Thursday, 23 November 2017

Ravensburger 3d Puzzle review : Leaning Tower of Pisa Night Edition

We love the Ravensburger 3d puzzles here at The Madhouse and are always happy to add another to our collection - we've already got quite a few, including a Medieval House, Tower Bridge, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, a Lighthouse Night Edition, some funky unicorn-themed storage pots and vases, and - arguably the most impressive of all - the whopping Disney Castle. They are always great fun to put together as a family and we end up with a realistic, sturdy and impressive structure that can be put on permanent display, usually in one of the kids' bedrooms.

The finished puzzles look very impressive and intricately designed, but they are actually quite quick and simple to construct because they only contain 216 pieces - an hour or two should be sufficient, especially if working as a team. The plastic pieces stay in place really well and many are hinged or, in this case, curved so that they automatically give you the shape that is required. All importantly, they are numbered on the back so you know how the pieces join up. (This would be a great addition for all puzzles actually, even the non 3D ones, and would undoubtedly avoid a lot of frustration, especially when dealing with large expanses of uniformly blue sky, which is my puzzle nemesis !)

The Leaning Tower of Pisa SB

What I love most about the monument puzzles in the Ravensburger 3d collection is the fact that they inspire the kids to go and find out more about the actual buildings that they represent. This one is extra special because Sophie has a school trip to Italy coming up in January and will get to visit Rome and Florence as well as the real life Leaning Tower of Pisa. Here are some of the interesting facts that we found out about the tower when we went googling :

- Originally the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but restoration work between 1990 and 2001 reduced the tilt to 3.97 degrees. Due to the marshy subsoil, there are several other lesser-known leaning towers in Pisa.

- The tower is 8 storeys high, 55.86 m (183.27 ft) on the low side and 56.67 m (185.93 ft) on the high side. There are 294 steps on the north side of the tower and 296 steps on the south side.

- Construction started in the year 1173 and was completed in 1372, but stopped and restarted twice over those 199 years due to wars, the first time for almost a century. This gave the underlying soil time to settle and compact and if construction had not halted, the tower would probably have toppled over.

As well as being a fun and educational family project, the finished puzzle has some serious wow-factor because, as one of the Night Edition monuments, it contains colour-changing LEDs in the base which turn it into a funky light show. (3 AA batteries required.)

 You can also opt for a plain white light which actually shows off the detail more clearly.

If you have a puzzle enthusiast in your family, or someone who would love a souvenir of a special place that they have visited, it would make the perfect Christmas gift, whatever their age.

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

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Christmas recipe : Christmas tree cupcakes

These were made as a kids' activity when Pierre invited some of his friends over on a playdate and the guests were too impatient for the cakes to totally cool so the icing melted slightly. They were great fun to make though and you can still tell that they're supposed to be Christmas trees ! We made chocolate cupcakes but any basic homemade or shop-bought cupcakes would do as a base.

Christmas tree cupcakes

ingredients :

for the cupcakes :
115g margarine (or you could use softened butter - I used a buttery spread as it was easier for the kids to work with)
115g sugar
115g self-raising flour
2 eggs
3tbsp cocoa powder
pinch of salt

for the decoration :

55g margarine
200g icing sugar
green food colouring
marshmallows (large ones, not minis)
small round coloured sweets
cocktail sticks

Mix together all the cake ingredients in a bowl, put a couple of spoonfuls in each cupcake case and bake for about 15-20 minutes (depending on size) at 180° until springy to the touch. Leave to cool. Our mini-chefs were very impatient so it might be an idea to do this step in advance, or even use shop-bought basic cupcakes.

Cut two corners off each large marshmallow to make a rough triangle shape. Use a cocktail stick (or cupcake topper) with a silver star on top to fix it to the top of the cupcake.

Mix together the icing ingredients until you get a firmish texture. Add extra icing sugar if it's too runny. Use a piping bag (or just a spoon if it's easier) to coat the marshmallow in icing so that it looks like a Christmas tree.

Top with tiny coloured sweets as baubles. Don't forget to warn people (especially children) that's there's a cocktail stick lurking in there before they take a big bite ! They're great fun to make and I thought they were far too sickly sweet but the kids loved them !

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up the end of a bag of marshmallows that everyone had got sick of eating !

Giveaway #658 : Win a Christmas morning breakfast set worth £50 - closing date 6/12

If you're looking for a special Christmas gift or want to start a lovely new family tradition, I have the perfect giveaway for you, thanks to online baby gift company Babyblooms.

Make Christmas morning really magical with their fabulous, festive bone china Christmas breakfast set and share the excitement with a very special, personalised Bertie Bear. This four-piece bone china breakfast set is a must-have for a baby's first Christmas or any special little one's Christmas morning. The set comprises a bowl, plate, mug and egg cup and is hand decorated with the Babyblooms' Christmas tree and teddy bear illustration designed by artist, Amanda Bradley. This set is a keepsake gift and is sure to make Christmas morning special for years to come.

Added to this is a gorgeous Bertie Bear wearing a matching personalised jumper for the perfect Christmas morning. Bertie Bear is a traditional style seated teddy bear with a subtly embossed white ribbon bow around his neck, wearing a beautifully knitted jumper embroidered with the name of your choice. The luxuriously soft textured fur makes this bear an irresistible cuddly companion. He is 20cm high and suitable from birth. Embroidery can be done up to 10 letters or characters per name/line (up to two stacked lines or names with a total maximum of 20 characters).

This beautiful Christmas set is presented in an exclusive Babyblooms’ illustrated gift box and is available for next day delivery on orders placed before 3pm (Monday to Friday only).

Bertie Bear's Christmas Morning Breakfast Set is on sale at for £50.

I am delighted to have one of these gorgeous festive sets to give away to a lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the rafflecopter widget below. Good luck !

UK only. Closing date : 6/12/17

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. 

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

It's Movember, time to CHECK your ‘Meat and Two Veg’ !

It's Movember and once again, thousands of men (and women !) across the world are forgoing the razors and getting hairy for a good cause - promoting men's health, in particular prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. All things that men often don't like to talk about - more a case of Dad's the word than Mum's the word !

A survey of 2,000 people has discovered the true extent of the taboo subject, with 82% of men unwilling to talk to their doctor about any issues with their genitals. The worrying results were commissioned by HECK – a Yorkshire-based sausage brand which is working alongside the world-leading men’s health charity The Movember Foundation. In the name of men’s health, HECK have renamed themselves CHECK for the duration of November, in order to encourage men to search for lumps on their scrotum and for women to CHECK their partners too!

Commenting on the poll findings, a spokesperson for The Movember Foundation said: 'Unfortunately this latest polling from HECK is accurate. Too many men are not checking themselves, not knowing what to look for and being too embarrassed to discuss the subject. Tackling these taboos head on, getting more men educated on the health risks they face, taking action when needed and talking when things get tough, is exactly why The Movember Foundation exists.’

The survey also showed that almost one in 10 (9.8%) of men between the ages of 18 and 24 would do nothing if they felt a lump on their testicle. By contrast, just 3% of women would do nothing if they felt a lump on a breast.

Testicular cancer is often described as a small pea-like lump on one testicle, but many men are unaware of this. Two thirds of men had no idea this was a sign of the deadly cancer. One in five blokes (18.4%) of men incorrectly assumed that a cancerous lump feels ‘like a flat coin’. The research also found that three-quarters of women (76%) would have no idea what a cancerous lump would feel like on their partner’s testicles. In contrast, slightly less than half of men (46.6%) said they’d know when to be concerned about a lump on their partner’s breast.

The research was carried out by the brands founder, Jamie Keeble, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer two years ago. He said, “If men don’t know what testicular cancer might feel like, how can they possibly check themselves? Testicular cancer is on the rise and men can reduce their chances of dying simply by knowing what to feel for. Too many men are dying young from ignorance and lack of quick action. This disease needs to be openly discussed so that more guys will check themselves and feel they can talk to someone if something doesn’t feel right."

