Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Giveaway #647 : Win 2 x My Life As A Courgette on dvd - closing date 4/10

This week sees the release on DVD and Blu-Ray of a film that should have won an award for having the craziest name, as well as being nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award : My Life As A Courgette !

Behind the strange title is a stop-motion animation about a 9-year-old boy called Icare, whose nickname is Courgette, that is by turns cute and poignant but always quirky. After his far-from-perfect mother's death, in lugubrious circumstances, he is taken to a foster home to live with other kids his own age by a friendly police officer. Although he has trouble finding his place at first, Courgette quickly meets new friends, and, with their help, he learns to love and trust those around him, all the while finding a new family of his own.

Brought to life through unforgettable characters and beautiful animation, this is the perfect film for audiences both young and old. It reminded us of a cross between Tracy Beaker (for the story) and Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas (for the animation). It deals with some sad and serious issues, including child neglect and abuse, but manages to stay upbeat and positive, showing that people can cope with whatever life throws at them and find their way to a happy ending, however miserable their start in life.

If your kids have outgrown Disney and want something with a grittier edge, this is the perfect family movie that will have everyone enthralled, whatever their age.

The DVD incudes the original French version with English subtitles, as well as a dubbed version, and various bonus featurettes.

  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Thunderbird Releasing
  • DVD Release Date: 18 Sept. 2017
  • Run Time: 65 minutes

I have two copies of the DVD to give away to lucky Madhouse Madhouse Family Reviews readers. Fill in your entries via the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 4/10/17

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 !

Picture book review : Yoga Babies - Fearne Cotton

There's no stopping Fearne Cotton ! Not content with being one of the UK's most in-demand TV and radio presenters, captaining a team on Celebrity Juice, completing arduous challenges such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and cycling the length of Britain with David Walliams for charity, being the face of BaByliss, launching her own fashion range with Very.co.uk AND (arguably the toughest challenge of the lot !), being a mum-of-two, she has also just written a cute picture book called Yoga Babies.

Fearne completely understands the time pressures put on parents and kids in the modern world but she also believes that being healthy needn't be expensive, time-consuming or difficult, so she is on a mission to involve children and families from all backgrounds in activities that can improve their health and mental well-being, as well as promote a lifelong love of reading. Give the girl an MBE right now !

In the preface, Fearne says : "Yoga is such a wonderful activity for all the family and has a hugely calming impact all round. It's great for coordination as well as health and well-being. It's also lots of fun ! I love doing yoga with my kids but I'm not a yoga teacher. The text and illustrations in this book have been approved by a qualified yoga instructor, but Yoga Babies was not written as a 'How-To' guide."

The Yoga Babies are very cute. We had a good giggle when we spotted Sophie as well as Emily (my sister) among the names, but our favourite is George, running away squealing with his toys ! There are also Rex, Prakash, Maya, wild-haired Kit and the twins Sam and Tom. Whatever their looks and personalities, most young readers will find at least one that they can identify with.

The book, written in short rhymes, shows how yoga can be incorporated into your day without going to a class or making it into a big thing. The cute illustrations, by Sheena Dempsey, show the Yoga Babies striking a pose at a barbecue in the park, in the bathroom, in the garden or at Granny's house, amongst other places. It's a great way of bringing yoga to the masses, especially for those who might be put off by an official class, thinking you have to be extremely supple or invest in specific yoga clothes or equipment. Seeing how successful the mums and dads in the story use yoga to calm the kids down after a rough day or just before bedtime, if you fancy giving it a go yourself, there are a few simple (and above all fun) yoga poses that you can try with the kids on the back cover.

RRP : £9.99 (currently £4.99 on amazon)

  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Age Range: 2 - 4 years
  • Publisher: Andersen Press (7 Sept. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1783445645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1783445646

Disclosure : We received a review copy of the book.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Giveaway #646 : Win a Discovery toy bundle to explore nature! - closing date 2/10

Explore the autumnal season with Discovery toys!

How does nature prepare itself for the colder winter months? Get close to nature this autumn with the Discovery range and find out how plants, bugs and nature change over the seasons. See how the leaves change colour? Can you find out where the insects are? Go for a walk with your family and see if you can spot where the animals are burrowing down!

The Discovery toy range from Trends UK consists of different science toys which encourage exploration and adventure. Offering real working features and educational benefits they also support the STEM curriculum. Inspired by authentic Discovery Channel™ content, the Discovery™ brand motivates curiosity about the real world.

Win a Discovery toy bundle to explore nature!

The Discovery 30mm Explorer Telescope (£16.99rrp), Discovery Bug Barn (£16.99rrp) and Discovery Digital Walkie Talkies (£27.99rrp) are perfect for exploring the changes in nature as we switch from summer to autumn. We are giving away a bungle with all three Discovery toys to an explorer.

With an outdoors range of up to 3km, The Discovery Digital Walkie Talkies are perfect for keeping in touch while exploring, perhaps from one garden to another! With 3 channels, a ringing tone to alert incoming transmissions and LED display, one-on-one outdoor communication has never been more convenient.

