Wednesday, 24 January 2018

New Diary Appeal with Gel-A-Peel

If you believe the zillions of magazine covers at the start of January, New Year equals New You. Well, I may not totally agree with that sentiment, but New Year definitely does equate with New Diary, and there's something very cathartic about that. Whatever worries and troubles the past twelve months have thrown at you, you can wipe the slate clean and start afresh on the 1st January. As the saying goes, life is an open book full of blank pages... you write the story as you go, and it's always exciting wondering what adventures and discoveries the new year will bring. We've got off to a great start so far as a family - we're only three weeks into 2018 and we've already set foot in six countries ! OK, I'm cheating slightly - England/France was for New Year celebrations visiting both sets of grandparents, then a week in Norway for me on a teacher exchange, with a train change in Belgium and a flight from Amsterdam, and this week Sophie is in Italy on a school trip. Apart from a fortnight in Bulgaria this summer, that's probably it for our globetrotting adventures this year though !

When I was in Norway, I found a great little shop selling all types of journals and memory books and I bought a few for me and the girls. For Sophie and Juliette, I bought  each of them a diary with weekly personality quizzes and spaces for memories and feelings that I'm sure they'll enjoy looking back on in years to come. For me, I opted for "642 Tiny Things To Write About" (for example, "Fill in the blanks : In my next life, I wish to be ..." or "You've just heard that your favourite potato chip flavour will be discontinued. Write an indignant letter to the manufacturer" ! - I may use some of these ideas to inspire creative writing lessons at school) and "My Future Listography : All I Hope To Do In Lists". Writing down your hopes, dreams, worries and innermost thoughts is supposed to be great for mindfulness and living in the moment, and Gel-a-Peel sent us a lovely surprise in the post which carries on the theme : a blank diary and a pack of Gel-a-Peel to customise it with.

I've shared lots of posts over the past year or so, showing you some of the funky things we've customised with Gel-A-Peel, but if you're still unfamiliar with the brand, it's an air-drying silicon gel that can be used on all manner of materials including wood, glass, plastic, paper and fabric. It can be squeezed out of the tube, just like glitter glue, using a variety of nozzles for different textures and effects.

It can also be used on its own, freehand or using the enclosed templates and moulds, to create 3d embellishments and even jewellery.

 Juliette never needs asking twice - she loves decorating and personalising her belongings so she immediately starting filling the moulds and leaving them out to dry. It takes quite some time for them to set completely so it's best to leave them overnight.

And here is her finished design, complete with oodles of hearts and jewels, all stuck on with a little more Gel-A-Peel. All that is left now is for her to fill up the pages with the story of her life and the highlights of 2018. I bet I'll never be allowed to read it though !

Disclosure : We received some Gel-A-Peel and a diary to customise.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Giveaway #665 : Win The Jungle Bunch dvd - closing date 6/2

Cute talking animals, an exotic location and an exciting storyline full of adventures are the classic elements of any self-respecting family film, and The Jungle Bunch has all of them ! It's based on a French cartoon, Les As de la Jungle, that Pierre is familiar with on TV so he already knew what to expect and happily settled down to watch a full-length feature.

The main character Maurice may look like a penguin but inside he’s a real tiger ! Raised by a tigress, he’s the clumsiest Kung-Fu master ever and is guaranteed to raise a few laughs.

Along with his friends, the Jungle Bunch, he intends to maintain order and justice in the jungle, as his mother did before him. But, Igor, an evil koala, wants to destroy the jungle once and for all.

As a grown-up, I couldn't help but draw parallels with numerous other animated movies such as Kung-Fu Panda and Madagascar, but despite the lack of originality, kids will still find it funny and be drawn in by the cute characters and colourful animation. Its target audience is approximately age 3-7, but 8-year-old Pierre loved it and even 12-year-old Juliette smiled indulgently a few times when came into the room !

THE JUNGLE BUNCH is available on Digital Download on Monday 15th January and DVD from 22nd January 2018

Product Information:
DVD Release Date: Monday 22nd January
EST Release Date: Monday 15th January
Cert: U
Running time: 1h 37min

I have a copy of the DVD to give away to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries via the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 6/2/18

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 ! Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. The winners' personal contact information will be passed on to the PR / Brand responsible and used only for delivery of their prize. 

You may also like to enter my other giveaways :

coming soon !

Monday, 22 January 2018

Book review : Anatomy of a Scandal - Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan's Anatomy of a Scandal is a gripping courtroom drama that focuses on three women and one man who links them all : James Whitehouse. From privileged public schoolboy and Oxford graduate (where he was firm friends with the future prime minister) to a well-paid and prestigious job as a Home Office minister, he is the golden boy with big plans but also a big ego and a big sense of entitlement.

