Sunday, 26 June 2016

Get ready for a new pocket money craze - Tsum Tsum Squishies ! (review)

Pierre and Juliette are both obsessed with Tsum Tsums. They've been collecting the plush toys for a while now and as soon as they have enough pocket money, they always want to head to the toy shop to see if they have any new ones.

I didn't believe Juliette when she told me that they were designed as screen cleaners but she showed me on the label and I had to admit she was right ! I've told her it's a bad idea though because her beloved plush collectibles would end up very grubby (and I was also a bit concerned about them scratching the screen).

Tsum Tsums have now been given a new lease of life in Tsum Tsum Squishies, which are smaller, cuter and squishier versions of the original plush collectibles.

Series 1 of Tsum Tsum Squishies was comprised of 50 characters, including 8 Rare Characters and 4 Ultra Rare Characters. Just like the plush toys, they are stackable - in fact Tsum Tsum (pronounced Zoom Zoom, so we've all been saying it wrong all this time !) means "stack stack" in Japanese.

Things are about to get even more exciting because this month sees the launch of Series 2 Flocked Tsum Tsum Squishies which come with a super-fuzzy upgrade! Each pack contains famous characters from the smash-hit Disney movies and one of the characters is a surprise. Can you collect them all?

RRP : Disney Tsum Tsum Squishies 2 Pack £2.99; Disney Tsum Tsum Squishies 4 Pack £4.99; Disney Tsum Tsum Squishies Pack of 5 with Carry Carabiner £7.99

Suitable for Ages 3+

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

Help the kids drink water like they oughta ! #EnjoyMoreWater

Over the past few weeks, the weather has been full of thunderstorms, torrential downpours and grey skies, but I'm hopeful that the summer can't be too far away. That will mean lots of days out, long walks, picnics at the beach, playing football in the park, bike rides, swingball, geocaching, running up and down hills, ladybird hunting, the list is endless... all of which leaves the kids feeling hot and sweaty. Ask them if they want an ice cream or a bar of chocolate and they'll inevitably say yes, but offer them a drink and more often than not, they'll say they're not thirsty or they'll have one later because they don't want to stop playing yet.

Keeping your kids hydrated during the summer months can actually turn into a bit of a headache. Two thirds of parents (64%) say they don't know how much water their kids should be drinking and almost half (42%) say that their children find the taste of water ‘boring’. I must admit, when I was a kid, I always used to say I didn't like the taste of water too. With hindsight, it was probably the taste of chlorine in the water that I didn't like rather than the water itself, but I'd never drink a glass of plain water - it would always be a glass of fruit juice, fizzy pop or radioactive-looking orange squash filled with e-numbers ! Luckily, there are healthier options available these days. Robinsons, who launched the Enjoy Drinking More Water campaign in January 2016, use real fruit in their squash and no added sugar, artificial colours or preservatives. Their Squash’d super concentrated squash range comes in a bottle so small that you can fit it easily in your handbag, kids' backpack or even the glovebox of the car, making it cheaper and easier to keep your kids hydrated this summer. We received a gift box including six delicious flavours of Robinsons Squash’d, along with a star chart to help track our water-drinking progress, and the kids have been having great fun mixing up the flavours and guzzling gallons of water !

Robinsons asked us to share our top tips to #EnjoyMoreWater so here are our fun ways of getting the kids to drink water like they oughta !

Get scientific - Put an old washing-up sponge outside in the sun then come back and see how dry and shrivelled up it looks later in the day. You could even get creative and add googly eyes so it looks like Spongebob Squarepants ! Explain that this is what happens to your body when you don't drink enough water. Kids always love yucky stuff too so show them an online "wee-checker" so they can check if they are starting to get dehydrated. This is guaranteed to have them drinking loads so that they can keep running to the toilet to check the colour !

Ice is nice - Water doesn't just come in liquid form so making iced lollies in a variety of flavours is a simple way to keep your kids' water levels topped up. The Squash'd squeezy bottles are ideal for this because the kids will make a lot less mess than using the big bottles if they want to help. They also give a lovely strong flavour.

