Saturday, 16 February 2019

Fab freebies of the week 16/2

I've been off all week, which has been great, giving me a chance to catch up on paperwork, various appointments and giving the kids' bedrooms a major tidy. We've been busy clearing out all the toys they've grown out of and popping to the toy shop to drop off a bag of toys in their collection point - still plenty to go but it's looking better already. Hope you have something nice planned for the weekend, starting off with some new freebies :)


To celebrate the launch of The LEGO® Movie 2, we are hosting a free LEGO Make & Take event on Saturday 16th February at 9am in ALL stores! It's simple, head down to your local Smyths Toys Superstore, make something awesome from LEGO® Movie 2 and then take it home with you! This event will take place while stocks last, so make sure you get down early! What will you build?!

Pizza? Roses? It's gotta be Valentine's Day ! Win hundreds of prizes with Pizza Ristorante

In the Sacla newsletter yesterday : We have a Pesto for everyone, including a wide range of different flavours, and we would love you to try our new 'Nduja Pesto. 'Nduja is an Italian sausage, made with pork and plenty of fiery Calabrian chillies. Delicious spread on pizza, swirled into soup or served with fish. If you would like a FREE jar, then simply buy 2 jars of any Sacla' product, then send us a message either on social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) or email with a picture of your receipt(s) along with your postal address and we will send you a free jar of
‘Nduja Pesto. This is for the first 100 people only, so go go go!For the full T&C's visit our website here.

@NYROForsyth (Neals Yard Remedies)
Free samples available (UK only), PM your address.

The weekend has landed! #Free samples up for grabs for the first 500 in the UK to:
1. #LIKE and #RETWEET this post
2. #FOLLOW US @TrySurvivor
That’s a free sample worth £5.99 We’ll DM you to arrange delivery.
Find out more at #giveaway #freebies

Too late for this time, but it will be running again so keep a check on it... Claim your free Café Brontë biscuit sample! Choose from one of the following: Doubly Chocolate, Choc Chip & Orange, Choc Chip & Vanilla or Ginger.

Find your dream fabric by ordering up to eight free samples today 👇🏻 #dreamfabric #freesamples

Café Direct have hundreds of prizes up for grabs in their giveaway

Grab a coupon for a free pack of La Famiglia Rana Fresh Tortelloni (valid until 20th Feb)

Naturalista is a recently launched programme designed by Noughty to get some of our newest products into your hands in exchange for your honest reviews. As a programme member, you'll be periodically invited to choose products to sample at completely no cost to you. Some of these products may not yet be available to the general public, so your opinion could be among the first we receive.

Grab some free Nescafé Azera Nitro on Shopmium

Get a FREE Trouw Nutrition Lambing Pack containing a Farm-O-San Reviva Ewe sample and a woolly hat!

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, 15 February 2019

DVD review : Norm of the North - Keys To The Kingdom

In the original Norm of the North movie, the clever polar bear with his talent for talking to humans headed to New York to see off some property developers who were planning on building on his Arctic homeland.

In this new animated adventure, the newly crowned king of the North, Norm, travels to New York with his son to accept the keys to the city. These aren't just any old keys - they open every door in the city ! Hmm can you see where this is headed ?! The keys are stolen and Norm gets the blame for a string of bank robberies that he didn't commit. (They were committed by a guy in a polar bear suit - I kid you not !) He relies on his friends, old and new, to help clear his good name.

But that's not all ! Back in the Arctic, a vicious bottled-water company has moved in and is starting to steal the ice. Norm decides that he will save his kingdom in a thrilling winner-takes-all hockey match. There's never a dull moment ! 

This movie seemed a bit disjointed to us and it turns out that it is a combination of two separate episodes, which actually makes more sense. We love the way that friendship and helping each other out are important factors in the movie, and Norm also learns some good lessons about leadership. The kids liked all the fart jokes too ! Throw on some popcorn and you'll have a great way of passing a rainy afternoon in half term !

NORM OF THE NORTH: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM is out to download from 11th February and to own on DVD from 18th February.

DVD Date: 18th February
Certificate: PG
Running Time: 91 mins approx.

Disclosure : We received a review copy.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Globecooking recipe : Afghan biscuits (New Zealand)

These Afghan biscuits are our favourite biscuits at the moment and I particularly love the fact that they are using up some leftover cereal that nobody has been eating ! They can be made with cornflakes or anything similar so they're great for using up odds and ends. I adapted this recipe from a New Zealand sugar website, but big thanks to Susan B who left me a message on my recipe for Brownie Style Cookies to say that they reminded her of Afghan Cookies and got me intrigued enough to go searching !