Sophie, his wife, is content with her lot : an attractive, well-respected husband, two lovely kids and a plush Kensington pad. But her world is about to fall apart.

Olivia Lytton, one of James' work colleagues, has just gone to the papers with news of their passionate extra-marital affair. He's not denying it. With friends in high places, they weather the storm. Then she claims he raped her - will he deny that too?

 Kate is the ballsy, driven but secretly vulnerable barrister who is convinced that James is guilty and is determined to win the case. But she has a secret past that could put the whole case, and indeed her entire legal career, in jeopardy.

Having grown up through the eighties and nineties, I can remember the "scorned women" and the "bits on the side" being belittled and not taken seriously when these kinds of cases came to court - Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Hugh Grant and Divine Brown, even Charles and Camilla ... The message seemed to be that boys would be boys and it wasn't all that serious. These days, you can't turn on the news or open a newspaper without seeing news of historic sex abuse accusations and #metoo. The tide has definitely turned.

But Sarah Vaughan cleverly blurs the boundaries, leaving enough doubt for the reader to wonder about how much is truth and how much is exaggeration. James is adamant that he has done nothing wrong, but as he thinks he always knows best, would he admit (or even register) guilt anyway? Olivia is convincing in her testimony but she had just been dumped by him, so is she out for revenge? And just why is Kate so intent on getting a conviction?

It's an interesting read that will keep you guessing right up until the end, questioning the attitudes of the interested parties and the jurors, as well as your own judgements and those of society as a whole, both now and a few decades ago. It would be a great choice for book clubs to discuss at length, as I'm sure opinions will be divided.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £12.99 (I've just noticed that it's a bargaintastic £4.99 on amazon at the moment which is a great price for a hardback book)

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (11 Jan. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471164993
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471164996
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.9 x 23.4 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Get ready for a #superzingsparty on Thursday 25th January with prizes to be won ! #ad

The first twitter party of the year (for me) is on the way later this week and it's for a brand new collectible that you may not be familiar with yet : Super Zings.

Super Zings are based on food and other household objects that kids are bound to be familiar with and probably have in their own homes. They are either Heroes or Villains and each character has a rival that matches (an orange and a juice squeezer, for example).

There are already 80 characters to collect, with different Hide-Outs, Super Cars, Kaboom Traps, starter sets, blister packs and Mission Packs, available at @EntertainerToys and other leading grocery and newsagent retailers.

If you are extremely lucky, you might even find a Rare SuperZing to add to your collection – there are 6 Silver ‘Captains’, 3 Gold ‘Bosses’ and 1 SUPER RARE ’Enigma’ SuperZing character to collect. As they are sold in blind bags, you get the added excitement of never knowing which ones are hiding in your packs until you get home and rip them open.

Unlike many similar collectibles, Super Zings will appeal equally to children of both sexes, which makes it easier for siblings to swap their doubles. Great news for parents !

I have a whole host of Super Zing products to show you and you'll even have a chance to win some during the twitter party, so make sure you come along and join in the fun !

Check you're following me on twitter @cherylp59, as well as Magic Box (@magicboxtoysuk), The Entertainer (@EntertainerToys), and Playtime PR (@PlaytimePRLtd) and use the hashtag #superzingsparty.

 For further information about the Super Zings range, head over to

Disclosure : We received a party pack, as well as a voucher from The Entertainer, for taking part.

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 21/1/18

A tiny church in Jaeren, Norway - just enough room for nine people inside !

OneDad3GirlsSunday Snap

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Fab freebies of the week 20/1/18

Welcome to the weekend, and another roundup of the week's best UK freebies. Hope you find something to take your fancy ! :)


Answer 5 easy questions correctly to get your FREE 50ml sachet of Nikwax Polar Proof

We’re building the UK’s best baby product comparison site. Join our waiting list today and every 10th sign up gets a FREE travel sized Waterwipes (one sign up per household, while stocks last)

Check out if Urban Veda are in your local Boots and bag yourself free products

Register to receive a FREE Fit to Dance educational resource pack for your school! Once again, we've teamed up with Disney On Ice, to bring you the 2018 Fit to Dance education progamme, supporting the national curriculum for English and P.E. Packs are free, but are limited to 1,500 schools across the UK - one pack per school. To qualify: you must be a teacher or head teacher at a UK school, teaching children age 4 to 8, or in an SEN environment with a similar educational level.

Taste Test Our New Vodka For Free. We are looking for some members of the public to soon taste test our new Vodka recipe*. No purchase necessary, all we ask is that you let us know what you think of it.

Request a voucher for a free sample of Estée Lauder Night Serum

Become a Company of Animals product tester and get free products and a £10 voucher! (T&C's Apply)

If you have the free Shopmium app, you can currently bag yourselves a free Bol Salad Jar and Watermelon drink

This may not work for everyone as it came in an email where they are trying to tempt me back, but if you fancy researching your family tree, get 15 free Genesreunited credits with code Claim15

Request a sample of Dr Shea skincare

Discover irresistible taste with two free samples of L’OR Aluminium Espresso capsules Lungo Profondo and Espresso Ristretto.

If you have a baby on the way, make sure you're signed up for a free Emma's Diary pack including a pack of 22 nappies

Vileda are looking for testers for their new mop

You can see previous weeks' freebie roundups by clicking here but be warned, many of the offers are only valid for a short time. Let me know if any have expired and I'll remove them from the roundup.

You may also like to enter my current giveaways :

coming soon !

Friday, 19 January 2018

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #4

You may have noticed that I've changed the way I label my menu plans this year, opting for week 1,2,3 rather than the date. For me, this highlights even more just how quickly January is zipping by - I feel like Christmas was only last week but we're already looking ahead to February and Juliette's birthday ! Still plenty of time for winter warmers and comfort food before spring puts in an appearance though. I've been using the American cookbook that I got at Christmas for inspiration this week.


lunch - The traditional Burger King visit - with all our gadding about at Christmas/New Year then my week in Norway, I haven't been since before Christmas!

dinner - chestnut soup (not sure about this one but I have a pouch of chestnut puree lurking in the back of the cupboard !)


lunch - a roast of some shape or form - probably chicken or pork

dinner - soup with the leftover meat, potatoes, veg & gravy from lunch


lunch - meatballs in tomato/onion/red pepper sauce with couscous

dinner - Tartiflette (potatoes, bacon, onions and stinky cheese !)


dinner  Chicken Spaghetti, a recipe that sounds like a souped-up pasta bake (literally !) - recipe to follow


lunch - probably leftovers from the last few days

dinner - American-style goulash with mash & carrots


dinner - BBQ spaghetti (a twist on spaghetti bolognese)


 dinner - Chicago-style deep dish pizza with salad

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Norway diaries : Beautiful views in Jaeren

I've been looking through my (numerous) photos of Norway from our work visit to Stavanger last week and I still find the views just as breath-taking as in real life. I've decided that the power of the beauty lies in the unique Norwegian light. Night falls so quickly - all of our sight-seeing was packed into the two hour window of daylight between school finishing for the day at 2.30 and nightfall at 4.30 - so by taking the same shot three or four times, you'll get a whole array of different light effects and you're bound to get one that looks stunning. 

Take this quaint little white wooden church at Varhaug for example, just down the road from Varhaug School that we had been at all day. It is one of the smallest chapels in the area, if not the country, with just enough space for nine guests. It's very popular for weddings because it's so scenic but the guests all have to stand outside ! 

It's very pretty but the real views were going on behind us, with the fading light and the big open sky providing the perfect backdrop. 

We could have stood here quite happily watching the sun go down behind the ornate gravestones overlooking the sea, but we had other places to see before it got dark.

We drove into the rocky outcrops and recognised something from the last time we visited - Hitler's teeth, which are concrete blocks that the Nazis installed to prevent Allied landings. You can find out more in my blogpost Exploring World War II bunkers in Vedafjellet - we thought it was remarkable how intact they were and creeping through the dark tunnels with just the light from our mobile phones to light the way seemed incredibly spooky, especially given the history of the place.

We were heading somewhere much more tranquil though - a little fishing port where we stopped to eat some iced buns and take in the view, while giggling at the Norwegian mealtimes. After having lunch (sandwiches) at 11am, we were taken to a bakery at 2.30pm for a snack, before going to a local teacher's house for dinner at 4.30pm. One of my colleagues joked that it was like being babies, having to eat every three hours, which made the Norwegian teachers laugh !

The water of the fjord here (and in fact everywhere we went) is crystal clear so we could see right to the bottom and the dozens of crab shells scattered about, presumably from the fishing boats. The water is also totally still so the reflections in the water are amazingly crisp.

The sense of peace and tranquility forces you to stop and just soak it all in - mindfulness at its best !

I think I could use pretty much any of my Norway photos as a screensaver ! They all ooze tranquility and well-being.

I'm tempted to get this one, from our final stop at one of the local beaches, printed out on a canvas - I love the hint of pink in the sky, the reflection of the clouds, the ice formations at the edges of the water and the walkway that looks as if it leads out to infinity.

The walk through the dunes from the car park already had us wowed but it was just the prelude to the main event ... of Jaeren's many sandy beaches.

The Norwegians were blown away by the vastness of the sandy beaches when they visited us in Dunkirk, but I think it's the perfect reflection of the sky in the water that makes the Norwegian beaches and landscapes in general look so huge and never-ending.

You feel so small and insignificant in the scale of things that any day-to-worries seem mere trifles. You only get a couple of hours before it gets dark though so you have to make the most of it while you can !

I'm the King of the World !

What you can't see in these photos, though, is how blimming cold it was getting !

As the light started to fade, we headed back to the car, still oohing and aahing at the views all the way !

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Madhouse recipe : Hairy Bikers Vietnamese Pork

When it comes to cooking, I have two missions - trying out new flavours in exotic dishes from around the world and using up things that have been hanging around in the spice rack, fridge, freezer and cupboards for too long. When I spotted a recipe online for Hairy Bikers Vietnamese Pork, it ticked both boxes. I bookmarked it, added it to my menu plan, defrosted the pork then started cooking and noticed that it needed to simmer for a couple of hours. Oops, I had hungry kids hanging around in the kitchen already ! I adapted the recipe to make a super-speedy stir-fry and it was still delicious, getting a thumbs-up from the whole family. Here's my quick version but make sure you click through to see the original too.

Hairy Bikers Vietnamese Pork

ingredients :

2tbsp coconut oil
5 pork chops, meat cut into strips (because it was what was in the freezer - boneless pork would be better !)
3 onions
2 cloves garlic
2tsp ground lemongrass 
2tsp Chinese Five Spice
2tbsp fish sauce
4tbsp light brown sugar

Melt 1tbsp coconut oil (or use vegetable/olive oil if you prefer) and fry the pork for about 5 minutes until cooked through. Reserve.

Melt the remaining 1tbsp coconut oil (in another pan or reuse the same pan) and fry the onions and garlic until soft.

Add the sugar, spices and fish sauce and cook, stirring, until it starts to bubble and caramelise.

Return the pork to the pan and heat through, tossing the meat so it is completely covered in sauce and onions. Serve over rice or noodles.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up some ground lemongrass and Chinese Five Spice that was cluttering up the spice rack.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Aldi's Baby & Toddler Event is back !

The average British family spends up to £800 celebrating Christmas, spending a whopping £473.83 on presents alone, so it’s no surprise that come January, budgets are tight. Luckily, for parents across the UK, discount supermarket Aldi’s hugely popular Baby and Toddler event is back and available online (at from 14th January and in stores on Thursday 18th January.

With over a third of Brits resolving to streamline their finances in the New Year, Aldi’s amazing selection of products available at everyday low price means Mum and Dad can make fantastic savings on essential items for their little ones. They also have some great deals on larger items, with products ranging from bedroom furniture to buggies, feeding time to bath time and more. Here are some of the highlights to look out for.


Make your nursery stylish and cosy with a beautifully designed Aldi Mamia furniture set including Nursery Wardrobe (£119.99), Nursery Cot Bed with Drawer (£129.99), and Nursery Changing Unit (£99.99). With a combined cost of £349.97, its 75% cheaper than the popular Silver Cross Nostalgia Complete Room set that retails at £1,402.50.


Back by popular demand is Aldi Mamia’s Moses Basket (£19.99) along with Stand (£10.99). 

There are also Cellular Blankets for only £2.99 each and a 2.5 tog Baby Sleeping Bag (£9.99), perfect for cold winter nights.


Getting out and about has never been easier thanks to the Hauck Travel System (£99.99), exclusively available on for 35% less than its normal RRP of £154.99, and with a car seat, changing bag, and foot muff included, you’re getting a fantastic saving without compromising on quality

. Also available is the Hauck Sport Buggy at just £29.99, the 3-in-1 Baby Carrier for only £13.99, and customers can pick up a Buggy Organiser for £4.99.

That’s not all that’s on offer - there are fabulous prices on nappies, clothes, food and more! 

Julie Ashfield, Joint Managing Director of Corporate Buying at Aldi, said: “Everyone knows that finances in January can be tight, which is why Aldi is committed to helping parents save as much money as possible. The Baby & Toddler Specialbuy event offers everything from beautifully crafted nursery furniture to everyday essentials, like our award-winning Mamia Baby Wipes, at exceptional quality and prices to ensure parents and baby get the best possible start to 2018.”

All offers are available while stocks last – as with all Specialbuys – when it’s gone, it’s gone! For a full list of items available in The Baby & Toddler Event please see below:


















3 IN 1 BABY CARRIER £13.99

Disclosure : Post created in collaboration with Aldi. I received some vouchers in return for sharing news of the Specialbuy event.
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