Saturday, 30 July 2011

Nair Pretty Naturals Naturally Smooth Hair Removal Cream review

I have to say, I really don't like hair removal creams. On the rare occasions that I've used them in the past, I've found that - whatever the brand - firstly, they stink of rotten eggs, and secondly, they don't work. At best, they remove some hair but not all of it, leaving you with hairy legs with patchy bald bits that look even worse than before you started. Or you wipe off the cream and your legs look exactly the same as when you started. Ever since my teens, I've been a razor kind of girl.

But, my - *sniff* - little girl is getting all grown up. In two weeks, just as we fly home from Turkey, she'll be celebrating her 10th birthday. Double figures ! How old does that make me feel ?! And one of the things that has been bothering her is having hairy legs when she gets her shorts and swimsuit out. At first, I brushed it off with a "oh, don't worry about it, nobody will even notice at your age" ! but then I noticed that she was really feeling self-conscious and we had a girlie heart-to-heart. Apparently, someone called her Gorilla legs at school when she wore a skirt and now she's all self-conscious ! I have to say, she does have very hairy legs, but luckily the hairs are blonde so not very noticeable.

But we'll be in shorts all the time in Turkey for the next fortnight so I said we'd use a special cream to get rid of the hair. I looked in the cupboard and found a tube of Nair. As this was a total first for her, I used it with her at the same time, sneakily expecting to finish off the job properly with a razor when she was in bed.

Well, I was gobsmacked to see it actually worked ! I had short dark stubble, which wiped off with the cream after leaving it on for 5 minutes. Sophie, who had finer longer hairs, was also left with totally smooth, hairless legs and you could actually see clumps of "fur" on the flannel we used to wipe off the cream ! I was amazed, Sophie was over the moon, big smiles all round for going on holiday tomorrow and maximum "fab Mum" points !

The product we used was Nair Pretty Naturals Naturally Smooth Hair Removal Cream. The label says : "The delicious raspberry formula is gentle to sensitive skin and results last twice as long as shaving". Well, it has a lovely raspberry fragrance in the tube but it still has that unpleasant sulphur-like undertone when you've spread it all over your legs. Luckily, it doesn't linger after you've wiped and rinsed it all off.

It has a really moisturising formula too so our legs are in perfect condition for a fortnight in the sun. As a first-time for Sophie, it all went really well so I'm sure she'll be a Nair-fan for life ! I have to say, even I've been converted too and found the whole experience much more positive than I was expecting. I'm still blown away that for once, it actually worked !

The 150ml tube did both of our legs up to the knees with a little bit left over. We used a very thick layer of cream, so you could possibly get away with using less, but I wanted to give it the best possible chance of working. Which it did ! Amazingly !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £5.10 for 150ml

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Money-saving deals on film, TV and music this summer

I've just been told about two interesting websites, Find Any Film and Music Matters, which could turn out to be pennywise parents' greatest allies during the long summer holidays, allowing you to find the top deals on film, TV and music content this summer, including cinema tickets, digital services and physical formats like BluRay and DVD (both purchase and rentals).

There are hundreds of deals on the latest films, TV shows and music releases which parents can take advantage of this summer, from free cinema tickets with LOVEFiLM and special school holiday prices from Vue Cinemas to online film and TV rentals from 99p at and over 3,500 free TV shows at There is also a wealth of music services, such as Spotify which gives you unlimited access to millions of tracks for £4.99 per month and Last Fm where you can listen to personalised radio stations for free, providing great entertainment for children.

Please see below for a list of some of the top film, TV and music deals this summer:

Cinema deals

2 free cinema tickets with LOVEFiLM

The deal: Register for a free 30 day trial with LOVEFiLM and you’ll get two free cinema tickets to use at your chosen cinema

How to get it:
· Register with Love Film via Moneysupermarket before 1st January 2012
· You’ll need to select 10 titles before the first disc is sent to you. Once the first disk has been sent the free tickets will arrive at your postal address within 30 days.

· This is for new customers of Love Film only and is limited to one per household
· Some T&C’s may vary between cinemas e.g. some ticket types may not be included at certain cinemas

Vue Cinema school holiday £1.25 tickets

The deal: Children aged 2-12 can get £1.25 tickets to select morning movies at weekends and in school holidays with the Kids AM offer. Accompanying adults get in for £1.25 as well.
How to get it:
· You can buy tickets on the day, but seats can always sell out, so go early if possible. To be safe you can book online/over the phone, though you'll pay a 60p booking fee (90p for phone bookings).

