Saturday 31 December 2011

New Year's Resolution Part 3 : Jenny Craig

Well, I've already told you about parts one and two of my three point New Year's health kick, with my blogposts about the Thinking Slimmer SlimPod (here) and the MuTu System (here). Well, the third part is a trial of the Jenny Craig programme with their diet food delivered to your door.

Jenny Craig is a daughter company of Nestle that specialises in healthy food, weight loss and weight management. The programme combines prepacked menus with personal counselling, promising to help people establish a pleasant, healthy lifestyle while maintaining their ideal weight. The menus are varied and completely personalised so if you have any allergies or preferences (even halal or vegetarian), or have specific targets that you would like to meet, this can all be discussed. Because the entire programme is so personal, it's essential to have a phone call with your own consultant every week, to keep you motivated and give you helpful advice for staying on track.

The website explains : "We don’t just send you the food – we guide, support and motivate you all the way along your weight loss journey and beyond. We will teach you how to regain control of your eating so you’ll never have to diet again. We’ll also advise you on the best way to stay active. The Jenny Craig programme really can change your life. Our unique approach comprises three key elements: Mind - A dedicated consultant will give you personalised support every step of the way, as well as motivating and encouraging you.Your consultant will help you understand your own particular issues around eating, giving you tailored advice on how to lose weight and keep it off for good. Food -
We’ll deliver breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks – it couldn’t be easier or more convenient.
You’ll be able to lose weight without giving up the foods you love – no weighing, measuring, counting or meal replacements. Body - Your consultant will work with you to find a fitness level that suits you, gradually increasing your activity to maximise your weight loss." The full Food, Body, Mind programme costs £10.50 a day.
I've got a couple of teething problems to iron out for this one. Firstly, the hamper of Jenny Craig food arrived at my parents' house just after we'd headed back to France so I'll have to wait until they next come over towards the end of January to start. In some ways, this is good, because it will give me a chance to evaluate the MuTu system alone before adding in the Jenny Craig.

From my initial chat on the phone with someone from Jenny Craig, I like the sound of the programme. It's real food, not meal replacements, so it's a healthy eating plan, not a diet, and the hamper contains everything you need except for fresh fruit and vegetables.

Trying to fit in a weekly phonecall is a bit of a constraint, I must admit, as I'm usually at work or running around after the kids sorting out homework, bathtime and dinner until they go to bed. Finding a peaceful ten minutes a week to schedule in a phone call may not sound that hard but ask any mum of several under tens, it can be !

I also had a problem confirming my account details online. It asks me to fill in my birthdate and phone number but when I type in my birthdate (28th October), it comes up as 22/88/1010 and no amount of deleting and retyping can get around this ! I'll give it a few days and try again !

I'll keep you regularly updated on the Jenny Craig programme once that's kicked off properly too.

Good luck to anyone else on a bit of a health kick for the New Year. Let me know how you get on !

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New Year's Resolution Part 2 : The MuTu System

The fact that the Thinking Slimmer Slimpod has already started showing results despite my huge cynicism led me to another leap of faith when I signed up to try out the MuTu System. This is something else that I've seen an awful lot of bloggers mentioning on twitter and that I kept thinking sounded too good to be true so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and see for myself.

The introductory message on the website is very encouraging because Wendy sounds really down-to-earth and knows exactly what mums want and need. After all, as well as being a personal trainer, she is one ! She explains : "I'm Wendy, pre & postpartum exercise specialist & flatten-er of mummy tummies! Also mum to a gorgeous little boy & to a feisty little girl who might just rule the world one day... I created the MuTu® System to show you how to rediscover your waistline AND your body confidence after having children... however long ago you had them! It's a unique, proven, step by step 12 week program & video series of restorative exercises, highly effective workouts, yoga & motivational techniques that give you everything you need to flatten your mummy tummy!"

You get a pdf file to download which is your guidebook, along with a section to record your measurements, plus a weekly video showing you what you need to do. As a mum of three with a full-time job, I'm always worried about not having the time to fit in sport, but Wendy says she understands this and will work around it.

So far, I've only had a sneaky look at week 1 and watched the introductory video but I already love the no-nonsense straight talking and the fact that you're eased in slowly so you won't give up before you've even started because it's too hard, which is often the case with fitness videos for example.

The central message of MuTu (that's Mummy Tummy, if you're wondering!) is as follows, and it certainly sounds good to me : "MuTu isn’t about being Super Woman, it’s about finding the *you* you may have lost a little of whilst you were busy being Mum... Finding *YOU*, as well as your waistline, is a big part of MuTu. I hope you find yours!" Well, after three kids (and four pregnancies), my body certainly isn't a temple, it's more of a hotel (!!) so I say bring it on !

