Thursday 28 February 2019

Board game review : Dixit

We recently received a new bundle of games from the Asmodee UK Blogger Board Game Club to get to grips with, and I was really impressed because, once again, they've managed to unearth three games that we'd never even heard of. For this month, we started off with Dixit, which is a brilliant game for families. According to the box, it is for players aged 8+, but I think younger players could get involved and enjoy playing in a family environment too.

We love the box for this game, which features a riverside scene with flowers, mushrooms and rocks dotted around a central hole, which is used for packing everything else away.

Each player takes a little rabbit-shaped playing piece and sets it on the first square. You will move around the board as you win points on each turn.

The only other thing to do is to distribute the playing cards, so it's extremely quick to set up. The cards are beautiful, intriguing images that you will need to describe, in a simple sentence or just a few words. You can use cryptic clues, if playing with slightly older players. 

Once the storyteller for the round has described his picture, each player must hand over a card that resembles the description. These cards are then shuffled and placed down on the table. Everyone must pick card they think belonged to the storyteller. You will win points if you pick correctly, but if other people pick your card, you'll win even more points !

It's a great game for children, forcing them to think about language (adjectives and adverbs for describing the images, for example) and the pictures are beautiful. I was worried that we'd soon get bored of using the same picture cards, so I was very pleased to see that there are numerous extension packs available. You will also find that, depending on the people you play with, you will pick easier or more cryptic descriptions, which adds extra variety.

It's lovely to find a game that is so simple to set up and inspires people to talk to each other, think about language and interact with lovely artwork. The Madhouse kids took a while to get into it, but they now have no problem coming up with interesting and surprising groups of words to keep everyone nicely confused !

RRP : £29.99

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

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Book review : The Good Friend - Jo Baldwin

Jenny hasn't had an easy life so far. Her mum died of cancer, leaving her to be brought up by her dad, who wasn't big on public displays of affection. She did have a close friend though, called Kath, and a boyfriend, Tom, who helped her keep a smile on her face. Then her dad decides that they need to move to Australia to continue her swimming career. Even worse, Kath encourages her to go and Tom decides to call things off with her and go to work in Jordan. 

Putting on a brave face, Jenny makes a go of things as best as she can, but her heart isn't really in it and she eventually decides to come back home and try to get back together with Tom. Confiding in her best friend, she learns that things may not be quite as simple as she first thought though : not only is Tom with Kath now, she is also pregnant. So that's the end of that.

Eight years later, Jenny has had enough of swimming, even if her father still wants her to continue. She goes on holiday to the south of France to catch up with Kath and Tom, as well as their very cute little girl, Rosa. Roped in to help sort out their new gîtes over the summer, Jenny extends her stay for a few weeks, lapping up the Languedoc sunshine and reconnecting with her old friends. It doesn't take her long to realise that all is not well between the couple though - could this be a chance for her to reconnect with her lost love? And what is going on with Kath? Is she just depressed or is there more to her than meets the eye?

It's a well-written psychological drama, which takes its basis in another look at the classic love triangle. I felt ill-at-ease in the beginning, when Jenny obviously still has feelings for her ex, despite his new relationship, but Kath's vindictive and manipulative behaviour makes it hard to really feel sorry for her. I'm still not sure she really gets fair treatment though, as if she is genuinely depressed, surely she should be supported more. I felt that there was more of a backstory with her mother, but this wasn't really developed, which was a shame. I'm not sure there could actually be an ending in which everyone finds happiness, but the final chapter didn't really offer a sense of closure, which I would have preferred. It's an enjoyable read though, that I raced through in just a few days

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: RedDoor Publishing Ltd (21 Feb. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910453668
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910453667

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Tuesday 26 February 2019

The February "Degusta & Chill" Degustabox review

Last week, the postie delivered a brand new Degustabox for us to discover. I called the kids, we all stood peering in as I peeled back the flaps and .... oooh we could all already spot some tasty treats that we fancied getting our mitts (and our lips) on !

Last month's New Year Degustabox focusing on healthy treats was received with a slightly less enthusiastic response, so the kids in particular were very pleased to see that this month's box was full of tasty treats and drinks that they couldn't wait to try. I think this month has the balance just right, with lots of tempting versions of things that we already eat, along with a few unusual or extra healthy options to sample. Time for a closer look.

Strangely enough, the kids went straight for the sweets - now there's a surprise ! There were two packets of Bebeto Watermelon Jelly Gum (RRP 2 x 50p) which were met with enthusiastic murmurs and lots of bag rustling ! I did actually get to have some and they are tasty. I particularly loved the fact that they contain real fruit juices and we were impressed with the price, so we'll be looking out for these in the shops.