· Selected screenings only.
· Kids tickets valid for ages 2-12.

£2 Vue Cinema Tickets for 13-18 yr olds

The deal: 13-18 year olds can see selected films at Vue cinemas for £2 or for 3D films for £3 with the Teenscreen offer.

How to get it:
· 13-18 year olds need to turn up to the cinema, in advance or at the time of the movie, and buy tickets for Teenscreenings as normal at the ticket office (proof of age may be asked for if you look outside the age range).
· You can book tickets online by clicking through the webpage, but there's a 70p card handling fee per ticket.

· Only valid on Tuesday and Thursday and some film titles may be restricted

Odeon adults go free with £1 - £2.50 kids' tickets

The deal: One adult goes free per every child ticket, which cost £1 - £2.50 depending on location, in the Odeon Kids offer.

How to get it:
· You can buy tickets on the day, but seats can always sell out, so go early if possible. To be safe you can book online/over the phone, though you'll pay a 60p booking fee (90p for phone bookings).

· Selected screenings only. Kids tickets valid for ages 2-12.

2 for1 Orange Wednesdays

The deal : All Orange customers can buy two cinema tickets for the price of one and also get two for one pizza deals at Pizza Express

How to get it: Text FILM to 241 from your Orange phone and you will be sent a code which can be shown to cinema staff to claim two cinema tickets for the price of one.

· Valid for all screenings, but not to be used in conjunction with any other offer

Cineworld £1 tickets on Saturday mornings

The deal: These £1 tickets are available for selected Saturday morning screenings. Adults and kids can both get in for £1 per head, though adults have to be with a child in order to get the offer.

How to get it:
· To find £1 tickets, visit the Movies for Juniors offer page, then choose your film and cinema.

· Offer on Saturday and Sunday in Bolton, Falkirk, Liverpool, Northampton & Wandsworth.


Downloading/Streaming cheap streaming rentals – 39p for TV episodes and 99p for films

The deal: Titles can be bought or rented with some available on an ad-supported, free-to-view basis. Prices start at 39p for the rental of a TV episode and 99p for movies, which can be streamed directly from Blinkbox on to Mac, PC, PS3 and through Samsung internet-connected TVs

How to get it:
· Sign up at and start watching TV shows and films immediately

· Each rental movie or TV episode is available for 30 days and, once you start watching it, can be viewed as many times as you like for 24 hours.

LOVEFiLM – unlimited online viewing for £9.99 per month

The deal:Get unlimited access to over 4,900 titles to watch on your PC, laptop or PS3 for £9.99 per month

How to get it:
· Sign up to one of LOVEFiLM’s unlimited packages and get instant access to over 4,900 titles

· Each rental movie or TV episode is available for 30 days and, once you start watching it, can be viewed as many times as you like for 24 hours. – over 3,500 free TV shows
The deal: Watch over 3,500 of ad-supported free TV shows, which can be watched any time and as often as you want.

How to get it:
· Simply go to and start watching

· All free TV shows are ad supported. If you want to watch ad-free TV, you can opt for Seesaw's non-stop service which costs £2.99 a month to receive all the website's free content without commercial ads.

The deal: Watch hundreds of free films and TV shows from Sony Pictures Entertainment
How to get it:
· Simply go to and start watching
 Its titles change regularly and it offers mainstream content, but the choice is limited.

Blockbuster – half price Tuesdays

The deal: Rent films and games in-store on Tuesdays for half price

How to get it: Become a Blockbuster member and activate Blockbuster Rewards online

· Only available to Blockbuster members in-store

Physical formats

· – DVDs from £3.99, Blu-rays from £5.99 and CDs from £2.99
· – DVDs from £2.99, Blu-rays from £6.99 and CDs from £2.99
· Asda – ‘Everything Under £5’: a range of DVDs, Blu-rays and CDS for less than a fiver
· DVDs under £5, Blu-rays under £10 and CDs from £2.99

Music deals
The deal: Unlimited access millions of music tracks for £4.99 a month
How to get it: Simply go to and start listening
· You can only play tracks whilst online
Last FM

The deal: Unlimited access personalised radio station and music tracks for free
How to get it:
· Sign up to the service at
· You can only play tracks whilst online


The deal: Download and listen to millions of tracks for a little as 79P a track

How to get it:
· Download the iTunes software, register for an account and start downloading