Afghan Biscuits

ingredients :

200g butter
110g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
30g (1/4 cup) cocoa
220g plain flour
a few big handfuls of cornflakes or other cereal
icing or chocolate/hazelnut spread

Put the butter, sugar and vanilla essence in a bowl and cream together.

Add the cocoa powder and flour.

Work it together until you have a ball of dough.

Add your cereal and work it through the dough. (I had letters but anything from cornflakes to muesli would work.)

Pull off little balls of dough - the first time I made 24 small biscuits and the second time, I made half as many double-sized biscuits. The choice is yours !

Flatten them out on a baking tray covered in foil. Bake for 10 minutes if making small biscuits, 15-20 minutes if using the bigger size.

Once they have cooled, put on a wire rack to cool down.

The first time, I used up half a tub of Betty Crocker chocolate icing that was lurking in the fridge. The second time, I finished off a jar of Crunchie chocolate spread. Both worked perfectly, so use whatever you have - you could even just melt some chocolate and use that. If you want to be traditional, they should be topped with half a walnut, but I left them off as the Madhouse kids aren't keen on them.

They're really quick to throw together, use nothing special so you'll probably have everything you need in the cupboards and they're a great way of using up odds and ends.

*** Don't miss the other recipes in my globecooking recipe index ! ***

Adding to the #KitchenClearout linky as they used up some cereal that was feeling unloved, as well as using up some odds and ends of icing and chocolate spread.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Kids' book review : Discover The Leader In You (MyBookHeroes)

We recently discovered a series of children's books from a company called MyBookHeroes, which creates personalised stories to help boost the self-esteem of children around the world. We chose the title Discover The Leader In You, but there are also Discover the Determination in You and Discover the Courage in You.

As it says on the opening page, "We hope every child sees the hero in themselves and we promise to bring you beautiful stories that inspire all kids to be the best version of themselves". So far, so good !

When you go to create the book, you first need to choose the language (English or Greek - it would be good to have a wider choice of languages available), then select the sex and image that will represent your hero. There are only eight characters available - four girls and four boys - but I thought that the one we chose did look quite similar to Pierre. (You can compare with the photo on our sidebar, if you don't know what he looks like !) You might be limited if your children don't look like any of them though, so, again, it would be lovely to have a bigger choice of characters available. (In other similar choose-your-hero books that we've reviewed in the past, you can select hair, eye and skin colour, which may be a more universally appealing option.)

The story is quite simple. After talking to the Dragon Tree about what it takes to be a good leader, Pierre meets some new friends - Plato Panda, Silvy the Fox and Grace the Bunny. The new friends soon meet a Turtle King, who needs some help getting home before nightfall. Working together, they overcome the challenges - mission accomplished !

The whole story is written in rhyme, which makes it quite fun to read. The characters are appealing, even if they are not developed a great deal - I would think you would get to know them more if you bought the other books in the series. 

Pierre thought the book was fun and he particularly liked the fact that the main character had his name and looked like him. He did ask lots of questions though, that weren't covered by the book, but we had fun making up our own descriptions and explanations !

There should be a new title released every three months and each title costs €24.99. There is currently a free worldwide shipping offer that you can take advantage of too.

for more information :

Disclosure : We received a free book, in order to share our honest opinions.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Madhouse recipe : Shepherd's Pie Style Bangers & Mash

Well, as the photo goes to show, this dish was a huge success. The kids had dashed in and served it up and polished half of it off before I even got to step in from the kitchen with a jug of water and the camera ! Ah well, it's good to see they enjoyed it ! It's actually really simple and definitely one to make again. 

Shepherd's Pie Style Bangers & Mash 

ingredients :

6-8 potatoes
8 smoked sausages (or use your favourite brand)
1 onion
drizzle of olive oil
leftover gravy (or use a stock cube or make up some instant gravy)

Put some potatoes on to boil for 25 minutes - I don't bother peeling them. Once they're cooked through (a knife pierces straight through without resistance), drain off the water, return to the pan and mash them up, then add butter and milk, a sprinkle of salt, and mix it all up until you have a delicious mash that will be used as a topping.

While the potatoes are cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan, chop the sausages into chunks and throw them into the pan, along with the chopped onions. Cook for about 10 minutes, until they are perfectly cooked through and the onions have gone soft. I use smoked sausages, which are already quite salty - if using regular sausages, you may need to add some salt.

Once the sausages are cooked, add the leftover gravy and pour into an ovenproof dish. Spread them out. 

Pour over the mashed potatoes and use a fork to add some lines on top.

 Bake for 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes have browned slightly. Serve with salad or peas and carrots.

