Thursday, 30 July 2015

Hairydust Organic Dry Shampoo for Children review

Hairydust is a natural and organic dry shampoo for children, dreamed up by mum Emma Neame, and I couldn't help but laugh at the description of its creation : "A part-time design student and a busy mum of twins, Emma had her lightbulb moment when things got messy at the breakfast table one morning. Two-year-old Max and Nancy's jam on toast ended up on their heads, with no time to spare for hair washing before nursery." That sounds just like the sort of things I experienced when the Madhouse kids were little !

The product, made with all natural ingredients and no potentially harmful chemicals, promises to remove dirt, sweat, food and grease from your children's hair. I was intrigued to see what it was made from and scrutinised the small print on the bottle, as it doesn't say on the website. I was impressed by the lack of hidden nasties in the ingredients list : Tapioca Starch, Sodium Bicarbonate, Cucumber Extract, Zea Mays Flour, Roman Chamomile Flower Oil and Limonene.

It shakes out slowly so you don't get engulfed in a huge cloud of powder and looks like talc. It smells gorgeous - sweet and fruity, slightly zingy, a bit floral - indefinable but definitely lovely and it appeals to both Pierre and Juliette so it's a unisex fragrance.

Pierre was the first to test it - he tipped some in his hand then worked it through his hair. I couldn't see much difference but it definitely smelt much nicer and fresher. I remember how the kids used to wake up from naptime with very sweaty heads when they were small and this would have been perfect for freshening them up. It's also ideal for sorting out bedhead hair before the school run or for tiding you over on camping trips or holidays when the kids' hairwashing becomes more complicated. If your child is going through a phase of not wanting to get their hair wet, it could be a lifesaver (or at least a santiy-saver !) too.

The product retails at £14.50 for a 20g bottle (which contains about 50 applications). If you're very quick, it's currently on offer for £10 until 1st August.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £14.50 for 20g (£10 until 1/8/15)

for more information :

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

Madhouse diaries : More wet, wet, wet than hot, hot, hot !

I know I was being smug about the damp weather sorting out my hayfever earlier in the week but we sang a very heartfelt rendition of "rain rain go away, come again another day" as we wandered towards the beach yesterday.

We took some slightly ironic snaps of the gloomy, drizzly scene reflected in some mirror sunglasses in a shop window as we sheletered from a shower ! 

Luckily it didn't last long so we carried on our journey, stopping to look at the big WW2 gun outside the war museum that always fascinates Pierre.

What better way to play at being soldiers ?!

There were supposed to be two main attractions on the seafront today - a huge bungee jump elastic trampoline thing (a bigger version of this one) and a jump bag - a huge inflatable sack that you free fall on to (have a look at Sophie and her death-defying leap last year !) - but sadly they were both cancelled due to the wind and rain. Luckily Pierre still got to have fun in the paddleboats.

Look at that smile - it made up for the dismal weather !

After a quick play in the play area and on the (rather damp) sand, we moved over to an undercover area where there were some old-fashioned games laid out. Everyone had a go at the wire buzzer game.

 And Sophie practised trying to catch a wooden ball on a stick (and nearly brained herself and me in the process !).

Pierre and Juliette patiently waited to have a go on the airless air hockey (as we called it !).

Pierre took it all very seriously ...

... and was over the moon whenever he scored a point !

Well, it may have been a bit tamer and wetter than what we had planned but we still had fun !

Picture book review : Alfie Outdoors - Shirley Hughes

We first discovered Alfie all the way back in 2011 when we reviewed All About Alfie, so the Madhouse kids were delighted to discover his latest book, Alfie Outdoors.

The title makes it sound like a summer-themed book but it actually looks at the whole year, and the 'Alfie's Year in the Garden' spread at the back of book gave us lots of interesting discussion time, looking at things that Pierre has already experienced and things that he is looking forward to later in the year. It's been years since we've managed to build a proper snowman so that was high up on his wish list, but luckily he's also looking forward to jumping in leaf piles and enjoys feeding the birds too - phew !

Pierre had his first experience of proper gardening (ie not just helping mum and dad !) at school this year and excitedly told me about how their radishes and lettuce plants were doing on a weekly basis, peering through the railings every day as we walked past the secondary school so that he could spy on the little allotment that had been given over to the infant school !

He therefore loved hearing all about Alfie growing carrots with his dad in his own little vegetable patch, patiently (or impatiently !) waiting for them to grow so that he could excitedly pull them up. 

Gardening isn't the only fun you can have outdoors though and the story explores other favourite childhood pastimes such as digging, getting muddy, building dens or just finding a quiet place in the garden to be alone. As usual, the texts are almost poetic and the charming illustrations are absolutely teeming with details to point out and talk about.

The texts are fairly long (for a picture book) but the illustrations kept Pierre glued to the page, fascinated to hear about and spot everything going on. There's even a missing goat to keep things exciting !