Friday, 29 July 2011

John Crane High Tea Shape Matching Game review

Since winning a fabulous collection of products in their summer photography competition last year (with our Where in the World is Jenny Woodenmum? blog that you can see here - it might inspire you to get creative with the kids in the holidays ! You should also check out the John Crane Blog (here) which is what inspired us in the first place), I am a total wooden toy convert and a HUGE John Crane fan. I've been amazed to see the extent to which, once you remove the flashing lights and electronic noises that pretty much all modern toys have, kids will instantly revert to creative play, making up stories and using their imaginations to really bring the toys to life. On top of that, wood is so much more resistant than plastic so the toys are really built to last.

I was therefore over the moon when the opportunity came up, via the Blog Match programme (see the badge on my sidebar) to try out their High Tea Shape Matching Game. I wasn't prepared for quite how lovely it is and, when it's not being played with, it's kept on the shelf as a decorative object because it's so pretty and perfectly matches Juliette's pink/purple colour scheme in her bedroom.

Both 6-year-old Juliette and 9-year-old Sophie immediately oohed and aahed about just how pink and pretty it is ! But Pierre wasn't put off in the slightest by the colour and immediately sat down, taking out the beautiful little cakes and trying to fit them back into the right holes.

But this shape-sorting fun was just the beginning. The little individual cakes are so realistic and detailed that Juliette couldn't resist using them in a Woodenmums tea party. (This is where I really kick myself that both cameras are currently charging, getting ready for our holiday next week - I've been scheduling posts so you won't even notice I'm gone !! - so I haven't got any snaps to show you, but I'll take some next time and add them to this post !)

They're great for little pretend tea parties, but also for creating a lovely baker's shop to play in, which is a great way of practising maths skills - adding and subtracting and even multiplication tables if you sit down and create a price list before you start. See ? All you need is a little imagination, even as a parent !

The maths aspect continues when it's time to put the cakes away, back on the pretty two-tiered stand. Each one has a number on the base which you need to match with the same number in the corresponding hole, so it's great for number recognition skills, as well as coordination and fine motor skills.

But above all, it's very beautiful, great fun to play with and perfect for imaginative role play. Which is what I always end up saying every time I review anything from John Crane !

The High Tea Shape Matching Set is available from all good toy stores including Dillon’s ToyBox –  - but keep your eyes open because there will be a fabulous giveaway coming up right here on my blog where you can win your very own.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £23.95

for more information : / twitter @johncraneblog /

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Go Ape summer photo competition - adventure prize pool worth £20,000 !

I seem to be hearing about loads of great competitions at the moment but I know a lot of you are comping-addicts so I'll keep sharing them with you ! Good luck if you enter and as always, feel free to leave us a link to your photos if you're looking for votes. Can't wait to hear about the outdoor adventures you get up to over the summer !


Kick-start your summer adventure with Go Ape!
Summer campaign reveals adventure prize pool worth £20,000

Go Ape, the UK’s number one tree-top adventure brand, has launched its exciting new summer campaign encouraging friends, couples, families and extremists to get outdoors and have some fun; something that is often neglected when routines and chores get in the way.

With Go Ape’s six-week summer season now live, running from 25 July to 4 September, adventure seekers will have the opportunity to get involved in a fun, social and interactive competition with an array of exciting prizes on offer. Applicants are being invited to take a picture of their best summer adventure moments and upload it via . All applicants who have submitted uploads will instantly be rewarded with a 25 per cent discount at Go Ape this summer, giving them the opportunity to embark on a tree-top adventure.

Applicants must share their images socially in order to drive votes by sending to friends and family. Those with the most popular photos will be in with a chance of winning a prize from the BIG adventure prize fund, worth £20,000. The prizes fund includes offerings from three handpicked brand partners - a ski holiday for two from Neilson, four family mountain bikes and accessories from Saracen, cameras from GoPro, and kit bags from Merrell, filled with footwear and apparel.

With this campaign, Go Ape aims to put fun back on the agenda, creating adventures and encouraging others to live life adventurously and to share their most memorable outdoor activity highlights this summer. So, whether you’ve just had a go at your first bungee jump, climbed a mountain or simply embarked on your first camping trip, Go Ape wants to be the first to hear about it.

To be amongst the first to sign up, the campaign is now live at .

