Monday 30 April 2018

Giveaway #678 : Win a Little Paper Worlds book - closed - winner Adrian Bold, Laura Z Banks

Whatever your age, if you're a fan of colouring, you'll love the Little Paper Worlds books available at Carlton Kids.

Choose between Fantastical Beasts or Undersea Kingdom and get your colouring pencils or felt tips at the ready to create a wonderful 3D scene. In Fantastical Beasts, you'll find  werewolves, giant spiders, basilisks, three-headed dogs, dragons and griffins, while Undersea Kingdom is peopled with mermaids, exotic fish, magical palaces and more. 

The books are made up of  24 double-sided press-out sheets, full of details and decors for you to colour.

Once you're done, you can stack them in the base in any order you like to reveal different magical scenes. With so many card combinations, kids can keep creating new scenes with different card arrangements, so it is a cool and creative colouring kit sure to spark children's imaginations. Pierre has been having fun mixing and matching cards from both books for even more fun and creativity.

48 pages
243 x 171mm
Published Mar 2018
ISBN 9781783122592 / ISBN 9781783122585
Age 6+

Carlton Kids have kindly offered to send a Little Paper Worlds book to two lucky Madhouse Family Reviews readers. Tell me in the comments which title you would prefer, but I can't guarantee you'll get your first choice.

UK only. Closing date : 14/5/18

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 :

coming soon !

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #18

This week, which is our second and final week of the school holidays, is going to be a weird one, not to mention an extremely busy one, but for once, I can just sit back and let it all go on around me. On Monday (or today, by the time you're reading this), Juliette and Sophie are off to Brussels to see Niall Horan in concert. This was all planned before Madhouse Daddy died and, as he's the only driver in the family, I didn't think it was going to be possible, but Sophie managed to organise alternative arrangements so it's back on ! They'll be back the next day then Sophie's off (again !) to visit her friend from Wednesday to Saturday. Juliette is also off on a two-day sleepover (is that even a thing?!) on Wednesday and Thursday. On Saturday morning, Juliette has her next appointment at the orthodontist's. And somehow I've got to fit mealtimes around all this lot !

I've decided to push my meal plans over to Mondays instead of Fridays from now on, as it makes more sense with our new shopping routine, and also fits in with #MealPlanningMonday better. Kirsty from Hijacked By Twins is taking a break from running the linky at the moment so you'll be able to link up your menu planning posts at the bottom of my weekly plan.


lunch - we haven't had fast food for a while, so I think we'll get back into our Saturday morning ritual - this week is Pierre's choice I think

dinner - honey garlic pork chops with gratin dauphinois


lunch - roast chicken with rice and veg (or leftover gratin dauphinois)

dinner - chicken soup or cheese on toast (or both)


lunch - spaghetti bolognese

dinner - just me and Pierre - his choice is beefburger and chips (I will sneak some veg in there too, probably peas and carrots, or maybe baked beans if he's lucky !)


lunch - sausages, mash and ratatouille

dinner - chicken stir fry


lunch - crustless quiche & baby potatoes with coleslaw

dinner -  just me and Pierre - his (somewhat surprising) choice is grilled salmon with salad


lunch -  just me and Pierre - his choice, mince and potatoes (with veg - my choice !!)

dinner -  just me and Pierre - I get a feeling there will be a fridge full of leftovers by now, if not sandwiches


lunch - fishfingers, rice and green beans

 dinner - pissaladière (a kind of pizza with olives and anchovies - I'll use tuna instead though)


lunch - Juliette's choice of fast food

dinner - black beans à la olla with rice


lunch - roast beef, Yorkshire puds, roast spuds and carrots

dinner - soup or fridge grazing/sandwiches

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Sunday 29 April 2018

Book review : All Day At The Movies - Fiona Kidman

As a keen family history buff, I instantly loved the concept of  Fiona Kidman's All Day At The Movies - a family saga following the story of five generations of the same family, with frequent nods to current events going on through the decades, from the 1950's right through to the modern day. As I have often seen in my family tree, tragic events or major upheavals often did have knock-on effects through the generations, so it was interesting, and entirely believable, to see how repercussions rippled through the family, even without the characters having knowledge of what caused them.

