Thursday 21 December 2017

It's the final countdown ! (review roundup)

Have you bought into the relatively new tradition of Christmas Eve boxes? Here at The Madhouse we haven't, but to be honest, it would be a bit of a pointless exercise because, whenever we're at the in laws' in Brittany, as across the whole of France, we sit down to a big Christmas meal and open all our presents on Christmas Eve anyway. I do tend to put together a small goody bag for New Year's Eve though, to help keep the kids in good spirits and entertained while they wait for the bongs of Big Ben to chime at midnight. (I can't believe it will be silent this year - no doubt they'll have a recording but it won't be the same !) Whether you're counting down to Christmas, New Year or maybe even the kids going back to school (bah humbug !), here's my final review roundup for the final countdown - ta da da da, ta da da da da ... !

First up, one for the grown-ups. Energy experts Berocca have just added a new blackcurrant flavour to their range of fizzy tablets and they sent us a sample (personalised, no less !) to try out. Berocca Blackcurrant is packed full of B vitamins, including vitamins B1 and B2, which work with your body to release your natural energy, so if you're starting to flag after all the Christmas excitement and late nights, it may be just what you to need to put a spring in your step ! Simply drop one effervescent tablet into water to make a refreshing morning drink and reveal a new energised you ... even if the kids have dragged you out of bed at 5am to open their stockings ! Berocca Blackcurrant is available in tablet packs of 15 (RRP £4.85) from pharmacies and supermarkets nationwide including Boots, Tesco and Amazon. Berocca is also available in Orange, Mango and Mixed Berry flavours. It is free from caffeine, sugar and artificial stimulants and contains only 7 calories per tablet. For more information on the full Berocca product range, visit

After helping the adults get some extra energy, you might like to help the kids burn off some of theirs, and what better way than wrapping everyone up warm and going for a walk to spot the best Christmas lights. If you live in Sussex, I highly recommend heading to Westfield, just next to Hastings, which is a wonderful winter wonderland. (Click here to see our blogpost about an Enchanting Christmas Eve Walk.)

If you struggle with encouraging your kids to wear a hat, we've found the perfect ally - this cheeky, cheerful Pikachu beanie hat. Now that he's the ripe old age of 8, Pierre kept saying that he was too old for a bobble hat. He preferred putting up the hood of his coat, but I don't like the way that this restricts his visibility and sense of hearing, making it more dangerous when crossing roads and the busy car park in front of his school. As he's a big Pokemon fan, I didn't have to ask him twice to put on his new Pikachu hat - problem solved !

With all the mad dashing about on Christmas Day, cooking, phoning around the extended family and hunting out batteries and screwdrivers, it can be hard to find time to snuggle up on the settee with the kids and read their new books. Beat the rush by bringing out some new picture books on Christmas Eve - it might even convince the kids to go to bed extra early while they wait for Santa to arrive ! The Snugglewump by Lou Treleaven and Kate Chappell (32 pages, Maverick Arts Publishing (18 May 2017), RRP £6.99) is the perfect read just before Christmas and a new influx of toys !

In this heartwarming tale, Molly's toys are all eagerly awaiting her return to find out who she loves best and who she will play with. Aware that he can't compare with an antique doll, a robot, a parachutist or a cuddly teddy, The Snugglewump, a moth-eaten old scrap of cloth, slinks dejectedly away. However, as her childhood comforter, the Snugglewump has a special place in her heart and, after its outdoor adventure, Molly is delighted to find it and give it a big cuddle. All together now - awww ! Completely written in rhyme, with short texts and colourful accompanying illustrations, it's a joy to read together, and a timely reminder about not neglecting your old toys just because you have new ones. You may also like to ready my reviews of some of Lou Treleaven's other books - The Snowflake Mistake, Professor McQuark and the Oojamaflip and Letter To Pluto.

Another lovely picture book, perfect for reading on Christmas Eve to think about the important things in life and being careful what you wish for, is The Wishker by Heather Pindar and Sarah Jennings. (32 pages, Maverick Arts Publishing (18 May 2017), RRP £699).

Fed up of being constantly told no, Mirabel is delighted to discover a magical cat, whose whiskers will make her wishes come true. However, the fun of having an endless sleepover, a houseful of zoo animals and ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner soon wears off and she discovers that she only has one wish really : being allowed to keep the cat as a beloved pet. To her joy, she finally hears the most important yes that she has been waiting for. Unfortunately, her brother may have different wishes, so her happy and peaceful ending may be shortlived ! It's a cute story with detailed and entertaining illustrations to help really bring it to life. We had great fun afterwards deciding what we'd wish for if we had a handful of magic whiskers in our Christmas stockings ! (You may also like to read my review of another of Heather Pindar's books, Strictly No Crocs.)

The end of the year is a great time for looking back over adventures you've had in the last twelve months, but you can also start planning new ones for the year ahead. Play The Forest School Way (Paperback: 160 pages, Watkins Publishing Ltd (27 May 2016), RRP £12.99) is a great source of inspiration for outdoorsy fun that the whole family can enjoy. It is a woodland adventure book packed full of outdoor activities for parents and children, including making nature jewellery, constructing a bow and arrow, foraging for food and making a fire. The book is written by Jane Worroll, an ex-countryside ranger, and Peter Houghton, a trained Forest School leader. The Forest School movement encourages self-esteem, confidence and social skills through nature play. This beautifully illustrated book is perfect to take on holiday to the countryside or to use as an activity book for kids and parents when looking for things to do at the weekend and will help kids connect with nature (and their parents!), learn new skills, be adventurous and have fun, with woodland games, crafts and more... The book is written for parents, teachers and guardians and the activities are suitable from pre-school to age 11.

For even more outdoor fun for the whole family, if you still haven't tried out geocaching, I highly recommend heading over to and putting your postcode in to the search engine. I bet you'll be amazed at how many geocaches there are in your local area - in fact, I bet you walk past a few on a daily basis without ever suspecting it ! - and it's a great way to discover new unknown places of interest. Bet of all, it's free and you just need a handheld GPS or smartphone to join in, plus a few small toys to swap over to make it more fun. They're available 365 days a year so you can even head out on New Year's Day when half of the population is still sleeping off their hangovers !

If you're still in panic mode, ticking things off lists and trying to fit in last minute tasks, just remember to give yourself a break, sit down with a glass of Baileys (or egg nog or mulled wine or whatever your festive tipple is) and spend some quality time with the family. Happy Christmas !

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

1 comment:

  1. I would love to have a house decorated like the one in the photo!


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