Thursday, 26 November 2015

Children's book review : Christmas 4000 Stickers

As Parragon Book Buddies, we are always excited to receive our monthly book to review and we were particularly delighted to discover that this month's title was a festive-themed bumper activity book called Christmas 4000 Stickers.

No, that wasn't a mistype - there really are a whopping 4000 stickers hidden inside ! There are lots of elves, gifts and Christmas decorations to use to complete the pictures and carry out the various tasks within the book.

But there are also oodles and oodles of colourful bonus stickers, that could be used for other festive crafting activities such as making Christmas cards, wrapping paper or paper chains.

The activities within the book are fun and varied, with colouring and mazes ...

... pages to test your observation and drawing skills and much more. They're simple enough for young children to complete with a little adult help and varied enough for older children to enjoy.

The illustrations are bright and cheerful and, let's face it, with 4,000 stickers, how could it fail to impress, both for kids, who will have fun decorating the 48 pages before moving on the rest of the house (I kid you not - Pierre was sticking them on his bed, his door, all passing visitors and even the dog at one point !), and also for parents, as a way to keep the kids busy and having some good old fashioned fun away from their screens in the run up to Christmas!

star rating : 5/5

  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Parragon; Csm Stk edition (31 July 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1472378946
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472378941
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 21.6 x 27.3 cm

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

The perfect boots for keeping out the winter chill (review)

After packing away my summer sandals, I went back to my trusty Converse as we moved into autumn. Now that it's got decidedly wetter and colder though, they're just not cutting it any more, so I was delighted to receive a pair of funky Valerie Wedge Heel Long Boots from Online Avenue to review, as part of an EtailPR campaign.

If you want the extra height or elegance of heels, you often have to compromise on the comfort and wearability that flats offer, but with these boots, you can have your cake and eat it ! The wedge heel makes them much more comfortable (and stable, if you're not great at walking in heels !) than regular heels, and your feet are perfectly enclosed, making them really easy and comfortable to walk in. They can be dressed up with tights and a little black dress or dressed down over leggings or skinny jeans with a tunic or baggy jumper. I've been wearing them to work (I love the fact that I can reach the top of the blackboard now !) but they'll also be perfect for Christmas party season.

I received the Black PU (fake leather) boots but they also come in Black Faux Suede, Navy Faux Suede, Purple Faux Suede (very funky !) and Taupe Faux Suede. They have a really long zip which means they're extremely easy to put on and take off and they are available in sizes 3-8. They also have a great price - £25.49 - so if you can't decide which colour to go for, you could splash out on a couple !

I didn't know much about Online Avenue but their aim is to stay on top of the latest trends and provide customers with quality products at affordable prices. They believe fashion is a right not a luxury, which is great news in these times of austerity !

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

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Children's book review : Seas of Ramion - Frank Hinks

Have you discovered the weird and wacky world of Frank Hinks yet? You may remember my earlier reviews for Boris and the Dumb Skulls, The Blizzard Wizard and The Body Collector, which give you a glimpse of the riotous real of Ramion. 

Frank Hinks is currently working on the seventeenth book in the series and has now compiled a collection of three stories from the Ramion series in one hardback book. It's a beautiful tome, packed with brightly coloured illustrations and the Madhouse kids were very impressed by the fact that it's embossed with gold, even asking if it was real gold  ! Well, who knows? Anything's possible in Ramion !

The book is a wonderful companion to the books for hardcore fans and also those who are new to the series. 

You will be introduced to the bizarre beings that people the stories and will soon be swept away by Frank Hinks' inimitable style.

The book features three stories :

- The Kingdom of the Deep - The witch Griselda is in need of a holiday. She rejects her pet skull Boris’s suggestion of the south of France, and tells him that they will go and stay with her cousin Veronica in Morgan Castle in the south of Wales. But before leaving, she magically changes the holiday plans of the boys and their parents.

- The Blizzard Wizard - One touch of the Blizzard Wizard and body, mind and spirit turn to ice. With the unwitting help of foolish Cloud 9, the Princess of the Night frees the Blizzard Wizard from prison and he turns the Garden and the Gardener, and along with them the whole of Ramion, into ice.

- The Body Collector - Longing to dance and swim, Boris the skull wants his body back but cannot remember where he lost it! When Griselda and Boris visit the Body Collector nothing works out as they expect.

The crazy stories where anything can (and probably will) happen, the irreverent sense of humour, the fast-paced action and the multitude of brightly coloured pictures that festoon the pages make the stories perfect for reluctant readers or those with a short attention span. The Ramion adventures started with the author's oldest son giving him the first line of a story at bedtime each night and leaving him to take it over without any idea where it was going. We've spent many a happy bedtime reading a few pages of the story, giggling at the unexpected events and eccentric characters. It's a series that will appeal to kids of all ages, including "big kids" who have retained a childish sense of humour and are still young at heart !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £9.99

Title Seas of Ramion
Series A collection of three published stories available on one hard back book
Author name Frank Hinks
ISBN 978-1-909938-01-4.
Publishing date 20 October 2015
Price £9.99
Backing format Hard Back
Pages:  240
Reading age:  7+
Publisher Perronet Press
Books available from Gazelle Distribution:
Tel +44 (0) 1524 68765; Fax +44 (0) 1524 63232

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

Madhouse recipe : Two-Way Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Stir Fry

The Madhouse kids aren't keen on spicy food so I often serve them their dinner first, then add lots more herbs and spices to the remainder of the pot to create something more appealing to an adult palate. This was the kids' version of my Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Stir Fry that was sweet and not spicy.

And this was the grown-up version which is less visually appealing but more likely to get your tastebuds tingling !

Veetee had sent us through a tub of their 2 minute basmati rice that can be microwaved or stir-fried so I used that, but you could also use up leftover cooked rice. As is often the way in a bilingual household, we had a laugh at Veetee sounding like "vite tea" - a franglais version of quick tea - which was certainly what was needed after a very long meeting about a school skiing trip that Juliette should be going on in January.

 Two-Way Pork, Pepper & Pineapple Stir Fry


a drizzle of olive oil
4 pork chops
2 onions
1/2 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
1 can of pineapple

for version two :

3 generous squirts of chilli mango sauce
herbs and spices : lime chilli, smoked paprika, garlic salt

I decided to chop the meat off the bone and cut it into bite-sized pieces, along with the peppers and onions. Stir fry it in a little oil until the meat is cooked through but the peppers still retain some crunch. Add the pineapple chunks for the last couple of minutes, along with a slosh of juice from the can. Serve on a bed of rice with an extra pineapple ring on top.

For the spicier version, add the remaining rice to the pan, along with the herbs and spices and a generous amount of mango chilli sauce, then it's ready to reheat when the grown-ups are hungry.

Adding this to the #KitchenClearout linky as it used up a bottle of mango chilli sauce that's been hanging around in the fridge for far too long ! What's lurking in your larder/fridge/spice rack? Join in with this month's #KitchenClearout linky. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Book review : The Awakening of Abraham Brown - Graeme Richard Smith

Looking at the striking front cover of The Awakening of Abraham Brown, it's easy to assume that the pages will deliver a patriotic war story. The destiny of three American servicemen - Abraham Brown, Patch Hancock and Indigo Templeton - in World War II France is indeed an important element of the story, but it is more than just historical fiction, with a supernatural and spiritual slant added to the story. This will undoubtedly give it wider appeal but may wrongfoot some of the readers expecting a more straightforward war story.

As the title suggests, the most important character is Abraham Brown, a black soldier who, through his narrative, reveals the extent of the racism he encounters in day to day life. In the opening scene, Abraham is stabbed by a Nazi soldier and the bayonet wound in his shoulder mystically becomes a personal warning system, tingling when Abraham is safe but aching when he is in danger. He also becomes imbued with healing capacities, for himself and others, both of which are useful gifts in wartime !

I found the characters to be slightly lacking in substance - although we do get a real sense of their childhoods and how this shaped them into the men they are today, I thought they could have been fleshed-out more, both in terms of physical description and personality. The villains seemed to have stepped out of a Boys' Own comic - I don't recall ever seeing a Nazi soldier in any war films or documentaries who had a pair of pistols, throwing knives and a tomahawk, not to mention a duo of dastardly death hounds - it all seemed a bit too much and had me rolling my eyes in disbelief ! Other aspects that seemed stilted were the (mercifully few and far between) clumsily written erotic scenes and the language which sometimes seemed out of kilter with the characters - although I don't have a problem with bad language in crime fiction for example, it just seemed out of place to have, for example, an upstanding 1940's woman using swearwords. I had to keep checking if the writer was British or American too, because there seemed to be a real hotchpotch of British English and Americanisms in the narration, which seemed strange.

Overall though, it's an enjoyable read that has a nice balance between showing the horrors of war and remaining optimistic about the innate goodness of man. I enjoyed the cameo appearances by famous people such as Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King which help to ground it in reality, despite its supernatural twist.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £6.99

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers (28 Nov. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849638330
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849638333
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.4 x 19.7 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Giveaway #528 : Win Drumond Park Og on the Bog - closing date 8/12

Introducing the shameless and completely outrageous Og on the Bog

Pssst… this one’s all set to make a very big noise!

*** Check out our review of Og on the Bog here ! ***

The brilliant new electronic Og on the Bog game from Drumond Park (rrp £22.99, age 5+, for 2-4 players) is truly hilarious. As ‘tongue-in-cheek’ as it gets, it takes revolting games to completely new heights with its own outrageous brand of gross and disgusting toilet humour. The aim of the game is to steal as many loo rolls as possible before Og lets rip with a humungous FART and blows his Bog to bits…

The players are a group of adventurous children setting out to steal the loo rolls and leave Og in a right pickle. As they lurk around the bog where the shouting and grunting (yes, really!) Og is sitting, they take a turn on the spinner to see whether they can sneak a loo roll off the gnarled stick outside. But if they falter with unsteady hands, they’ll likely disturb Og who’ll fart loudly (and yes, we mean loudly!) and scare them away! It’s uproarious fun!

As play proceeds, the anticipation and excitement build - and the hilarity ramps up to new levels as Og’s showstopper comes ever closer… The first player to collect three loo rolls has beaten Og – and is the worthy winner.

Designed completely in-house and unique to the UK games market, the concept behind Og on the Bog is simple but is proving to be hugely appealing to a vast range of youngsters – including girls and boys right up to 11 and beyond, who just never seem to grow out of the timeless appeal of shameless lavatorial larks!

For stockists and to play games online, visit

Drumond Park have kindly offered to send Og on the Bog to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 6/12/15

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 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 !

Drumond Park Og On The Bog review

As soon as I glanced at the press release for Drumond Park's Og on the Bog, I was giggling to myself and just knew that the Madhouse kids would find it hilarious. If you're offended by toilet humour, it won't be one for you but if toilets and farts raise a giggle in your household, you'll be on to a definite winner !

Inside the box, you get an outside toilet complete with Og (we decided this was short for ogre but we could be wrong) sitting on the throne with his trousers around his ankles ! You push the sides up in the order explained on the enclosed instructions leaflet so that it is primed, ready to explode when Og gets too cross.You also get little toilet rolls to place on the holder next to the door and a spinner.

The aim of the game is to sneak up to the toilet and steal poor Og's loo rolls without him noticing. Each player starts with one loo roll and, starting with the youngest player, you take turns spinning the spinner. A red cross means you’ve made a noise and it’s not safe to tip-toe up to Og’s Bog, so your turn is over and the next player spins. The hand holding a loo roll means you can pinch a loo roll from any other player. A green tick means that you can try your luck at stealthily stealing a loo roll from Og’s loo roll pole

To do this, you have to press down on the front step to see if Og has heard you. If he says anything, he has – and you must run away so your turn is over. If he grunts or farts, he has not heard you and you can try to lift that loo roll off the pole. Easier said than done when you can't stop giggling !

If you twitch too much, Og will make another noise - if he shouts out something (which could be quite rude!), you must drop the loo roll back on the pole and your turn is over. If he grunts or farts – success! – he did not hear you and you can keep that precious loo roll.

But… if Og does a monster fart and his Bog explodes during your turn, you have to put one of the loo rolls you’ve already collected back onto the pole and finish your turn, raising the walls of Og’s bog once again so that play can continue.

The first player to collect three loo rolls has beaten Og and is the worthy winner - but nobody really cares who wins because you're all too busy giggling and squealing with excitement anyway !


After we'd finished playing two or three games, Pierre decided to have fun all by himself just pushing repeatedly on the step. A bit like a toilet version of knock down Ginger really ! As you can see from his face, he was utterly delighted with all the noises and comments that Og makes !

It's just rude and crude enough for kids to feel slightly naughty when they're playing it, which just makes it even more fun for them. I'd love to see the look on unsuspecting visiting grandparents' faces if you pull this one out after Christmas lunch to play together !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £22.99

for more information :

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

Monday, 23 November 2015

Madhouse diaries : Bird-spotting or geocaching?!

This weekend, we decided to head off to a new series of geocaches that had been placed around a local lake.

The skies were grey and full of threatening clouds but we only had a very small shower to contend with.

It made for some very atmospheric shots though.

The lake is home to a lot of different species of birds.

Pierre and Juliette hadn't been on the last few geocaching adventures so it was great to see them enthusiastically running around all over the place.

You never know quite where the GPS is going to take you and some areas off the beaten path were a bit squelchy underfoot ! 

I loved the shape of this weeping willow - and it provided some nice shelter when it rained !

We soon found the first geocache and had a giggle at the clue - "Snow White's friends would need some help". No kidding ! 

Sophie volunteered (or more precisely was volunteered !) for tree-climbing duties and could reach the stick that it was attached to with no problem.

 We moved on to the new series of caches which is called "The Birds of Armbouts Cappel Lake". When we reached the first "point zero", we hunted in the undergrowth and Pierre squealed "aaaggghhh there's a dead bird" !

This had us in fits of giggles because it was a fake plastic bird hiding the cache ! I was over the moon to discover a new travel bug - yay, we haven't had one of those for ages ! I'll have to move it on and drop it off either in England or Brittany at Christmas.

All of the caches in this series are hidden inside strategically placed plastic birds.

On the bottom of each one, the cache owner has written the name of the type of bird, adding an educational element to the fun.

We moved away from the lake and into the woods. 

Juliette and Pierre took it in turns being in charge of the GPS.

This one called for a "tri-trunk" ... or should that be tree trunk ?!

Aha, there it is ! 

Pierre was just as interested in looking for fairies as looking for geocaches !

It's a lovely place to visit, part manmade and part natural.

We could see the rain approaching so decided to head for home. We'll definitely be back to complete the series very soon though.

Life Unexpected

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall