Wednesday 31 December 2014

Brother PT-H105 handheld label printer review

Just before Christmas, Brother got in touch with us to see if we'd be interested in reviewing one of their handheld label printers. As they pointed out, they’re ideal for labelling everything from leftovers in the freezer to files in the home office and at this time of year, they’re also great for labelling Christmas presents!

Well, this made me feel a bit nostalgic. When I was a kid growing up in the 1970's, I remember being very impressed with a clunky old label printer that we had that had a wheel you had to turn around to mechanically select the letters before stamping them on little strips of red or black tape. If you messed up a letter, you couldn't delete it - you just had to snip it off and start the label all over again. These were used for labelling cine films and putting the dates on Top 40 tapes recorded off the radio on a Sunday night and various other things that modern kids won't have heard of. (I found a picture of the labeller that we had on the hilarious You Know You're Over 40 When blog. You think that's bad? Click through to have a look at this picture of my first ever computer - the Vic 20. Yes, that's right, you had to load programmes from a tape deck !) 

Well, my obvious first reaction when I laid eyes on the Brother P-Touch PT-H105 Handheld Labelling Machine was wow, it's gone all hi-tech ! Inside the box, you get a sleek silver handheld unit (more about that in a moment), an instruction booklet and a sample of Black on White Laminated tape - enough to get you started but you will need to buy more. I thought this was a bit stingy actually - they could have provided a full-sized tape cartridge, knowing that you'll be playing with it lots when it first arrives !

The user-friendly control panel is simple enough to find your way around and allows you to change the size and font of your letters. You have a choice of nine fonts and you can even add little symbols next to your text.

It also has a built-in cutter which is handy but I did find that it wasted quite a lot of tape before and after each label so I found it more economical (in terms of tape) to print several labels at once and then snip them apart. It is also quite greedy when it comes to batteries - it needs 6 x AAA batteries and they don't last very long - so it might be worth investing in a power lead, which can be bought separately.

As you can see, it fits easily into one hand and is comfortable to use. It looks quite chunky but isn't heavy. Madhouse Daddy took it to work and promptly used up all the tape that was provided so I'll have to wait and buy some more so that I can have a proper play with it ! He was very impressed with them though - they stick well and look much more professional than his usual hand-scrawled Post-It notes on top of his wallet folders !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £40

Snowman Mosaic Foam Activity Kit review

The Madhouse kids got some of these little Snowman Mosaic Foam Activity Kits in their stockings and they had great fun this morning making them, still in their pyjamas and snuggled under the blankets on Madhouse Nanny's settee !

They're dead easy to do, even for quite young children, because the different squares are coloured as well as numbered so that you know which coloured squares to stick where, even if you don't recognise the numbers.

The little foam squares are adhesive so you just have to peel the backing paper off then put them in position - they stick firmly but can be peeled off and repositioned if really necessary. I found it easier to peel the backing paper off in one go, rather than on each individual square which is quite fiddly.

They're quite small kits so they only took about half an hour to make - perfect for keeping the kids busy while they waited for everyone else to get out of bed !

The finished designs look fabulous (you can't see the glittery white of the snow squares that add some festive sparkle) and the little string to tie into a loop means that they are great to hang on door handles or in the windows in the run up to Christmas.

Did your December comping go out with a bang?

Even before I had a chance to look at the advent calendar competitions, I was delighted to get 3 tweets telling me I'd won prizes on 1st December.

First up was a £20 Love To Shop voucher and some lovely bonus mystery prizes.

Second was a crafting bundle from Costcutter.

And making up the hat trick was a lovely runner up prize in a twitter giveaway.

The advents weren't great, I only won a bubbly Santa on the M&S pass the parcel game and didn't even bother going to pick it up.

I won a Spearmint and Tea Tree Nurture Balm from @MaryElizabethbc on twitter

Followed by a Lurpak tea towel on twitter and a lovely choccie prize on Given To Distracting Others (which hasn't arrived yet but I'll count it in this month's winnings)

I won some lovely Tinkerbell prizes (a doll, some pens and a beautiful bauble)

And finally I was hit by a Cadbury snowball and received a bag of chocolate snowballs :)

I hope you've had a great final month and a great year of comping - what was your favourite prize of 2014? Or maybe you haven't won a thing all year ?!

You might also like to check out my own giveaways :

Giveaway #451 : Win a DryNites® night time kit - closing date 11/1/15

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Looking to cut back on sugar in the New Year? Try prunes !

As Big Ben chimes in the New Year tomorrow night, lots of us will be promising to make an effort to eat more healthily and up our fruit and veg intake while reducing the quantity of sugar in our diets. These recipes from California Prunes landed in my inbox earlier and they tick all the right boxes.

Prune & Mango Smoothie

The perfect pick-me-up after a night out on the town. Prunes are a source of vitamin B which helps reduce tiredness and fatigue. Whip up this smoothie to put a spring back in your step !

Ingredients :

5 (50g) California prunes roughly chopped
1 orange
1 mango stoned, peeled and chopped
100g low fat natural yoghurt
200ml semi-skimmed milk

Instructions :

Grate the rind of the orange then cut off the peel and cut into segments – do this over a bowl to catch the juice.

Place the orange rind and segments in a liquidiser with the remaining ingredients, including the juice, and whiz until smooth.

Pour into 2 glasses and drink immediately.

Low Sugar California Prune Cake

Feeling the pinch after a little Christmas over-indulgence? Have your cake and eat it too as this cake has twice the taste and half the calories and California prunes have low GI and natural slow release of energy.


650g California Prunes
10oz Butter
750g Evaporated Milk
5oz Plain Flour
5oz Wholemeal Flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 heaped tablespoon chunky low sugar marmalade


Line an 8 Inch (20cm) square cake tin on the base and sides with baking parchment. You'll need extra to cover the top.

Place California Prunes in a large pan, Add evaporated milk and butter. Bring everything to the boil stirring frequently to stop it sticking. When boiling turn down heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Let prune mixture cool for approx. 30 minutes.

Sift flours and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl (add bran from wholemeal flour after sieving) and preheat oven gas mark 3 / 170°C / 150°C fan.

Add California Prune mixture to flour mix with a large spoon, add marmalade and mix.
Spoon mixture into lined tin and cover with double square of baking parchment with a hole in the centre (about the size of a ten pence). Bake for 2 to 2 hours 15 minutes.

When baked remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes, transfer to rack.

Our Christmas Crafting with Yellow Moon

We had loads of family fun getting creative in the run up to Christmas - so much so in fact that I didn't have enough time to blog about it all ! Here's a slightly belated round-up of the crafty fun we had, thanks to Yellow Moon who sent us a lovely pack of festive crafting materials and also little stocking fillers from their vast range of kid-friendly products.

These festive plastic Snow Pals Mugs (£2.95 for 3) really appealed to Pierre and as there were three in the pack, they were perfect for the Madhouse kids to share out. They've been using them non-stop in the run up to Christmas. I can't decide whether to keep them out or put them away until next year so they become a special part of the Christmas excitement build-up.

 The next thing that intrigued Pierre were these little finger lights (£2.49 for 4). They don't look hugely impressive in the pack but they're great fun once you've used the little elastic loops to attach them to your fingers and turned them on. 

Pierre couldn't decide if he wanted to be ET ... "ouch !" ...

Or the Incredible Hulk !

They look very effective in the dark and Pierre has already declared that he will use them to replace his night light if he needs to go to the toilet in the middle of the night.

On to the first crafty project - these cute wooden houses (£3.95 for 4) with a swivel lid have a secret hidey hole nestling inside and are perfect for customising with paints, felt tips, crayons, even collage. I have a plan for making these extra special by drawing doors and windows with little photos of the kids peeking out. They've been put aside for now but I'll show you the end result when they're finished. 

Pierre and Juliette had great fun colouring in the 'Merry Christmas' Pop-Up Cards (£1.99 for 8) and with eight in a pack, there are plenty for keeping all the grandparents, teachers and special aunties and uncles happy ! 

Our favourite project was these Santa's Toy Shop craft kits (£3.95 for 2), made out of squishy sheets of foam.

You just press the pre-cut pieces out and slot them together to create the main structure.

Then you peel the backing off the adhesive parts (door, windows, snow, presents, candy canes, Santa and elves) and customise your toy shop, either following the model on the pack or using your imagination.

It's very simple but looks great. I love the fact that it's all self-contained and needs no glue or scissors - except for the chimney so we actually didn't bother with that, as it still looks great without it. You get two kits in a pack.

Hmm what's next? You can't go far wrong with some self-inking stampers.

Pierre and Juliette went stamper-crazy and loved the cute designs and the festive red and green colours. A pack of 10 only costs £2.99 so they're a great investment as they can be used for all sorts of projects, from making Christmas cards and decorating things to creating home-made wrapping paper.

We still have a couple of things we haven't used yet - a big paint pad (£2.55) for creating your own hand prints (I have some ideas for crafty projects to do with this already, or they also sell handprint placemats) and some beautiful sparkly Christmas foam glitter stickers (£2.99 for 120).

Yellow Moon are a great place to look for party-bag fillers and crafting supplies all year round, not just at Christmas.

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

The Bauble of Hope #AidensXmas

Have a look at the Madhouse Grandparent's woodland themed Christmas tree, with lots of little animals like squirrels, owls, reindeer and robins peeking out through the branches.

If you look a bit closer, you may spot one decoration that isn't really inkeeping with the wildlife theme.

This very cute bauble of a smiling baby Aiden, who is the face of Action Medical Research for Children's Christmas appeal. He received cooling therapy, which helped save his life when he didn't get enough oxygen at birth. Cooling therapy is just one of the amazing medical breakthroughs that Action Medical Research has helped to fund.

You can read more (and maybe make a donation) at

Monday 29 December 2014

Thanks Lush for my bathtime #SnowmanFUN !

In the weeks before Christmas, like all parents, I was busy squirreling away squeal-inducing surprises for the Madhouse kids, so I was delighted to receive one of my own from the lovely people at Lush.

I received a bar of Snowman Fun which looks just like modelling clay, in white, orange and black, perfect for creating snowmen.

I couldn't resist pulling off a lump and creating this cute little fellow. But this isn't just modelling clay, it has a few sneaky surprises up (or inside) its sleeve. Firstly, once you've finished playing with it, it can be used as shampoo, bubble bath, shower gel or soap. Secondly, it has a fabulous citrussy fragrance with lots of mysterious uplifting topnotes that I was unable to pinpoint (unsurprisingly, when I went to check - it's a blend of buchu, bergamot and Sicilian lemon essential oils). And last but not least, yours isn't the only face that will have a smile on it because this snowman has a big heart - 10p from the sale of each bar is contributed to the LUSH FunD, which is distributed in grants to projects in Japan providing fun and recreational activities for the children still living in challenging environments following the 2011tsunami and nuclear distaster.

My cute little snowman may have smelt great and fitted in perfectly with the wintry landscape that the Madhouse grandparents had set out for Christmas, but I just couldn't resist squishing him up and taking him off to the bath for a lovely relaxing soak !

The Snowman Fun is from Lush's limited edition Christmas range but you can buy non-festive Fun bars all year round. They only cost £5 so I'll definitely be treating myself to another one when this one runs out !

for more information :

Disclosure : I received a bar in the post which was a lovely surprise !

Dael-ightful festive snacking with Daelmans Stroopwafels

I recently received a package of goodies from Daelmans containing their wonderfully indulgent Stroopwafels. If you're unfamiliar with them (and more fool you because theyr're delicious !), they're traditional Dutch waffles filled with gooey caramel. Daelmans is the leading producer of Stroopwafels and over 1 billion Daelmans products are eaten worldwide every year.

Stroopwafels were created in Gouda, Holland as an indulgent accompaniment to coffee so they asked me to create my perfect afternoon coffee spread to combat that 3pm slump. Well, I'm not actually a coffee drinker but that certainly doesn't stop me enjoying Stroopwafels, or coming up with an afternoon snack.

After some experimenting with ice cream (melts too quickly) and stewed apple (makes the waffles go soggy and too messy to eat), I came up with the ultimate afternoon snack - a simple but delicious Stroopwafel banana sandwich. After sandwiching slices of banana between two waffles, I considered spreading Nutella on top or drizzling with caramel sauce but the caramel inside the Stroopwafels actually makes it sweet and tasty enough as it is. Simple perfection and ready in seconds !

Daelmans also said that Stroopwafels are delicious eaten the traditional way, placed on top of a hot cup of coffee so that the caramel melts. Sophie tested this (you can tell from the mug !) with a mug of hot chocolate and declared it delicious, although she then went on to eat another Stroopwafel straight from the pack and said that was equally scrummy so both ways work very well !

They're far to good to keep for afternoon snacks though. We've been munching on these for breakfast too, alongside cereal, pink grapefruit and pomegranate juice. Sounds like a pretty balanced breakfast to me and it certainly gets the thumbs up from the Madhouse kids.

In fact, they love the Stroopwafels so much that they decided we should leave some out for Santa on Christmas Eve, alongside his traditional mince pie and glass of Baileys. Usually Rudolph gets a carrot but I only had frozen ones left so he got an apple this year instead. He didn't seem to mind and Santa certainly made short work of the Stroopwafels !

Whatever the occasion or the time of day, Stroopwafels get a unanimous vote of approval at The Madhouse.

Disclosure : We received some Stroopwafels to take part in the challenge.

Book review : The Murder of Halland - Pia Juul

You know when you watch a film and you get to the end and the credits start rolling and you turn to your viewing companions with a puzzled look on your face and say "Eh? Is that it? Where's the big reveal?". Well, that was how I felt at the end of The Murder of Halland.

It is well written and has been beautifully translated from the original Danish with highly atmospheric descriptions of the landscapes around the fjords, for example. It gets off to a cracking start. Halland is shot to death just metres from his front door and his wife, Bess, is rudely awakened by a hammering at the door revealing that his final words were "My wife has shot me!"

That's about all that we know for sure though. As the police, and Bess, investigate his death and then his life, strange circumstances are revealed - an unknown niece (the foster daughter of his sister) turns up, pregnant (is it his baby?) and reveals the existence of a secret room she rented to him (why?), their neighbour mysteriously disappears for a few days (where?, why?), a large sum of money was transferred to Bess's bank account by Halland a few days before he died (did he know?), a secret admirer of Halland's comes out of the woodwork (another potential affair?) ... but they are all questions that are left without answers. I can think of a dozen possible scenarios but we never find out which is is the truth. This left me feeling very unsatisfied as a lone reader, but it would be a great novel for a book club discussion because you could all compare notes and try out work out whodunnit as a collective effort.

star rating : 3.5/5

RRP: £10

  • Paperback: 189 pages
  • Publisher: Peirene Press Ltd (1 Jun 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0956284078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956284075
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 1.5 x 19 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Giveaway #451 : Win a DryNites® night time kit - closed - winner Ellie Spider

Children are not generally expected to be dry at night until the age of five, and, in fact, 600,000 children experience bed wetting every year. Although most become dry on their own, it can be an anxious and unpredictable time. DryNites® Pyjama Pants are your guiding light through the night, providing age-appropriate protection as grown up as they are.

This year, former Great British Sewing Bee finalist Tamara Melvin has created a series of Christmas craft projects with DryNites® to help parents bring some grown up touches to their kids’ bedrooms.
The mum of two is aiming to help parents through the bedwetting stage of their child’s development by highlighting the importance of age-appropriate influences at night time.

Tamara said: ‘There is plenty of information out there nowadays for parents to learn and understand the bedwetting phase, but I wanted to bring a different, more fun, approach to it, and what better time than Christmas.’

DryNites® has teamed up with Madhouse Family Reviews to provide one lucky reader with a night time DryNites® kit.The kit includes four packs of DryNites® Pyjama Pants and two packs of DryNites® Bed Mats which are easy to use and as discreet as ever.

Check out for more information on bedwetting, tips on how to customise your little one’s bedrooms and help on answering the question below - there's also the chance to request a free sample - then fill in your entries on the Rafflecopter widget.

For your chance to win this great prize, simple answer the following question:
How many colourful DryNites® designs are there?
a) 3
b) 6
c) 1

UK only. Closing date : 11/1/15

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. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray !

Other giveaways you may be interested in :

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