Tuesday 31 January 2012

Giveaway #157 - win a fabulous ‘feel the love, share the love’ hamper worth £60 - closed - winner @bloomingfox

I've just told you (here) about a fabulous giveaway on the lovetub Facebook page where they are offering 15,000 free puddings - wow ! - but their generosity doesn't stop there. They have also offered me the chance to give one Madhouse Family Reviews reader a fabulous ‘feel the love, share the love’ hamper worth £60. The hamper includes: Moet Chandon Champagne, Hotel Chocolat Chocolates, a £10 M&S food voucher, a cuddly bear and some lovetub puddings. Everything you need for a fabulous Valentine"s night in, whether you're in a couple or all by yourself !

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

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

(2) leave me a comment on one of my blogposts (other giveaways don't count)

(3) leave me a comment in the comments box with a way of contacting you (twitter name or email) and tell me which of my blogposts you commented on.

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 competition. You can use the handy retweet button over in my side bar or write your own tweet but make sure you copy in @cherylp59 so I can track this

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

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

(4) follow me on google+ and/or click on the google +1 button over in my sidebar

(5) add a +k klout point to @cherylp59 on Klout and tell me which category you added it to

(6) follow me on pinterest (over on my sidebar) and/or pin one of my blogposts ( tell me which one)

(7) "favourite" this blog on Technorati by clicking on the button in my sidebar

UK only. Closing date : 11/2/12

Other giveaways you may be interested in :

Natural & Clean Pet Spot & Odour Eliminator review

After my battle with a particularly pongy bin being a resounding success, I decided to take a closer look at what else those lovely people at Natural & Clean had sent me through for review. After the bin battle (that I just told you about here) and successfully removing fluorescent green highlighter from a cuddly pony (that I blogged about here), I'm starting to think that there's not much they can't deal with. Hmm time for a mega-challenge, methinks ! I have the perfect task to really put them through their paces !

Now, what do you think of our lovely, soft, squishy, Moroccan-themed armchair.  I love the warm rich tones of the throw and the two cushions are souvenirs from Tunisia that we picked up in the souk there. OK, time to reveal one of the Madhouse Family's dirty little secrets !

Just look at what's hiding underneath that lovely throw - eeek !

Two dogs and three under-11's have certainly left their mark, many times over.

There are muddy pawprints, sticky handprints, spilt chocolate milk (no use crying over that then !) and goodness knows what other sorts of inground general dirt and grime. I even found some more fluorescent green highlighter when having a really close look ! I have made a few half-hearted attempts at getting it clean in the past but nothing has really worked so the colourful throw was the perfect solution !

Well, even though the  Pet Spot & Odour Eliminator spray that I found in the cupboard isn't specifically designed as an upholstery cleaner, I decided to give it a go as it was the Spot Remover Wipes that successfully cleaned up the toy pony, which is a smimlilar colour. I sprayed liberally on the dirty areas (in other words, over 3/4 of the total surface of the chair) and rubbed gently with a microfibre cloth.

As you can see, I used a fair amount of product - about an inch worth out of the bottle - so it made the chair very damp. It didn't look that clean to be honest so I wasn't expecting it to be very successful. I told the kids not to sit on it while it dried out and headed off to the kitchen for a cook-fest.

Well, I couldn't believe my eyes when I came back into the living room about an hour later. It looked immaculate ! I was convinced someone must have taken out our filthy old chair and brought in a new one when nobody was looking !

If you look really closely, there are still a few stains on there - for example, on the right arm just next to the back cushion - but, judging by how well it's worked on the vast majority of the surface, I would think that it is more than likely an area I missed rather than a stubborn stain that didn't shift.

Just compare the before and after photos - I don't need to say a word, as I purposely took photos of the same parts of the chair and the same angles.

The only question now is, do we put the throw back on it or leave it off now ?! I'm also wondering what else I can try to clean with the spray. You can tell how dramatic the difference was because Madhouse Daddy Mike actually noticed without me saying a word when he got home from work and normally he never notices anything !

A quick look on the Natural & Clean website has this to say about it : "Natural & Clean pet spot & odour eliminator is a modern approach to odour removal. It is designed to attack and eliminate odours and their offending causes naturally. The product has been successfully manufactured through harnessing naturally occurring microbes which attack and degrade organic waste matter, thus eliminating odours and their primary sources. It is ideal to use on most carpets, rugs and upholstery. Natural & Clean pet spot & odour eliminator contains naturally occurring microbes and has a powerful microbial cleanser to attack the organic spots and spills. It is solvent & phosphate free and safe to use on pet's bedding. It can be used on most surfaces and fabrics and is effective in removing all odours left by pets including cat spray, urine, vomit, faeces and hairballs. Do not use on cotton velvet upholstery or those unsuitable for wet cleaning. Always test on a hidden area to check colour fastness."

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £3.43 for 300ml

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Natural & Clean Bin Deodoriser review

Today, I had an unexpected urge to do some Spring Cleaning so I thought it would be the perfect time for trying out some of the cleaning products from Natural & Clean that I had been sent through for review and that have been awaiting a suitable challenge in the kitchen cupboard. The first task that I decided to tackle was a particularly smelly bin. I had a look in the cupboard and pulled out Natural & Clean Bin Deodoriser. 

I first discovered Natural & Clean when I needed something to get rid of green fluorescent highlighter pen that naughty Pierre had scribbled all over Juliette's toy horse. I told you about how well their Spot Remover Wipes dealt with the challenge here, so I had very high expectations for the Bin Deodoriser.

Now, dustbins never smell very nice but ours was smelling absolutely putrid. In the first week of January, I opened up some pork chops and found that they had a dodgy greenish tinge and smelt decidedly off. Although I hate throwing away food unnecessarily, I didn't want to run the risk of giving the whole family food poisoning so I threw the whole pack in the bin and cooked an omelette instead.

Now, I don't know how or why but for the three times the dustmen have been since then to empty the bins, the pork chops (and the bag they were in) have lingered in the bottom of the bin. They may not have smelt very nice to begin with but they were absolutely disgusting after well over a fortnight in the bin, I can tell you. I was even going to face up to my maggot-phobia and totally tip out the bin and scrape out whatever was sticking to the bottom when - hallelulia ! - they disappeared in the back of the dustcart without any help from me. Phew !

Well, the pork chops may have finally gone but the nasty whiff still lingered so that was what I wanted to tackle today. I sprayed some of the clear, liquid Bin Deodoriser in the wheelie bin on top of the bin bags, on the underside of the flip lid (which looked a bit manky) and around the top of the bin on the inside so that it would run down the sides and deodorise the bottom part too. It comes out as a fine mist that smells really nice, if a bit strong (I held my breath for the final few sprays because I could feel it hitting the back of my throat !) and I was amazed to see that it doesn't just cover the pongs, which sometimes smells even worse (rose-tinged rotten garbage anyone ?!), it actually seems to stop the nasty smells and replace, not mask, them.

Even after closing the bin lid, the lovely fresh, clean smell filled the garage and Madhouse Daddy Mike even commented on it when he came home from work.

I love the fact that such an efficient product can be natural too, which is certainly better for the environment as anything sprayed in the bin will end up in landfill sites. The Natural & Clean website explains that the Bin Deodoriser contains a powerful naturally occurring active-microbe formulation which neutralises the odour quickly. It is also solvent & phosphate free. It is perfect for nappy bins, cat litter trays, wheelie bins and all household waste bins. I've left the bottle next to the bin now and whenever it starts getting smelly again, I know that a few quicky sprays will be all that is needed to get it smelling lovely and fresh again. If it can deal with disgusting three-week old putrid meat, it can deal with anything !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £3.39

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Kids' app review : The Year of the Dragon Peek 'n Play Story App

After watching a news report on the Chinese New Year last week, Sophie bombarded me with questions about why the Chinese New Year wasn't at the same time as our New Year and why different animals were used to represent the zodiac. Well, I can assure you that the chance to review a new kids' storybook app called The Year of the Dragon : Tales from the Chinese Zodiac couldn't have come at a better time because I certainly didn't have all the answers !

