Sunday, 17 June 2018

The Early Man Model Making Challenge

Aardman, the creators of family faves Wallace & Gromit, Shaun The Sheep and Chicken Run, are back with a fantastic new stop-motion animation, Early Man (released on 28th May). Shot in Aardman’s own distinctive style, the film takes audiences on an extraordinary journey into an exciting new world, unleashing an unforgettable tribe of unique and funny new characters voiced by an all-star British cast.

Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures roamed the earth, EARLY MAN tells the story of courageous caveman hero Dug (Academy Award-winner EDDIE REDMAYNE) and his best friend Hognob as they unite his tribe against a mighty enemy Lord Nooth (TOM HIDDLESTON) and his Bronze Age City to save their home.

Leading Dug’s tribe of lovable misfits is Chief Bobnar (TIMOTHY SPALL) who is joined by Treebor (RICHARD AYOADE), Magma (SELINA GRIFFITHS), Asbo (JOHNNY VEGAS), Barry (MARK WILLIAMS), Gravelle (GINA YASHERE), Eemak (SIMON GREENALL) and Grubup (RICHARD WEBBER). MAISIE WILLIAMS voices Goona, the gallant and indomitable rebel who befriends Dug and helps the tribe in their battle to beat the Bronze Age at their own game.

Also joining the stellar cast are ROB BRYDON, who voices the Message Bird - an ingenious Bronze Age communication device – KAYVAN NOVAK as Dino, Lord Nooth’s assistant, and MIRIAM MARGOLYES as Queen Oofeefa, ruler of the Bronze Age world.

It's a fun family movie that has definite overtones of Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep. The kids loved the funny characters while, as an adult, it's fun trying to put the famous names and faces to the voices.

In celebration of the DVD release, we were challenged to take part in the Early Man Model Making Challenge and received a bundle of Early Man merchandise, including plushes of Hognob and Dug and official Aardman modelling kits for Dug, Hognob and Goona.

These kits combine modelling clay in the quantities and colours required, along with cardboard inserts that allow you get a genuine likeness for the film characters. The kids had great fun putting them together.

You can even join the tribe and share your creations online with the #EarlyMan hashtag.

Disclosure : We received the products in order to take part in the activity.

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 17/6

OneDad3GirlsSunday Snap

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Fab freebies of the week 16/6

The last few weeks have been manic at work, so I'm looking forward to a nice peaceful weekend, getting the house back under control (cleaning, tidying, dealing with paperwork, cleaning the fish tank, giving the dogs a much needed haircut, catching up on laundry, dealing with emails, scheduling a few blogposts) ... hmm maybe not so peaceful then really ! Whatever you're up to, have a lovely weekend and enjoy this week's bumper crop of freebies. I've finally found the time to post a few new giveaways too, so you might like to enter those as well. :)


WANTED New members to join our hair colour review team! Summer is here and everything is warming up! Who would like to try our Colour Freedom Metallic Glory new warm hair shades? To apply message us today for more details!

By clocking up human-powered commuter miles you will be eligible for a chance to win great prizes. The more miles you do, the more prizes you can potentially win! Also, the first 2500 to log 1 mile will be sent a Red Bull sample pack.

Join the intu family club and receive a welcome gift, amongst other bonuses (soft toy for babies and toddlers, Playmobil toy for primary school children, free gift for tweens)

Starting tomorrow, trade in your old cleanser for a deluxe sample of our Soy Face Cleanser 🎉From Thursday 14th June to Thursday 5th July at all of our Fresh stores and counters.* Find your nearest Fresh: ... See more

All entrants receive a free sachet of Reon Energise to try.

SimplySupplements is giving away free cod liver oil capsules worth £11.49 - use code WH678B at checkout

In Ryvita's giveaway, you could win one of 500 packs of Ryvita Bakes or a Riverford veg box subscription

Who are you going to treat on Father's Day? Happy to send out free samples to UK addresses if you would like to try before you buy? #fathersday #mensgifting

Take away your free sample of DayWear. Discover your perfect moisturiser with 3 textures to try at home. Simply fill in your email address below to download your voucher and take this to your nearest Estée Lauder counter to redeem.