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Simon & Schuster UK pop-up Book Boutique - fun for mums & kids on 4th August

I'm back, with news of another fab free event for those of you who live in London. Cbeebies fun for the kids, free books and champagne for the mums - what more could a girl (or at least a mum !) ask for ?


The Brunswick and Simon & Schuster UK Ltd launch the pop-up Book Boutique!

The Brunswick shopping centre is working in partnership with, a Simon & Schuster initiative to promote the very best commercial women’s fiction.

On Thursday 4th August, an exclusive pop-up Book Boutique will be set up in The Gallery, located opposite Boots in The Brunswick.

Come and join in for champagne and girly chat from 2pm onwards in the Reading Lounge.

There will also be goody bags packed with complimentary books and money off vouchers for retailers at the Brunswick Centre, exclusive event competitions on the night including the chance to win one of five pairs of JOY sunglasses.

Join Rebecca Chance, the author of Bad Girls and Diva from 5.30pm for an evening of fizz and frolics to celebrate the launch of her brand new book Bad Sisters!

The morning will be filled with under-the-sea fun with The Octonauts ™ the hit CBeebies show, perfect for children aged 4-7. This FREE event includes interactive storytime, activity sessions and a guest appearance by character costume Captain Barnacles. Session times run from 11.00am to11.45am and 12noon to12.45pm

David Plumb, Brunswick centre manager commented “Our partnership with Simon & Schuster brings a unique event to The Brunswick, with everything from kid’s activities, goody bags and the chance to meet author Rebecca Chance and find out what it takes to get your work published, there is certainly something for everyone to enjoy, and all for free!”.

The Brunswick, known locally as “Bloomsbury’s High Street”, is situated opposite the Russell Square tube station, between Marchmont St, Bernard St and Brunswick Sq. It houses central London’s largest branch of Waitrose (23,000 sq ft) as well as retailers such as French Connection, LK Bennett, Hobbs, Benetton, Gap, Coast, Oasis, Joy and New Look. As well as its retail outlets and Renoir cinema, The Brunswick is also home to 400 apartments, one of which is lived in by David Levitt, the nonagenarian former architect who was responsible for the original design of The Brunswick. For further details see .

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Chuggington St Pancras event - Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st July 2011
Ultimate Guide to Buggy Friendly Britain - Get Nominating & Win !
Free Days Out & Activities for the kids this summer


Little Princess - I Want To Play App review

A few months ago, I wrote a money-saving blogpost (here) about recycling your kids old clothes in creative ways and was over the moon to be picked as the winner of a brand new iPad 2 on the website. Well, it's been in the house for a few weeks now and we're all having great fun downloading apps, playing games and discovering all the functionalities it offers.

More great news is that I can now get involved with reviewing some of the great kids apps that are released that I used to have to turn down. The first one we were sent a code for is the Little Princess - I Want To Play app, which is available for ipod, ipad and iphone.

The app offers four mini games. 

There's a dress-up game (you can kit the Little Princess out with a variety of clothes, shoes and accessories).

A Rabbit Bopper game (you have to bop the rabbits on the head when they pop out of holes but not the dog or the cat).

Then there's a Pairs game.

And a dog/cat-washing game, which is 6-year-old Juliette's favourite. You have to rub the animal all over to get him totally covered in lather then pop all the bubbles. It's strangely addictive and even 9-year-old Sophie keeps coming back to it !

The games are very simple and I left Juliette to it to see if she could work out what to do without me reading the little guidelines to her. She worked it all out no problem (except for the bit about not bopping the cat and dog on the head along with the rabbits !) and played happily for about half an hour, managing to switch between the different games by herself.

She's also come back to the app several times, trying to beat her high score on the timed games but also just having fun dressing up the Little Princess and washing the animals.

It's a lovely, calm app that will keep any Little Princess fan occupied.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £1.99

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Giveaway #107 - Free ecookbook DinneRevolution worth $27 - everyone wins !

I recently received an email from the lovely Chef Jeff (admittedly, not his real name but it does have a definite ring to it !) who is trying to create some buzz and get some feedback for his new ecookbook called DinneRevolution. To this end, he is willing to give it away for free to readers of Madhouse Family Reviews in return for your views, which is a pretty good deal when you know it is usually on sale for $27.