They weren't so keen on the idea of The Snaffling Pig Co Pork Crackling (RRP 2 x 75p) though, so I got to munch on that all by myself ! There were two flavours of snaffle packs in the box, in Perfectly Salted and - my favourite - Low & Slow BBQ flavours. I haven't had pork crackling for years and I loved these - I can see why they've won 9 Great Taste Awards.

When the Madhouse kids were younger, they often used to drink fruity drinks from the Appy Kids Co, but I didn't know that they also produced individual cartons of Whole Milk (RRP 2 x £1). I was actually surprised to discover that these were really popular. Up until now, the Madhouse kids will drink milk if it's made into hot chocolate or cold chocolate milk, but I don't usually bother giving them plain milk. It turned out to be a major success though, which is great news. These cartons are available at Morrisons stores nationwide. 

I haven't eaten pesto since Madhouse Daddy died, because the Madhouse kids don't like it and a big jar is too much just for me, so I was pleased to see a jar in the box. This Reduced Fat No 14 Basil Pesto from Sacla (RRP £2.50) has no added sugar or salt and the cheese is replaced by tofu, making it suitable for vegans too. Lovely stirred through a bowl of leftover pasta when I need a quick lunch.

Next was a pack of Clearspring Organic Seaveg Crispies Turmeric (RRP £2.59 for 3 packs), which are a toasted nori snack, made with just four simple ingredients. I'll be honest, we weren't sure about them, but we've tried other seaweed-based products in the past that we weren't keen on, so I think it's just down to personal taste. It's a shame because they're gluten free, vegan, high in fibre and contain only 18 calories a bag.

The next product intrigued us - two packs of Deli Kitchen Folded Brioche Flatbreads (RRP 2 x £1.25). The brand wants to inspire consumers to branch out from the traditional lunch options of sliced sandwiches and salads and try their new range inspired by breads from across the globe. Here at The Madhouse, we love this idea. This brioche folded flatbread is a rich, melt-in-the-mouth flatbread, perfect for burgers or with griddled steak and gooey cheese.

There is a recipe card in the box that suggests two serving options : Brioche Folded Flatbread with Philly Steak Melt and Brioche Folded Flatbreads with Smoked Salmon, Watercress and Caper Scramble. Hmmm, so many options ! These are in the freezer at the moment but will be transformed into a quick lunch or dinner very soon.

Choc Chick Plantain Bites & Quinoa Pops (RRP 2 x £1.85) were another brand new product for us. They are a dairy and gluten free snack that combine the wholegrain goodness of quinoa and the tropical loveliness of plantain with the finest Ecuadorian single origin organic cacao. With 50% less sugar than your average chocolates, they offer a guilt free indulgence that we enjoyed snacking on.

Explore Cuisine Organic Chickpea Fusilli (RRP £3) is a new (to us) product from a brand that we got to try in a previous Degustabox. (We had their Organic Edamame & Mung Bean Fettucine in the January 2018 Degustabox.) The Fusilli are high in protein and fibre, organic, vegan and naturally gluten free, so just add your favourite vegetables or sauce for a healthy family meal. It's not something that I would have bought if I saw it in the supermarket, but the kids happily wolfed it down !

And finally, there was a bottle of Orangina (RRP £1.30), which I had to sneak away to the fridge and drink all by myself once the kids were in bed to avoid arguments ! The soft sparkle and real citrus pulp always hit the spot, offering a refreshing and delicious drink.

On the cards in the box, there is also news of an Instagram competition and a recipe for Baked Cod with Basil Pesto and Puy Lentils, which sounds rather nice.

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 25 February 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #9

Well, all good things come to an end, and after a lovely, relaxing half term, we're back to school and work - boo ! After a good rummage through the freezer, I've discovered there seems to be loads of pork in there, so I'm looking up some new recipes to use it up.


dinner - Creamy Paprika Pork with spaghetti


dinner - prawn (or chicken for those who don't like prawns) chow mein


lunch - burgers, rice & a bag of frozen veggies

dinner - Pork chops in BBQ sauce with mac & cheese and salad


dinner - this recipe for slow cooker pizza casserole looks like a good idea


 dinner - Tortillas or enchiladas, either with the usual chicken or this could be a good way to use up more pork !


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

dinner - Cheesy Garlic Monkey Bread with salad, tomatoes, etc


lunch - chicken with rice & green beans, or maybe roast potatoes and gravy - we'll see how we feel !

dinner - sandwiches and/or fridge clearout

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


Sunday 24 February 2019

Madhouse recipe : Apricot muffins

These scones almost ended up in the bin because the gasman arrived to do some work while they were in the oven and I got back a few minutes too late ! The apricot pieces on the top burned slightly but they still taste OK. They were designed to use up some odds and ends from the baking cupboard, so at least that still worked !

