Friday 30 June 2017

Giveaway #633 : Win a copy of Rainbow Origami - closed - winner Lisa George

Hands up if you're looking at the swiftly-approaching summer holidays, wondering how you are going to keep the kids entertained and away from their screens for at least some of the time ! Well, I have the perfect solution for you - Carlton Kids' Rainbow Origami.

Whether you're a total beginner or already have some basic knowledge of the ancient Japanese art of paper-folding, the book will give you lots of simple advice and tips to help you get started, as well as eight projects of varying degrees of difficulty to hone your skills.

The step-by-step instructions with illustrations are very easy to follow and within minutes, you'll have a finished project ready to show off so it's a really rewarding activity.

I also love the way the book gives you an idea of how to use or display your work once it's finished.

You can have fun making a heart garland, a bunch of paper flowers, a rainbow butterfly wall in your bedroom or an origami boat race, for example.

The rainbow part of the title comes from the fact that the book includes lots of brightly coloured paper for you to use - there are eight designs  (Crane, Heart, Bow, Flower, Frog, Boat, Fish and Butterfly) and seven colours to choose from.

It's a lovely project that the whole family can get involved in that even the grown-ups will enjoy as much as the children.

RRP : £9.99

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Carlton Books (1 Jun. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1783122625
  • ISBN-13: 978-1783122622
  • Product Dimensions: 24.7 x 1.3 x 24.7 cm

Carlton Kids have kindly offered to send a copy of Rainbow Origami to a lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader  - just fill in your entries via the rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 14/7/17

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 !

You may also like to enter my other giveaways :

#KitchenClearout recipe : Cherry Tomato, Bacon & Mushroom Tart

- What's for lunch, Mum?
- Not entirely sure yet, but it'll involve cherry tomatoes !

I love going to the farmers' market at the end of our road on a Sunday morning, just before it packs up, because that's when there are bargains to be had. Rather than pack up fruit and veg that will be way before its best the next day, they slash the prices and give you a crate of something that was the same price for a kilo minutes before. That was how I ended up with a glut of cherry tomatoes. Not a bad thing in itself, as the kids have been popping them in their mouths like sweets every time they walk through the kitchen ! I hate throwing things away though, so I had to come up with a plan to use some up. This was it, and it was a resounding success.

Cherry Tomato, Bacon & Mushroom Tart

ingredients :

a sheet of ready-made puff pastry
6 rashers of bacon
1 onion
4 mushrooms
3tbsp thick crème fraîche
a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes
a small scattering of grated cheese

Roll out the pastry and put it on baking parchment on a baking tray. To save time, I popped it in the oven to cook while I prepared the filling (or I should say topping).

Grill or dry fry the bacon and drain off the excess fat on kitchen paper.

In the bacon fat, or in a drizzle of olive oil if you prefer, gently fry the onions and mushrooms.

Drain off any excess fat or liquid then stir through the crème fraîche.

Take the pastry out of the oven.

Spread the mushroom mix over the top.

Use a pair of scissors to snip the bacon into large chunks and scatter over the top.

I didn't want the pastry to go soggy or the bacon to get too burnt so I decided to pre-cook the cherry tomatoes. I chopped some in half and left a few whole for extra texture and just heated them through for a few minutes in the pan I'd used for the mushrooms.

Spoon the tomatoes on top of the pastry.

Scatter over the cheese and pop back in the oven for ten minutes until the cheese melts. Cut into slices and serve hot or cold. It could be eaten on its own or with rice, mash or salad.

As this was designed to use up some of my glut of cherry tomatoes, as well as various odds and ends in the fridge, I'm adding it to this month's #KitchenClearout linky.

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 30/6

Last week was sooo hot that I didn't fancy cooking in a baking hot kitchen for too long and the kids were asking for salads, sandwiches and snacky meals, so several things got knocked off the menu plan. I've put them all on this week's instead so I'll be pick and mixing with the things that got bumped off last week's plan. I always go for flexible meal plans anyway and don't necessarily respect which meals were for which days - it's a handy way of planning what needs buying and defrosting for the week ahead though.


lunch - it's my morning off and the kids' once a week junk food fix ! Will it be Burger King, KFC or McDonalds though ?

dinner - a salade Niçoise type of thing, with potatoes, green beans, cherry tomatoes and a tin of pilchards


lunch - probably BBQ, if not, it'll be roast dinner.

dinner - leftovers from lunch or fridge grazing


dinner - homemade flammekueche-style pizza


dinner - fully loaded nachos with guacamole, cherry tomatoes, cubes of ham, cheese, tomato salsa, cucumber, ...


lunch - chicken & veg stir-fry

dinner - pancakes filled with cheese and ham (with or without a fried egg) followed, no doubt, by pancakes filled with lemon & sugar or Nutella !


dinner - picnic bread (a loaf stuffed with Italian ham, cheese, sundried tomatoes, etc)


dinner - grilled salmon with creamy spinach and cherry tomatoes

Baking projects :

still plenty to be getting on with from last week, plus
- Chocolate Orange millionaire's shortbread
- a fir tree cupcake baking kit

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Thursday 29 June 2017

A taste of summer : destination Guadeloupe !

This month's Kitchen Trotter destination is Guadeloupe, which sounds perfect for the summer. It's one of the islands in the French Antilles, 600km off the coast of Venezuela. I'm expecting tropical flavours, such as mango and pineapple, so let's see if I'm right.

Delving into the box, I pulled out a snack tub of dried sweet potato and a jar of mango jam. So far, spot on !

Next, I found some spices : a special blend for fish and some "graines à roussir", a mixture of cumin, fenugreek and mustard seeds, which is widely used in Guadeloupe.

Mustard seems to be a popular flavour in creole cuisine as there is also a jar of mustard, a little bottle of coconut essence, some passion fruit cordial and a fantastically-fragranced handmade soap that reminds me of the smell you get when you walk into a Lush shop !

So, what will we be eating this month?

First up, Cod Bites. Think chicken nuggets, made with fish !

The main meal is a beef dish with mustard and lemongrass - I can imagine that zinging my tastebuds already !

Dessert is Little Mango & Coconut Choux Buns.

And finally, a bonus recipe - King prawns with a creole marinade.

These sound like simple, light dishes that will be great during the hotter weather. As always, I'll be back to share the finished dishes and recipes with you once I've made them.

In the meantime, check out my country-by-country globecooking recipe index, which includes some recipes from Martinique, with similar flavours.

Globecooking recipe : Flammkueche (Alsace)

Flammkueche is a dish that has its origins in the Alsace region of France, close to the German border (and beyond). It makes a great alternative to pizza, especially if your kids aren't keen on a tomato sauce base. I made a really quick version with a ready-made pizza base but you could make your own dough from scratch or even use flatbread as an alternative and even speedier base.


ingredients :

1 ready-made pizza base (or make your own)
250g bacon lardons
2 onions
4tbsp thick crème fraîche

Roll out your pizza base on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. To save time, I popped it in the oven to precook while I prepared the bacon.

Fry the bacon lardons for a few minutes until they release some fat.

Add the sliced onions and continue to fry for a few minutes, until they are soft and translucent but not browned.

Turn off the heat. Drain off any excess fat then stir through a few spoonfuls of crème fraîche.

Spread the lardon mixture over the pizza base and pop it back into the oven for a few minutes until it's piping hot and has taken on some colour.

Cut into slices and eat with your fingers (or a knife and fork if you prefer), as you would pizza.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Project Mc2 Camryn's Tie Dye Doll with Experiment review

If you're looking for a positive role model for a little girl, you would be hard pressed to find a better candidate than Camryn Coyle. She exudes natural grace and beauty, without the need for make up or raunchy clothes. She's not just a total babe with a flair for fashion though - she is one of the super-smart and seriously cool girls in secret organization, NOV8 (that's 'innovate'), who use their love of science and their spy skills on clever missions. 

Even as just a doll, she would be a great buy, especially for fans of the series who would probably recognise the clothes from the show. She is fully articulated so you can move her head, shoulders, knees and ... no, not toes, wrists, elbows and hips ! The head is on a ball socket so it can go up, down, left, right or round. This gives her a wide scope of realistic movements, but it does make her slightly more fragile than the more solid, less articulated dolls. The magic of the Mc2 dolls, however, is that they come with a cool experiment that you can try at home using items from the box and a few household materials - in Camryn's case, using rubbing alcohol for a tie dye effect.

Along with the doll, there are three marker pens, a pipette and a comb for brushing her hair.

You need to add something to decorate made of light-coloured canvas, such as a tote bag or a pair of white plimsolls, and some rubbing alcohol. I had a little play on google to check what the UK equivalent of American rubbing alcohol is - they kindly give the scientific formula on the back of the box, C3H8O -  and it's surgical spirit, which can be used as an antiseptic. It is definitely not white spirit, which is used to clean paint brushes, and can irritate skin - I've seen some confusion over this online and I do think they should add a sticker to the UK boxes to make it easier for sourcing the required materials. Lots of people have apparently been buying "rubbing alcohol" online when they could just pick up a bottle of "surgical spirit" from their local supermarket !

I love the way the blurb on the back of the box explains all of the science behind the experiment. "Permanent ink doesn't dissolve in water, which is why it's hard to get off your hands, but it does dissolve in rubbing alcohol (codename: C3H8O). Using this knowledge, we can colour any piece of fabric, then use alcohol to create a tie-dye effect. As you drip alcohol onto fabric, it is absorbed and starts to spread. As it spreads, it drags the colours with it. Then, the alcohol evaporates, and the colours are left in a new spot, creating a rad new design !"

The name of the experiment on the box is a bit misleading because it doesn't actually involve any tying or dying, but the effect is really pretty and we'll definitely be stocking up on cheap white plimsolls at the supermarket for the kids to have fun with over the summer.

The other dolls' experiments look very cool too, and I love the fact that they are both fun and educational. Juliette desperately wants to try Create your own Gummies with Adrienne Attoms and Create Glitter Tattoos with Ember Evergreen now !

star rating : 4.5/5

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

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Madhouse diaries : Inflatable Fun & Gamers' Day

You may remember me telling you last year about an Inflatable Sports Day in the town centre. It looked right up the Madhouse kids' street and it was free so what more could we ask for ?! We went along and had lots of fun, and, when I saw that it was coming back, I turned to the local magazine to find out the times and dates. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that Pierre had become the poster-boy for this year's event ! Even funnier was that on the same page, just below, there was an article about the teacher exchange in Norway with a picture of me and the rest of the group !

Well, this year's event was a much smaller affair - there were just a few bouncy castles and bouncy assault courses - but Pierre had great fun all the same.

As did Juliette ! She may be about to head into her teens and is starting to get the attitude that goes with it, but there are still frequent glimpses of her childish streak (thank goodness !)

She bumped into a couple of her schoolfriends so they had a go on the bigger kids' attraction - a padded bar that goes round that you have to jump over without falling over.

They were all hopeless, which was very entertaining !

The week after was another free event - Gamers' Day. I wasn't sure how much this one would appeal but we decided to go along for a look. Before we even got inside, Pierre was very impressed (and slightly spooked) by the enormous Transformer-like robots - especially when they moved and looked straight at him. The one on the right even gave me the shivers - it reminds me of the machines in War of the Worlds !

Once we got inside, we chose to head to the retro tent and the kids were soon busy playing on the arcade games. Some of the games, such as Bubble Shooter, still exist on facebook and tablets, and the kids couldn't get their head around the idea of us in "the olden days" going to an amusement arcade and spending money just to play one round !

Apparently it's more fun playing on the video arcade version.

But I'm sure it was just the novelty value because people were waiting their turn just to play that really simple game whose name I have forgotten which is like ping pong with a moving square block. Certainly nowhere near as exciting as modern games !

Madhouse Daddy soon disappeared over in the pinball corner.

And was soon joined by the kids, who thought they were great fun and very exciting.

We went over to the hi-tech tent and watched people in the drone park for a while, but the queues for the sit-in aeroplane simulators (that I also remember from the amusement arcades of my youth) were phenomenal.

Quite a few people were watching the Street Fighter tournament on giant video screens ...

... but the kids wanted to go back to the retro tent.

We used to have (and probably still have in the garage somewhere) exactly this console - the original Playstation - and the Tomb Raider game to go with it !

Such simple graphics and gameplay but the kids still loved it, although the fuzzy TV screen images soon gave them a headache !
Country Kids
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