Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Orb Factory Curiosity Kits Stick 'n Click Jewelry review


There was much excitement here at The Madhouse today because we received a product to review all the way from Canada (hence the American spelling of jewelry instead of jewellery in the review title !). We received a product from Orb Factory's Curiosity Kits range called Stick 'n Click Jewelry. 6-year-old Juliette immediately asked to be Chief Tester (and 10-year-old Sophie conceded gracefully when I offered her another product to review, but more about that later !). The suggested age on the box is 6-12 and it certainly appealed to both girls and Sophie actually had a sneaky play when her sister was off at a birthday party later in the afternoon ! With a bit of help, younger children could also use the kit with no problem, but you'd have to be careful they didn't put the small parts in their mouth as it could be a choking hazard.


 The kit contains more than 300 pieces - several small sheets of glittery stickers which had the girls oohing and aahing, some small sparkly fake jewels and lots of plastic shapes and bendy plastic connectors that you can clip and unclip very easily.


I opened the instruction booklet and smiled as I read that there are no instructions ! You just have to let your imagination run wild and get as creative as you like ! The pieces allow you to make rings, bracelets and shoelace clips to jazz up your shoes, but Juliette also experimented with making a gridlike piece of sparkly wall art for her room. You could also make headbands and Sophie said she'd like to make a bookmark too.


I showed Juliette how to use the connectors to join the shapes together and she was off, clipping them together to make a bracelet within minutes. She had great fun choosing which stickers to use and matching the different forms to the different plastic shapes. The system was really easy for Juliette to pick up and the connectors work really well, being flexible enough to make comfortable jewellery and to be simple to snap on but without ever pinging off and springing apart.

It was great to see Juliette successfully creating beautiful jewellery totally unaided, which freed me up for doing other jobs around the house, and she was so excited and proud of her creations that she kept running up to show me.

There are plenty of spare connectors in the box so it won't matter if you lose a few. The plastic pieces can be unsnapped and rearranged as many times as you like, and as they are all interchangeable, you can swap over the pieces used on your rings, bracelets and lace clips to fit in with your clothes or mood.

Top marks from the Madhouse Mini Testers. I'll be keen to see if these kits are easy to buy in Europe because I'd love to check out the other products in the range. (I've just looked - this particular product isn't there yet but you can buy a selection of Orb Factory products on amazon UK.)

star rating : 5/5

RRP : $14.99


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Book review : Sushi For One? - Camy Tang


At first glance, I have nothing in common with Lex Sakai, the central character of Camy Tang's Sushi For One? She's a sports-freak, American-Asian, single, Christian, part of a huge family of cousins with a manipulative matriarchal Grandma at the helm and she has a real "Bite me!" attitude to life. But I instantly warmed to her and couldn't help but identify with her throughout the whole book.

Just like Lex with her multi-cultural upbringing, Camy Tang's writing is hard to define as just one genre. She describes it as "romance with a kick of wasabi" but it is also chick-lit with a kick of real-life and a huge side order of humour. It's definitely Christian literature but in a non-preachy way. I rather relate to Aiden, who is an agnostic with an open-mind, cynical of the hypocrisy he has seen in people declaring themselves Christians. Camy presents the world as it is - not all Chrtistians are perfect beings with faultless morals, some of them are sleazeballs too ! And it's refreshing to find this in Christian literature. She even presents a few of the Christian singles in her group as over-zealous evangelists, gently mocking them for their gung-ho attitude, so non-Christian readers will not feel ostracised. Her pastor's attitude of letting the non-believers find their own way rather than dragging them kicking and screaming to his church is a much more welcoming and ultimately efficient means of convincing people. Just as Aiden feels strangely drawn to the religious painting, I couldn't help but feel moved by the poignant description of Lex feeling God's presence and comfort in her hour of need.

The main thing I loved was the humour though. Despite some poignant scenes, the book is bursting with laugh-out-loud moments and this even follows through in the glossary of Asian words ("Camy Style") at the end of the book. There are a few too many unanswered questions at the end of the book - What happened to the volleyball team ? Did Lex keep playing ? Why was her grandmother on a one woman mission to get her partnered up ? (I thought she'd have some mortal disease which would explain her unwavering determination to carry on her bloodline and show her to be less fearsome and meddlesome as she appears, but apparently not.) Was her grandmother tied up in her dad losing his job and house within weeks ? - but it still gives you a lovely warm feeling when you've read the final pages and several scenes that will make you smile when you think back to them long after turning the final page.