Apricot muffins

ingredients :

150g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs
220ml milk
110g butter, melted
1tsp vanilla extract
100g dried apricot pieces
100g light muscovado sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Put the flour, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.

Melt the butter in the microwave in a separate bowl and leave to cool slightly, then add the sugar, milk, vanilla and eggs. Mix until well blended. Make a well in the flour and pour in the mixture, then quickly mix together with a metal spoon until just combined.

Use the mixture to half fill a silicon muffin tin. Scatter over half of the apricot pieces. Use the remaining muffin mix to top up the muffins then scatter over the remaining pieces of apricot.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until they are well risen (and hopefully not burnt on the top !).

These hold their shape well so they're great for packed lunches or picnics, in the warmer weather. You might also like to try out our recipe for Cranberry & White Chocolate Scones, which you can see on the right hand side of the tin.

These were designed to use up lots of odds and ends from the baking cupboard, in particular the dried apricot, as well as some milk, so I'm adding the recipe to the #KitchenClearout linky.

Saturday 23 February 2019

Fab freebies of the week 23/2

Hopefully you've had a great half term. We've enjoyed lazing around in bed in the mornings, as well as having a few fun days out, and we're definitely not looking forward to going back to school and work next week ! Oh well - six weeks and we're on holiday again - yay ! In the meantime, here's this week's roundup of the latest, greatest fab freebies.


Get on down to Debenham's if you have their beauty card : Collect your complimentary luxury Dior sample bag from Friday 22nd of February 2019. Simply present your Beauty Club card at your nearest Dior Beauty counter to be shade matched and receive your 7-day sample of the new Dior Forever Foundation in your chosen finish of Matte or Glow. You will also receive a miniature Dior Lip Maximizer lip gloss and JOY by Dior fragrance sample.

Try Little Chompers Dog Food - Order a sample of our dog food

Free tickets now available for London 2019 Allergy & Free From Show (5-7 July)

Caboodle Firsts: Get one of 100 copies of High-Rise Mystery for young booklovers

Her Grace, The Queen of Hearts, has decreed that all subscribers shall be subject to her magnanimousness whereby she shall not only share news and information about her realm but shall also give free** Scentopia products to her subjects - when she is in the mood - via regular, random donations or to winners of competitive promotions.

Be the first to hear of the launch of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s new scent, Bana Banana, and receive your complimentary sample.

500 free Princes Corned Beef coupons to be won weekly!

Until tonight, you can grab a free Schär Gluten Free Chocolate Bar from ASDA on Shopmium - they also have offers for free Vita Coco Coconut Milk at Waitrose

Sign up here for your chance to win a pea home growing kit from innocent

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 22 February 2019

DVD review : Johnny English Strikes Again

This half term has been fabulous - the perfect chance to unwind and do lots of fun things together as a family. We've had lots of beautiful sunshine but on one of the days that was a bit greyer and cooler, we opted for a fun DVD and popcorn day, with a copy of Johnny English Strikes Again, which was released on Digital on 4th February and on Blu-ray and DVD on 18th February, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The main appeal is the character of Johnny English, the much-loved accidental secret agent played by Rowan Atkinson, who will have you giggling throughout the whole film. This is the third installment in the series of comedy spy films, but if you haven't seen the others, it really doesn't matter. (There is a special box set with all three movies, if you want to play catch up - see below for the amazon deal.)

In this film, Johnny English is called out of retirement to deal with a new menace : a cyber-attack by a mastermind hacker which reveals the identity of all active undercover agents in Britain. He doesn't seem to be the ideal candidate - he is not at all up-to-date with modern technology - but in his inimitable style, he will overcome all the issues with his old-style equipment. Joining up with Bough, who was lurking in the forgotten basement of MI7, the pair head off to the south of France in Johnny's classic Aston Martin. Much chaos ensues as the pair set their sights on America’s youngest billionaire, tech giant Jason Volta, who has won over the British Prime Minister as he continues in his evil plan to gain complete control of the world-wide web.

Alongside Rowan Atkinson are numerous other big names, including Ben Miller (Paddington 2), Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace), Jake Lacy (Carol) and Academy Award winner Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks). For a family-friendly movie, you could do a lot worse !

Once you've seen the film, you can also settle down to watch over 30 minutes of exclusive bonus features, which include an up-close look at the carefully selected film locations and detailed sets, Johnny’s notable collection of gadgets and cars and a breakdown of the extraordinary cast, diving deeper into the legacy of everyone’s favourite hapless spy.

