Giveaway #330 : Win a rocking horse from Love Christmas Ltd - closing date 30/10


When I was asked if I'd like to set up a partnership with Love Christmas Ltd, I headed off to see what they had in stock, expecting oodles of Christmas decorations, fairy lights and Christmas trees. Well, they do have all of that, but they also have a lot more, including snow globes, beautiful ornaments and toys.

 I'll be reviewing my top picks over the coming months, but in the meantime I went to choose a prize for one of you lucky lot and picked this utterly gorgeous rocking horse, that is bound to make someone's Christmas extra special when they find it under the tree (or next to it- underneath might be a bit difficult !).

It's a beautiful miniature (28 cm x 78 cm x 68 cm) rocking horse, complete with clip-clop sound effects, neighs and a moving mouth. It's got a solid-metal frame with foam mould to make it nice and sturdy. It's on sale on the website for £59.95 and if you're worried about how much delivery would set you back for a rocking horse, do not fear - all orders come with totally free delivery !

To be in with a chance fo winning this fabulous rocking horse, enter your details in the rafflecopter widget below.



UK only. Closing date : 30/10/13

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook, twitter 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 a week, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners.

Raclette with GreenVale Farm Fresh Potatoes


When I heard from GreenVale Farm Fresh, the first thing that popped into my mind was Postman Pat - he lives in the fictional village of Greendale ! - but no, this was nothing to do with bags of mail or black and white cats. They wanted me to try out a bag of their spuds, marketed as ‘tasty, all rounder potatoes’ using the Jelly variety of potato. The press release explained : "They have a delicious, creamy buttery taste, a lovely yellow flesh and are great boiled, roasted, baked, mashed or chipped - in fact, they’re so versatile, you can use them for all your potato needs. GreenVale Farm Fresh also come in an old style paper potato sack (2kg) that are more environmentally friendly and keep the potatoes fresher for longer."

I was very impressed with how clean and healthy they look - there were absolutely no eyes, green or black bits, in fact nothing at all dodgy-looking that needed peeling or slicing off. They're also pre-washed so you don't have to get covered in mud as you wash/peel them ! The second thing that really appealed to me was the size - they're perfect for baked potatoes so would be ideal if you want to knock some of those up for Bonfire Night.


As the cold weather hit this weekend and it was a really foul Sunday with gale force winds and lashings of rain, we decided to go for a fab French winter dish : raclette. Not only is it really warming comfort food, the raclette grill warms up the house as you eat ! I boiled the GreenVale Farm Fresh Potatoes without peeling or chopping them and we were impressed at how well they retained their texture, not going soggy or falling apart. Once cooked through, they were popped on top of the raclette grill which gave them a lovely crispy skin.


A potato sliced on the plate, served with salad, tomatoes, pickles and smoked meats, all drizzled in melted raclette cheese - yum !


Raclette is a really fun family meal too because the kids always love melting the cheese in the little paddles and pouring it on their potatoes and meat !

To use up the leftover cooked potatoes, I fried them in a little olive oil and served them with fishfingers for the kids for tea, which also worked really well. Potatoes can sometimes be quite bland, but we did find that these ones had a lovely flavour.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £2.50 for 2kg

available from Tesco nationwide and from Booths in the North East

for more information : http://www.greenvalefarmfresh.co.uk

Disclosure : I received some potatoes in order to try them out and write an honest review.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Penwizard Why I Love My Mum book review


We were recently given the chance to review a "Why I Love My Mum" book from Penwizard, featuring the ultra-cute Tatty Teddy.


It takes literally seconds to personalise because you only need to do a quick message for the front page and choose between Mum, Mom, Mama, Mummy, Nan, Nanny, Gran, Granny, Grandma or Grandmother within the book. I wanted the book to be from all three of the Madhouse Mini Testers which posed a slight problem as you are only allowed 12 characters, which seemed very short to me. I got around it by using the message part to put "Loads of love from Sophie, Juliette & Pierre xxx"


It's quite a small book - smaller than I expected, to be honest. It measures 15 x 17cm which is a bit bigger than a CD case.


