Friday, 17 January 2020

The Spice Pioneer Power Pods review

"What's for dinner, Mum? I'm starving !". If you have teenagers in the house, those are the words that will be launched at you as soon as they get back home after a long day of school and clubs and catching up with their mates. That's fine on a quiet day, when I've been home for an hour or so already and something is in the oven, but when I've just raced in from work on a busy day, it's not what I want to hear ! I always have a jar of pasta sauce and a pack of pasta in the cupboard, which is great for getting a meal on the table in fifteen minutes when everyone is starving, but that gets boring after a while, so I was over the moon to receive the new range of Power Pods from The Spice Pioneer to try out.

Each pod contains a generous mixture of seasoning to add to a combination of ingredients to get a fabulous, tasty meal on the table in about half an hour. Each pod has enough to serve four people (but this is flexible so don't worry if you're a family of three or five) and just needs to be opened and dumped in the dish. As you can see from the picture, the spices are ground but also contain larger pieces, giving you a great, fresh flavour. Even the kids were commenting on the intriguing new tastes and, on the whole, they loved them. The spice rating on the box is really helpful too - as you can see, this one is only half a chilli, but the Peri-Peri Chicken is three, so I knew to go for the lower spice ratings for the kids.

The Chicken Lollipops pod is a blend of smoked pimenton, sea salt, cumin, oregano, coriander, fennel and bay leaf. Just add it to garlic, olive oil, vinegar, warm water and chicken and you're good to go.

While I was mid-way through faffing about in the kitchen drawer, trying to lay my hands on the skewers that Madhouse Daddy always used to use on the BBQ, I suddenly realised that they weren't actually an essential element to the dish, so I just quickly fried my chicken chunks in a frying pan. Quite possibly less authentic but it worked fine. This would be great with rice, cous cous, flatbreads ... whatever you fancy really. We went with pasta and salad and it was devoured enthusiastically, with the kids asking if there was any left ! (Luckily there was, so they used that up for lunch the next day !)

The next day, I asked the kids if they wanted spicy Peri-Peri Chicken or just plain chicken - both were very simple to throw together so it was lovely to be able to cater for my more grown up tastes with little fuss. For this pod, you need to mix it with garlic, oil and lime, then marinate some chicken in it.

I left mine marinating while I fried up some spice-less chicken for the kids, then fried off my Peri-Peri fillet while plating up the food. I served ours with rice and veggies but it could also be used in a wrap or sandwich. Delicious and not overly spicy, so the kids liked the piece I gave them to taste from my meal.

Chilli Con Carne was the next pod and this took me right back to my student days, as we used to eat it about once a week in our shared house. As the kids aren't keen on spicy food, I'd pretty much eliminated it from our family menu, but Pierre declared that this was his favourite meal ever and could we have it again very soon ! The recipe on the back says to add it to onion, red pepper, beef mince, garlic, kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and water, but I added in some carrots as well. Delicious and very simple to put together too - Pierre was in the kitchen, helping me chop everything and stir the pot, which made me think that these pods would be great for throwing in your teenager's suitcase when they head off to univeristy or into a new flat.

Katsu Curry was a Japanese dish that I'd never heard of (well, I had vaguely seen a jar of Katsu Curry sauce in the supermarket, I think, but I didn't investigate) so I had no idea what to expect. I wasn't overly reassured when I scrabbled around in the kitchen, getting everything together (I love the way they just use simple ingredients that you will undoubtedly already have in the cupboards) : breaded chicken breasts, carrot, onion, garlic, flour, chicken stock, honey and soy sauce. Do they all really go together ?! Well, actually, they do - you end up with a lovely, mild curry sauce.

A quick bit of cooking then blending while I fried off the chicken and cooked some rice and it was good to go. Juliette (who really isn't keen on spicy food) opted for plain chicken, Pierre went for "a little bit of sauce" on the right (then added more !) and I went for lashings of sauce, both on the rice and on the chicken. It's really tasty and we had plenty left over, that I put in the fridge to use up another day.

We finished off the week with a Tex-Mex classic - Fajitas ! I usually use a seasoning sachet for Mexican food anyway, so the kids were up for the challenge. The blend of cumin, paprika, sea salt, black pepper, garlic, onion powder, thyme, allspice, oregano, red chillies and Cayenne added some subtle heat (I only used half of the tub for this one), which the kids loved.

