Thursday, 27 November 2014

Have your kids put Frozen merchandise on their Santa wish list?

Just in case they have (and I bet many of you are nodding your heads !), you might like to know that today, for one day only, Disney Frozen is taking over George.com in the first take-over of its kind. Over 50 Frozen products have been released online before they launch in ASDA stores on 1st December. Full details below. Hopefully that's just made Christmas shopping a bit easier (and lighter on the pocket) for some of you !

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This Thursday 27th November George.com is hosting a ‘Disney Frozen Take-over’, with over 50 lines of dress-up costumes, clothing, homeware, toys and accessories landing on the site.

With Disney Frozen proving the retail phenomenon of 2014, today's icy offerings are set to be a sell-out. Currently, Disney Frozen merchandise is the fastest EVER selling product on George.com. Last month, shoppers looking to snap up this year’s hottest (or should we say coldest) fancy dress costume were buying over 350 ‘Elsa’ costumes every hour. ‘Frozen’ has been the top searched term on the site for over 6 months – with over 60,000 hits every week.

The enormously popular Elsa fancy dress costume was such a success that George.com sold more of this item than the entire Halloween fancy dress offering combined. Over 10,000 Elsa costumes were sold on the first day of landing online – a record that looks set to be beaten when Frozen takes over George.com today.

Today, George also reveals that it will be the exclusive stockist of the innovative Elsa ‘Light and Sound’ costume. The costume features flashing lights and musical sounds – and at just £14, it is a whopping 50% cheaper than similar designs from other retailers. George.com is expecting the design to be a sell-out success and has ordered an extra 5,000 costumes for today's take-over.

Featuring on the George.com homepage and in its very own dedicated ‘Frozen’ micro-shop, the huge array of costumes, clothing, homeware, toys and accessories will span girl’s, boy’s, men’s and women’s collections. Online for one day only, shoppers will be able to snap up items starting at just £1.50 – with many of the top gifts for Christmas available as a sneak peek before landing in-store on 1st December.


Jonathan Tillery, Senior Buying Director at George commented: “Disney Frozen is the movie that ‘melted’ everyone’s hearts. Whether it’s dressing up as Elsa, snuggling up in a character duvet or playing ‘build a snowman’ with a cuddly Olaf toy, the George.com ‘Frozen Takeover’ will ensure fans of all ages can celebrate Christmas with their favourite characters. We know that today is going to be incredibly popular with shoppers so my advice for Frozen fans is to get online and snap up a bargain, quick!”

You heard him, get your (ice) skates on !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Too old for dolls? Maybe not for DesignaFriend (review)

Giveaway #441 : Win 2 x In The Night Garden: Snowy Day books - closing date 10/12


Welcome in the winter with this lovely In the Night Garden: Snowy Day book.

Experience In the Night Garden in a whole new winter wonderful way! Read this enchanting story and discover who's been leaving funny footprints in the fluffy snow. Join Iggle Piggle, Upsy Daisy, Makka Pakka and all their friends in their wintry wonderland.

Hardback, 16 pages, RRP £4.99



I have a copy of the book to give away to two lucky Madhouse Family Reviews readers. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below to be in with a chance of winning.


UK only. Closing date : 10/12/14

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 :

Giveaway #440 : Win The Hive Giant Floor Puzzle - closing date 10/12


The Hive Giant Floor Puzzle from Ravensburger will certainly keep little puzzle fans busy (or should that be buzzy ?!). It features key characters Buzzbee, Rubee, Barnabee, Jasper, Miss Ladybird, Debee and Sidney Spider, Snail and Worm from Disney Junior and The Hive. It's a busy and hugely colourful puzzle that is made up of 24 large sturdy pieces and measures 69 x 49cm when complete. 

RRP £8.99, available from Amazon



I have one The Hive Giant Floor Puzzle to give away to a lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries on the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
UK only. Closing date : 10/12/14

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 :

Breville Halo+ Health Fryer review - our angelic chips !