Light and easy to focus, the Discovery 30mm Explorer Telescope features 15x magnification and is ideal for budding explorers and astronomers. Includes detachable tripod.

Children will love to investigate the world of insects up close with the Discovery Bug Barn! Use the viewing container to gently collect and observe common bug specimens. Includes observation room, magnifying glass, tweezers, canister, net and instruction manual.

I have a fabulous Discovery toy bundle, including a Discovery Bug Barn, Discovery Digital Walkie Talkies and Discovery 30mm Telescope, to give away to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries via the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 2/10/17

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 !

Globecooking recipe : Sloppy Joes (USA)

At first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking this is a hamburger, but it is in fact Sloppy Joes, one of the recipes from my USA-themed Kitchen Trotter box last month. Sloppy Joes are basically a cross between chilli con carne (minus the beans) and bolognese sauce, served in a burger bun. I have made a tweaked version before - Garlic Bread Topped Sloppy Joes - but I decided to follow their recipe to the letter to see how they turned out. I was worried they would be a bit, well, sloppy to eat, and they were, but the kids loved them and it's a great way of sneaking extra veg into a hamburger type meal !

Sloppy Joes

ingredients :

600g minced beef
herbs, spices (see below)
a sprinkle of brown sugar
1tbsp Worcester sauce
500ml tomato sauce
2tbsp tomato concentrate
1 onion
1 carrot
1 green or red pepper
1/2 a celery stick
olive oil
salt, pepper
hamburger buns

Start by chopping up all the veggies. The original recipe said to use 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1/2 a stick of celery and a red or green pepper. I decided to have a clear out in the veg box of the fridge, so I used 2 carrots, 1 leek, 1 onion and a handful of mushrooms.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the diced and sliced veggies until they are soft.

Remove from the pan and put to one side. I felt like diving in with a fork already !

In the same pan, fry the minced beef on a high heat until it goes brown.

Add the tomato sauce (I used a small jar of pizza sauce) and tomato concentrate, as well as the herbs, spices, Worcester sauce and sugar. I was supposed to have received a sachet of Sloppy Joes seasoning, made with brown sugar, salt, onion powder, paprika, Cayenne pepper, garlic powder, cumin, white pepper, ginger and cloves. However, it was missing in the box and I'm still waiting for it to arrive, so I just used what I had - a sprinkle of brown sugar, garlic salt, smoked paprika, sweet paprika and BBQ seasoning. 

Put the vegetables back in the pan and give it all a good stir.

Fill the burger buns with the mixture.

I served ours with twisty fries and coleslaw on the side. 

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up all the odds and ends of veggies in the fridge.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

A culinary trip to Cyprus with this month's Kitchen Trotter box

It's been grey, drizzly and distinctly chilly since the kids (and I) went back to school, so I was very pleased to see that this month's Kitchen Trotter destination was somewhere warm - Cyprus, to be precise. Hmm Cyrpus? Not sure what they eat there, but I'd guess similar to Greece. Let's dive into the box and find out.

The first things that I pulled out looked very intriguing. On the left, a bag of sweet mint and dried onions - not a combination that I'd have thought of, so I'll be interested to see how it works. On the right, the very coarse, crunchy black salt that Cyprus is apparently renowned for (although I admit to having never heard of it !).

Two bottles came out next - some red wine vinegar with basil and garlic, followed by a little bottle of ouzo - ahh so I was right with the Greek flavours. I'm not keen on aniseed but I'll see how it works in the recipes. I always love discovering totally authentic and unheard of products so I was pleased to discover two total unknowns - a jar of spoon sweets, which are half way between jam and tinned fruit (this one is made with watermelon) and chewing gum made with terebinth, which is a Mediterranean tree formerly used for making turpentine. Not sure about that one ! There is also some Turkish delight and some measuring spoons.

On to the recipes ...

A Cypriot Salad, featuring watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes and onions.

A fish dish - Ouzo-Doused Bream.

The dessert is Su Muhallebisi, which looks like sweetened, thickened milk topped with the watermelon spoon sweets.

And finally, Elioto - bread flavoured with sweet mint and onions.

There are some unusual combinations of flavours so I'm intrigued to see how they work out. I'll be back to share the recipes with you very soon.

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 17/9/17

A shopping arcade in Fethiye, Turkey

OneDad3GirlsSunday Snap

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Madhouse recipe : Chicken & Leek Filo Pie

I often make chicken pie from the leftovers after a Sunday roast, using a pack of puff pastry, but this time I decided to use filo pastry instead. The result was delicious and we'll definitely be having it again.

Chicken & Leek Filo Pie

ingredients :

drizzle of olive oil
1 onion
3 chicken breasts (or leftover cooked chicken)
2 leeks
2 carrots
3 mushrooms
leftover homemade chicken soup (or chicken stock or a can of chicken soup)
20cl crème fraîche
salt, garlic pepper, oregano
a pack of filo pastry
olive oil spray 

Cook the onion in the olive oil.

Finely chop the chicken and add to the onions. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring so it doesn't stick.

Finely chop the leeks and carrots and add to the pot, along with some mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, for a further 10 minutes.

I had a small amount of homemade chicken soup in the fridge - about one small bowlful - so I added this to the mix. You could use chicken stock or even caned soup instead, or just increase the quantity of cream.

Add the cream and simmer until the sauce reduces and thickens. 

Lay some of the filo sheets on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, and top with the chicken mixture. (You could do half and half or go for three layers, three of filo pastry and two of chicken - the choice is yours !) For the sheets on top, spray each one with a cooking spray like Frylight for extra crispiness.

Bake at 180° for 15-20 minutes until the sheets of filo are crispy and golden brown. Serve with rice or mash and extra veggies.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up the end of my homemade chicken soup, as well as the filo pastry that was drying out.

Fab freebies of the week 16/9

It's raining freebies this week ! Hopefully you'll find something that takes your fancy ! :)


Register today to claim 5 WEEKS' FREE ACCESS to Reading Eggs before 30th September 2017. Join more than 10 million users worldwide and see first-hand how your child's reading ability in just five weeks!

There are thousands of Captain Birdseye soft toys up for grabs - you need a batch code off the box but you could cheat and take a photo of the code instore without actually buying it ! I won one on my first attempt :)

New Insiders project - Would you like to discover the benefits of Bepanthen Nappy Care Ointment cream and share your experiences with other parents? Subscribe below by the 5th of October 2017

They also have a project for Spanish drink Licor 43 - sign up here

And yet another one for red wine - We are looking for 1,100 Insiders to take part in this campaign and share Apothic Red with friends and family whilst you #DiscoverYourDarkSide

Cute baby alert ! It's not too late to order your FREE #NubySelfie soother to take part in their competition.

Sign up to Become a Product Reviewer for Skin Chemists London

Sign up for a 16g sample pack of Marmite

Request a sample of Essential Cuisine chicken stock

There is also a choice of magazines here for a free issue - they call you to arrange delivery and will try to convince you to subscribe but there's no obligation

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, 15 September 2017

Book review : Ideal Love - Alice Burnett

Since going back to work after the summer, I've barely had time to fit in any reading. A chapter on the bus ride to work or a few pages at bedtime before my eyelids start drooping are about as good as it gets lately. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing, because I've been reading Ideal Love by Alice Burnett, which is a poetic, lyrical, finely honed piece of writing that deserves to be savoured in small sips like a singe malt whisky rather than chugged down in one sitting like a cheap tequila shot. 

The book centres around Venus Rees, who is left bewildered and devastated when her husband suddenly and unexpectedly dies, leaving her not only a young widow but also a single mum. She is even more upset as they argued the night before his death and never had time to make up. Her guilt soon turns to incomprehension, anger and fear for her daughter when the post mortem reveals that he had a genetic but treatable medical condition. Why didn't he seek medical help? Surely he would have done so if he'd loved her enough to want to live? Or maybe his mother kept it from him?

Such thoughts leave Venus unable to move on, as she tries to come to terms with her new mixed feelings for the man she loved and shared her life with. The tentative beginnings of a new romance stir up a maelstrom of emotions and passion, but Venus cannot start loving someone else while she is still seeking emotional closure from the first man who stole her heart. The result is an unusual love triangle where only two of the players are still alive.

It's a slow, meandering read with lots of poignant soul-searching rather than action. I found it dragged slightly in the middle section, but I was soon drawn into the story and really felt for Venus as she worked through her grief and confusion. It's a melancholy but ultimately uplifting story that provides an interesting twist on the classic love story.

star rating : 4/5

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Legend Press (14 Aug. 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1787199894
ISBN-13: 978-1787199897

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 15/9

We're all back into routine and cruising along now, so I'm adding in a few bookmarked recipes for good measure !


lunch - Time for the traditional KFC/Burger King/McDonald's option

dinner - tomato soup with cheese on toast


lunch - roast dinner, probably chicken

dinner - leftovers from lunch or fridge grazing - or possibly chicken & veg soup if we had a roast chicken


 lunch - pasta with leftovers or spaghetti carbonara

dinner - some sort of Moroccan tagine - lots of veggies (turnips, courgettes, carrots, onions, peppers) and either some chicken or pork - maybe some prunes or dried apricots too, depending on what's in the cupboard


packed lunch - tuna salad

dinner Galinhada, which is Brazilian chicken & rice


lunch - beefburgers with ratatouille & pasta

dinner - Guvec - a Turkish beef & veg stew


packed  lunch - ham & coleslaw sandwich

dinner -  split pea & bacon soup (note to self : remember to soak the peas overnight !)


packed lunch - New York spiedies (basically just a marinated chicken wrap)

dinner - leftovers night to clear out the fridge

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

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