I've set up a MuTu label (here) so that you can follow my progress over the coming weeks. Wish me luck !

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New Year's Resolution Part 1 : The Thinking Slimmer Slimpod

OK, hands up who has a New Year's Resolution that revolves around losing weight, getting fitter or eating more healthily ? Pretty much everybody, right ?! Well, yeah, me too ! As of tomorrow, I'm kicking off a three part plan of attack and blogging about it so you can see how it goes. Eeek ! As always, I'm coming to this as an open-minded sceptic, blogging about it the way it is, not just saying nice things because I've been given the products for free to try out.

The first part is easy peasy because it's just a continuation of using the Thinking Slimmer hypnotherapy SlimPod. I came to this a couple of months ago, filled with scorn and cynicism, scoffing that listening to a ten-minute mp3 once a day couldn't possibly have any effect on the way you eat or how much you weigh ... then couldn't believe it when I started losing weight, fitting into clothes that I couldn't even do up, feeling irrepressible urges to run around the park with the kids and no longer raiding the fridge when I sorted out the kids' tea. I'm still gobsmacked but have to admit that it really does seem to work !

If you still have no idea what a Slimpod is, you can check out my SlimPod journey so far :

week 1 update - lost an amazing 1.8kg - read my initial review here
week 2 - no weightloss but positive changes - read update here
week 3 - couple of hundred grammes back on but can now wear black stretchy jeans comfortably that were too tight before and my fave black hoody fits again (couldn't zip it up a couple of weeks ago) - read update here
week 4 - lost 1/2 kilo (total loss 2.6kg) - read update here
week 5 - no change but can do up target jeans that I couldn't even hope to do up at the start (when a couple of inches extra waistband would have been needed to get the button done up) - still can't wear them though as there's a big tummy overhang when I do them up !
week 6 - no change - but those target jeans now feel great and look OK too - wearing them to work, amazing !
week 7 - lost 1/2 kilo (total lost 3kg) - read update here
weeks 8/9 - weighed myself on Christmas Eve - amazed to see I've lost another 1kg (total lost 4kg)
week 10 - put 1/2kg back on over Christmas in England which was actually not as bad as I expected, especially as it could also be down to the time of month ! (total lost 3.5kg)
Stay tuned for more regular updates as I still have a long way to go ! I've just created a SlimPod label to help you find the Thinking Slimmer posts more easily (here). You may be interested to know that the Thinking Slimmer team have just introduced a brand new mp3 to help you cut down your booze intake, alongside those to help you lose weight, get fitter, stop being a chocaholic or destress (amongst others), so if that sounds like what you need, check out their website at .

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Recipe for "Flu Fighting Soup" from the UK's first Medicinal Chef

'Medicinal Cookery' by Dale Pinnock, the UK's first Medicinal Chef, shows how, based on the most cutting edge research, common ingredients can be used as powerful medicines. This "Flu Fighting Soup' recipe is a good example.

Dale's Flu Fighting Soup
1 red onion
1 green chilli
4 cloves of garlic
5 cm (2 inch) piece of ginger
2 medium sized sweet potatoes
1 punnet of shiitake mushrooms
2 Handfuls of goji berries
Vegetable stock
  1. Finely chop the onion, chillies, garlic, and ginger. Add to a pan with a little olive oil, and a pinch of crystal salt. Sauté on a mid to high heat until the onion softens.
  2. Dice the sweet potato. Slice the shiitake mushrooms. Add these two ingredients, plus the goji berries to the onion, garlic, chilli, and ginger. Stir well, then add enough vegetable stock to cover all the ingredients. Simmer well, until the potato is soft.
  3. At this stage, add the soup to a blender, and blend into a vivid orange, spicy soup.
Medicinal Properties
Sweet Potato
A very rich source of the antioxidant compound beta carotene. This is the plant form of vitamin A and the chemical responsible for the vivid yellow flesh of this delectable squash. Beta carotene is a subtle but effective anti-inflammatory, which can help reduce the severity of generic cold and flu symptoms.

Sweet potatoes also contain a unique protein, called a storage protein that actually acts as a food source to the plant as it is growing. This protein has been shown in some studies in China to increase the production of white blood cells.
Shiitake Mushrooms
These have been used as a tonic for the immune system for centuries. They have been highly revered in traditional medicinal systems of the Orient. You may well be wondering what is so special about a simple mushroom. The truth is that certain types of mushroom can deliver a stronger influence to the immune system than any other substance, natural or manmade.