Funk it up - Let's face it, water IS pretty boring most of the time, but it doesn't have to be ! When I was in Poland, I discovered infused-water - jugs of water in restaurants with anything from orange, lemon and lime wedges to strips of cucumber and sprigs of fresh mint in them. You can also make ice cubes with berries in or use a Sodastream machine to add bubbles to tap water.

A lotta bottle - Finding drinkware that appeals to the kids is always a great way to encourage them to drink more. At home, tumblers featuring their favourite characters or curly straws are ideal, but buying a water bottle for when you're out and about is also essential for the summer. These easy-to-hold sports bottles got a big thumbs-up from the Madhouse kids and the fact that they have them constantly at hand during long walks always encourages them to drink more.

Feeling fruity - Take advantage of summer fruits to make smoothies and juices - have you ever tasted pure fresh strawberry juice from sieving crushed strawberries? It is absolutely divine. We also had fun last year making honeydew melons into edible drinking vessels for special fruity cocktails. After having a drink, you get to eat it which even saves on the washing up !

Have you got any top tips for getting your kids to drink more over the summer?

Disclosure : This post is an entry for BritMums #DrinkMoreWater Challenge, sponsored by Robinsons

Globecooking recipe : Pide - Turkish pizza (Turkey)

I first discovered (and told you about) pide or Turkish pizza when we were in Kusadasi on holiday and shared platefuls of it at the snack bar. I've been playing around with the recipe and think I have it tasting pretty authentic now. You could put whatever you like in it though - they also did a cheese version that was equally tasty.

 Pide - Turkish pizza

ingredients :

500g bread mix (I used focaccia)
600g beef mince
2 onions
1 clove garlic
tin of chopped tomatoes (or baby plum tomatoes)
3tbsp tomato concentrate
1/4 red pepper
1/4 green pepper
2tbsp sumac
1tbsp dried basil
1tbsp berberé (or smoked paprika)
drizzle of chilli-infused olive oil
drizzle of pomegranate molasses (optional)

I went for the lazy easy option and used half a bag (500g) of Lidl Focaccia mix in the bread machine on the pizza dough programme (50 minutes) while I sorted out the topping. You could make it by hand though.

Finely chop the garlic, onion and peppers and mix in with the minced beef.

 Add a tin of chopped tomatoes - I used baby plum tomatoes to give it a nice chunky texture.

Stir in the tomato concentrate for extra richness.

 Add the seasoning - sumac and basil are traditional, berberé isn't (I was clearing out my spice rack) so feel free to use whatever you have to hand. Smoked paprika and cumin would work well too.

Add a drizzle of olive oil (I used chilli infused oil to give it a little kick) and I stirred in some pomegranate molasses that I brought back from Turkey, which adds a sweet tartness.

I originally planned on using it raw as a topping then changed my mind at the last minute and cooked it all and left it to cool. I think this was the better option because it meant I could taste it and adjust the seasoning.

Once the pizza dough has finished rising, tip it out onto a floured surface, shape it into a log and chop it into several equal-sized pieces.

Use your hands to squish the dough out until it's flat and roughly rectangular.

Transfer the dough to a baking tray and place spoonfuls of meat topping all over, leaving a 2cm margin all the way round (as in the bottom one). Use your fingers to pinch the extremities into a point, then press the edges up and over the filliing, at the same time pressing the meat topping flat. It should end up resembling an elongated boat (as in the top one).

As I didn't have an authentic wood-burning oven like the pizza chef in Turkey, I popped them in the oven at 200° for 20 minutes until the dough was cooked through and golden brown.

Cut into slices and drizzle with extra pomegranate molasses if you have some - or you could sprinkle with parmesan if you haven't.

Fancy trying some more Turkish cuisine? How about BaklavaGözlemeKofte or Menemen?

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout because it cleared out my spice rack and used up some pomegranate molasses that I brought back from Turkey last year.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

June's Degustabox heralding in the summer is the BBQ Box (review)

June's Degustabox has just arrived and it's a taste of things to come, focusing on picnic and BBQ food for when the summer weather has decided to stick around. As soon as we took our first peek inside the box, we could see brands and products that we knew we'd love.

Here's the contents of this month's box :

Butterkist Yogurt Coated Popcorn - I wasn't sure about the combination of popcorn and yogurt when I saw the pack - they're both things I like but together? Well, it's better than I expected, because it doesn't make the popcorn go soggy, as I feared, but I do prefer a classic toffee coated popcorn if I'm honest. The Madhouse kids loved it though, even if they thought it was a white chocolate coating to begin with !

Haywards Medium & Tangy Silverskin Onions - I love pickled onions, especially the big ones, and these ones have a fabulously tart tanginess to them. Perfect in salads, cheese sandwiches or alongside fish and chips. They'd also be great in these British Ploughman's Pies.

Branston Spicy Tomato Relish - Another picnic and BBQ essential, lovely on burgers and hotdogs fresh off the grill or squirted on the side of the plate to accompany grilled meats and rice. It's got a bit of a kick so it's great for jazzing up the leftovers and can be used as a more grown-up alternative to ketchup. I'll be adding a squirt to my Spanish omelettes and cheese scones to take them to another level. The squeezy bottle is more convenient than a jar for alfresco dining and picnics.

Zeo Cloudy Lemonade - I've tried Zeo drinks in previous Degustaboxes and loved them. Made with 98% spring water, lemon flesh and essential oils from the skin, then sweetened with a touch of stevia and beet and cane sugar, they are a refreshing, natural-tasting drink that is perfect for enjoying over ice in the summer. Each bottle only contains 28 calories and 1.5 teaspoons of sugar.

Schwartz Grillmates Burger Mix - When you buy frozen burgers from the supermarket, you can never really be sure what's gone into them, but if making your own from fresh always seemed like too much faff, Schwartz have the perfect solution. Just add a sachet of their Grillmates Burger mix to some minced beef (I also added a chopped onion), shape into burgers (or onto skewers or into meatballs) and grill or fry. The result is lovely fresh, juicy burgers ready in moments.

Amoy Rich & Creamy Coconut Milk - Back up until a few years ago, I'd never have dreamed of buying and using coconut milk, but now it's turned into a kitchen cupboard staple here at The Madhouse. It's great for adding creaminess and richness to sweet and savoury dishes and gives a more delicate flavour than normal cream. Things I've made using coconut milk that you might like to try include Jasmine-infused Coconut & Cherry Custards, Thai Prawn & Coconut Soup and Prawn & Salmon Massaman Curry.

Sacla Pesto Pots - I love Sacla Pesto but it's usually just me and Madhouse Daddy eating it because the kids aren't keen. A big jar is therefore usually too much so these individual-serving pots are a great way of reducing food waste. They can be added to pasta for an instant supper, smeared over chicken breasts or used as a pizza sauce to make a change from tomato-based sauces. I strongly recommend making a Cherry Tomato Pesto Tart for a twist on pizza too - cover a puff-pastry sheet in pesto, top with halved cherry tomatoes and sprinkle with cheese then bake in the oven. Delicious warm or cold.

Bakedin Mug Brownie Mix - A rich and velvety Belgian chocolate brownie, baked in a mug, ready in 2 minutes in the microwave - what's not to like? OK, so you never get the perfect texture when it's microwaved but when you need a chocolate/cake fix in a hurry, you could do a lot worse !

Think Products Smooze: Coconut & Mango - A brand and a product that I'd never heard of but it's a total winner for the summer - it's a freeze-at-home fruit ice made from 40% coconut milk and 50% fruit juice and puree. Tastes lovely, 100% vegan and free from most allergens, healthier than many "fruit" ices and made from all natural ingredients. Win-win !

Marstons King Star Lager - One for Madhouse Daddy. This is the new crafted lager from the Wychwood brewery and it was apparently very nice - refreshing and very drinkable with a mellow flavour. 

Miracle Noodle Angel Hair - Low calorie (they're basically calorie and carb free), vegan, non GMO, gluten free and soy free. They can be used as a substitute for regular pasta if you're trying to lose weight. I don't like the smell and the texture, but as long as you smother them in sauce, they're edible !

Destrooper-Olivier Belgian Butter Waffle Crisp Biscuits - These are absolutely scrummy and totally moreish. Their rich buttery taste and crisp texture that melts in the mouth had us coming back for more until the whole pack had gone.

This month's recipe card suggests two dishes, Penne with Sacla Pesto, Pancetta & Parmesan and Amoy Thai Green Curry, which both sound tasty.

A subscription to Degustabox costs £12.99 per month including delivery, with each box having a value of much more than that, but the great news is, I have a discount coupon code for you which gives you a whopping £6 off the price of your first box - just enter code BLDEG15 at the checkout - making it great value and a fab way to discover new products.

for more information :

Also now on Instagram @DegustaboxUK 

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

Ravensburger New York 3D Puzzle Buildings (review)

We're big fans of the Ravensburger 3d puzzles here at The Madhouse - we've already had great fun reviewing The Empire State Building, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Medieval House and Eiffel Tower By Night - so we were delighted to receive a trio of US monuments to recreate in puzzle form, something that made me particularly happy because they are all places that we saw in real life on our American honeymoon all the way back in 2000. The three new puzzles to add to our collection are Statue of Liberty 3D Puzzle, Empire State Building with Lights 3D Puzzle and Chrysler Building with Lights 3D Puzzle

If you've never made a 3d puzzle before and you're wondering how it works, the puzzle pieces are made of plastic and many of them are hinged. They are also numbered with an arrow showing you where to attach the next piece,which makes construction a lot easier. Your first job is to sift through the pieces and lay them out in numerical order (or at least piles of twenties, thirties, etc).

You also get plastic trimmings and moudings that make each construction easily identifiable, such as the top of the Chrysler building here.

We had an afternoon session making all three of the puzzles and the kids got involved too, both sorting out the pieces into numerical order and helping to put them together. 

We started with the Empire State Building, as it was a puzzle that we had made before but without the lights feature. It is quite a tricky architectural shape to recreate because it's not a regular square or rectangle, it's more like an H shape with extra sections added on the sides. Luckily there are plastic support structures to be inserted at various levels to help keep it all together.

We had a couple of issues with pieces snapping - this one split as I folded it along the hinge, but luckily it made no difference once it was put in place.

And the interlocking part snapped off this one which was a bit more problematic, but I got round it by gluing it into place. Both of the pieces that had issues were in the Empire State Building box - I'm starting to think it's a jinxed building/puzzle !

We managed to construct the puzzle almost all the way to the top with no other issues - it stayed firmly in place and didn't keep popping apart, which was a problem we had with the original Empire State Building 3d puzzle that we tried before. However, I totally failed to put together the top section, and when I called in reinforcements from Sophie, she failed too. For the final section, the first three pieces (let's call them 1, 2 and 3) slot together in the middle then you need to switch to the other side, like a mirror reflection, and slot in 4,5,6. This is where the fun started - we couldn't get numbers 7, 8, etc to fit in anywhere, however hard we tried, and when we tried too hard, all we managed to do was break pieces further down the structure. Maybe we were just being rubbish - I'll be interested to see how other bloggers got on - but they could definitely do with adding an extra note in the instruction sheet. It's particularly frustrating as it was only the very last layer that caused a problem - so near and yet so far ! The suggested age range for this puzzle is 12-99, whereas on the other two it's 10-99, so they must know it's slightly trickier.

Putting it to one side, we tackled the other two puzzles, both of which were a dream to put together - no broken pieces, easy to assemble and it all stayed in place perfectly.

The Statue of Liberty puzzle is even easier and would be a perfect 3d puzzle for children to try their hands at because the plinth is the only part that needs constructing and it's a simple square shape. While the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building both contain 216 pieces, the Statue of Liberty only has 108 so it's a simpler and quicker option, while still looking fantastic when it's put together and the statue is put in place.

What makes the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building puzzles extra special is that once they're finished, they have a colour-changing light box that you can place underneath to make the whole structure light up in different colours. This looks really cool but it's hard to really show off in photos, so I thought I'd share Ravensburger's videos to give you a proper idea of how it works.

If you like puzzles and fancy a new challenge, the 3d range is perfect. They're fun to put together (most of the time !) and look so good when they're finished that they can be left out on display as a permanent feature. 

RRP : Statue of Liberty - £19.99: Empire State Building - £24.99; Chrysler Building - £24.99

Disclosure : I received the puzzles in order to write an honest review.

Fab freebies of the week 25/6

Whether you voted out or in, I hope you all have a lovely weekend. Here's this week's fab freebies to hopefully put a smile on your face..


Could you be one of 400 male Insiders with light, medium or dark brown hair who want the natural grey-free look to test Just For Men?

Print off a voucher for a free 40g can of Pringles

Spin the wheel and get a free pint of Amstel

@TigerNutsUK Try a Free Sample of the Original & Best #TigerNuts to Review? Email

Select a sample of Diesel Only The Brave perfume


PG Tips are giving away 40,000 FREE Green Tea bags.

Enter to be in with a chance of winning one of 1,000 Balance Me cleansers

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 :

Friday, 24 June 2016

Book review : Owl Song At Dawn - Emma Claire Sweeney

Spastic, Mongol, Retarded ... all words that used to be bandied about quite innocently back in the seventies when I was a child, even in official circles, but that nobody would dream of saying these days because they seem really offensive. Go back a couple more decades and things were even worse, with parents strongly encouraged to institutionalise their children with Down's Syndrome, forced sterilisation and even the Nazis shipping any "mentally deficient" people off to concentration camps. Such was the world that Edie Maloney was born into, but her family disregarded the doctors with their "helpful advice" and gave her the best life they could in 1950's Morecambe. The official letters, criticising the family for refusing to have her institutionalised and using terminology that sounds extremely patronising and insulting, are hard to read but undoubtedly realistic for the time. 

Fast forward to modern times and Len and Steph, who both have Down's, have a comparatively charmed life, working in the Sea View Lodge guest house, which focuses on welcoming groups of people with learning disabilities throughout the year, dreaming of getting married and living a relatively normal life with care workers who have their best interests at heart.

The central character of the story, and the thread that ties all the different people and time periods together, is Maeve, owner of the Sea View Lodge, godmother of Steph and twin sister of Edie. As the "lucky" twin with no disabilities, her life should have been happier and stress-free, but she had her fair share of troubles, from guilt at not being able to protect her sister to her unhappy love life. As the story shifts constantly between past and present, we piece together the tragic youth of both Maeve and Edie, their missed chances and unfulfilled dreams. But what if it's not too late and, even in her eighties, Maeve can finally find her happy ending?

Despite the poignant look at how disabled people were treated in the past and the tragic destiny of both Edie and Maeve, it remains an ultimately uplifting and positive book with life lessons for us all. The fact that the author draws on her own autistic sister for inspiration imbues the whole novel with compassion, tenderness and a level of understanding that make it into a beautiful work that can't fail to move you.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (1 July 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1785079670
  • ISBN-13: 978-1785079672

Disclosure : I received the book in order to write an honest review.

Time to get beach-ready ! Summer health & beauty roundup

We're all going on a summer holiday ... no more working for a week or two ! Well, we've nearly made it. We're almost into July so we've now got our eyes firmy fixed on the prized summer holiday. This year we're heading off to Lanzarote, which will be our first ever foray into the Canary Islands. It's definitely time to get beach-ready, not by going on one of those faddy crash diets that all the summery magazines are filed with but by stocking up on a few canny buys to prepare your skin and hair for all that sun, sea and sand.

First up is obviously sun protection and I'll be packing a couple of bottles of Eucerin 50+ Kids' Sun Spray. I've long known Eucerin as a dermatologist-recommended skin care brand which offers products specifically designed for those with particular skin concerns such as eczema, but I wasn't aware that they made sun cream too. Their Sun Kids Spray is free from perfume, colourants and parabens, clinically proven to be suitable even on atopic skin, extra water-resistant and it comes in the fun spray format that the Madhouse kids always prefer. RRP - £19.50 for 200ml.

I always like to buy an extra-rich shampoo for my hair when we go on holiday because of all the sun, salt and chlorine that it has to deal with, so I was delighted to receive some Ylang Ylang, Argan & Rosemary Conditioning Shampoo from AA Skincare. This is one of a range of  shampoos and conditioners bursting with natural ingredients, which also includes Amla & Clary Sage Rejuvenating Shampoo, Cedarwood & Peppermint Deep Cleansing Shampoo, Peony, Bay & Brahmi Nourishing Shampoo, Rose & Pomegranate Shampoo and Conditioner and Rosemary, Sage & Burdock Lift & Repair Shampoo. This vegan-friendly shampoo promises to encourage softness, shine and volume and help repair split ends. It also contains nutrients for the scalp to promote healthy hair and can help treat dandruff. It leaves my hair feeling literally squeaky clean, light and soft, although I do feel that I need a conditioner afterwards to nourish my hair. RRP £5.94 for 250ml. For more information :

Madhouse Daddy invariably ends up with cold sores after getting too much sun, so we always throw a cold sore lip balm in our suitcase to deal with the after effects. Traditional antiviral treatments only work once the infection is present, but SoreFix blocks cold sore triggers with a discreet physical filter - prevention is better than cure ! SoreFix also helps to heal cold sores faster and reduce the severity of symptoms, as well as moisturise dry & chapped lips. The lip balm's effectiveness is based on a combination of two zinc components - the cold sore virus has no resistance to zinc treatments and there are no known side effects. SoreFix has a long shelf life and comes in a 6ml tube or 10ml jar (both have an RRP of £7.47). For more information :

Gillette Venus have some great products to keep your legs looking silky smooth and ready for shorts this summer. Venus Snap with Embrace (RRP £9.99) is the first ever portable razor to join the range, featuring Venus’ most advanced 5-blade Embrace technology on a mini handle so it's perfect for taking up minimal space in your suitcase or overnight bag. Venus & Olay (RRP £10.99) is the perfect two in one choice to remove hairs and soothe skin at the same time, thanks to the shave gel bars on the blades which make contact with the skin before and after the razor to lubricate and ease the blades over the skin. If you need to get pool-ready in double quick time, this is a great way to shave and moisturise your legs at the same time and makes shaving rash a thing of the past. Satin Care Shave Gel (RRP £3.29) is designed for maximum shaving comfort even for dry skin and helps prevent nicks and cuts. 

That'so Pure Sun All In One SPF 20-30-50+ Protective Dry Oil Spray (RRP £18.95) is a totally innovative product that promises to be the future of suncare. We've had it drilled into us for years that it doesn't matter how many times we apply our sunscreen, we only ever get the SPF stated on the bottle. Well, That'so is the one sunscreen breaking the rules and saying actually, why not be able to do exactly that ?! To obtain SPF 20, you need to spray the product uniformly for 10 seconds. 3 minutes after the first application, spray the product again to achieve SPF 30. Wait 3 more minutes after the second application and spray the product again to obtain a super high level of sun protection SPF 50+. The product also offers super melanin stimulation to promote a faster and more intense tan, avocado and jojoba oil to hydrate the skin and Vitamin E to help prevent free-radical damage to the skin. There is also That’so All In One After Sun Micro-Emulsion After Sun Spray (RRP £18.95), which can actually be used before or after sun exposure. It is rich in moisturising, refreshing and anti-erythema active ingredients, enhances suntans and repairs the skin from sun damage. Available from

And finally, the EndWarts pen (£19.49), which is a treatment for verrucas and warts on hands and feet. Juliette suddenly announced that she had a verruca a couple of weeks ago, that she presumably picked up at the swimming pool on her weekly school swimming lessons. Just as I was getting ready to treat it, she gaily informed me that it had disappeared all by itself - if I hadn't seen it myself, I'd have thought she was pulling my leg, but apparently they can disappear by themselves if you're lucky. If you're not as lucky as Juliette though, it's good to know that EndWarts, which is a formic acid solution, effectively treats nine warts out of ten. Verrucas are easy to pick up in public swimming pools so it's reassuring to have an EndWarts pen in the medicine cupboard or the suitcase, just in case (and warts and verrucas have a nasty habit of coming back so Juliette may not be out of the woods just yet !). For more information :

You may also be interested in my "Kid-friendly products to save our summer" roundup

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