Friday, 21 November 2014

Giveaway #439 : Win a Wasgij Christmas puzzle (plus bonus competition to win £10,000!) - closing date 5/12


Wasgij (that's jigsaw backwards), the UK’s No.1 adult jigsaw puzzle brand, has launched the must-have jigsaw puzzle this Christmas - Wasgij Christmas 10: Mystery Shopper!

The 2 x 1000 piece festive jigsaw puzzle will bring family fun and entertainment to every home and a distraction from our digital screens this Christmas. The picture on the box depicts a department store crammed with shoppers trying to pick up the best Christmas bargains - but what has caught the eyes of these busy shoppers? Piece together the puzzle to reveal the solution.

Wasgij is unlike traditional jigsaws where you puzzle the image printed on the box - instead you use your imagination and the clues provided to piece together a different image than what is shown on the box. But to make this Christmas puzzle even more special, you can also piece together the image printed on the box – making it twice as enjoyable.

This new puzzle from Wasgij also features a fantastic on-pack promotion to win £10,000 and Wasgij goodies! To enter, just visit wasgij.com. (No purchase necessary.)

Wasgij have kindly offered to send a Wasgij Christmas 10: Mystery Shopper! puzzle to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.


UK only. Closing date : 4/12/14

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 :

Madhouse recipe : Cheesy Baked Rice


This dish was an experimental way of using up some leftover cooked rice and the veggies in the bottom of the fridge that were on the turn. It got a rave reception so I'll definitely be making it again !


I had a carton of low-fat Carnation Cook With It! from a recent Degustabox but you could use crème fraîche instead.

 Cheesy Baked Rice


ingredients :

leftover cooked rice (or you could use a sachet of microwaveable rice)
1/2 green pepper
2 leeks
2 onions
4 mushrooms
a tin of sweetcorn
1 pack bacon lardons
200g grated cheese 
1/2 carton Carnation Cook with it (or 20cl liquid crème fraîche)


Gently fry the bacon, onions, leeks, mushrooms and green pepper in a little olive oil for 10 minutes until the bacon is cooked through and the vegetables are soft. (Feel free to substitute with whatever veggies you may have lurking in the fridge !) Drain a can of sweetcorn and add to the mix (or you could add frozen sweetcorn and peas too if you like) along with a third of the grated cheese.


Add the cooked rice and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring to combine everything.


Pour in the cream and stir.


Transfer to an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.


Bake in a preheated oven at 180° for 15-20 minutes until the cheese has formed a golden crust and the cream has been absorbed.

If you have picky eaters who aren't keen on veggies, this is a great way of sneaking them in unnoticed !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Cooking with a Tagine : Chicken & Preserved Lemon Tagine

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Giveaway #438 : Win a Murder Mystery Dinner Party game - closing date 4/12


As the season of parties and celebrations is upon us, why not invite friends and family round for an evening of murder mystery courtesy of Crime Time? Their murder mystery dinner party games provide adults with an evening of laughter and suspense!


Let me introduce one of their games : Rung Out in the New Year, for ten players.

We’ve all been to a New Year’s Eve party and no doubt you’ll be planning this year’s celebrations… but this party is certainly a more sinister affair as we welcome the beginning of the New Year with a murder…

Mark Roundim's New Year parties are famous. There is something there for everyone. Great food, plenty of drink, entertainment and a host of interesting people from all walks of life. Tonight however there is also something for the police when Mark Roundim is discovered in his dressing room - dead.

RRP: £39.99



I have one Rung Out in the New Year Murder Mystery Dinner Party game to give away to a lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.


UK only. Closing date : 4/12/14

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 :

Ultra Chloraseptic Winter Care Package


A rather lovely and exciting mystery parcel in a bright red box was delivered a couple of days ago.


We couldn't wait to get it open and see what goodies were lurking inside ! What we discovered was a rather lovely winter care package from Ultra Chloraseptic, containing a funky penguin mug with some honey and lemon, ideal for soothing sore throats, and a scarf to help prevent them in the first place. A very long scarf which looks like it could feature in A Scarf and A Half in fact ! 


There was also some useful information for the upcoming cold season. Did you know that very winter, more than seven million Britons battle the dreaded sore throat alongside other symptoms caused by seasonal colds and flu ? Most sore throats are not serious and pass within three to seven days without the need for medical attention. However, there are an estimated 57 million GP consultations a year for minor ailments such as coughs, colds and sore throats, which takes up an hour a day on average for every GP and reportedly costs the NHS £2 billion annually. It’s perhaps no surprise then that nine out of ten GPs believe that self care by patients has an important role to play in general practice.

If you fancy trying Ultra Chloraseptic Anaesthetic Throat Sprays, they are are available in three great tasting, sugar-free flavours – Blackcurrant, Cherry and Original Menthol. All are available in pocket-friendly capped bottles for ease of use ‘on the go’ to bring relief for the pain and discomfort caused by sore throats. They are available in most Boots, Superdrug, grocery and leading pharmacies in the UK without prescription. Ultra Chloraseptic costs £5.75, with each bottle containing more than 100 sprays (30 adult doses) and is suitable for children 6 and over at the lower dose of 1 spray. Contains Benzocaine. Always read the label and visit www.ultrachloraseptic.co.uk for more information.

Disclosure : I received a winter care package.

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Aveeno launch free kids' e-book #byebyedryskin

Children's book review : The Foreshadowing - Marcus Sedgwick


With the centenary commemorations this year, everyone, regardless of age, seems to be taking a big interest in the First World War and really starting to understand the sacrifices made by a whole generation of young men (and women) during that tragic time. We were very excited to go along and see the Poppies at The Tower a couple of weeks ago - a totally spectacular and very poignant tribute that we will never forget - and we also read a child-friendly history of the Great War, The Story of World War One by Richard Brassey, together.(Click through to read my review.) I've also been studying In Flanders Fields with the kids at school which they've found fascinating.

When Marcus Sedgwick's The Foreshadowing arrived for review, I was intrigued to see how the horrors of war would be portrayed in a fictional work destined for a young audience. The book was first published in 2005 but a new World War One anniversary edition with new bonus material was released this year.

The story follows the trials and tribulations of the Fox family who are based in Brighton, where the father works in a hospital. We discover Alexandra, nicknamed Sasha, who longs to be a nurse, despite her parents' misgivings about an upper class girl belittling herself by working with the riff-raff. There are also two sons, Edgar, who, much to his father's pride, is keen to sign up and head off to war and Tom, who would prefer to avoid the bloodbath and do something more noble like becoming a doctor. Noble in his eyes, but certainly not in his father's or even those strangers who dare to hand him a white feather to criticise his cowardice.

Sasha does get the chance to work at the hospital as a nurse but she discovers that she has a gift - or a curse? - and can foresee the future, knowing when somebody is going to die.When she foresees the death of a loved one, she is desperate to change the future, without knowing if this is even possible, and puts a plan in action to make her way to the front lines to do her best to change the course of events.

The book gives a great insight into the mentalities of the time - how war was seen and women's place in society, in particular - and it does give some idea of the horrors of war, even if it avoids mentioning too much death or suffering. The slightly paranormal edge makes it all seem one step away from reality - probably a good thing for a book presenting a particularly nasty series of events to a young audience - but the author also explains in his notes that many people during the war did mention having premonitions or foreshadowings of deaths.

Even as a grown-up, I found it to be a fascinating and captivating read.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £6.99


  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Orion Childrens (5 Jun 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444011065
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444011067
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm


Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Book review : Twisted - Lynda La Plante

Madhouse recipe : Flaky Festive Puffs


Hot on the heels of my Jammy Swirls recipe, here is the second festive treat that I made using the Mackays Christmas preserves that I told you about earlier. They are so quick and simple to make but they look great and taste divine.

Flaky Festive Puffs

ingredients (makes 4) :

1 ready-bought sheet of flaky pastry
4tbsp Mackays Christmas Marmalade
4 squares dark chocolate
4tsp dried cranberries


Cut the flaky pastry into four equal pieces. (Mine was round but it would work just as well with a square.)


I had some extra dark chocolate with 90% cocoa solids from my latest Degustabox  which has a bitter edge that works well with the tangy marmalade.


On one side of each flaky pastry piece (imagine a line down the centre where you will be folding it over and stick to one side - don't overfill or it will all splurge out !), spread 1tbsp of Christmas marmalade and top with 1tsp of dried cranberries and one square of chocolate, broken into pieces.

Before you fold over the other side, cut out a festive shape (mine was a holly leaf) with a cookie cutter. Flip over the other side and crimp the edges to seal. Brush with a little egg or milk to get a lovely golden brown colour.

Bake on a baking sheet for 15 minutes at 180° until the filling has melted and mixed and the pastry is nicely golden. (You can put the cut out shapes on the baking sheet too - the Madhouse kids ate them while they were waiting for the chocolate/marmalade to cool down !)

Warning - the filling will be boiling hot so allow to cool for 15 minutes before biting into them !

Disclosure : I received some prserves in order to try out some festive baking.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Globe-cooking recipe : Jasmine-infused coconut & cherry custard (Thailand)

Madhouse recipe : Jammy Swirls


Mackays recently sent me through some of their new range of Christmas products, a Christmas Preserve (mixed berry with mulled wine) and a Christmas Marmalade (with cranberries). They asked me to incorporate them in some festive baking, so here's the first recipe I came up with.

Jammy Swirls

ingredients :
125g plain flour
pinch of salt
55g butter
2-3 tbsp cold water
6tbsp Mackays Christmas Preserve
flaked almonds


Mix the salt in to the flour and rub in the butter to make breadcrumbs. Add the water and work into a ball of dough. Leave to rest for 1/2 hour.



Roll the dough out into a rectangle shape and spread the whole thing with jam. Cut into strips along the short side and carefully roll up each piece. Arrange them in a greased shallow tray on end, leaving space for them to rise.


Bake in the oven at 180° for 15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and leave to cool slightly before eating.



Disclosure : I received some jam in order to try out some festive baking.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Madhouse recipe : Apple Pie with Cheesy Crust

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

This week is Road Safety Week ...


This morning got off to a really horrible start. We saw a little girl get run over on the way to school. Luckily it's a narrow road where cars have to slow right down and wait their turn to get through so she wasn't badly hurt but even so, it was horrific to watch and as the ambulance arrived with sirens blaring to cart her off to hospital, I couldn't help but imagine what it would have been like if it had been one of the Madhouse kids.

I took advantage of the moment to drill into Pierre (again) just why it is that I want him to hold my hand and stay on the pavement and look both ways and use the pedestrian crossings. Then I thought about the unspoken messages I give him and the bad examples I sometimes set. I'm pretty good most of the time and always make the kids get actively involved in looking to see if it's safe to cross and pushing the button for the green man, but even so, I noticed that I often cut the corner on the way to school by crossing the road diagonally twice rather than walking the extra 100 yards around the long side which is just laziness and a very bad habit for the kids to get into. I also occasionally cross when the red man is showing if I've looked both ways and know there are no cars and I also sometimes cut straight across the road (again checking it's safe) rather than walking the extra 20 metres to the zebra crossing. I do always say "Mummy's being naughty, we should go to the crossing because it's safer" but it's still a bad example to set for the kids so I'll make a determined effort to go all out to be even safer from now on.


It's rather ironic that this week is Brake's annual Road Safety Week (with the theme "Look Out For Each other"), and to support this, Michelin has developed a programme of activities to increase awareness amongst young drivers in the importance of staying safe on the roads. Throughout this week, Michelin is releasing a series of hard-hitting videos of young people's real life experiences with road safety across their social media channels, based around important road safety topics that relate to young people, from drink driving to speeding and distractions.

A new video will be released every day this week. Here is their first video focusing on Drink Driving.



All Road Safety Week videos can be seen on the Michelin Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MichelinUK) and Twitter @MichelinTyres, as well as on its YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/michelinuk). Over the course of the week Michelin will use the videos to build discussions around road safety and for young and experienced drivers to share their experiences.

As well as these videos, Michelin has also started its schools road safety tours, where they will be travelling around UK schools with their road-safety puppet shows for the rest of the year, teaching young people the importance of road safety, whether they are drivers or passengers.

If it only prevents one accident like the one we witnessed this morning, it will be worth it !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Internet Matters - keep your kids safe and 'appy !

Oregon Scientific Weather@Home weather station review


As the old song says, Baby, it's cold outside. Yes, but how cold ? Well, since receiving the incredibly clever Oregon Scientific Weather@Home weather station to review, I could tell you that and a whole lot more ! I love that fact that it's as funky as it is functional. I instantly knew this would appeal to Madhouse Daddy and I was right, but I have also discovered that Pierre is a budding weatherman too, He comes to tell me what the weather is like every single day by looking at the pictures and figures on display !


The sleek black and silver unit has pride of place on the shelf and I've noticed that everyone who walks in the door is automatically attracted to it, checking out the different data on show.


I usually favour the "look out of the window rather than listen to the weather report on the telly" school of thought, but even I have been impressed by the information on offer on the weather station. It displays both indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, which is very handy. It also gives a 12-24 hour weather forecast and has a weather alert feature which shows you at a glance what to expect; heat, fog, frost, rain or wind /storm. It also tells you the moon phase and has an ice alert, which will be great this winter, to know when to protect the plants, cover the car windscreen or give yourself an extra ten minutes in the morning to get to work safely once the car has properly defrosted.

It also has Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to monitor local weather conditions on your smart phone or tablet as well at the station itself. The clock function automatically syncs with your phone and automatically updates for British Summer Time when the clocks go back or forwards. (Very handy - I never change the timer on my oven because I can never manage so I wish all appliances would do this !)


It comes with a wireless sensor that you position outside somewhere, up to 30m away from the central unit. Madhouse Daddy has put ours on the patio wall. This sends all the information to the weather station indoors. A feature that we haven't used but that sounds like it could be useful is the option to add extra sensors, allowing you to monitor the temperature and humidity in other locations around the house via the Smartphone/tablet app. (I could see this being particularly useful in a baby's bedroom, for example.) The app also lets you view the last seven day history

It needs 4 x AA batteries and I was pleasantly surprised to see that they are included. If you're a bit of a gadget geek, you'll be constantly checking the weather station and the app to see what the highest and lowest temperatures logged have been and all the other nuggests of meteorological wisdom ! I'm not usually particularly interested in hi-tech "toys" but I love the fact that I can plan ahead to know if the kids will need their wellies and umbrellas for the walk to school in the morning and whether or not they'll need a thick jumper. Men are notoriously hard to buy for at Christmas so this could be just the thing, if you're looking for inspiration.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £59.99


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

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Giveaway #436 : Win a Carbon Monoxide Monitor - closing date 27/11

Madhouse recipe : Apple Pie with Cheesy Crust


I have to admit I did a bit of a double take when Pilgrims' Choice asked if I'd like to try out one of their recipes - a classic apple pie with cheese in the pastry. Would it work? Well, there was only one way to find out ! The photo above is their professionally made and photographed version.


And here's mine. I ran out of pastry because my tin was a bit on the large side so I couldn't make the little leaves to make it look pretty ! The rather speckly look of the pastry comes from the cheese.

Here's the recipe if you'd like to have a go :

PILGRIMS CHOICE APPLE PIE WITH A CHEDDAR CRUST PASTRY


For those with a sweet tooth, this deliciously cheesy twist on a classic dessert is the perfect treat to keep the whole family happy.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

For the pastry
· 225g (9oz) plain flour - sieved
· 50g (2oz) butter, softened, cut into small pieces
· 75g (3oz) lard, softened, cut into small pieces
· 75g (3oz) Pilgrims Choice Mature Cheddar- grated
· 3 tbsp cold water

For the filling
· 450g (1lb) Bramley apples – peeled, quartered and cored
· 450g (1lb) Braeburn apples – peeled, quartered and cored
· 50g (2oz) caster sugar
· 1tsp ground cinnamon
· 1 medium egg – beaten for glazing

You will also need a metal pie dish 23cm (9 inches) diameter and 3cm (1 ¼ inch) deep

Method

1. Pre heat oven to 220C, 425F, gas mark 7.


2. Put the flour, butter and lard into a mixing bowl, rub the butter and lard with the fingertips into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, add the grated Pilgrims Choice cheese and enough water to make a soft dough.


 Knead it for a minute or so then wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. (I never have lard so I just used extra butter.)

3. Slice the apple quarters then put in a large bowl and mix together.


4. Roll out a little less than half the pastry to approx 30cm (12 inches) in diameter to line the base and sides of the pie dish, trim the edges and keep the trimmings for decorating the pie top.


5. Pile in the apple slices, packing them in tightly, sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon.

6. Roll out the remaining pastry, to 40cm (16 inches) in diameter, brush the rim of the pastry base with a little of the beaten egg, and carefully put the lid on the top of the filled base. Press the edges together to get a good seal all round, then trim using a knife. Knead the trimmings back together and roll out and cut into leaf shapes.


7. Make a small hole in the centre of the pastry lid with a skewer (this is to let the steam escape) then arrange the leaves on top, finally flute the edges of the pie using your thumb and back of a knife.

8. Place on a baking tray and bake in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 190C, 375F, gas mark 5 and cook for a further 40 minutes or until golden brown.


9. Serve with a good dollop of double cream. (Marscapone or ice cream go rather nicely with it too.)


The verdict was, it was a very nice apple pie. It wasn't very cheesy but the slight cheesiness that did come through did in fact go rather well with the apple. Who'd have thought it ?! I tried with the Rich Smooth Lighter Mature but I'd be tempted to go for the Wonderfully Strong & Punchy Extra Mature Cheese next time to give it some seriously cheesy welly !

for more information and recipes : http://www.pilgrimschoice.com/

Disclosure : I received some cheese in order to try out the recipe.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Madhouse recipe : Cheesy Tuna Pizza