Monday, 18 December 2017

Madhouse recipe : Mint choc chip oat balls

This year, we break up from school on Friday 22nd December. That means that we'll have very little time for all the festive crafts and baking that we usually fit in before the big day. These mint choc chip oat balls can be throw together in ten minutes, require no baking and used nothing but odds and ends from the cupboards. They have a delicate minty flavour which isn't too overpowering, but if you don't like mint, you could substitute orange flavouring instead.

Mint choc chip oat balls

ingredients :

3 x 30g sachets of chocolate Ready Brek
5tbsp coconut oil
5tbsp golden syrup
3tbsp mint choc chips
1tsp peppermint essence

Melt the coconut oil in a bowl and stir in the golden syrup.

Stir in the Ready Brek (or regular oats blitzed in the food processor). Add extra golden syrup if it's too dry.

Stir through the chocolate chips and peppermint essence.

 Use your hands to roll into ping pong ball sized balls. Chill in the fridge before eating.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as they used up lots of odds and ends from my baking cupboard.

Board Games For Boxing Day (review roundup)

Christmas Day is always a good excuse for sitting in front of the telly all day, munching on mince pies, turkey sandwiches and the contents of the selection box you got in your stocking, but by Boxing Day, the novelty has usually started wearing off and people start getting bored. In my experience, you can't beat getting out a board game that the whole family can have fun playing, whether it's something completely silly or ultra competitive. Here's our round up of the Madhouse Family favourites.

Starting off with one for the adults, Who's The Dude? (Drumond Park, age 16+, rrp £24.99) is a hilarious new take on the classic Christmas game of charades, with a wacky, inflatable, arm flailing, leg-waving, blow-up man to help (or hinder) you ! You can play with 3-8 players, either individually or in teams. The first player takes one of the 110 scenario charade cards, and chooses a heading from the four choices displayed – ‘what’s happening?’, ‘what are we doing?’, ‘where are we?’ or ‘what am I?’ - and then brings on the Dude! You then have 45 seconds… using either the downloaded ‘The Dude App’ or the timer on your phone, for your team-mates to guess exactly what is going on, in as many situations as possible.

While most of them are pretty harmless, dirty minds will go into overdrive as you try to act out something like "milking a cow", "stuffing a turkey" or "planking" with your inflatable team-mate, so there will be lots of innuendos and fits of giggles once the kids have gone to bed ! A few are definitely PG-rated, for example gynaecologist and pole dancing - perfect to give to grandad after a few festive drinks !

As with all great games, you can adapt the rules to suit the players ages and abilities, so we paired up adults with the kids, to make sure someone was overseeing the cards and making sure the kids only got the clean ones. They thought it was hilarious and were very imaginative. Here's Pierre making the Dude do a dab ...

... and blow a kiss. They were easy but working out how to mime "Sumo wrestler", "being on a first date" or "dancing on the ceiling" are slightly more complicated ! Perfect for a not-so-quiet night in, maybe on New Year's Eve when the drinks are flowing ?!

More silliness and giggles guaranteed, but this time without the PG-rating, with Megableu's Beat The Flush (RRP £24.99, 2-4 players, age 5+). As soon as the Madhouse Kids saw the toilet, they were laughing their heads off  ... and so was I when I saw them with their dangly headbands on. Juliette even pranced around the room declaring she was a unicorn ! For the purposes of taking photos, we had a dry run but to play the game, you need to fill up the tray with water - warning, you will get squirted so keep a towel or a tea towel handy ! You'll also need 2 x AA batteries, which are not included. That's all the adult intervention that is required though - the game itself is simple to set up and play.

The idea of the game is that the (very smiley!) toilet has broken and a horde of toilet critters (little magnetic balls - it's a shame they aren't decorated as insects, even with a ball shape) have escaped and it's up to you to put them back! Each player chooses a coloured headband and, using the magnetic wand on the front, players must try to pick up their chosen coloured critters, place them on the flippers and flick them back into the spinning toilet bowl before the timer runs out and the toilet sprays water everywhere. The player who sinks the most critters wins. Easier said than done !

This game has got a lot going for it - as always, the kids love the toilet theme, there's the major excitement of getting wet and it's also great fun looking silly while trying to skilfully manoeuver the magnetic wand - a bit like a cross between hands-free hook a duck and tiddlywinks ! Great fun to play but it's hilarious even if you're just watching !

From toilet humour to bogeys, which are always going to be a big hit with the kids, as you can see from the photo, where Pierre cheekily shoved his finger up the giant nose!  Drumond Park's Snotcha! (rrp £24.99 for age 5+) is a deliciously disgusting, rivetingly revolting, sneeze spraying action game that the whole family will have fun with.

Each intrepid player takes a turn to get face to face with Snotcha (lean in close!) and spin the spinner to see how many times to push down on the top of his nose. With every slow, complete (no cheating, now!) push it’s time to see if he can hold in his snotty sneeze or not … And of course the big question is, will he sneeze AT’CHOO?

With every press, the sneeze pressurises so you know that soon, it's going to blow ... its nose all over you. Even if you know it's only water, there's something extra revolting about being sneezed on !

Snotcha! is easy to set up but needs a little adult help. Firstly, put 2 x AAA batteries (not included) in his feet, then carefully fill his sneeze chamber up to the line with fresh water. Attach his feet, assemble the two sides of the head, place him on a smooth dry surface … and stand by… he’s ready for some hilarious game play! You’ll need to put Snotcha! away carefully, too. Pour out any water remaining after the game, and allow the water chamber to dry out completely before you take him apart and pack him away, ready for next time.

All the best games combine skill with luck and an element of surprise, which is why Megableu's Tumball (2 to 4 players, 6 years+, RRP £17.99) is such a winning combination.

It's as quick and simple to play as it is to set up - just push the coloured balls on to the plastic sticks, attach them to the circular hanger, snap the hook into place and suspend the cluster of balls. Players take their turns to place one of their white balls on the cluster of coloured balls. Go ahead, make your move, but be careful, don’t tremble or the balls will tumble! It's a nerve-wracking, great fun and surprisingly competitive game that all ages will enjoy. It reminded me of Ker-plunk, a game that I often played as a child, but it's much quieter and quicker to set up.

If you like the sound of quiet, Tactic Games' Coral Reef (age 4+, RRP £19.99) is the perfect choice.

Inside the box, you get an ingenious playing board, made up of double-sided, interlocking puzzle pieces that can be placed together randomly so that the layout is different each time. To mix things up even more, you have a choice of difficulty levels, with one side having many more pictures for your eyes to work through than the other.

You turn over two cards, representing different marine creatures, and you have to spot both on the playing board before your opponent(s) to win the point - finding one is easy enough but you have to simultaneously put your fingers on both creatures to win. Each point wins you a detailed plastic figurine of a sea creature - Pierre thought these were fantastic and enjoyed playing with them even after we'd finished the game. Speed and recognition are needed so it's a great way to hone your child's observation skills and concentration, as well as inspiring an interest in what lives beneath the waves.

Forget Monopoly and Scrabble this Boxing Day - go for something completely different this year with a board, not-bored, game !

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

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Madhouse Diaries : Sterrenstoet, the Procession of the Christmas star (Bruges Christmas Parade)

Yesterday, we popped to Bruges in Belgium (about 45 minutes away) to see their Christmas market and soak up some of their Christmas spirit, which they always have in bucketloads. We'd just wandered out of a fantastically festive "Christmas World" shop when I heard drummers at the corner of the road and went to see what was going on. Talk about being in the right place at the right time ! It was the beginning of a Christmas parade and suddenly a crowd of people started lining the streets.

Straight after the marching band were a group of people who looked like they'd stepped straight out of a Dickens novel and were on their way to the workhouse ! They had collection boxes so we guessed that this was a charity event.

 After the poor people, it was the turn of the rich folk, in their finery, and this led on to Mary and Joseph riding past on a donkey.

 We'd worked out by now that it was a representation of the Christmas story, with the idea of solidarity and giving to the poor thrown in for good measure.

 I think (but I could be totally wrong !) that the rest of the scenes showed the different groups of people following the star to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus.

There were kings on giant horses and another black-faced character - it's funny, I was just talking about this last week when St Nicolas came to town.

I commented on the lack of shepherds but looking at videos online, they did have a herd of sheep in the procession last year !

More groups of worshippers - maybe these were the three wise men?

The manger scene closed the Christmas story part of the parade.

Closing the show, and providing the festive soundtrack, was a man playing carols on a carillon.

Most of the belfries and clock towers in the North of France and Flanders have carillons, so we're quite used to hearing songs being chimed out, but it was still quite impressive to watch him play.

It was a totally unexpected and magical way to start our festive jaunt to Bruges. When we got home, I looked up online what we'd seen and discovered it's the Sterrenstoet, or the Procession of the Christmas star : "The Star procession began in the 1930s. During the Second World War, the tradition was interrupted for several years. The Sterrenstoet depicts the Christmas story on the basis of various scenes. A choir brings Christmas songs and walks with animals. The organizers are all volunteers who want to raise money with the procession. It is the "box shakers" in the procession who encourage the spectators to make a financial contribution. The Star procession wants to point out the need for solidarity during the Christmas season. After all, the collected money always goes to a Bruges social project. Since 2002, the Sterrenstoet has been touring the Bruges city center twice during the Christmas period. In recent years, the procession is being renewed step by step."

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Num Noms Collector's Case review - Are you Num Noms #BiggestCollector?

If you've got a tweenaged daughter, the chances are, you'll have some of these lurking in stockings or hiding under the Christmas tree next week. In fact, over on the @NumNomsUK twitter feed, they had the fabulous idea of using some of the Num Noms Lights ON the Christmas tree as decorations, which is a very cute idea !

Juliette has loads of Num Noms and loves getting them out and sniffing them, stacking them up, choosing her favourites, using the lip balms and nail varnishes, ... Ultimately they always end up being stuffed back in a box though, which is a bit of a shame, so Juliette was delighted to receive a super-cute collector's case to show off her favourites, along with lots of stickers to personalise it.

Shaped like a giant Num Nom and made in sturdy plastic, it makes a great decorative item for any young girl's bedroom. We love the cheeky wink and the giant cupcake sprinkles !

Inside you have enough place to display about 24 Num Noms single stacked or 50+ double-stacked. The hardest thing is choosing which ones to put out on display !

The case comes with a sheet of stickers allowing you to arrange and label your collection by food theme, scent, colour or rarity.

Inside the case, you also get a special edition mystery num and nom to add to your collection - they are the two on the left of the picture : a cute Princess Gummy Bear Num and a  Razz-Blue Meringue Gloss-Up Nom. We also received two series 4 Mystery Packs, which bring not just cute new characters and tasty scents but also scented nail polish and glitter lip gloss. Exciting !

We also received a copy of the latest Num Noms magazine, which has been squirrelled away to give Juliette something to keep her occupied on the 8-hour drive down to the in-laws for Christmas !

Carousel PR and Num Noms are currently running a Biggest Collector Campaign, with fab prizes up for grabs. They explain: “We have just launched our Biggest Collector competition, a two-month search to find the biggest Num Noms fan in the country. We’re giving away the biggest prizes yet with a huge product bundle, branded goodies and even money – plus prizes for the runners up.

If you think that you have the best collection of Num Noms, we would love to see your pictures. All you have to do is simply share a picture on Facebook and tag Num Noms or email it to showing us why your little one is such a fan.”

Can you rise to the challenge ?!

For more news on all things Num Noms, including the Collector's Case and new series 4, head over to

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