The novel, set in New Zealand, begins in 1952 with war widow Irene Sandler and her young daughter moving to the tobacco fields to start a new, self-sufficient life. Times are hard but Irene is the first in a line of strong women, having to deal with all manner of things that life throws at them. Despite the hard work and harsh living conditions, Irene starts to have a glimmer of hope of finding a new happy ending when she embarks on a relationship with of her co-workers. Fate has other ideas though, and once again, she is devastated when her new love is tragically killed. Even worse, she finds herself with child - a huge drama for an unmarried woman in those days. She ends up marrying the boss, Jock Pawson, in an act that will save her and her children's reputation but not necessarily her, or their, happiness.

Two children later, Irene passes away, leaving her offspring (and husband) to find their way in a rapidly evolving society, with huge social and political changes afoot. They each have their own traumas to deal with, in very different ways, and end up scattered across the country. Each chapter switches to a different member of the family, following their separate progressions through life. They do eventually find each other again, but is it too late for the wounds of the past to heal and for them to finally find closure and a sense of self-understanding?

It is a poignant but tenderly written narrative, revealing the fragility of relationships but also the indestructible connection that ultimately binds us to our close family members. Taken separately, each individual chapter is an interesting look at life, especially for women, at a specific time period in modern history. The early chapters are particularly moving, highlighting barbaric attitudes towards unwed mothers being forced to give up their children and casual racism and sexism in society, but the novel as a whole shows how attitudes have changed, thankfully largely for the better. 

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Aardvark Bureau (8 Mar. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910709344
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910709344

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 29/4/18

Since Madhouse Daddy died, various people have told Pierre he's the man of the house now. From offering to get rid of an enormous spider (he hates spiders) to wanting to go up the step-ladder, he's obviously taken this to heart. This both makes me very proud and also breaks my heart a little bit. I keep reminding him he's only 8 years old and he doesn't have to look after us - that's my job ! On the positive side, we've given this little office area a complete makeover and it's turned into a very cosy little reading/homework area now.

OneDad3GirlsSunday Snap

Friday 27 April 2018

Book review : Tale Of A Tooth - Allie Rogers

Last year, I reviewed Allie Rogers' debut novel Little Gold (click through to read my review) and loved her presentation of hard-done-by underdogs struggling to survive and thrive in a society filled with hardships and toxic people but also good Samaritans and genuinely kind-hearted people.

Tale Of A Tooth instantly gives off the same vibe. Single mum Natalie has her work cut out trying to bring up her four-year-old son Danny by herself and with very little income. Entirely narrated by Danny in his endearing toddler-speak, his childish innocence gives a clear picture of the daily struggles that Natalie, or Meemaw as he calls her, has, just to put food on the table and keep the electricity meter topped up. Her frequent nightmares, where she wakes up screaming in Spanish, hint at deeper troubles in her past, and Danny shows numerous signs, such as being highly intelligent, a fluent reader, obsessed with dinosaurs but not good at all with social skills, that would suggest he is autistic, making Natalie's job even harder. With all this going on, it is hard not to feel sorry for her when she is threatened with losing her jobseeker's allowance when she turns up late at the Job Centre for her weekly appointment.

Luckily (or unluckily, as it turns out), Karen, another Job Centre worker, arrives in the nick of time, sorts out Natalie's problems and sweeps her off her feet into the bargain. As their relationship intensifies, Danny likes her less and less, and the fact that he is the narrator tends to sway the reader to his way of thinking. It is amusing to see his view of the new interloper, but things soon take a more sinister and dangerous turn. Despite (or perhaps because of) the hardships that she has endured in her own life, Natalie is one of life's fixers and wants to help everyone - but she ends up being too kind for her own good.

It's a poignant, chilling but ultimately uplifting novel, with complex characters that you can't help but empathise with. While Little Gold was set in the 1980's, Tale Of A Tooth is set in modern society, but both novels show that many families are still falling through the gaps and facing the same problems in their day-to-day lives.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £9.99

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (19 April 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1787198529
  • ISBN-13: 978-1787198524

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Thursday 26 April 2018

Meet my new control journal (Filofax Notebook review)