It's very cute though, both in terms of the texts and the drawings. It's bound to melt the heart of any mother or grandmother as a special gift from her children or grandchildren.


It's the perfect stocking filler for Christmas. It's quite expensive for a 24 page paperback book but the awww-factor makes it worth it. Hopefully they'll add a male version next to keep the dads and grandads happy too !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £9.99


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

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Penwizard Peppa Pig Personalised Storybook review


Top 5 Tips for Getting Your Child’s First Mobile Phone


All kids these days want a mobile phone - even 8-year-old Juliette asked if she could have one the other day, supposedly because a girl in her class has got a smartphone, which I find hard to believe ! I remember umming and aahing about whether to get Sophie a phone when she went to secondary school. I'm glad we did now because she can keep in touch with us if she's going to be late or if we start worrying about where she is. It's also really handy for school trips so that she can let us know if they'll be arriving later or earlier than planned. Here's a guest post that gives you some useful advice on other things to take into account when choosing your child's first mobile phone.

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A lot of parents out there will be reaching the stage where their child asks for a mobile phone, and for many parents these words often strike fear into their hearts, and in a way so they should.

There will always be good and bad points to buying a mobile phone for a child : on the one hand you like the idea that your son or daughter has the ability to contact you at any time. However, you are also considering the possibility of them running up a steep bill, damaging the phone, or - worse still – having the phone stolen.

If you think that these are a lot of things to consider, you then get faced with in-phone features which bring up the question of whether you want your child to have access to social networks. Yes, Facebook does implement a 13-year-old age restriction but that does not stop a 10-year-old from signing up and agreeing to the T&C’s.


Don’t get me wrong though, a phone can be a saviour for you and your child. I am sure you are all too aware of those long car journeys where the repeated “are we nearly there yet?” shouts come from the back seat, and having a phone can be a great asset during these types of occasions. They can also play a great role on family holidays where your child can take their own photos and record their own videos.

Like anything you buy for your child, you do need to consider certain things, and that is why I have put together this top 5 list of what you should look for when you buy their first mobile phone:



#1 – Don’t Buy Expensive Phones

The first rule of buying your child a phone is not to go over the top with a £300 or £500 Smartphone. At the end of the day it’s their first phone, they are young, and the phone is going to get dropped, scratched, and even lost.

You can get some pretty great Smartphones that can keep them entertained from as little as £10 and below the £40 mark.


#2 – Stay Away From Contract Phones

Getting your child a prepaid phone instead of a contract phone is a safe bet. It not only keeps them from overspending and running up outrageous bills, but it also helps to teach them the meaning of money.

You can tell your child that they have £10 and that must last them the course of 1 month. If they run out, then they run out. Over time, they will soon learn to make that £10 go a little longer.


#3 – Find a Durable Phone

A lot of parents I have questioned about what they look for in a mobile phone for their child have said that they tend to look away from branded phones and more towards phones that are durable.

There are some solid phones out there that can take a bit of a bashing. If you want the ultimate in strength, then take a look at the JCB phone!


#4- Fits In With Their Mates

This isn’t a priority for everyone but some parents who don’t want to pay the high costs of Apple and Samsung will find a mid-range phone that fits in with what their mates have, so they don’t feel left out.

It can be a good idea to talk to other parents to see what their take on this is, and what phones their children have.

To add to this section, it is also worthwhile checking if the phone has any pre-installed games. I have found from talking to a group of parents that their children love to play games on phones and that it can keep them occupied for ages. Of course you can download some games for free, but it’s always good to have a few preloaded games.


#5 – Track Your Kid

Some parents feel that this is a step too far, but others feel comforted by the fact they know where their child is. Using GPS on your child’s phone and Google Locations, it will show you where your child is, and where they have been. There are plenty of apps that can help you locate your child, and these apps also help to find lost phones.

Remember, every parent is different and there may be things that you want your son or daughter to see, and other things that you want to restrict access to. You may want to buy your child an iPhone, or a Galaxy S4 : these are your decisions and this article is designed to help those that may need some guidance when it comes to buying their child their first mobile phone.

After all, many parents didn’t have to go through this process when they were children !

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We would like to thank Craig Timmins and the team at SellMyMobile.com for researching and providing this article for publishing.

Disclosure : This is a sponsored, but nevertheless honest and hopefully interesting, post !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Sabbiarelli Sand Art Kit review


I recently received an email from a lovely Italian mum, asking if we'd like to try out a creative toy from Italy that has just been launched on the UK market via Amazon. I went off to have a look and discovered a fun, brightly-coloured sand art kit. If you're unaware of the concept, it's like a painting by numbers kit except the paint is replaced by coloured sand which you apply to the adhesive under the carefully pre-cut designs on the boards. The clever part about this particular version is that the sand dispensers are shaped to look just like big pencils and the ends come off and flip over as funnels to put any excess sand back in the tubes.


The kit contains eight pictures, each measuring 21x15 cm, but up until the end of the month, they are also enclosing an extra pack of Halloween designs totally free. There is no mention of this on their amazon page but they do tell you about it on their Facebook page so it's definitely worth following them to keep abreast of any new offers.


So what did the Madhouse Mini-testers think? They LOVED it ! You may notice that I put down a plastic tablecloth before we started - this is absolutely indispensable as you will get sand everywhere, however hard you try not to ! 


The pencil-shaped distributors make it easy to get the sand in the right places (and the little red tool helps with peeling off the papers) but it is quite hard to get the excess sand back in the tubes without it going all over the place.


The designs are very cute and appealed to all three of the kids - that's no mean feat, finding a product that a 4-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old can all manage to do and all want to do. It was the perfect rainy day activity for all three of them to do at the same time.


Pierre needed a bit of help from big sister Sophie to get the unused sand back into the tubes but apart from that, he did it all by himself.


He loved picking out the colours and seeing the picture come to life before his eyes. As it is impossible to go over the lines, you get a really impressive-looking picture, whatever your age and cack-handedness !


Another added bonus is the free app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch which replicates the sand art experience, even down to using the same pencil-shaped sand dispensers. It's a great app for travelling in the car or at the grandparents' when you don't want to get sand everywhere !

Both the app and the kit have been really popular. The Madhouse Mini-testers have already decided that when the pencil dispensers are empty, they will be great recycled as glitter dispensers for making Christmas cards. I'm sure you must be able to buy refill sand packs too though.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £29 (+ £7.95 UK delivery from Italy - hopefully the delivery charge will come down as they become more established in the UK and find local retailers)



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

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Picture Book Review : Cupcake and the Princess Party - Mandy Archer & Kirsteen Harris-Jones

Calling all happy snappy kids for NGKids photo competition !


Do your kids love taking photos and discovering the world around them? Then I have news of the perfect competition for them. National Geographic have launched this year's Photography Contest for Kids and there are some pretty amazing prizes up for grabs !

One lucky winner will scoop the trip of a lifetime - a family holiday in Zambia ! - staying in incredible accommodation, getting up close to the animals and getting a personal photography masterclass from top wildlife photographer, Sue Flood. There are also Canon cameras and Snapfish goodies up for grabs for the runners-up, so what are you waiting for? It’s time to get snapping!

There are four categories you can enter....

Category 1 – People
Category 2 – Animals
Category 3 - Scenery
Category 4 - Humour

This year's competition will be judged by National Geographic photographer Reza, award-winning wildlife photographer Sue Flood and children's TV presenter, Barney Harwood! They can't wait to see your snaps!

HOW TO ENTER

Send one email per category to photocomp@ngkids.co.uk. Make sure that the subject of each email contains your name and the category you're entering, ie. 'Chloe Smith, Humour'. You must include your name, age, contact details and a caption to go with the picture you attach to each email. You may only send four emails in total (one email per category). When entering by email you certify that you took the photo and you acknowledge that your parent/guardian agrees to your participation in this competition. The closing date is 31 October 2013. Good luck!


Disclosure : We'll be receiving a year's subscription to NG Kids magazine, so I'll be back soon to tell you what we think of it !

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Cooking with Campbell's Soup Challenge : Goat's Cheese & Chorizo Pasta Bake

Giveaway #329 : Win 3 copies of After Earth on DVD - closing date 28/10


Today saw the release on Blu-ray and DVD of AFTER EARTH. Starring Jaden Smith (The Karate Kid) and two-time Academy Award nominated Will Smith (2006, Best Actor, The Pursuit of Happyness; 2001, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Ali), this action-adventure follows Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) and his father Cypher (Will Smith), as they set out on a routine mission that crash lands them on a hostile planet Earth. Now, 1,000 years after Earth has been quarantined, everything on the planet has evolved to kill humans. Unable to contact home, and forced to battle exotic creatures and dangerous terrains, Kitai and Cypher must fight together to survive.

Blu-ray and DVD Special Features:
“A Father’s Legacy” featurette – Will and Jaden Smith on and off screen
“1,000 Years in 300 Seconds” featurette – On Location with the Cast
“The Nature of the Future” featurette – A look at the landscapes and creatures of the film

Blu-ray Exclusives:
A Never-Before-Seen Version of the Film’s Opening Sequence
“Building a World” featurette – A glimpse into the creation of the After Earth universe
“Pre-Visualizing the Future” featurette – A next-generation approach to action sequences
“The Animatics of After Earth” featurette – Never-before-seen storyboards and animatics


for more information : www.facebook.com/AfterEarthMovie or hashtag #AfterEarth




AFTER EARTH has a run time of approximately 95 mins and is rated 12.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment have kindly offered three copies of After Earth on DVD for lucky Madhouse Family Reviews readers. To be in with a chance of winning, enter your details in the Rafflecopter widget below.



UK only. Closing date : 28/10/13

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook, twitter 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 a week, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners.

This week's must-try recipes 14/10/13

Time for another round-up of tasty treats and dishes that I've spotted in the blogosphere over the past couple of weeks - yum ! I know what I'll be making during the school holidays !


A 2-minute mug cake that looks utterly gorgeous from Gingey Bites  - this one is begging to be tried when the kids get home from school on a cold, rainy afternoon !


Alison at Dragons and Fairy Dust made these Mincemeat Biscuits which will be ideal for using up a jar of mincemeat that's lurking in the back of my cupboard.


An American classic that I've often heard of but never tried - Snickerdoodles from United Cakedom.


There seems to be a definite cake theme going on this week ! Romanian Mum's Halloween Pumpkin Cupcakes sound perfect as a half term project too.


And a savoury option to finish with from the ever-talented Galina - I love the look of these Golubtsy in Tomato Sauce.

Hmmmm !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Kid-friendly recipe : Smiley Spiral Apple tarts

Fabulous Crispello dessert ideas


Having a full-time job seriously cramps your blogging style sometimes. A little while ago, I was invited to a fabulous event making sumptuous desserts using Cadbury's Crispello alongside celebrity chef Lily Vanilli. I couldn't make it, which I was slightly gutted about, but those fabulous people at the Cadbury's Press Office sent me over the recipes and several bags of Crispello so that we could have fun recreating them at The Madhouse.

We decided to have a go at recreating this showstopper of a dessert that would be ideal as an edible centrepiece for a festive dinnertable : the Christmas Tower. (Now I'd have called it a Crispello-mas Tower - I should have got a job in advertising !)

Here's the original version.

Christmas Tower


Ingredients:

Approx 60 Cadbury Crispello pieces (approximately 6 sharing bags)
150g milk or dark chocolate
Optional : Decorate with wafer or edible flowers

Dip the base of a Cadbury Crispello in melted chocolate and start to stick the pieces in place in a pyramid shape. Drizzle your Cadbury Crispello pieces in melted milk or white chocolate. (Lily’s Tip... Cut some of the Crispello pieces in half for a more creative feel!) Add the finishing touches with some wafer pieces, edible flowers and crushed Cadbury Crispello pieces.


Well, we decided that 6 whole sharing bags was an awful lot so we went for a smaller version. Juliette happy went through a couple of bags unwrapping them all and stacking them up.


To avoid using hot chocolate which could be slightly dangerous for little fingers, we used chocolare ice cream sauce and sprinkles instead.


It may not be as impressive as the original but we happily polished it off as dessert ! This would be a great "make it then eat it" activity for a kids' party too.

There are another two recipes for us still to try out :

Cadbury Crispello Ice Cream


Ingredients :
300ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod, split down the middle
8 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
250ml double cream
12 Cadbury Crispello Double Choc or Vanilla Velvet pieces

To make the ice-cream:

1. Pour the milk into a pan, add the vanilla pod and bring slowly up to a high temperature – do not let it boil. Leave to cool and infuse with the vanilla for approximately 1 hour. Once cool, remove the vanilla pod from the pan and scrape out the seeds into the milk.

2. In a bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until thick and fluffy – this takes 4 minutes. Pour in the vanilla milk and stir until you get a thin custard.

3. Pour the mixture into a heavy-bottomed pan, place over a medium heat and stir continuously with a wooden spoon as you slowly heat through. When the custard has thickened and the foam bubbles on the
surface have disappeared, remove it from the heat, whisk it for a couple of minutes with a large balloon whisk then pour into your cold, dry metal bowl.

4. Leave it to cool for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin forming.

If churning by hand: Once the mixture is cool then put it into the fridge for 1–2 hours. Remove and stir in the cream and gently crush and stir in the Cadbury Crispello pieces. Put into the freezer for half an hour, then
churn before placing in the freezer to set completely.

If churning in an ice cream maker: Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the cream, gently crush and stir in the
Cadbury Crispello pieces, churn for 30–35 minutes, then place in the freezer to set completely.

To serve : Scoop out the set ice cream, add additional Cadbury Crispello Double Choc or Vanilla Velvet pieces on top for decoration!


Cadbury Crispello Mille Feuille

Ingredients :

250g the best quality all butter puff pastry you can buy (or make your own!)
30g cocoa powder (plus extra for dusting)
12 x pieces of Cadbury Crispello Double Choc or Vanilla Velvet

For the chocolate cream:
60g icing sugar (sifted)
60g unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted)
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
500ml cold double cream

To make the pastry:

1. Get your pastry to a temperature that is just ‘rollable’ but no softer.
2. Lightly flour a surface and roll out the pastry to form a rectangle around 3mm thickness.
3. Sift half of your cocoa powder evenly over the surface.
4. Fold the right half of the pastry into the centre, then the left to meet in the centre. Dust with the rest of the cocoa powder and fold the top and bottom to meet in the centre once again.
5. Now roll the pastry out again into a rectangle around 3mm thickness.
6. Transfer to a baking tray lined with baking paper.
7. Prick all over with a fork, place another sheet of baking paper on top and weigh this down with a baking tray on top.
8. Bake this for 10-15mins or until just starting to brown.
9. Remove the top tray and return to bake until crisp and browning all over.
10. Remove and leave to cool.

To make the chocolate cream:

1. Combine the icing sugar and cocoa.
2. Pour your cream into a metal bowl and whip thoroughly and evenly with a hand mixer, beginning on a medium speed.
3. When the cream starts to thicken and you see the first sign of soft peaks, add the combined sugar and cocoa one tbsp. at a time, then add the vanilla.
4. Now reduce the speed to medium -low and continue just until you have a foamy consistency.

To assemble

1. Cut your cooled pastry into rectangles (approx 4.5cm x 7cm).
2. Now pipe or gently spread a thin layer of the cream onto a rectangle of pastry.
3. Top with a layer of Cadbury Crispello (you might like to crush these first), pipe/spread another layer of cream, then
top with another rectangle of pastry.
4. Transfer to a plate and sift a dusting of cocoa over the Cadbury Crispello Mille Feuille
5. Decorate with fruit, edible flowers or whatever takes your fancy!

For further information please visit www.facebook.com/cadburyuk

Disclosure : We received some bags of Crispello in order to try out the recipes.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Kid-friendly recipe : Smiley Spiral Apple tarts

New & Improved Little Dish Toddler Meals review


Little Dish, who pride themselves on providing proper food for little ones, got in touch recently to see if we'd like to try two of their new products. They have modified their already popular Fish Pie recipe so that it now contains MSC approved wild salmon, improving both taste and levels of Omega 3.


And they have also come up with a brand new recipe -  Mini Cheese Ravioli in a Tomato and Veg Sauce - in response to the large number of parents who wanted some extra vegetarian options in the range. They explain : "Little Dish’s new Mini Cheese Ravioli in a Tomato and Veg Sauce gives little ones 2 of their 5 a day of vegetables in one delicious meal. The mini pasta pieces are the perfect size and texture for little mouths and the sauce contains yummy chunks of vegetables to help little ones develop a taste for healthy grown-up textures. Just like all of the Little Dish meals, this new arrival is of course made from 100% natural ingredients, is low in salt, contains no added sugar and no additives or preservatives."


First I warmed up the  Fish Pie in the microwave - it only takes 2 & 1/2 minutes, but be warned, it comes out way too hot to eat so let it cool down a while before serving. The packaging promises a cheesy salmon and pollock pie made with finely chopped spinach and delicious mashed potato. I was a bit confused when I peeled off the plastic film because I could see a large chunk of white fish floating in a creamy sauce but no potato. Hmmm. I mashed it all up and decided that it is all blended together so the fishy lump in the middle is actually a mixture of fish and mash.


As the fish pie cooled down, I zapped the ravioli. They were a bit congealed and stuck together but I picked them apart with a fork and they actually looked quite appetising, even to me ! Little Dish meals are suitable for children aged 1 year+, so I wasn't sure what my considerably older testers would think.


Well, 8-year-old Juliette did ask (with a grin) if it was baby food then proceeded to wolf the whole lot down, declaring it "even nicer than the fish pie at the canteen".


4-year-old Pierre was equally pleased with his dish of ravioli and ate the whole lot, although he did complain that they were too hot and that he burned his mouth, despite me letting them stand for a while before giving them to him.

They were an ideal quick solution after a long day and work and - even better - as I served them straight from the dish, there wasn't even any washing up to deal with !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £2.50 for 200g

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

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Aldi's Spooktastic Halloween range review


As I discovered last year, buying cute-scary Halloween costumes for young children is no problem but once they turn into teens and start getting adult-sized, it's not so easy. Sophie was therefore over the moon to receive this Spooktastic Halloween dress from Aldi.


The dress is a perfect fit - not bad going as she's the same height as me (and she's only 12!) - but the gothic collar was too tight. As soon as I'd taken the photos, she said she felt like it was strangling her and took it off. I may sew on an extra piece of ribbon or add some extra Velcro to make it bigger or she could just wear the dress without.


I was really impressed with the prices too. (This is Aldi, I shouldn't be surprised any more !) The adult costumes cost just £7.99 and you can pick up a kids' outfit for a bargaintastic £3.99.


They also sent through a pack of Glow Sticks, which retail at £2.99. As well as being great fun for the kids, these are actually great for keeping the kids visible and safe when you're out trick or treating.

If you fancy heading over to check out what else Aldi have on offer for Halloween, make sure you click through to their Halloween recipe section. They have some great ideas, including Eyeball Spaghetti, Pumpkin Muffins and Goblin Grins !


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

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Philly Black Widow Spider Chocolate Cup Cakes for Halloween