Friday, 19 December 2014

Madhouse diaries : Little Donkeys

I told you about our festive fun in the town centre earlier in the week, but there was one final activity waiting for us before we jumped on the bus home - free donkey rides. While Pierre was queueing up for face painting, Juliette was already off getting her riding hat put on !

Where did she learn to climb on a donkey unaided ?!

Ready to trot !

Pierre wasn't far behind her, although he did look slightly nervous as he waited for his turn !

First time we've done donkey rides in the dark !

Pierre needed a little help getting on his donkey.

But just like the Grand Old Duke Of York, when he was up, he was up !

Little donkey, little donkey
On the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards
With your precious load !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

#NickJrCraftmas project #3 : Snowman Cupcakes

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Giveaway #448 : Win 2 x The Missing DVD - closing date 2/1/15

Boxing Day (26th December) sees the release of The Missing on DVD and Blu-Ray, giving you the chance to catch up on all eight episodes of the BBC mini-series, starring James Nesbitt and Frances O'Connor.

When Tony and Emily Hughes (Nesbitt and O'Connor) travel to France with their five-year-old son Oliver (Oliver Hunt), their family holiday turns into a nightmare when Oliver disappears into the crowd of a busy French street. As the frantic father loses patience with the police and their lack of motivation to search for Oliver, Tony takes matters into his own hands and begins to form a private investigation. The cast also includes Tchéky Karyo and Anastasia Hille.

I saw this on TV and was hooked right from the beginning - you can read my review here.

I have two DVD copies of The Missing to give away to lucky Madhouse Family Reviews readers. Just fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 2/1/15

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 :

DVD review : The Missing

Have you been watching The Missing on BBC1? To be honest, I wasn't sure I was going to like it when I first read the synopsis, because it sounded like a carbon copy of the Maddie McCann story and that seemed wrong somehow. The trailers sucked me in though so I tuned in to have a quick look and right from the first episode, I was hooked.

The powerful drama follows the harrowing tale of Tony and Emily Hughes, whose five-year-old son Olly is abducted while on holiday in a small town in France. The couple are totally bewildered, by the situation and also the incomprehension caused by the language barrier, and Tony (brilliantly played by James Nesbitt) can't give up the hope that his son may still be alive, however much time passes. The couple's marriage deteriorates before imploding and Tony starts to quietly self-destruct too, as he lives through every parent's worst nightmare. As a parent, part of you is behind him, knowing that he can never stop until no stone is left unturned, but another part is willing him to just accept what seems to be the inevitable truth.

It's a heart-breaking and harrowing drama that will leave you guessing right up to the end. In case you didn't see it on TV, I'm not giving any more away because it is just about to come out on DVD and Blu-Ray (on 26th December 2014).

 I will let you in on another sneaky secret though - I have a giveaway coming right up in my next post where you can win two copies of the DVD.

star rating : 4.5/5

  • Number of discs: 3
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: RLJ Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 26 Dec 2014
  • Run Time: 480 minutes

Disclosure : I received a copy of the DVD in order to write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Giveaway #446 : Win Angry Birds Complete Season 1 Volume 1 & 2 DVD Gift Set - closing date 26/12

Kärcher Car Cleaning Accessories review

After giving our homes a thorough overhaul, Kärcher have moved on to our cars and bikes with the latest products they sent to their Clean Ambassadors to try out last month : the FJ6 Foam Jet and a Wheel Washing Brush. Madhouse Daddy has been having great fun trying them out - what is with men and new gadgets ?! - but he totally failed in the blogger stakes because he didn't tell me he was using them until he'd finished so I didn't get any photos or videos - he'll have to try harder next time !

The Foam Jet can be used with any Kärcher pressure washer and is designed to generate a low pressure detergent foam, which is ideal for cleaning your car - it reminds me very much of the fine sheen of foam that automatic car washes spray all over your car. As the packaging shows, it has a variety of other possible uses though, from garden furniture to walls. It looks quite small - it has a 0.6 litre capacity - but this is actually plenty to get the job done. It has a dial to vary the amount of detergent and foam released so you can play about until you get the speed and texture you desire. Now, I was expecting really thick foam that clings to the car like a covering of snow, as I had seen on Youtube when I went to investigate, so when Madhouse Daddy tried it, I thought he'd overdiluted or maybe wasn't using it right. Looking at the official Kärcher video though (see above), it is quite runny so I think it probably depends on the detergent you use so we'll be investigating. That said, even with quite runny foam, it still does a great job of getting the car clean, without the need for being up to your elbows in a bucket of water (which is never a pleasant experince in winter !). 


