Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Book review : Missing Him - L. Penn


Missing Him : A real love story is a book by L. Penn, which follows the story of a troubled young woman, Emery Pearson. She finds herself in prison, speaking to a therapist, Susan James, but the reader doesn't find out until the very end of the book why she is behind bars. Although this is an interesting plot structure, it left me somewhat at a loss, as I couldn't decide whether to feel sorry for Emery or to regard her with contempt. She seems like an intelligent woman, helping to set up a reading and writing club within the prison, but she is frequently beaten up by the other inmates, which is usually a sign of some horrible crime that the prisoner is being "punished" for. Her dealings with her therapist at first show her to be a manipulative, uncooperative patient, which also doesn't help to give us a good first impression of her.

Inserted into the prison-life stories and scenes with the therapist are many flashbacks to her younger self, starting out with a scene when she is being beaten up by two boys in the school toilets and her soon-to-be hero, Jack Charles, walks in and saves her. The pair end up getting together in a passionate but complicated relationship. Their love is strong but very physical, with both of them punching and manhandling each other as a regular part of foreplay. The highly detailed sex scenes, particularly in the first half of the book, left me frequently feeling ill-at-ease, as they are very detailed and often violent. The pair are undoubtedly in love, but where will this relationship lead them both?

There are a lot of spelling mistakes and sometimes missing words, which annoyed me and made me want to grab my red pen to correct them - I can't help it, I'm a teacher ! Hopefully these will be edited out in upcoming editions. The end of the book does provide you with the answers you have been searching for all along to finally understand Emery's plight, but it was hard work getting there - maybe this is supposed to give you an insight into Emery's character though !

star rating : 3.5/5

  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (20 Feb. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1985748770
  • ISBN-13: 978-1985748774
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.6 cm



Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

What's That Smell? The Party Game That Stinks (review)


What's That Smell? from WowWee is a fun new family game that is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser during the Christmas holidays. Let's just hope nobody has a bad cold with a bunged-up nose or they won't be able to play along ! It reminds me very much of the idea behind the popular Bean Boozled jelly beans, which entice you to eat disgustingly flavoured jelly beans, but this time we've swapped senses and it's your nose that is put to the test ! Tipped to be one of the the hottest games of the year (and already a big favourite on YouTube), What's That Smell? is the new scratch & sniff party game that totally stinks!


You can play with any number of contestants between two and six people, but if you're having a big family party, you could always work in teams. Inside the box, you get 48 mystery whiff cards, 4 stank cards and a sheet of whiff strips (for scratching the cards to release the smell), as well as card-holders, score cards and resealable plastic bags.


Once you've picked your card, place it in the card holder and give it a scrape then put your nostrils to work. Will you have something pleasant like strawberries or flowers, or will you be straight into olfactory hell with dustbins or pooey nappies?! Try to win bonus points by adding details of favourite memories or thoughts that the smell reminds you of. 


Scoring is a little bit complicated but it actually works really well once you get the hang of it. Reveal the answer on the card - you earn points if you got the smell right, or if you got the right category. Players will then decide who will earn points for having the funniest answer.  If you have the What's That Smell? app installed on your tablet, you can also grab one point if you went for one of the most popular wrong answers. You may have to go for a head-to-head Smell Off round and the winner will get to choose a player to suffer the Whiff of Shame. Will you be subjected to Extra Old Toe Cheese, Diaper Blowout, Hot Chunky Vomit or Smothered in B.O.?! Ewwww !

Have a look at the video for a better idea of how it all works. 



With over 50 smells from nice to downright nasty, What's That Smell? is a breath of fresh (and not-so-fresh) air in the party game category ! If you're looking for a game to keep everyone in good spirits during the Christmas holidays, this is a scent-sational option !

For 2-6 players ages 14+, RRP £24.99



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

Monday, 17 December 2018

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #51


At the end of this week, we'll all be on holiday for Christmas and boy, am I ready? We'll be visiting family during festive season which means I will get some time off cooking, and cleaning, and entertaining the kids ... bring it on, I say ! In the meantime, what will we all be eating this week?

Monday 

dinner - I have some sausage meat, which I will wrap up in puff pastry parcels - along with mash and peas

Tuesday 

dinner - steak, pasta & carrots

Wednesday 

lunch -  fish, rice and peas

dinner - chicken casserole in the slow cooker, with baked potatoes

Thursday 

dinner - tonight may be a little complicated as Juliette has an appointment for her braces - fajitas could be a good (and quick !) option

Friday  

 dinner - clearing out the fridge and using up whatever's in there .... or if there's not much left, shepherd's pie

Saturday

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

dinner - sandwiches

Sunday


May the holidays begin ! :)

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

Katykicker

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Make-your-own Crystal Card Kit from Craft Buddy review


When the Madhouse kids were younger, they always loved getting out their paintboxes and felt tips and creating their own, completely unique Christmas card masterpieces for their friends and families. Now that they are older, with Pierre into double figures next birthday (gulp !), they've outgrown the finger painting and abstract artwork stage, but we have discovered a new product that's great as a home-made option for older kids and even artistic adults : the DIY Crystal Card Kit from Craft Buddy.


The Crystal Art concept, commonly known as ‘diamond painting’, is a universally popular craft that is suitable for adults and children aged about 8+. Having partnered with renowned artists such as Claudia Hahn (award-winning BBC wildlife artist), Randal Spangler (USA) and Kentaro Nishino (Japan), Craft Buddy Ltd have established the craft as a growing trend across mainstream Europe over the last 12 months.


Everyone knows the concept of “painting by numbers” and it has been well-and-truly updated and brought into the modern day as “bling by numbers” !


Using the pick-up pencil, simply lift the flat-backed crystals and place them onto the adhesive
card for instant stick. The results are sparkly, beautiful cards, either in a Christmas, Valentine’s
or birthday theme. We found it quick and simple to pick up and were very impressed with the results. Check out this YouTube video to see how it works.



The therapeutic benefits of Crystal Art are proven, with its ability to lower stress levels, increase attention span and develop cognitive skills. By combining Crystal Art with the tradition of cardmaking, the spirit of Christmas is given a unique twist. It's a lovely way to while away an afternoon in the run up to Christmas.

The DIY Crystal Card Kit is available from www.crystalcardkit.com. For more information on Crystal Art, visit www.craftbuddyltd.co.uk

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

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Fab freebies of the week 15/12


So how's the Christmas shopping/organising/decorating going? Fancy a break? Well, grab yourself a cuppa (or a glass of wine, depending on the time !) and have a browse through some lovely freebies that are just waiting for you to apply for. Enjoy !

***************************************

This sounds great - who doesn't like ice cream, after all ?!
  Sign up to WIN one year’s supply of Breyers delights! 100 winners will be selected at random.
All entrants will automatically receive a coupon for a FREE Breyers delights tub.

Would you like to receive a box filled with amazing baby related products absolutely FREE? Sign up today to go in the draw to win one of our first boxes

Want to win 1 of 100 exclusive Screwfix Christmas Hoodies? Post your favourite Christmas jumper pic in the comments for a chance to win! T&Cs apply. Draw closes 16th December.

Free Potting Shed Calendar from Anglian Water

We are on the look-out for 2,500 Insiders to try Perrier® & Juice, then let us – and all their friends – know just how much they’ve enjoyed these great tasting and refreshing drinks!
Simply register below before 3rd January 2019 to take part.

If you are a Sky member, head over to the Sky shop, where they are currently giving away free copies of Arthur Christmas at their store - you need to login to be able to claim this one.

Join the mailing list for a free sample of HydraFit>

Make sure your foundation is party perfect this season. Visit us at your local counter for a complimentary iMatch™ consultation and take away a free 10-day sample of your chosen #foundation! https://bit.ly/2AmIE8D #DoubleWear #DoubleWearOrNothing

72 hours of non-stop hydration is yours with NEW Origins Drink Up™ Intensive Overnight Hydrating Mask. Click to receive a complimentary sample delivered straight to your door.

Choco Kindle Chocolate Samples - Offer valid in UK, US and Canada only. Promotion open until 11:59 PM ET on December 30, 2018. Please allow 14-21 days for delivery. 21 days after your sample is shipped we will contact you via email. We will only contact you once regarding this promotion.

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, 14 December 2018

Madhouse recipe : Kitchen Clearout Apple Crumble


The last few days have been decidedly nippy here, with a thick sheet of frost across the pavements all day long and a breeze cold enough to make your nose twitch when you step outside ! As Pierre has been off sick for the last couple of days with an ear infection, I decided to head into the kitchen and rustle up something warm and comforting to make us smile.


I'd received some cooking spice blends from Steenbergs to try out and I decided that now would be the perfect time to use them. I had a choice between Organic Lebkuchen - a blend of  cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, coriander seed, green cardamom, nutmeg and mace, perfect for recreating German style biscuits and bakes (£2.65 for 40g) - and Organic Apple Pie Mix - a combination of cassia, allspice, coriander, nutmeg, ginger, clove and vanilla (£2.60 for 45g). Just removing the lid and having a quick sniff mentally whisks you back to carefree childhood days, running inside from playing with your friends and tucking into a steaming bowl of apple pie. Just what the doctor ordered on a cold winter's day !

I decided to create a recipe based on what was in the kitchen that needed using up - that would be a bowlful of apples and some Ready Brek then. The whole thing was polished off in minutes so I'll definitely be making this again. The spice blend gives it a lovely depth of flavour and the smell in the kitchen was wonderful !

Kitchen Clearout Apple Crumble

ingredients :

120g Ready Brek (or use rolled oats for a fuller texture)
100g demerera sugar
1tsp baking powder
80g butter
3tsp Steenberg Apple Pie mix (or you could use cinnamon)

5 Granny Smith apples
35g (3tbsp) butter
2tbsp flour
1tbsp lemon juice
3tbsp milk
60g demerera sugar


Turn on the oven on at 180° to preheat. Put the first five ingredients into a bowl together.


Start rolling it through your fingers to combine.


Once the butter has been nicely worked into the oats, pop the bowl in the fridge while you prepare the apple filling. (I would have added some whole rolled oats here for extra texture, but when I went to investigate, I discovered that I'd run out - oops !)


Peel and slice the apples. Reserve.


Melt the butter (I used the microwave but you could do it in a pan if you prefer) and stir in the flour.


Add the lemon juice and milk and stir, then add the demerera sugar. (I was using up the end of a bag, but brown sugar would work just fine too.) Mix it all together. 


Then add the apple slices and give it all a good mix until they're evenly coated.


Return them to the dish.


Pour over the topping and press down with your hands until the apples are completely covered.


Bake for about half an hour until the topping has "set".


Serve with ice cream or custard for extra decadence. This should be the dictionary definition for comfort food !


Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up some apples, Ready Brek and the end of a bag of demerera sugar that were lurking in the cupboards.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Book review : And The Wind Sees All - Gudmundur Andri Thorsson


And The Wind Sees All by Gudmundur Andri Thorsson is part of the Home in Exile series by Pereine and introduces us to the various inhabitants of a small Icelandic fishing village. The blurb on the back of the book informs us that the entire novel takes place in two minutes, as a young woman in a polka dot dress cycles down the main street.

The woman's name is Kata and she is the conductor of the village choir. As she cycles past each of the inhabitants, waving at them or being glimpsed through a window, each character takes centre stage for their chapter. There are lots of very interesting and intriguing characters : a priest with a gambling habit, an old brother and sister who haven't talked for years, a sea captain who has lost his son ... Some of the characters' stories intertwine, revealing connections between them and hinting at a greater sense of community, while others prefer to keep to themselves.

I will admit, it took me a few chapters to get into, because I'm always in a rush, going from mum duties at home to work, then back home at the end of the day and picking up mum duties again, with dinner, homework and all the rest of the things that we all have to deal with every day, so each chapter seemed a bit too short and separate. Grabbing just a few minutes to read a chapter and discover a new character soon turned into a pleasant moment of me-time though, during my lunch break, on the bus on the way to work or just in a (very rare !) quiet moment at some random point in the day. It reminded me of people watching, then idly wondering about the past, present and future of the person you've witnessed. The novel fills in all the background, showing the private selves that the general public never usually see.

It's a simple, enjoyable read that meanders through the village, looking at the secret lives of each of its inhabitants.

star rating : 4/5

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Peirene Press Ltd (30 Sept. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908670460
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908670465


Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Festive picture books from Owlet Press (review)


Can you believe that in two week's time, we'll all be sitting around feeling bloated after eating too much turkey and too many mince pies and Christmas will officially be over ! Right now though, you'd better watch out, you'd better not cry, you'd better be good, I'm telling you why ... Santa Claus is coming to town ! Oops sorry, I got slightly sucked in by the festive hype there, but seriously for a minute, if you're looking for new ways to keep the Christmas sparkle going in your house over the coming weeks, how about investing in some festive picture books to read with your kids? They'd be perfect for bedtimes in the run up to the big day or maybe you could start a new tradition and create a gift box especially for Christmas Eve with some funky pyjamas, festive nibbles and some well-chosen picture books inside. These two from Owlet Press would be ideal.


Our first discovery was Santa's Wish, by Samuel Langley-Swain. In this charming tale, you'll be swept away in the festive fun when two children visit Father Christmas and ask him what HE wants for Christmas. As you'd expect, he comes up with the perfect answer and tells them to give love. All together now - awwww !


The pictures accompanying the texts are understated, largely in black and white with just a few details added in colour. This works really well and we loved looking at the illustrations to point out all the cute little details, such as leaving out a carrot for the reindeer. The Madhouse kids loved the animals, both pets and wild animals at the North Pole, getting involved in the Christmas festivities, tucking into festive treats and decorating the trees.


It's a book that, with its close family unit and all the Santa magic. will leave you with a lovely warm feeling inside, whatever your age !


Our second title was The Christmas Next Door, also by Samuel Langley-Swain, along with T.A. Creasey.


Glancing at the back of the book had me giggling to myself : "Grandad's coming to stay for Christmas ! What could possibly go wrong?". Thinking about the Madhouse Grandad, I could think of a few things !


As is often the case, despite all the preparations, things don't all go to plan for the Christmas celebrations in the story. Daughter Lily, who has autism, suffers a meltdown during the school nativity play and, on the big day itself, Christmas dinner ends up being slightly cremated ! Grandad always has the perfect solution though and brings out a dvd with a special Christmas message from Granny, who has now passed away.


This is a lovely way of reminding us all about what really matters at Christmas - family and those we love - especially as this will be our first Christmas since Madhouse Daddy died. It is very easy, especially as an adult, to get totally wrapped up in unimportant details and forget about the true spirit of the season, so this is a lovely, heartwarming story to read together.

Santa's Wish has an RRP of £5.99 and The Christmas Next Door retails at £7.99.

for more information : www.owletpress.com



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

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Board game review : Splendor


We've been reviewing several games for the Asmodee UK Blogger Board Game Club recently - you may have spotted our reviews for Pandemic and Ticket To Ride over the past few weeks - and we finished off our selection with another game that we'd never heard of before : Splendor. This is another game that targets older kids aged ten and upwards, as well as adults.


Inside the box, you get a collection of 40 gem tokens, with seven of each colour (green, blue, red, white and black), as well as 5 yellow jokers.


There are also 90 development cards classed in three different levels (40 x level 1, 30 x level 2 and 20  x level 3). It's a simple game to set up, following the instructions and you just have to lay out a combination of cards - the number of cards depends on the number of players. Two to four players can play together in any game.


The game is supposed to be set in the European Renaissance period and, as a merchant, your target is to get rich quick by collecting precious stones to trade for development cards. The rules explain that global trade routes are now a reality and nobles, once content with large castles and fur robes, now seek dark sapphires and glittering diamonds to show off their wealth. You can use the cards to accumulate more gem stones and create fantastic jewellery, which will appeaI to the nobles and help you gain the prestige you need to win.


The target is to buy the cards on offer by collecting the necessary gem stones - here, for example, you need three green, two red and two black. On each turn, you can collect the precious stones needed to trade for development cards or purchase a card from the in-play 'mining stack'. This allows you to use the gem value of your card to trade for bigger and better goods, working your way through the stacks until you reach the numbered cards. The winner is the first player to hit fifteen points, and what makes it exciting is that everyone tends to work their way through the levels at the same rate, so it's a fight for victory towards the end of the game !


The artwork on the cards is really appealing and the tokens are lovely and solid, so you really feel like you're playing a quality game. One slight negative, however, is that box seems overly big for what it contains. Once you've played a few times and picked up the basics, it's very quick and simple to play, especially as you can only do one action on each turn. You need to allow about half an hour for each game, but what makes things more complicated (and competitive) is trying to work out tactics, so I guarantee you'll want to replay to try to snatch back victory after your first game !

We love the fact that it's such a simple concept to pick up but your gameplay will evolve as you play more. It always ends up as an exciting race for victory at the end of each game and you never know who's going to win !

RRP : £25.99



Disclosure : We received the product from the Asmodee UK Blogger Board Game Club in order to share our honest review.

Monday, 10 December 2018

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #50


Phew, last week was a busy week with lots of after-school meetings so I'm looking forward to a less hectic, normal week ... starting Tuesday, as there's one final meeting on Monday ! Wednesday will be the evening we head off to the town hall to see Father Christmas abseiling down (put back from Saturday, when it was much too windy), so it will be a fairly busy week. Oh well, only two more weeks to go and we're on holiday - phew !

Monday 

dinner - I'll be home late so it needs to be something quick and simple - I'm thinking spaghetti carbonara or spaghetti bolognese, as it ticks all the right boxes with minimum fuss (or, if I'm lucky, Sophie will be on cooking duty tonight !)

Tuesday 

dinner - steak, ebly & carrots

Wednesday 

lunch -  battered fish, rice and peas

dinner - sausages, mash & beans (I need something quick and simple)

Thursday 

dinner - pork chops, pasta & veggies

Friday  

 dinner - fajitas with chicken, peppers & onions, plus guacamole, tomato salsa & sweetcorn

Saturday

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

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

Sunday

lunch -  roast chicken probably, with all the trimmings

dinner - sandwiches and leftovers

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

Katykicker

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