Friday 31 March 2017

Cuddledry Snuggle Fun Bunny Towel review

Handling a slippery and wriggly baby is always a stressful time for new parents, and I remember how reassuring it was to discover Cuddledry's hands-free towel (worn like an apron) when Pierre was tiny. The company have  just scooped another award to add to their extensive collection, winning gold for Best Baby Bath product in the Made For Mums Awards.


They also have an adorable Snuggle Bunny towel in their product range, RRP £32.99, which is absolutely perfect for Easter and might make a nice alternative to a chocolate egg. It is a super soft and fluffy hooded towel designed for toddlers aged 3-6 (it's 103cm long and 121cm wide) and little ones will love to snuggle up in the warm, soft fabric, especially with its cute floppy bunny ears ! It's not made from the same material as the baby towel I have from Cuddledry - this one is made from microfibre, so it is super absorbent and dries really quickly.

They are also available in an equally cute bear or monkey design so you could begin your own bathtime menagerie !

for ore information :

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

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 31/3

Last week before the holidays - it's been absolutely non-stop recently, especially with non-stop meetings and training sessions at work, so I'm looking forward to the break.


lunch - it's that time of week again ... McDonald's !

dinner - Brie tartlets with honey onion relish and salad or rice


lunch - roast dinner

dinner - homemade soup - possibly rasam, an Indian soup with tamarind - or cheese on toast if it's been one of those days !


dinner - a Cameroonian dish, mafé, which involves chicken and peanut butter, with rice


dinner - bacalao, a cod stew with tomatoes, potatoes and olives (that I rediscovered in Norway, believe it or not !)


lunch - potato gratin with beefburgers or sausages

dinner - homemade deep pan pizza (because it didn't get made last week) with salad


dinner - chicken frito pie, a #readcookeat recipe from Gone Girl


dinner - joker ! - pretty sure I'll have a fridge full of leftovers to use up, but if not, a quick and simple pasta dish

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Thursday 30 March 2017

University Games 5 Second Rule Jr review

Easter half term is just around the corner and if you're hoping to get in some quality family time and keep the kids away from their screens at least some of the time, a new board game could be just what you need. University Games sent us through a copy of 5 Second Rule Jr, which is equally fast paced and competitive as the original version but simplified so that the younger members of the family (from about age 6+) can join in too.

It's a very simple game to set up and explain. You have 5 seconds to name the first three words that come to mind after reading the card, which might ask for ice cream flavours, Super Heroes, things to dip in ketchup, or all manner of other things. It sounds simple but when the pressure is on, your mind often goes blank and you end up squealing or blurting out something silly, much to every one else's delight ! The manic twisty timer adds to the stress, so it's a great game for helping young players to learn to think on their feet and make snap decisions. There are 200 cards covering 400 questions in total, but you could also have fun adding your own for extra laughs (for example, three things that mum can never manage to cook, three rubbish presents you've had from your gran or three epic fails by dad !)

The teens of the family were also very impressed by the fact that this game features on the Ellen Degeneres show with all sorts of celebs in the hot seat. Here's a quick taster.

Ages 5+. RRP £19.99 available from Argos, Amazon and Toys R Us

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

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Giveaway #619 : Win 2 x Nicolas on Holiday on dvd - closed - winners Karl Borowy, Cheryl Hadfield

This week saw the UK DVD release of Nicolas on Holiday, which features the crème de la crème of French actors, Valérie Lemercier and Kad Merad. This is the follow-up to the 2012 film Petit Nicolas  and both films are based on René Goscinny and artist Jean-Jacques Sempé's beloved and iconic character of the same name.

I remember first discovering Le Petit Nicolas when I was studying French at uni and the books are still just as popular today, despite first being published back in 1959 and presenting an idealised view of childhood in 1950's France. Think Enid Blyton with a Gallic twist !

In this second film, it's the end of the school year. The long-awaited holidays have finally arrived and Petit Nicolas and his family head to the sea and move in to the Beau-Rivage Hotel. At the beach, Nicolas wastes little time making new friends, and they set about causing havoc in the holiday resort. He also attracts an admirer in the form of Elizabeth, a little girl who follows him everywhere. Nicolas is certainly going to enjoy a holiday to remember !

It's a lovely, light-hearted, nostalgic movie that will delight the whole family with its childish silliness and occasional toilet humour that will have the kids giggling. The French atmosphere pervades the whole film, not just because it is in French with English subtitles, giving it an extra je ne sais quoi.  Young actor Mathéo Boisselier does a great job of capturing the essence of the original character, despite not having played in the first film (because the original actor would now be to old for the part - his parents are still played by the same actors though). The PG rating presumably comes from one scene of nudity but French parents wouldn't even raise an eyebrow at that !