I've had a look and I love the idea behind the book : "Whether you are trying to watch your weight, trying to cut down on your fast food runs, or simply wanting more family time around the table, these recipes will do the trick. I purposely made the recipes family friendly, and super simple to make. These aren’t the fancy, sophisticated, and timeconsuming recipes that I cook for my upscale clients, but rather fun, interesting, and delicious recipes for the modern palate. You will find healthier and updated versions of many of your favorite classics, plus new and exciting recipes that I have developed using my extensive travels as inspiration. I have purposely made the recipes so that most of them have less than ten ingredients and take less than 30 minutes to prepare. I realize that in today’s busy lifestyle people simply don’t have the time or desire to spend all day in the kitchen." So far so good !

A quick scan through the contents list revealed lots of interesting recipes that caught my eye, including Hawaiian Stir Fry Chicken, Pretzel & Honey-Dijon Chicken Tenders, Turkey & Stuffing Soup, Coconut & Almond Crusted Fish Sticks, Crabcakes with Mango, Farmers Market Vegetable Paella ...

They are written for an American audience so you will have to do a bit of converting of measurements and ingredients, but they all sound very accessible, not to mention delicious.

To get your free ecookbook containing over 200 recipes, just go to and enter your name and email. Now, being a cynic, I did ask for confirmation that he wouldn't sell these on to spammers and he has reassured me that he won't, it's just to get feedback and give you the option of signing up for his daily recipe newsletter.

Enjoy ! And, as Chef Jeff says, "Let's get the family back to the dinner table and out of the fast food joints!"

Other giveaways you may be interested in :

Chuggington @ St Pancras event - Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st July 2011

As I told you last week, I've started compiling a list of free things (here) to do with the kids during the holidays so here's the latest day out that I'm about to add, perfect for little Chuggington fans.


To celebrate the success of TOMY’s Chuggington Die-Cast range and the television series shown on CBeebies, Ludorum and TOMY are hosting a special Chuggington @ St Pancras event at Kings Cross St Pancras Station, and you’re invited !

If you and your little Chuggers are off on your travels on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st July 2011, why not go via Kings Cross St Pancras and make a scheduled stop at the Chuggington @ St Pancras event?

There’s lots of Chuggington fun to be had before you climb aboard and steam off on your hols, including games and activities on , a special Chuggington screening (showing the latest episodes), as well as the opportunity for the kids to receive their Chuggington Passport – an absolute must for all trainee travellers ! Plus, there are goody bags full of Chuggington goodies up for grabs to keep your little ones entertained on the way to your holiday destination ! Fans of the show can also test out the latest Chuggington toys, and enter a colouring in competition where they have the chance to win the Chuggington GRAND PRIZE ! This chug-tastic prize includes a Chuggington bike, Chuggington Storio and a Chuggington Die-Cast Chugger Championship Deluxe Playset.


New releases from TOMY’s Chuggington Die-Cast range include the Chugger Championship Deluxe Set and Mtambo’s Safari Playset.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Giveaway #106 - Win 3 copies of The Baby of Belleville - closed - winners @kohsamuirosie @Dorothee77 @elkiedee

Earlier in the week, I reviewed (here) the quirky, fun read, The Baby of Belleville by Anne Marsella and I'm pleased to be able to offer you the opportunity of winning one of three copies.

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

(1) 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.

(2) comment on any of my other blogposts and tell me where you commented (other giveaways don't count and each comment only counts for one giveaway !)

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 - this is now dead easy if you click on the tweet button on the right-hand side bar. Feel free to shorten if necessary, or you can make up your own tweet. 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) 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) I've created a facebook page for Madhouse Family Reviews so I'd love for you to become a follower on there too -  

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

UK only. Closing date : 19/8/11

Other current giveaways you may be interested in :

When I Was A Kid Personalised Wooden Name Train review

As you may have noticed if you've been paying attention to the different badges and buttons over on my side bar, I'm a WOW me member. If you click on the badge, you'll see that this takes you through to the When I Was A Kid website, which is an absolute treasure trove for gifts and toys reminiscent of the good old days. Forget cheap plastic tack, because you won't find any, but you will find sturdy, traditional wooden toys and things that will make you go "oooh I used to have one of those !", like kaleidescopes, hobby horses and retro-style pedal cars.

We've been lucky enough to review a number of John Crane toys here on this blog (which you will also find for sale on the When I Was A Kid website), and we've been consistently impressed with the quality of the wooden toys, as well as the fact that once you remove the flashing lights and the electronic noises that kids are now so used to, you'll actually notice that they start really using their imaginations and creativity to play. If you need extra proof of that, just check out the entire blog (here) that we created last year with the Pin Toy family of wooden dolls. It kept the kids (ahem - and the grown-ups !) amused for the whole summer and had the kids dreaming up stories involving the dolls every single day !