The Wheel Washing Brush is the perfect accessory for the final finishing touch. I think it will really come into its own if the snow that has been promised comes to us next month, because that always leaves the wheels and the bottom of the car covered in flithy black slush and grit residue and this will be ideal for cleaning up. Like the other Kärcher attachments, it just pops on the end of your pressure washer and its all-round bristles make it a doddle to get into all the nooks and crannies of the hubcaps. Here at The Madhouse, it has been nicknamed The Crying Hedgehog because it does look a bit like a hedgehog and water comes pouring out of the bristles when you switch on the pressure washer ! If you like driving off road or have a BMX or motorcross fan in your midst, this will be absolutely worth its weight in gold !

RRP : £24.99 for the foam jet, £24.99 for the wheel washing brush

Disclosure : As Kärcher Clean Ambassadors, we've been putting a wide range of their products through their paces over the past year. 

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Kärcher MV3 P Multi Purpose Vacuum review

Madhouse diaries : Festive fun in the town centre

Yesterday, we decided to head into town on the hunt for Father Christmas and, hopefully, a little festive magic into the bargain because for some reason, nobody at The Madhouse has been feeling very Christmassy so far. We popped into McDonald's to play in their soft play and bumped into our first Santa of the day !

But this was our main destination - the inflatable igloo in the town square.

We were amazed to see that we were the only people there - there was a massive queue last time ! - so we went inside, had a chat with the lovely (but incredibly young) Santa, sniggered slightly at his white trainers (well, only me and Sophie, I don't think Pierre even noticed !) and came away with a big smile and a chocolate.

Having done my homework, I knew that there was a horse and carriage giving free rides around the town centre and, sure enough, we heard a clip-clopping.

We were the only people queuing for this too - where are all the Christmas shoppers?!

We headed down to see the festive decorations at the town hall.

A huge Santa made of LED lights which must look fabulous in the dark.

And an equally big teddy bear.

Alongside a little drummer boy.

Heading back into the centre, we saw some ice sculptors at work.

They made some very cute teddy bears.

Night was starting to fall but we waited our turn for the free face painting.

One weary but happy little tiger !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

It's time for Portable North Pole Santa Magic ! #iBelievePNP

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

It's time for Portable North Pole Santa Magic ! #iBelievePNP

Do your kids still believe in Santa? Here at The Madhouse, Pierre still believes 100%, Juliette is on the fence (but, despite a few reservations, isn't quite ready to give up believing yet !) and Sophie, obviously, doesn't believe any more but still enjoys getting swept along in the Santa magic with the other two. I was therefore over the moon when December came around and I could start ramping up the excitement levels.

One of the truly magical festive moments is watching the Madhouse kids' faces just before Christmas when they get a special personalised video message from the Man in Red himself, complete with photos and details that only he could possibly know. You can make a personal video message for absolutely free but PNP - that's Portable North Pole - kindly sent me through a code so that I could make a premium video for Pierre (and Juliette and Sophie too, because I thought he'd get suspicious if he was the only one to get one).

You can have a look at Pierre's special video here (but ssshhh, he hasn't seen it yet !). You get to decide whether your child is on the naughty, nice or almost nice list, get Santa to tell them what they need to work on and throw in a few secret details to blow their minds along the way! The basic video message is free but if you want an upgrade (for a longer video with more personalisation options and extra scenes featuring the cheeky elves), the code BLG20BKP will get you a 20% discount.

The Santa magic doesn't stop there though - you can also add in personalised phone calls and PNP have also introduced a new package, the Unlimited Holiday Pass, for limitless access to Santa Premium video messages and personalized phone calls. Having used the service last year, I can also tell you that you can get a free birthday message from Santa for your child which comes as a huge squeal-inducing surprise ! Oh, and there's also a free Santa Sprint game that you can download that will keep the kids entertained while they're waiting for bedtime to arrive on Christmas Eve !

I'm feeling all festive now so I loved looking through the Santa Magic facts that PNP have put together in this fun infographic. It has some great answers to tricky questions that the kids may ask - I love the magical flying reindeer plus grand pendulum combo for explaining how Father Christmas gets to everyone's homes on one special night (a question that Pierre asked me again earlier today !).