If you've never read any of Camy's books but would like to find out more, you should check out my blogpost about her Street Team here too.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £7.99

Paperback: 352 pages

Publisher: Zondervan (3 Aug 2007)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0310273986
ISBN-13: 978-0310273981



Other reviews you may be interested in :

Owen Potts Quick For Cooks Diane Sauce review


When the chance came up to review some Owen Potts sauces and condiments (this is the first of several reviews featuring his products so keep your eyes open for the others coming soon), I loved the sound of the gourmet cooking aids that are perfect for busy mums like me, but thought to myself that I'd never heard of him. Well, he's a bit of a dark horse apparently. The company explain : "A genuine culinary expert, Owen has been developing products behind the scenes for years – if you’ve ever bought a gourmet salad dressing, luxury sauce, chutney or condiment, you’ve more than likely already tasted one of Owen’s creations."
 

Today I decided to cook a classic Steak Diane with chips (from the Actifry, as you can see !), using Owen Potts Quick For Cooks Diane Sauce. It comes ready made in a sachet that you can either heat in a microwave or, as I did, simmer gently in a saucepan for a few minutes. It comes out looking slightly lumpy but once it's been heated, it makes a thick, creamy, seemingly-homemade sauce.


The packaging describes it as "a creamy, mushroomy sauce that is truly wonderful with steak – or, if you fancy ringing the changes, it's also absolutely brilliant with pan-fried chicken breast." Well, it certainly is delicious with steak so I'll be trying it out with pan-fried chicken too, because Mr Potts obviously knows what he's on about ! The delicate flavours of mushroom and mustard come through the rich creaminess of the sauce, perfectly complementing it. 2-year-old Pierre was the only one in the family who didn't willingly give up his usual ketchup in favour of the Diane sauce and Madhouse Daddy Mike actually mopped up the last drops out of the saucepan with a piece of bread. That says it all really !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £3 for 250g


Other reviews you may be interested in :

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Vimto Limited Edition Seasonal Spiced Punch review

Last week, I blogged (here) about being a Vimto Virgin no more ! Well, the makers of Vimto, the delicious fruity soft drink with the top-secret recipe, have launched a limited edition Christmas drink, Hot Mulled Berry Punch, so we've been trying that out too.

Vimto explain : "Vimto’s much-loved original flavor has been blended with an enticing concoction of aromatic cloves, warming cinnamon and sweet nutmeg to pack a seasonal punch. Just add hot water for a warming non-alcoholic drink or use as a mixer to create a hot winter cocktail."

It's a rich fruity drink with a strong undercurrent of festive spices that reminded me very much of mulled wine or some of the spiced fruit teas you can buy. The kids weren't keen on the spicy undertones, but they were drinking it cold as squash, which may not be so nice. I think it makes a nice change over the Christmassy period.

If you want to give it a try, grab some quick while it's still on the shelves. It's available exclusively at Tesco stores across the UK from 21st November until the end of the Christmas period.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £1.89 for a 725ml bottle

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Luxury Christmas Foods from Aldi review


OK, admit it, hands up all you food snobs who rolled your eyes when you saw the words "luxury" and "Aldi" in the same sentence and thought yeah, yeah! Well, just have a look at the contents of the fabulous Christmas hamper that they sent us and tell me you're not impressed. If I hadn't known they were from Aldi, there is no way I would have thought they came from one of the budget supermarkets because the only thing cheap about them is the price tag. If you can cut costs without compromising on taste, you'd be a fool not to take advantage of them, especially as they look just as impressive as the higher-priced big brands


First up was a box of their Luxury Mince Pies. These are very tasty, deep-filled mince pies that don't quite live up to the taste of homemade freshly baked mince pies, but certainly give any of the other shop-bought ones that we've tried in the past a run  for their money. They box looks high-quality and doesn't mention Aldi anywhere visible so you could bring this out for guests without anybody looking down their noses at it. Especially once they 've tasted them ! In the past, Aldi mince pies have beaten those bought from Harrods in taste tests and now that I've tried them, I can't say I'm surprised.