If you've been following my weekly Sunday weigh-ins, you'll know that I'm on a mission to shed the baby weight (I may remind you here that Pierre is now 5 !) and get generally healthier. I'm not looking for a quick fix though. I want the weight to come off and stay off so I'm not interested in faddy diets or starving myself. I want to make sustainable changes that can be continued long-term and involve the whole family, so when BritMums announced that they were looking for bloggers to trial the Breville Halo+ Health Fryer, I was very keen to get involved. Their opening line sold it to me ! : "No-one likes to give up their favourite foods for the sake of slimming, but with the new Halo+ Health Fryer, you needn’t have to!" Ooh sounds perfect !


The first thing that struck me is that it's a very good-looking piece of equipment. I love the funky green trim and the shape reminds me of a cross between a motorbike helmet and R2D2 ! It's just as well that it's easy-on-the-eye because it's fairly bulky so it may well end up living permanently on the worktop, if I can find a space - especially as I'm just starting to realise how versatile it is, but more about that later ! It's main selling-point is that you can use it to replace your deep fat fryer - I banished my deep-fat fryer quite some time ago so it's oven chips on the menu most of the time, which are often hard to digest and nowhere near as good as proper fried chips in taste and texture. I have tried the Actifry too but if I use frozen chips (which I do usually), I find that they come out a bit soggy and some of them get smashed to a pulp by the paddle. How would the Halo+ Health Fryer compare and would it live up to its claims of being able to create a whole kilo of crisp, browned chips with just half a tablespoon of oil?


Well, a picture paints a thousand words, as they say. I have to admit, I was slightly dubious but just look at these beauties ! I was expecting them to be a bit soggy and pale but they're perfectly crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle.


Have another close up look just to appreciate that beautiful golden colour and the perfectly crisped-up edges. Hard to believe they've been cooked with barely any oil, isn't it ?!


I did the kitchen towel test, putting a sheet in the bottom of the bowl before pouring out the chips and this is the tiny amount of oil that came off them (and I'm not actually sure if that is all grease or if some of it is condensation). I remember how drenched in fat the kitchen towel used to be with my deep fat fryer so I'm seriously impressed.

I'm not even going to start to try to explain the technology behind this clever piece of equipment but it involves a unique tilt function and non-stick rotating bowl along with an instant dual heat source so you can get cooking in seconds. The rest of the description goes a bit over my head, I'm afraid ! The things that made me say "ooh, that's good" are that the cooking bowl, roasting rack (which is great for allowing hidden fat to come out of processed meats like sausages and burgers) and measuring spoon can all go in the dishwasher and that it has three cooking options, dual heat with or without tilt and grill only. This means that you can use it to fry but also bake, sauté and roast a wide variety of foods. Including cakes. Yes, really !

I haven't had much time to play with it yet but I will be giving it some serious roadtesting over the coming months so I'll be sure to tell you how we get on. I've been researching what other people recommend cooking in it and have been collating recipe ideas that I want to try - so far, I have crispy bacon (it removes loads of the fat during cooking apparently), garlic bread, baked potatoes, apple crumble (?!), samosas, pizza, toasties ... the list is apparently endless. This is also great news for Sophie who cooks for herself at lunchtime but is only allowed to use the microwave, not the oven or the gas (so she usually ends up with reheated leftovers) - this will open up a whole load of new options for her.

The Breville website has even more Halo+ recipe ideas that I would never have dreamed of trying but that I definitely want to now ! - crème brûlée, sponge cake/cupcakes, scones, Swedish style meatballs in tomato sauce, Thai red curry ...  

Before trying it, I thought that it was an ingenious device but basically an over-priced gadget for cooking healthy chips. (The RRP is £169.99 but you can find them for about £100 if you look around online.) Having seen how much it can do, I have to say it is actually a very versatile piece of equipment that could replace a deep-fat fryer but also a microwave. It injects some excitement into preparing meals for reluctant cooks too (even Madhouse Daddy wants to have a play with it !) and I absolutely love the fact that it vastly reduces the fat and calorie content of many usually unhealthy dishes that I would have wanted to avoid.

Let me know what you've tried cooking in it, if you've got one. I can't quite get my head around cooking cakes in it but I can't wait to have a go !



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

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Nice Ice Baby ! (Character & WeightWatchers Ice Cream review)

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A Crafty Christmas with Bead & Button Co ! (review)


When Bead & Button Co got in touch to see if we'd like to try out some of their crafting supplies, I went to have a look at what they had on offer and decided it would be the perfect opportunity to get back into sewing. Before I started blogging, I used to spend loads of time sewing, doing patchwork and cross-stitch in front of the telly every evening, but now that blogging takes up all my spare time, I've totally stopped. There were several quilt kits in their store but I chose this cheerful snowman one because I always love making homemade and handmade festive decorations that get brought out every year.


The kit contains everything you need, including the filling and backing, except a needle and thread and a pair of scissors. You get plenty of each type of material for the design (it seems to be designed with a little bit left over in case you make a mistake and cut a piece wrong somewhere). You do need some sewing skills, particularly for the four-square design in each corner of the border.


I'm out of practice so mine went a bit skew-whiff but I always think that's part of the charm of hand-sewn items (ahem !).


When doing an appliqué design, it's always the background and border that take the most time. The actual main part of the design is really quick. The instruction sheet has the template for all the different parts of the snowman that you need to cut out but you will need to trace some as they're doublesided. I just used a standard sheet of printer paper though and it worked fine.


There's something very gratifying about finishing something hand-sewn, even if you always notice the bits that didn't come out quite right (and I'm sure you're the only one to see them !). Pierre has already put this festive fella up on his bedroom wall !

We also received some lovely glitter markers and metallic pens that the Madhouse kids have been using for their extra-special colouring and projects. We'll be using them for making our homemade Christmas cards this year because they look really special.

The Snowman Wall-hanging Kit retails at £24.99 but is currently on sale at £19.99. The metallic pens are £5 for 8 and the glitter pens are £8.99 for 8.


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

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Look out for a #NickJrCraftmas Party on 1st December


Look out for a #NickJrCraftmas Party on 1st December


Three of our favourite things - Nick Jr, Christmas and crafting - have been combined for a very exciting upcoming twitter party so we were delighted to be picked as hosts. I'll be back with more details and to show you the results of our crafting - it might even inspire you to have a go yourself in the run up to Christmas ! - but just to give you a heads-up, it will be taking place on Monday 1st December from 1-3pm. As usual, there will be prizes galore if you join in on twitter, so make sure you follow @cherylp59 (that's me !), @UKMumsTV and @NickJrUK, as well as the #NickJrCraftmas hashtag to keep in the loop.

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Globecooking recipe : White Cabbage Salad with Liptauer (Austria)


When I saw this recipe in my Austrian-themed Kitchen Trotter box, I went to investigate and discovered that Liptauer is a spicy cheese spread, usually made with sheep or goat's milk cheese or cottage cheese. This version used fromage blanc which was handy as I had some in the fridge. It was nice but I think the Liptauer could have done with some extra herbs and spices as it was a bit bland. I dolloped mine on top of the salad but traditionally, it is spread on bread.



White Cabbage Salad with Liptauer


Ingredients 

Salad

1/2 white cabbage
2 green apples
a pinch of salt
2tbsp sugar
2tbsp white wine vinegar
a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil

Liptauer

200g fromage blanc (or cottage cheese or Greek yogurt)
80g butter
1 onion
3tbsp capers 
1 big gherkin
salt, pepper, paprika


First, prepare the salad by shredding the white cabbage and chopping the apples. Add the salt, sugar and vinegar and stir to combine. 

For the Liptauer, mix the fromage blanc and melted butter then chill in the fridge.


Finely chop the gherkin and onion and add to the bowl. Mix in salt, pepper, paprika and capers to taste. I'd add extras like garlic pepper, caraway seeds and Cayenne pepper too, to give it a boost.


Drizzle the salad with pumpkin seed oil just before serving. (I'm not sure this added much to the overall dish but it was the only product required from the Kitchen Trotter box so they had to put it in there somewhere !)


Traditionally the Liptauer should be spread on rye bread and served with the salad.


But I dolloped mine on top of the salad !

It's a great lower fat alternative to coleslaw and even without the Liptauer, the white cabbage and apple salad is lovely. Definitely one that I'll be using again to accompany BBQs in the summer.

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Globe-cooking recipe : Kaiserschmarrn (Austria)

Too old for dolls? Maybe not for DesignaFriend (review)


A couple of weeks ago (where is the time going ? Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye at this rate !), you may have spotted lots (and lots and lots !) of tweets about our #DesignaFriend twitter party. As is always the way with twitter parties, it all got a bit hectic so I though it would be nice to show you just how beautiful the dolls are now that things have calmed down !


The twitter party was very much geared toward young and tween-aged girls, with colouring activities,  cupcakes, crafts and pass the parcel. Although Juliette and her friends had a great time, I would say that the DesignaFriend dolls would actually appeal to a slightly older audience too.



In the box, she looks just like a regular doll. Pretty but nothing particularly amazing.



But once you take her out of the box, you'll start to discover the wow-factor. The first thing everyone commented on was her face with big beautiful eyes (and the mums appreciated the fact that she looks childlike with a healthy natural glow and slightly chubby cheeks, rather than loads of make up and unrealistic bodily proportions). The next thing that made the girls ohh was her hair - "it's so soft", "it feels like real hair", "ooh can I brush it?"! She does indeed have glossy hair that feels lovely to the touch.



But what really takes the dolls to another level are the clothes and accessories in their pretty pink boxes that look like they have come out of some high-end designer boutique. 



They have beautiful materials and designs that actually look like proper clothes that real people would want to wear (rather than most cheap and cheerful dolls' clothes that usually look like a hastily sewn-together offcut of nasty polyester !) I actually heard several of the girls say that they'd love an outfit just like their doll - this would be a great idea for marketing if someone could come up with human-sized versions of some of the designs.


There are clothes for all occasions, from the basic day-to-day trousers and tops to the stylish dresses and glitzy pumps. It is this attention to detail, with finely crafted accessories and items that can be mixed and matched to create numerous different outfits, that make these dolls have an appeal more far-reaching than most normal dolls.



She may be into her teens now but even Sophie had fun putting together some funky looks and wistfully declaring that she wouldn't mind having that coat and boots to wear for winter !



One final lovely touch is the matching charm bracelets, one for the doll and one for the child. They must have heard us when we mused about wanting matching outfits to go with the dolls !


There are lots of different DesignaDolls available exclusively at Argos on the high street or at amazon online, with different eye colours, hair colours and hair lengths so you might want to pick one that resembles its intended recipient. It will undoubtedly be the gift that keeps on giving as you will be able to buy extra clothes and accessories as future birthday and Christmas gifts too.

If you're quick, you still have a couple of days to enter the competition on the UKMumsTV website to win your very own DesignaFriend doll just in time for Christmas too.



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myStyle Design & Make Shrink Design Jewellery kit review

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Aquaint Sanitising Water review


My baby days are long behind me but I still remember those first few panic-stricken months when you want to sterilise everything in sight, from bottles and dummies to teething rings and plastic toys. I remember constantly disinfecting the high chair tray and boil-washing cuddly toys every now and then in an attempt to get rid of any nasty germs that may be lurking on them. But then I used to worry about what nasty chemicals may be lurking in the disinfectant products themselves !

Aquaint to the rescue ! It is a 100% natural, eco-friendly, water-based sanitiser that is completely safe for your children to handle and use because, unbelievably, it is harmless even if they accidentally drink it! I wouldn't recommend it but that is definitely reassuring. Apparently, it can even be used as a mouthwash - although I'd personally be worried about this giving kids the idea that all cleaning products are safe to put in your mouth.

 Water provides the base for the product and its only other ingredient is hypochlorous acid, a harmless, natural acid produced by the human body which provides its anti-bacterial properties. It kills 99.9% of bacteria in seconds which is rather impressive. It's the safest sanitiser on the market and certainly the most child-friendly. 

