Thursday, 5 December 2019

Book review : Galveston - Nic Pizzolatto

Jack of all trades, master of none, as the old saying goes. When I saw on the front of my latest read that the author was the creator of the smash hit HBO series True Detective, I was dubious that he'd be able to put together a good novel, but Galveston is actually very well written. Don't just take my word for it though - it was the winner of two Best First Novel awards and a finalist in two more.

The novel introduces us to Roy Cady, who freely admits that he is "a bad man". At the start of the book, he discovers that his lungs are riddled with cancer and that his days are numbered. This means that he is very gung-ho in his attitude to life.

Sent on a job by his boss - a disgruntled boss whose girlfriend he had had a fling with - Roy knows that he is walking into a dangerous situation, particularly when he is told to go in with no guns. Sure enough, all hell breaks loose but, despite losing his partner in the shootout, Roy manages to take out all the bad guys and walk out of there alive. In one of the back rooms, he meets a beaten-up but feisty girl, Rocky, and decides to help her escape too.

So begins a road-trip that reminded me somewhat of Thelma and Louise, with the couple driving along with no final destination in mind, keeping their eyes and ears open in case the police, Roy's boss and/or the bad guys come looking for them. To make things even more complicated, they pick up a little girl on the way - Rocky's kid sister or maybe her daughter ? - and end up playing happy families in a series of beaten up motel rooms.

Life isn't easy and the future looks pretty grim, but they manage to find some moments of happiness and surround themselves with a few old ladies who will help with childcare when needed. Can they really escape their future destiny though or will things end up catching up with them somehow ?

It's a gritty, grim and altogether pretty hopeless kind of novel, but you can't help but feel sorry for the down-on-their-luck couple. There is a sparkle of hope at the end but barely enough to make the slightest difference in the bleakness of life in Galveston.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (27 Mar. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0751557056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0751557053
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 1.8 x 12.9 cm

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Now That's What I Call Christmas Music ! (review)

Last weekend, as is our tradition on the first Sunday of December, we got all the Christmas decorations out of the garage and spent some fun family time setting up the tree and hanging tinsel on all the picture frames. I tend to let the kids get on with it, just helping out with untangling strings of fairy lights and locating drawing pins, but I do have one very important Christmas job : keeping the festive music coming ! This year, I had absolutely oodles of fab music to choose from, as I've just received these lovely new CD boxsets to review.

Absolutely utterly perfect for this time of year is the Now 100 Hits Christmas CD collection, which contains a whopping 5 CDs full of festive classics. I have to say, this is the ultimate in Christmas compilations because ... well, whatever you want, you're guaranteed it's on there ! All the classic festive pop hits are featured : Happy Xmas (War Is Over) by John Lennon, Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin' Stevens, Step Into Christmas by Elton John, Do They Know It's Christmas? by Band Aid, Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town by The Jackson 5 ... If you're shaking your head saying I'm too old and there's nothing modern on there, you can choose some more recent Christmas hits by the likes of Leona Lewis, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Kelly Clarkson, Girls Aloud, Robbie Williams ... There are loads of golden oldies too, and can you believe it, that is all on CD number 1 ! CD 2 is full of golden oldies from the likes of Bing Crosby, Eartha Kitt and Elvis Presley, CD 3 brings us up to the era of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson, CD 4 hits the classics, with songs from The Beach Boys, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole, while the final CD number 5 gets back to modern artists, featuring (amongst others) Whitney Houston, Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. It's a great CD collection because there is something for everyone, so it's perfect if you're hosting parents and grandparents over Christmas. In total, there are 100 songs and it has a bargaintastic RRP of £10.99, making it great value.

As an extra treat for Christmas, the musical magicians at NOW are also re-releasing NOW That’s What I Call Disney, which is full of your fondest childhood memories. Alongside three discs of Disney joy, it features a bonus Christmas disc which includes Frozen and the Nightmare before Christmas. Once you’ve got it, you’ll never want to Let it Go! The festive disc is the one that we're playing most at the moment and it features 21 songs by Mickey and the Gang and The Disney Holiday Chorus - perfect for some festive fun with the kids !