Staying on the theme of traditional Christmas sweet treats, the next product on the hot seat was these Rich Fruit Stollen Bites. I'd heard of stollen but never actually tried it before so I can't compare this product to other brands. It got a thumbs up from the kids and I thought it made a nice change to the usual mince pies and Christmas cake, while tasting decidedly festive. (price £1.99)


I had to smile when I saw these cheeky Chocolate Reindeer because they are the spitting image of the Lindt Easter bunnies, despite costing a fraction of the price. We've already reviewed Aldi's Choceur Chocolate in the past (see here) and it got a unanimous seal of approval, tasting just as delicious and creamy as the higher-priced competitiors, so I know the kids will love eating these. I've put them aside for the kids to discover in their stockings on Christmas morning - if I can resist eating them before then ! (price 99p each)


Now, this is where things got a bit more risky. Being married to a Frenchman, I can't serve any old cheap plonk at the dinner table but these two bottles looked the business so I thought I'd try to sneak them past Madhouse Daddy Mike's fussy palate ! Well, he was actually quite impressed, which is high praise indeed from a Frenchman !

First up was the Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura Sparkling Chardonnay. While not being actual champagne, this is genuine French mousseux that you can buy in France. It needs to be thoroughly chilled and can be served as it is or with a small drop of crème de cassis blackcurrant liqueur to give it a lovely ruby flavour and a sweeter taste. Best served in champagne flutes, this is ideal bubbly on a budget to put some fizz in your Christmas or New Year celebrations (although it's available instore all year round). (price £6.99 for 75cl)

The other bottle, which again looks very impressive and expensive, is Baron Amarillo Rioja Reserva. This red wine, which is aged for 3 years in oak barrels to develop the flavour and aromas, went down very nicely with our roast dinner. Madhouse Daddy Mike said it wasn't bad, even if it was Spanish, which is pretty good coming from a Frenchman ! (price £5.99 for 75cl)

These are fab products at bargain basement prices that look good enough to grace your Christmas table or even be put together for a hamper to give as a present for those awkward to buy for people.

To keep up to date with everything that's going on at Aldi, you might like to check out their brand new Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/AldiUK
star rating : 5/5

RRP : see descriptions

for more information : http://www.aldi.co.uk/

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Moxie Girlz Horse Riding Club dolls review


This time last year, I introduced you to the Moxie Girlz - Lexa, Bria, Avery and Sophina - when we reviewed Moxie Girlz Magic Snow (here). I told you that I appreciated their fun-loving, natural, wholesome look and values and the Moxie Girlz slogan of "Be true, be you !", which is much more adapted to young girls than overly-made up, scantily-clad trash - er, I mean fashion - dolls ! Well, those values still hold true in their latest offering - Moxie Girlz Horse Riding Club dolls.


The girls may be saddling up but they still manage to look pretty and feminine. I'm not sure I'd go horseriding in a tartan mini skirt but Juliette oohed and aahed over the funky outfit and, I have to admit, Avery had no problems riding her horse around The Madhouse ! This choice of outfit also means that your Moxie Girl is dressed to party, go shopping or hang out with her friends as well as go horse riding, when your kids want to get imaginative and make up stories for her.


Also available in the range are doll sets including a stunning walking horse that even has special sound effects for £29.99, and a beautiful stable playset for £34.99, which includes a doll and pony and everything the Moxie Girlz need to make their favourite friend happy and comfortable. We haven't reviewed these but they look really good.

Whether or not your own little girls love riding horses or dream of having their own ponies, they're bound to be over the moon if they find one of these dolls or play sets under the tree this Christmas.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £14.99 for the doll, £29.99 for the doll & horse, £34.99 for the stable playset with doll & horse

for more information :
Follow Moxie Girlz on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/MoxieGirlzUK 




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Cook up a scrumptious feast for Christmas and win !


Annabel Langbein The Free Range Cook is now on sale in the UK and contains all the recipes you'll need to cook up a scrumptious feast this Christmas – as well as make a great gift for yourself or the foodies in your life!

To give you a taste of what's inside I'm thrilled to bring you a free sample of the following six delicious recipes, including:


Sesame and Oregano Lavosh - The Perfect Nibble for Pre-Christmas Parties

A Special Occasion Scallop Salad with Citrus Chilli Dressing


•Succulent Pork Belly Cooked in Milk (A Fun Alternative to Turkey)

The Oh-So-Impressive Frozen Strawberry Cloud Cake


•A Devastatingly Decadent Chocolate and Cranberry Slice - A Sublime Finish to your Christmas Feast

Tasty Roasted Pepper Pesto to use as a Dip, Spread or Serve with the Pork Belly


To download these recipes simply click this link: http://www.annabel-langbein.com/freerangetaster/uk

And once you've cooked them you could win a kitchenware hamper worth £135 simply by uploading a photo to her website here. The photo with the most votes wins so get your friends on board via Facebook, Twitter and email.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :


Belvita Breakfast Yogurt Crunch Biscuits review


As I told you in a recent blogpost (here) about the Breakfast Week Challenge, one in three mums skip breakfast on a regular basis and I have to guiltily admit to being one of them. I know I should eat something healthy to start the day and have even ingrained the cereal/fruit/dairy product mantra in the kids when they're choosing breakfast, but by the time I've got everyone else sorted out, I rarely have time to sort anything out for myself ! I therefore jumped at the chance when we were given the opportunity of trying out Belvita Breakfast Yogurt Crunch because they're perfect for grabbing on my way out of the door to eat at the bus stop !

Specially designed for breakfast, the Belvita Breakfast Yogurt Crunch consists of two crunchy Breakfast Biscuits sandwiched together by a creamy live yogurt filling - it reminds me of a big custard cream !

It's a much healthier option though because it contains five wholegrains, is rich in cereals, provides a source of fibre and calcium and contains a selection of vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, calcium, magnesium and iron.


Rahul Gursahani, Senior Brand Manager at Kraft Foods, says that the Belvita Breakfast range has been years in development in order to maximise its nutritional benefits and Yogurt Crunch is the latest variant from their team of experts. "The creamy filling is made from live yogurt and is the first of its kind in this category. We are all very proud of the result and this will hopefully continue to increase the current appetite for breakfast biscuits in the UK," comments Rahul Gursahani.

As with all Belvita Breakfast Biscuits, when eaten as part of a balanced breakfast, Belvita Breakfast Yogurt Crunch is clinically proven to regularly and continuously release carbohydrates over four hours to keep you going all morning. Well, I ate two this morning before going to work and I didn't feel at all hungry until lunchtime, avoiding the mid-morning munchies when you often reach for something unhealthy from the nearest vending machine.


Taste-wise, they're very nice too. The biscuits are crumbly and not overly sweet and the filling is creamy and delicious, actually reminding me of custard cream filling  more than yogurt ! It's a tasty and ultra-convenient way of getting something healthy into your tummy when you've no time to spare and the fact that they're wrapped in handy 2-biscuit sachets makes them ideal for breakfast on the go.

I wasn't sure what the Madhouse Mini-Testers would think of them as they're not as sweet as many kid-oriented options, but the girls loved them and asked if they could have them for breakfast again tomorrow !

The Belvita Breakfast Yogurt Crunch is available in supermarkets and leading retailers now and comes in a 253g box containing five sachets of two biscuits. It complements the other Belvita Breakfast Biscuits already brightening up mornings, including Honey & Nuts with choc chips, Crunchy Oats, Milk & Cereal and Fruit & Fibre.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £2.49 for 5 x 2 biscuits

for more information : http://www.belvitabreakfast.co.uk/

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Build-a-Bear Alvin and the Chipmunks toys review


The new Alvin and the Chipmunks film will be hitting the screens in December but we've already given a home to this gorgeous Brittany toy from Build-a-Bear. As you can see, Sophie - who has pretty much outgrown all her other teddies and soft toys - instantly adopted her when she arrived in the post and keeps snuggling up to her in front of the TV or leaving her on her pillow when she goes to school.

I'm not surprised - she does have a really cute face and is incredibly soft. At 41cm she's the perfect size for cuddles too !

Little boys (or girls who prefer Alvin) don't need to feel left out though as Alvin the cheeky chipmunk is also available, and he looks cute too !