This was a great way of using up some leftover boiled potatoes and gravy, so I'm adding it to the #KitchenClearout linky.

Monday, 11 February 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #7

Hooray hooray, we're on holi-holiday, la la la la la, la la la la la, holi-holi-day ! Sorry, we're all very excited here at The Madhouse this week as we're on half term holiday. Last week, we scrapped the menu plan for the end of the week because the kids were off school with an upset stomach, but luckily they're all fighting fit again in time for the holidays ! I've started having a Kitchen Clearout and have sorted through my spice rack, so I have lots of ends of packets and jars to use up - this could get interesting !


lunch Sloppy Joes with potato wedges and coleslaw (I made these before without the official seasoning ... which I have just discovered at the back of the spice rack !)

dinner - baked potatoes with leftover sloppy joes mix


lunch - I fancy some fish, and I have some fish seasoning that needs using up, with some veggies - the kids can have a tin of ravioli if they prefer !

dinner - Tourtière, a Quebec-inspired pie made with minced beef, sausage meat and veg (carrots, onions, potatoes) - maybe with mash or maybe just on its own


lunch - beefburgers, chips & baked beans (Pierre's choice)

dinner - Peruvian chicken braise (to use up Colombian triguisar spices) with rice


lunch - the Madhouse grandparents will be over so I'll probably do a roast chicken dinner, even if it's not Sunday !

dinner - we'll probably have some leftovers by now - if not, sandwiches


lunch - spaghetti with cheese & bacon sauce

 dinner - Another Colombian recipe to use up some more of the triguisar spices - Posta Negra, marinated roast beef with veggies and rice


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

dinner - sandwiches and fridge clearout


lunch - I have a sachet of creamy Caribbean chicken curry spices, which sounds good - with rice & veg

dinner - sandwiches and/or fridge clearout

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


Book review : The Geography of Friendship - Sally Piper

The Geography of Friendship follows three old high-school friends, now in their thirties, as they recreate a hike through the Australian wilderness that they last undertook over twenty years ago, as carefree, innocent teenagers. Lisa, Samantha and Nicole all seem reluctant to take part in the trek, but they nevertheless set off, as a team, determined to make it through to the end, whatever it takes.

It turns out that this is much more than just a recreation of their happy, youthful adventures though. Just as they were back in their schooldays, Lisa is a fighter, Samantha a peacekeeper and Nicole a rule follower. None of them seems particularly happy with the way their life has turned out - a bitter divorce, an unhappy marriage, unsatisfactory relations with their kids, ... - but how much of this is due to their earlier trip, and will a revisit sort things out or make things worse?

The novel uses a double timeline, revealing more and more details of what went on on that earlier trip as they make their way along the trails. As a mother of teenage daughters, I felt instantly on edge as I witnessed their carefree, overly confident attitude as they set out on a five day trip, with rucksacks on their back and no plans for keeping themselves safe. These days, everyone would have mobile phones, but back in the good old days, they were completely on their own, with just their brains, teamwork and hopefully a bit of good luck to see them through safe and sound.

This would be a great title for a book club to read, as I'm sure modern women would quite possibly react to it in a different way to the older generations (like me !). It could be seen as an important story for our time, in the advent of the #metoo movement and women’s increasing awareness of the cultural and societal forces that limit their free movement, or maybe a tale of over-confident, bolshy young girls who get themselves into trouble through their own stupidity and brashness.

It's an interesting read, either way, with characters who have a universal appeal, despite the Australian setting. It was a Women's Weekly Australia Book Club Great Read and I can see it being equally popular in the UK.

star rating : 4.5/5

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (1 Feb. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1789550181
  • ISBN-13: 978-1789550184
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm

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

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Fab freebies of the week 9/2

Woohoo, it's the weekend ... and it's also half term for us, which is great news :) Let's kick things off in style with this week's round up of the best UK freebies. Enjoy !


Head down to Debenham's if you have the Beauty card ... We know that a good lipstick is the number one handbag essential for everybody. (And what better than a cute sample size?) Pick up the latest Beauty Club sample in stores from Friday 8th February. This Make Up For Ever high-pigment formula (in shade c211) offers a super easy application lasting up to eight hours.

Check out all the great water-saving freebies on offer from Affinity Water, from shower heads and cistern bags to universal sink plugs

Give your New Year detox a wonderful boost with this prize – Qi is giving away 20 bamboo presentation boxes which have been filled with a selection of six of the finest green, white and speciality teas, renowned for their natural health benefits and cleansing properties. Fifty runners up will each receive a travel tin filled with six different tea samples, so you can find out which is your favourite.

