Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Giveaway #612 : Win a Fingerlings Baby Monkey - closed - winner Debbie Mackenzie

Fingerlings Baby Monkeys love hanging onto your finger and know when they’re being touched, spoken to, and even hung upside down! These perfect primate pets come to life with 40 ways to play and 50 sounds to let you know how they are feeling.

You’ll fall in love with these sweet and sometimes silly critters with their realistic monkey sounds, adorable blinking eyes, head turns, plus hands that grip and a curly hanging tail. You can swing them, pet them, kiss them, AND rock them to sleep!

There are six different Fingerlings to collect.

1. MIA  - Purple Fingerlings
Hi - I'm Mia! I'm a purple monkey with white hair and I’m curious about the giant world around me!
2. SOPHIE – White Fingerlings
My name is Sophie and I’m full of loving monkey hugs, with a white body and purple hair!
3. BORIS – Blue Fingerlings
BORIS is my name. Laughter is my game! You'll love my blue and orange color combo.
4. FINN – Black Fingerlings
FINN is my name. I'm black and blue and I swing to the beat of my own drum!
5. BELLA – Pink Fingerlings
My name is Bella. My bright yellow hair complements my oh-so-pink skin. I express how I feel with cute monkey babble!
6. ZOE – Turquoise Fingerlings
My name is Zoe and I love life upside down! My perfect purple hair stands out against my turquoise blue skin.

They're very cute, very cheeky (they don't always do as they're told !) and light enough to be carried around on a finger all day as your child tries to discover what else they can do. They love to be stroked and petted, talked to (they'll chatter back to you !), you can style their hair and ... the first time they let out a totally unexpected fart, the Madhouse kids fell on the floor laughing ! I always loved the idea of Furbies but found them really annoying - these little critters are much less irritating and they also have a much lower price tag. At £14.99, they're great value ... although your kids will definitely want to collect all six !

Suitable for ages (5+). Available for pre-order now for £14.99rrp through: Amazon.co.uk, The Entertainer and Smyths. Also available through some Tesco stores.

I have one Fingerlings Baby Monkey toy to give away to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. (It will be a random colour.) Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 14/3/17

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after 28 days, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray !

You may also like to enter my other giveaways :

What’s Your #NumNomsFoodie Flavour for Pancake Day?!

Last year was the year of the Num Noms, with the collectable scented craze making its way into households across the UK. 2017 sees the launch of Series 3 and Lights, bringing to the shelves funky new characters and brand new food themes, such as Marshmallow, Donuts, Fruits, Veggies, Candy and Fiesta foods, for even more ways to collect.

To mark the arrival of these new wacky stackables, we were invited to take part in a fun project for Pancake Day, combining our favourite Num Noms flavours for weird and wacky (or just plain delicious) toppings. Juliette excitedly rummaged through her box of Num Noms to see what we could find that related to real life ingredients in the kitchen.

We'd been provided with a few recipe ideas for inspiration : 

Coconut Raspberry Topper, Introducing Razzi Berry, Coco Cali and Choco Sprinkles! We think these three would make a pancake with just the right balance of sweet, sour, and a hint of coocnut!

Straw-Nana Mallow Madness - when you already have a Nom which combines the delicious flavours of strawberry and banana in a lipgloss, it would be crazy not to combine these two in a pancake. We’re bringing extra tasty toastyness with Toasty Mallow too, because who wouldn’t want melted marshmallow in a pancake?

Just cheese - When you need a savoury treat, where better to start than cheese? Cheesy Burrito is our chosen character for this one, part of the Fiesta Food Starter Pack it makes for the perfect pancake.

So, what would we find in the Madhouse kitchen? Well, first of all, Sunny Omelette came along to provide the eggs.

Next we found cheese (C.H.Z.), Papa Corn (buttered popcorn - not sure how that would work in a pancake, but why not ?!) and red berries (strawberry scented Rockie S. Berry).

Other options to add to our display of Num Nom-inspired ingredients were bananas (Nana Pop), butter (Buttery Go-Go), peanuts (Peanut Go-Go) and apple (toffee apple-scented Cara Mellie).