Genre: Kids and Family, World
Language: French with English subtitles
Runtime: 93 mins (approx.)
RRP: £17.99 (DVD)
Cat no: SODA361

I have 2 copies of Nicolas on Holiday on dvd  to give away to lucky Madhouse Family Reviews readers. Enter via the rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 13/4/17

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook 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 28 days, 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 !

mifold - the Grab-and-Go Booster® seat review

When you're a new parent, it's often hard to know which products are gadgets that will get used a few times then left in the back of a cupboard and which are those that will really serve a purpose and make your life easier. I recently received a funky and functional product to review that I would put firmly in the latter category, not just because it is useful but also because it can help make your children's daily lives that little bit safer : mifold - the Grab-and-Go Booster® seat.

It's 10x smaller than a regular booster seat and folds up so that you can easily stash it in your hand luggage or a rucksack/baby changing bag, or even the glovebox in the car. It's no heavier than a bottle of water and is smaller than an ipad so it's really not a problem, even if you have more than one child and need several. 

In fact, it is so small that we wondered if it would actually be big enough to work.

But 12-year-old Juliette demonstrated that yes, it is in fact big enough for her to park her posterior on ! mifold’s team of top designers, engineers and industry experts have together revolutionised the way that a traditional child restraint works. Regular child restraints lift a child up to be in the position of an adult, whereas mifold does the exact opposite by holding the seatbelt down in a suitable position for a child. It’s that simple! With 3 belt guides, mifold adjusts the lap belt and shoulder strap to fit the child and accurately holds the seat belt on the hip bones and shoulder, offering the correct amount of restraint in case of impact. Taking less than 30 seconds to fit per child, mifold is safe, foldable and portable enabling parents and caregivers to use it in situations that current car seats on the market today are unable to accommodate.

Up until now, the only options that parents had when travelling with little ones was taking a bulky car seat with them in their luggage, paying a premium for adding a car seat to a rental car or chancing it without any kind of car seat in a local taxi, so this is definitely a safer option. The small size and light weight means that you can keep one in your child's backpack if they're going off to visit friends or relatives, just in case they need it. You can even fit 3-in-a-row across the back seats of the smallest of cars. Another bonus, for those 8-12 year olds who usually don't want to sit on a booster seat, mifold’s understated, slick and streamline design will be a huge hit, because it is so discreet, it will save the big kids from feeling ‘babyish’.

mifold is now available in the UK from John Lewis and other selected retailers for £49.95.

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

#Dolmio #ThankGoodness Madhouse recipe : Bolognese rice two ways

Mamma Mia ! With three kids and a full-time job (not to mention a blog), weekday evenings are usually a bit hectic here at The Madhouse. I meal-plan every week so I know in advance what I'll be cooking and don't have to panic about not having the ingredients in the cupboards and the fridge, but even so, some nights things don't go to plan and I end up getting home late or I'm extra tired or the kids are too hungry to wait for me to cook a big meal and I need a quick option. I always have a few jars of cooking sauce in the cupboard as a quick standby and bolognese is always one of them.

BritMums have teamed up with Dolmio to challenge bloggers to create a #ThankGoodness mid-week meal from a hamper of good things delivered straight to their kitchen and I was delighted to see that it was packed full of everyday basics. The goal: create a simple, good-for-you meal including a jar of Dolmio Bolognese sauce which contains no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or sweeteners.

So that's what it doesn't contain, but what about what it does contain? Dolmio Bolognese Original 500g sauce is 100% natural and in each jar, you’ll find at least 10 juicy diced tomatoes, a dollop of tomato puree, half an onion, a tablespoon of sunflower oil, a couple of cloves of garlic, a handful of herbs including basil, a teaspoon of cornflour, a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper, two teaspoons of added beet sugar for taste, a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of water and nothing more. I love it when a shop-bought product contains nothing that you wouldn't find in your own kitchen. Even better news, a jar provides a family of four with one of their 5-a-day each and that’s before you add any further veg to the meal. (For more information visit or if you’re looking for mid-week meal inspiration check out the label on Dolmio jars.)

My first thought was to make a crowd-pleasing spaghetti bolognese which always guarantees clean plates, but, inspired by the contents of the hamper, I decided to be a bit more inventive.

For the kids, I made a mince and veg-packed bolognese sauce that they gobbled up with rice.

For the grown-ups, I mixed the sauce in with the rice and use it to stuff some round courgettes.

Bolognese rice two ways

ingredients :

drizzle of olive oil
2 onions
4 mushrooms
a pack of minced beef
1 jar of Dolmio Bolognese Original
cooked Basmati rice (you can use a micorwavable pouch for speed)
2 round (or long) courgettes
a handful of grated cheese

Start off by frying the onions and mushrooms in a drizzle of olive oil.

 Add the minced beef and cook until it's completely brown.

Add the Dolmio sauce and heat through.

Serve the super hungry kids with the sauce over rice.

Scoop out the insides of a couple of round courgettes - regular courgettes would work too but I had a couple of round ones in the fridge that needed using up. Chop and gently fry the flesh from inside until it goes soft but not mushy. 

Mix together the remaining rice, sauce and courgette flesh.

Use to stuff the courgettes.

Sprinkle over some grated cheese and pop the lids back on.

 Put in the oven at 180° for about 45 minutes until the courgettes are cooked. (Stab with a sharp knife to check.)

The kids thought that the courgettes looked really cool and said that they would have liked to have eaten those too, if they hadn't been so hungry that they couldn't wait for them to cook. They also thought it was fantastic that with a jar of Dolmio sauce, I had a tasty meal on the table within ten minutes !

Disclosure : This post is an entry for the #Dolmio #ThankGoodness Challenge, sponsored by Dolmio

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Giveaway #618 : Win a Num Noms Series 3 Prize Bundle - closed - winner Alison Joyce

Juliette is a huge fan of Nums Noms, the wacky snacky stackables that are now into their third series.  2017 has seen the launch of Series 3 and also Lights, bringing funky new characters and brand new food themes to the shelves, such as Marshmallow, Donuts, Fruits, Veggies, Candy and Fiesta foods, for even more ways to collect.

You may have seen some of the fun Num Noms challenges that we've taken part in here on the blog, including a Pancake Day, spooky Halloween and Wacky Bakers challenge, as well as a fantastic Num Noms themed Advent Calendar. The Madhouse kids love making fun snacks that match up with combinations of the collectible foodie characters !

If you want to discover series 3, the Num Noms Starter Pack retails at around £8.99 and has themes including Glazed Donuts, Marshmallows, Fresh Fruit and Hard Candies. Each starter pack contains three scented Nums, Stamp-it Nom, cup, accessory and collector’s menu.

The Num Noms Lunch Box Deluxe Pack has an RRP of £14.99 and includes 10 scented Nums, one mystery Num, two scented Nom erasers, stamper and collector’s menu.

 The ever popular Num Noms mystery pots, shaped just like yogurt pots, contain a Num and a 2-flavoured lip gloss which also works as a pencil topper. If you're really lucky, you might find special edition characters including a glitter marshmallow or a mystery scented candy.

I have a fabulous Num Noms Series 3 Prize Bundle to give away to a lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader, which includes 1 x Num Noms Deluxe Lunch Box, 1 x Num Noms Starter Pack and 1 x Num Noms Mystery Pot. Enter via the rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 12/4/17

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook 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 28 days, 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 !

Madhouse recipe : Ultra Moist Mixed Fruit Cake

Dole recently sent us through some of their resealable fridge packs of fruit and, while the Madhouse kids have been loving dipping in at breakfast time or when they fancy a quick dessert, I wanted to have a go at using them in baking too. 

I used a pack of Mixed Fruit In Cherry Juice but the other varieties  (Tropical Gold pineapple chunks, peach slices and prunes) would work equally well.

The cake has a crunchy brown sugar topping and the fruit gives it a lovely moist texture - I actually preferred it the next day because the juice from the fruit soaks through the sponge making it even more moist. I adapted an American recipe so I used my measuring cups for simplicity.

Ultra Moist Mixed Fruit Cake

ingredients :

1 cup plain flour 
1tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar (I used Steevia sweetener)
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1 pack Dole mixed fruit (with juice)
1/2 cup Demerera sugar (to sprinkle over the top)

This is a simple throw-it-all-in recipe so just put all the ingredients except the demerera sugar into a bowl and beat until combined.

Pour into a greased tin and sprinkle with demerera sugar.

Bake at 180° for 40-50 minutes until firm and a sharp knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool and cut into squares while still in the tin.

Disclosure : I received some packs of Dole fruit to experiment with.

Monday 27 March 2017

Giveaway #617 : Win gorgeous pampering gifts from Baylis & Harding - closed - winner Cath Crawshaw


Did you get your mum something special for mother's day? Did your own kids spoil you rotten? Well, whether you answered yes or no to both questions, my advice to you is forget mother's day and make the effort to treat your mum (and yourself) on other days of the year too ! I always find that it means more on a non special day because it's more unexpected and heartfelt than something that has been bought just because a million signs in the high street are telling you not to forget !

Baylis and Harding have some gorgeous product lines that are perfect for women of all ages. In honour of mother's day, they sent me through two beautiful pampering treats.

The Luxury Foot Set from the vibrant, carefree Pink Prosecco and Cassis range contains a 50ml Foot Lotion, 25g Foot Soak Crystals and a pair of super soft socks to relax and revive tired feet after a long day. Presented in a pretty gift box with stunning rose gold metallic detail, this will make the perfect gift for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day or any other day of the year.

The large single wick candle in a jar comes from the beautiful La Maison Linen Rose & Cotton collection and is the perfect candle to either use at home or as a gift. The exquisite fragrance is pretty and delicate and the gorgeous silver coloured container will be a stylish addition to any home. The wax is a delicate pink colour which adds a subtle feminine touch. The 180g candle has a total burn time of up to 25 hours.

Baylis & Harding have generously offered to send one of each gift to a lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries via the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 11/4/17

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook 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 28 days, 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 !

(Highland) Spring Has Sprung ! (review)

For the past week, I've been on a work trip to Norway, and one of the main things we noticed is how outdoorsy the Norwegians are, whatever the weather. After climbing up a (small) mountain, we all settled down for a barbecue ... in the snow (admittedly only a few flakes, but still !). (If you don't believe me, head over here for my post about climbing up Dalsnuten.)

We all loved how organised they are, with everything in their rucksacks and car boots from spare hats and scarves to foil survival blankets and little lambswool squares to sit on to prevent getting a cold bum on the freezing rocks ! We were most impressed with their big reusable water bags too - they'd be great for school trips and family picnics, even in the UK. Even on a smaller scale, most of the Norwegians we got to know always had a bottle of water in their hand or bag and at school canteens, restaurants and even the hotel lobby, they had jugs of fabulous fruit-infused water at your disposal, flavoured with red berries, lemon, mint and cucumber or watermelon, which were all very refreshing.

I spent my whole time there sipping smoothies, freshly squeezed orange juice, "vitamin shots" made with fruit juice, and water, and despite the long and intensive days (both in the conference rooms and trekking up steep hillsides), I felt really alert and full of vitality. On an average day back home, I never drink half as much and with hindsight, I'm sure this is why I feel sluggish and under par. 
When Highland Spring invited me to take part in their Sparkle Challenge, I was intrigued. They are on a mission to encourage people to start 2017 on the right foot by making positive health choices, starting with healthy hydration, because when you're 100% hydrated, you're much more likely to be on top of your game – mentally, physically and emotionally. 

The quickest and easiest way to feel good is to drink water, yet research shows that 66% of Brits don’t feel they always drink enough water on a daily basis (I'm one of them), so Highland Spring offered to provide a month's supply of their water, along with some serving suggestions, to keep me (and the rest of the family) hydrated and feeling good. As they say, staying well hydrated is such an easy, healthy way to help you be the best version of yourself, and it’s even better when you know that their natural water comes from Scotland’s beautiful Ochil Hills.

The Madhouse kids instantly fell in love with the sparkling water, with or without a quick squeeze of fruity concentrated squash, and they actually seem to prefer it to coke and other sugar or sweetener-packed fizzy drinks - bonus ! They've also adopted the 500ml sports cap still water bottles, both at school and when out and about, because they are bigger than their usual drinks bottles so they keep them going throughout the whole day.

Now that the warmer weather is here, the Madhouse kids - particularly Pierre - will be spending a lot of his time outside, playing football or riding his scooter or bike around the huge car park opposite our house.

He was very proud of himself when he discovered that he can slot a bottle of Highland Spring under his saddle so that he can have a quick drink whenever he needs one.

Which is basically all of the time because he is a bundle of energy and never stops !

Despite the adverts, it's not just sugary snacks that help you work, rest and play - Highland Spring have definitely helped us put a spring in our step too !

Adding chopped fruit and herbs to a bottle of water and leaving it overnight to infuse is my favourite way of tempting everyone to drink more, but the easiest and most important thing, we've discovered, is making sure you always have a bottle at hand - in the car, at work and when heading off to the park on a sunny afternoon. Here at The Madhouse, Highland Spring has definitely sprung !

Disclosure : I received a delivery of water to take part in the Sparkle Challenge.
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