I've always been an organised person, at home and at work. I have a work diary, a calendar in the bedroom, a family planner wallchart in the hall, I menu plan and write my shopping list as I go, 99% of our bills are on standing order and I pay those that aren't as soon as they come in, ... However, since Madhouse Daddy died - and in particular since going back to work last week - I feel like my brain has reached its maximum capacity. Part of that is the fact that, seven weeks on, I am still dealing with a mountain of paperwork - a mountain that never gets smaller because as soon as I get close to clearing it, a load more arrives that needs filling in and sending off, accompanied by various photocopies of things that have been filed away for the last couple of decades. Another part is that now, I have to deal with everything and remember everything without a back-up. Madhouse Daddy always did the shopping and, although I gave him a shopping list with everything I needed to get dinner on the table, he was in charge of checking household essentials like toothpaste, toilet roll and dog food. I've forgotten to pick those up on more than one occasion - luckily we have shops very close to the house ! When Filofax got in touch and asked if I'd like to review one of their notebooks, I jumped at the chance. 

There's something very cathartic about starting a new notebook and turning to the first blank page. It's like a literal version of turning the page, wiping the slate clean, finding a new beginning. Very apt for the situation we find ourselves in here at The Madhouse.

The hardest thing is deciding what to write where - there's nothing worse than filling up page 1 then suddenly thinking oh, I wish I'd left a blank page at the start to put that instead. Filofax makes things easier because both the pages and the inserts can be removed and reinserted wherever you want. I keep switching mine around so it's great if you're indecisive or a bit of a perfectionist and want to start certain parts again.

I've decided to make mine into a control journal and it's ideal. As well as having lots of pages to fill, there is a useful pocket that can be used for storing bills to be paid, important notes from school, party invitations or flyers about events you want to visit, all in one place so you know where they are. I also love the ruler that can be pulled off then reattached whenever you need to underline things or make tables to be filled in.

So where to begin? Well, for me, it was time to empty my brain of all the things I need to do, from big stuff like arranging for the headstone and chasing up the remaining paperwork to small, inconsequential things (that are always the ones that risk being forgotten) such as buying a book for Sophie for school or dropping off a cheque at the bank.

Next, a basic shopping list of all the things that are likely to run out regularly - store cupboard basics, cleaning supplies, the aforementioned dog food and toilet roll ! This is my master list, to scan through after menu planning to complete my weekly shopping list and minimise the number of emergency trips to the local shops to pick up what was forgotten.

I'm not someone who stresses over things but I was starting to feel strangely serene and totally in control as I was writing everything down, so I decided to continue "emptying my brain". (I feel like a computer doing a clean up, emptying the recycling bin and deleting old files that aren't needed any more !) Even if they're already jotted down in various places, I made a page of all the upcoming events for me and the kids - meetings, sleepovers, dental appointments, ... The kids invariably tell me about upcoming school events or things they've arranged with their friends while I'm busy cooking dinner or washing up, so this can be the place to jot down anything they don't want me to forget.

It's not allabout serious planning and the boring day-to-day obligations though. I've also started a section that I've called our Fun Times Bucket List - both Big Plans and Small Stuff. Big Plans are mainly days out that will take some organising, like trips to theme parks or towns that are a train ride away, but also include the kids' bucket list of travel destinations. Juliette wants to go to NYC and Canada (sounds good to me !), Sophie wants to discover Antarctica (might be more complicated !) and Pierre wants to visit Paris - well, that one is easy enough ! My work colleagues made a collection after Madhouse Daddy died and gave us a card with a cheque in it, "for us to do something nice as a family when we feel up to it". I promised the kids that we'll go for a day or maybe even a weekend at EuroDisney, maybe for Halloween or Christmas, which they're excited about - I just need to plan it now ! I've also started jotting down things that the kids have asked to do at random moments, so that I can remember during the holidays or weekends. Top of the list was making edible slime - I can tick that one off already ! (Click through if you want to see how we got on.)

 It's a well thought-out notebook, with all sorts of different types of pages that you can buy as refills (blank, lined, squared, ...) and it's already become an integral part of my day-to-day organisation, whether looking for a form that needs to be filled in in the front pocket or checking what I need to buy when I pop to the supermarket.

Filofax Notebook Classics are available in a variety of colours and designs and cost £12.99 each. If you need a reason to treat yourself to a new notebook, did you know it's National Stationery Week this week (23rd–29th April)?

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

Wednesday 25 April 2018

#KitchenClearout recipe : Poutine-style chicken & potatoes

I'm on holiday and that usually means I turn to my baking cupboard for a huge clearout, using up ends of packets and seeing what is lurking right at the back. For some reason, this time I decided to tackle the fridge. After a huge stocktake and dejunk of all the half-used condiments and assorted jars, I got out all the leftovers and decided to throw them all together and see what happened. It was actually quite successful ! We'd been to a restaurant with the visiting French grandparents earlier in the week and I opted for a Canadian dish called poutine - their version was made with pulled pork in gravy and BBQ sauce, with chips mixed in and cheese melted on top. That was my inspiration for using up the leftovers from Sunday lunch (and whatever else was in the fridge !).

After a good rummage, I had : 2 roast chicken thighs, 1 ready-cooked smoked chicken thigh, some chips from the chippy - the kids have jumped on board the zero food waste bandwagon and won't throw anything away now ! - some roast potatoes and carrots, as well as some gravy. I also had the end of a bag of grated cheese and some puff pastry offcuts.

 Poutine-style chicken & potatoes

ingredients :

leftover cooked chicken
leftover cooked carrots
leftover cooked roast potatoes
leftover cooked chips
BBQ sauce
offcuts of puff pastry (just because they were there and needed using up !)
grated cheese

Chop the chicken into chunks and put it in an oven-proof dish. Add the carrots, a good squeeze of smoky BBQ sauce and gravy and give it a stir. Scatter over the offcuts of puff pastry (if you happen to have any to hand - I wouldn't add them specially !) and put in the oven at 180° for half an hour while you prepare the potatoes.

Chop the roast potatoes into thick slices and rissole in a large frying pan until they start going golden and crispy. Don't move them about too often, to allow the brown crust to develop. After 10-15 minutes, when they are getting nicely browned, add the chips. Cook for a further 5 minutes until they are heated through and crispy.

Season with salt and pepper. Scatter over the grated cheese and heat for a couple more minutes until it has melted. If you let the cheese melt through to the bottom of the frying pan, it will make a lovely layer of crispy cheese.

Serve the cheesy potatoes then pour the chicken mixture on top.

The kids did say that it looked like a pile of sick, but they wolfed it down all the same ! Tummy fill 1, land fill 0 :)

If you want to see a recipe for a more authentic poutine, you might like my Poutine AKA Posh Cheesy Chips & Gravy post.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky.

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Madhouse Diaries : Making Edible Slime

Juliette and Pierre have been obsessed with making slime for months now : fluffy slime, gooey slime, crunchy slime, you name it, they've tried it. Well, there was one type of slime they hadn't tried until this week : edible slime. Pierre has been excitedly showing me videos on youtube about all the different sorts of edible slime you can make and started making a note of all the different lists of ingredients in a little book : Recettes - Slime Comestible (Recipes - Edible Slime). Seeing how seriously he was taking it, I couldn't say no, could I ?!

OK, recipe 1. Take some jelly type sweets and melt them in the microwave.

Mix in icing sugar and a tiny amount of oil to stop it sticking.

 Hmmmm not very convincing as it stayed quite hard. More like modelling clay than slime. But it tasted nice !

OK, attempt number 2. Starting off with mini marshmallows.

Melt them in the microwave and mix in icing sugar.

Supposed to make fluffy slime. Well, it sort of worked because the marshmallows puffed up but it went all hard and breakable when they'd cooled down again.

Next recipe, using gelatine sweets. Melt them in the microwave.

 Add icing sugar and keep on mixing until it starts to change texture. Add a tiny amount of oil if it's too sticky in the bowl.

I was getting bored by now and wandered off but I was summoned back to the kitchen with excited squeals of "Mum, it's working" ! I have to admit, this one was quite impressive (if you're a slime fan) because it genuinely does look and feel like slime and it tastes nice - but I've told them not to eat too much because there are vast amounts of sugar in all of these edible slime concoctions, plus they're sticky so they'll rot your teeth !

Not to mention the fact that's it not very clean to keep squishing it through your fingers before eating it !

Pierre wanted to try one final recipe, using a jar of marshmallow fluff, mixed in with icing sugar and oil. As you can see, it was a total failure but I did get a good laugh out of it !

As I'm on holiday this week, I'm on a concerted effort to clear out the baking cupboard and this was a great project for doing that. I used up a bag of Pina Colada flavoured icing sugar that nobody liked much, some mini marshmallows that had gone hard and a jar of fluff that was lurking in the back of the cupboard, so I'm adding it to this month's #KitchenClearout linky.
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