Even if The Madhouse is a baby-free zone, it's still a really handy product to have. I love giving the wooden chopping board a quick spritz every day, it's perfect for wiping down the worktops and the bin and if anyone has a dodgy tummy, I use it everywhere from the toilet seat and flush to door handles and light switches ! When I've been doing disgusting jobs like the bins or cleaning the toilet (oh, I have such a glamorous life !), I always feel queasy about going straight on to preparing food, even if I've washed my hands, so a quick spritz of Aquaint gives me great peace of mind.

The smaller bottle is great for days out, for keeping in the car, my handbag or my coat pocket – the kids always seem to want to eat a snack when we're out geocaching and we've been digging about in the dirt or stroking farm animals so it's a great product for when you can't get to a sink to wash your hands.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : 500ml trigger spray bottle £4.99, 50ml finger pump bottle £2.49

available in Boots, Babies R Us, Ocado, Vital Baby, JoJo Maman Bebe, NCT Shop and Amazon

for more information : www.aquaint-uk.com



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

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Almost enough to make me feel broody ! (review)

Time to discover ... Food Discovery Box (review)


Have you started wracking your brains for original and appealing Christmas gift ideas yet? Well, I have the perfect idea for any foodies in your family - a Food Discovery Box subscription, which delivers artisan food from high quality independent producers from across the country every month.

It works slightly differently to many foodie subscription services in that the contents of your box aren't down to pot luck, you get some input. Every month, a menu of up to 30 different items from boutique British artisan food producers is put up and members chose their favourite five items, which they will receive, along with one (or sometimes two, if you're lucky) wild-card mystery products, to get you to try something new.



I was delighted to receive a taster box to give me (and you!) an idea of the kind of products on offer. In my box, I got :


Chiltern Natural Foods Apple & Cinammon Crunch - Wholegrain, sweetened with honey rather than sugar and flavoured with chunks of apple, raisins and cinnamon - it's not naughty but it's definitely nice ! Chiltern Natural Foods believe in creating great tasting foods that are all natural so there are no hidden nasties. 

Olive Branch Red Pepper Paste - A taste of Greece in a jar ! Peeled chargrilled red peppers, ground into a paste with chilli and mizithra cheese. Lovely as bruschetta on toast, to give homemade pizzas a twist in place of tomato puree or dolloped on top of pasta.

Coriander Garden Lentil Dhal Mix - If you're a regular follower of my blog, you'll know how much I love globe-cooking so I was delighted to see this in the box. It's a mix of red and yellow lentils along with the all important spices - you just add water, boil and simmer for a fragrant meal with no hassle. The inspiration may be Indian but the company are British, based in Derbyshire.

Flavour Magic Rosemary Rock Salt - A rosemary and rock salt blend that comes with its own grinder. I was impressed to learn that the man behind the company is a chef from New Zealand who came over to the UK after the Christchurch earthquakes. This is great for grinding over steak or buttered baked potatoes.

Tregunter Fig Jam - Beautifully sweet and fruity and made with 100% natural products in a real cottage kitchen. This is lovely on toast but would also be delicious in a tart. I'm tempted to try this with melted goat's cheese too, if there's any left in the jar !

Jacc's Hazelnut Cream Gourmet Coffee - Jacc's use only the finest arabica beans and marinate them in sugar-free natural flavourings for a rich, smooth flavour. I'm not a coffee-lover but I'll pass this on to a friend who will love it.


They also provide a recipe for you to try - authentic Indian Dhal in this box.

The whole idea of the scheme is to tap into the depth of British gourmet artisan talent and help spread the word about some of the nation's unsung foodie heroes. I always love discovering small brands that never make it to the supermarket shelves so I think this is a lovely idea. 

You can become a member from £23.50 a month but if you enter code madhouse, they'll give you 50% off your first box. Alternatively,  you may want to offer a 1-month gift subscription for £19.99. If you sign up to their newsletter here, you'll also go into a draw where they will be picking one winner a week for a box right up to Christmas. (I've entered too and if you'd be kind enough to put my email in the box to say I sent you, I'll get extra entries ! It's on my profile at the top of my sidebar just under my photo.)

for more information : http://fooddiscoverybox.com/

Disclosure : I received a trial box in order to write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Madhouse recipe : Instant S'mores