As with all Build-a-Bear toys, when you register your new friend online, you also get 2000 Bear Bills, an extra room and decor and an exclusive reward in the online interactive world at http://www.buildabearville.com/. Half an hour's peace while the kids play with their new friend online is a definite added bonus !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £18, with outfits costing £10




Other reviews you may be interested in :

Monday, 28 November 2011

Giveaway #143 - Meet the Smurfs & win a VIP goodie bag - closed - winner mrsgoriami


The Smurfs are set to take over the Southbank this weekend as the world’s largest inflatable Smurf will appear next to Tower Bridge on Sunday 4th December 2011 at 12pm to promote the launch of The Smurfs ™.on Blu-ray 3D™, Blu-ray™ Double Play, DVD and digital.


Fans of the franchise will get to meet and greet Papa Smurf and Smurfette whilst also having their picture taken next to the giant, 40 foot inflatable structure.



Sony Pictures Animation’s live-action animated feature, which stars Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Sofia Vergara, Jayma Mays and the voices of Katy Perry, George Lopez and Jonathan Winters, is available on Blu-ray 3D™, Blu-ray™ Double Play, DVD and digital on 5th December 2011.



For the chance to win a family place at the event plus a VIP goodie bag just tell us the name of the iconic female Smurf character:

1.Mrs Smurf
2.Smurfette
3.Smurfella

Ts & Cs : A family place includes two parents and up to three children.

Closing date midnight Thurs 1st Dec.

Winners chosen Fri 2nd Dec, you will be emailed to let you know you've won and then your names will be put down on the guest list.

To be in with a chance of winning, just do the following two things :

(1) follow my blog with Google Friends Connect (over on the side bar on the right)
(2) leave me a comment in the comments box with your email and the answer to the question.

Bonus entries

You can do any or all of the following for bonus entries - just make sure you leave me one comment per entry so that they're all counted !


1) Follow me on twitter (@cherylp59) and tweet about my comp. You can use the handy retweet button over in my side bar or write your own tweet but make sure you copy in @cherylp59 so I can track this


(2) I love reading your comments so leave me some extra comments on my other blogposts (maximum 5 - other giveaways don't count !) and I'll give you a bonus entry for each one. Just remember to leave me a comment here each time to tell me you've done so.


(3) Subscribe to my blog by email (near the top of the right-hand sidebar) so that all the new posts pop into your inbox in a handy digest every morning


(4) I've created a facebook page for Madhouse Family Reviews so I'd love for you to become a follower on there too - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Madhouse-Family-Reviews/144910798898626

UK only. Closing date : 1/12/11

Other giveaways you may be interested in :


Fabric Flavours Mini Superheroes Tshirt review


Pierre is your average 2-year-old when it comes to clothes. In other words, he's not the slightest bit interested. He's quite happy to throw on whatever I pull out of the wardrobe without comment (apart from pointing at the odd picture of a tractor or a motorbike on the front of his Tshirt).


I was therefore astounded that when he saw the Fabric Flavours Superman Tshirt that we received to review, he grabbed it out of my hands saying "wow" and desperately tried to shove his head through the armhole ! I helped him put it on properly and he paraded around the entire family declaring "cholie" (French for "pwetty" !) before marching up and down with his arms in the air like he was modelling on a catwalk ! We were all in hysterics watching him ! At bedtime, he wanted to put it back on over the top of his pyjamas and the only way he gave in was when I put it on the side of the changing table, promising he could wear it again tomorrow morning.




I've already received a couple of Fabric Flavours products to review in the past and I'm always highly impressed by the funky designs but also the quality of the garments. They are hardwearing, don't shrink, stretch or fade in the wash and last for absolutely ages in perfect condition. The Superman Tshirt is part of the Mini Superheroes collection, which also offers clothes featuring Hans Solo, Spiderman, Darth Vader and a whole host of other original designs for kidswear.


As a little added extra, throughout the month of December all orders over £30 will come with this lovely Christmas Gift Box too.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £16


Other reviews you may be interested in :

Bananagrams Blogger Battle Challenge #3 - Fruit



You can't have missed me blogging about Bananagrams over the past couple of weeks, and even giving you the chance of winning your very own game (here). After Challenge #1 (here) where we had to use words to represent our life, and Challenge #2 (here) with the theme of Kids TV, this week's topic was Fruit. Here's our entry.


You can head over to their facebook page here to check out the other entries.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Kids' app review : Peekaboo Barn



When I was asked if I'd like to try out a new kids' iPad app called Peekaboo Barn, I said yes but I'd never actually heard of it. It turns out that for nearly three years, it has been one of the best-loved children's apps of all time on the iPhone but it is now also available for the iPad.