Medicinal mushrooms, such as shiitake and maitake, contain a group of very chemically complex sugars called polysaccharides. Almost 40 years of clinical study in Japan, USA, and China, has revealed that these sugars are the magic bullets that make medicinal mushrooms such powerful immune boosters. It was once believed that these sugars were absorbed by the body and then caused the immune system to behave a certain way. However, it is now becoming clear that these sugars exit the body via the bowel completely untouched, yet the effect is still being observed.

If you recall the description of the lymphatic system above, you will remember that there are areas of lymphatic tissue around the body performing certain functions. In the walls of our gut, there are patches of lymphatic tissue called Peyer's patches. These can be likened to surveillance stations in the gut, keeping an eye on what is going on. These stations are staffed by a team of cells called dendritic cells that constantly monitor what is going on in the digestive tract, as it is a convenient way for bugs and pathogens to enter the body.

Dendritic cells are powerless to deal with any type of invader or troublemaker themselves, rather, they are able to effectively identify the type of problem, then quickly and conveniently radio through to the right emergency service that can deal with the problem. It is believed that when the polysaccharides found in shiitake mushroom move past these patches of tissue in the digestive tract, they cause the dendritic cells to become excited and release chemical messengers that rush through the whole body and cause a sudden and drastic increase in the production of white blood cells. This is because the polysaccharides have a similar chemical shape to sugars expressed by some common types of bacteria.

In essence, by eating these mushrooms we dupe the body into thinking that it is under a more serious bacterial attack. Obviously, as we aren't, this response gives us more of an abundance of white blood cells that are then able to move towards the site of infection from colds, flu, etc, and deal with the problem far quicker. Consumption of these mushrooms on a regular basis is a great way to enhance our daily defences, even when we are not sick.
This is the mother of all natural antivirals. The strong smelly oils help to kill viruses and bacteria in the upper digestive tract.
Ginger is another one of those ingredients that we naturally associate with cough and cold medicines. Ginger has a wide and complex chemistry. Part of this is a group of compounds called gingerols. These essential oils, that give ginger its strong zingy aroma and spicy flavour, are well known as strong anti-inflammatories. Similar to a class of drugs known as 'COX-2 Inhibitors', the oils found in ginger help to interrupt the inflammatory process. When inflammation becomes active, a series of chemical reactions takes place, with the end result being active inflammation. Gingerols simply get in the way of this chain reaction and prevent it from becoming fully active, thus naturally lowering inflammation.

During a cold, we can experience an uncomfortable bunged up feeling: a blocked nose and congested sinuses. Many of us think that we are bunged up with mucous (there is obviously some present), but most of that feeling actually comes from inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the nose and sinuses. The anti-inflammatory action of ginger helps to reduce the bunged up sensation.

The second benefit of ginger is that it stimulates circulation, by relaxing the blood vessel walls and widening the vessel. Enhancing circulation in this manner helps to increase the rate at which white blood vessels move around the body on their way to the site of infection. It also increases the rate of delivery of fresh oxygen and nutrients, and the removal of waste products from all tissues, including those that are infected.
Chilli has been used medicinally by almost every conceivable traditional medicinal system on planet earth. Apart from its powerful stimulatory activity, and painkilling properties, chilli can rapidly thin out mucous, making it far easier to remove from the body. This is especially useful when we are so bunged up that we can't even blow our nose. I'm sure many of you have experienced the classic runny nose after eating a strong chilli. Consuming these as much as possible during an infection can really help to clear things up rapidly.
Goji Berries
These have been all over the media in recent years. If you believe everything you read about them, they would make you fly, walk on water, or have a libido like Don Juan. In reality however, these berries are really quite simple and other than being nutrient dense, don't do a great deal. However, there is one property that excites me. They contain polysaccharides similar to those found in shiitake mushrooms which also have been shown to up-regulate white blood cell production.

Medicinal Cookery is published by 'Right Way', £7.99 in all good bookshops.
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Friday 30 December 2011

Advice To Help Your Kids Fight Winter Colds from Tixylix

As a teacher, I have another request, on top of the tips below - please please please teach your kids to put their hand over their mouth when they cough. I work in a secondary school and I still have to moan at teens who cough all over the place without covering their mouths  on a daily basis !


There are plenty of things to love about winter - snowy scenes, crisp mornings and cosy evenings - but coughs and sore throats are not on the winter wish list. This is especially true for children, who are more likely to catch winter bugs, and parents who suffer the woes of an unhappy child.

Sore throats are normally a symptom of bacterial or viral infections such as the common cold, which is spread either by hand or through airborne droplets released when a sufferer coughs or sneezes.

If your child suffers from a sore throat or cough this winter, then Tixylix has a range of gentle but effective products to help, including Tixylix Toddler Syrup available in a new bigger size of 150ml. Specially formulated for children aged from three months to ten years old, all products are alcohol free, have pleasant tasting fruit flavours and come with a measuring spoon to help ensure accurate dosage.

To help prevent sore throats and coughs in children, Tixylix has the following tips:
  • Ensure your child washes their hands regularly, with soap and warm water, especially after playing or going to the toilet and before meals. When hands are kept clean, germs lose their favourite way to travel, so this will help cut down the risk of picking up or passing on infections

  • If your child isn't keen on hand-washing, use a hand sanitizing gel as a fun, water-free alternative for children

  • Cold viruses spread quickly and easily among children, so make sure you put any used tissues in the bin straight away and don't leave them lying around

  • Eating fruit or vegetables may help support a healthy immune system. If your little one doesn't like eating fruit, make it more fun by giving them a rainbow of colours every day such as purple plums, blue blueberries, red tomatoes, green broccoli, yellow sweet corn and orange carrots

  • Ensure your kids drink enough fluid every day, as this will help stop them getting dehydrated and help keep their body's defences working at full-throttle

  • Make sure your kids get enough sleep, as this helps their bodies recover from the previous day. Lack of sleep can increase vulnerability to infection

  • Keep your kids active even if it is cold outside, as regular exercise will help boost immune systems

  • When children go outdoors, make sure they are dressed in layers that are wind and waterproof. If possible, opt for wool instead of cotton, as it is an excellent insulator
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New Pantene Pro-V with customised formula review

I love trying out new hair care ranges, especially when I can find a matching shampoo and conditioner that both work well, but when you're in a rush, trying to find the right bottles to suit your hair type on the supermarket shelf isn't always easy. Pantene Pro-V's new range are designed to make this easier because they are colour-coordinated and target the most common hair types - fine, normal-thick and coloured - so you can customise your products to suit your hair. As a Savvy Circle member, I was sent some of the products to try out, in return for my honest opinion.

The fine hair range, called Aqua-Light, which comes in the gold-toned bottles, is made with micro-fortifiers to help reinforce fine hair, leaving virtually no weight. It aims to nourish your hair and reinforce fine hair along each strand.

The normal to thick hair collection with the turquoise labels, called Repair & Protect, is made with micro-nourishers to help lock in moisture deep down, leaving your hair healthy looking and full of shine. Its three key concepts are to restore the hair’s strength against styling damage, protect against future styling damage and help prevent the formation of split ends.

Finally, the Protect & Smooth collection for coloured hair, with the reddish labels, have what they call a double-effect complex to protect your hair while leaving it beautifully smooth. It adds a protective layer to help seal in colour, smoothens the hair surface for healthy looking softness and shine and helps to protect your coloured or highlighted hair against styling damage.

I received the shampoo, conditioner and treatment for my hair type, namely normal to thick, and gave them a go. They're not bad - I did feel that my hair looked glossier, although this only lasted a few days - but I couldn't honestly see much difference between the new range and the regular Pantene Pro-V range.

I passed on the samples for the fine hair collection to my mum who tried them out. Although they improved the condition of her hair, they gave her an itchy scalp so she wasn't overly keen but this is probably an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients. From looking around online, I haven't seen anybody else complain about this.

It's not always easy to judge which type of hair you have so Pantene have a quick guide to help you. Just answer the following questions : Have you had an all-over, permanent colour application in the past 3 months? If yes – your hair structure is coloured. If no – continue. Take one whole single hair strand between your thumb and forefinger. Roll it. If you can hardly tell it‘s there – your hair structure is fine. If you can clearly feel it (like a cotton thread)– your hair structure is normal-thick.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : 250ml Shampoo, 200ml Conditioner: £2.69, 500 ml Shampoo, 450ml Conditioner: £4.49, All Treatments: £4.49, Styling: £2.99

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Charmies Magic Beader review

While Sophie got to grips with the Hello Kitty Cool Cardz Card Design Studio (that we reviewed here), Juliette excitedly opened the Charmies Magic Beader that was under the tree with her name on.

Inside the box, you get the Magic Beader machine (more about that in a moment), 59 beads (made up of 23 large ones, 28 small ones and 8 end beads), 2 key chains and 2m of string (which may sound a lot but it goes quite quickly), enabling you to create necklaces, bracelets, anklets and key chains.

The beads are very cute, with a wide variety of forms. The big ones are shaped as rabbits, biscuits, iced doughnuts, gingerbread men and cream cakes, while the small ones represent pastel-coloured flowers and stars. Needless to say, Juliette oohed and aahed over them !

The Magic Beader machine is very clever and reminded me of the Bizu Style Station (that we reviewed here). You line up the beads that you want to use in the slots, attach the string to the plastic threader then turn the knob so that it rotates and pushes the string straight through the line of beads. It makes it much simpler, not to mention more fun, for young children to thread fiddly beads on to the string than trying to do so by hand.

If that sounds complicated (because it's hard to explain), just watch this short video :

You can unstring them and make something different or buy refill packs of extra beads and accessories to keep your creative juices flowing. It's very plasticky but Juliette loves it.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £19.99

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The Big January Sale – Beefeater Grill, Brewers Fayre, Table Table

If you're organising a meal out in the New Year, you might like to know about these "January Sales" money-saving deals that can save you a few pounds if you go to a Whitbread restaurant  (Beefeater Grill, Brewers Fayre and Table Table).



Go live from 3rd January 2012

Offers expire 31st January 2012

Links to vouchers


Beefeater Grill

£10 off when you spend £30. Available Saturday and Sunday

£15 off when you spend £50. Available Saturday and Sunday

Kids Eat Free - one free kids meal with every adult meal purchased. Available all day every day

Buy one breakfast get one free. Plus kids eat free. Available before 10.30am every day

2 for 1 desserts. Available all day every day

Free bottle of wine when you purchase 2 main meals. Available Monday – Friday after 6.30pm

7oz Rump steak and a glass of wine £10. Available Sunday only

Brewers Fayre

£10 off when you spend £30. Available Saturday and Sunday

£15 off when you spend £50. Available Saturday and Sunday

Kids Eat Free - one free kids meal with every adult meal purchased. Available all day every day

Buy one breakfast get one free. Plus kids eat free. Available before 10.30am every day

2 for 1 desserts. Available all day every day

Free bottle of wine when you purchase 2 main meals. Available Monday – Friday after 6.30pm

Buy one £5.99 buffet meal get one free. Available after 5pm Monday – Friday. Only available at buffet sites, check with local restaurant

Buy one £6.99 week night meal deal get one free. Available after 6.30pm Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at selected sites. Available at selected sites, check with local restaurant

Table Table

£10 off when you spend £30. Available Saturday and Sunday

£15 off when you spend £50. Available Saturday and Sunday

Kids Eat Free - one free kids meal with every adult meal purchased. Available all day every day

Buy one breakfast get one free. Plus kids eat free. Available before 10.30am every day

2 for 1 desserts. Available all day every day

Free bottle of wine when you purchase 2 main meals. Available Monday – Friday after 6.30pm

Buy one get drink get your second half price

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Thursday 29 December 2011

Welcome to the Stérimar-d House !

We've been spending Christmas at the Madhouse Grandparents' house in Sussex by the sea this week and the girls have been marvelling at their seaside-themed bathroom !

It starts with the lighthouse on the pull-down light switch.

It continues with the Beach sign and seagull (who unnervingly watches you as you sit - I said SIT ! - on the toilet) !

Forget flying ducks on the wall, they have a trio of swimming dolphins.

Even the radio is shaped like a dolphin !

And their storage area is also nautically-themed. (I'd just like to point out that none of those rubber duckies are the vibrating ones that I told you about here !!)

But on closer inspection, the dolphins aren't just for decoration - they also feature on the labels of their stash of Stérimar and Stérimar Baby, which Madhouse Grandad uses for his allergies. As Pierre has come down with a horrendous cold, that was great news for us as it meant I could clear out his bogie-nose !

For additional information about Stérimar, please visit

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Nestlé Ice Creams - only £1 for 4 !

Any of you bargain-hunters and money-savers out there have probably been doing exactly what I've just done today - gone through my money-off vouchers to see which ones need to be used by 31st December 2011 ! I discovered a few £1 off Nestlé ice cream vouchers so I took them along with us when we went to Tesco's.

I wasn't expecting to find anything costing a measly £1 so I was astounded to find not one but two products that cost just £1 for a box of four. Firstly Caramac Ice Cream Bars ...

... and secondly, Aero Bubbleballs, also costing £1 for a box of 4.

The Caramac bars remind me of Mars Ice Creams bars or choc ices. I haven't eaten a Caramac for absolutely years but the flavour tasted spot on, bringing back nostalgic memories of my childhood pocket money sweets !

All three Madhouse mini-testers had never heard of Caramac bars, let alone tasted the originals, but they all loved the creamy ice cream and caramel-flavoured chocolatey coating. I was impressed to see that they didn't melt as fast or cause as much of a mess as most other chocolate coated ice cream bars, especially given that Pierre pulled the wrapper straight off and held it directly in his hand.

Top marks for the taste and the price, but also for the number of calories, with each 60ml bar containing just 118 calories, which is great news after all the festive over-eating !

The Aero Bubbleballs were another slice of pure nostalgia for me because the plastic cone-shaped container with a ball of Aero Bubble choclate at the bottom reminded me of the Screwball ice creams (with a bubblegum ball at the bottom) that I used to love as a kid ! The kids loved the creamy chocolate and vanilla mousse scattered with pieces of chocolate (although it was hard to get them to wait for it to warm up a bit so that the mousse had a better texture !). Once again, I was astounded to see that these only contain 96 calories, which is amazingly low for such a delicious, indulgent treat and great news for those of us who have made new year's resolutions to lose weight or eat healthily !

Writing this review has also actually reminded me of Nestlé Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles Lollies which the Madhouse mini-testers all enjoyed eating over the summer and which also cost just £1 for a box of four.

If Christmas has left your purse (and even your bank balance) looking decidedly empty, it's great to know that there are such bargain-tastic choices out there to put a smile on your kids' faces for just pennies. The fact that they're low in calories so you can eat them guilt-free when the kids have gone to bed too is just an added bonus !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : currently £1 for 4 at Tesco's

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British Gas Smart Meter campaign - teaching children how to save energy around the home

BritMums and British Gas have partnered up on a campaign to help educate people about energy conservation and have asked us here at The Madhouse to get involved. The theme was teaching the kids about saving energy around the home so I asked the Madhouse mini-testers if they had any ideas on how we could be kinder to the planet and cut down on our energy bills at the same time. I was actually quite impressed with some of the things they came up with.

1) First up was the age-old advice of turning off the lights when you go out of a room. But Juliette also said it would be a good idea to be extra brave and stop using a night light all night long. Sophie said we should also replace battery or mains powered torches and night lights with wind-up torches.

2) Sophie suggested wearing thick, long-sleeved pyjamas rather than skimpy nightdresses and adding an extra blanket to the bed rather than turning up the heating. Juliette said that if you got cold, you should run around the room or do lots of sporty dancing to warm yourself up, rather than turning on the heating !

3) Sophie had a great idea, saying that we should play board games more often instead of turning on the Wii or the Nintendo DS because you don't need any electricity for those, only brain power ! I think she's been reading my blogpost about the Slow Toys movement here.

4) I came up with the idea of trying to put less clothes in the laundry so that we could use the washing machine and tumble drier less frequently. Obviously, I don't mind washing dirty clothes but Juliette in particular has a tendency to pull out two or three Tshirts in the morning until she finds the one that she wants, then throws the unworn clean ones in the wash when asked up to tidy up her room. Not only a waste of electricity but also my time and energy !

5) The next suggestion from Sophie made me laugh - go and visit relatives more often or spend more time at their friends' houses, then we use their energy and not ours !! Cheeky but true !

6) The next idea they came up with was to make sure Pierre turns off his electronic toys completely, rather than leaving them to go on to standby, because it wears out the batteries more quickly. I explained that you can also buy rechargeable batteries, which the girls had never heard of.

7) Sophie said we should make Daddy walk them to the childminder's at the end of the road, rather than take the car when it's his turn, because it's not far at all. In his defence, he does head straight off to work afterwards !

8) She also said we should eat lots of salads, sandwiches and cold foods that don't need to use the oven or microwave ! Not sure how popular this would be during the winter months if I refused to cook hot food in the name of saving energy but I did say we could try to maximise oven space, cooking baked potatoes and a fruit pie at the same time as a roast dinner or casserole. Making double quantities for dinner so that the other half can be quickly reheated in the microwave rather than being totally cooked from scratch is a time-saver, as well as energy-saver, too, so well worth thinking about.

9) I suggested that when the girls go outside to play, they shouldn't keep coming in and out of the house because it lets all the warmth out.