As a temporary measure, for those occasions when you don't get a parent and child space, register for your free 'car sticker pack' to ask other drivers to 'give me space'!

1,000 Amplify Gradual Tan products (worth £18!) up for grabs.

The innocent Big Grow is a project with GIY (Grow It Yourself) to help kids be healthy by growing their own veg in school and at home. If you’d like the chance to win a packet of seeds, a compost disc and a growing guide to join in at home, just enter your details. (We got peas)

You can see previous weeks' freebie roundups by clicking here but be warned, many of the offers are only valid for a short time. Let me know if any have expired and I'll remove them from the roundup.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Giveaway #683 : Win a 3-month subscription to Readly digital magazine app - closing date 29/6

Father's Day is almost upon us and if you haven't considered your gift yet, you're not alone. Panic not because with the Readly digital magazine app you can bag dad a last minute gift that keeps on giving way beyond Sunday 17th June.

Whether your dad is interested in tech, cars, news & reviews, sport or even celebrity & gossip, he can read his favourite title and experiment with many more with the Readly digital newsstand. Readly provides unlimited, "all-you-can-read" access to hundreds of national and international magazines in one app. With 620 UK titles, there's a magazine for every dad and every reading moment.

Recent data shows an 80% increase in digital magazine consumption with over 13 million magazines read in the last year.

The ten most read digital magazine titles for men according to 2017/2018 Readly data were:

What Car?
What HiFi? Sound and Vision
Amateur Photographer magazine
Classic Car Weekly

Whenever your dad has a free moment, there's a title for him via the Readly app on his smartphone, tablet or laptop. And if he wants to properly shut down without wi-fi, he can download up to 500 magazines and read them in the offline mode wherever he may be.

And because Readly gives users five profiles per household, if you're lucky enough to still live with your dad, you too can benefit from the gift!

The Readly gift card is the perfect gift for Father's Day and has options to suit every gift budget:
1 month - £7.99
3 months - £23.97
6 months - £47.94

Visit for more information about Readly.

Readly have kindly offered to send a code for a 3-month subscription to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries via the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UK only. Closing date : 29/6/18

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook 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 28 days, 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. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. The winners' personal contact information will be passed on to the PR / Brand responsible and used only for delivery of their prize. 

Giveaway #682 : Win a copy of The Visitors by Catherine Burns - closing date 25/6

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Going quackers with Baby Secrets !

It's the final few weeks at school which means the holidays aren't all that far away. It's a double-edged sword as a teacher though as that also means that it's the busiest weeks of the year to get though before then, with after-school meetings, marking, report-filling and mountains of paperwork to complete before very short deadlines. Luckily, Baby Secrets sent us through a fabulous family fun pack to help me keep the Madhouse kids entertained while I cracked on with my work. As well as some Baby Secrets toys to play with, there were two fun projects to complete : painting a duck money box and baking some duck-shaped cookies.

Described as the cutest new babies on the block, Baby Secrets are sweet little collectibles that come in single packs and play sets, including the Park Time Pram set that we received.

They all come with a dinky little bath tub which is perfect for revealing their surprise - dunking them in water will make their nappy change colour so you can see if it's a boy or a girl. Here, for example, we discovered two identical babies, except it turns out that they weren't identical twins after all, they were brother and sister !

We love the cute expressions and their individuality revealed through their accessories - from bunny ears and headphones, to buckets and colanders on their heads or even ... a duck-themed swim ring which led us nicely into the other activities.

After spreading out some newspaper to protect the table, Pierre got stuck straight in with painting the duck money box (or money duck, as he has taken to calling it !).

I couldn't help but giggle because there is something a bit demonic-looking about the duck in the photo on the right !

I think it must have just been a trick of the light though, as he went back to looking cute and inoffensive when I turned him round a bit more !

All that painting was hard work, so it was time for some refuelling : choc chip duck cookies were called for !

The Betty Crocker cookie mix made this a breeze and Pierre thought the idea of duck shaped cookies was very cool. The feet had a tendency to drop off but they tasted lovely !

Many thanks to Baby Secrets for giving us a lovely afternoon's entertainment.

