Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Christmas countdown has begun ! Floral gifts roundup

The kids have gone back to school which, in my book, means that it's not too early to mention the C-word now. I hate to tell you this but we're into double-figures - it's only 99 sleeps until Christmas so get dusting off those fairy lights ! OK, I may be exaggerating slightly but companies are already sending out their Christmas gift guides and I always like to get presents in early to avoid last minute headaches about what to buy for the awkward members of the family !

If a special occasion is coming up and you need a gift for a loved one who loves nothing more than something pretty and feminine, a floral-inspired gift can be a good way to go. Here's a round-up of some of the best floral themed gift ideas to get you inspired and to show you some of the lovely things that are out there.

Mugs and coasters

Mugs and coasters are always a lovely gift, and I love the idea of a matching floral set. There are some lovely ones available on the new Zippi website under the ‘Floral’ category, and they’re reasonably priced too with good delivery options which are useful.

Flowery jewellery

There are loads of different options when it comes to flowery jewellery, whether it’s big rose rings, dainty daisy earrings or big statement flowery necklaces. I love this daisy necklace as it makes a statement without being too OTT. Topshop jewellery is usually really good quality, too.

Compact mirrors

A compact mirror for the special lady’s handbag makes a great gift as they come in really useful but they’re not boring. I absolutely love this black rose Anna Sui compact mirror from ASOS, and although it is a little pricey (£20), it’s designer so it’s a little piece of luxury in their handbag!

Hair brushes

Every woman should have a good quality hair brush, and one that makes her feel great when she’s brushing her locks. This is where this little beauty comes in – I love this floral paddle brush as it’s so cute and feminine, whilst also actually being a really good brush. It will look great on her dressing table.

Candles and holders

If you’re after something a little more relaxing and to help her pamper herself, a nice candle or floral candle holder is a great idea. I fell in love with this scented floral candle from NotOnTheHighStreet.co.uk and I'm sure most women would too. Candles always make a great gift, and if you want to bulk it out a bit, stick it in a pretty holder.

Trinket boxes

Girlie girls tend to love having lots of bits and bobs on their dressing tables and other bedroom surfaces, so a pretty trinket box to take pride of place is sure to be a winner. There are some lovely ones available from Etsy.com, from vintage classic ones to more modern, cute ones.

The great thing about all of these gifts is that they'll last longer than a bunch of actual flowers too !

Disclosure : This is a sponsored - but hopefully interesting ! - post.

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Giveaway #421 : Win the item of your choice from the SewLomax baby collection - closing date 16/10

Emma Lomax has been taking the fashion and beauty world by storm for the last two years with her ethically produced collection of stylish wash bags & accessories and this summer, she introduced her highly anticipated baby range. Her debut collection of must-have essentials consists of beautifully designed and ethically produced muslins, dribble bibs and baby bath time towel and flannel sets.

Emma has now added 3 stylish Mummy Pouches to the collection. The gorgeous pouches come in three designs and colours and are the perfect home for any Yummy Mummy's essentials. The pouches measure 19cm wide by 13cm high making them the perfect size for all your bits and pieces.

The 'Mummy's Stuff' pouch is made from mint green canvas with a pink Nylon lining and finished with the signature SewLomax bobbin zip detail. The 'Best Mummy' pouch is made from hot pink canvas with a red Nylon lining and finished with a cute Heart zip detail. The 'Mummy's Only' pouch is made from Navy canvas with a pink Nylon lining and finished with the signature SewLomax bobbin zip detail.

You can view the full debut baby collection at www.sewlomax.com

SewLomax have kindly offered to send the item of your choice to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. What will you choose - bibs, muslins, a bath set, a mummy pouch ... ? Just click through to this SewLomax giveaway Jotform and enter your details then leave me a comment below to say you've entered (and tell me what your favourite item is, if you like).

PLEASE NOTE: By entering this competition you are agreeing to receive occasional emails from SewLomax. Your details will not be passed on to any third parties. Check the t&c's on the entry form.

One Direction World Tour Sticker Book review

Over the summer, I was lucky (or rather, my daughters were lucky !) to win a competition on twitter for a One Direction sticker book from Centum Books. As you can see at the top of the book, this is an Official 1D product and was met with endless squeals of delight !

Even as a parent rather than a fan, I was actually very impressed with the book. It contains loads of facts about the members of the band, as well as activity pages that will keep any fan busy for hours on end.

Even Sophie, who seems to know everything there is to know about them (and more !) uncovered some new facts and saw some pictures that she'd never seen before (pretty amazing for someone who spends hours on Facebook looking at fan photos !).