  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Universal Pictures UK
  • DVD Release Date: 18 Feb. 2019
  • Run Time: 85 minutes

Disclosure : We received a copy of the DVD in order to share our honest review.

Thursday 21 February 2019

Madhouse recipe : Cranberry & White Chocolate Scones

It's the school holidays, which means I've been having a sort out in the baking cupboard. One of the things I made were these scones, which I jazzed up with some white chocolate and cranberries that were lurking in the cupboards. They disappeared very swiftly !

Cranberry & White Chocolate Scones

ingredients :

250g self-raising flour
40g butter
125ml milk
40g sugar
75g cranberries
75g white chocolate chips
a little milk to brush on top

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Put the flour and sugar in a bowl and add the butter.

Rub in the butter to create breadcrumbs. Don't worry - it will still resemble flour.

Add the cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Pour in the milk and mix it all together until it forms a ball of soft dough.

Gently roll the dough out until it's about 1.5cm thick. (You may need to add a little flour to the board and the rolling pin if the dough is sticky.)

Use a cookie cutter or an upside down glass to cut out six scones. I formed the remainder into two more scones freestyle, which worked perfectly too. (They're the ones in the middle, if you can't tell !)

Dab a little milk on top with a brush or, if you haven't got one, your fingers will do. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Eat warm or cold, cut in half with some butter. Yum !

This was great for using up various odds and ends, including the cranberries and white chocolate chips, so I'm adding it to this month's #KitchenClearout linky.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Overhang Ginger, Orange & Lime Drink review

It's half term - yay ! We've actually had some pretty fabulous weather so far - quite cold but very sunny - so we've been getting out and about, making the most of it. Luckily, I've had a couple of bottles of Overhang to review, which promised to provide me with a little natural boost to help me keep up with the kids !

The drink is made using a family recipe, which has been perfected over a century, with the zesty flavours of ginger, orange and lime. I was a little concerned that the ginger would make it too spicy, but it's very tame and the citrus flavours are what you taste the most. It also contains milk thistle, burdock and raspberry leaf, which contains naturally occurring vitamins and tannins, as well as added vitamins B3, B5 and B6. The orange juice provides 50% of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C too.

Usually, I find that these kinds of natural boost drinks are either really expensive or packed with sugar. Well, the good news here is that each bottle retails for a reasonable £1.20 and only contains 58 calories, so that's not bad.

If you want something to put a little spring in your step, it's definitely worth a try, as it promises to tonify the body and promote general well-being in a very traditional way. It provides a very gentle lift that can help with a little boost towards the end of the day when your energy levels are flagging.

Available in Morrisons, Holland & Barrett, Tesco, ASDA, M&S, WHSmith, & on Amazon from RRP £1.20


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

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Book review : KA-E-RO-U Time To Go Home - B. Jeanne Shibahara

I was recently offered a review copy of KA-E-RO-U Time to Go Home, and, reading the summary of the book, I was instantly intrigued. Having spent half of my life living in France, I love discovering differences in cultures, whether that be through food, music, traditions or history, and this book promised to give me a captivating and fascinating insight into a country I know little about : Japan.

The central character of the novel - Meryl - is a middle-aged, American mum, whose son is now grown up and working in Japan. Her father has just remarried and is going off on honeymoon and, as her husband was killed during the war in Vietnam, leaving her to bring up their son as a widowed, single mum, she is feeling a bit lost, unwanted and unneeded. A friend passes on a new project to her - a Japanese flag from World War II, stained with blood and marked with messages. Meryl gets in touch with her son's Japanese teacher at the university and he encourages her to go to Japan, catch up with her son and hunt down the flag's owner.

Meryl heads off into the unknown, catching a flight to Japan and discovering that her son is off travelling. Luckily, his bunch of co-workers at an English school take her under their wings and introduce her to some of Japan's unmissable customs and traditions, while helping her track down the family. She then heads off on a road-trip to return the flag to the sister of the soldier, who invites her to take part in a ceremony to honour her brother's memory and release his spirit on to the next part of his journey. Despite the miles between their homes and the differences in language and culture, their one universal point - the loss of a loved one - brings the two women together, allowing them to say goodbye to their pasts and open themselves up the possibilities that the future may hold.

It's an uplifting, positive story, filled with fascinating insights into life in Japan, past and present. From kimonos to Matagi hunters, sushi to ikebana, it will lead from the things you vaguely know in Japanese culture to notions that have never even crossed your mind, bringing in the unknown whilst also leading to the discovery that, beneath it all, we all have the same humanity and love.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : currently £5.93 on amazon

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Independently published (13 Oct. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1719859264
  • ISBN-13: 978-1719859264
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...