To help spread the word, Heck sent us through some of their delicious sausages and invited us to  join in with the CHECK Sausages ‘Meat and Two Veg’challenge. For my two veg, I opted for some thinly sliced leeks and carrots, which I sauteed in butter before adding some single cream. They were a big hit with the kids and went really well with the sausages.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words so hopefully this one will make you giggle and remind you of what the campaign is all about ! I thought the unkempt "hair" on the leeks was very in-keeping with Movember !

The CHECK products will be available in ASDA, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose throughout November, costing £2.99.

Disclosure : I received the sausages in order to take part in the challenge.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Madhouse recipe : Mince & Potato Layered Casserole

This was a dish that we discovered at the hotel restaurant in Turkey back in the summer and I thought it would be easy enough to recreate at home. It's a bit like lasagne using potato slices instead of pasta sheets or moussaka without the aubergines - I have no idea if it is a traditional Turkish dish or something they created for international guests. As I'd made a cauliflower cheese the day before, I was low on milk so I left out the cheese sauce that you'd find in lasagne, but you could definitely add that in between the layers of potato and mince if you fancy.

 Mince & Potato Layered Casserole

ingredients :

500g minced beef
1 clove of garlic
1 onion
drizzle of olive oil
1 carrot
a few mushrooms 
a red/green pepper
salt, pepper, smoked paprika, oregano
a tin of chopped tomatoes
1tbsp tomato puree
leftover baked potatoes
grated cheese

Start by frying the onion and garlic in the olive oil until it starts to soften.

Add the mince and the diced carrot, red/green pepper and mushrooms. (I left out the peppers because I'd run out but they would make a nice addition, it terms of flavour and colour.) Cook for 10-15 minutes until the mince has gone from pink to brown all the way through.

I always multitask when I cook the Sunday roast and throw some potatoes in the bottom of the oven to use as baked potatoes in some shape or form the next day. That was what I used in this recipe, but you could use raw and adjust the cooking time.

Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, pepper and paprika and cook for about half an hour (adding a little extra water if necessary) for the flavours to develop. So basically, you've made a bolognese sauce.

Transfer some of the meat mixture to the bottom of an ovenproof dish.

Add a layer of potatoes.

Repeat until the dish is full or you've run out of potatoes.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and pop in the oven until the cheese has melted and the potatoes are hot (about 20-30 minutes at 180°).

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up some baked potatoes.

Eat Real snacks review

Sometimes an email lands in my inbox telling me about a new product and as soon as I start on the first paragraph, I'm drawn in, nodding my head, thinking yes, this sounds just like me. I think Eat Real must have been spying on me because their target audience is me to a tee ! "If you thought packed lunches were just for kids - think again! The number of adults swapping canteen food for lunchboxes is on the rise as more and more people choose to satisfy their appetite for a healthier lifestyle with a healthy packed lunch." I have eaten at the school canteen for as long as I can remember but this year, I decided to start taking in salads and sandwiches instead - partly because I was sick of the stodge, partly because it's expensive for what you get and partly (mainly in fact) because I was fed up of every single lunch hour turning into an impromptu staff meeting.

Eat Real have come up with a range of pulse and grain-based snacks to deliver a healthy lunch option in a range of on-trend flavours and they are perfect for anyone either making healthier lifestyle choices or living with dietary intolerances. Both gluten and lactose-free, as well as suitable for Vegan and Kosher diets, they contain significantly less fat (up to 48% less) than traditional potato crisps and some also have no added sugar.

Well, that all sounds great, but I'm not willing to compromise on taste just for a healthy option - I'd rather eat something tasty in moderation than choose a guilt-free but pleasure-free option. Luckily - and I have to be honest, this came as rather a surprise to me ! - they are all totally delicious and just as flavour-packed, crunchy and indulgent as regular crisp-type snacks. Even the Quinoa ones, that I bit into expecting to screw up my nose in distaste (I'm not a fan of quinoa, even if it's bang on trend !) are really nice. The whole range got a unanimous thumbs up from the whole family - the kids couldn't resist getting involved in the tasting and weren't put off, even when I told them they were healthy options and they may not like them ! (Bad mummy - I wanted to keep them for my own lunchboxes rather than share them !)

Eat Real’s Hummus Chips, Lentil Chips, Quinoa Chips and Veggie Straws come in a wide range of yummy flavours - including Creamy Dill, Sundried Tomato & Roasted Garlic, Chilli & Lemon and Sea Salt – in handy packs (22-25g), impulse bags for bigger appetites (30-45g) and sharing bags (80-135g).They’re available from independent health stores and most major retailers, including Holland & Barrett, Tesco, Co-op and Morrisons. RRP: 50p-£1.79.

So that you can enjoy a different flavour every day, there are also new Eat Real multipacks which contain 2 x 25g packs of Hummus Chips (Sour Cream & Chive flavour), 2 x 22g packs of Lentil Chips (Sea Salt) and 1 x 22g pack of Quinoa Chips (Sundried Tomato & Roasted Garlic). They’re available from all major retailers and health food stores, RRP £1.99.

for more information :

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

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Globecooking recipe : Kartoffelsuppe (potato soup) (Germany)

You can't beat a bowl of soup on a cold winter's evening and it generally ends up being our Sunday evening meal. After a big roast, we're never that hungry and it's a great way of using up any leftover veg, as well as being a healthy, tasty and cheap option. This German-inspired recipe can be tweaked to use up whatever you have in the fridge and if there is any left over, it tastes even better the next day when the flavours have mingled.

Kartoffelsuppe (potato soup)


1 pack bacon lardons
2 onions
1 clove of garlic, minced
4 or 5 fairly large potatoes (about 1kg)
2 leeks
2 carrots
1/2 a celeriac (celery root), grated - you could substitute a stick of celery if you can't find celeriac
chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
 salt & black pepper
1 bay leaf
 fresh parsley to garnish (optional)

Fry the bacon, garlic and onions. Drain off any excess fat.

Chop and grate all the vegetables and add to the pot. Cook, stirring to prevent sticking, for about 5-10 minutes until they start to soften and take on some colour.

Cover in chicken stock - use homemade, liquid, stock cube, stock pot, whatever you like ! Add the herbs and spices. Cook for about half an hour until the vegetables are soft but not mushy and the liquid has reduced. Scatter over some fresh parsley at the end if you're feeling swish !

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it's great for clearing out the veg compartment of the fridge. toys review

Have you heard of If you don't know what I'm talking about, ask your tween or teenager and the chances are, they probably have. Worldwide, the free-to-play browser and app game is an enormous gaming phenomenon and YouTube influencer favourite with 12 billion worldwide gameplays in the last six months alone. 60% of British 0-14 year olds have downloaded and 124 million games are played a month in the UK.

I asked Pierre and sure enough, he knew all about it and has the game installed on his ipad (so I must have installed it for him but I'd forgotten all about it !). It is a simple but addictive game that involves making colourful snakes then swirling them around the screen, eating everybody else's until you've got the biggest one in the game or someone else eats you.

Fans of the game will be over the moon to learn that a range of branded toys have slithered into the UK. The toy range includes collectable creatures and bendable plush toys. Created with the uniquely colourful features recognisable from, they are the must-have toys for legions of fans. Available at affordable prices, they are also great for stocking fillers and gifts.

Blind bags (RRP £3.99) are always popular pocket money buys for children because it's exciting not knowing which creature you will get to add to your collection until you get home from the shop. Each bag contains one mystery bendable figure, including rare and ultra-rares. In the game, there are hundreds of different “skins” to attain but Series 1 of the bendable toys contains 15 different Slithers, including a super rare skin to enhance collectability.

Mystery mini Squishies (RRP £3.99) are adorable squishies that come in hexagonal pots. As well as being very cute, they are highly Collectable with 15 versions in Series 1, including 2 x rare and 1 x ultra rare.

The bendable 3-pack with two mystery slithers has an RRP of £10.99. It features one mystery Slither along with the two already showing their true colours.

And finally, our favourite, the 8” bendable plush (£9.99). They are cute and cuddly Slithers that both kids and collectors will adore, featuring a choice of eight assorted fan-favourite colours from the game.

Father Christmas, I hope you're paying attention !

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