The final offering is another 5 CD boxset, Now 100 Hits Sing-A-Long, which is guaranteed to get you joining in even if you think you don't like karaoke ! From Dolly Parton (9 To 5) and Cyndi Lauper (Girls Just Wanna Have Fun) to Avril Lavigne (Complicated) and John Legend (All Of Me), there are songs to appeal to all tastes and styles. It's a great mixture of hits, perfect for a long drive or a mammoth cleaning session ... or even just dancing off a few festive calories ! 

These CDs would all be great as a stocking filler or Secret Santa gift, but if you want to get all hi-tech, you have another option. Listening is made even easier with the NOW Music app, where subscribers can access all the NOW compilations plus even more playlists and music, for only £4.99 a month with no contract or adverts. It's the easiest and most enjoyable way to access music on your devices .

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

Monday, 2 December 2019

Giveaway #734 : Win 2 x The Amazing Mr Blunden Blu-rays - closing date 16/12

Lauded by Mark Kermode as one of his Top 20 Children's Films in The Observer, The Amazing Mr Blunden is set for a brand-new Limited Edition Blu-ray release courtesy of Second Sight in time for Christmas.

Adapted from Antonia Barber's novel The Ghosts by celebrated director Lionel Jeffries (The Railway Children) who also helms this mesmerising family classic, The Amazing Mr Blunden arrives in a stunning collector's edition, with a brand-new scan and restoration and rigid slipcase with new artwork by Rich Davies. It includes Barber's original out-of-print source novel exclusively reproduced for this release, a soft cover book with new essays by Kevin Lyons and Kim Newman, plus a reversible poster with new and original artwork.

The slew of special features includes audio commentaries and cast interviews, an exclusive new interview with famous fan Mark Gatiss and much more. It will be released on 9 December 2019.

The mysterious but kindly solicitor Mr Blunden visits Mrs Allen and her young children, offering her the position of caretaker at a derelict country mansion. More surprises are in store when the children encounter the ghosts of two former young residents and find themselves transported back in time to help their new friends right a 100-year-old wrong.

Starring Laurence Naismith, Lynne Frederick, Garry Miller, Rosalyn Landor, Marc Granger, Madeline Smith and Stuart Lock, The Amazing Mr Blunden is the perfect nostalgic treat for the whole family.

It has a distinctive 1970's feel to it that adults will love to look back on. Perfect for watching over Christmas for a blast from the past.

  • Classification: U
  • Studio: Second Sight Films
  • DVD Release Date: 9 Dec. 2019
  • Run Time: 99 minutes

I have two Blu-Ray copies of The Amazing Mr Blunden to give away to lucky Madhouse Family Reviews readers. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck !

UK only. Closing date : 16/12/19

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.

You may also like to enter my other giveaways :

Giveaway #733 : Win Hannah the Spanner and the Polar Bears - closing date 2/12

Sunday, 1 December 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #49

December is here, which means it's finally time to get out the Christmas tree and get my Christmas CD playing on the stereo ! I think we may even head into town later on to see Father Christmas abseiling down the belfry - the kids aren't keen as they say they're too old for it, but I want to see the Christmas market and the fireworks afterwards, so I may try bribery ! Sadly, this also means that it's the rest of the end of term meetings all next week, so I'll be home late (and knackered !) on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday - not fair ! I actually sat down and finished off all my school reports yesterday, so I can finally get back on top of things around the house. This week is a quick-and-simple meal plan, as (hopefully) the kids will be preparing half of it ! Pierre has recently been asking me to help him learn how to cook dinner, so we switched over to spaghetti carbonara for one of last week's meals and he also made spaghetti bolognese - yay ! Not bad for a ten year old, I have to say. He even cooked up a burger for himself for lunch and managed not to burn the house down, so things are looking good !


lunch - leftover mince with veggies (onions, carrots, sweetcorn, tomatoes and chickpeas) & rice (it tastes better than it sounds !)

dinner -  sandwiches, toast, soup ... something along those lines. Or we may end up nibbling things at the Christmas market and fireworks possibly.


dinner - bangers and mash, with onion gravy and peas


dinner - beef meatballs and spaghetti, with tomato sauce


lunch - I have some veggie sausages for a review (and also some chicken nuggets in case the kids hate them !), with baked potatoes and beans

dinner - sweet & sour chicken with rice


dinner - pepperoni pizza


dinner - fresh pasta (bought, not home made ! lol)


lunch - our regular Saturday lunchtime fast food trip ! Probably McDonalds as usual.

dinner - there may be some leftovers, if not toast or sandwiches

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


Saturday, 30 November 2019

Fab freebies of the week 30/11

We made it to the weekend again - wahoo ! I can't believe we're into December in a couple of days. That means that traditionally, this weekend is when we get the Christmas tree up. It might happen, if I find the time ! I did actually manage to find an hour last night to check out the Black Friday deals online, and I was delighted to find some great deals for Christmas shopping. I managed to grab a PS4 with four games and some Fortnite codes for £200, so that's the kids' Christmas gift taken care of ! What about you? Did you manage to pick up any bargains? Well, you can't get cheaper than free, so here are some more fab deals for you to try to grab this weekend. Have a great weekend ! :)


From The Insiders : We are looking for 1,000 owners and their cats to participate in this campaign by trialing one of 20 Gourmet® products. All you need to do is leave us Online Reviews to let us know your opinion! It’s super easy, just click through to read through the campaign page and register.

The Mirror have teamed up with Iceland to give away 150 Giant Olaf soft toys to our lucky readers - just in time for Christmas.

There are 1000 Listerine samples up for grabs but it's first come first served - will there be any left ?!

Iceland's generous £10 off voucher works on absolutely everything in store, from food, to alcohol and even giant metre tall Olaf toys. To get it, you just need a copy of the Daily Mirror or Sunday Mirror from Thursday 28th November to Sunday 1st December (any one day's paper will do - £10 off a £40 shop)

Pentel have 50 prize bundles up for grabs

Don't miss the iconic Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour 2019 ... is it heading your way ?


Claim a complimentary Grey Goose cocktail from their website

Cockburn's have a fab competition with oodles of prizes, including 5000 bars of Green & Blacks chocolate ... and that's just the runner up prizes !

Send your loved ones a Get Well Soon card this cold and flu season, courtesy of Night Nurse. Available to the first 2,400 customers free of charge from thortful. Plus, the first 2,400 customers will also receive a discount voucher for any Day and Night Nurse product redeemable at Lloyds pharmacies.

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.

You may also like to enter my current giveaways :

Friday, 29 November 2019

Book review : Whispers of Hope - Charlie Albert

Whispers of Hope is a collection of six short stories, told by Charlie Albert, from his experiences helping desperate single parents go through the courts to settle issues relating to their children. They are all based on true stories, but names and other details may have been changed to respect people's privacy. Charlie is not a lawyer - he is a parent who struggled to secure residency of his own son and who decided to deepen his knowledge of the family court to help others gain access to their children. He has since successfully assisted over 400 people in family law cases.

The stories, although very different, all relate a similar tale. In most of them, couples have split up, for whatever reasons, and rather than putting the welfare and happiness of their children in prime position, they end up using their offspring as a pawn in the game, trying to add extra hurt or extract more money from their former partner. It is very sad but unfortunately not at all hard to believe that couples will resort to such bitter and angry games.

But there is worse to come. Accusations of anything from attempted suicide to rape and domestic violence are also often thrown into the fray and Charlie has to sift through documents, looking for evidence of sneaky goings-on and just plain lies. Some of the devious behaviour, from making up untrue stories to sneaking off with the kids, is truly despicable and Charlie presents the parents on the other side as despicable, worthless people. Although I can understand this, as he is working for his clients and trying to show everyone how bad the spouses are, I did find the presentations to be a bit too one-sided. Maybe I'm just too hopeful that parents would never really be as ruthless and deceitful as they frequently appear to be in these cases.

Charlie is a down-to-earth straight-talker, so there is the odd swear word (literally just one or two uses of f***) and some of his descriptions lack a little finesse - the example of him describing his then girlfriend gives an idea : "That is not to say that I have ever been so pompous as to lay claim to a penchant for a particular type of woman, but those who know me will attest to my preferring a bit of meat on the bones of a companion, rather than someone who looks like they had been caught up in the holocaust and needed a good fry up." 

The stories are designed to give hope to warring parents, showing that however hopeless their own situation may seem, others have gone before and come out on top. Charlie says, "I hope these stories give comfort and the reassurance that there is light at the end of every tunnel." If you're not in the midst of a hostile divorce, they will also remind you to be grateful for small mercies because your own situation is undoubtedly a lot easier to deal with than the ones presented in the book.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £7.99

Thursday, 28 November 2019

November 2019 Degustabox : Winter Warmers & Festive

It's the end of the month, which means that the postman has just delivered the latest Degustabox. This box has a very timely theme : Winter Warmers & Festive. With Christmas on the way in just under a month (eeeek!), that sounds perfect to me !

I have to admit, carefully unpacking everything for the photo, we did scratch our heads slightly and say that it didn't look particularly festive OR full of winter warmers. Apart from the matcha and the noodles, nothing is designed to be eaten warm, so the name is slightly misleading. Apart from that, it all looks very tasty though, and there are lots of new brands and flavours for us to try out, which is always a great thing.

The first thing that caught the kids' eyes was this bag of Cheeky Monkey Peanut Butter Puffs (RRP £2.29). Made with peanut butter and corn, baked not fried, they offer a healthier snack option that also caters for vegan and gluten free diets. They are a good source of protein and fibre and the palm oil in the product is from a certified and sustainable source, as recommended by the WWF. Ideal for both adults and children, the snack is also the perfect way to introduce peanuts to children over 6 months. The kids loved them.

Rebel Kitchen Dairy Free Organic Chocolate Hazelnut Mylk (RRP £1.60) is a creamy coconut drink that is perfect for those who want or need to avoid dairy products in their diet. The range of Mylk Shakes are made from plants and are 100% organic. They are also completely refined sugar free and carbon neutral, as well as containing no emulsifiers, stabilisers or additives. I'm putting this aside for Sophie, as she loves the taste of Nutella and has pretty much cut milk products out of her diet, as she is intolerant.

Real Handful Strawberry & Blackcurrant Blast Trail Mix (RRP £2 - subscribers received one or the other, but I was lucky enough to get both) is a blend of fruit, nut and seeds, infused with natural flavours. The brand promise that it is perfect to fuel your unruliest adventures, but it is great for munching in front of the telly too ! Very tasty.

Mr Lee's Noodles (RRP £2.50) is a brand that we have already sampled in past Degustaboxes and they're great for a simple meal for one or as an ingredient to add to a stir-fry for the whole family. We received two flavours -  Coconut Chicken Laksa and Zen Garden Vegetables - but subscribers got one or the other. These noodles are made using the finest ingredients and authentic recipes and have a great taste with some real zing on the tongue. Their gluten free, low sugar and "no nasties" range also includes vegan options. Available from Asda Free From and Holland & Barrett. Use code DEGUSTABOX20 for 20% off on

This month's product of the month is Duerr's Orange Marmalade, in either Fine Cut Seville or Half Sugar Seville (RRP £1.39). Grown in Seville, crafted in Manchester, Duerr's marmalades are bursting with sunshine and plenty of zest. For a lower calorie breakfast, try the Half Sugar or for a more intense marmalade, spread the Fine Cut generously onto toast for a breakfast that packs a punch. I don't normally buy marmalade and I wasn't sure what we'd think, but I actually really enjoyed the flavour. In the past, I've also used marmalade in both sweet and savoury recipes - you might like to try Flaky Festive Puffs in the run up to Christmas or how about tucking into Marmalade Glazed Carrots alongside the turkey ? Available in Morrisons and Sainsbury's.

Pure Leaf Matcha (RRP £8.99 - subscribers received one of three flavours) offers a simple way of creating a cup, with pre-portioned, individually wrapped sachets for the perfect cuppa every time. Pure Leaf Matcha is expertly crafted with high-quality tea leaves and ingredients, giving a full flavour of Matcha, Matcha & Mint or Matcha & Ginger, which is great for warming up on a cold winter's day.

 Double Dutch All Natural Premium Mixers (RRP 75p per can or £4.15 for a pack of 8 cans) are perfect to stock up on at Christmas, for putting together with all sorts of spirits or just for drinking on their own. We got two flavours, Cucumber & Watermelon and Cranberry & Ginger, both of which tasted great. Double Dutch are an award winning range of all natural premium tonics, founded by Dutch twins Joyce and Raissa de Haas. Mixing fun (lots of tasting) and science (molecular gastronomy), they carefully pair flavour notes to create innovative drink combinations. I'll be looking out for more flavours to sample, as we really enjoyed them.

For subscribers who ticked the alcohol box option, they received a bottle of Woodstar (RRP £4). This is a crafted low alcohol drink that has been created to replace wine when you are not relying on alcohol. It is crafted by a master liquoriste and cognac maker in France, using açai berries and other fruits, botanicals and a touch of cocoa and only 1% ABV. It's lovely alongside a roast dinner, so would be great on Christmas Day. Available from Fortnum & Mason and Sainsbury's (from January).

Subscribers to the non-alcohol box received Food Thoughts Cacao Melts (RRP £2.99), from the premium range of cocoa and cacao chocolate baking ingredients. Made from the finest 'Fino de Aroma' cocoa beans for an exquisitely intense chocolatey flavour, these Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao Melts are perfect for baking, melting, drizzling and decorating. They have a really intense flavour which comes through beautifully in brownies and other chocolatey desserts, or you could even add a disc or two to chilli con carne to add a depth of flavour. I love the sound of the Mini Baileys Chocolate Tarts recipe on their website.

Pop (RRP £1.49) is all about celebrating the heroic power of the humble peanut. The manufacturers point out that peanuts are super healthy, kinder on the planet and can literally save lives, as they give 1% of turnover to charity. Absolutely packed full of whole air roasted peanuts, 7 grams of protein, lots of prebiotic fibre and 40% less sugar, they taste great. We got the Peanut Butter flavour, but there are also Coconut and Raisin & Dark Chocolate varieties available.

This Degustabox included a recipe for Chocolate Orange Cupcakes from Food For Thought, which sounds like exactly the kind of thing we'd like to make. This was a good box, with things to appeal to all members of the family and certain items that we'd never heard of and will now be actively looking out for instore.

 A subscription to Degustabox costs £12.99 per month including delivery, with each box having a value of much more than that, but the great news is, I have a discount coupon code for you which means you'll get the first box for just £7.99 - enter code PKUFE at the checkout.

for more information :

Also now on Instagram @DegustaboxUK

Disclosure : We received the box in order to write an honest review. As a Degustabox blogger, I receive all of the products that go into the monthly boxes, but subscribers may not get exactly the same selection.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

The Protein Ball Co. Advent Calendar review

In just a week's time, we'll be turning over the final page of the calendar and welcoming in December. That means it's the beginning of advent calendar season too - woohoo ! After years and years of me buying chocolate advent calendars for the kids, this year they all clubbed together for my birthday last month and got me a special bath and body advent calendar - awww ! As if that wasn't enough, the postie dropped off a package a couple of weeks later containing this fabulous-looking advent calendar from The Protein Ball Co. Pro-ho-ho-ho-tein indeed !

I've heard of protein balls but I wasn't too sure what they would look and taste like, so I went to investigate. That's not actually as naughty as it sounds because this advent calendar has traditional doors that can be opened but it also has a lift off lid like a chocolate box lid, which is great news, not only because it means I can have a sneaky peek inside but also because I'll be able to reuse it in coming years. 

The mini protein balls on the inside come in several flavours - Goji & Coconut, Lemon & Pistachio, Raspberry Brownie, Peanut Butter, Apple & Blueberry and the ultimate festive treat, Christmas. The ingredients information on the back of the box shows that they are a mixture of dates, cashews, tapioca fibre and various other healthy and natural ingredients, including goji berries, grape juice concentrate, pea protein, brown rice protein, ... Not a hidden nasty in sight.

Each mini protein ball only contains 28 calories and 1.2g of fat (with just 0.3g saturates), 2.7g of carbohydrates (of which 2.3g are sugars, including naturally occurring sugars from the fruit), 1g of fibre, 1.3g of protein and 0g of salt. 

Well, despite my good intentions, the kids convinced me to sneak some out and share them with them and I was amazed to see how much they loved all of them. There was me thinking they'd be far too healthy to appeal to the kids but nope, they loved them !

The advent calendar is available from The Protein Ball Co. for £19.99, but don't hang about - this is  a limited edition product so when stocks run out, it'll be too late !

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

Monday, 25 November 2019

Book review : Once A Liar - A. F. Brady

Once A Liar tells the story of hotshot American lawyer Peter Caine. Starting out from nothing, he has worked his way up to the top, securing a job working for Marcus Rhodes in an influential law firm that gives him both power and money. It has also given him a wife, in the form of Marcus's daughter Juliette, who falls for his charms and ends up having a son with him. But that was before. The book is split into alternating "now" and "then" chapters and in the now parts, we watch Peter and his new live-in girlfriend Claire comforting Jamie, the now adolescent son, at Juliette's funeral. Peter and Juliette divorced many years ago and he had little to do with his son's upbringing, but now he will have to step up to the mark and adopt him.

This, however, ends up being the least of his worries. Peter is the kind of man who thinks he deserves anything and everything he wants, so, unsurprisingly, he has a lover, Charlotte (or Charlie). They started having the odd fling when he was married to Juliette and now sneak around behind Claire's back. Claire eventually finds out and tells Peter it has to stop. This is ultimately what happens, but Peter doesn't have much choice in the matter : Charlie is found dead. He soon turns into the prime suspect, but did he really commit this heinous crime? He calmly states that he is innocent and he clearly believes this, but does that necessarily make it the truth ?

The problem that I had with this book is that Peter is such an arrogant, masochistic, self-loving character that I didn't really care what happened to him. He is clearly incapable of actually feeling anything real, either for his women or even his son. This may not be entirely his fault, in terms of psychology, but he is so manipulative, emotionless and self-serving that it becomes hard to take his word on anything (a sentiment apparently shared by his fellow lawyer). This made it very hard to actually care what happened to him. Having mistreated people throughout his whole life, it actually seems almost fair for him to get a taste of his own medicine.

I found the first half of the book to be very long and slow. I understand that it was necessary to set the scene and give a good description of his behaviour and mentality, past and present, but it ended up seeming a bit tedious. The pace did pick up for the second half of the book though, and I didn't actually see where the book was headed until the final chapter.

Overall, I wasn't a huge fan of the book, but I think this was largely because the main protagonist is so selfish and uncaring.

star rating : 3.5/5

RRP : £7.99 (but I picked it up at The Works in their 3-for-£5 deal)

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HQ (13 Jun. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848457340
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848457348

Sunday, 24 November 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #48

I can't believe we're heading into December next week - everything is going so fast, I can't keep up ! The end of term meetings are kicking off so I'll need something quick and simple for Thursday and Friday nights. I'm loving the slow cooker meals as it's great to have something warming, ready and waiting for us at the end of the day.


lunch - roast chicken, gratin dauphinois and carrots - special request from Sophie, as she's over for the day with my family

dinner -  sandwiches, toast, soup ... something along those lines. Or leftovers from lunch if someone wants them.


dinner - leftover chicken if there is some - mixed up with gravy & veggies, served with pasta


dinner - spaghetti bolognese


lunch - chicken burgers with rice and veg - or I may stick them in buns with salad & tomatoes and serve them with chips. We'll see !

dinner - cottage pie


dinner - pepperoni pizza, ready to stick in the oven, in case the kids get hungry before the end of my meeting


dinner - beef stew in the slow cooker, with rice (and veg in the stew)


lunch - our regular Saturday lunchtime fast food trip ! Probably McDonalds as usual.

dinner - there should be some leftovers from yesterday

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


Saturday, 23 November 2019

Fab freebies of the week 23/11

Aaahhhh it's the weekend ! It's been a long week, with two meetings after school, easing us into the next two weeks, which will be even worse, as we have an end-of-term meeting for each class coming up (yep, that means another five days getting home late). After that, we have a week with two parent-teacher evenings, which will just about finish us all off, just in time for the holidays ! Wahey ! Oh well, time to enjoy the weekend. Have fin, whatever you're up to, and hope something takes your fancy in this week's freebies. Don't forget to check the last couple of weeks for ongoing daily giveaways with lots of prizes.


Just say to your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant “Ask Send Me a Sample for Issey Miyake” then choose either “L’Eau d’Issey for Women” or “L’Eau d’Issey for Men”. Get yours now!

One for the dads ! Try to grab one of 5000 free Gillette razors from Emma's Diary

It's back ! Sign up for the In The Night Garden advent calendar - daily chance to win oodles of prizes

Sign up for the chance to test St Tropez Face Maskon their VIP Panel

Explore the delicious taste of Whiskas® to get your money back on your first purchase of Whiskas® cat food. Enter your purchase information to redeem.

Try 1 month free tailored dog food from

Try to win one of 120 spy kits (or a trip to New York if you're really lucky !)

Request an Official D-Day 75th Anniversary Coin (just pay for p&p)

If you're lucky enough to live hear a JTF Mega Discount Warehouse - show the facebook post to get a free box of Fox's biscuits

Nominate someone to win a gift from Sanctuary Spa - loads of prizes available

Sign up for Emma's Diary baby/pregnancy freebies and receive a Photobook voucher worth £15 to capture those special moments

Win a Sparkling Spruce disinfectant from Zoflora in their daily giveaway

Head over to Shopmium for free Oykos Signatures yogurt (at Morrisons & Co Op), Nestlé Pure Life Sparkling Water, Fuze Tea (Tesco), Gunna Soft Drink, Piccolo Organic Baby Food Pouches (ASDA & Tesco), Tango (Tesco), The Collective Kefir

On Corpore Sanctum Facebook page :  New K-Beauty product launching this Christmas 🎄. Comment and share to get FREE samples 🤩🎁

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.

You may also like to enter my current giveaways :

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Book review : How To Be Perfect - Holly Wainwright

Back in the summer, you may remember that I reviewed Holly Wainwright's debut novel, The Mummy Bloggers. (Click through for that review.) That first novel looked at three bloggers, the apparently "perfect mum" Ella Campbell, with her guilt-free snacks, perfectly dressed boys and airbrushed photos, Abi Black, big-mouthed, eco-friendly, lesbian and feminist (oh, and as it happens, ex-wife to Ella Black's husband) and Leisel Adams, the over-worked mum blogger who just happens to be the sister of the girlfriend of Abi Black. Confused ? That's just the beginning ! Slogging it out to win a prestigious (and well-paid) blogger competition, Ella is ultimately revealed to be a complete fake and strides off into the sunset.

Well, in How To Be Perfect, she's back, with a brand new blog but an equally big ego. She has a new, rich boyfriend, a brand new money-making retreat for women looking to mimic her "perfect" lifestyle (think disgusting smoothies and lots of yoga) and a brand new pay-to-view blog. She has totally abandoned her ex-husband and her two little boys, who have ended up living on his other ex Abi Black's farm, along with her wife-to-be Grace and their own brood of kids. The third blogger from the original book puts in a brief appearance, but in this novel, we have a new character, Frances. As a new mum, she is feeling inferior to the mothers on her WhatsApp group and is determined that if she can just get the cash together to treat herself to a break at Ella's retreat, everything will be hunky dory.

If you've read the first book, it's great to catch up with all the old characters and see how their lives have developed, but it could also be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel. Mums of babies, toddlers and teenagers will all recognise themselves with a smile when reading the story. While Ella was portrayed as the ruthless villain of the piece in the previous novel, this book offers a more rounded approach - she is still very selfish and totally self-absorbed but she is also quite vulnerable, needing a bit of a helping hand to get herself out of the (new) mess that she has created.

It's a fun read that will put a smile on your face, whatever stage of parenting you're at !

star rating : 4.5/5

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Deeno-Saur Toothbrush review

Have you started Christmas shopping yet ? I actually did some this weekend, buying a couple of bits in town and ordering some stuff online. The girls are easy enough to buy for, because, as teens, they are both obsessed with various bands and TV series so I just have to pick which merch to buy. Pierre is trickier though. Now that he's ten, he's out of the cuddly toys and board games that he used to love but not yet really into the clothes and techie stuff that will interest him in a few years. Hmmm, I'll have to get my thinking cap on ! If you're on the look-out for a gift that will appeal to kids of both ages, Deeno-Saur have a range of both electric toothbrushes and manual toothbrushes that would be ideal as a Christmas gift or stocking filler.

The manual brush (RRP £2.99) looks very appealing to kids, with its coloured bristles and dinosaur on the handle. Each toothbrush is made from a single piece of naturally sustainable bamboo so no glue is needed and, unlike other bamboo toothbrushes, the Deeno-Saur toothbrushes are free from any harmful paint, dyes and other chemicals. Bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial and water resistant too. In terms of bristles, the nylon is completely BPA-free and feels incredibly soft against teeth and gums. It offers an environmentally friendly way of making tooth-brushing fun.

The battery-operated Deeno-Saur toothbrush (RRP £9.99) is the one that really impressed Pierre though. Inside the box, you get the main brush, a spare head, a sheet of stickers, three batteries and a mini Deeno egg that turns into a Dinosaur after 48 hours submerged in water. Whoever thought that toothbrushing could be so much fun ?!

The batteries need to be placed inside a holder which is then slotted back inside the brush handle. You have the choice of three brushing speeds, soft, medium and hard, so you can totally personalise your brushing experience, depending on age or speed preference. The brush has a two minute timer and a quad pacer that ensure an effective dentist recommended clean.

The stickers can be used to personalise your brush if you want, or you could just stick them on whatever else you like. The brush head has a tongue cleaner on the back, which Pierre thought was fun to use ! The brush also has a specially designed bristle pattern to ensure it reaches all the hard to reach areas of a young child's mouth, coupled with soft bristles and a silicone overcoat around the head to be extra gentle on teeth and gums.

If you have a child who is reluctant to brush their teeth, this is the perfect tool as it looks cool and adds an element of fun. Oral hygiene is one of the biggest concerns for parents and, according to a recent oral health survey of 5-year olds, just under a quarter have tooth decay with 3 to 4 teeth affected on average. Alarmingly, the first survey of 3-year olds in 2014 found that 12% had visible tooth decay, with 3 teeth affected on average. Anything that can help improve those figures has to be a good thing.

Disclosure : I received the products in order to share my honest view.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Giveaway #733 : Win Hannah the Spanner and the Polar Bears - closed - winner Rachel Mccraith

Released this month – just in time for Christmas – Hannah the Spanner and the Polar Bears follows the adventures of Hannah and her friends as they cope with grumpy parents, sick reindeer and some strange goings-on in the back garden. This leads to an emergency visit to the Professor and befriending a lost polar bear in an attempt to help a big chubby man in a red suit save Christmas !

The books were all originally written as bedtime stories for Stuart Simmonds’ eldest daughter Hannah, and Stuart promised one day he’d find a publisher for them. That happened earlier this year and the books have been such a huge success that Stuart has been inundated with bookings from schools asking him to visit to read the books and run workshops encouraging children to read. The next two books in the series are now being published.

The previous books in the series are:
- Hannah The Spanner and the Dancing Bear
- Hannah The Spanner and the Robot
- Hannah The Spanner and the Circus
- Hannah The Spanner and the Trip to the Moon
- Hannah The Spanner and the Diamond Robbery
- Hannah The Spanner and the Racing Car

The entire Hannah the Spanner series has been written with bedtime reading in mind; the books are short fun stories, about Hannah on her incredible adventures, which can be enjoyed time and time again. They are aimed primarily at four to nine-year olds and are chock-full of colourful imagery to keep little ones entertained, whilst the engaging, funny stories resonate with older kids – and even keep the adults amused.

The Hannah the Spanner series is available from Waterstones and all good bookshops, Amazon and direct from the Hannah the Spanner website:

I have a copy of the book to give away to one Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 2/12/19

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.

You may also like to enter my other giveaways :

Giveaway #732 : Win a copy of Hedgehog Christmas - closing date 22/11

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