Lemon juice and sugar may be a traditional choice but we had orange (or more precisely clementines) instead, with OJ Pop coming along for the ride !

By now, Juliette was on a Num Noms roll ! Cinnamon ? That'll be Cindy Cinnamon ! Raisins? Grapple (Grape Apple) Gloss-Up !

OK, I think that's PLENTY to be getting on with !!

Right, time to get making the pancakes !

Juliette went for a striking combination of mint choc and milk chocolate chips - we could have had Mac Minty, Minty Mallow, Peyton Peppermint or Mintberry Gloss-Up for the mint and Choco Sprinkles, Choco Swirl, Choco S'Mores Gloss-Up, Choco Cream or Choco Go-Go for the chocolate, to name but a few

... but we didn't have any of those so she brought along Maple Cakes instead. 

Can you guess what went in the next one?

Here's a little help ... a trio of cute Num Noms called Cindy Cinnamon, Maple Cakes and Nana Pops.

Banana and Cinnamon Pancakes - my new favourite pancake. Thanks Nums Noms for the inspiration !

So  #What’sYourFlavour this Pancake Day ? A traditional classic or something a bit more unusual ?

Disclosure : We received some Num Noms and a shopping voucher to take part in the challenge.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Book review : Lucky Boy - Shanthi Sekaran

I remember learning at school about the Berlin Wall and finding it unthinkable that, within my lifetime, such crazy governmental decisions could be made that split up families and couldn't care less about the consequences. When the Berlin Wall came down, I remember thinking that surely, this kind of thing couldn't and wouldn't happen again in the civilised, modern world. Unfortunately, the last few years have proven me completely wrong, whether looking at the unaccompanied minors arriving in the illegal migrant camps in Calais and Dunkirk or newly elected POTUS Donald Trump with his plans of building a wall along the Mexican border and stopping Muslims or citizens from certain countries coming into the country. While it's easy enough to shake your head and know that this has got be a bad idea, it's sometimes harder to appreciate just how cataclysmic the effects can be on individual families. Lucky Boy gives voice to two mothers: a young undocumented Mexican woman and an Indian-American wife whose love for one "lucky boy" will bind their fates together.

It is impossible not to empathise with both of the women in the novel. Living in a poor village with no prospects, 18-year-old Solimar Castro-Valdez makes a break for freedom and embarks on a perilous journey across the US/Mexican border. Weeks later she arrives on her cousin's doorstep in Berkeley, California, dazed by first love found then lost, and unwittingly pregnant. Making the best of a bad job, she puts her traumatic journey behind her, finds herself a job and focuses all her energy on raising her cherished son Ignacio, affectionately called Nacho.

In the same town is another woman with a poignant story - Kayva, who has run the gauntlet of infertility treatment and miscarriage before finally deciding that her only way to motherhood will be through adoption. She soon learns that temporary fostering is the obligatory first step to a hopefully more permanent arrangement and ends up falling hopelessly in love with the child she is entrusted with - you've guessed it, Soli's son, who is re-nicknamed Iggy, and ends up going into care when his mother is put in a detention centre for illegal immigrants.

Soli is desperate to be reunited with her son, but Kayva is equally desperate to keep hold of him and her unique chance at motherhood. All is fair in love and war and a mother (or foster mother)'s love knows no bounds. Both have convincing arguments : Soli is his mother and it is her natural right to take her son back with her if she is deported, but Kayva could surely offer him a better life. Ultimately, neither woman will have her say as it will be for the one-size-fits-all courts to decide.

The book is poignant but not overly sentimental, presenting the heartbreaking tragedies and traumas that both women go through in a matter-of-fact, understated way, which just makes them even more hard-hitting. Both Soli and Kayva deserve to be mothers to Ignacio, and I was half hoping that they would meet and come to some arrangement that could please everyone. Real life isn't a fairy tale though, and, even if I wasn't keen on the ending, seeing everybody spiralling into moral anarchy and doing whatever it would take to come out on top, I could appreciate that this was undoubtedly realistic. The author was in fact inspired by true tales of undocumented immigrant mothers losing
their children when forced into detention centers or deported and Kayva's character draws on her own experience as a first generation Indian-American mother and both of these aspects give deep authenticity to the story.

This would be a fabulous novel to discuss in a book club because I can see readers having wildly differing viewpoints. It would also be a great title to put on the bookshelves of the White House in case Donald Trump ever got the urge to read something other than his twitter feed !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £14.99

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam (5 Jan. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0735212279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0735212275
  • Product Dimensions: 25.5 x 3.5 x 32.7 cm

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

Madhouse recipe : Cornflake cakes three ways

Cornflake or Rice Krispie cakes are one of the simplest recipes to make - I think it must be an obligatory rite of passage that all kids make them at least once before they can barely reach the bowl ! - and they are always a guaranteed success. As you can tell from the rubbish photo above, mine were so popular that they were gobbled up before I even managed to take a photo of the finished product !

However, did you know that there are various ways of making them? Well, I didn't until last week but, having found an out-of-date box of Special K flakes lurking at the back of the cupboard, I went googling for recipes using cornflakes and discovered a different way, using cocoa powder, rather than my usual way with melted chocolate. In the interests of #KitchenClearout, I decided to try both.

Cornflake Cakes #1

(On the left in the picture above - my usual way)

ingredients :

50g butter
4 tablespoons golden syrup
100g chocolate
75g cornflakes

Put all ingredients except the cornflakes in a bowl and gently heat in the microwave (very short bursts, stirring in between, to prevent burning).

Stir in the cornflakes. 

Press into silicon muffin tins and chill in the fridge until they've set.

Cornflake Cakes #2

(On the right in the picture above - the old-fashioned version apparently)

ingredients :

50g margarine (I used butter as in the other recipe, for fair comparison)
2 heaped tablespoons golden syrup (how do you get a heaped tablespoon of golden syrup ?!)
4 heaped tablespoons drinking chocolate
12 heaped tablespoons of cornflakes

I used unsweetened cocoa in place of drinking chocolate so I added a couple of spoonfuls of sugar to the mix too.

As before, put everything except the cornflakes in the bowl and melt in the microwave.

Stir in the cornflakes (it doesn't give as good coverage as the chocolate version and they're very dark) and pop in the fridge to set.

Well, it was a unanimous vote for the chocolate ones, which all got gobbled up before the cocoa powder ones. They did get eaten, but we all agreed that they weren't as good.

However, I have just been told of a third version which sounds totally decadent and delicious. 

Cornflake Cakes #3

(To be tested)

ingredients :

3 full-sized Mars Bars
85g butter
85g cornflakes

Melt the Mars Bars and butter, stir in the cornflakes and put in the fridge to set. Hmmm sounds divine - although maybe a bit too sweet ?

So, how do you make your Cornflake Cakes?

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Madhouse recipe : Cheesy Crumb Crust Leek & Bacon Pie #lovemyleeks

I'm signed up to various foodie email newsletters and when they land in my inbox, they often give me ideas for meals, however loosely I interpret them. One such example was a Tomato Pie With Cheddar Crust. This sounded like just the sort of thing we'd like to eat but, when I clicked through, I was totally shocked to see that the filling was made with several cups of mayonnaise mixed with grated cheese and topped with sliced tomatoes. Not very healthy ! The "cheddar" crust was a mix of cheese cracker crumbs and grilled bacon, blitzed in a food processor. No healthier than the filling but it did give me an idea for a cracking #KitchenClearout recipe.

As you know, as a Degustabox reviewer, I receive a mystery box of foodie products every month and they often contain savoury snacks. We're going into overload - just a quick rummage in the cupboards revealed TEN bags and boxes of crackers, crispbread and savoury biscuits ! Several of them were half or even three-quarters used so it was time to use them up.

I tipped the odds and ends into my (small) food processor and managed to clear out five packets, which I thought was pretty good going and certainly made a difference in the cupboard !

Cheesy Crumb Crust Leek & Bacon Pie

ingredients :

about 200g of odds and ends of savoury biscuits
3tbsp melted butter
1 egg
3 leeks
a pack (200g) bacon lardons
2 mushrooms
3 eggs
glug of milk
a handful of grated cheese 

Put the savoury snacks in the food processor and pulse until you have rough crumbs. You can use whatever you want but make sure at least some of them are cheese flavoured for optimum taste. Adding something slightly spicy gives it a nice kick too.

Mix in the melted butter and egg and press together, just like if you were making a cheesecake.

Press into a flan tin lined with baking parchment. You need to cover the base and sides if possible. Pop into the oven at 180° while you prepare the filling.

Fry the lardons until they release some fat. Add the finely sliced leeks and mushrooms and cook for 5-10 minutes until the lardons are cooked. Put in a bowl to cool.

Add a handful of grated cheese.

Crack the eggs into the bowl and add a glug of milk. Give it all a stir.

Pour the filling into the pie crust and return to the oven for about half an hour until the egg has set, like a quiche.

We ate this hot with mashed potato and finished it off, cold, for lunch the next day. I thought it might be very crumbly but it actually holds its shape very well (the only bits that fell off were the crumbs that you can see on the plate from when I took it out of the tin).

The kids weren't keen on the crust but that was because I had included some Indian biscuits that had a strong flavour of cumin so I'll stick to cheese/plain flavours next time. It's a nice twist on a classic quiche and was certainly a great way of clearing out lots of odds and ends of packets.

Also entering this recipe for the #lovemyleeks recipe competition, run by British leeks. 

The Fox Press-Out Mask by Wintercroft review

The Fox, designed by Steve Wintercroft, is a fabulous press-out 3d mask. It comes in book form in a cardboard sleeve (which, to be honest, is a bit superfluous, because once you've made the mask, you don't need the book any more - we threw the book and sleeve away, which seemed wasteful).

There are 14 press-out pieces (not counting the wall hanging strips) which have various numbers on the tabs and edges. These show you which bits need to be stuck where as the corresponding numbers match up. In terms of instructions, this is all you get though - I did feel a bit lost to begin with, but I soon got the hang of it.

One side of the press-out pieces is fox-coloured (oranges and browns) and the inside is blue. The instructions do say that you can make it inside out if you want, following the folds in reverse, but I would think a blue fox looks a bit strange !

 Here is the official photo, showing what the finished mask should look like. Would we rise to the challenge? It all sounds very simple on paper - the front cover optimistically declares that you'll only need half an hour to make it.

 The introduction in the book explains that this is the first mask that the author created - there is also a Skull version available in the same range. It is designed for fancy dress parties and festivals but apparently has also been worn in music videos and fashion shoots.

The first job was pressing out all the pieces. 

 Then pre-folding everything along the dotted (inwards) and dashed (outwards) lines. I couldn't take any photos of the construction process because I already needed an extra pair of hands for cutting off pieces of sellotape and helping stick things in place. It took me ages to work out where the first bit went (the underside of the nose) but once I'd found and stuck that piece, it did all fall into place rapidly and fairly simply.

We were really impressed with how well it came out and the kids were delighted to have helped out. It probably took us about an hour because we got off to a few false starts but it was reasonably straightforward - kids would need help though, and even grown-ups will need an extra pair of hands.

Juliette and Sophie found it a bit too small for their heads but Pierre was over the moon to see that it fit him perfectly !

It's Fantastic Mr Fox ! In terms of fancy dress, it's fairly flimsy, so I would definitely go back over all the joints with extra sticky tape or maybe even staples. Pierre was jumping around all over the place though and it survived ! It's now been taken upstairs to be displayed on a shelf in Sophie's bedroom.

 The skull looks equally impressive and would be great for Halloween !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £9.99 (currently £7.99)

Mixed media
32 pages
294 x 294mm
Published Nov 2015
ISBN 9781780977317
Series: Wintercroft

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