Disclosure : We received the products in order to take part in the activity.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

#readcookeat recipe : Singaporean Teochew Duck Rice (Life Of A Banana)

Last week, I reviewed PP Wong's quirkily-named The Life of a Banana (click through for my review), which focuses on the trials and tribulations of newly-orphaned, twelve-year-old  Xing Li, a BBC or British Born Chinese person, constantly caught between two cultures and never feeling like she fits in anywhere. She is what some Chinese people call a banana - yellow on the outside and white on the inside.

I love reading, and I love cooking, and I have a particular passion for globe-cooking, trying out weird and (hopefully) wonderful recipes from all over the world, so I was excitedly bookmarking foodie mentions left, right and centre. At one point, the family take a trip to Singapore and this line caught my eye :

p111 Through a massive ball of smoke, I see little hawker stalls selling delicious yummy food. Satay, beef ball noodles, chicken rice, prawn laksa and duck rice. My mouth waters and Uncle Ho pushes past people.

I knew that I had some duck breast in the freezer, so I decided to investigate duck rice. If you google it, you will see dozens of photos of the dish bought at various hawker stalls in Singapore, but no actual recipe called duck rice. I browsed through many variations, including some with photos that made me feel quite queasy because they use a whole duck complete with head, and discovered that the most common option was Teochew Braised Duck. The recipes are all very different, but I used this one from Genius Kitchen as my main inspiration, and tweaked it to suit what was in my spice rack and cupboard. 

It was a great way of using up some of those spices that I'm not overly keen on (Chinese five spice, because I don't like the taste of aniseed) or that I never know what to do with (galagal powder, anyone?). It is a rich, fragrant but quick and simple dish that can be put together in minutes (unlike the traditional version with a whole duck that needs to braise for hours).

Singaporean Teochew Duck Rice

ingredients :

1 duck breast
salt, pepper
1tsp galagal powder
2tsp Chinese five spice
a glug of kecap manis (thick sweet soy sauce - you could use regular dark soy sauce and sugar)
a drizzle of sesame oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
chilli sauce (optional)
white rice to serve

Score the fatty side of the duck breast. Grind salt and black pepper over the top.

Fry it fat side down for a few minutes until the fat starts to melt, then flip it over and cook the underside. You won't need to add any oil to the pan. While the underside is cooking, pour over the remaining ingredients, making sure the spices and soy sauce cover the whole duck breast and ooze down into the slits. Turn it back over so that the fatty side is face-down and cook for 5 minutes or so.

When the duck is medium rare (or very rare, depending on your preferences), take it out of the pan and slice it up. Return it to the pan, adding extra spices and soy sauce if you need more, but traditionally, it's quite a dry dish. I also added some sliced mushrooms, as there were some in the fridge that needed using up. Toss in the sauce until the meat is nicely covered and cooked to your liking.

Serve over white rice.

Adding to the #readcookeat linky over at Chez Maximka.

Not only did I use up a lone duck breast that was lurking in the freezer, I also used up some of the less popular spices from my spice rack, so this is also going on the #KitchenClearout linky.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The World Cup-themed May Degustabox review

Last week, the postie delivered the latest Degustabox mystery foodie subscription box and, given that this month's box has a football theme going on, it was pretty apt that the first thing we spotted was ... Pitch !

After carefully unpacking everything, there were lots of appreciative mumbles from the kids.

As I mentioned, the Madhouse kids instantly honed in on the Brioche Pasquier Pitch products. With their half-French heritage and the fact that we share the Pasquier name (each of the kids has managed to convince half of their class that their French grandad founded the company at some point during their school years !), the kids are big fans and have tried most of the products in the extensive range at some point !

In the box were two packs, Pitch Choc Chip Brioche and Chocolate Flavour Filled Brioche (RRP : 2 x £1.39), both big hits with the kids who love the softness of the brioche and its sweet, buttery flavour. The individually wrapped packs are perfect for slipping into pockets or school bags for snacks on the go (or breakfast on the way to school, if the kids are running late). There were only four in each pack so they both disappeared very quickly ! You also get football-themed tattoos and codes in the packs to win thousands of instant-win prizes (neither of ours won though). If you collect five codes, you can also claim a free drawstring bag.

The kids were equally taken with KitKat Senses Mix (RRP £3.99), a sharing box (with a fabulous fold-out design) of individually wrapped chocolatey treats.

They come in three flavours : Hazelnut, Double Chocolate and - our unanimous favourite - Salted Caramel. They are all very nice though.

We also enjoyed the KitKat Bites White Chocolate (RRP £1.59) which, as you would expect, are mini crispy wafer fingers coated in luscious white chocolate. Very tasty and the mini size is perfect if you just want a small treat.

On to the savoury options and two products from the Santa Maria Latin American Kitchen range that often features in Degustaboxes : 12 Mini Coconut & Black Pepper Soft Tortillas (RRP £1.59) and a Caribbean Creamy Chicken Curry Seasoning Mix (RRP £1). They could be used together for a slightly sweet, mildly spicy Indo-Caribbean feast, as suggested on the enclosed recipe card.

Degustabox subscribers also received Cirio Pasta Sauce (RRP £2), which, as a repeat product, wasn't included in blogger boxes, and there was a bag of Joe & Seph's Gourmet Popcorn (RRP £1) as a bonus item in a limited number of subscriber boxes

On to the drinks ...

Subcribers to the Non-Alcohol version of the box received We Made Lemonade (RRP £1.50) in one of two flavours - we got Raspberry and Lemon, which was lovely. It's a refreshing non-carbonated drink with no artificial flaours, additives, preservatives or refined sugar. It has a gorgeous fruity, sweet but tangy flavour that I really enjoyed.

Subscribers to the Alcohol version of the May box received The Good Cider in Strawberry and Dry Apple flavours, both of which are tasty and refreshing, especially when served straight from the fridge.

There was also a bottle of Lucozade Energy Original (RRP £1.10), which always reminds me of being ill when I was a child ! It's a sparkling drink that will give you a boost of energy from glucose when you need it most.

And finally Say Aloe Reduced Sugar (RRP £1.49) is a refreshing drink with both a unique texture and also a boost of vitamin C from real pieces of aloe vera. The sensation is slightly strange the first time you drink it but it soon grew on me, and we loved the fruity Strawberry flavour.

A subscription to Degustabox costs £12.99 per month including delivery, with each box having a value of much more than that, but the great news is, I have a discount coupon code for you which means you'll get the first box for just £7.99 - enter code 0BS6T at the checkout.

for more information :

Also now on Instagram @DegustaboxUK

Disclosure : We received the box in order to write an honest review. As a Degustabox blogger, I receive all of the products that go into the monthly boxes, but subscribers may not get exactly the same selection.

Monday, 11 June 2018

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #24

Another busy week, with school trips and after-school meetings to take into account. The good news, though, is that in just under a month, school's out for the summer, so I'm holding on to that thought, even if it seems a million miles away at the moment. Lots of Singapore-influenced meals this week for the #readcookeat challenge.


lunch - Mac & cheese with cherry tomatoes and beefburgers

dinner - parata, Singapore style cheese or meat pancakes


lunch - school canteen

dinner - There's some duck breast in the freezer so sticky duck with rice & veg for me, but the kids can have chicken instead because they don't like the thought of eating duck


lunch - Peking duck noodles for me to use up the leftover duck, but the kids can have just plain veggie/noodle stir fry or I'll see what other meat is in the freezer

dinner - Kung Pao chicken with rice and prawn crackers


lunch -  school canteen

dinner - New Orleans style red beans and rice with chorizo


lunch - school canteen

 dinner - The poor kids have been left to fend for themselves three Fridays in a row due to school trips. Luckily this is the last one, so fridge grazing, leftovers or sandwiches


lunch - kids' choice : probably McDonalds or KFC

dinner - spaghetti carbonara


lunch - Sunday roast

dinner - soup and/or toasted cheese sandwiches

***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***

Giveaway #682 : Win a copy of The Visitors by Catherine Burns - closing date 25/6

Today, the blog tour for the greatly anticipated international thriller The Visitors by Catherine Burns is stopping off at The Madhouse. Inspired by highly publicised crimes, such as those of Josef Fritzl and the imprisonment of Natacha Kampusch, it's a dark and disturbing novel that is reminiscent of Grey Gardens and Room.

