Wednesday, 30 July 2014

How much fun can you have with wooden spoons?!



Well, Karen Carpenter may have warbled that rainy days and Sundays always got her down, but she obviously didn't have a Betta Living Kids in the Kitchen box to dip into ! When we woke up to a grey, drizzly day, that's where we headed for inspiration and came up with ... a bunch of wooden spoons !


I showed the picture to the Madhouse Mini-testers for inspiration and gave them free reign to get creative.


Well, I think Pierre was going for a close up of a gorilla's armpit ! He was very proud of all the jungle stickers he'd found to stick on the handle though !


Front and back no less !


Meanwhile, Sophie proved that she's totally mad about One Direction (or quite possibly just totally mad !) and made one that was supposed to represent ...


... Harry Styles ! Harry Stirs would be more like it !


I threw some funky pipecleaners into the mix and ... ahem ... Sophie decided to give her glasses a makeover . Nice look, Sophie !!


And Pierre added arms (maybe?!) to his crazy spoon. He was so proud of it and made me take a photo for the blog !!


Juliette gets the prize for the most human-looking spoon though.


He even has arms and legs so she made him dance all over the table !


If you don't have a well-stocked craft cupboard, I would strongly recommend buying up some packs of random bits and bobs - the kids had great fun discovering the (ahem) furry balls, pipe cleaners and jungle stickers in this pack and it took their imaginations to places I would never have dreamed of !

There was another activity idea for the wooden spoons in the box but that involved banging saucepans with them as a drumset so I decided to give that one a miss for now - the kids are noisy enough as it is !

To find out more about the other activities, designed by Betta Living to help you have fun on a budget during the holidays, check out my blogpost about the Kids In The Kitchen campaign here.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

We've been making Elmers ! #Elmer25

Kids in the Kitchen Foodie Fun

Giveaway #411 : Win 1 of 5 sets of Elastoplast Aqua Protect plasters - closing date 11/8


Minor cuts and grazes can be common during the summer, especially with the children on school holiday. Aqua Protect provides long-lasting protection meaning cuts stay clean and heal properly. It is also 100% waterproof, so stays on when submerged in water – perfect if you are taking the little ones for a summer swim.

Here at The Madhouse, we've been putting them to the test and have been seriously impressed - you can read my review here.

Elastoplast have kindly offered to send a set of the plasters to 5 lucky Madhouse Family Reviews readers. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.


UK only. Closing date : 11/8/14

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 !

Other giveaways you may be interested in :

Elastoplast Aqua Protect plasters review


One of the great mysteries of The Madhouse is where all the plasters go. I seem to be constantly buying boxloads of them but, whenever I cut my finger or get a blister and go looking for one, there are never any left ! I suppose that with three kids in the house - two under-10's who love running around in the park and whizzing around on scooters and bikes which results in the inevitable grazed knees and hands and a teen who seems to be constantly breaking in new shoes and getting nasty blisters on her heels - it's all par for the course. Needless to say, I was very pleased when Elastoplast sent me through some of their Aqua Protect plasters to review.

Sure enough, within one day of them arriving, Juliette came looking for a plaster for her hand where she'd grazed it playing outside ! I grabbed one from the pack and was instantly impressed on a number of levels - firstly, they're easy to get out of the paper (which isn't always the case so you can end up twisting and deforming the plaster before you've even got it on the skin), secondly they stick really well and thirdly they create a really good seal. They look quite discreet too (although anything is discreet compared to the bright yellow penguin-shaped plasters that I usually end up having to use because it's all that's left !).


I'm never very impressed with waterproof plasters because, quite frankly, they usually don't work. Elastoplast say : "Exposure to water and dirt can not only slow down healing, but can also lead to infection of the wound. Therefore, it is important to keep the wound well protected to ensure the best conditions for healing to take place." Great in theory but would they succeed where so many others have failed? Well, in a word, yes !  I was impressed to see that the Elastoplast Aqua Protect plaster resisted hand washing but I was even more impressed, not to say totally suprised, when Juliette jumped in the bath and, half an hour and a lot of "swimming" and splashing later, it was still firmly in place. Even after towelling her off, it still stayed put which is impressive indeed.

As well as being perfectly waterproof, they are elastic and breathable. They come in regular shapes and also a special Hand Pack which has been especially designed in ergonomic shapes for fingers, knuckles and fingertips, with finger strips that are extra-long for better hold, butterfly shapes to protect the fingers and rectangular plasters for other small wounds.