Have fun if you make a video for your kids and, if you're still debating whether to go for a free or premium version, something you may like to keep in mind is that the PNP team will donate 5% of all web sales to Children's Hospital foundations across the world. Even more Santa magic going on there !

for more information :

Disclosure : We received a code for a premium video, but we always make the free video messages anyway !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Madhouse diaries : The Christmas Farm

Halfwine half-bottle wines review

There's an ongoing joke in foodie circles that whenever a recipe calls for leftover wine, bloggers say "Leftover wine? When does that ever happen ?!". In reality, the answer is actually quite often though. Maybe you like red and your partner prefers white or you're driving and will only have one glass with dinner or there's only one drinker in the family (maybe you're pregnant or breastfeeding but your partner would still like a cheeky glass of wine). Whatever the reason, sometimes half a bottle is all you need, so I was instantly won over by the concept behind the Halfwine company, which provides a wide array of half-size bottles containing 2-3 glasses.

They sent us through a couple of bottles to try out - an Old Winery Cabernet Merlot from Tyrell's Wines (£5.95) and a Pinot Grigio from Cabert (£5.95). The first is a red Australian wine, very fruity and easy to drink (perfect for me because I'm not keen on the really strong, earthy flavours of the very old French wines that French Madhouse Daddy and his family favour) and the second is a white Old World Pinot Grigio from Friuli, Italy, the perfect accompaniment to the smoked salmon that many of us will be tucking into over the Christmas period.

Halfwine have put together a little Christmas Wish List to help you pick your festive tipples :

1. For Her

Forget diamonds, Champagne is a girls’ best friend this Christmas! Treat the special lady in your life with a Champagne Gift Pack. This great gift set includes two half bottles (375ml) of grower Champagne Marc Hebrart, NV, Cuvee de Reserve Brut 1sr Cru; available for just only £34.90 delivered too.

2. For Him

Give him a timeless gift this Christmas with a Great Vintage Bordeaux and Burgundy Gift Pack (2 x 375ml). This classic gift contains a half bottle of Harmand-Geoffroy, Gevrey Chambertin 2012 and half a bottle of Chateau le Chatelet Saint Emilion Grand Cru 2005. £42.90 delivered.

3. Something For Everyone

Love your old and new world wines? Or have a friend who would like to learn their Australian from their French? Then Taste Your Way Around The World Gift Pack is the perfect gift. This 24 x 375ml gift set contains classic examples of the major varietals produced around the world from the range and is just £199 delivered.

4. For Food Lovers

Great wine paired with good food is a match made in heaven, so give the foodie in your life the ultimate gift this Christmas with a Dinner Gift Pack (4 x 375ml). Start with a grower Champagne aperitif Cuvee de Reserve Brut 1sr Cru - Marc Hebrart, NV; complement your starter with a Chablis - William Fevre 2012; enjoy your main with a Burgundy – Harmand-Geoffroy - Gevrey Chambertin, 2012; and finish with a Sauternes - Chateau Sainte Helène 2009 for just £57.90 delivered.

5. Design Your Own Gift

Design your own gift for a loved one this Christmas and select any combination of individual half bottles or tasting packs to make up your 4, 6 or 12 half bottle gift packs. FREE delivery is available for 12 or more half bottles.

As Madhouse Daddy is French, he considers himself a bit of a wine buff, but there are so many different wines available that it is impossible to try them all. Buying a Halfwine taster pack is a fabulous way of broadening his horizons and trying out varieties that he might have passed by otherwise.

for more information :

Disclosure : We received some samples in order to write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Lily O' Brien's Christmas Chocolates review

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Yay, I completed my 2014 reading challenge !

I always have a book on the go (sometimes even two !) and I know I read (and review) a lot of different titles, but I never really knew just how many until I spotted a Goodreads Reading Challenge widget on someone's blog last year and scuttled off to have a look. I tentatively went for a goal of 52 books for 2013, that's one a week which seemed quite challenging, but I smashed it, coming in at 61 books ! You can see what I read in 2013 here.

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Cheryl has
completed her goal of reading 52 books in 2014!

I decided to have another go this year and I'm pretty chuffed to see that I have just succeeded in completing my 2014 Reading Challenge of 52 books again. I've read 53 books, one over my target, and there's still a fortnight to go !

I thought it would be interesting (for me and hopefully for you too !) to look back over what I read this year. Are there any that you've read too? If so, I always love to compare notes so please click through to my review and leave me a comment !











My cold-busting kit from Nivea

As I take the bus to and from work every day and spend far too long hanging around at the bus stop in the cold, wind and rain, the winter weather really takes its toll on my skin. My lips are usually the first to get chapped and sore, followed by my hands drying out and the skin on my cheeks inevitably ends up feeling dry, tingly and tight. Luckily, Nivea sent me through a lovely selection of their winter essentials to help me through the cold season.