 The lovely story follows the tale of a friendly young dragon called Dominic who is instantly appealing to young readers, especially when you click on him and he makes cute baby-like noises. This was already enough to have 2-year-old Pierre giggling and clicking on all the other animals and characters to make them do things or make noises too. Big sister Juliette soon worked out that there is a coin hidden in each picture that you can click on to release a shower of coins and got very excited looking for it in each picture.

The synopsis for the story is as follows : "2012 is the Year of the Dragon! Dominic’s proud parents rule the sea and sky, advise the Emperor, and have high expectations for their son. Meanwhile Dom befriends the boy Bo and the other zodiac animals, who wish to paddle a boat in the village’s annual river race. But when other people and Dom’s parents disapprove, what will Dom do?" The attention to detail of the illustrations and the complex, lengthy story gave this the feel of a real storybook, rather than just a read-along app, and, sure enough, it is an adaptation of a children's book by Oliver Chin.

It is much longer than most of the other storybook apps that we've reviewed - too long, in fact, to go through in one sitting for younger children, whose attention starts to wander halfway, but the fabulous thing about this app is that - unlike many storybook apps - you can use the pictures along the bottom of the screen to jump in at whichever page you wish. Although Pierre and Juliette had lost interest before the end of the story, they did come back the next day and ask excitedly to finish it off.

You have the choice of "read it to me", with words highlighted to help with word recognition, or "I can read", to read by yourself, with the option of tapping on difficult words to hear them. Pierre had great fun tapping objects on the screen to see what they would do and they both enjoyed the zodiac animals drag and drop puzzle at the end of the story.

The music is very atmospheric and gentle and the narrator reads clearly, although he does have an American accent which may put off some British parents. I've also just noticed that you can activate hints to assist in finding the interactive elements, which could be good for younger readers, and you can also set it to autoplay, so that you can watch it as a film rather than turning individual pages.

It's a lovely app that will last longer than many similar storybook apps because it is longer, so the slightly higher price is well worth it.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £2.99

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Monday 30 January 2012

Giveaway #156 - win a Fireman Sam : Help Is Here DVD - closed - winner @MelanieMse

I've just reviewed (here) the new Fireman Sam : Help Is Here DVD that was released last week on 23rd January. The lovely people at Hit Entertainment have provided a copy of the new DVD for one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader.

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

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

(2) leave me a comment on one of my blogposts (other giveaways don't count)

(3) leave me a comment in the comments box with a way of contacting you (twitter name or email) and tell me which of my blogposts you commented on. 

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 competition. You can use the handy retweet button over in my side bar or write your own tweet but make sure you copy in @cherylp59 so I can track this

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

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

(4) follow me on google+ and/or click on the google +1 button over in my sidebar

(5) add a +k klout point to @cherylp59 on Klout and tell me which category you added it to

(6) follow me on pinterest (over on my sidebar) and/or pin one of my blogposts ( tell me which one)

(7) "favourite" this blog on Technorati by clicking on the button in my sidebar

UK only. Closing date : 16/2/12
Other giveaways you may be interested in :

Fireman Sam : Help Is Here DVD review

*** Don't miss your chance to win a copy right here on my blog ! ***

Fireman Sam fans will be over the moon to discover that his latest DVD, Help Is Here!, has just been released and hit the shops on 23rd January. Even better news is that in a moment I'll be posting a giveaway right here on my blog where you can win your very own copy.

In his latest collection of courageous adventures, everyone’s favourite firefighter teaches about fire safety, rescues those in need and demonstrates the importance of fire prevention. Find out what happens when Norman’s cousin Derek pays a visit and finds himself being rescued from the Pontypandy cliffs. Meanwhile Sam uses some abseiling skills to retrieve Norman from the wishing well, Elvis gets into a spot of bother with a chocolate cake and Sam is paired with Dilys in a three legged race with hilarious consequences!

This DVD features five action-packed adventures, full of excitement and heroic deeds which can be enjoyed by the whole family.

We received a review copy and Pierre was glued to the sofa while it was on, watching it from start to finish then asking me to put it on again ! As a parent, I love the way it mixes in the fire safety message with the fun adventures.

The 50-minute run time is the perfect length for young viewers - long enough to keep them entertained while you get lunch sorted out but not so long that they'll get bored.

For more information about Fireman Sam, please visit www.firemansam.co.uk or follow all the latest news on Facebook  and Twitter @firemansamuk

  star rating : 4.5/5

RRP :£7.99

for more information : www.hitstoreuk.com

Other reviews you may be interested in :


Sainsbury's Finance Money Matters Blog Guest Post : Never drive without car insurance

Car insurance can be very expensive, especially if you drive a large, powerful car - but driving without it is simply not an option.

Car insurance is compulsory in the UK if you use a vehicle - in fact, you must be adequately insured even if you leave your car parked or unattended, or allow others to drive it.

What happens if you’re not insured?
It’s essential you’re sufficiently insured at all times - otherwise, there could be severe financial and legal consequences.

If you’re uninsured and you cause an accident, you’ll be personally liable for all vehicle damage and injury costs, which can run into thousands.

Then there are the legal implications. Using a car while uninsured is considered a serious offence and carries severe penalties. Many counties issue a Fixed Penalty Notice for such an offence, which typically carries six points and a £200 fine.

If you repeatedly drive without insurance, you can receive a substantially larger fine and more points. You might even be issued with an immediate driving ban, often up to 28 days. But again, it can be significantly longer if you are a repeat offender.

Ignorance is not a defence
Sometimes drivers unwittingly use a car uninsured - for example, if they didn’t keep a note of when their car insurance was up for renewal and their insurance provider failed to inform them. However, the insurance company only has a duty to insure you for the duration of your policy - the onus is on the driver to check they’re insured.

The bottom line is, if you use a vehicle, or allow others to use it, you are responsible for insuring it. So even if a motorist unintentionally drives without insurance, an offence has still been committed.

Similarly, if you allow a friend to drive your car and they tell you they’re insured when they’re not, that’s not a valid defence if they’re caught.

If your friend showed you what appeared to be a valid insurance certificate, you might not receive penalty points or a fine, but you could still have a conviction on your record. It might seem unfair, but that’s the law.

Carry your insurance certificate
The police are now able to check at the roadside if you’re insured. For this reason, it’s advisable to carry a copy of your car insurance certificate with you. But don’t worry if you don’t - you’re normally allowed seven days to produce it at your nearest police station.

Failing to produce a valid insurance certificate within the allotted time is a separate offence in itself, whether you are insured or not.

Court action
If you’re summoned to court for driving uninsured, but can prove you were insured at the time of the supposed offence, send a copy of your insurance certificate to the prosecution. The offence for driving uninsured will be dropped, but you will might still be prosecuted for not disclosing the evidence within the seven-day time period.

In addition, if you don’t prove you’re insured in the allotted time, the police can remove your car from the road and charge you for its storage. After 14 days, your vehicle could be scrapped.

So don’t take chances. And make sure your car insurance policy gives you all the cover you need.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Keeping your kids entertained in the car

Advice on Family Car Options under £5000 from Netcars 

150th anniversary of the unification of Italy + Gucci's 90th anniversary = Fiat 500byGucci


90 Bloggers, 90 Words To Support Breakthrough Breast Cancer

Did you know that around 1000 women die from breast cancer every month?  One in eight women will develop breast cancer at some time in their lifetime. It is important to note that men also get breast cancer.  The good news is that more people are surviving breast cancer due to greater awareness, improved treatments and better screening.

So tells us Kate on Thin Ice who is looking for 90 generous bloggers to write about an important woman in their life - "any woman that matters to you – a grandmother, a mum, a daughter, a friend, a blogger, a boss, whoever you wish" - in 90 words and to join in her blog hop to help support Breakthrough Breast Cancer .

Well, here's our entry :

 Angel, little sister who wasn't meant to be, you may have never breathed the same air as us but you touched us so much. You taught us life is precious, to live every second like it could be the last. You reminded us to cherish our loved ones and our time together. You reminded me a mother's instincts are rarely wrong, even when professionals think they know better. You're still with us, sharing special moments from above and lighting up the girls' eyes as they look up and say, "oooh, it's Angel's star" !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Kitchen Devils Scissors review

I have to admit, when I first heard about Kitchen Devils Scissors, I sniggered and cynically said : "What's that for? Snipping open the sachet on your frozen ready meal ?" Let's face it, scissors aren't tools that you often see putting in an appearance on Masterchef or on celeb chef cookery programmes on TV. Then we received a pair to review and I have to say, I was impressed.

We've always had scissors in our kitchen but they were just normal scissors that you'd find in your average office or stationery drawer, not proper kitchen scissors. The Kitchen Devils scissors are much sturdier - I was amazed to see that they are guaranteed for an amazing 15 years ! I could be a grandmother by the time they'll need replacing, how freaky is that ?!! - and also much more comfortable to use.

They also cut really well, probably because they have a serrated lower blade to make cutting easier. I have therefore been cutting things that I usually try to cack-handedly cut with a knife in the kitchen while swearing under my breath ! They're fabulous for cutting the rind off bacon, chopping chicken fillets into bite-sized pieces for stir fry and even cutting the fins off fish, which is always really difficult. They're great for chopping through the tough fat and cartilage on cheap stewing beef that is on its way into the slow cooker and that needs roughly chopping. It makes the job quicker and causes much less arm ache.

I've been so impressed that I now find myself hesitating every time I reach for a knife to see if the scissors would do a better job. Kitchen Devils say that they can "snip through peel with ease as well as herbs, vegetables, bacon and tricky kitchen packaging too." Hmmm vegetables, hadn't thought of that. They could make shredding lettuce a lot easier.

What I really love besides the convenience and the comfort is the safety issue, which is brilliant if you're cooking with kids. 10-year-old Sophie (who may well be making me a granny within 15 years !!) loves helping me in the kitchen and, while I'm happy for her to chop mushroom and peel veg, I'm always wary of letting her loose with a sharp knife. The scissors are much less likely to slip and cut her fingers though so I'm happy for her to get much more hands on. Here she is, snipping through the sausages that we cooked in the Actifry (here) !

I've discovered that Kitchen Devils also have the even sturdier Shears that are designed for cutting through bone as well as meat, fish, etc. I'm impressed that the scissors are also dishwasher-safe, although they should be removed and dried as soon as the wash is over to keep them in perfect condition - I have to admit that I prefer washing mine by hand.

I was a bit perplexed by the hole in the middle, that looks like a nutcracker to me, but a quick bit of research reveals that it's a handy bottle opener.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £10.49

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

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Sunday 29 January 2012

Playmobil research reveals children wish their parents had more adventurous jobs

This press release made me smile so I thought I'd share it with you as it's perfect for brightening up a greay Monday morning (if you're reading this in the daily email digest !)


Playmobil research reveals children wish their parents had more adventurous jobs

With many Britons resolving to improve their career this year, children are urging parents to think twice about traditional roles in preference of more exciting day jobs.  According to research from global toy giant Playmobil, children would rather their parents were detectives like Sherlock Holmes and athletes like our Olympic hopefuls, than more conventional roles such as bankers or lawyers.

The survey results - announced at Toy Fair, the biggest UK toy event of the year – reveal the top five jobs children wish their parents had are detective, popstar, Olympic athlete, Prime Minister, and footballer. Opting for professions that capture the imagination as opposed to the sensible choice,  other dream jobs for parents include  animal breeder, train driver, sweet shop owner and scientist.

The research of over 600 children aged 5-11, also investigated which professions parents hope their children will go into when they grow up. The resounding response from children is that their parents want them to be happy or whatever they want to be; demonstrating how supportive and nurturing parents are of their children’s ambitions.

“The results of this research demonstrates the significant role creativity and imagination plays in young children,” said Jamie Dickinson, Marketing Manager for Playmobil. “They are being inspired by everything from their favourite TV programme, the goings-on at Downing Street, and even the toys they play with.
Children love learning and discovering new things and there’s no better way to captivate them than during playtime. In many senses, it’s a great achievement of imagination triumphing over logic and convention.  The sky’s the limit in their eyes – we as adults could benefit from taking a leaf out of their books.”

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Thinking Slimmer SlimPod & MuTu System Week 3 update

Well, after failing miserably to get sweaty last week, my internet connection was back this week and I seriously tackled MuTu System week 3. This week, as well as the core exercises that you do every day (and that take very little effort, it has to be said), the first of the more intensive workouts is introduced. But however unfit you are, the way that it is broken down into bite (or should that be nibble?)-sized segments makes it all seem accessible and pretty easy, whatever your level. You only have to do each exercise for 45 seconds, interspersing each new move with 15 seconds of jogging on the spot to get your heart rate up, and the whole thing only takes about 15 minutes, stretches (or yoga moves as Wendy calls them, but that sounds a bit too daunting !) included. Be honest - who can't find 15 minutes in the day at some point ? I even did one group session with the kids, Sophie joining in and Juliette yelling out the numbers on the timer when it got to 45 and 00 each time ! I used a few extra stomach muscles in that workout because I was laughing so much !

Still feeling a bit cynical, I thought to myself "OK, I got sweaty, but how effective can quarter of an hour of sport actually really be ?". Well, next day when I got up and my bum/backs of my thighs were aching like mad, I think that gave me my answer ! It may take minimum effort but certainly goes for maximum efficiency. MuTu creator Wendy knows what she's doing, even if you don't !!

Food-wise and weight-wise, I wasn't sure what this week would bring. I'd been challenged to try the Farmhouse Breakfast Week Shake Up Your Wake Up campaign so needed to add breakfast into my meal plans every day this week. As I'm usually a naughty breakfast-skipper, this meant eating more rather than less so I was expecting a bit of a weight-gain this week. Part of the MuTu Food advice is to make sure you eat breakfast though so - in for a penny, in for a pound - I decided to go the whole hog and reassess at the end of the week ! I blogged about the Breakfast Week Challenge here.

Well, I've just weighed myself and the scales said 86.3kg. Last week when I weighed myself I'd got back to my pre-Christmas weight of 87.1kg after putting 1kg back on over the festive period. So despite eating more, I've lost almost a kilo this week - woohoo ! That's almost 5kg total weight loss since I started with the SlimPod at the end of October, which I'm very impressed with.

I told you I'd added in the "Keep Losing Weight" and "Make Sport Fun" parts of the SlimPod but I haven't actually been listening to them much, probably only twice for each, with the odd listen to the original "Lose 2 jeans sizes or more" SlimPod which is on my mp3 player for the bus ride to work. I'm still making healthy choices automatically - fruit for dessert at the canteen, sensible breakfasts, avoiding butter on malt loaf (whereas I'd usully slather it on), buying loads of fruit & veg at the farmers' market ...

A couple of new changes I've noticed this week : I've gone off chocolate - eeeek ! I don't hate it but I don't crave it any more. If I'm offered some, I might have one square but just don't fancy any more after that. And I'm turning into a chocolate snob ! While I will happily eat Galaxy or Belgian truffles, I don't eat the kids' rubbish chocolate any more, thinking it's a waste of calories for chocolate that doesn't taste particularly nice ! Don't get me wrong, I'm not dieting or depriving myself - I've still had the odd handful of jelly beans in the evening and I treated myself to a Magnum ice cream bar earlier in the week, but I just haven't fancied sweet, biscuits, cakes or chocolate in the way I usually would have. I took the kids to the bakers as a special treat on Wednesday and just couldn't see anything in the entire shop that I felt like eating, so I came home and had a satsuma instead ! Freaky, I know !

Another "moment" this week was cooking sausages in the Actifry. I was stunned by how much fat came out of them, as I showed you here. Well, I didn't want to throw the liquid fat down the sink because I know it clogs up the pipes so I put it in the sink to cool. Scooping out three huge handfuls of gooey, greasy, congealed fat to throw in the bin made me think about what this must do to your arteries - yuck ! So I didn't have a second's hesitation when choosing a Seafood Salad in place of a burger when we took the kids to McDonalds on Saturday. SlimPod effect or not ? I honestly don't know any more, and I don't even care ! I'm making healthy choices and losing weight so that's all that matters ! 

Don't forget to click on the "SlimPod" and "MuTu" labels at the bottom of the post to see all my updates right from Day 1 (when I was a total cynic).

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Love is in the air for Swizzels Matlow this Valentine's Day

I know a box of chocolates or a bunch of roses is the traditional gift for Valentine's Day but I think the new range from Love Hearts is much more fun and original. What do you think ? I'd be more impressed with one of these !


Roses are red, violets are blue, give your partner a Love Heart tin that says ‘I love you.’ Swizzels Matlow, the makers of Love Hearts, are launching a new Valentine’s Day collection including a limited edition heart-shaped retro tin full of Mini Love Hearts and an ‘I Love You’ tube of sweets.

The British confectionery giant has produced just 100,000 vintage style tins that are destined to become a collector’s item. The tins are available nationwide at a recommended retail of £1.99 while stocks lasts.

Following the success of the Christmas Mini Love Hearts, New Refreshers and Drumstick Lollies tubes, a 108g Love Hearts tube that reads ‘I Love You’ has been launched. This is available nationally for £1.

Sarah-Louise Heslop, Marketing Manager at Swizzels Matlow, said:

“Valentine’s Day excitement is building and we’ve already had lots of enquiries about our new product range. We decided to develop the Love Hearts collection after hearing so many quirky stories from happy couples telling us how they used packets our sweets to propose. Our retro treats offer a range of quirky gifts as an alternative to chocolate. Romantic partners can even hide diamond engagement rings in our tins and tubes. Say I love you the sweet way.”

Swizzels Matlow’s other new romantic gifts include:
  • An exclusive long tube full of Love Hearts that reads ‘I Love You This Much’ available in Tesco for £3
  • Love Hearts Mini Roll bags which are available nationally for £1.
  • Giant Love Hearts four pack which are available nationally for £1.09.
Log onto the Love Hearts Love Calculator to find out how compatible you and your partner are:

To buy a range of Love Hearts sweets and gifts visit:

Facts about Valentine’s Day
  • 2.75 billion Love Hearts are produced every year, that’s enough to stretch 1.5 times around the world
  • The heart may symbolise love because the ancient Greeks believed if Eros, known as Cupid to the Romans, shot you in the heart with one of his arrows you would fall hopelessly in love
  • Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D
  • The first Valentine’s Day gift was sent by Duke of Orleans to his wife, after he was captured in 1415
  • Since the 19th century mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards have become popular.

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Keeping your kids entertained in the car

When I received an email from Chevrolet telling us about their best small car and asking us to blog about how we keep the kids entertained in the car, my immediate reaction was "piece of cake" ! As we quite regularly undertake an 8-hour drive down to Brittany to see the grandparents, we certainly have a few tricks up our sleeves !

First of all, there are a few things to avoid. Reading, for example, often causes travel sickness so is best avoided. Eating chocolate is also another thing prone to bring on travel sickness and leaving drinks in the back of the car for the kids to help themselves to will result in unwanted "Mummmmm I need a weeeeee" stops ! (I'm not suggesting you keep them dehydrated - just don't leave a 2 litre bottle of water in the back "for the journey" - trust me on this, we know !!)

Now, one thing that we have invested in that cost a fair amount but has made the journeys much less arduous is a portable DVD player, so the kids can watch a film in the back. This would also work with a laptop or iPad, if you have one.

Many other ideas are much cheaper though so don't panic if you're working to a tight budget. One of the kids favourite travel games is my now legendary travel treasure hunt, which keeps them amused and giggling in the back for literally hours but does take a lot of effort to prepare. As we have three kids to keep amused, I come up with three sheets of items to spot on the way - some easier than others (orange car, open topped bus, man in a red coat, bike on top of a car, lorry carrying bread, etc ...) and some just plain silly, such as someone picking their nose, a dog doing a poo, roadkill, ... The sillier/yuckier they are, the more the kids love it ! Each item to be spotted has a number next to it and the kids have a carrier bag full of numbered little gifts so they have to rummage through and find the corresponding prize each time they tick off an item. It doesn't have to cost much at all for the prizes because you can wrap up silly things - penny sweets, favourite trinkets from home that they thought they'd left behind, a lone grape, 2p coins, ...

An easier version of this game that is still pretty cheap and takes much less work is the collection of I-Spy books which are brilliant too.

Other collective travel games are trying to make phrases using the letters on car registration plates as the initial letter of each word ; trying to spot every letter of the alphabet in order on adverts, number plates, etc ; first person to see ... ; pub cricket; and the old classics such as I-Spy and "Mrs Brown went shopping and she bought ...". 

Older kids also love marking off the route on a map so either buy them a cheap road map (or give them an old one) or print off the whole route online so that they can look out for landmarks and road numbers on the way. Map-reading is actually a great skill for them to learn. For a slightly easier version, print out the itinerary from Mappy and let them mark off the steps as you go. They'll see the remaining journey geting shorter so it doesn't seem as long for them and this avoids endless "are we nearly there yet ?" calls from the back.

While I don't like mp3 players for teens/tweens on a day-to-day basis, they can be a Godsend on a long journey as it avoids a lot of squabbling in the back ! Headphones for the DVD player also work well and avoid distracting the driver. Audio-books and CDs for everyone to share on the car stereo can also be good but may get on your nerves after a while, depending on what your kids like listening to !

Buying a tube of tiny sweets like midget gems, jelly tots or jelly beans and telling them to share them out but make sure everyone gets the same number and the same colours will keep them busy for a while too !

Crossword books for older kids and activity/colouring books for smaller kids can be a good idea too but be warned that they'll end up dropping their pencils/felt tips on the floor and want to unbuckle their seatbelts to go and retrieve them, which is a definite no-no.

And finally, make the most of your time in a confined space together to really catch up with each other and talk. In our hectic day-to-day lives, we often don't have (or take) the time to really sit down and have a good heart-to-heart so make up for lost time. Come up with a series of questions that you wouldn't normally think to ask - what job would you love, where would you go if you could go to any country in the world, if you were a millionaire what would you buy, what's your favourite and least favourite thing about every member of the family, etc ... Be prepared to let the kids pick your brains too ! It can bring up some surprising questions and answers ! You can actually buy decks of cards with conversation-starter questions too, if you're lacking in inspiration.

Happy travelling !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Our fabulous Christmas Shopping Day Trip with P&O Ferries
Meet The Cuties and Pals – the latest must-have in children’s luggage for kids
Wired Kidzgear headphones for kids review

Saturday 28 January 2012

Kids' app review : Max & Ruby Max’s Mole Mash

Max & Ruby are brother and sister rabbits who feature in a Canadian cartoon of the same name, aimed at preschoolers. It apparently exists in both France and the UK, as well as various other countries, but I have to admit that it's a programme that has totally passed me by so far. Nevertheless, when the opportunity came up on Mom Fuse to try out a new app based on the loveable bunnies, I jumped at the chance because it looked just the sort of thing to appeal to the kids.

Sure enough, despite not knowing the characters, 2-year-old Pierre (who blows my mind by being a total pro on the iPad, knowing how to turn it on, choose his app and play all by himself !) was instantly attracted to the little picture of rabbits and clicked through to play. The game is incredibly simple - you just have to bash the little moles on the head as they pop up, just like the game you sometimes see in amusement arcades - so Pierre worked out immediately what you had to do.

He was giggling his head off and I noticed that his coordination and speed were getting much better as he played. The first few times, he kept missing the moles and hitting the wrong places or being too slow but within a few minutes, he was bashing them like nobody's business, hence the giggling !

His big sisters (aged 6 and 10) also wanted to play and had great fun with it too. To keep things interesting, you can choose between 8 different Max & Ruby themed mole mash machines and there are also two different modes, arcade or puzzle mode. There are apparently an unlimited number of levels to play and you can collect 8 Max & Ruby Wallpapers, as well as unlock a mini version of the racing game, Speedy Max.

The Madhouse mini-testers all loved it and had great fun with it, despite being unfamilair with the TV programme, so whether or not your children are fans of the cartoon, it's sure to get a good welcome. I bet the grown-ups will while away a few sneaky moments playing it too because it's strangely addicitve ! It's a good price too.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £1.49

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