They are more expensive than the bargain basement plasters I generally buy in bulk, but they are a lot more efficient and, as one plaster stays in place and doesn't need replacing every five minutes when it stops sticking, I'll need to buy a lot less, reducing the price difference.

I'll definitely be popping some of these in my suitcase this year so that, should the kids cut themselves on holiday, I know that they'll be protected even in the swimming pool.

If you fancy giving them a go for yourselves, I'll be giving some away in my next blogpost.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £3.36

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

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Don't wrap your kids up in cotton wool - learn first aid ! #safetysuit

Don't wrap your kids up in cotton wool - learn first aid ! #safetysuit


I always think that grazed knees, nettle stings and splinters are all an integral part of growing up so, if the Madhouse kids trip over, I just stand them up, brush them down and send them off to play again ! More serious accidents do happen though so St John Ambulance are calling for parents to learn vital first aid skills, rather than wrapping their kids up in cotton wool. They've come up with this cute 'Safety Suit' video to get their message across.



New research from St John Ambulance shows that the vast majority (98%) of parents think it's important to learn first aid, but just 51% have done anything about learning life saving skills in the last three years. Over a third of parents (37%) reported their child had had an accident on holiday that needed immediate first aid.

Highlighting the cotton wool culture that has emerged in recent years, research shows today:
*Nearly half (43%) of mums would be unlikely to let their children go on a cycle ride with friends.
*Over a quarter (28%) of mums admitted they would be unlikely to let their children climb a tree.

With over 450,000 children attending accident and emergency departments in England every year, St John Ambulance is offering parents a solution that will allow children to have fun, while parents enjoy a worry-free summer.

Sue Killen, CEO at St John Ambulance, said: 'Safety Suit is a funny film with a serious message: you don't need to wrap your children in cotton wool to protect them. Parents who learn first aid gain the peace of mind to let their children enjoy everything childhood has to offer, as well as the knowledge to look after them, whatever happens. Young people should be able to enjoy an exciting, carefree summer - just taking a few minutes to learn some skills on our website will help make that a reality.'

In St John Ambulance's new short film 'Safety Suit' a young boy's well-meaning parents buy him a padded suit for his birthday that will allow him to play outdoors safely. But his parents' dream of creating a safe world for him to play in soon turns into a personal nightmare, as he discovers that the bulky outfit makes even the simplest acts impossible.

St John Ambulance believes no child should suffer for a lack of first aid, and is calling on parents to visit www.sja.org.uk/safetysuit today to learn how to help their child in an emergency. The website hosts free, simple step by step first aid advice specifically for parents, and information on first aid courses taking place in their area.

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Scam alert : The phone call from Microsoft

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Lending a hand to #washawayCMV !


Celebrities Kimberley Walsh and Rufus Hound are amongst hundreds of people who have posted a “handie’ on social media, to show their support for the www.cmvaction.org.uk Wash Away CMV campaign. The charity has been asking people throughout the UK to join in the campaign too.


According to a survey of over 1,000 British women recently published by CMV Action, only 14% of women aged 18–44 know about the deadly CMV virus, which is more common than Down’s Syndrome, Toxoplasmosis, Spina Bifida or Rubella. Congenital CMV is one of the main causes of children being born with birth defects in the UK but pregnant women are not routinely told about it, nor the simple steps they can take to protect themselves.



CMV Chair and parent of a CMV child, Caroline Star, takes up the story: “CMV can have devastating effects on an unborn foetus including profound deafness, cerebral palsy and even stillbirth, and yet most women of childbearing age have no idea what it is. However, there are some simple steps women can take to avoid catching CMV when pregnant and it doesn’t take long to arm women with this knowledge”.

CMV Action wants to educate women about the virus and a range of preventative measures – washing your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water during pregnancy, especially after changing a young child’s nappy or clearing up after meals, is paramount. The CMV virus is easily killed by soap and water but remains alive outside the body for as long as 15 minutes.


Pregnant women are more at risk because, if they catch the virus, it can cause a number of birth defects in their developing baby. CMV is the most common infection at birth. Around 1 in 1000 babies born in the UK will be damaged by CMV – that’s nearly 1000 babies every year. As CMV is unheard of, it is a common misconception that it is rare. It is, in fact, more common than Down’s Syndrome, Toxoplasmosis, Spina Bifida and Rubella.


CMV is a "stealth virus" which works by evading the immune system, so developing a vaccine has not been easy. However, international experts and government representatives are now positive it can be done. Once you catch it, you have it in your body for life but it doesn't protect you from catching a different strain of the virus. The virus is spread through saliva, nasal discharge, and other bodily fluids, yet with awareness and simple precautions, a pregnant woman can greatly reduce the risk to herself and her unborn child.


