Sunday 30 June 2013

Giveaway #298 : Win 3 x Cloudbabies: Wide Awake Sun DVD - closed - winners Karen Ries, Tina M Holmes, Mark Palmer

I've just posted my review of the new Cloudbabies DVD, Wide Awake Sun, which is due for release tomorrow.

Abbey Home Media have generously offered 3 copies of the DVD to give away to Madouse Family Reviews readers. To be in with a chance of winning, just enter your details in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 14/7/13

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook, twitter and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after a week, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners.

Kids' DVD review : Cloudbabies - Wide Awake Sun

Tomorrow sees the release of a brand new Cloudbabies DVD, called Wide Awake Sun, and we were very pleased to receive a review copy. It features the following episodes :

Wide Awake Sun
It's time for Sun to go to bed but Sun doesn't want to. 'In a minute' he keeps saying. He wants to stay up and play with Bobo White, Little Star and Fuffa Cloud. Baba Green is worried that Sun is up past his bedtime and calls on the other Cloudbabies to help sing Sun to sleep.

Mystery Noise
Little Star hears a rumbly noise in the sky and is spooked by it. The Cloudbabies venture out into the
night sky to find out where the noise is coming from.

Rainbow in a Knot
Rainbow has gotten himself into a knot and is unable to sling the stars into the sky. Without Rainbow there will be no shooting stars. Bobo White and Skydonk come to the rescue in the most unlikely way.

Full Moon
The Cloudbabies hear a rumble coming from the sky and soon realise that it’s coming from a very hungry Moon. Her tummy is rumbling!

Bobo White and Skydonk are playing around in the Skygarden and accidentally crash into Baba Green’s prized Fluffigold flowers. The pollen from the flowers begin to make everyone sneeze.

Being Baba Pink
It’s morning and Baba Pink has all of her jobs to do, but she didn’t sleep well and is still very tired.
The other Cloudbabies offer to do her jobs for her, but no-one can do them quite like Baba Pink.

Pierre always loves watching the Cloudbabies because they are just so lovely and kind to each other (a great life lesson for preschoolers in there) and I usually watch with him because I think they have cute faces and the visual aspect with all the pretty colours appeals to me. We have actually been known to ride pretend skyhorses on the walk to school, which is always a great way of getting there with no complaints when Pierre has woken up grumpy and tired !

If you have a little Cloudbabies fan in your midst, you'll be pleased to know that I have a giveaway coming up in just a second where you can win your very own copy of the DVD.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : not sure but you can snap one up for £5.99 at Sainsbury's

  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: Abbey Home Media Group
  • DVD Release Date: 1 July 2013
  • Run Time: 60 minutes

Disclosure : We received a copy of the DVD in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Kids' DVD review : Lala-Oopsies: A Sew Magical Tale

Fruit & veg box 30/6

Wow, the sun is shining, it's a beautiful day and maybe the summer is finally here ? In any case, there's a definite tropical theme going on at the farmers' market today ! There were melons everywhere ! I came back with two canary melons (the yellow and green ones) and four Charentais melons, as well as three mangoes.

There's a little pineapple and some oranges, plus four kiwi fruit, two avocadoes and some Grenaille baby potatoes.

In the fridge we already had some spring onions, courgettes, red and green peppers, mushrooms, three cucumbers, tomatoes and salad.

I love how vibrant all the colours are. Lots of tropical fruit salad and cakes on the menu this week, I think :)

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

#Vegboxchallenge week 7

Sunday weigh-in : I got the power !

Last week was the week from hell weight-loss wise. Despite being good in terms of food and exercise, I put on almost a kilo and made my badges go back to more to lose than lost. I was feeling disheartened and not in control so I decided to start the SlimPod all over again. I still don't really understand how it works its magic but I did realise that, right back in the beginning, my ultimate goal was to lose about 10 kilos and get down to anything in the 70's. Well, now that I've achieved that, was my brain telling me "job well done, you can stop losing weight now?".