We are looking for 30 women who are 12 to 25 weeks pregnant to join our latest MadeForMums product test and try out the new and improved Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks, £6.00, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Cream for Stretch Marks, £6.00, and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Tummy Butter for Stretch Marks, £6.25 – and give us their feedback.

Caboodle Firsts: Get one of 100 copies of Alice Feeney's I Know Who You Are

Join the Purity Natural Beauty review panel and get your hands on free products to test


Fill in the form below to apply for a fungus lab for a team of five people. You could even choose to battle it out with other teams to be crowned the best fungus growers in the land!

Vileda have a washing line challenge game with lots of prizes up for grabs

Over at Caring Every Day, you can get a £5 off the NEUTROGENA® Hydro Boost Range - that's enough for a free Hydro Boost Whipped Body Balm ! They lots of other smaller money off vouchers too, which may come in handy
Princes Corned Beef is a much loved store cupboard staple that has featured in family food for generations. To help rekindle happy childhood memories, each week starting 5.2.19 and ending 1.4.19, 500 lucky winners will be selected from all entries for a free can.

Sign up for Super Savvy Me's new project for Olay Regenerist Whip Moisturiser

Sign up today to receive a free single flavor variety High Meat Fillet pack for your small breed dog or cat from True Instinct

Hmmmmm grab a free pack of Nuii ice cream bars (worth £3.80) on shopmium ... or how about some Doisy & Dam chocolate?

Cadbury are giving you the chance to win an experience with a Premier League legend, plus thousands of other fantastic Cadbury FC prizes. Simply take or upload a photo of your Cadbury product to get started.

Insiders, we’re looking for 200 owners and their cat to take part in this Dentalife campaign by sharing and recording their results.

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.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Book review : Pulp - Robin Talley

Written by award-winning author Robin Talley, Pulp simultaneously tells two tales of teenage love and angst, separated by sixty years, but with a surprising number of echoes.

In 2017, Abby Cohen is having a tough time. Her ex-girlfriend, who she is still friends with, seems to be sending out mixed signals, her parents apparently can't stand to be in the same room together and she just has no motivation to get stuck into her college applications or the mountain of overdue school assignments that she needs to hand in. One project soon becomes her new obsession though : a project on classic 1950's lesbian pulp fiction and in particular, one author, Marian Love.

In parallel, back in 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones has her own share of problems too. She is in love with her best friend Marie and is just starting to follow her dream of becoming a writer, secretly penning her first story of lesbian love. It may seem harmless to modern readers, but back in the age of McCarthyism, to be gay was to sin and they risked losing their jobs and even the support of their families.

While the book will undoubtedly appeal to the LGBTQ market, I also found it fascinating as a heterosexual mum, especially in terms of historical fiction. I'd heard of President McCarthy and was aware of his campaign, ruthlessly seeking out communists and Soviets in the American government, but I didn't know that this also extended to gay people. The Lavender Scare, a term that I had never even heard of before, refers to the witch-hunt that McCarthy conducted against homosexuals in America. It must have been a scary time to have lived in, constantly wondering who would be telling tales - real or imagined - about you.

It is interesting to see how times have changed - Abby can be open about her sexuality and nobody is concerned about it, whereas Janet and her contemporaries have to live in secret or settle for a good old traditional, two-point-four-kids-and-a-picket-fence lifestyle to be happy and accepted by society - but also to realise that the teenage years are complicated, whichever day and age you live in.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: HQ Young Adult (13 Dec. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184845712X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848457126

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Madhouse recipe : Coconut chicken

This is such a simple dish that takes literally minutes to throw together and can be spiced up or down, depending on who you're cooking for. As I was catering for kids, I left out the spice, but feel free to add cumin or chilli towards the end if you want to add some heat. Delicious served with rice. I think this would be a great way of using up leftover chicken after the Sunday roast too.

Coconut chicken

ingredients :

drizzle of olive oil
4 chicken breasts
1 onion
1 red pepper
2 tbsp tomato puree
25cl coconut milk (or add extra if you have it and want more sauce)
salt, pepper
optional : garlic salt, cumin, chilli

Get all your ingredients to hand. Peel and chop the onion. Slice the chicken and red pepper into chunks.

Put some oil in the pan and heat it up, then start cooking the chicken. 

After 5 minutes or so, add the red pepper and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables have started to go soft. 

Add the tomato concentrate, the coconut milk, salt, pepper and the spices, if using. Give it all a good stir and heat until the coconut milk starts to bubble.

This used up odds and ends from the fridge, as well as a carton of coconut milk that had been lurking in my cupboard, so I'm adding it to the #KitchenClearout linky.
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