This week, using the Power Pods, was a real eye-opener. When Madhouse Daddy was around, I always used to cook for the kids, then add extra spices before the grown-ups ate later. Since he died (two years ago - how time flies !), I've gone back to eating with the kids, so everything has been simplified and made kid-friendly, which basically means I've vastly reduced my consumption of spices. The Power Pods were ideal for introducing some new flavours and seeing who liked what. If you're unfamiliar with spices or just want a cooking short cut, they're a great way to get some fabulous-tasting food on your plates within half an hour too. Perfect !

The Power Pods are available for £1.99 each. For more details, check out The Spice Pioneer website :

Disclosure : I received the pods in order to share my honest review.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Book review : The Matchmaker - Catriona Innes

I didn't get much reading done over the Christmas holidays, but I've certainly been making up for it since going back to work. The latest book that I have just finished reading, having raced through it in just a few days, is The Matchmaker by Catriona Innes - a book that I won in a competition on Facebook. I'll be honest - I didn't know any more about it than what I'd read on the front cover, so I came to it with no expectations ... then surprised myself by bursting into tears half way through it !

Don't worry - it probably won't have the same effect on you ! It just struck a chord and resonated with something that had been bouncing around inside me for a while. The author managed to put into words a vague feeling that I'd had ever since Madhouse Daddy died, so it is safe to say, I could really relate to the main character.

Caitlin Carter is a professional matchmaker, with a special knack for linking up people who are just destined to be together. Watching romance blossom, even when first impressions don't always seem too hot, makes her feel good and it all pays the bills so she's on to a winner. She has a close relationship with her best friend Verity, whose loud laugh and raucous sense of fun frequently had me smiling, reminding me of my student days. She also often mentions, and posts Instagram pictures of, her husband Harry, but he seems largely absent in her day-to-day life. I suspected that he had headed off with another woman, but it turns out, he actually died a year ago and Caitlin has just been putting on an act at work.

As she breaks down, talking to her best friend, we see another side to this strong woman. " 'But it feels like. It feels ... like ...' I have to find the words somehow. Explain to her. Escape the 'fine'. Like someone has gnawed a chunk out of my side and left a gap there and that bit of me is lost. Gone. And there's nothing that can fill me in." Yep, that just about sums it up perfectly.

But Caitlin puts things to right. Girlie holiday? Check. Chat with the mother-in-law? Check. Sort out her business and reveal to everyone that her husband has died? Check. Work towards her own happily-ever-after? Well, time will tell, but there's at least a hint of hope in there.

Don't get me wrong though, the overall tone of the novel is light-hearted and there are a good many belly-laughs, particularly when listening in on Verity's antics. You definitely don't have to be a widow or even down on your luck in the love stakes for it to appeal to you - this just really made me relate to and feel for Caitlin on a deeper level.

If you're a fan of chick lit, you'll love it. It's an uplifting read that gives you a sense of empowerment, reminding you that you are the master (or mistress) of your own destiny and, whatever life throws at you, you can reinvent your own destiny and find your happy ending.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Trapeze (28 Nov. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140918837X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409188377

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Book review : Tight Rope - Marnie Riches

As I explained in my Project 366 post this week, life got very hectic last week, which meant I turned to some reading to chill out. I grabbed one of the books that I had picked up in the 3-for-£5 section at The Works (yes, I admit it, I bought more !) and rattled through it in a couple of days.

The book, Tight Rope by Marnie Riches, actually offers a fairly simple story, but it is made more complicated by the structure of the book, with different chapters told by different narrators. The prologue, narrated by The Wolf, reveals the sordid tale of a teenage prostitute being killed and heartlessly disposed of. Then we move on to Bev, who is living in a mouldy basement flat and trying to earn some money as a private investigator. Her heart is in the right place but her methods often left me with my heart in my mouth - surely, in real life at least, a woman wouldn't put herself in such dangerous situations, even if she is trying to get her hands on some proof and earn some much-needed money ? There is also another character, Boo, whose drug and booze-fuelled student days come to a dramatic end when she finds herself pregnant.

The main storyline sees a woman, Angela, desperate to get her hands on proof of her husband's philandering so that she can leave him. He is violent towards her and, despite Angela's lack of readily available cash, Bev can't turn her away and agrees to help out. She soon starts seeing worrying details in her flat though, such as her precious origami models being moved or chairs being replaced differently. Is someone onto her?

I won't tell you any more or it will give the game away, especially as the story is simple enough that I had actually figured out who the bad guys were quite early on. The enjoyment, however, comes from watching Beverley's evolution throughout the novel, both in a professional manner but also, more importantly, on a personal level. She is one of life's fighters and, whatever the world throws at her, she will find a way past it and on to a happier place. Definitely the kind of role model I needed last week !

This appears to be the first in a series of novels, so I'll keep my eyes open for any further books by the author. There seem to be quite a few available so I may be lucky.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Trapeze (11 July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1409181944
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409181941

Monday, 13 January 2020

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2020 week #2

Where is the time going? OK, I know I spent most of last year saying that, but seriously ?! It seems like only a day or two ago that I was writing last week's menu plan and it's already time for a new one ! Last week's plan featured lots of spice mixes that needed reviewing and made me bring out some old family-friendly recipes that I haven't made for ages because the kids didn't like them last time I offered them. Well, surprisingly, Pierre has been raving about chilli con carne ever since, saying that it's the best meal he's ever eaten, despite me adding onions, carrots and red peppers, so I definitely need to diversify and retry old recipes that weren't a hit many years ago !


lunch - chicken stir fry with noodles and loads of veggies

dinner - leftovers, cheese on toast or "bits and crisps" (nibbles from whatever's in the fridge)


dinner - chicken fajitas (the one meal from last week's plan that didn't get made, as we had too many leftovers)


dinner - veal meatballs with couscous & ratatouille


lunch - fish fingers, rice & veggies

dinner - spaghetti carbonara


dinner - baked potatoes with cheese, beans and, for those who want them, veggie sausages


dinner - quite probably, the fridge will be full of leftovers - if not, spaghetti bolognese or pasta bake


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

dinner - sandwiches or cheese on toast

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


Sunday, 12 January 2020

Project 366 : Photo Diary Weeks 1 & 2

And breeeeathe ! Wow, what a start to 2020, as you'll find out from reading my photo diary ! So far, everything that could possibly go wrong has done so, so the lovely two week break over Christmas seems months ago ! But one thing at a time ... Happy New Year ! I've been convinced (waves at Galina from Chez Maximka !) to give the Project 366 a go this year, so here goes. I'll see how I get on, but most weeks, I seem to spend the whole time at work and then marking and doing chores on my days off ! I like the idea of forcing myself to find something to take a photo of each day though, so who knows ? Maybe I'll surprise myself ! My computer wasn't working last week, so this is (already !) a catch up, covering the first twelve days of the year. The twelve days of post-Christmas, if you like !

New Year's Eve. Time to see in the New Year with a fireworks display at the town hall. Welcome to the year 2020 !

The first of January started off with a quiet morning, with everyone tired after the late night last night. A trip to the park, to feed the pigeons and get some fresh air, was on the cards. The pigeons are quite tame and come to eat birdseed out of your hands - it's quite hard to get a decent photo though. This one was the best of the bunch.

The next day, stumbling across a new (to us) play area, the kids (even the big ones !) raced off to have a play. I grabbed a quick picture of the three of them together on the giant see-saw. As I took the photo on my phone, it took ages to take the shot, which resulted in this rather ghostly-looking image of Pierre. Scary !

The third of January was our final day in Hastings, so we headed off on a hunt for squirrels. I wasn't sure there would be many about, as it was so cold, but there were plenty. We always love feeding peanuts to the squirrels as you don't get them in France - boo ! 

Back to France and time to say goodbye to Sophie, as she continues her studies in England. It was lovely to catch up with her - see you soon !

Back to life, back to reality. Time for catching up on washing, drying and folding the laundry. We also had to unpack the Christmas presents and find space to put everything, plus get ready for going back to school/work tomorrow.

Monday was back to work. We all felt to so tired setting the alarm for 6.15am again ! This was a quick shot from the bus on the way home from work. The big wheel and skating rink will be taken down until next year in the coming days.

Tuesday was a normal day at work until lunchtime, when I took a phonecall from Juliette, telling me that the electricity was off - aaagghhh ! Pierre had gone in the bathroom, turned on the light and everything went off. I explained to her how to reset the electricity but it wasn't happening. All of the upstairs lights in the bedrooms and bathrooms were out, as well as the TV/modem/DVD player/phone downstairs. Fabulous ! I had a quick look when I got home from work but I was too tired to do anything complicated. Luckily the kitchen was OK though, so I gave up and made dinner. Baked potatoes, gammon and heaps of veggies, topped off with gravy and a dollop of apple sauce. Lovely !

Wednesday - my day off. I spent the morning shooting around all the local shops, trying to lay my hands on some fuses to try to solve the electricity problem. Eventually managed to track some down and changed them over - no change. Aaggghh ! Used my mobile to phone a friend and got her to send me phone numbers of local electricians. Finally got it sorted out - phew ! With no internet and (eeek !) no PS4 to keep them occupied, Pierre turned to his other Christmas presents and went "excavating" for various bones and "artefacts" in his plastercast pieces.

Thursday was a looong day. The buses were on strike so I had an hour's walk to school and then back again - boo ! Pierre phoned at lunchtime to say that he had just been sick - fabulous ! I told him to stay at home for the afternoon and phoned a friend to tell his teacher. Hope it's not the start of something horrible and contagious ! By the time I finally got home from work (in the rain - grrrr!), the kids had finished their homework and Juliette was busy creating a family home in the Sims game that she got for Christmas.

Friday was another busy day at work. Nothing exciting so you can have a photo of dinner- peri peri chicken, rice and veggies. Lovely !

Saturday was a busy day. After lunch at McDonald's, we went and grabbed a second PS4 controller so that the kids could play together, then I took Juliette to the hairdresser's. Luckily I took along a book to read as there was a long wait. After that, we went grocery shopping and it was already time to cook dinner - where does the time go at the weekends ?! At 2am, I was woken up by some cars beeping at each other. Grumbling to myself, I headed down to the toilet and was greeted with orange light flashing across the ceiling - a car was on fire on the car park just opposite our house. I phoned the fire brigade but they were already on the way. This was literally 50m from our house, on the corner of the car park, so I was watching, concerned in case it exploded and set fire to something on our house. The kids got up and we watched the firemen put out the fire. It took over half an hour - scary stuff !

Sunday - hopefully the traditional day of rest ? I certainly need one ! After lunch, I finally found time to put away the Christmas tree and decorations - phew ! We headed into town to see the end of the Christmas fun fair. Pierre ate a candy floss that was bigger than his head - I'm glad we picked the small size !

Phew - what a busy start to the year ! I'm looking forward to a quieter week next week - fingers crossed !

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Fab freebies of the week 11/1

So how did the first week of January treat you? Things were slightly crazy here, with modem issues cutting off our internet access, a bus strike meaning I had to walk to work and back or leave even earlier than usual (I was at the bus stop at 6.45am - groan !), Pierre having a day off school after being sick and a big problem with the electrics in the house - I changed some fuses but couldn't manage to fix it so I had to phone around (relying on people looking up phone numbers for me, as the modem was not working !). Ah well, it all got sorted out in the end, but I'm looking forward to some chill out time. I still need to find a moment to put away the Christmas tree and decorations though. And here was me, hoping to have a quieter year this year ! I hope you had a better week than I did ! I suggest you grab a cup of tea, sit down and have a browse through this week's fab freebies - hopefully you'll find something that takes your fancy !


From Glamour Magazine : Hey, beauty lover! Join to receive free samples tailored to your regime.

Get a Vegan Super Pack worth £5 for free with code VEGANSUPERPACK1X19

Sign up with Ryvita for their new challenge and you may be one of 50 winners

New Year, new skincare! If brighter, healthier-looking skin is your 2020 priority, screenshot this Facebook post and head to your nearest Kiehl’s counter for samples.

Request a free Variety keyring by DM

Request samples from Lil-lets Teens

Over on Caboodle : We're giving 100 Caboodlers the chance to read Clare Pooley's uplifting debut The Authenticity Project, before it's out in April.

Cadbury have thousands of football-themed prizes up for grabs in their Legends giveaway (you will need codes from bars of chocolate)

The latest freebie from Debenhams : From Friday 10th January, pick up your sample of Clarins My Clarins Re-Boost Refreshing Hydrating Cream. A light moisturiser that effortlessly melts into your skin, this natural, vegan formula is infused with coconut water and Alpenrose to hydrate and detoxify.

From Bobbi Brown Cosmetics : Looking to try something new? 👀 Intensive Skin Serum Foundation offers hydration, whilst perfecting and energising skin... Pick up your complimentary sample at a counter near you
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 :

coming soon !

Friday, 10 January 2020

Book review : Die For Me - Karen Rose

Die For Me is my first read for 2020, but I actually read most of it at the end of 2019. It's a pretty hefty tome, weighing in at over 700 pages, and I planned to take my time reading it over the Christmas and New Year holidays, dipping in whenever I got a chance. That didn't work out though, as it ended up being totally unputdownable and I raced through it in just under a week ! 

As I added the book to my Goodreads list, I noticed that it is labelled as a "romantic suspense". Well, there is a satisfying romantic conclusion with two "broken" heroes coming together, but that is really not at all what the book is about. This is crime fiction in all its glory, with sickening murders and constant will-they-won't-they cat-and-mouse chases, so do not let yourself be put off if romance is not your thing ! 

I also noticed that this is the first book in The Philadelphia/Atlanta Series and the seventh in the Romantic Suspense category.  Goodreads explain : "Karen Rose's books all occur in the same "universe" and have a common set of characters and locations. The author provides a suggested reading order that this listing provides. It should be read in this order because there are spoilers about these stories found in later books. Reading the books in order also helps with understanding the "universe" and the various cast of characters. The city grouping is a secondary listing for those interested in that categorization. It should not be the primary grouping for the series." Well, if you're up for reading the whole series, you should bear this in mind, but I just jumped in here and loved it.

The story begins when a random body is discovered in a field. Detective Ciccotelli (also known as Chick) calls in archaeologist Sophie Johannsen to check that the frozen ground contains no other secrets. Shockingly, she discovers a total of sixteen graves and nine bodies. What have they stumbled across and who are the other graves intended for ?

Meanwhile, a multimedia designer is hard at work creating the newest best-selling video game. Set in a medieval timeframe, he needs to figure out how to show the violence dealt out by all the classic implements of torture and death. Research is the key, but how does he create such realistic screams of pain and why do some of his characters look so much like people who have gone missing ?

It's a long book but the reader is on constant alert, always aware that another sickening death is on the cards and always hoping that the detective will find the killer before he strikes again. Chick is portrayed as a man with a big heart and a big chip on his shoulder, after losing his partner (and romantic interest) in a case several years ago. The scenes of soon-to-be wedded bliss and planning for the future that close the novel on a high note are the perfect antidote to the stories of horror and pain that came before.

I'll definitely be looking out for the rest of the series - there are currently 23 titles available, with the 24th released later in the year, so this will keep me going for a while !

star rating : 5/5

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Headline (17 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755385225
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755385225
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 3.2 x 19.9 cm

Thursday, 9 January 2020

December 2019 Degustabox review : Gourmet and Fiesta

Well, that's Christmas done and dusted for another year ! I don't think I could face another turkey sandwich or bowl of Christmas pudding again for a while, so it was the perfect time to unpack the latest Degustabox delivery and see what was hiding inside. Pulling out the contents card, I discovered that the December box had a Gourmet and Fiesta theme - perfect for festive nibbles - and I was pleased to see that there are also some exotic sounding cooking sauces in there. Time for a closer look.

The first thing that was pulled out and drooled over was this box of Ardens Gruyere and Spinach Twists ( RRP £1.75). These combine gorgeous crisp and crunchy all-butter puff pastry with mellow Gruyère cheese and vibrant spinach for the perfect nibble - we munched ours on New Year's Eve. They're light, flaky and tangy, meaning that we didn't stop until we'd eaten the whole box ! They're lovely on their own but could also be enjoyed with dips or even soup.

UFit Crunchers (RRP: gift) are popped protein chips which contain a whopping 8g of protein and a reasonable calorie count of 150 calories per bag. They are crunchy, tasty and got gobbled up in record time. We got the Sea Salt & Vinegar flavour but they are also available in Smokehouse BBQ and Thai Sweet Chilli flavours.

Another tasty snack, but this time moving over to the sweet side - Indie Bay Chocolate Pretzels (RRP £1.25) in both milk and dark chocolate varieties. Just because they're sweet and chocolatey, that doesn't mean they're all bad - they are still packed with benefits, still made with ancient grains, still a source of fibre and contain fewer than 150 calories per portion. Snacks with Benefits just got cheeky !

For those who receive the non-alcohol version of the box, this month sees the addition of two delicious King Monty Vegan Chocolate treats. Sunny Orange is a delicious chocolate bar flavored with natural orange, while Pop Rice is a crispy chocolate mixture to pop yourself through the day. Both are lovely - in fact, we couldn't decide which one we liked best !

The alcohol version of the box contained a Smith & Sinclair Pineapple Bellini cocktail gummy (RRP £15 for a selection of 8), which offers a fun addition to a night in or out ! Blended like a real cocktail with premium spirits, fresh fruit and syrups, each gummy contains half a shot and are vegan. I love this idea and the Pineapple Bellini flavour is lovely. Shop the full range at and use code DEGUSTA for 15% off. 

Another product in the alcohol box, Lagunitas DayTime Session IPA (RRP £1.80) is described as "a 4% light, slammable beer, boldy dosed with a glorious fortune of hops". Containing just 98 calories per bottle, it won't weigh you down either ! I passed this on to a friend, who said it had a lovely crisp flavour.

Yet another option from the alcohol box, Pedrino Vermouth & Tonic Spritz (RRP £1.95) offers a lovely drink simply poured over ice or can be added to spritz up a cocktail. The blend offers subtle notes of melon, floral botanicals and grapefruit. The all-natural, origin-protected vermouth and artisanal tonic water have a lovely fresh, crisp flavour. 

If you're looking for a tasty non-alcoholic drink, you might prefer Oteas Green Tea, Cranberry, Cherry & Strawberry (RRP £3.39), which combines the sourness of cherries, the zestiness of cranberries and the exotic Asian aromas of lemongrass and bamboo leaves. Complemented by sweet apples, strawberries and a touch of cornflower blossoms, this tea strikes the perfect balance between sweet and sour. Oteas are committed to creating delicious hand blended teas while becoming the most environmentally friendly tea product available in the world.

I always have a selection of cooking sauces and pouches featuring various world cuisines in my kitchen cupboards, so I was excited to discover Blue Dragon Street Food Teriyaki Skewers (RRP £2.70). In Asia, the most exciting foods are not found in restaurants, but on the carts and stalls lining the busy streets, and Blue Dragon have taken inspiration from Japan's neon streets to create this kit – the perfect introduction to Japanese cuisine. Inside the kit, you'll find individual sachets of Teriyaki glazing and dipping sauce, Teriyaki marinade, sesame seeds and bamboo skewers. The kit makes eight skewers and only has a mild heat rating so it's perfect for the family. Other kits in the range include Satay Skewers and Korean BBQ Skewers.

There is also a Blue Dragon Aromatic Thai Holy Basil Stir Fry kit (RRP £1.50), which contains three key elements - a base, sauce and topping. Take your stir fry to the next level ! This is a great way of introducing new flavours for the family to try out - the kids were a bit put off by the "medium" heat rating but I loved it.

Candy Kittens are a brand that we have come to know and love through Degustabox and the kids squealed excitedly when they spotted the Candy Kittens Tropical Mango Gourmet Sweets (RRP £2). Made using the finest ingredients and absolutely no bad stuff, these gourmet gummy candies are gluten-free and made with natural flavours, colours and real fruit juices. Most importantly, they taste divine - nom nom nom !

Another popular snack from the box, Gloriously Grown Vietnamese Jumbo Wrapped Cashews (RRP £3) were a big hit. They are left wrapped in their skins and delicately salted before being oven roasted to deliver a deliciously crunchy taste experience. Very tasty - we polished these off on New Year's Eve too !

Made Good Granola Bars (RRP £2.90, subscribers received one flavour) will have mums across the country high-fiving themselves - not only do they taste good, they contain the nutrients in one full serving of vegetables. Yes ! Whether you opt for Chocolate Banana, Mixed Berry or Chocolate Chip, you'll get a lovely, chewy, great-tasting snack that will satisfy your sweet tooth while delivering beneficial antioxidants. All Made Good ingredients are ethically sourced too.

Very Lazy Chopped Garlic (RRP £1.50) offers exactly what it says on the jar, saving you the bother of peeling and chopping and also doing away with stinky fingers the next day ! Add to your cooking to give your meals an instant flavour boost.

This was a great box for us, with lots of things that we would (and probably will) definitely buy again, as well as some wild cards that have pleasantly surprised us. 

 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.

Monday, 6 January 2020

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2020 week #1

I'm back ! We took a lovely break at my parents' house for Christmas and New Year, so I haven't been cooking for a couple of weeks. I now have lots of things that need reviewing, including some spice mixes from Seasoned Pioneers and some veggie sausages from Heck, so I'll be working through those in the next couple of weeks. I've also decided to get back into proper cooking, rather than just serving up kid-friendly meals, as I appear to have got into a rut of doing since Madhouse Daddy died almost two years ago. I have loads of spices and exotic ingredients just begging to be used up, so the kids can try my weird and wonderful dishes, but I'll offer them a blander option too ! My menu planning day may be switching about too, as I'm taking on a few new weekly blogging ideas, but it will be here somewhere every week ! OK, here's what we're planning on eating this week.


lunch - just got back home and needed something quick, before my dad and Sophie headed back home, while having empty cupboards - a quick dash to Lidl for sandwiches and grapes covered the bases !

dinner - sweet & sour chicken stir fry with masses of veggies and rice noodles


lunch - our regular Saturday lunchtime fast food trip, probably to McDonald's, and quite probably followed by a wander around the shops in town

dinner - for me, chicken soup (I grabbed some half price New Covent Garden Soup in Tesco's - yum !) - the kids can have sandwiches or "bits and crisps" as they used to say - a plateful of nibbles including carrot sticks, cucumber, nuts, fruit, cherry tomatoes, maybe quiche or a sandwich, crackers,  crab sticks, salami, depending on what's in the fridge (I used to do this all the time when they were small - definitely something I'm sure they'd love me to start again !)


lunch - roast gammon, roast potatoes (or maybe mash) and veggies (baby carrots, tenderstem broccoli & green beans - I had a chat with the kids about which veggies they liked/wanted to try so this is part of an ongoing scheme !)

dinner - sandwiches or toast for the kids, while I have a carton of Lentil & Bacon soup to use up


dinner - Peri Peri Chicken with couscous and veggies (green beans & sweetcorn probably) - the kids can use up the gammon if it's too spicy for them


dinner - Cheesy baked potatoes with veggie sausages for those who want them, or normal sausages, and beans


lunch - Fajitas (with red pepper & onions, sweetcorn and homemade guacamole)

dinner - Katsu curry with rice


dinner - Chicken lollipops with pasta & veggies


dinner - Chilli Con Carne with rice


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

dinner - sandwiches or cheese on toast

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


Saturday, 4 January 2020

Fab freebies of the week 4/1

Happy New Year ! I hope you had a lovely Christmas and New Year. I've been having a bloggy break while catching up with the family and chilling out, which was absolutely lovely and much needed, but now I'm back, with a brand new roundup of freebies for you to try your luck at. Fingers crossed that 2020 will be a bumper year for fab freebies !


Trying to give up smoking? Grab a free sample of Lyft nicotine pouches

From Great British Pubs :  Why not cheer yourself up this January with a free drink on us! From 2nd January we are giving away 100,000 drinks with a choice of twenty products including all your favourite brands including non alcoholic drinks, so there’s no reason not to join your friends in the pub.

New year is a great time for buying new stationery in my opinion - new diaries, pens and to-do lists, amongst other things. Grab yourself a £15 off voucher at Papier if you're a new customer

Human Givens @humangivens
Don't forget you can claim your #FREE HG Journal now. For a limited time only we are offering you the opportunity to sample the journal with one FREE back issue (UK addresses only). Please visit:
#mentalhealth #articles #stories #interviews

You could win 1 of 150 Tea India Ayurveda sample packs if you are one of the first people to complete the survey.

Kita's Kitchen @KitasKitchen
Try Kita's Kitchen #grainfree #dogfood we are offering free samples throughout January, message us if you would like your dog to try, let us know your dogs breed, age, email address & mailing address, UK addresses only, subject to availability #Tryanuary

Brintons At Home @BrintonsUK
#HappyNewYear from Brintons at Home 🎉 If you’re looking for inspiration for a home makeover this year, visit our website to order your free carpet samples:

YorSexualHealth @YorSexualHealth
Do your bit to help stop #HIV in the UK by getting tested! You can order a free HIV testing kit to be delivered to your home. All you need to do is collect a small sample of blood and post it back!

Karen Shine - Shine Organics UK @karenshiney
January Sale. All serums & facials oils HALF PRICE! Only £27.50! If you would like to try our incredible Vitamin C serum (or any other products) message me for free samples 🌸🌸🌸

Brigitta Moon-Author @Brigittamoon
#TuesdayThoughts Giving away #audiobooks is hard work. Been at it for three days now. I enjoy every minute of it. Claim your free #Audible book now. 3 books available - Respond with your choice and US or UK sample each one here

Grab yourselves a free sample of Snoooze natural sleep drink - just pay shipping

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 :

coming soon !

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