Sunday 31 July 2016

Cool Cardz Scratcheez review

We first discovered Cool Cardz all the way back in 2011 when Sophie (complete with posh party frock and Santa hat !) reviewed the Hello Kitty Card Design Studio - click through to see that original review (and have a giggle at how young Sophie looks !). Kids' crazes come and go so the current Cool Cardz range includes Shopkins and Frozen themed sets, as well as the Cool Cardz Scratcheez set that we received.

The design studio, which is used to create the cards but also doubles up as a handy storage unit for all the bits and bobs, is made in the shape of a Boho Chic handbag. Inside the box, you also get 20 laminates, 20 cards, 2 sparkling ring stampers, 2 Boho Chic themed sticker sheets, 1 Colour Scratch Off Stickers sheet, 1 Message Scratch Off Stickers sheet, 48 gems, 1 felt pen, 1 scratching tool and the instructions.

The design studio laminator is very simple to use, once you've had a play and worked out how much force you need to use and which order you need to do things in. After decorating both sides of the card, you place it into the laminating gadget and roll over the slider to seal it between the adhesive plastic sheets.

We've also discovered that you can quite successfully make the cards without even using the laminating device, if you're in a rush or if you're sharing and don't want to wait for your turn !

The design studio includes lots of different ways to jazz up your cards, including a felt-tip pen (but you can also use your own if you want more colours), stampers, jewels and stickers. Some of the stickers are extra special because, as the product name suggests, they are pattern-reveal scratcheez stickers which can be scratched off with the tool to create a rainbow pattern or message of your choice. There are also special secret stickers that you can use to hide a secret message for your friend to scratch off and reveal.

You can use the design studio to create VIP Passes for your friends (or, as Juliette decided, siblings, so that they are only allowed into your room when you decide to pass them out - they do love each other really !), secret club cards, party invites or special keepsake messages for friends, relatives or teachers. Juliette has also made decorative cards to put on her wall and uses one as a bookmark. Once you've used up all your cards, you can buy extra card/laminate refill packs without having to buy a whole new set.

Cool Cardz is part of the Cool Create brand, which offers many other fun products (including some that we have reviewed - click through to see what we thought) such as Mr Frosty Crunchy Ice Maker, The Chocolate Bar Maker and new Cut It Out coming soon. Creative fans can also join the Cool Create Club which offers the chance to show off your creations and win prizes.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £19.99

for more information :

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

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 31/7/16

While the kids went paddling in the sea on a recent trip to the beach, I had fun taking photos of the seagulls - this is my favourite action shot because you get all the different poses : standing on the sand, taking off and landing.

The one on the left looked like it had been fighting with its cronies and was sporting a black eye !

Incoming seagull at 10 paces !

There were so many that at times, it looked like a scene out of Hitchcok's The Birds.

All they were interested in was people's picnics though.

Having been brought up in a seaside town, I've always known that seagulls circling in the sky is a sign that a storm is on the way - looking at the sky here, I think they must be right.

Sunday SnapOneDad3Girls

Saturday 30 July 2016

University Games Seagull Splat review

As soon as I saw the name of the game Seagull Splat, I just knew that it would be a big hit with the Madhouse kids. They always giggle madly whenever a pigeon or a seagull flies overhead and tries to divebomb us and still cackle hysterically when I mention that one day, Madhouse Nanny had a seagull poo on her head ! They're definitely not alone - on a recent school trip to London, we ate our picnic lunch on the benches under the trees just outside of the Tower of London and no less than EIGHT pupils got pooped on. When we got home, this was the first thing they all told their families about - forget Big Ben, their host families or shopping at Covent Garden, it was the pooing pigeons that had captured their imagination !

It's a very simple game to set up and to play. There is a little rubber plug that needs to be removed before you play. I'd have preferred a rigid plastic plug because it's so flexible that it's quite hard to push back into the hole.

The first job is pouring the "seagull splat" bubble mix into the hole in the seagull's head.When you press on his tail, he might or might not release a gob of foamy "poo", along with a squeaky noise.

There's a even a poo splat-shaped spinner ! This shows you which coloured family of cards is going to be targeted by the seagull, along with a "your choice of colour" or a "miss a turn" wedge.

 There are four coloured families of cards, comprising a man, a woman, a boy and a girl. If four  players are playing, you choose a colour each; with two players, you take two colours each; and if playing with three players, you play one colour each and discard the remaining colour.

The rules made me laugh because they said that the player who does the best impression of a pooing seagull can start !

 Play is simple and quick - each player spins the spinner to see which colour family is being targetted then holds the seagull above it and presses the tail. It may or may not poo, causing squeals of delight if you escape or even bigger squeals if you get pooed on ! Each pooed-on card is out of the game and the winner is that last player to have at least one card in play.

There's enough bubble mixture to refill the seagull's head a few times, and I'm assuming you can replace it with regular bubble mixture once it's all gone. It's a hilarious game that players of all ages can enjoy.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £19.99

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

Friday 29 July 2016

Madhouse Diaries : Smugglers Adventure/St Clements Caves, Hastings

We often come to Hastings to visit the Madhouse grandparents but, as it's my hometown, we usually bypass the tourist attractions (except for the amusement arcades on the seafront, which may possibly be the Madhouse kids' favourite place on earth !). This time though, we decided to go to Smugglers Adventure, located in and formerly known as St Clements Caves.

The caves have been used for many things in the past, from underground jazz club to world war two air raid shelter for 600 people.

They have been completely renovated as a state-of-the-art tourist attraction but still retain some of their original charm, as you creep through low tunnels and dark passages.

There is lots of atmospheric lighting to highlight natural rock features and the models depicting the history of smuggling in Hastings and the surrounding area, but you can also buy Smugglers Adventure branded torches at the entrance (or take your own along) which can help reassure younger children who might be slightly scared (like Pierre).

 There are lots of things to discover along the way, with video displays, buttons to press for audio descriptions in a choice of languages and signs to read. 

You can also see display cases of some of the seized goods and historic artefacts from the good old-bad old days of smuggling.

Child-friendly displays show younger visitors how the smugglers managed to get away with their illegal pursuits without being caught.

The educational video games and push-button interactive activities are very popular.

And there were lots of "wow, look Mum !" moments as we wandered around.

 And not just from the younger members of the family !

 There are plenty of photo opportunities and you can also buy a souvenir photo with a pirate-themed backdrop on the way out, if you want. We managed to squeeze all eight of us into shot which was worth a laugh !

The kids threw themselves heart and soul into trying out the different displays. Pierre certainly gave it his all (and had us in stitches !) when he had the chance to try to lift a very heavy weight with a pulley system.

The funniest display was definitely this one, where you had to put your hand in the holes to try to locate the lost booty and some of them had sound effects, like a barking dog or screeching cat, that made everyone jump.

We even found our own ways of making people jump, going on ahead and hiding in secret tunnels to leap out at the rest of the family when they rounded a corner. You're left to your own devices and go round at your own pace so you don't need to feel inhibited or crowded by other visitors. 

By now, the kids had got used to the semi-dark and were feeling much braver.

 Until we got to the graveyard and the prison cell, complete with prisoner who rattles the cage door when you least expect it, making you jump out of your skin !

 There are always unexpected things to discover, from wall carvings to skeletons hanging in a crevice.

It was just the right side of funny-scary and even Pierre, who needed lots of reassuring cuddles on the way round, said that he really enjoyed it.

Tickets cost £8 per adult, £6 per child, with family tickets available, but if you go to the Smugglers adventure website and buy your tickets online (at least one hour before you visit - click on "buy discounted tickets now"), you can get £1 off each ticket. There is also a combined ticket with two other Hastings attractions, Hastings Castle and Blue Reef Aquarium, which works out cheaper if you plan on visiting all three.

When it's SoHot, grab yourselves a Soho ! (review)

Pheweee, it's turned into a bit of a scorcher lately ! While kids are happy to strip off to their underwear and run through the lawn sprinkler or throw water bombs at each other to beat the heat, discerning adults need a slightly more sophisticated way of cooling down. A refreshing cocktail or mocktail always hits the spot when temperatures are soaring. Just hearing the sound of ice cubes clinking gently together and seeing droplets of condensation running down the side of the glass are enough to have you feeling chilled in moments.

The Soho Juice Co have launched  a new and innovative addition to the soft drink mixer market for 2016 which is perfect for seekers of summertime refreshment who want something a bit different. The Soho has been especially designed as the perfect cocktail accompaniment, as well as a standalone fruit juice soft drink, and is a deliciously different blend of cucumber, mint, lemon and lime juice. I was initially a bit dubious about having cucumber as an ingredient but it is a very refreshing, summery flavour, similar to melon, that is really brought alive by the mint and citrus top-notes. As has been pointed out to me by friends, the idea of adding cucumber to summer cocktails has already been adopted by anyone who loves Pimms, so Soho is a great way to ring the changes and give your summertime refreshments a vibrant, fresh overhaul.

Drunk on its own, with ice and a slice (of lemon, lime or cucumber, whatever you prefer), it's a sophisticated alternative to the usual soft drinks, that will be a welcome relief to designated drivers, pregnant women or non-drinkers who are fed up of sharing the kids' coke or opting for overly sweet fruit juices ! Where it really comes into its own, though, is as a tasty cocktail ingredient that will have your tastebuds tingling. 

You might like to try a Soho Foam, which is made with white rum and Soho mixed with lemon juice, honey and egg whites, shaken not stirred with a dash of bitter and topped with a leaf of fresh mint. It sounds very sophisticated and looks cool - I could see James Bond sipping on this ! -  but I don't think I could bring myself to drink raw egg whites, even if it is one of the personal favourite cocktails of the creators of the Soho Juice Co.

Much more up my street is the Ruby Highball - a blend of raspberry liqueur and gin, poured over crushed ice and topped with The Soho, then garnished with fresh berries, mint leaves and a slice of lemon.

The Soho Martini is another possibility and is made with gin, dry vermouth and a splash of Soho,

Or you could give an old classic a bit of a makeover with a Soho Margarita - a blend of tequila and Soho served in a salt-rimmed glass.

As I was feeling hot and thirsty, I decided I wanted a long drink so I mixed a bottle of strawberry and raspberry cider with a dash of limoncello and a glug of The Soho, adding a slice of cucumber to the rim. It was very nice and very refreshing and the Soho and limoncello cut through the sweetness of the cider.

What's your favourite summertime tipple ?

for more information :

Disclosure : We received a Soho Juice Co cocktail kit to optimise our summer refreshment !
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