Kimberley Walsh's friend, Lisa, has a son, Christian, who was diagnosed with Congenital Cytomegalovirus shortly after being born, which has left him profoundly deaf and autistic. Commenting on her decision to become a Patron of CMV Action, Kimberley Walsh said: "For me, it’s personal, especially now being pregnant myself. The CMV virus affected my friend’s son, which means he has permanent disabilities. I have always wanted to do something for Christian and particularly the charity CMV Action, set up to support families affected by CMV and to raise awareness of the CMV virus. Congenital CMV is one of the main causes of children being born with birth defects in the UK but pregnant women are not routinely told about it, nor the simple steps they can take to protect themselves."


You can also find out more on the video below :



Help spread the word, especially amongst your pregnant or trying-to-conceive friends.

CMV ACTION WEBSITE: www.cmvaction.org.uk


CMV ACTION TWITTER: https://twitter.com/cmvactionuk


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Exercise expert Jane Wake creates exercise guides for mums and mums-to-be

Nairn's Muesli Breaks Oatcakes review


Nairn's recently sent me some of their Muesli Breaks Oatcakes to review. They come in individual serving packs.


Each pack contains 2 biscuits.


They're very thin and quite dry so you'll definitely want a drink with them. They have a nice oaty taste - they're not very sweet, compared to most breakfast biscuits, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your tastes ! They actually contain 41% less sugar than most similar brands.


Designed as a tasty, nutritious snack for on the go or at your desk, they are loaded with wholesome wholegrain oats, currants, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds and are packed with soluble fibre to help keep you going throughout the day. The ingredients list is reassuringly short and free from hidden nasties :  Wholegrain oats (66%), currants (11%), demerara sugar, sustainable palm fruit oil, sunflower seeds (6%), pumpkin seeds (1.9%), raising agent: sodium bicarbonate, sea salt.

Each oatcake provides 56 calories, 1.4g of protein, 7.4g of carbs of which 2.1g sugars, 2.1g fat of which 0.7g saturates and 1g of fibre. Don't forget to double that for each serving size as a pack contains two oatcakes.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £1.69 for 200g (8 packs of 2 biscuits)


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

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Beond Organic Açai Berry Bar review

Madhouse recipe : Baked Apples


When I was a kid, I used to have a board game called Tummy Ache. You had to collect a set of cards to fill your plate with a main meal, side dish, drink and dessert. Some were delicious looking foods and some were "tummy ache" cards with things like a tadpole-infested drink or a maggoty fruit. One of the "nice" cards was a baked apple but we always used to think it was a tummy ache card because of the way it looked. Well, my baked apples did look exactly the same as on the tummy ache card but they tasted lovely !


Nielsen Massey have sent me through a lovely selection of flavour extracts - Orange, Rose, Lemon and Vanilla - so I'll be looking for different ways of using them to jazz up my baking. I decided vanilla and cinnamon would go nicely with the baked apples.

Baked Apples


ingredients :

5 apples
3 tablespoons butter
150 g  sugar (preferably brown)
1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
60 g raisins
70 g walnuts


Wash and core the apples.If you have a corer that cuts all the way through, you'll need to wrap foil around the bottom of the apples so that the filling doesn't come out. If digging out the inside with a spoon, don't go right through the base so that they remain sealed.


Put the sugar, butter and vanilla paste in a saucepan and melt, stirring, over a low heat.


Add the cinnamon and all spice and turn off the heat.


Stir in the raisins and walnuts (I broke them up into smallish pieces as I added them to the pan).


Use this mixture to stuff the apples.


Don't worry if it doesn't all go right inside - it's thick and gooey enough to stay in place quite well.


Put on a baking tray or in a roasting tin and put in the oven at 180° for about half an hour.

Everyone loved these and they're ideal for putting in the oven after the Sunday roast so that they can cook as you eat. I think this would be a great way of using up leftover mincemeat after Christmas too.

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Moroccan pastry recipe : Gazelle Horns

We've been making Elmers ! #Elmer25


As I told you last week, Elmer the Patchwork Elephant is celebrating his 25th birthday and, to mark the occasion, we received a fabulous package of Elmer goodies. Inside the box were some Elmer activity sheets, including some ideas for Elmer-themed crafts. (You can download them here if you want to join in.)


One of them needed nothing more than some paper plates, some glue and some scraps of coloured paper so it was ideal for clearing out the crafts cupboard.