I started with the dark blue bottle containing Rich Nourishing Body Moisturiser with Hydra IQ (RRP £3.56 for 250ml), an innovative ingredient which protects skin and locks in moisture. It targets dry skin and promises a long lasting feel. I love rubbing this into the skin on my arms and legs if it is feeling dry, flaky or scaly. It contains almond oil and has a lovely fragrance that makes me think of the summer for some reason, probably because it reminds me of sun cream. 99% of women who have tried it agree that using Nivea Rich Nourishing Body Moisturiser leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth and, having tried it myself, I have to say I agree.

I also discovered the Irresistably Smooth Body Lotion with Hydra IQ (RRP £3.56 for 250ml) in the purple bottle which has a lighter texture and a non-greasy formula. It delivers long-lasting nourishment for beautifully soft skin thanks to the Shea Butter that it contains, which infuses your skin with intensive moisture. This smells lovely too and I love smoothing this over my skin when I jump out of the shower. It's designed for dry skin.

The Express Hydration Body Lotion with Hydra IQ (RRP £3.56 for 250ml) in the white bottle is for normal skin and promises deep moisture and a long-lasting feel. It has the big advantage of being ultra fast absorbing so you don't get the horrible sticky feeling when you get dressed after applying it. It has a light texture, a pleasant but discreet fragrance and contains sea minerals.

My hands have had a thorough pampering too, thanks to the Smooth Nourishing Hand Cream, which contains Hydra IQ and Macadamia Nut Oil (RRP £3.67 for 100ml) Its formula includes vitamins B5 and F,  and it supports the skin's own moisture in the deeper layers of skin. It has a rich texture but is quickly absorbed into the skin, leaving a sensation of protection but no greasiness. This goes in my coat pocket along with my gloves for the extra cold mornings when my hands are tingly with the cold !

My absolute must-have product for the winter (and, in fact, all year round) is lip balm so I was delighted to receive four different Lip Butters (RRP £1.99 for 16.7g) to try out : Original, Blueberry Blush, Raspberry Rosé and Vanilla & Macadamia. They all taste great and provide superb protection for my lips whatever the weather, thanks to the trio of magic ingredients, Hydra IQ, Shea Butter and Almond Oil. My lips feel softer, they are less likely to chap and any soreness or cracks heal quickly. Even the Madhouse kids keep coming and asking if they can have some on their lips, partly because it feels nice but also because they love the smell and the taste !

It sounds like there is some bitterly cold weather on the way, so my advice is to stock up now !

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

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Blackhead Killer Gift Box review

Monday, 15 December 2014

Book review : The Hourglass Factory - Lucy Ribchester

You can't judge a book by its cover but I still love it when publicists go all out to make the books that they're promoting really stand out from the crowd. Such was the case when this (fake) newspaper-wrapped copy of Lucy Ribchester's The Hourglass Factory popped through my letterbox.

The novel is set in 1912 in London, a rather dangerous and intimidating place, with suffragettes creating havoc in their fight to obtain the vote for women. Frankie George isn't a suffragette, but she still raises many an eyebrow because she chooses to wear trousers and comes across as a bit of a tomboy - she's an ambitious young reporter who wants to cover real news rather than the frothy women's interest stories she is usually given. 

When she gets the chance to interview Ebony Diamond, trapeze artist extraordinaire, she doesn't expect much ground-breaking journalism to be involved, but she soons finds herself thrown into a mysterious and macabre adventure involving circus tigers, fetishists and a corset shop, amongst other things. Someone is out to get Ebony Diamond, but is it because she's a suffragette or something more personal? 

The novel could almost be described as a work of historical fiction as it plunges you into the heart of Victorian London, effectively recreating the atmosphere of a city in uproar. It is interesting to see the mentality of the times, particularly in terms of women's place in society, but also the attitudes to circus freaks and the sordid secrets that are kept behind closed doors, away from the veneer of social respectability that is presented to the outside world.

The story is engaging and original, but I did feel that the characters were slightly underdeveloped. Whether central characters or random strangers met in the streets, they came across as rather one-sided and I think they had a lot more that could have been exploited to create some truly unforgettable characters.

2015 will be the year of ther suffragette with a major motion picture set in London and starring Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter and Carey Mulligan coming to the screens in January. The Hourglass Factory will be bang on trend and give readers another chance to soak up the atmosphere of this pivotal time.

star rating : 4/5

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (15 Jan 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471139301
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471139307
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 4.1 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Book review : Deadline - John Sandford