Thursday, 5 March 2015

Well, I would #Walk1000Miles (but maybe not 1,000 more) in a year !

I hope you sang that blogpost title in a suitably Proclaimers-esque voice because I've got it on my brain now and can't stop singing it, much to the kids' amusement !

Anyway, I spotted a fun - and healthy - challenge this morning that I immediately signed up to. Country Walking Magazine launched a #Walk1000Miles challenge at the start of the year, and Live For The Outdoors have just joined forces with them, offering a free pedometer to the first 1000 people to join in. 

1000 miles in a year sounds a lot, especially as I'm starting with a 25% handicap, but they explain : "So what does 1,000 miles look like? Well, even now, it breaks down to just over 25 miles a week, which is a shade over 3.5 miles a day. But if you want to start now in early March, and reduce the rate accordingly - the pro-rated amount is 840 miles by December 31st." As I work in kilometres, that relates to a scary-looking 1609.344km and with 301 days of 2015 left, that's 5.3km a day, if I try to play catch-up.

I already have a fitbug orb but I've got out of the habit of tracking my steps so this will inspire me to do it more regularly. It will also inspire me to keep active - as it's a nice day, I've told the kids we'll go out for a long walk this afternoon to start as I mean to go on !

So do you fancy joining in? You can find out about the free pedometers on the Live For The Outdoors website and keep in the loop by following the #walk1000miles hashtag on twitter or Country Life on facebook. I'll tie it in with lots of geocaching too ! :)

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Seven Seas Perfect 7 Woman review

I don't usually take any vitamin or mineral supplements - I figure that I eat lots of fruit and vegetables so I should be covering all my needs in my diet - but the first line on the back of the pack of Seven Seas Perfect 7 Woman that I received to review did make sense. It said : "You probably do various things to keep yourself youthful and fit from the outside. But do you do enough against the signs of aging from the inside?"

They go on to explain that the Seven Seas experts have been researching the impact of marine oils for more than 70 years and have identified seven key needs for women, that have all been addressed in Perfect 7 Woman.

1) Skin & Nails - Zinc contributes to the maintenance of normal skin and nails
2) Hair - Biotin contributes to the maintenance of normal hair
3) Energy - Magnesium helps to reduce tiredness and fatigue and contributes to energy yielding metabolism
4) Brain - DHA contributes to normal brain function
5) Vision - Vitamin B2 contributes to the maintenance of normal vision.
6) Heart - essential fatty acids DHA and EPA support the maintenance of normal heart function
7) Hormonal Activity - Vitamin B6 helps to regulate hormonal activity

Inside the pack are two purple blister packs containing tablets and two silver blister packs containing fish oil capsules which is a 30 day supply. You need to take one of each each day with a drink - the good news is, they taste of absolutely nothing and there are no side effects like fishy burps. 

So how have I been feeling? Well, pretty good actually but I'm on holiday at the moment too so that could explain the extra energy. I have noticed that my nails are longer but I bite them when I'm stressed or annoyed, which again happens more when I'm at work so time will tell ! It's really no hardship taking them though so I'll definitely keep going until the end of the pack and I may well look into buying more, especially if the extra energy and stronger nails continue once I've gone back to work.

There is also a Perfect 7 Man version available too.

RRP : £9.99

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

Globe-cooking recipe : Callaloo Rolls (Jamaica)

In my Jamaican-themed Kitchen Trotter box was a recipe for a dish called Callaloo Rolls. Inside the box was a tin of Callaloo.

I'd never heard of Callaloo but it's a leafy vegetable that reminded me of spinach - in fact, I'm sure you could recreate the same dish using spinach if you can't get hold of callaloo.

The back of the tin confirmed that I was right ! It says : "Callaloo is a popular leafy vegetable enjoyed throughout the Caribbean which looks and tastes like spinach and can be used in similar ways. Callaloo is delicious added into quiches, pancakes, omelettes and stews. Callaloo soup is a classic dish across the Caribbean, blending Callaloo with coconut milk, crab and exotic spices to create a deliciously fragrant and hearty dish." I might have a go at trying that with spinach at a later date.

So, on to the recipe for Callaloo Rolls. I actually didn't bother with the sauce and used shop-bought sweet chilli & mango sauce which was perfect.

Callaloo Rolls

ingredients :

for the rolls :

1 tin of Callaloo  (or replace with cooked spinach)
1tbsp butter
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1 tomato
1/2 jalapeno (optional)
a pinch of dried thyme
100g grated cheese
4 sheets of filo or brick
a little olive oil (or cooking spray or melted butter)

for the sauce :

1 bayleaf
5 black peppercorns
60ml white wine
25cl liquid crème fraîche
75g mango
30g butter

Melt the butter in a frying pan. Finely chop the onion and garlic and gently fry for a few minutes, adding the  thyme and the jalapeno if desired.

Drain the callaloo and finely dice the tomato and add both to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes and turn off the heat.

Add the cheese. I used some grated cheese and also some of my homemade cheese which was lovely. Push the mixture into four equal parts in the pan.

Take a sheet of filo and wipe with olive oil on a piece of kitchen roll. Scrape one portion of the filling on to the filo, form into a sausage shape that doesn't go right to the ends then roll the filo sheet, keeping it all fairly tight.

Juliette arrived at this point and had great fun rolling them up !

Place them on a greased baking tray and pop in the oven at 180° for about 10 minutes until the filo is crispy and golden at the ends.

If you want to make the sauce, put the bayleaf and peppercorns in a saucepan with the white wine. Gently reduce until there's hardly any left, add the crème fraîche and bring to the boil. Add the diced mango and keep cooking, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes until the mango becomes soft. Take off the heat and whisk in the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Or take the easy option and drizzle with sweet chilli & mango relish which works really well !

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! *** 

If you want some more Jamaican delights, how about Jerk Chicken with Mango Salsa or Infused Rum?

Kids' app review : We are the Chuggineers

Pierre was delighted to get a code to review the new Chuggington app We are the Chuggineers, which is the official follow-up app to the best selling Chug Patrol: Ready to Rescue storybook app, both from StoryToys. 

The new app features the official storybook that ties in with the Chuggineers: Ready to Build extended episode in which the Chuggineers – Chuggington’s very own construction team - build a bridge for the new high speed link to Tootington. The storybook is well presented with 17 pages of story and animation - you can tilt or swipe the screen to see more of each scene and tap on various things to interact with them. It offers Read to Me, Read it Myself or Autoplay modes with highlighted text so it's great for very young children who can't yet read, as well as those who want to practise their reading skills. We were pleased to see that the app uses the proper voices from the TV show.

Four little games are interwoven throughout the story with rewards of blue, green, red and gold stars (for the four levels of difficulty) that Pierre was very proud to collect. The games are :

1. Track Challenge – Help Zack lay track by joining up the different pieces
2. The Big Dig – Help Tyne tunnel deep into a mountain by keeping the big drill inside the red lines
3. Ring Rescue – Chase a runaway tunnel ring with Brewster and Cormac
4. Tunnel Racer – Avoid obstacles and help Payce do her fastest tunnel run ever

As Zack, Tyne, Fletch, Cormac and Payce are the newest characters to join Chuggington, Pierre loved the chance to get to know them better and interact with them. From a grown-ups' perspective, the games are very simple and repetitive but Pierre loves them and they tie in nicely with the theme of the story. The combination of storybook, video clips and mini games offers a real immersion into the world of Chuggington that any fan will love.

After the one-off £3.99 charge, there are no in-app purchases or adverts.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £3.99

Available on itunes or via amazon

Disclosure : We received a code in order to write an honest review.

Giveaway #459 : Win 3 x new parenting book Kids Don’t come with a Manual - closing date 18/3


The Essential Guide to a Happy Family Life

by Carole and Nadim Saad

Published by Best of Parenting Publishing, 10th March 2015,
paperback, £12.99

Kids Don’t Come with a Manual is a practical guide to how to balance different parenting skills and techniques to create a harmonious family life, and is based on the latest research in child psychology and neuroscience.

It was Carole and Nadim’s own experience of bringing up their three children, and in particular the problems they faced because of their very opposing parenting techniques (Nadim was of the more disciplinarian ‘tiger parent’ philosophy whereas Carole took the more gentle ‘laissez-faire’ approach) that inspired them to become parenting coaches themselves to help other parents find a ‘midway’ point. They now run very popular parenting courses and private coaching and the book has already received some fantastic acclaim from those in the profession.

Some of the topics covered in the book include:
· The problems of parenting ‘by instinct’ & how it can affect our children’s development
· How to strike the right balance as a grandparent between helping out and getting too involved
· Why using rewards and sticker charts to modify behaviour is detrimental to a child’s long-term development
· The dangers of over-praising our children
· Time to ditch the naughty step – finding more effective ways to discipline children

Kids Don’t Come with a Manual also contains a trouble shooting section that covers the top 20 parenting challenges - such as tantrums, defiance and sibling rivalry - and how to overcome them, for fast, effective advice when needed. An accompanying Best of Parenting app gives parents key information at their fingertips.

I'll be reviewing the book very soon but in the meantime, the publishers have kindly offered to send a copy of the book to three Madhouse Family Reviews readers. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 18/3/15

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. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray !

Other giveaways you may be interested in :

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Schwartz Chicken & Leek Bake mix review

My quest to clear out my kitchen cupboards continued today. I'd discovered this pack of Schwartz Chicken & Leek Bake mix and thought it sounded ideal for lunch.

First you need to cook up some chicken (or I used turkey) breast, some leeks and some chopped bacon.

Mix the contents of the pack with some milk.

Add to the pot, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes to thicken.

Pour into an ovenproof dish, top with grated cheese and put in the oven for 20 minutes for the cheese to melt and go golden brown. The whole family loved it - Pierre and Juliette, who never eat much, asked for seconds ! I served it with baked potatoes but it would also go well with mash or rice. It creates a lot of sauce so you could also add cooked pasta to the dish for a complete meal. I did feel it lacked a bit of oomph though so I'd add some spices - maybe smoked paprika, herbes de Provence and garlic pepper - next time.

We've been testing new Limited Edition Peach and Mango Fruit Shoots

Just in time for the February half term holiday, Fruit Shoots got in touch to ask us if we'd like to try out their new Limited Edition Peach and Mango flavour. I already knew that they'd be a big hit with the kids so it was a bonus when I saw that they contained no added sugar. 

They are also free from artificial colours and flavourings and they contain real juice. I was stunned to see that each 200ml bottle only contains 10 calories, 0g of fat and 1.6g of sugars.

Flavour-wise, the kids thought they were delicious - sweet and refreshing but with a slightly tart topnote. The sweetness comes from fruit juice and sweeteners - the complete ingredients list is as follows : Water, Fruit Juices from Concentrate (Peach 6%, Mango 2%), Acid (Citric Acid), Natural Flavouring, Acidity Regulator (Sodium Citrate), Antioxidant (Ascorbic Acid), Preservatives (Potassium Sorbate, Dimethyl Dicarbonate), Sweeteners (Acesulfame K, Sucralose).

The sports bottles are great - they're really practical for drinking out and about or in the car, they can be closed off and don't need to be drunk all in one go like cans and they are less likely to be spilt or dribbled than bottles or glasses.

It's a shame these are only available as a limited edition as we'd buy them all the time. It's made me think about Fruit Shoots in a new light too - I'll definitely be investigating the No Added Sugar options in greater detail, as well as Fruit Shoot Hydro with no added sugar, which is "a flavoured water for active kids on the go", and Robinsons Fruit Shoot My-5 which counts as one of your kid’s five-a-day.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : 85p each or £1.99 for a 4 pack

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

Black is always on trend, whether food or fashion or a mix of both !

When Lady Gaga unveiled her very strange and now iconic raw meat dress at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, I'm sure I wasn't alone in scratching my head and wondering where on earth she (or her designers) got her inspiration from. I'm sure you'd never believe that this very elegant and more veggie-friendly alternative, modelled by TV star Lucy Watson, has been inspired by the new packaging for Pilgrims Choice Cheddar Cheese. Yes, really !

The dress was exclusively created using supreme silk satin and features over 20,000 patterned enlaced sequins carefully hand-stitched onto the gown. It reflects the Pilgrims Choice brand colours in its black and gold material and also in the shape of the logo, which echoes the swipe underneath the Pilgrims Choice logo on its blocks of cheese, to celebrate the cheese's recent make over. It may be inspired by a block of cheddar but that's the only cheesy thing about it - the £40,000 couture outfit by acclaimed designer Zeynep Kartalis is accompanied by £30,000 worth of vintage canary yellow diamonds, once again reflecting the iconic Pilgrims Choice brand colours. Forget Made in Chelsea, this is more Maid in Cheddar ! The new Pilgrims Choice Cheddar Cheese brand packaging is in stores now, priced at £4.00 for a 350g block, but you'll need to get through a fair few kilos if you want to have a go at recreating that dress !

If you want something equally sophisticated and eye-catching but prefer your cheese on your plate, you might like to try this stylish and striking spaghetti dish, also inspired by the new packaging. This sophisticated alternative to an everyday pasta meal deliciously combines the richness of sautéed shrimps with juicy tomatoes and cheesy Pilgrims Choice sauce. Why not get a dinner party scheduled and impress your guests !

Spaghetti Nero


· 300g black spaghetti
· 2 tbsps olive oil
· 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
· 1 leek finely chopped
· 225g cooked shrimps
· 200g Pilgrims Choice Mature Cheddar
· Dash of white wine
· A sprinkle of chilli flakes
· 1tbsp cornflour
· 12 fl oz milk


1. To make the sauce, heat the oil and add the onion, garlic and leek and cook until soft.
2. Make a cheese sauce in a separate pan - mix the cornflour in the milk to form a paste then add the rest of the milk (Personally speaking, I'd melt some butter and mix in the cornflour to make a roux before blending in the milk.)
3. Heat until it boils, stirring constantly, and when it has thickened add the Pilgrims Choice Mature Cheddar and stir well
4. Add it to the cooked onion and leek, stir well and add the shrimps (don't overcook)
5. Add chopped tomatoes
6. Season with white wine, chilli, salt and black pepper
7. To cook the spaghetti, fill a large pan with 2.2 litres of salted boiling water, add spaghetti, turn down and simmer for 8 - 10 minutes
8. Drain and serve with the sauce


What do you think about black food? Everyone at The Madhouse (including me !) was very dubious at first when I made Cuttlefish Ink Paella, even if it smelt and tasted lovely !

PS Just to clarify, the dress is black and gold, not white and gold or black and blue, whatever your eyes are telling you !

Disclosure : I'll be receiving some Pilgrims Choice Cheddar. It's up to me if I eat it or wear it though !

Meet Pierre's new bedtime buddy, Twilight Turtle (review)

You may have noticed me talking about Cloub b's Sleep Sheep (you have a couple more days to win one in my giveaway, if you haven't entered already) but it was a different bedtime buddy that arrived at The Madhouse for Pierre - a soothing Twilight Turtle.

This nocturnal hero in a half shell will create a calming glow and project star constellations on the ceiling in a choice of three colours - amber, green and blue. It has a timer built in so it will turn itself off after 45 minutes. Unlike many night light/light show products on the market, it doesn't provide any sounds or music and the star projections are static - the fact that it is quiet may help young children get to sleep more easily (I remember the Madhouse kids had a music and lights projector when they were small and they'd wake up and start cring when the music switched off !) and it's definitely a bonus if you have an older sibling sharing a bedroom who doesn't want to be disturbed. (I've just noticed that is a second version with music available too.)

Pierre loved it as soon as he saw it in the box. 

I scrutinised the box, crossing my fingers that we would have the right combination of batteries in the kitchen drawer, and got my first nice surprise for parents - it takes 3 x AAA batteries and they are included. How often does that happen ?!

The second nice surprise came during the unboxing. I am frequently annoyed and often perplexed by the mindblowing array of devices used by manufacturers for holding toys in boxes. These days scissors aren't enough, you sometimes need a screwdriver just to get the product out of the box ! Well, Cloud b have made it nice and simple for parents - the velcro strip covering the battery compartment is the only thing holding it on the cardboard packaging. Perfectly sufficient and dead easy to remove. *Breathes a sigh of relief and puts away the toolbox.*

The Twilight Turtle has a soft body but a hard plastic shell so I wasn't sure that he would be very comfortable for taking to bed. I suggested to Pierre that we put him on a shelf but he decided he was still lovely to cuddle.

It was still daylight but Pierre wanted to shut all the curtains to make it dark enough to have a play. There are three buttons that you can press to choose the colour, plus an on-off switch. His favourite was the blue one because if he pointed the shell towards himself, he turned into a star-covered version of Avatar ! The different colours offer varying degrees of brightness - blue gives the most light, green is more muted and amber is a discreet glow.

The plastic shell has a series of star shapes and one moon cut into it and the light shines through these to project the constellations on the ceiling. The enclosed little guide book explains that there are eight different constellations on the turtle's shell and helps you recognise them.

As well as being good fun and educational as you try to spot the constellations, the mystical and mythological names such as Orion The Hunter, Pegasus and Draco the Dragon can be great prompts for inventing bedtime stories. The packaging mentions a Star Guide and Storybook but I could only see the double page constellation guide in various languages.

Pierre loves the Twilight Turtle, both as a snuggly playmate during the day and a reassuring nightlight at bedtime. It's also great fun to take him under the covers and make a starlit den too apparently !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £26.95

for more information :
Family Fever

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

Monday, 2 March 2015

Don't miss the #NickJrBlaze and Monster Machines twitter party on Friday !

There was much excitement at The Madhouse when we discovered that we'd been selected as party hosts for a fun Nick Jr Blaze and the Monster Machines twitter party that will be taking place on Friday 6th March from 3.45-5.45pm. 


We received our party box at the weekend and I thought you might like a sneaky peek at what's inside. I bet you didn't expect that !

 As well as watching the premiere of the new Blaze and the Monster Machines show, the party will be focusing on learning through educational STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) activities at home.

As always, during the party there will be online spot competitions and more fun and games for the children to take part in, so make sure your laptop, PC or smart device is ready to go as the party starts. If you can’t wait until Friday then click on the badge at the top of this blogpost which will take you to the UKMumsTV website where you can download some activities for some Blaze and the Monster Machines inspired fun.

Keep an eye on the #NickJrBlaze hashtag on twitter and follow me @cherylp59 as well as @NickJrUK and @UKMumstv so you don't miss out on any of the updates. Hopefully see you on twitter on Friday !

Disclosure : We received a party pack to takepart in the twitter party on Friday.