Here's the official blurb :

Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John, in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar. Until suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden. As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn't the only one with a dark side.

'Once you start Catherine Burns's dark, disturbing, and enthralling novel, it's hard to stop. The Visitors is bizarrely unsettling, yet compulsively readable.'
Iain Reid, Internationally Bestselling Author

'Burns blurs the line between crime fiction and horror...Deliberate pacing, a claustrophic setting, and vivid, wildly unsympathetic characters complement the twisted and grim conclusion.'
Publishers Weekly

And here's a little extract from my review : It makes you look at the people sitting next to you on the bus or in the supermarket queue and wonder what deep dark secrets are lurking beneath their respectable exteriors, and that is enough to give you the chills, long after you have finished reading the final page ! It's a disturbing, unsettling but strangely addictive read. (Click through for my full review of The Visitors by Catherine Burns.)

ISBN (Hardback): 9781787199859
ISBN (Paperback): 9781785079177
ISBN (Ebook): 9781785079160
Price: £14.99 (Hardback) £8.99 (Paperback) £3.99 (Ebook)
Extent: 272 pages
Format: 198x129mm

The publishers have kindly offered to send a copy of the book to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries via the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UK only. Closing date : 25/6/18

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook 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 28 days, 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. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. The winners' personal contact information will be passed on to the PR / Brand responsible and used only for delivery of their prize. 

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Max Louis Creative personalised prints review

Tomorrow is Madhouse Daddy's birthday. He would have been 47 and I'd have teased him about the fact that, for a couple of months at least, he was officially two years older than me. Next week is also Fathers' Day so, obviously, he is even more in our thoughts at the moment. When Max Louis Creative got in touch with news of their personalised prints, this sounded like the ideal tribute to him. They specialise in handmade prints that are made specifically to the gifter's requirements, so they are unique, completely personalised, special gifts for loved ones.

There are 3 different styles to choose from: personalised word photo, personalised oil effect print and personalised word wall.

I liked the idea of the personalised word photo, but the kids didn't want (and I quote) a picture that looked like someone had scribbled all over dad's face. Fair enough ! We opted for the personalised oil effect print and, after discussing with the kids, decided not to add any text at all - we could have put Dad or his name or any other short text of our choice.

This is the photo we decided to use - a family portrait from our holiday to Fethiye in Turkey last year. I put through the order, replied to the email giving a few precisions about what we wanted (you will be asked for details including the photo, font, colours and words) then sat back and wait for the postie. It's very straightforward and only took a couple of minutes. A few days later, a rigid cardboard tube was delivered with our print inside.

And here we are in oil effect.

From a distance, you can't really see the oil effect, so here is a close up of the background. You can see that it adds texture to the landscape so the waves and the bushes on the islands really stand out.

The downside to this is that it extends to faces too, so it makes skin tone look quite uneven and wrinkly, with visible swirls on some areas of skin.

This is particularly visible on Sophie's chin and forehead, for example. She made me laugh because she complained that she looked like one of the Identikit pictures where they have aged a kidnap victim by ten or fifteen years so you can imagine how they look now ! From a distance, it does look good though, so the knack is finding the perfect place to set it off where you won't be looking at it from too close up. For us, it's at pride of place at the top of the stairs, above eye level so you look up to it and your eyes don't zoom in on on the swirly effect. 

If you look back at the photo from their website, and look closely at the faces, you'll get another example of what I mean. It's all about finding the right photo for this effect - I think it would look fantastic with landscapes or a pet, but could be a bit hit and miss with portraits.

The prints are printed on high-quality paper in A2, A3 or A4 and, if you want one in time for Father's Day, you need to get your skates on because the last day to order a print in time for Father's Day is 12th June 2018. There is currently a 15% off discount code for Father's Day - FD2018 - which expires on 11th June 2018. (I've just noticed that it expires at midnight on 10th June in fact, so you've only got about an hour left to use the code !)

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