way through. Remove from the pan and keep warm on a warmed plate or in the oven.

I had some leftover gravy from the Sunday roast that I wanted to use up, but the original recipe calls for beef stock. Put some in the pan and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and add the cream (I just poured enough to get the consistency I wanted - about 10cl, I would guess).

Return the bacon and mushrooms to the sauce and heat until it's all piping hot.

Serve the pork with spaghetti, chips, boiled potatoes or mash and pour the sauce all over the top. This was unanimously  declared utterly delicious and I've been told I have to make it again. The kids aren't usually that keen on pork chops because they are difficult to cut, but removing the bone made it all a lot easier.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

#UnileverHalloween recipe : Autumnal Hug In A Bowl !

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

Get ready for the latest craze to arrive from America ! The Madhouse kids squealed in delight when this rather exciting selection of Tung Toos arrived in the post. As the name suggests, they are temporary tattoos for your tongue. They taste like sweets and they come in loads of fun, colourful designs.

Pierre was instantly drawn to the Phineas & Ferb ones. You get six tung toos in a pack, along with a collectible card, making them the ultimate playground craze (or on-the-way-home-from-school craze, if you're not allowed sweets at school).

It's a simple process of putting the tung too face down on your tongue for a couple of seconds, then lifting up the paper. Surprisingly, they taste lovely.

In terms of precision, they're not that great. It may be down to us being useless and not managing to not smudge them too ! While you will definitely end up with a brightly coloured tongue, most of the time you can't actually see what the design is supposed to be, but this didn't stop the Madhouse kids loving them ! 

In fact, Pierre came up to me so many times with his newly tung-tooed tongue hanging out for me to take a photo that, as you can see if you look closely, he started dribbling !

I'm not sure if we need more practice or if the kids' tongues are a bit too small for the bigger designs but we certainly had a lot of fun trying to perfect our tung-tooing..

We moved on to one of the other packs which has some smaller designs.

This one says COOL but I'll be honest, I'd never have known that if I hadn't seen the Tung Too beforehand. Juliette still thought it was great though and, as the pattern will only stay on your tongue for about 20 minutes, you can start all over again.

You can get some really unflattering photos that will make everyone laugh !

The more we tried, the better we got - you can actually make out the letters of the word COOL here if you look carefully.

And this one is quite recognisable from the Phineas & Ferb pack.

Sophie managed to get a perfect heart (maybe because it was a smaller design or because she has a bigger tongue !).

When I said this to Pierre, he managed to make his tongue extend by another 5cm, which made us all laugh again !

The verdict was, they're great fun and they taste really nice. Kids and big kids of all ages love them and it's a great ice breaker at a party (whether for kids or grown-ups !). You'll be the coolest neighbour on the street if you stock up on these for Halloween !

star rating : 4/5

available in independent retailers and Toys R Us

for more information :

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

Family Fever

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Picture book review : Yuck! Said The Yak - Alex English & Emma Levey

Monday, 20 October 2014

Madhouse recipe : Autumnal Fruit Salad

Fruit salad is one of our favourite desserts during the summer, but, having gone a bit mad at the farmers' market on Sunday, I decided to try it using autumnal fruits. It was just as delicious.

Autumnal Fruit Salad

ingredients :

2 persimmons (also known as Sharon fruit)
2 bananas
2 apples
2 satsumas
a squirt of lime juice

Persimmons are at their best when they're very ripe - this brings out the sweetness and juiciness of the fruit. It does make them very fragile though so I wasn't surprised to discover that the two I had bought at the market had been reduced to a pulpy mess by the time I got home. Rather than waste them, this became the basis of our autumnal fruit salad.

I added some chopped banans, a couple of windfall apples from a work colleague and a satsuma, but plums, cherries and even dried cranberries would add a lovely splash of colour. Just throw in whatever is looking a bit unloved in your fruit bowl ! Add a quick squirt of lime juice to freshen things up and you're ready to go.

This was lovely as it was, after chilling in the fridge for an hour, but could also be used as a pie filling, with pancakes or served with a scoop of ice cream.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

#UnileverHalloween recipe : Autumnal Hug In A Bowl !

#UnileverHalloween : Cottage Pie with a Pumpkin & Potato Thatch

9bar Gave Our Mornings A Boost ! (review)

There's nothing I love more than a mystery parcel arriving at the door. As Julie Andrews famously sang, "Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things" !

We excitedly opened the box to discover a bundle of goodies from 9bar, designed to help give our mornings a boost. As well as some very useful accessories such as an umbrella and a coffee mug, there were a selection of 9bar Breakfast bars, including Almond & Raspberry, Cashew & Cocoa, Apricot & Strawberry and Peanut & Raisin flavours.

I reviewed the Breakfast Bars earlier in the year (click through to read that review) and they're lovely - the perfect natural energy boost to get the day off to a great start. Every 9bar is made with a unique blend of wholesome seeds including sunflower, pumpkin, poppy, sesame and hemp, and many of them also add delicious crunchy nuts such as cashews, hazelnuts and peanuts or dried fruit.

Breakfast isn't the only time of day to indulge in a 9bar though. As well as the Breakfast range, they sent me some of their classic 9bars and also a not-very-naughty-but-nice Indulge bar.

Can you guess which one I started with ? Yep, you got it ! But as the packaging says : "Indulge ! With a bar this nutritious, you really can !"

Unlike most chocolatey snacks that you'll find in the supermarket, 9bar Indulge doesn't just provide empty calories, unrefined sugar and saturated fats. Its mixed seeds make it "oddly nutritious" (as it says on the wrapper). That doesn't mean it's low in calories but, as my FitBug homepage keeps telling me, you shouldn't just look at the calories but also they type of food that's providing them. 

9bar explain on their website : "Seeds are high in calories, which means 9bar is too. [...] One comment we sometimes receive is about the amount of fat in a 9bar. However, the fact, and indeed the fat, is that there’s such a thing as “good fat” and “bad fat”. Seeds, you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear, have a high proportion of the “good” variety. It’s been a bit of a truism for three decades or more that healthy eating is simply all about calorie-counting and avoiding fat. These days, however, it’s widely acknowledged that we need a whole range of nutritional substances in our diet that comes from selecting foods that have a high nutritional value, in other words foods that are full of a wide range of nutrients such as protein, minerals, vitamins and, yes, you guessed it, the “right” kinds of fat!"

When I tucked into the deliciously gooey and chewy Fruity bar  (packed with seeds including sunflower, sesame and pumpkin, plus dried apricots and dates), I was convinced it was topped with chocolate but it's actually carob.

A 9bar Breakfast Bar contains about 220 calories but it's filling enough to keep you going until lunchtime. I love the chewiness of the bar and the crunchiness of the seeds, as well as the taste, like a denser, less sweet cereal bar. I also love the fact that they're totally portable so I can pop one into my pocket to eat at the bus stop when I'm in a rush.

for more information :

Disclosure : I received a hamper of 9bar goodies in order to write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

#UnileverHalloween : Cottage Pie with a Pumpkin & Potato Thatch

Madhouse Diaries : Autumnal Geocaching

Yesterday, it wasn't even me that suggested going out geocaching - it was the kids ! As I wasn't sure if it was going to rain, we headed into the town centre so that it wouldn't get too muddy and there would be places to shelter if the worst came to the worst. Urban geocaching can still be sporty - Sophie had to climb up on a road sign to get this one !

We found the next one nestling in a very realistic looking birds' nest, much to the kids' delight.

Pierre decided to revisit one that we'd found before that we were walking past, to see if there were any new treasures to swap - and there were !

We went exploring a nearby park, looking for some caches.

I love the way people create really ingenious caches that blend in with nature, such as this gigantic (and real) pine cone, with a hole drilled in the bottom to hide the logbook. We'd never seen a pine cone this big before.

Meanwhile, Pierre was busy making leaf piles and jumping in them.

Then there was much clambering about in the rocks.

As well as using the stepping stones to cross the tiny stream. 

Sophie wandered off to discreetly find the geocache hidden in this statue made of old anchors.

We took a Playmobil figure and dropped off a Rabid Rabbit.

We played pooh sticks and made leaf boats too.

Then watched the ducks for a while (and quacked at them). 

 We played around on the concrete sheep for a while !

Then we revisited a cache that I had never managed to find before (despite several visits) and this time, we found it - yay ! I knew it was a big one and it had loads of treasures to swap in it. Sophie loved the Rubik's cube keyring.

Pierre had more fun playing in the leaves !

We took some silly selfies while waiting for people to wander off so we could grab a geocache discreetly.

I bet everyone wondered what was so interesting about this tree !

We marvelled at how well camouflaged this one was - it's in the bolt !

Then we finished at the beach for one final cache with a sea view. Can you guess where it's hidden? We had to sit down and pretend to redo our laces to find it discreetly !

The kids played in the sand for a while then we went and got the bus home.

"Can we go geocaching again tomorrow, Mum ?!"

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall