Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Book review : Darkest Before The Dawn - Mike Martin

Just in time for Christmas, Sgt. Windflower is back, in the latest novel from Mike Martin, Darkest Before The Dawn. This is the seventh book in the series, but can be enjoyed just as much as a standalone novel too. 

For those following the whole series, Sheila and Winston are settling into life as new parents remarkably well, with their gorgeous little girl Amelia Louise, who seems to spend the whole time sleeping or cooing happily. (If only all babies did this !) This is very convenient as the pair are currently setting up their new venture, a B&B with a restaurant that Winston is happy to cook for, alongside his job as a Mountie.

Sheila is still mayor and, along with Winston, is looking at the number of people, men in particular, who attempt to commit suicide in the area and what can be done about it. Winston, meanwhile, is busy in his day job, looking into a series of burglaries and deaths in the local region. There are a number of suspicious-looking deaths, and mentions of the Dark Web, and a strange crypto-currency, but, in keeping with Winston's attitude, it's all pretty laid-back and things almost sort themselves out ! 

This being a Sgt. Windflower mystery, home life is just as important as the cases he's working on, so there are also a number of personal events, including dream sequences, Cree Indian smudging rituals and a visit from his uncle, not to mention many trips to the local cafe for a slice of cake!

It's quite rare to find a detective series that gives work and home life equal importance, but Sgt Windflower really does seem to have the best of both worlds at his home in Grand Bank, Newfoundland.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £11.39

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Ottawa Press and Publishing (27 Sept. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 198843713X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1988437132
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.7 x 22.9 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Monday, 12 November 2018

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #46

After a busy week at work last week, with the kids left to fend for themselves, this week I'm back in control of the menu. I'll be clearing out some things that are in the freezer, as well as having a look through my bookmarked recipes for inspiration


lunch -  it's a bonus day off school today, so I'll use up the leftover roast chicken, roast potatoes & veggies from yesterday

dinner -  prawn chow mein


dinner - Mongolian beef with rice


lunch - Mexican tortillas with guacamole, rice & salsa

dinner - potato waffles with chicken parcels & veggies


dinner - Kotopia, a Greek-style filo-topped chicken pie, with potatoes or rice & veg


 dinner -  I'm guessing there will be a fridge full of leftovers by now - if not, spaghetti bolognese


lunch - kids' choice of restaurant/fast food - probably the old favourite, McDonald's !

dinner - leftovers/snack food (quiche, salads, bread, dips, crisps, fruit, yogurts, etc)


lunch -  roast chicken probably, with all the trimmings

dinner - sandwiches and leftovers

***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***


Sunday, 11 November 2018

Giveaway #705 : Win a Happy Christmas Smartbox by Buyagift - closing date 26/11

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? I will be honest ... I haven't even started yet ! I won't start panicking until the start of December, but I'm already starting to think about things to buy for different people. Well, this Christmas, how about gifting your loved ones the unexpected ?

Could they ever imagine that the small box under their Christmas tree could contain a weekend getaway or a bungee jumping experience? Buyagift takes gifting to the next level, with over 4500 gifts to choose from, they make it impossible to panic over the question ‘’What should I get them?!’’

One perfect gift option is the Happy Christmas Smartbox by Buyagift, which retails at £49.99.

Gift your loved one the ultimate Christmas present, with the choice of a whopping 2570 experiences across the UK. Some experiences are for one person, while others like the afternoon teas are for two to enjoy. There are options of adrenaline- fuelled adventures, which include scuba diving, zorbing and indoor skydiving, while others may enjoy a more relaxing option, such as spa days and pampering treatments. There are so many to choose from and there really is something for everyone in this Happy Christmas box.

To check out the other products on offer, head over to www.buyagift.co.uk/.

If you like the sound of the Happy Christmas Smartbox, look no further ! I have one up for grabs - just fill in your entries in the rafflecopter widget below. Good luck !

UK only. Closing date : 26/11/18

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. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. The winners' personal contact information will be passed on to the PR / Brand responsible and used only for delivery of their prize. 

Giveaway #704 : Win Drumond Park's Rapidough - closing date 17/11

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Fab freebies of the week 10/11

Wow, where is the time going ?! It's only 45 days to Christmas - eeeek ! Definitely time to grab those freebies as stocking fillers ! Here's this week's round-up. Enjoy ! :)


Would you like to try a 4711 perfume sample? In exchange all we ask for is a Facebook view with your honest feedback! All Facebook reviewers will then go into a prize draw to win the entire range

We hope you don’t mind us asking, but as we are such a small company (just 7 of us) we’d be super grateful if you wouldn’t mind logging onto your favourite supermarkets’ website and reviewing Kabuto Noodles as we’ve been told we could do with some more… and as a thanks we’ll send you some vouchers for FREE Kabuto Noodles to spend in-store!

Insiders, we’re looking for 2,000 of you to take part in this Cetaphil campaign to enhance your skincare routine and let everyone know just how it’s changed the way you take care of your skin. Are you interested? Subscribe before 21st November.

Win 100s of Date Night Prizes with Pizza Ristorante

Please fill in this detailed form which will help us to select the next Official SCICON® Ambassadors for the coming year.

Answer 5 easy questions correctly to get your FREE 50ml sachet of Nikwax Polar Proof

Want a chance to try Kiehl's Glow Formula Skin Hydrator that everybody is raving about? Sign up to receive your complementary sample

Just click the 'Press' button for your chance to win some amazing prizes, including a year's supply of gin, bottles of gin, tickets to our secret party in London in November, or a pair of Brockmans gin glasses. Good luck!

Calling all Debenhams Beauty Club Members - make your way to the nearest store to collect a FREE sample of Dior perfume on 9th November!

LA MONTAÑA candles and diffusers bring you the glorious scents of Spain, inspired by the British founders’ new life in a Spanish mountain village. All the fragrances evoke warm memories and dreams of Mediterranean holidays while beautifully scenting your home.Don't just take our word for it though, try it for yourself with our FREE Scent card. That's right, just sign up before November 19th and we will post our Welcome Scent Sampler to you FOR FREE!

Try a bottle of JUST MILK on us - Print at home coupon redeemable at Sainsbury’s

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.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Madhouse recipe : Peanut butter cookies

I decided to have a clearout in the kitchen cupboards and came across a fairly full jar of peanut butter that needed using up. Sounds like the perfect excuse for making peanut butter cookies to me ! The kids wolfed these down - well OK, I might have helped them too !

Peanut Butter Cookies

ingredients :

300g flour
1tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
200g peanut butter
100g butter, room temperature
150g brown sugar
75g white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk

Mix the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl.

It's entirely up to you whether you use smooth or crunchy peanut butter - I opted for crunchy.

Beat together the peanut butter and butter.

Mix in the sugars.

Add the egg, vanilla and milk and beat together.

Add the flour mixture, half at a time, and mix until just combined.

Roll out half of the dough into small balls of pastry and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

Press down with a fork and bake for 7 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Leave to cool in the pan before moving them to a plate. Enjoy !

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it cleared out a jar of peanut butter.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Book review : The Bodies Left Behind - Jeffery Deaver

When they set off for a carefree weekend in their remote Wisconsin lakehouse, chilling out after the stress of a week at work, the couple of city slickers have no idea that they are heading towards their doom. This double murder is the element that will bring unsuspecting off-duty cop Brynn McKenzie into not just her own worst nightmare, but also a race for survival over hostile terrain.

Teaming up with a female escapee, Brynn sets out into the deserted national park surrounding the crime scene, trying to make her way to safety on the highway or in a ranger's office. As well as the natural dangers of the park, coming from the cold and the landscape, the women have to outrun and outfox the killers who are ruthlessly on their tracks.

It's a tense, action-packed drama, with Brynn opening up to her new protegee as their adventure continues, revealing details about her unsatisfactory relationship with her son and new husband. Brynn seems to be just like a kitty with nine lives, dodging bullets and other dangers with barely a scratch to show for them, which may not be hugely realistic but is nevertheless exciting and spine-tingling to read. 

It's an interesting and ruthless read, which will have you relentlessly chewing your fingernails as you progress !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (29 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340994037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340994030
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.2 x 19.8 cm

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

#KitchenClearout October roundup and November linky

Wow, we're already a week into November and I haven't had a chance to post last month's roundup - oops ! So what did everyone share last month? Well, I was off visiting the Madhouse grandparents so I'll have to catch up next month 

Galina from Chez Maximka started off us with this delicious dessert : Ice Cream Sandwiches. Yum ! This used up a bag of almonds and the end of the clotted cream ice cream. Sounds and looks delicious.

Galina was back with a savoury option that would be a great hit with any kids : Leftover Rice Cutlets. This is a fabulous dish for leftovers, which can use up whatever you have - potato, parsnip, sweet potato, carrot. This looks like a fabulous idea for using up leftovers so I will be playing with this one, and not just for the kids!

Fruity Oat Crumble was the ultimate #KitchenClearout dish, using up all sorts of things from the kitchen - some over-ripe plums, the end of a punnet of raspberries, a pot of jam, some Ready Brek ... and best of all, it tasted delicious !

Jane from Onions and Paper joined in with another fabulous kid-friendly dish : Dirty Hot Dog Fry, which looks like something the Madhouse kids would love. This was a great way of clearing out the fridge, using up some hot dog sausages, bacon, potato, onions and mushrooms.

Pineapple & Coconut Dream Cake was a twist on a Danish recipe that was perfect for clearing out some odds and ends from the baking cupboard : some sliced coconut and brown sugar, as well as a tin of pineapple.

Feeling inspired and fancy joining in? Have a rummage through your kitchen cupboards, spice rack, freezer or fridge and see if there's anything that needs using up, then come and share your creations with us. Or if it's way past its sell-by date, throw it in the bin and come and tell us what you found ! It would be great if you could add my badge and a link to this post for anyone else who wants to get involved.

Join in with this month's link-up blow ! :)

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Wild and Game pâté review

Every Sunday night, it's become a bit of a tradition that everyone here at The Madhouse tucks in to whatever is in the fridge. There may be leftovers to use up, or something special that was added to the shopping basket by someone the day before, but usually, we clear out all the odds and ends of salads, spreads and breads before starting a new week. We recently received some samples from Wild and Game, the not-for-profit business that aims to turn the UK into a nation of game lovers, which made a great addition to our platter.

Wild and Game was founded by Steven Frampton and Michael Cannon at the end of 2017. Its products are available from the company’s website via retail or wholesale, with the company aiming to supply pubs, restaurants, small shops and the general public. “Our products are supplied frozen and so are available all year round, not just in the game season,” says Steven. “We would love to see game such as pheasant eventually becoming a common sight in UK supermarkets.”

The first product that we tried was Pheasant, Pistachio and Port Pâté, which we smeared simply on bread. It has a rich, gamey flavour that the kids weren't sure about, but I enjoyed it. Looking at the ingredients list, it contains 20% Pheasant Meat and 19% Chicken Liver, with other ingredients including marjoram, thyme, parsley and onion powder.

The second product that we tried was Grouse, Brandy and Herb Pâté, which has an earthy, robust flavour. This one contains 26% Grouse Breast and 25% Chicken Liver, along with margarine, onion powder and a selection of herbs (parsley, marjoram, thyme, black pepper and game seasoning), as well as frozen garlic puree.

Wild and Game explain that their mission is to make game popular on British dinner tables all year round and, as it’s low-fat and readily available, it deserves to be used more widely. At Wild and Game, they have a focus on traditional dishes that people already love, so pâté seemed a perfect addition to their range.

Both products are available now via wholesale or retail from the company’s website. If you want something a bit different for Christmas, they're perfect.

Wild and Game’s product range is growing steadily. It currently includes sausage rolls, pasties, pies and sausages, with the new pâtés the latest products to be added to the list.

The Wild and Game website is at www.wildandgame.co.uk

Disclosure : We received samples, in order to write an honest review.

Monday, 5 November 2018

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #45

We're back ! Did you miss us ?! We decided to take advantage of the half-term holidays to visit the Madhouse grandparents in Hastings, so there hasn't been a menu plan for the last two weeks. This week, we're back on track, but I have parent-teacher evenings on Tuesday and Thursday so the kids will be dealing with things until I get home - eeek ! Hopefully, there will be some leftovers, otherwise they'll have to go to the kebab shop or delve in the freezer !


dinner - possibly leftover roast gammon from yesterday, with pasta - if it all got munched, battered cod fillets with rice and veg.


dinner - I'll be at parent-teacher evenings until late.The plan for the kids is, there is a pack of chicken and veg pies in the freezer that only need half an hour in the oven, with some instant mash and baked beans. Easy enough, right ?! Hmmmm !


lunch - meatball subs with fries & beans, if they weren't eaten yesterday, or salsa

dinner - creamy chicken vol au vents with pasta & veg


dinner - Sophie's late in too tonight, so I think a trip to the kebab shop may be on the cards ! If not, there's some tomato soup and probably leftovers to use up in the fridge.


 dinner - it's been a long week so I need an easy dinner that can pretty much cook itself - spag bol or chilli con carne & rice should fit the bill so I'll let the kids choose :)


lunch - kids' choice of restaurant/fast food - probably the old favourite, McDonald's !

dinner - leftovers/snack food (quiche, salads, bread, dips, crisps, fruit, yogurts, etc)


lunch -  roast chicken probably, with all the trimmings

dinner - sandwiches and leftovers

***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***


Book review : She Chose Me - Tracey Emerson

I've just spent a few days reading Tracey Emerson's début novel, She Chose Me, and I can't decide whether I'm disappointed to have finished it or relieved to know that I might actually get my bedtime back to normal now !

The novel relates the story of Grace, a middle-aged woman who has come back to London after twenty years abroad, so that she can look after her dying mother's affairs. Working in a language school, she has put her mum in a nursing home and is in the process of clearing out her house. Times are tough and she could do with a friend to help her through her dark times.

In alternate chapters, we also get to know Cassie, who was adopted when she was younger and is out to find out more about her real mother. She has recently lost her adopted mother and, we learn, is followed by a psychiatrist. Determined that Grace is her mother, she ends up getting a job in the nursing home and takes on a new identity, as a down-graded, less well-off and less intelligent version of herself.

The two women strike up a friendship, but when Grace starts receiving Mother's Day cards and gifts in the post, things get complicated. You'll have to read the book to find out how it all works out !

It's a tense read, that is very believable, especially as many of the chapters look over the same events, seen through different eyes. I felt sorry for both of the women and did hope that they would manage to build bridges and (re)construct a relationship, despite getting off to a dodgy start.

It's an easy-read that sucks you in and won't let you back out, as you race towards the final reveal.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £8.99 (Paperback) £4.99 (Ebook)

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (15 Oct. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781787198739
  • ISBN-13: 978-1787198739
  • ASIN: 1787198731
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm

Check out the She Chose Me blog tour ...

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book, in order to share my honest opinion.
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