The Alfie books are still as charming and entertaining as we remembered them, and they have a timeless quality that remind me of my own childhood bedtime books. 

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £11.99

  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head (30 July 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1782300317
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782300311
  • Product Dimensions: 25.8 x 0.9 x 25.8 cm

Disclosure : We received the book for free in order to write an honest review.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

YA Chicklit review : I Knew You Were Trouble - Paige Toon

As well as being the queen of chick lit, Paige Toon has added another string to her bow by branching out into young adult fiction. (As it's basically chick lit with a younger audience in mind, I wonder if it should be called egg lit !)

Fans of the author will already be familiar with A-list global rock star Johnny Jefferson, who featured in Johnny Be Good, and his wife Meg, whose story was told in Baby Be Mine (click through to read my review). As well as the two novels, there was an ebook short Johnny's Girl in which the pair are left reeling when Johnny discovers he has a teenaged daughter he knew nothing about.

This teenaged daughter, Jessie, got to tell her side of the story in Paige Toon's first YA novel, The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson. I Knew You Were Trouble is the second in this YA spin off series but, although it's lovely to drop back in on the characters from previous novels and see how their lives have progressed, the book also works fine as a stand-alone novel.

Jessie is still trying to come to terms with the accidental death of her mother a year before and tells enough of her story to fill in the background for anyone who hasn't yet come across Jessie, Johnny or Meg. After spending time in LA getting to know her new family, Jessie has returned home to her maths teacher stepdad, her school friends and a burgeoning romance with school hottie Tom. It may be worlds apart from the glitzy lifestyle she got used to in America but she is happy enough ... until the tabloids get hold of the story of Johnny's secret daughter and Jessie has to excape the media frenzy by running back to LA.

Jessie is a believable character, struggling to come to terms with everything life has thrown at her recently - losing her mum, discovering a whole new identity, calling a famous rockstar dad, falling in love for the first time, ... She has the odd teenage strop and shows a slightly rebellious streak that all teens go through, even without an A-lister parent ! The novel reminded me of a soap opera - somewhere between Grange Hill and Neighbours with a bit of Awkward thrown in for good measure. Jessie's friendships, nights out and boyfriend trouble will strike a chord with all teenaged girls and the odd reference to One Direction and the Hollywood lifestyle will only make it more appealing to this age group.

Reading it for myself, I loved it. Reading it with my almost-14 year old daughter in mind, I did have a few more reservations though. Jess is almost 16 so pretty close in age to my eldest daughter and I felt slightly uncomfortable about the number of times she drinks alcohol and the "sex" scenes (it only gets as far as a furtive fumble but there is talk of heavy petting and losing your virginity too, although I appreciated the safe sex message that was innocently thrown in there). I'm not a prude and I have no qualms about Sophie watching soap operas that deal with these sorts of storylines, but reading a book always makes me empathise more with the characters so I don't want to give her ideas ! I know kids grow up fast though so I'm sure that in a year or two, I won't even think twice about it.

If you're a Paige Toon fan, I recently read and reviewed another of her books - The Sun In Her Eyes - so click through to see what I thought of that.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £6.99

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books (30 July 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471118800
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471118807
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 2.5 x 13.2 cm

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

The CBeebies Furchester Hotel magazine has launched today (review)

The BBC's newest CBeebies magazine has just hit the shelves today and Pierre was delighted to get the first issue to check out. It features popular show The Furchester Hotel but even if you and your little ones haven't seen the programme before, you and they are bound to recognise some of the familiar faces including Elmo and the Cookie Monster.

If you're already rolling your eyes thinking that your little one will be hanging off your leg every time you push the trolley past the magazine aisle in the supermarket, rest assured - there's a new issue out every four weeks, so your wallet will get a rest in between ! It costs £2.75 and is actually quite good value, when you look at the content.

Each issue contains lots of puzzles and colouring pages, as well as two stories and the ever-popular sticker activities (with 60 stickers in this issue). It also has a 6-page activity book and this month's magazine (and, I would guess, every issue) comes with a fun free gift - this time it's a Make Your Own Portraits kit which looks great fun and much better than the plastic tat that many magazines come with ! (You also get a kids-go-free voucher for Sea Life centres too, which could be a great money saver if you had a trip on the cards already.)

What I always love about CBeebies magazines is that they support the Early Years Curriculum so, while your pre-schooler is having fun completing the pages, they are actually practising their simple maths, writing, observation and problem-solving skills without even realising it. Genius !

It's full of bright colours, cute characters and simple tasks that Pierre proudly managed to complete with very little input from me - writing over letters, completing mazes and finding the right pages for the stickers because they are clearly marked on the sticker sheet all made him feel very independent and clever ! The story time pages and more complex instructions (finding out what you need to draw in the white box, for example) do offer some lovely quality parent-child time though too.

If you like the look of the new Furchester Hotel magazine, make sure you head over to the UKMums.TV website which has gone Furchester crazy this week. They have a competition with ten annual subscriptions for the magazine up for grabs, as well as more Furchester themed activities and features over the next two weeks.

Disclosure : I received a copy of the new magazine in order to write an honest review, as well as a subscription as a thank you.

Globecooking recipe : Ayam Areh (Indonesia)

We (well, me and Madhouse Daddy - the kids opted for chicken and sweetcorn with crème fraîche !)  had Ayam Areh for lunch today - another recipe from this month's Indonesian-themed Kitchen Trotter box. (Click through to see the ingredients and recipes.) 

It required four ingredients from the Kitchen Trotter box : lemongrass powder, combava leaves, the dreaded shrimp paste (which still stinks !) and some candlenuts, which are much bigger than I expected. I'm not sure what they taste of though because they were blended with other strong flavours - they don't smell of anything.

Ayam Areh

ingredients :

3 onions
3 cloves of garlic
1/2tbsp shrimp paste (terasi)
5 candlenuts
4 chicken breasts
2tbsp oil
1tbsp lemongrass powder
4 combava leaves
2 bay leaves
2tbsp sugar
200ml coconut milk
1 chicken stock cube

Put the onions, garlic, shrimp paste and candlenuts in a blender.

Blitz to a smoothish, fairly runny paste.

 Heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the chicken for 5 minutes.

Crumble the stock cube into 100ml water and stir to dissolve. Add the stock, coconut milk and mixture from the blender to the chicken. Toss in the crumpled combava and bay leaves, the lemongrass powder, the salt and pepper, the sugar and the lemongrass powder.

Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sauce thickens. Discard the leaves and serve with rice.

It's not bad but the smell of the shrimp paste is actually quite offputting, especially during the cooking process - the taste doesn't come through much luckily ! I'm not sure we'll get through the rest of the jar so I think it might end up in the bin ! Does anybody actually like the smell of this stuff ?!

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

If you fancy trying more Indonesian cuisine, how about Mie Goreng or Gado Gado ?

Get First Aid #RappedUp with the free British Red Cross Baby and Child First Aid app

The school holidays are just kicking off which means six lovely long weeks of playtime and adventures. Unfortunately that also means six long weeks when the kids can (and probably will) hurt themselves. Would you know what to do if your child fell off a slide and badly hurt their arm or twisted their ankle running around playing football? What about dealing with heatstroke, bee stings or a child who has walked on a piece of broken glass in the sand? So many possible mishaps and injuries and, as a parent or carer, you need to know what to do so that you can keep your head and stay in control.

You wouldn't dream of getting behind the wheel of a car without taking driving lessons so why do parents often neglect an important part of their essential skill set : first aid? There are numerous parenting shows on TV such as Supernanny but wouldn't it be great to see a first aid-themed show, like SuperFirstAider ?! You could have a Masterchef type format, with "bandage offs" and invention challenges, trying to decide which items you'd need from a first aid kit for different scenarios ! I think it would be a great idea !

In the meantime, the British Red Cross have come to the rescue, aiming to educate parents and teach them some first aid skills with their free Baby and Child First Aid app (alongside their general First Aid app). The app offers a series of useful videos, animations and tips that mean you can find the information that you need within seconds in case of an emergency - although, obviously, it's better to learn the skills in advance ! You can also test your knowledge using the built in first aid quizzes and there is even a handy device to record your children's medication needs and any allergies.

I decided to check out the section on nosebleeds as it's something I often have to deal with for the girls. I think I know exactly how to stop a nosebleed - sit down quietly holding the top of your nose and lean your head forwards - but whenever they have a nosebleed at school, the school nurse tells them to tip their heads back to stop the blood. I'd therefore started to doubt my own knowledge so I went to check.

I watched the video and read the advice and Q&A's and I was delighted to see that my instincts were in fact correct - putting your head back will just make you swallow the blood, which can be dangerous (as well as tasting disgusting !).

The Madhouse kids found the videos fascinating and sat down to watch the whole lot back to back, making it a great introduction to first aid for children, as well as parents. Even better though would be to take a course in First Aid, especially if you have kids aged between 0-12 years old (which is when they are most likely to injure themselves), and the British Red Cross offers courses across
the UK.

The whole first aid awareness campaign sets out to be informative, educational and empowering but that doesn't stop it being fun. The British Red Cross have released a series of quirky First Aid #RappedUp videos and you can see the first one above. It may be cute but it also dispenses some serious first aid advice and the Madhouse kids have been watching it on a loop ! The series aims to cover some of the first aid skills that parents might be less familiar with - poisoning, febrile seizures and burns. Around 21,493 children a year end up in A&E after swallowing a harmful substance so I strongly encourage you to take 50 seconds to watch these cute kids rapping their hearts out !

Around 70% of children will take a trip to A&E at some point so the British Red Cross want to support parents so they know want to do, and, most importantly, feel confident enough to take action. The advice on the app is simple to understand and quick to access, even in an emergency, so there's no excuse for not checking it out, however short on time you are !

You can find out more about the free app and the courses here.

Disclosure : Sponsored by British Red Cross

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A Special Delivery from Swizzels Matlow (review)

You've probably noticed by now that I currently have a giveaway running with five lovely Retro Sweet Hampers up for grabs - if you haven't, head over there quick sharp because it's the last couple of days to enter ! Swizzels Matlow kindly sent us our very own hamper to drool over review and there was much excitement when it arrived. This is the exact same type of hamper that you can win, except ours was personalised.

Once we'd unpacked everything and done a bit of a stocktake, here was the contents :
3 x Rainbow Drops
2 x Fun Gums Fun Mix
2 x Fun Gums Juicy Lips
4 x Drumsticks lollipops
5 x fruity lollipops
9 x sherbert lollipops
3 x Parma Violets
6 x Fizzers
7 x Refreshers bars (3 flavours)
2 x Double Dips

I never liked the Rainbow Drops much as a kid but the Madhouse kids love them and I think they'd be great in cornflake cakes or as cupcake toppings. There are some of my childhood faves in there though, in particular the Refreshers, Drumstick lollies and Double Dips. It's a nice selection for a whole family to share (unless I get there first !).

Don't forget they currently have a site-wide 20% off code that runs until the end of July - just enter lovejuly20 at the checkout. The Retro Sweet Hamper retails at £9.99 non-personalised, £12.99 personalised (with a choice of messages such as Sorry, Marry Me, I Love You, Congrats, ...).

Head over to if you want to buy one and make sure your name is in the draw for my giveaway too !

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

Picture book review : My Stinky New School - Rebecca Elliott

School's out for the summer, but for some, thoughts are already turning to the start of September when they will be going to school for the first time or starting at a new school. It's one of the big milestone moments in a child's life and can be a source of great stress and apprehension. My Stinky New School is a lovely book with lovely vibrantly-coloured illustrations to help put little worry-worts' minds at rest.

Toby is about to start at a new school and he's not looking forward to it one bit - it looks very formidable (in his mind anyway) and stinks of horrible things like pigeon poop and ogres' armpits !

It's nothing like the schools his little sister  and brother go to that smell of rainbows, chocolate, bananas and sunshine. It was interesting to compare the two pictures and see the contrast between light/dark, happy/scary, lots of people/all alone. Pierre also loved pointing out the things in the pictures as I read the words ... pigeon poop got an especially big giggle !

 Toby's first day isn't as bad as he expects. He's sad that he can't find any new friends - only spacemen, pirates and mermaids to play with in the school playground - until his mum comes to pick him up and points out that they are all his new friends after all.

It's a fun and reassuring book to share with any child who is slightly apprenhensive about the new school year awaiting them at the end of the holidays. It's a great way of getting children to open up about the way they are feeling and share any doubts and fears that they may have by relating to Toby.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £9.99

  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Lion Children's Books (19 Jun. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745965016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745965017
  • Product Dimensions: 26.8 x 1 x 22.4 cm

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

Giveaway #496 : Win children’s swimming equipment from Swimshop - closing date 18/8

We're just getting ready to jet off for a (hopefully !) fabulous sun and fun-filled fortnight in Turkey and we'll be spending a fair share of our time in and around the pool. This year's mission is to get Pierre more confident in the water and hopefully swimming unaided (or just with armbands) by the end of our trip because at the moment, he still wants the security of a rubber ring. It may sound ambitious but if we spend 3 hours a day in the pool for ten days (assuming we'll be going out on a few excursions), we'll easily cover the 25 hours of lessons that it is estimated that children require to swim confidently a distance of 25 metres. Primary schools are only offered 18 hours of swimming lessons per child a year, so any help we can give him can only be beneficial.

A recent study found that 57% of children between 7-11 years old cannot swim. In a bid to change this, Swimshop are running a ‘Save a Life, Learn to Swim’ campaign and they have come up with some fun swimming games that you can do as a family to increase your child’s confidence in the water. You can download them for free on the Swimshop website.

Swimshop have also kindly offered to send a set of arm bands and a float to two lucky Madhouse Family Reviews readers. You can choose between the Steve Shark Grey Float and the Polly Fish Pink Float and armbands are available in either age 1-3 or age 3-12. To be in with a chance of winning, fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

Prizes provided by the Learn to Swim campaign sponsors Swimshop, swimming costumes and equipment online.

UK only. Closing date : 18/8/15

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 !