Cut one plate in half to create Elmer's ears and take another for his face then cover the whole lot in squares of coloured paper.


Add a cardboard trunk and you just need to tape or staple the ears and trunk on and add some eyes.


Pierre was very proud of the finished Elmer face.


So we made a whole herd of Elmers !

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Madhouse Diaries : My Beach Babes !

We Certainly Wood like some more s'mores !


Monday, 28 July 2014

Cornish ice cream - the taste of the perfect summer holiday ?


I have so many fabulous memories of carefree childhood summer days spent on our holidays in Cornwall. Every year, we'd head to a holiday park in Perranporth, spend days on the beaches and tramping across the dunes, travelling around to all the tourist sites (Land's End, the tin mines, Newquay Zoo, Hale Bird Park, St Michael's Mount ...) and hunting for mysterious standing stones. People always ask what the soundtrack to your life is. Well, apart from remembering my Dad getting up on the dance floor to Dexys Midnight Runners singing Come On Eileen and getting excited about all sitting on the floor in rows, rocking back and forth and tapping the floor on each side to The Boat Song (which was actually Elton John's Passengers), I can't remember what we were listening to. I CAN remember what we were eating though. Genuine Cornish pasties, straight from the oven in the little local bakeries, and LOADS of scrumptious creamy Cornish ice cream.


Even now, digging into a tub of Kelly's of Cornwall ice cream brings back the taste of those fabulous Cornish holidays, so I was rather excited to hear that they've come up with an ice cream excursion break for 2014 for couples and families with pre-school children. As well as a four-night, midweek break at the five-star luxurious self-catering Retallack Resort and Spa, you get to indulge in special ice cream tasting at the Kelly’s of Cornwall ice cream factory in Bodmin, a private tour of one of the Cornish farms that supplies Kelly’s with its rich and creamy milk and clotted cream, an ice cream excursion map with top tips from those in the know of the best places to enjoy ice cream in the county, a freezer full of ice cream on arrival (wow, why can't all hotels do this ?!) and dinner in The Green Room for couples and parents, experiencing the tasting menu. Prices start from £619 for a family of four (two adults, two children) or a couple staying in a Rock lodge but you'll have to wait until the end of the summer (1st – 30th September) to take advantage. If that's out of your price league, you might like to have a look at the ice cream excursions map and just go for a scoop of Cornish ice cream instead !


You might also like to try to win a 4 night break in one of Retallack’s 2 bed hot tub lodges, including a meal for 4 in the MasterChef restaurant, The Green Room, by entering Kelly's wild summer photography competition. It's a great way to keep the kids occupied over the summer.

Disclosure : This is not a sponsored post in any shape or form. I'm just a little bit more in love with Kelly's of Cornwall after winning a fab Merlin family pass from them for my ice cream hamburgers and wanted to share the love !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

We Certainly Wood like some more s'mores !

Globecooking recipe : Horchata de Chufa (Tigernut Milk) (Spain)


One of the most intriguing ingredients in a recent Spanish-themed Kitchen Trotter box was these Chufa or Tigernuts. 


They're not actually nuts at all, they come from the roots of the plant.


 These can be made into a drink, called Horchata de Chufa, with water and sugar.


The first thing to do is soak them in water for a couple of days, to remove any impurities.


Once they've been drained and rinsed, they're ready to be used.


You should use a food processor to blitz them but, as I haven't got one, I had to improvise with a stick blender in a bowl and a tea towel to stop all the bits flying everywhere !


This is how they end up. Next, you add water and strain, then repeat twice more until you've worked one litre of water through the ground tigernuts to remove the milk.


It should be sweetened with sugar then chilled for a couple of hours.


This is where I had an #epicfail. I assumed that "for a couple of hours" meant for AT LEAST a couple of hours so I left it in the fridge until the next day. I don't know if it curdled or solidified or turned into a mutant lifeform but this is the gloopy, separated mess I came back to. However much I stirred it, I couldn't get it to go back to the same milky consistency it originally had and it even looked like it had stringy, mucus-like bits in it - not appetising at all !


I strained some into a glass and asked if anyone was brave enough to try it. I was suprised when, in the end, everyone had a taste. It reminds me of almond milk and I noticed on wikipedia that it can be used in place of milk for the lactose intolerant.


Tastewise, it's not horrible but I didn't like the gloopy texture and I wasn't completely reassured that it hadn't gone off so most of it ended up down the sink. Take my advice - if you have a go, don't leave it in the fridge for too long !

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