But back to the review at hand ! Paul Warner, who describes himself as "Daddy and Owner", is a lovely person who really puts customer service at the fore, going the extra mile to keep his customers (and their kids) happy. (You'll start thinking this is a sponsored post in a minute - it isn't, I'm not being paid a penny or receiving the slightest freebie ! I just like to point out the really genuinely nice small business owners when I find them ! )

You can follow Paul/When I Was A Kid's twitter feed @wheniwasakid and, a few weeks ago, I happened to see a tweet go by offering a free personalised name train if you paid the postage. I ordered one, expecting a slight second or inferior quality product, as it was free, and was really impressed when it arrived. It's not only perfect but also beautiful.

As you can see, it has pride of place on Pierre's shelf in his bedroom but it also comes down very often on to the floor for some proper playing and it's withstood all the races and crashes that a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old playing together can come up with !

The little clasps and catches holding the trains together are simple to undo and reattach and it's even an educational toy - 9-year-old big sister Sophie has tried SO HARD to rearrange the letters into a rude word and has so far failed miserably ! The best she could come up with was Err Pie ! Keep trying Sophie !!

The personalised aspect makes this a lovely gift that your kids will cherish and it works as both a decorative element for the nursery as well as a real toy for the kids to play with. And it's made of wood so it's built to last, as well as being better for the environment.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : varies from £5.25 for 1 letter (+ the front & back carriages added for free)-£35 (for the whole alphabet) - as an example, the PIERRE train above would cost £14

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Children's Book review : Lob - Linda Newberry

Lob is a lovely tale of garden magic, mysterious mystical creatures, a wonderful bond between a grandad and his granddaughter and the joy of having an open mind.

Lob is the name of a Green Man who lives in Grandad's garden and helps him out in his vegetable patch. To most people, he is invisible but Grandad and Lucy sometimes catch a slight glimpse of him - a rustle in the bushes, a blur of green and brown, a smell of leaf mould and wet earth, a sound of almost-laughter or a pair of mischievous green eyes peeking out of the foliage. To everybody else, he's just an imaginary friend, a fairy story made up by Lucy's grandad. When Grandad dies and Grandma moves away to  new house, Lucy fears she will never see Lob again. But the bonds of magic and friendship are strong and their paths are destined to cross again.

The lovely hardback book with large text and big double-page black-and-white illustrations is a lovely storybook to share with young readers. It's a great book to read together, as the text is easy to see but the language isn't "dumbed down" so you'll need to be on hand to help with difficult words.

The fairytalesque plotline will appeal to children but it also evokes some deeper issues - the loss of a loved one, trust and betrayal, friendship, learning to keep secrets and the importance of an open mind.

If your children have read and been captivated by the tale of Lob, I wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Hastings (my home town) for May Day weekend, where they will get to see a real life "Lob" at the Jack in the Green celebrations. You can find out more and see photos at the Hastings Jack website (here). It would be the perfect way to bring the book to life and add a whole new level to the magic ! 

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £10.99 (but £7.14 on amazon - also available in paperback)

Hardcover: 217 pages
Publisher: David Fickling Books (4 Feb 2010)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0385610815
ISBN-13: 978-0385610810

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Fill in the infant feeding survey (for mums of under 3's & mums to be) and win prizes !

I've just been contacted by Allegra Strategies, who have been commissioned to carry out the largest research programme in the UK nursery market, and they are looking for views on infant feeding from expecting mums and mums with kids aged 3 years and below. Whether your child is/was/will be breast or bottle-fed, or a mixture of both, please head over and fill out the survey. It will take you about fifteen minutes and to thank you, you will be entered into a prize draw.

But on top of that, the five parenting blogs that send over the most participants will be sent some great prizes to share with their readers. The first question will be "how did you hear about this survey ?" so please select "Blogging Mothers" then "Madhouse Family Reviews/@cherylp59" from the drop-down menu. If I win, you win !

The link to the survey is and if you also leave me a message here to say you've entered from here, it will make it much easier to track.

Thanks in advance and good luck !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Children's book review : Mistress of the Storm - M. L. Welsh

Wow ! I picked up this book, expecting to appreciate it in the capacity of a parent as a children's book, and ended up staying up late into the night reading for my own pleasure ! I loved it so much, I raced through it in three days.

