Saturday, 30 November 2013

Have yourselves a Merry Little Mixmas card !


I was slightly overwhelmed by the number of UK companies announcing Black Friday deals yesterday. It's always been a big thing in America, where the day after Thanksgiving heralds the start of Christmas shopping fever, but it doesn't seem to make much sense in the UK where we don't celebrate Thanksgiving ! I must say, we are heading off to do our shopping today in a huge shopping centre though - wish us luck ! If you're heading out to stock up on Christmas supplies, you might like to know that Hallmark have announced the winner of their Sketch Santa charity Christmas card competition and the cards went on sale yesterday.


The limited edition pack, modelled by Little Mix, contains six cards in total, five featuring festive group shots of Little Mix and the winning Sketch Santa design. They cost £1.99, and for every pack sold, 50p will go to the charities supported by Text Santa.


Capturing the spirit of Christmas with a modern twist, the Little Mix card pack includes all four band members (Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall) in the following traditional Christmas scenes:

Carol singing in the crisp winter outdoors.
Unwrapping gifts on Christmas morning.
A modern-day Christmas feast packed full of delicious treats.
Hanging stockings for Santa’s arrival by a roaring fireplace.
Decorating the tree.
Little Mix holding Hayley’s winning design.

If you have a Little Mix fan amongst you, they're sure to go down well and it's a great way to help charity too. If they featured One Direction, I know Sophie would be dragging us straight to Hallmark today to buy up the whole shop !

The Text Santa appeal works on behalf of six specifically chosen charities offering life-changing services to those less fortunate than others throughout the UK. For 2013, the six charities, who will each receive an equal share of the funds raised will be Age UK, Barnardo’s, BeatBullying, British Heart Foundation, CLIC Sargent and Help the Hospices. Text Santa will conclude in an ultimate entertainment spectacular on 20th December on ITV1.

For further information about Text Santa or the Sketch Santa cards please, visit www.itv.com/textsanta or www.hallmark.co.uk

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Santa's reindeer has come to live at The Madhouse !

Dairy Milk Marvellous Creations Cola Pretzel Honeycomb review


When an email plopped into my inbox asking if we'd like to try the latest Marvellous Creations variety, I must admit, my instant reaction was to wonder what was going in the creative team's heads on the day they came up with this one ! We've really liked the other bars that we've tried from the range - the Cookie Nut Crunch and the Jelly Popping Candy Shells - but had they gone to far with their latest wild and wacky combination of cola pretzel honeycomb? They're all things that I like separately but that I would never have dreamed of putting together !


Well, there's only one way to find out ! As usual, the kids all gathered round excitedly when I unwrapped the bar, which is something that doesn't happen with other chocolate brands ! From the back, we could instantly see lots of interesting-looking knobbly bits that look like nuts but are actually honeycomb pieces. Flipped right side up, we rediscovered the irregular crazy paving segment layout which we love because it's so unique.


Each segment has its fair share of interesting additions, as you can see, but they seem to be irregularly scattered through the chocolate so that you never know what you will get inside your piece and no two bites are the same. We all sat there sucking on the chocolate, enjoying the creamy Dairy Milk and concentrating on the other flavours coming through. Every now and then, someone would shout "oooh cola !" or "I think that's pretzel" or "not fair, I haven't had any honeycomb yet" ! It adds a whole extra level of fun and excitement to the usual chocolate-tasting experience.

I wasn't sure the flavours would work together but those clever bods (or odd bods ?!) at Cadbury have come up trumps again !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £2.49 for 200g

Disclosure : We received a couple of bars in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Madhouse Recipe : Chocolate & Banana Muffins

Fab freebies of the week 30/11/2013


Time to grab yourselves some more freebies - here's this week's selection.


Grab a free sample pair of Black Mamba gloves here (all gone)

The Orchard At Tesco looks like Bzz agent for Tesco's so might be worth joining up (I just did)

Soap & Glory are offering a free sample of their Make Yourself Useful serum on their facebook page

SuperSavvyMe are looking for 1000 men to trial Head & Shoulders Hair Endurance Extra Strengthening Tonic

Innocent Smoothies always send out little xmas freebies - you can request one here (all gone)

Your kids can write to Santa care of The Royal Mail before the 6th December and he'll try to answer as many letters as possible

If you fancy trying out a free sample of Slim Gum, head over here

You may have seen me mentioning the Slimpod weightloss mp3s on my blog - you can download and try out their special Christmas Slimpod until midnight on December 5th. It's designed to help prevent you piling on the pounds over the festive period. (all gone)

Sign up by tomorrow to be a Nivea product tester (all gone)

Sign up to Luponde newsletter and you can choose a free sample of tea (Orthodox Black Tea, White Tea, Chamomile, Peppermint, Lemon Verbena or Green Tea) - scroll down to the bottom of their webpage

Get your free coupon for a Canderel Tablets 100 Pack by signing up for their free loyalty card (all gone)

Yet more perfume samples ! Boss Bottled, Boss Bottled Night & Boss Bottled Sport this time

You can see previous weeks' freebie roundups by clicking here but be warned, many of the offers are only valid for a short time.

You may also like to enter my giveaways :

Friday, 29 November 2013

Hemp Seed Oil review


When I was given the chance to try out some Hemp Seed Oil from Hemp Oil Canada, I was keen to see what we'd think. Here at The Madhouse, we use olive oil practically exclusively, although we really enjoyed sampling argan oil after our trip to Morocco this summer. Hemp Seed Oil was a total unknown though.


For its first test, I decided to replace my usual olive oil when cooking up some fishfingers for the kids for tea. I was slightly perturbed by the greenish tinge that it gave them when I first poured it out - it's in an opaque green bottle so you can't really see what it looks like before you pour it out - but you get the idea on the absorbent paper above. Tastewise, it was quite neutral and could easy replace olive oil as a general cooking oil. The Hemp Oil Canada website says : "Our hemp seed oil has a flavorful, light, nutty taste and can be used in a wide range of recipes such as sauces, dips, marinades and salad dressings or added to protein powder shakes or smoothies. Hemp seed oil can also be consumed by the tablespoon." Hmm not sure I fancy that, but whatever floats your boat ! We only received a very small bottle so I couldn't really experiment with it much - I'd have liked to try making cupcakes with it to see what they came out like.


Nutritionally speaking, it's quite impressive. Hemp seed oil is low in saturated fats, a source of polyunsaturated fats and is free from trans fat and cholesterol. One tablespoon (15 ml) of hemp seed oil provides 8g Omega-6, 2.5g Omega-3, zero trans fat, zero cholesterol, and 10% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin E.


Disclosure : I received a free sample of hemp seed oil in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

What's Cooking at The Madhouse next week? menu plan 29/11/13

Giveaway #343 : Win 3 copies of ‘Frozen’ The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - closed - winners Clair Downham, Tracy K Nixon, Samantha Ripley


You can't have Christmas without settling down to watch a Disney movie at least once, whether that be one of the oldies-but-goodies or a brand new feature. In the nick of time, Walt Disney Animation Studios, the studio behind “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph,” are releasing “Frozen,” a stunning big-screen comedy adventure.

 Fearless optimist Anna (with the voice of Kristen Bell) sets off on an epic journey - teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven - to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.

Frozen is released on December 6th, 2013 in a cinema near you. For more information, go to Disney.com/Frozen or like them on facebook.com/DisneyFrozen

The “Frozen” soundtrack is set for release from Walt Disney Records on December 2nd 2013. The “Frozen” two-disc deluxe edition and the digital deluxe edition soundtrack, which are also available on the same date, feature 23 and 27 additional tracks respectively, including demos, out-takes and a “Let It Go” instrumental karaoke track.

The “Frozen” original motion picture soundtrack listing is as follows :

1. “Frozen” Heart Performed by Cast
2. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” Performed by Kristen Bell, Agatha Lee Monn and Katie Lopez
3. “For the First Time in Forever” Performed by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel
4. “Love Is an Open Door” Performed by Kristen Bell and Santino Fontana
5. “Let It Go” Performed by Idina Menzel
6. “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People” Performed by Jonathan Groff
7. “In Summer” Performed by Josh Gad
8. “For the First Time in Forever” (Reprise) Performed by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel
9. “Fixer Upper” Performed by Maia Wilson and Cast
10. “Let It Go” (Demi Lovato Version) Performed by Demi Lovato
11. Vuelie (Featuring Cantus) Score
12. Elsa and Anna Score
13. The Trolls Score
14. Coronation Day Score
15. Heimr Àrnadalr Score
16. Winter’s Waltz Score
17. Sorcery Score
18. Royal Pursuit Score
19. Onward and Upward Score
20. Wolves Score
21. The North Mountain Score
22. We Were So Close Score
23. Marshmallow Attack! Score
24. Conceal, Don’t Feel Score
25. Only An Act of True Love Score
26. Summit Siege Score
27. Return to Arendelle Score
28. Treason Score
29. Some People Are Worth Melting For Score
30. Whiteout Score
31. The Great Thaw (Vuelie Reprise) Score
32. Epilogue Score



I have 3 copies of ‘Frozen’ The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - which features a recording by Demi Lovato - to give away. Frozen OST is out to buy on 2nd December and includes music and songs from the festive new movie from Disney. To be in with a chance of winning, fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.


UK only. Closing date : 13/12/13

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.

Other giveaways you may be interested in :

Giveaway #339 : Win 10 e-story books from Itsyourstory - closing date 30/11

Giveaway #338 : Win a family ticket to Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play - closing date 29/11

What's Cooking at The Madhouse next week? menu plan 29/11/13


Heading into a couple of crazy weeks so it's time to come up with some quick and simple meals that can be made in advance or just thrown together swiftly.

Saturday

lunch - we're off to a big shopping centre to do the Christmas shopping so it'll be something out and about

dinner - soup  - maybe Mexican Black Bean Soup again because it was very tasty or maybe Madhouse Daddy's traditional vegetable soup

Sunday

lunch -  traditional Sunday roast with all the trimmings  

dinner - leftover soup or a sandwich

Monday  

dinner - if I'm organised, I'll throw something in the slow cooker on Sunday afternoon so it can just be reheated tonight - maybe beef carbonnade or maybe something new

Tuesday

dinner - I'm off on a school trip to the Canterbury Tales and the Christmas market in Canterbury so I'll be back late - just something quick, hopefully leftovers

Wednesday

lunch - Rajas Tacos

dinner -  Tartiflette

Thursday

dinner - pasta bake

Friday

dinner - it's another late night so just a sandwich or pizza probably, with a salad if I still have some energy !

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

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Our Birds Eye Cowboy Party


Birds Eye have introduced some great new kids' products to their frozen food range so they asked us if we'd like to invite a few friends over to The Madhouse try them out. They sent over a fab party pack with plenty of goodies to feed hungry kids.


Here's what was on the cowboy-themed menu : the new BBQ Chicken Bites, Wild Waffles, Powerful Peas and Apple or Orange Juice. This was met with cheers of delight from the Madhouse Mini-testers - time to invite their best friends over !


The party pack even incuded disposable plates, serviettes, a plastic table cloth (which has been kept as a crafting tablecloth) and some very cute keyrings featuring Clarence the Birds Eye polar bear.


Each of the Madhouse kids invited one friend over and they excitedly helped me lay the table for six.


Time to check out the food. The Mild & Sweet BBQ Chicken Bites are just like chicken nuggets with a delicate smoky bbq flavour. The packs say that they contain 16 bites but every one of ours contained 17 ! They're made with 100% chicken breast and actually taste very nice.


The serving suggestions on the back of the pack appealed to me - with mashed potatoes and vegetables but also in a wrap with salad.


While I was getting the food ready, Pierre decided to turn the keyrings into some rather fetching Clarence earrings !


Phew, here we go - six platefuls ready and waiting to be munched !


As I went to call the kids down, I could see Juliette up to something.


She was putting one pea in each hole of the waffles (or windows, as Pierre has renamed them in our house).


This appealed to all of them so looks like it would be a great way of encouraging reticent kids to eat peas !

Now I had visions of taking photos of them tucking it but in the time it took me to go and check I'd turned the oven off and put the baking tray in the sink, they'd wolfed down the lot, shouted thanks and headed back upstairs to dance to One Direction songs ! Well, I guess that means they liked it then !


I did manage to tempt the younger kids outside to run off some steam and play with their Clarences. Pierre went back to wearing them as earrings !


He's a very sporty polar bear - he had a go at roller skating.


Then he had a ride around the car park on a bike.


He had fun riding around a scooter.


Then played hide and seek with the autumn leaves.

And all too soon, it was time to go home. The Madhouse Mini-testers have asked if we can buy the BBQ bites again (we already bought waffles quite regularly) but the best bit from my point of view is that Juliette rediscovered that she likes peas. She used to, but then she went off them, but she declared that these ones were the sweetest and nicest peas she's ever tasted and could she have them again please. 

Thanks for Birds Eye for providing all the goodies and for making Juliette love peas again !

Disclosure : I received some food and party goodies in order to write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Fairy Princess Themed Kids' Party Food

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Vertbaudet's Winter Clothing review


Baby it's cold outside - but Vertbaudet have come to the rescue, with a funky range of clothes guaranteed to keep out the winter chill. They sent us through this fabulous Brick Red parka (£45, available in sizes 2-7/8) for Pierre which is a beautiful orangey-red colour. It's labelled as 3-in-1 so I went to investigate and discovered that you can remove the hood, remove the faux fur lining or leave the hood and faux fur lining as it is in the photo. It also has a  pair of fleecy mittens attached with poppers to the coat (yay, no more mad searching for gloves before heading off to school every morning !). Two other child/parent-friendly features are that it has space to write your child's name on it and it has a reflective armband so your child will be easily seen in the dark. It's a lovely coat that is perfect for autumn and winter.


Juliette wasn't left out - she received this outfit, which is described as a Sand/Print 3-in-1 Convertible Dress (£29, size 2-13/14). I knew what a reversible dress was but the word convertible had me stumped.




It's actually quite clever - it can be worn as a dress or separated into a skirt and jumper, making it great value because you can wear it several ways, depending on the occasion or the season. (There are buttons holding it together as a dress.)


It's available in three colours - this taupe one but also pink and grey. The skirt would look great with opaque coloured tights or over leggings and the jumper looks good with jeans or skirts. The skirt has an elasticated and adjustable waistband.

One slight word of warning though - you may have noticed a distinct lack of photos of Pierre and Juliette posing in their new clothes. Well, I had a bit of a #mummyfail moment ! I always order at least the next size up when buying for the kids but in this case, the sizes are quite generous so they're much too big. It's not a problem, they'll come in next year, but be warned that if you're buying for right now, you should go for the actual size.

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

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

Other reviews you may be interested in :

 Verbaudet Kids' Swimwear review

Madhouse recipe : Pork & Apple in Creamy Cider Sauce #UKWinterChallenge

It's been the perfect weather for trying out recipes for Unilever Kitchen's Winter Warmer blogger challenge. Here's what we tucked into today :


Pork & Apple in Creamy Cider Sauce


ingredients :

1 pork chop per person
2 onions
6 mushrooms
1 Knorr gravy pot
2 glasses cider
15cl crème fraîche
2 apples
salt, pepper, oregano


Sprinkle the pork chops with salt, pepper and oregano and fry over a medium heat for about 8-10 minutes until the juices run clear. Reserve.


In the same pan, use the meat juices (and add a little olive oil if necessary) to fry the onions for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for a few minutes, then plop in a Knorr gravy pot.


Add the cider and heat over a high heat, stirring, until it starts to bubble and the gravy pot melts.


When the sauce has started to thicken, reduce the heat, add the apple slices and turn them a few times so that they soften. Add the crème fraîche at the last minute, heat for a couple more minutes, stirring to combine everything, then serve the sauce immediately over the pork chops with a side serving of rice or mash.

Disclosure : This is an entry for the Unilever Kitchen #UKWinterChallenge. They sent through a hamper of products, which I told you about here.

New Superfood? The Eden Project Baobab Powder review


When I was asked if we'd like to try out new superfood Baobab Powder, I did a bit of a double-take. 


The only thing I know about Baobab trees is the fact that they feature in the classic French story, Le Petit Prince, where they have to be kept in check because they want to take over the planet ! (The story was written during World War II so the invading baobabs were supposed to represent industrial and miltary powers-that-be.)


You may not be aware of Le Petit Prince but it is almost a national institution in France, so much so that he used to feature on the 50 franc note, before the euro was introduced.


But enough about the fictional baobab trees - I was interested to learn about the real baobabs and, more importantly, their fruit. The press release explains : "Baobab is a superfruit originating from southern Africa. It grows on trees and is harvested between May and September each year. Also known as the “upside down tree”, it is pollinated by bats and produces large green or brownish baobab fruits. A simple process to obtain the powdery fruit pulp involves collecting the fruit by hand, cracking open the hard shells and then milling and separating into a course and fine powder."


So why is it being dubbed the new superfruit? Again, the press release offers lots of information : "Baobab has a range of nutritional benefits including high ascorbic acid content, high pectin content, and several B vitamins including B1, B2, B3 and B6. Baobab is rich in calcium containing higher levels than milk – baobab can contribute up to 30mg/day to the diet. Baobab also has more than 100 times the anti-oxidant activity compared to that of oranges and contains over 50% total dietary fibre. Due to the high levels of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants baobab is said to be a natural boost to health and may also aid the absorption of iron from food. Baobab is widely consumed all over southern Africa as a refreshing juice or snack, and is particularly enjoyed by children. Pregnant women use it for its health benefits. The Kung San bushmen of the Kalahari eat it to ward off winter colds, combat fevers, stomach upsets and as a general pick-me-up."


Sounds great, but I wanted to see what it tasted like. I tipped some out to have a look and it's a light brown powder with a texture similar to icing sugar. I dipped my finger in for a taste and it has a zingy taste that isn't unpleasant.


I decided to add some to a cranberry and apple crumble, mixing it into the fruit before sprinkling it with Golden Syrup Sugar which would disguise the brownish colour of the baobab powder.


It disappeared into the fruit without leaving any powdery residue and nobody even noticed it was in there ! I could detect some sharpness but I'm not sure if that came from the tart cranberries or the baobab powder.


As you can see, it was gobbled up in no time and everyone declared it delicious. Baobab can be used in a range of recipes from smoothies and curries to flapjacks and jams, so I'll be looking for other recipes to add it to.

As well as the health benefits, I love the fact that The Eden Project is working with an organisation called TreeCrops Ltd, working with harvester groups in Malawi (where Eden currently sources all its baobab powder) to supply baobab produced to fair trade standards. The Eden Project is championing the growth of the superfruit in the UK market by undertaking a project to raise awareness of baobab and baobab products. Working with PhytoTrade Africa, ‘Project Baobab’ also aims to educate people on the importance of sustainably harvesting the fruit to ensure there’s a positive impact on poor families in Africa. 

RRP : £5 for a box of 8 sachets, £12.50 for a 200g pouch, £14.50 for a 250g jar

for more information :  www.edenprojectshop.com

Disclosure : I received some samples in order to write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Santa's reindeer has come to live at The Madhouse !

Royal British Legion's Very British Family Organiser review

Pampered Chef's Pink Range & Raspberry Velvet Cupcakes Recipe for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Thanks to Wilko from the Madhouse Critters !



It's been a while since the Madhouse pets featured on the blog, but today they're all in the limelight, whether they be dogs or rabbits, because Wilko sent through a selection of their pet products for them all to try out. The lovely parcel has actually made five four-legged friends very happy - the rubber toys (the bluey-grey one is a Tugball and the red one is a Rubber Treat Ball) will be going to the Madhouse Grandparents' dogs because the Madhouse dogs just don't understand playing with humans and look at you like you're mad if you throw things for them to play with or try to interest them in playing tug-of-war ! They did happily take on the edible products though ! And Charlie the rabbit got the new food bowl.


Well, I told you the Madhouse pooches, Didou and Vicky, don't get enthusiastic about playing but they did get very excited when we pulled out the treats, as you can see ! (Can I just point out, nobody in the Madhouse is pregnant - I think Sophie's got an orange in her pocket in this photo - this is exactly how rumours start !)


Both of the dogs grabbed the Chewy Bones and went to hide out all afternoon, gnawing on them. They kept changing position around the house but always carrying their bones with them, like a kid with a new toy (or, more aptly I guess, a dog with a bone !). The biscuit bones also went down well but got snaffled up so quickly that I failed to get a photo in time, despite several attempts !


Charlie was determined not to be left out and did the perfect photo pose as soon as I put the new bowl into his cage ! The label on the bowl said that it was "the pets' choice" which made me smile, because I could imagine them walking around the pet store with a trolley, but maybe they were right all along because he certainly seems to like it! It's from the Mason Cash range which is a brand that has been around since 1800 apparently.

At this point, I would usually say that all of the products got a resounding thumbs up. However, the Madhouse menagerie may have 12 legs between them but they haven't got a single thumb so I'll have to go with a resounding waggy tail instead !

for more information : http://www.wilko.com

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

Other reviews you may be interested in :