Another huge squeal-moment was when they discovered the stickers - there are loads of them ! Many are very small so they can be used to decorate anything from school books and mobile phones to mp3 players and bedroom doors (and they're only the ones I've seen - I'm sure they've been stuck in many other places I haven't noticed yet !)

The autograph stickers were particularly impressive, apparently !

The only problem was, with two huge 1D fans in the house, I had a dilemma - who should get it? My suggestion of sharing it was met with sneers but luckily, I found a solution to keep everyone happy - they were on sale for a bargaintastic £4 on amazon and at Tesco so I grabbed another one so they had one each. Phew, crisis averted ! (Until next time - I've just won the latest 1D perfume, so who's going to get that ?!)

star rating : 5/5 (my daughters would kill me if I put anything less !)

  • Paperback: 56 pages
  • Publisher: Centum Books Ltd; 1 edition (1 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190849736X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908497369
  • Product Dimensions: 29.4 x 20.6 x 1 cm

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Introducing the newest Coke - Coca Cola Life !

When I was a kid (back in the 80's), Coke was Coke. It came in two varieties, Coke or Diet Coke. I remember getting stupidly excited when Cherry Coke was launched (then with the tongue-twistingly long name Cherry Coca Cola Cherry Coke - I still remember the advert and I had a rather fetching pair of cherry coke socks too !) because it seemed so new, so exotic and so very American ! Since then, I admit that I've found it a bit hard to keep up. I've seen limited edition flavours appearing and disappearing (I seem to remember lemon, lime, orange, vanilla and coffee ?), the caffeine-free variety hit the shelves and then Coke Zero was born. I admit it, I still never know what the difference between Diet Coke and Coke Zero is. Coke Zero has been labelled "bloke coke" because men were put off by the girlie word diet, but I can never tell the difference.

So when Coca Cola sent me through a tasting box of their products, I was keen to give them a proper test and see if I could finally taste the difference. It was also a great chance to sample their newest offering, Coca Cola Life.

Coca Cola Life is designed as a compromise between regular coke and Diet Coke. It contains 1/3 less sugar than regular coke and replaces artificial sweeteners with Stevia leaf extract. This video explains how it fits into the brand's portfolio and why it has been created.

I actually understand this one. I personally avoid regular coke like the plague because it is way too high in sugar and calories - a 330ml can contains 139 calories and 35g of sugar. I always opt for Diet Coke or Coke Zero, both of which contain no sugar and pretty much zero calories (1 calorie for a 330ml can). If I'm watching my waistline, they're my guilt-free sweet treat.

Coke Life is considerably higher in calories and sugar than the diet versions - it contains 27 calories per 100ml so a 330ml can contains 89 calories and 22.1g of sugar - but it also contains no artificial sweeteners. When I was pregnant, I stayed away from diet sodas because some medical experts (on and offline) said that there still wasn't sufficient data available to know if consuming artificial sweeteners could be bad for you during pregnancy so they were best avoided. Coke Life would be a great compromise, reducing the calories and sugar while avoiding the artificial sweeteners.

Taste-wise, I'll be honest - I still couldn't really taste any difference ! It's not as syrupy sweet as regular coke (which I don't like any more after switching over to Diet Coke or Coke Zero) but I couldn't really taste any difference compared to the no-calorie versions. What I'd really like to see is a sugar-free version of Coke Life, using just Stevia for a natural calorie-free option.

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

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Monday, 15 September 2014

Globe-cooking recipe : Kimchi (Korea)

Back in November last year, I received a Korean-themed Kitchen Nomad box. One of the items in the box was this tin of Kimchi. I went to investigate and learned that it is made of fermented vegetables - in fact, traditionally it is allowed to ferment underground in jars for months. It may be Korea's national dish but it really didn't appeal to me so it's been in the cupboard ever since ! I decided to be brave and try it this weekend though and it was actually better than I expected. This tinned variety was made with cabbage and just tasted like spicy sauerkraut. If you fancy trying your own, here's a recipe for you to make it yourself..

Quick Kimchi

ingredients :

600g Chinese cabbage
30g sea salt
1 onion, chopped
20g chives, chopped
1/2tsp chilli powder
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2tsp ginger
2tsp fish sauce
1tbsp honey
3tsp rice vinegar

Separate and wash the cabbage leaves. Lay them on a baking tray and cover with salt. Leave to macerate for 4 hours, turning once or twice.

After this time, put the leaves in a sieve and remove the excess salt with your hands.

Rip the leaves in half lengthways.

In a large bowl, mix the onion, chives, chilli powder, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, honey and rice vinegar, then add the leaves and stir so that they are completely covered. Leave for a few minutes and it's ready.

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Children's book review : Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins? - Liz Kessler

Tween/teen-read Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins? by Liz Kessler follows the fun adventures of a group of young teens who suddenly discover that they have secret powers - for Jessica, turning invisible. It all begins in a rather boring double geography lesson when Jessica starts drifting away - literally ! Her arm starts to disappear up to the elbow, much to her surprise !

At first totally panicked and bemused, Jessica, helped by her best friend, soon learns to harness her powers and wants to find out why this is happening to her. Being able to turn herself invisible helps her a great deal in her snooping and she soon learns what has happened to give her this power, and also that she is not alone - there are a few other people in the same predicament as her so obviously, she has to seek them out and make some new friends !

It's a bit like a cross between The Famous Five and Doctor Who, with weird goings-on and lots of exciting adventures. The basic premise is a bit far-fetched but nevertheless well thought-out - it does all sound quite feasible, in a weird suspended disbelief sort of way ! - and even as a grown-up, I was sucked in and read through to the end, eager to find out who the baddie was !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £10.99

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Orion Childrens (14 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 144401398X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444013986
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

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Madhouse diaries : A Sunday adventure

My FitBug is challenging me to walk 15,200 steps per day so I decided to take up the gauntlet yesterday and take the kids out for an adventure. Sophie was off doing homework with her mates at a friend's house (after going out to the cinema with them  the day before - you can tell she's hit her teens, we hardly see her any more !) so I asked Juliette and Pierre if they were up for a long walk. They were - especially when I told them where we were going !

One of our local parks (well, not THAT local - it's a 10km walk !) was hosting a Festival of Nature with the theme being the circus. There were lots of animals to see, stalls to look at and a bouncy castle to jump on.

One of the biggest attractions was the swings though !

Not sure if Pierre was screaming with delight or fear !

We wandered over to look at the animals. Our favourite was this miniature pig who had an upturned wheelie bin as a sty ! 

The crowds were quite offputting though so we headed off into the more natural part of the park.

Autumn is definitely on the way.

We petted a very docile horse.

And I spent ages examining this tree very closely. Can you see why?

A close-up makes it easier !

Yep, you've guessed it - I threw in a bit of geocaching ! The treasure was this Hannah Montana card which made me smile - how she's changed !

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Giveaway #420 : Win a Ghostbusters poster and Ghostbusters I & II Blu-ray - closing date 29/9

From September 1 fans will be able to own the Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray™ and a two-disc Blu-ray box set, which includes the Ghostbusters II 25th Anniversary Edition, debuting on Blu-ray. Both films have been fully restored and remastered in 4K and will be presented in high definition on Blu-ray from those 4K sources.

Both the Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters I & II Blu-rays come loaded with exclusive bonus materials, including revealing conversations with director Ivan Reitman and Dan Aykroyd, as well as never-before-seen deleted scenes from Ghostbusters II and more. The Ghostbusters anniversary edition features the original music video of the Oscar® nominated song “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr., while Ghostbusters II includes the original music video for “On Our Own” by Bobby Brown. In addition, Ghostbusters will contain all previously released legacy content, commentary and an interactive Slimer Mode, offering fans a picture-in-picture graphical viewing experience.

The Blu-ray™ Anniversary Editions of GHOSTBUSTERS and GHOSTBUSTERS I & II are available now

GHOSTBUSTERS has been restored and remastered in 4K and will be returning to cinemas for one day only across the UK on October 28th.

The poster can be bought at: www.pyramidshop.com

To celebrate the special 30th anniversary Blu-ray™ release of Ghostbusters, I’ve teamed up with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment to give one lucky winner a Ghostbusters poster and copy of Ghostbusters I & II on Blu-ray! Fill in your entries in the rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 29/9/14

NB : Please note, this Rafflecopter is being run by Nib Nibs so make sure you read their t&c's. (I was involved in finalising the t&c's though so rest assured, there's nothing dodgy! )

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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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Internet Matters - keep your kids safe and 'appy !

When this article from Internet Matters popped into my inbox, I thought "yeah, yeah, I know all that already, use parental control and put a password on to stop unauthorised downloads" but then I got to the end and thought "ooh, I'd never heard of those". If nothing else, make sure you scroll down to the end for details of the free apps to help kids get out of tricky sexting situations with a witty retort - I'll definitely be sharing them with Sophie for future reference, just in case.


According to Internet Matters – the child internet safety organisation founded by the UK’s four major broadband providers, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media - nearly a third of mums and dads let primary age kids download apps without their permission. Among dads, 34% said they allowed the new software to be bought or downloaded for free without a prior agreement with their children. Mums were stricter though, with only 25% saying the same.

The findings come just as pupils have returned to school with experts encouraging mums and dads to check what apps their youngsters may be talked into installing on their mobiles by friends. This can be difficult for parents because they can never be sure what new apps their children might be discussing in the playground.

The survey also showed that while three quarters of parents believed they were “confident or a little confident” in knowing what apps they should or shouldn’t ban, 3 in 10 did admit they only have an “average” understanding of what apps are suitable. To counter this, the new Internet Matters app guide can be found at www.internetmatters.org - giving parents a wealth of information and knowledge to learn about a host of different apps.

Examples of new apps that parents should be aware of include so-called “decoy” apps such as Secret Calculator, which can hide personal pictures and videos within the app behind a unique personalised code. Further lesser-known apps highlighted include Poof, which instantly hides open apps at the touch of a button, and more anonymous messaging services such as MeowChat and Whisper.

Carolyn Bunting, General Manager of Internet Matters said: “There are over three million apps available and this number increases daily. Understandably parents find it difficult to keep track of the apps that their children use. Many apps are great learning or entertainment tools but some may create risky situations for children and could put them in harm’s way. We want to encourage parents to talk about these issues and to help we have created a comprehensive App Guide for Parents on internetmatters.org.”

Claire Lilley, head of child safety online at NSPCC, adds: "For many young people socialising on the move through mobile phone apps is part of everyday life. They can be fantastic resources for children and young people, but it’s important that both parents and children are aware of the potential dangers. These can come from peers as much as they can from strangers. Risks for young people include cyberbullying, being exposed to inappropriate content, and grooming - where someone builds an emotional connection with a young person in order to sexually abuse them.”

Internet Matters’ Top Five Tips for Parents on App Safety

Hold the Password Keys – Do not give young children the password to your app download account or allow them to have their own. Not only will it enable them to download apps without your permission, it could also prove costly should they unwittingly make expensive in-app purchases. With Twitter trialling a ‘BUY’ button in the US this week, make sure you keep an eye on which apps offer in-app purchasing.

Check Their Settings – Check your child’s privacy settings on their smartphone or tablet, looking out for whether they are set up to prevent sharing of things like location, contacts, photos or calendars. Sharing a location may allow people they chat with to see where they are at given times.

Educate Children On The Risks – The Internet Matters website features a range of help and advice for parents on topics such as cyberbullying, sexting, explicit or offensive content and chatting to strangers. This comprehensive resource has been gathered from a range of internet safety experts such as Childnet, NSPCC and CEOP.

Be Savvy About Social Networks – Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have rules saying children under the age of 13 should not hold an account, so stand your ground on when your child can have access. Once they are old enough to have such an account, help your teenagers create strong privacy settings that will work when using popular social networking apps.

Brush Up On Your Apps – It is important parents understand and educate themselves on the latest apps. Each has an age-appropriate rating to allow them to decide whether it is suitable for their child. If in doubt, download it and try it out for yourself. Searching the internet for details of a particular app can also provide useful assurances or warnings.

Three Apps to Help Kids

Send This Instead - Developed to help children combat sexting from peers. It gives a range of optional images with humorous messages so children can send these as a response to sexting, putting them back in control.

Zipit - Made by ChildLine, Zipit aims to help teenagers deal with difficult sexting and flirting situations. It offers humorous comebacks, advice, and aims to help teenagers stay in control of flirting when chatting.

Kuddle - This is a photo-editing and sharing app that combines social media with 'netiquette' and educational information about online behaviour and risks.

For information on the Internet Matters initiative please visit: www.internetmatters.org

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Soreen Orange Fruit Loaf review

Soreen have a new kid loaf on the (chopping) block - a sunshiney orange-flavoured variety. I have to admit, I wasn't too sure when I heard about it - I love the original malt loaf, I love the banana one and I was even won over by the chocolate one, but would orange work? Would the flavour be strong enough?

Well, it's actually rather nice. The addition of orange pieces, tangy fruit juices and sweet sultanas just adds a slightly tart, zingy topnote to the usual malt loaf taste that we all know and love. The loaf is slightly paler than the regular malt loaf but all importantly, they've kept the usual lovely squidgy texture (although I'd love to know - am I the only one whose slices get smaller and smaller the further you get down the loaf because you end up compressing it when you lean on it to cut it ?!)

It's a relatively healthy option if you're watching your waistline - it only contains 1.5% saturated fat and one slice contains 84 calories (as long as you lay off the butter, marmalade or chocolate spread that Soreen suggest slathering all over it !). I actually think it tastes nicest as it is straight from the pack or toasted, with nothing added, so that you really get the benefit of the orange flavour. The kids have been wolfing it down smothered in butter though. I had plans for making a lovely citrussy bread and butter pudding with it but it disappeared before I got a look in !

Initially exclusive to Sainsbury's, the new Orange Soreen loaf is hitting the shelves in ASDA from this month too

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £1.25

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