10) The final idea is one that none of us here at The Madhouse would have thought about before writing this blogpost, because it's something that none of us - not even the grown-ups - knew much about at all : Smart Meters. British Gas have already begun to install these in homes and businesses to replace current meters and the UK government, along with others around the world, has set a target for all UK homes to have a smart meter installed by 2019. The accuracy of smart meters allows energy suppliers to forecast energy use throughout the day, across the country, so that they can become more efficient in how they generate the nation's power, producing cleaner, greener electricity. They also allow you to see exactly how much energy you use for each action you take around the house. I remember the first time we got a front-loader washing machine and me and my dad sat in front of it for half an hour watching our socks going round, totally fascinated. (I'm showing my age now !) I can see this being the same with geeks and the energy-conscious (if you're green and a geek, does that make you greek ?!) running around constantly switching things off to see how much the energy consumption goes down, especially as it gives you the monetary equivalent in real time too ! If you're intrigued, you can find out more on the British Gas website at or, even easier, watch the video below :

*** This is a sponsored but nevertheless 100% honest post ! ***

I'm participating in the British Gas Smart Meter campaign. Smart meters work with an in-home display to show how much energy you're using in pounds and pence. You can see how much you're spending by leaving your phone charger plugged in all the time, or the heating on at night. And when you can really see how much you're using, you can start to make small changes to become more efficient. Smart Meters automatically send British Gas readings so they represent the end of estimated bills! British Gas is committed to install 1.5 million smart meters by the end of 2012. (see here for more details : ).

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Snugglebundl - the World’s first baby lifting blanket

I love sharing news of brand new products created and designed by tiny businesses trying to branch out in the wake of corporate giants, especially when they're local. Despite having brought up three babies, I'm still amazed that I can spot new inventions that make me think wow, that's a fabulous idea. The Snugglebundl is one of them. I haven't actually tried one out but the concept certainly looks good. And no, this isn't a sponsored post - I just thought it looked like a good idea that I wanted to share with you !


Two entrepreneurial Dads from Sussex, David Solomons and Mike Edwards have come up with a fantastic invention which will help new parents worldwide. The BUNDL™ (patent pending), is “the World’s first baby lifting blanket” and has already won their company Snugglebundl, The Barclays Bank Take one small step innovative new business award for the Southern region beating over 5000 entries to scoop the £50.000 prize money, and the opportunity to seriously launch their unique product to the world.

The BUNDL solves the age old problem of moving sleeping babies without waking them. The unique design means that you no longer have to bend or stoop to pick up your baby. In fact it is so easy that by using the extra strength support handles you can lift up, lay down and move your sleeping baby with just one hand without waking them and whilst keeping perfect posture.

The BUNDL works like a hammock, fully supporting the head, neck and spine whilst the soft padded hood completely protects the crown. David said “I came up with the idea because my wife had complications with the birth and I had a bad back and we struggled picking up and putting down our daughter, especially getting her in and out of the car.”

It was originally conceived and designed for Mums who had undergone caesarean births or who had birthing complications resulting in restricted movement, for parents or carers with back problems and for disabled or wheelchairs users. However, after much testing it became apparent that it was an incredibly useful and practical invention for anyone with a young baby.

The Bundl is the first product of its kind and since launching at the Brighton Baby Expo in November Snugglebundl have been inundated with amazing reviews and blessings from parents who have been using the Bundl. Mike said” It’s one of those simple ideas that you think, why hasn’t anyone thought of that before! Everybody keeps saying I wish I’d had one when we had our baby! We feel completely inspired.”

The Bundl is manufactured entirely in the UK, complies with European safety standards and is available through their website  and hopefully before to long in a shop near you.

for more information, email

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Warning: owning a pet could damage your love life !!

This press release made me smile so I thought I'd share it with you. Just remember, a pet is for life, not just for Christmas, so it's too late to change your minds now if you got one for the kids for Christmas !


Warning: owning a pet could damage your love life but hamsters, guinea-pigs are safest choice: YouGov poll

• Singletons looking for love should avoid owning a spider, snake or rat

• Girls seldom makes passes at… men who own spiders

• Hamsters or guinea-pigs are safest choice; parrots next best

Owning a pet could damage your love life, according to a poll of British singletons, which finds that owning a spider risks hurting it most of all – even more than keeping a snake, rat or ferret.

Hamsters or guinea-pigs, on the other hand, are the pets likely to do least harm to your dating prospects, according to the online poll of 513 single Britons conducted by YouGov for craigslist (, the free classified ads site popular for online dating.

Parrots, however squawky, are the next best bet.

The dating advantage of owning a hamster or guinea-pig compared to, for example, cats or dogs, is significant – particularly so for women.

So, almost three times as many men (28%), would “feel less inclined to date” someone who they discovered was a dog-owner as the number (10%) who would feel the same about a hamster- or guinea-pig-owner. One in four men (25%) would feel likewise about a cat-owner.

Singletons of both sexes should most avoid owning a spider, snake or rat, finds the poll – but men will hurt their prospects even more than women by doing so.

Over half of single women (53%) would “feel less inclined to date” someone who they discovered owned a spider. Almost as many women would cool at the thought of dating someone who they learnt owned a snake (46%), a rat (44%) or even a ferret (34%).
Men held similar attitudes towards the owners of such pets but in smaller numbers.

The findings are clear, says Jim Buckmaster, CEO of craigslist. “Spiders are a turn-off, especially for women. Those who want to own a pet but avoid deterring potential dates should opt for a hamster or guinea-pig.”

The responses of men women differed proportionately most when it came to mice. Almost one in three single women (30%) would feel less inclined to date someone who they learnt owned one or more mice, while only one in five single men (20%) felt the same.

Respondents chose from a list of pets and were asked to predict whether they would feel less inclined to date the owner of each kind.


• Singletons of both sexes should most avoid owning a spider, snake or rat – but men should avoid doing so more than women.

• Girls seldom make passes at men (or women) who own spiders: Over half (53%) of single women would feel less inclined to date someone who they learnt owned a spider

• Hamsters and guinea-pigs are the pets likely to do least damage to someone’s dating prospects.

Q. Imagine if you discovered that someone you were thinking of dating/ going on a date with owned one of the following kinds of pets...Which, if any, of these pets would make you feel LESS inclined to date the person in question? (Please tick all that apply.)

All /  Men /Women

Dog(s) 23% / 28% / 19%
Cat(s) 21% /  25%   / 17%
Mice/ a mouse 25% /  20% / 30%
Hamster or Guinea pig(s) 11% /  10% / 13%
Rat(s) 40% /  37% /  44%
Parrot(s) 16% / 13% /  18%
Ferret(s) 31% / 29% /  34%
Snake(s) 41% /  36%   / 46%
Lizard(s) 29% /  27% / 31%
Spider 47% /  41% /  53%
Other 3% /  3% /  2%
Not applicable - no pets would make me less inclined to date someone 32% /  36% / 28%
Don't know 5% /  5% /  5%  
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Britax unveils their Ultimate Guide to Buggy Britain

We all know getting out and about with your baby can sometimes be a bit of a struggle. That’s why Britax announced the launch of the Ultimate Guide to Buggy Friendly Britain: (which I first told you about here).
They asked mums and dads across the UK to recommend the best buggy (and baby) friendly locations in their area to create the guide. From great days out and family-friendly cafes, to shopping centres with the best facilities, Buggy Friendly Britain is full of places that make life easier when you have a buggy in tow – just zoom into your area and take a look.
All the Buggy Friendly locations on the map are recommended for mums by mums, and anyone can simply click on the “Add location” button to share their own top tip.
For more information, watch the video below :

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The Dormen Seasonal Edition Fruit & Nut Mix review

This Christmas season, The Dormen Food Company has created two special festive fruit and nut blends and we were lucky enough to receive a sachet of each to try.

Seasonal Fruit, Nut & Chocolate brings together orange flavoured cranberries, golden raisins, whole sweet and sour cherries, baked cashew & almonds and rich creamy milk chocolate.

Seasonal Fruit & Nut offers sumptuous cinnamon flavoured cranberries, Chilean and crimson raisins, baked cashews, almonds and toasted hazelnuts.

Fran Campbell, Managing Director of The Dormen Food Company, comments: 'Our seasonal blends include a little bit of everyone's favourites and are the ideal snack for the whole family to enjoy. Nuts are an integral part of Christmas celebrations and these special editions offer the perfect festive treat.' Well, they're certainly a better option than the traditional bowl of nuts and nutcrackers that break your hands and fill your mouth with gritty bits of shell !

I was amazed to see just how fresh the nuts were and how juicy and plump the dried fruits were. Each individual ingredient retains its unique flavour, which often isn't the case in dried fruit & nut mixes where it all blends together so that everything tastes the same. Even the Madhouse mini-testers - who aren't usually keen on dried fruit and nut mixes because they find them bland, dry and overly chewy - but they couldn't get enough of them ! I wasn't sure about the addition of chocolate but it does really work, giving you a more refined version of fruit & nut chocolate bars !

They are the perfect nibbles to accompany your festive and New Year drinkies but be warned, each 100g bag packs in over 400 calories. The packaging says that these were originally created for luxury hotels and they do certainly seem more indulgent and higher quality than many fruit and nut mixes that we've tried in the past, with the price tag to match.

At the moment, there is a competition advertised on the pack where you can go to to win a weekend at a 5 star hotel. With a bit of luck, they might even serve you some Dormen snacks at the bar too !

star rating : 5/5
RRP : £1.79 for 100g

for more information :

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