The opening pages reminded me a bit of an Enid Blyton story, a slightly less twee version of a Famous Five adventure, but the story carefully blends magic and mayhem with a more realistic look at child psychology. Verity Gallant, the totally unknowing heroine of the unfolding story, is a kind-hearted teen but doesn't seem to fit in. Whether it be at school, where her outdated clothes and slightly bookish ways make her an easy target for the bullies, or at home, where she feels like an ugly duckling next to her beautiful, slim, blonde sister Poppy, she seems destined to always be the outsider, never fitting in and never feeling at ease in her own skin.

At the start of the book, she doesn't really have any friends at all, apart from the strange, elderly Alice who she visits regularly. As the story progresses, she hooks up with Henry, an equally rejected schoolmate, and new girl Martha. There's even a slight whisper of a teen crush in the dashing Jeb, who disappears to see the world at the end of the book but I hope he will come back in a future adventure. She even has mixed emotions and a touch of the green-eyed monster when she discovers her mother is expecting a new baby. Many teens and tweens, particularly those having a hard time, will relate to her.

But that's as far as the realism goes. When Verity comes across a mysterious stranger in the library and is told that The Storm is Coming, little does she know that she is about to get swept up in an exciting and dangerous adventure, involving ancient curses, betrayal and murder, tales of shipwreckers and smugglers, dark magic, powerful amulets and deep dark family secrets. Verity knows nothing of her incredible family history, so we uncover the past, present and future at the same time as her.

I love the fact that such a daring, adventurous and death-defying character is a girl. Tweens of both sexes will enjoy reading this exciting tale of adventures and revenge but I love to see such a powerful female lead, which makes a change to much children's fiction which is too gender-stereotyped. I was actually reminded of a cross between Jacqueline Wilson's Hetty Feather and Michelle Lovric's Undrowned Child.

If you're looking to get your kids reading over the summer holidays, this is such an exciting read they'll find it irresistible. But it's too good to keep for the kids so make sure you have a read too ! The book finishes with a sneak preview chapter of the next book in the series so I can't wait to find out what else Verity will get up to when that comes out.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £6.99 (but only £4.99 on amazon)

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: David Fickling Books (PB) (2 Jun 2011)
ISBN-10: 184992015X
ISBN-13: 978-1849920155

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Ultimate Guide to Buggy Friendly Britain - Get Nominating & Win !

Britax are looking for nominations of baby-friendly places to create the Ultimate Guide to Buggy-Friendly Britain. The idea is for mums and dads across the country to share places they love taking their young family – it could be a cafĂ© with a buggy parking section, a library that does readings for toddlers, or a shopping centre with a soft play area. Absolutely anywhere that welcomes children and makes it easier for parents.

Head over to facebook to recommend your favourite places – anyone that nominates will also be entered into a prize drawer to win a Britax B-SMART.

All the information is on their Facebook page:!/babyonboardUK?sk=app_208195102528120

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

3M Ultrathon insect repellent review

Zzzzzzzzz - zzzzzzzzzz - zzzzzzzzzz. Is there any noise more guaranteed to prevent a good night's sleep than that ? No, it wasn't Madhouse Daddy Mike's snoring (for once !). Just as I turned out the light, I heard the tinny whine of a mosquito buzzing just millimetres from my ear. Now, I know getting bitten by a mosquito isn't the end of the world and it won't kill you (unless you're in malaria-infested tropical climes) but my defence mechanism always automatically kicks in, waking me from a deep sleep and filling my body with adrenalin.

Well, last night, I'd been reading until silly o'clock (look out for a book review for Mistress of the Storm coming in the next day or two !) and was too tired to get up and start throwing socks at the ceiling to try and squish it (plus I thought I might miss and wake up the aforementioned sleeping hubby ! It's not just sleeping dogs that are best left alone !) so I resigned myself to getting bitten during the night. Luckily, I now have my trusty Zap-It (that I reviewed here) which really does work for stopping the heat and itchiness of mosquito bites and, despite my initial apprehension, really doesn't hurt at all.

But, ten minutes later, I suddenly remembered that I had a can of Ultrathon insect repellent sitting in my "to be reviewed" box at the side of the bed. Aha, the perfect time to try it out ! I remember reading in the press release that the product was originally developed for the military and is the product of choice for outdoor survival experts such as Ray Mears, so I was keen to see if it would work. I did a few sprays on my arms and neck area and a vague spray in the general area of the sleeping hubby and turned out the light.

Two minutes later, I rolled over on to my side and kicked off the covers because I was too hot and, as I drifted off to the Land of Nod, my last thought was "Oh poo, now I've just uncovered my legs and the back of my neck to the fangs of the vampire mosquito and I didn't put any spray on those parts. Oh well, too late now ...".

Well, this morning, I was stunned to see that I hadn't been bitten at all. And neither had Madhouse Daddy Mike and I'd literally only sprayed a few microdroplets in his general direction. Unbelievable ! Especially as I didn't hear the mosquito buzzing about at all after spraying the Ultrathon and it had been gaily divebombing me and menacingly circling the bed for ten minutes beforehand.

The manufacturers explain : "The secret behind the product’s success is its advanced Time Release Protection. This technology means the DEET ingredient slowly evaporates providing protection long after other DEET repellents have dissipated. This means Ultrathon offers up to 12 hours of protection against mosquitoes, and with the added benefit of being splash and sweat resistant, the need for re-application is also reduced. Ultrathon products not only protect against mosquitoes but a whole host of other bugs including midges, ticks, horseflies, fleas and sandflies."

Well, I can vouch for the fact that, for mosquitoes at least, it certainly seems to work. And if it's good enough for Ray Mears in the jungle, it's good enough for me in the bedroom ! I would have preferred a more natural formula but it's certainly effective.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : available in a 60ml lotion offering extended protection of up to 12 hours or a convenient 125ml spray offering 8 hours protection - both £8.29

for more information :

Schwartz review #4 : Easy Stir Fry Lemon Grass, Ginger and Coconut

I use a lot of herbs and spices in my cooking, including many products from Schwartz, so when they offered to spice up my life (or at least my kitchen ! - see here) and send through a selection of products to try out, I didn't expect to find much I'd never tried. I have to say, their tubes of stir fry paste were a new one to me though. I'd never seen those before, let alone tried them, so we were very happy to have received the Easy Stir Fry Lemon Grass, Ginger and Coconut flavour to try out.

I hastily assembled a few likely candidates for ingredients from the fridge - some mushrooms, chicken fillet and leftover cooked vegetables. I also found some Chinese noodles that needed using up in the cupboard and sent Sophie to the shop at the corner for some onions and peppers. That'll do nicely !

Some onions sizzling in the wok is always a good way to start whatever it's going to develop into. A lot of my cooking just comes together as I'm making it, so I don't necessarily have a plan before I start !!

Time to fry the chicken. A generous shake of Garlic Salt always helps bring out the flavours.

Next up is the fresh veggies - mushrooms and red, green and yellow peppers, which looked like a traffic light, as Sophie pointed out !

Once that was all cooked, I could throw in the cooked veg and stir, stir, stir !

Now, let's try out the Stir Fry paste. If you look at the twelve o' clock position in the wok, you can see the paste squeezed all over a piece of chicken but you'll have to look closely.

Ta-da, the finished dish ! I was initially a bit worried that the taste of ginger and lemon grass would overpower the taste of everything else because they are two ingredients that I often find overly pungent but it's actually a very delicate flavour that just adds a hint of Oriental flavours to your cooking.

Happy faces all round !

I was pleased to see that the paste contains natural ingredients rather than artificial flavours. The ingredients list contains : Lemon Grass (25%), Coconut (17%), Ginger (14%), Water, Spirit Vinegar, Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Salt, Modified Maize Starch, Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Spice. 100g of product contains 217 calories and I did use the whole tube in one go (the instructions say to use half a tube, and you can keep it in the fridge once opened for four weeks, but I'd used a lot of chicken so I doubled up the quantity, otherwise the flavours weren't strong enough).

On the product page (here), Schwartz propose four recipes to try with the paste - Lemon Grass, Ginger and Coconut Chicken Stir Fry; King Prawn Stir Fry; Lemon Grass & Coconut Stir Fry with Pork Meatballs ; and Vietnamese Warm Chicken Salad.Or you can just throw it in the wok with whatever you have in the fridge, as we did !

The Easy Stir Fry range also includes Chilli ; Chinese 5 Spice, Ginger & Garlic ; Garlic ; Sweet & Sour ; and Garlic, Ginger & Spring Onion. They make a nice alternative to jars of cooking sauce if you want a lighter, less liquid option so I'll be investigating the other varieties too.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £1.95 for 75g

Other reviews you may be interested in :

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