So I remembered what the lovely Sandra at Thinking Slimmer said about the importance of goals and made some new ones. I made a goal map and put it as my wallpaper so I see it every time I turn on my computer. I got a beautiful hardbacked journal from Hallmark and made it into my SlimPod Journal. I wrote down my positives on a daily basis and set definite goals - quite scary because you don't want to aim too high and set yourself up for a series of failures but you don't want to aim too low and not give yourself that motivation either. I listened to the voice of the lovely Trevor every day without fail.

And despite eating three chocolates in the Belgian chocolate shop yesterday (walking past box after box of free chocolates would test the willpower of a saint !) and Madhouse Daddy giving me two mini pots of Haagen Dazs this week, I achieved everything I set out to achieve. I feel back in control - time for round 2 so bring it on !

Positives of the week

- I did my new fitness DVD twice and each time, got a bit further through the workouts.

- I've been eating lots of salad and 300-calorie Tasty Little Numbers pots (which is why I got away with the chocolate and ice cream !)

- I've gone back to picking water instead of diet coke - it makes no difference to the calories but apparently helps with not craving sugar and sweet things so much.

- Above all, my smile is back and I'm back to believing that I can do this. I hadn't realised that I'd stopped believing until I started listening to the SlimPod again and feeling different !

- My badges have gone back to the right side of the half way mark. Last week was a sob-inducing 28lb lost/29lb to go but this weeks are - tada ! - 27lb to go/30lb lost

This week's targets 

Last week's target was : Lose what I put on this week. Do the Total Cardio Burn workout at least twice (I'll be aiming to build up to alternate days eventually.) - ACHIEVED

This week's target is :  - Get back to my lucky number of 77.7kg.

Longer-term targets : Ultimately to hit the 60's.

STILL TO GO : 12.6kg

Feel free to add your weightloss posts to our weekly linkie - it's great to see how everyone else has been getting on and give each other support and encouragement :) 

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

 MyFitnessPal - Nutrition Facts For Foods

Saturday 29 June 2013

Come Dine with Taylor Wimpey blogger challenge

I was recently invited to join in the Come Dine with Taylor Wimpey blogger challenge and I have to say, it sounded right up my street. They explained : "Come Dine with Taylor Wimpey is an exciting chance to show off your creativity in menu planning with the chance of winning a cash prize at the end of it! We have paired with two influential food bloggers: Ruth Clemens, author of the Pink Whisk blog and finalist in the Great British Bake-Off in 2010; and Mr P, author of influential food blog DeliciousDeliciousDelicious. Both will work alongside a representative from Taylor Wimpey to help judge the competition.

To enter, all you have to do is plan your dream dinner party menu, including all three courses and the drinks that would be served. You don’t have to actually cook the meal to enter."

Menus will be judged on creativity and originality,with extra points awarded for using locally-sourced and seasonal produce. Right, time to get my virtual chef's hat on ! I'll be championing Sussex produce for this one then.

Welcome Drink : Fred Astaire's Favourite Sham-pagne Cocktail

A glass of Ridgeview's Cavendish (sparkling champagne-type wine from the South Downs), with a dash of Appledram's Ginger Cordial (from Pump Bottom Farm - I so wish it was Plump Bottom Farm ! - in Appledram near Chichester). Served with a juicy strawberry on the side of the glass and a bowlful of homemade Parmesan Crisps, to offer sweetness and saltiness to help offset the spicy bite of the ginger.

Starter : Show Boats

Crisp endive leaf boats, stuffed with salmon rillettes (homemade using salmon from Springs Smoked Salmon on the South Downs), sprinkled with fresh locally-grown spring onions and chives.

Accompanying wine : A crisp white wine - Carr Taylor's 1066 (from just outside of my hometown of Hastings)

Main Course : South Pacific

Colourful, spicy Polynesian Chicken - chicken thighs, sprinkled with chilli, garlic salt and lime zest, browned then simmered with onions, pineapple chunks, red and green pepper, chilli pepper and pineapple juice - served with Creamy Coconut and Mangetout Risotto

Accompanying Wine : an Organic Pinot Noir Dornfelder Rosé from Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard

Dessert : Till The Clouds Roll By

A summery twist on the classic Ile Flottante recipe : Fluffy clouds of meringue floating on a sea of liquidised local strawberries, thickened with icing sugar and flavoured with a dash of Bramble Liqueur (from Lurgashall Winery at Blackdown Hill in West Sussex), sprinkled with crushed pistachios and decorated with a few strawberry halves. 

Accompanying Wine : A Sparkling Brut from the wonderfully named Breaky Bottom in the South Downs (is it just me that immediately thinks of breaking wind?!)

So there you have it - did you guess the theme for the evening?

Disclosure : This is my entry for the Come Dine with Taylor Wimpey blogger challenge. The competition is open until 30th June 2013.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

What's Cooking at The Madhouse next week ? menu plan 28/6

Nashville : Complete Season One DVD review

Country music has a really bad reputation in the UK, so when an American friend online mentioned that it was all he ever really listened to, I scoffed. He therefore went on a mission to prove to me that country music isn't all twangy guitars and suicidal lyrics and I have to say, I discovered some great musical talent - huge names in the States that most Europeans have probably never even heard of. 

I was therefore intrigued to see what I'd make of Nashville, an American TV show that has just been renewed for a second series and whose Complete Season One DVD is out in a couple of weeks. It actually reconciles the two different views I now have of country music and will be a great way of introducing both styles to a wider European audience.

The official blurb says : "Country gets dirty as two of its major stars go to war! In Nashville, the established ‘Queen of Country’ is upstaged by a successful newcomer but won’t give up her crown that easily in this new smash-hit TV series starring Hayden Panettiere (Heroes, Malcolm In The Middle) and Connie Britton (The West Wing, 24). Faded country music star Rayna Jaymes (Britton) is asked by her record label to support new young, best-selling star Juliette Barnes (Panettiere) on tour after her own records don’t sell so well. Rayna puts her career at risk by rejecting the idea of a joint tour because she can’t stand Juliette’s new style of ‘bubble-gum country’. But the two women come into conflict when they try to sign up the same guitarist, Rayna’s bandmate and former lover Deacon Claybourne (ER’s Charles Esten)."

I have only watched the first disc so far (out of five, featuring 21 episodes) and I'm already totally hooked. It reminds me of Desperate Housewives with a cracking musical soundtrack ! The storylines are full of drama - I can already see the foundations being laid for some serious showdowns and plot twists later in the series - and the powerplay between the two musical rivals is gripping. Young up-and-coming Juliette comes across as a total bitch in the first few episodes but her heartbreaking background is slowly revealed and Rayna is great as the older singer, determined not to let her fame slip away before she's ready - there's life in the old dog yet ! (Not that I'm calling her a dog !). The love interest is realistic and could go either way too so it's really addictive stuff !

One big surprise is that Hayden Panettiere can really sing - in fact, she recently released a single, Hypnotizing, which you can listen to below.

If you like that (and admit it - you liked it more than you expected, didn't you ?!), you might like to know that Volume 2 of the Nashville Official soundtrack was released on May 20th via Universal Records.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £34.99

  • Number of discs: 5
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: Lions Gate Home Entertainment UK Ltd
  • DVD Release Date: 15 July 2013

Disclosure : I received the DVDs in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Fitness DVD review : Total Cardio Burn with Caroline Pearce

Get ready for Discovery's Instagram competition !

To celebrate the launch of their brand new Instagram page at the beginning of July, Discovery Foods are encouraging all you food fanatics to get creative in the kitchen. They’re looking for the most creative uses of Mexican food with great images to share with all their fans.

Simply create a delicious and beautifully presented Mexican meal using Discovery Food products and share your photo via the Instagram page to be in with a chance of winning one of 10 exciting prizes to the value of £25 every week for 4 weeks! To enter all you need to do is upload your recipe with the @Discoveryfoods tag.

They sent me through a selection of products so that I could get involved. I can't wait to try out the tacos and enchiladas.

We often make fajitas here at The Madhouse which always go down well.

And the kids love using up the leftover wraps to make Choco-Changas - our banana and chocolate version of Chimichangas !

If you join in with the competition, leave me a link to your photos - I'm always on the lookout for inspiration for new recipes to try.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Our Cinco de Mayo Fiesta with Discovery

Where are you heading off on holiday?

Sophie has a new hobby - virtually walking around the hotel that we will be staying in in Agadir, Morocco, in a month's time on Google Earth ! She's getting more and more excited, especially as she has already checked out the pool and the restaurant and explored the streets of Agadir. (Has anyone been there? What does the Arabic writing on the hills say ?)

Where are you heading off to this summer ? I'd love to hear about all the exciting trips you have planned. I can't wait to create some new lifelong memories that we'll be talking about in years to come - I'm seriously thinking about doing one of those parachute rides on the beach - eeeek ! I'm sure the kids will want another camel ride too ! 

I really should come up with a bucket list of things I want to do - I saw a blogger challenge on just that theme actually so I should take part. Panasonic's video above has given me some great ideas too - Las Vegas, Jamaica and Japan all appeal to me, maybe when the kids are older and have flown the nest !

Disclosure : Spreaditfast will be sending me a voucher for featuring their video.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Sunuva UV-Protective Swimwear Review

Oreo-Topped Custard Pots

I love trying out new foodie products so when these intriguing-looking Oreo products made an appearance in the "exotic cuisine" section of our local store, I couldn't resist popping a box into my basket. Made by the brand Royal, they have been imported from Spain so they are called Natillas - they look like custard pots but I wasn't really sure what to expect. 
As you can see in the top photo, you get three sachets - two for the custardy base and one sachet of Oreo pieces to sprinkle over the top. You need one sachet of custard and half of the Oreos sachet for five dessert pots. You add "4-8 spoonfuls" (a bit vague - do they mean teaspoons or tablespoons? I went for 4 tablespoons and figured that would be about 8 teaspoons so I'd be within the range either way !) and 750ml of milk. The recipe says full fat (well, I assume that is what "leche entera" means anyway, as it's "lait entier" in French !) but I used skimmed and it worked fine.

First problem, all the instructions were in Spanish ! I managed to work most of it out, even without typing it all into Google Translator, which left me feeling quite chuffed as I've never had a single lesson of Spanish in my life !
You blend the milk and the custard mix and bring it to the boil, stirring continuously. It went very thick and gloopy.

Pour into five ramekins, leave to go cold and refrigerate for several hours.

When it has set, sprinkle over the Oreo pièces and serve.
The jury is well and truly out on this one. Juliette absolutely loved it, Pierre didn't like it, Sophie ate it but wasn't keen and I thought it didn't really taste of anything much. I still have the other half of the box to use so I'll be adding vanilla to the custard part next time to give it a bit more oomph.
It was interesting to try though !
Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Friday 28 June 2013

10 ‘recipe rules’ to reduce saturated fat content in recipes

You may remember a couple of months ago, I took part in a 30% Less Blogger Challenge where I had to create a lighter (in fat and calories) version of a favourite family recipe. If you're clever, this can actually be achieved in a variety of ways. Here is some advice for reducing the amount of saturated fat in your cooking from the Fat Information Service :


A recent UK study analysed 904 recipes developed by celebrity chefs and discovered over three quarters (87%) contained high levels of undesirable nutrients, particularly saturated fats. Eating too much of this type of fat contributes to heart disease and obesity.

Prompted by the new findings, along with evidence indicating that the UK currently consume 20% more saturated fat than is recommended, Fat Information Service experts have developed 10 easy to follow rules that can be applied to any recipe to help make it healthier by reducing the saturated fat content.

The new initiative by FIS aims to encourage the nation to get ‘recipe savvy’ by helping them recognise how to make their favourite home-cooked meals healthier without compromising on taste. For example, simply swapping butter for a vegetable oil based spread or replacing cream with low fat yogurt can significantly reduce the saturated fat content of a recipe. In addition, FIS are also reminding people of the importance of comparing food labels and selecting products that are lower in saturated fat as another simple way to boost their heart health.

Dr Emma Derbyshire, nutritionist and independent advisor to FIS, comments, “Celebrity chefs are great for inspiring people to cook fresh meals and try different types of foods. The problem is that their recipes are generally far too high in saturated fat and calories to be eaten regularly, making them better suited for treats and special occasions.

“The ‘recipe rules’ developed by the Fat Information Service aim to address this by introducing simple changes that people can make to any type of recipe to make it healthier and allow them to include it as part of their regular diet.

“These simple steps to cut down on the amount of saturated fat, such as adapting recipes by swapping less healthy ingredients with lower sat fat ones, and using healthier cooking methods, could potentially save thousands of lives and years of living with heart disease."

The Fat Information Service Recipe Rules:

1. If the recipe includes cream, replace with lower fat fromage frais, natural yoghurt or crème fraiche
2. Swap whole milk for semi skimmed or skimmed milk
3. If you are using cheese to flavour a dish or a sauce, opt for a strong tasting cheese and use a smaller amount of it. Alternatively, try a reduced fat version
4. Swap butter for vegetable oil based spreads or margarine
5. Use unsaturated oils such as olive, sunflower or rapeseed oils instead of butter, lard or ghee
6. Wherever possible grill meat and poultry instead of frying it and cut off any visible fat or skin before cooking
7. Use a non stick pan to avoid adding extra fat when cooking
8. Add less meat to stews and casseroles and replace with pulses and extra vegetables instead
9. When making a pie opt for just one crust – either a lid or a base – as pastry is high in saturated fat - (also try to make pastry with vegetable oil based spreads or margarine instead of butter)
10. Grill, bake, poach or steam rather than frying and roasting

for more information :

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Sunday Weigh-in : Cheesed Off

Madhouse recipe : Crunchy Chicken Dippers

This dish is so quick and simple, it barely merits a recipe post, but the Madhouse Mini-testers loved it so much, they wanted me to share it !

Crunchy Chicken Dippers

a family-sized bag of ready salted crisps
1 egg, beaten
grated parmesan
chicken breast fillets

Open the crisp bag. Put it in a freezer bag (with the freezer bag upside down to prevent the crisps going everywhere) and use a rolling pin to crush them. Put them in a bowl and add a cupful of grated parmesan.

Cut the chicken breasts into three or four pieces. Dip each piece in egg then crisps. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 180°C for about 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

We used ready salted crisps but the Madhouse Mini-testers now want to experiment with other flavours - Cheese & Onion, Salt & Vinegar or Roast Chicken are their top picks for the moment. They have also asked if we can make homemade fishfingers with salt & vinegar or prawn cocktail crisp coating, which sounds like it should work too !

These can be eaten hot or cold so would be great for kids' parties or picnics.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Madhouse Recipe : Spooky Stuffed Peppers

What's Cooking at The Madhouse next week ? menu plan 28/6

This time next week, I'll be dancing around the room as it will be the start of our long, 2-month summer holiday - woohoo !


lunch - Fishfingers with rice and peas.

dinner - Madhouse Daddy soup, if I can talk him into it ! French onion soup with toasted cheesy croutons sounds nice for a change


lunch - traditional Sunday roast or barbecue, depending on the weather (probably roast, judging by the weather forecast)

dinner - just a sandwich or some of Madhouse Daddy's soup


dinner - I fancy trying to make Fougasse, a type of bread, with olives, bacon and parmesan - just need to find a recipe ! Served with salad and tomatoes


dinner - homemade lasagne or cannelloni - same recipe either way !


lunch - beefburgers and spaghetti

dinner - Can't decide whether to lean towards Chinese or Indian - either way it'll be fruity chicken, either with cashews, pineapple and onions or mushrooms, dried apricots and curry sauce.


dinner - garlic & lime salmon with creamed carrots and mushroom risotto


dinner - grilled marinaded chicken thighs with potato wedges and salad

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

Amoy Sweet Soy Sticky Glaze review

Having defrosted some chicken fillets for dinner, I rushed home from work and looked in the cupboard for inspiration. I wanted something quick and simple but tasty and, if possible, a bit exotic and this pouch of Amoy Sweet Soy Sticky Glaze ticked all the right boxes.

I didn't have time to leave the chicken to marinate, but I'm sure this would help give it a deeper flavour. The instructions on the pack don't actually ask you to do this though - they just say to score the meat and cover it with the sauce before putting it in the oven for 25 minutes at 180°. I cut the chicken into smaller strips so that it got more sauce all over it, so it actually cooked through in about 15-20 minutes.

And there you have it - a fuss-free and very tasty meal that looks like you spent a lot more time on it than you really did ! The glaze is sweet and nowhere near as salty as I was expecting. It's also not at all spicy so this is a good one for anyone who doesn't like their food to have a kick. While it was in the oven, the Madhouse Mini-testers wandered through the kitchen and said "what's cooking that smells like the Chinese restaurant?" which is always a good sign !

The ingredients list is reassuringly free of artificial additives - Water, Sugar, Soy Sauce (6%, Water, Soybean, Salt, Wheat Flour), Modified Cornflour, Fresh Ginger, Sunflower Oil, Colour (Plain Caramel), Fresh Garlic, Fresh Onions, Yeast Extract, Acid - Lactic Acid, Spices, Rice Wine (Rice, Water, Soybean), Sesame Seeds - and one 1/4 pack serving contains 84 calories, 1.1g of fat (of which 0.1g saturates), 17.9g of carbs (of which 12.3g of sugar) and 0.6g of salt.

For those nights when you're in a rush, it's absolutely ideal.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £1.49 for 180g

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

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Thursday 27 June 2013

Nutribox review

I recently received a Nutribox through the post, which is a subscription service that delivers a box full of healthy snacks to your door every month. The team behind the service explain : "Our approach to healthy eating is pretty simple : for a snack to be included in our boxes it has to taste great and be nutritiously bountiful."  Before you even get to the contents, the writing on the box tells you what to look forward to : All Natural, Energising, Deliciously Nutritious, Wholesome Tasty Goodness.

I opened the box and discovered the contents : 

- a Ploughshares Raw Organic Fruit & Nut Kiwi & Pineapple Slice 
- a Maca Ashwagandha Raw Chocolate Bar
- Bounce Natural Energy Ball Peanut Protein Blast
- Organic Mulu Raw Chocolate
- Ludlow Nut Co Spring Fling
 - Ludlow Nut Co Brazil Nut Mix
- The Raw Chocolate Co Organic Raw Chocolate Mulberries
- Nakd Ginger Bread Raw Fruit & Nut Bar
- Beond Raw Bio Organic Acai Berry Bar

All of the products are suitable for vegetarians (several are suitable for vegans too) and are all gluten-free too. Many are also dairy free. What I really like is that many of the products come from small artisan producers that I had never heard of before so it's great to discover some lesser known products and companies.

Tastewise, the ones that I've tried so far have been quite nice. The focus is on healthy, nutritious snacks so you're never going to get something that tastes as good as sugar and fat-packed highly processed items such as sweets, chocolate or biscuits, but you do get to feel good about filling your body with things that are good for it rather than junk !

The Nutri-box is available in two sizes - the mini (which we received) which contains between 8 and 10 products and costs £12.95, or the regular sized Nutribox containing 16-20 products for £25. You get free delivery and if you sign up for more than one month, the price decreases slightly. (They promise that the normal retail value of the snacks in your box will always be more than the price you pay.)

As a special bonus, the first ten Madhouse Family Reviews readers to place an order will receive 35% off their first box. The code is MADHOUSE35. Happy snacking !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £12.95 or £25

for more information :, Facebook ( and Twitter (

Disclosure : I received a Nutribox in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Kitchen Nomad for a Culinary World Tour - First Stop Greece !

Madhouse Recipe : Strawberry Lemon Bars

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