The app is incredibly simple and I was actually amazed at how long the Madhouse Mini-testers played with it and how much fun they had ! You have a big red American-style barn (which your kids will recognise from their Little People playsets, if they've got one) which shakes and makes an animal noise. You have to guess which animal is hiding inside and when you tap on the barn door, it opens up to reveal the animal. This was enough to have 2-year-old Pierre in fits of giggles !


The educational aspect doesn't stop there though. You also hear a voice saying the name of the animal and the word appears on screen so it's great for word recognition and reinforcing early reading skills.

We haven't experimented with this aspect - because the kids love the "American child" voice and don't want me to change it ! - but you can also change languages and even record your (or friends' and grandparents') voices to make it totally personalised. This would be a lovely touch for any relatives who live a long way away and who don't get to visit often, or for any parents who have to leave home for extended periods - for example those in the Armed Forces - who want to leave a special reminder of themselves before going away.

If you want to learn the animal vocabulary in a foreign language, you get American English and Spanish automatically but you also have the option to purchase extra language packs within the game for 99 cents. The Asian languages pack offers Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese and the European languages pack features Swedish, Dutch, Italian, German, and French.

Since 2008, Peekaboo Barn has been downloaded over half a million times, and played over 18 million times worldwide. It has been a top 20 educational game on the iTunes store nearly every day since its launch, and has been featured by Apple several times. It won The Best Toddler App Ever award in 2009, and was named one of the top 50 iPhone apps for kids by Babble.com in 2010 and 2011. It is recommended by The New York Times, MSNBC, USA Today, Wired, Telegraph UK, Irelandʼs The Independent, Parents Magazine, and the Washington Post.

I was amazed to see just how absorbed the kids were in such a simple game and I have definitely noticed that Pierre has got better at recognising animal sounds and naming animals since he's been playing with the app. They can therefore add the Madhouse Family Seal of Approval to their long list of awards too !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £1.49


Other reviews you may be interested in :

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Giveaway #142 - 10 x Jack & Holly's Christmas Countdown DVD - closed - winners @missingsleep @Dorothee77 @kathvcomps @mumoffunkids @chocolateonemse @ashlallan @MummyFever @mamamakes @bloomingfox @Picklepie35


Last year, I reviewed (here) the lovely pre-schooler DVD Jack & Holly's Christmas Countdown. It's perfect family viewing in the run up to Christmas and I have TEN copies of the DVD to give away to lucky blog-followers.

If you're really quick, you can also enter my giveaway to win the latest lovely Jack & Holly DVD here. Called Cosmic Stories, it explains many of the mysteries of the universe to your pre-schoolers. But get your skates on, today is the last day to enter !

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of Jack & Holly's Christmas Countdown , just do the following three things :

(1) follow my blog with Google Friends Connect (over on the side bar on the right)

(2) Leave me a comment on one of my other blogposts (other giveaways don't count !) and tell me in your comment where you left a message.

(3) leave me a comment in the comments box with a way of contacting you (twitter name or email). (If I don't hear back from you within a week, I'll have to pick another winner.)

Bonus entries

You can do any or all of the following for bonus entries - just make sure you leave me one comment per entry so that they're all counted !

(1) Follow me on twitter (@cherylp59) and tweet about my comp by copying the following tweet : "10 copies of @jackandholly Xmas Countdown to win over at @cherylp59 's blog http://goo.gl/fb/IBpv9"

(2) follow @jackandholly on twitter

(3) I love reading your comments so leave me some extra comments on my other blogposts (maximum 5 - other giveaways don't count !) and I'll give you a bonus entry for each one. Just remember to leave me a comment here each time to tell me you've done so.

(4) Subscribe to my blog by email (near the top of the right-hand sidebar) so that all the new posts pop into your inbox in a handy digest every morning


(5) I've created a facebook page for Madhouse Family Reviews so I'd love for you to become a follower on there too - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Madhouse-Family-Reviews/144910798898626


UK only. Closing date : 11/12/11

Other giveaways you may be interested in :

Silent Sunday


inspired by

Silent Sunday

Kids' app review : Tinga Tinga Tales


Popular Cbeebies programme Tinga TingaTales has just released its first app, available for iPad,  iPhone or iPod Touch. Just like the TV show, the app is bursting with vibrant colours, African-inspired art and sounds and a whole host of safari animals for you to interact with.


Created by P2 games, the app contains 9 fun mini games featuring the animals from the TV series Tinga Tinga Tales:

MONKEY’S MANGOES - Monkey loves mangoes! Help him avoid the green mangoes and catch the ripe orange ones before they fall to the ground.
YUMMY FLIES! - Tap on the flowers to help Chameleon catch as many flies as possible to eat.

CLEVER CHAMELEON - Help Chameleon disappear by tapping on the correct pattern that matches his surroundings.


SNAPPY CROC - Crocodile is trying to spoil Hippo's swim. Tap on his head before he disappears.


FIND LIZARD - Lizard always hides under rocks. Tap on the right rock to find him in a classic game of hide and seek.


GREEDY TORTOISE! – Guide Tortoise to his heavenly feast in the clouds, but watch out for the birds!


I’M NOT A ROCK! - Tortoise is trying to cross the land of TingaTinga, but other animals mistake him for a rock! He needs help!

ANIMAL MISMATCH – The animals are all jumbled! Slide the animal parts in place to create your favourite Tinga Tinga Tales characters.

BATH TIME! - Help Elephant wash the dusty animals clean.

 

Juliette loves the Animal Mismatch game because you can slide your finger across the screen to make the "wheel" spin round fast and make random strange animals. She also loves the animals' bath time and fly-catching games.


The games are very simple and quite repetitive but they're ideal for the 3-6 year target audience because there is no need to explain anything for kids to pick them up. The fact that you can choose between three different levels for each game also adds a bit more variation.


Nine games for £1.49 makes this absolutely fantastic value and any fans of the series will be blown away because it successfully recreates the atmosphere of the TV show.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £1.49


Other reviews you may be interested in :

Garden Games Hexagonal Sandpit review


I have a confession to make - I'm reviewing this product before we've actually tried it but that's because it's the wrong end of the year for outdoor play and it would probably only end up being used as a cat toilet if we installed it now !

We have had a sneaky peek in the flat-pack box though and it all looks very solid and well built. The kids got all excited about setting it up on the patio straight away and the great thing is, if you haven't got a garden - just an area of decking or maybe even a balcony if you live in a flat - it allows you to create a safe haven for kids to play in out in the fresh air with very little space. (If you do use it on a balcony, make sure your kids can't climb up the side and get too close to a wall though.)

It measures 1.5m across, which is big enough for a few friends to play in together. My one concern was that it would cost a fortune to be delivered, as it's so heavy, but I was actually pleasantly surprised to learn that deliveries are free over £150 or a very reasonable £4.95 for any other UK deliveries.

The sandpit comes with a protective cover (which would hopefully stop the local cats getting in) and geotextile underlay.

As soon as winter is behind us, it will have pride of place on our patio. If you're looking for a highly original sandpit that would be a focal point in a garden, there are some innovative designs available, including ones shaped as a sailing boat, a wigwam and a picnic table. Roll on springtime !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £59.99


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‘Instructions Not Included’ campaign - seeking help if your child is aggressive



When you're at a supermarket checkout and your 2-year-old starts having a meltdown, you may get the odd filthy look or non-parent tutting about bad behaviour and/or bad parenting but most people with kids know that it's just a phase that many kids go through and you're more likely to get sympathetic smiles than condemnation. But fast-forward a decade to a stroppy, belligerent teen and it's harder for parents to get the same degree of understanding. As a teacher of teens, I know how hard this period can be for troubled teens and their parents alike, but also how hard it can be for the parents to admit that they have a problem and need help. Hopefully this article will offer advice and reassurance to anyone in that situation.

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CALLS TO PARENT HELPLINE ON CHILDREN’S AGGRESSION INCREASE, BUT CHARITY FEARS MANY MORE PARENTS FEEL TOO ASHAMED TO SEEK SUPPORT



Family Lives’ updated aggression report* finds calls to its Parentline regarding aggressive behaviour have increased by 2% and only 56% of respondents to an online survey had sought help for their child’s problem.



As part of its ‘Instructions Not Included’ campaign**, Family Lives reveals that a growing number of parents are seriously concerned about their child's aggression and that many are unsure as to why their children display aggressive behaviour. The updated report, ‘When Family Life Hurts: Family Experience of Aggression in Children’ calls for Government to recognise – in addition to early years support - the particular needs of many parents of older children and teenagers.


The updated report shows that:

Between July 2010 and June 2011, of 39,258 calls made to Parentline, 27% of callers were seeking advice from the charity’s helpline regarding their children’s behaviour with parents frequently reporting feelings of desperation, helplessness and shame.



Key Family Lives Aggression Facts and Figures

Statistics from Parentline, Family Lives’ free helpline for families showed that:


· Calls about a child’s physical aggression have risen by 2% and calls about a child’s verbal aggression have risen by 4%

· 42.9% of calls about behaviour related to children aged 13-15 years

· Parents calling about their child’s aggression were 30.3% more likely to suffer from stress than other callers, and 8.3% more likely to be suffering with anger

· Children are more likely to suffer from identified or unidentified depression if they have behavioural concerns compared to other issues raised in long calls***. They are more likely to self-harm, feel suicidal and suffer from hyperactivity and feelings of isolation

· Compared to June 09 - June 10 statistics, child stress, confusion, isolation and anger have increased by an average of 5.3% where a child is being verbally aggressive and by 5.4% in calls where a child is physically aggressive

· Children who are physically aggressive were significantly more likely to be using drugs -(10.1% compared to 3.2% of all calls) and to be in with a bad crowd - 10.9% compared to 3.4% of all calls.

Jeremy Todd, Chief Executive, Family Lives says: “Family Lives’ updated report highlights that children’s violent and aggressive behaviour in the home is a hidden and stigmatised issue and we must all continue to support families to help change their child’s behaviour and ultimately improve life chances. There are many reasons that can explain why children behave in an aggressive way at home. Answers commonly include an inadequate approach to parenting, a lack of respect, sudden and unpredictable changes to the family routine, parental domestic violence or bullying at school, which causes the anger and hurt to spill out at home. Children or young people often feel that home is a safe place to vent ones feelings. Divorce and separation is considered to play its part in displays of aggressive child behaviour if co-parenting strategies are not discussed, agreed and implemented. Children can end up playing one parent off against another, or the non-resident parent may end up taking a back-seat with regards to discipline as they spend less time with the child. Whatever the reasons, children, parents, families and ultimately society will pay a huge cost if this growing area of concern is not addressed and parents must feel able to come forward to seek support without worrying about being judged.”

 
Family Lives asked respondents via a recent online web survey why they felt that their child behaved aggressively, what they felt influenced that behaviour and why they felt it was worse in the home. Large numbers identified their children’s friends, or other members of the family as influences on their child’s aggressive behaviour, but a significant number (38.8%) were unsure, expressing their frustration with comments such as “That’s the $10,000 question”.



Parents talked about bullying, domestic violence, disabilities and mental health problems as triggers for the aggressive behaviour and identified inconsistent parenting and divorce and separation as other contributing factors.

 
Seeking help

Family Lives’ most recent online survey found that only 56% of parents had sought help for their child’s aggressive behaviour. This figure remained consistent with the findings from our 2010 survey, showing that families are still trying to cope alone with difficult behaviour. An alarming 35% had not sought help because they did not know where to go to find that help, and a further 11% did not seek help because of they felt there was stigma attached to it. Despite the impact on their family life, 20% of families did not seek help for fear of damaging their child’s life chances and instead suffered in silence trying to manage the behaviour themselves.

Family Lives Recommendations

The Charity is calling for the Coalition Government:

· To ensure in its response to the Family Justice Review that Parents receive the support they need to meet their child’s needs during separation as early as possible in the process. Divorce and separation has been identified by a number of families responding to our online survey as a trigger for their child's aggressive behaviour.



· To ensure that in focussing support on the early years, they do not lose sight of the problems of older and teenager children, further stigmatising the seeking of support for families experiencing difficulties with children in this age bracket.



· To commit to looking for sustainable ways to better integrate family support services with universal services.

 
To review the report visit http://fmly.me/wordshurtreport

Parents concerned about verbal or physical abuse from their children can call Family Lives’ free and confidential helpline, Parentline, on 0808 800 2222, or email parentsupport@familylives.org.uk  for a personalised reply within 3 days.

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