Tuesday 30 April 2019

Giveaway #718 : Win a set of 4 Ztringz worth £10 - closed - winner Margaret Clarkson

When I was growing up, all the way back in the 1970's, there was no such thing as ipads and computers, social media or mobile phones. We'd spend hours playing with "low-tech" (or even no-tech) toys and games, such as marbles, sticker albums or even just running about in the garden. And you know what? We had great fun ! I was therefore delighted to discover that one of my old favourites, cat's cradle, has been given an overhaul and a bit of an update to appeal to modern kids just as much as it appealed to us.

Ztringz, the new cat’s cradle-inspired, colourful rainbow rope currently taking Europe by storm, is coming to the UK. Since launching in Holland, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Turkey late last year, it’s ranked in the top three toys, with more than six million Ztringz sold - with each rainbow rope 1.65m in length, that’s almost the distance of London to Boston (USA) and back!

With Ztringz, you can make more than 45 fun and creative patterns, from the famous Cat’s Cradle to a Cup and Saucer, cool Jacob’s Ladder, Sliding Door, Parachute, Bunch of Bananas or the Eiffel Tower. Turn it, twist it, there are no limits, use your imagination to create new shapes and patterns - guaranteed unforgettable fun!

Ztringz is the latest throwback childhood game. Like any nostalgic game of course, it’s evolved! Modern twists include the online Ztringz Academy, a YouTube tutorial channel, where you can master more than 45 patterns, with the help of easy to follow demo skills. As your skills improve, move through the levels - simple, average and hard.

The beauty of Ztringz is that you can take it anywhere, and you can play alone or with friends. Kids can challenge one another, or their parents - can your kids beat you as they master complex creations against the clock on the 60 second challenge?

There’s also the added benefit of coordinated finger movement helping children fine-tune their dexterity skills, and hand-eye co-ordination.

Ztringz is addictive, rewarding and fun, and at just £2.49 is an affordable pocket money buy.

Follow on socials:

#ztringz #ztringzacademy#ztringz_academy#theoriginalrainbowrope#catscradle #fun #toys#magicfingers #vingertouw#latestcraze #rainbowrope#funpromotion#lifeissupposedtobefun

Ages: 5yrs and up – adults included!
RRP: £2.49
Stockists: Asda, B&M, Claire’s, The Entertainer, Sainsbury’s, Smyths, Toymaster

Do you fancy giving them a go with the kids? Enter my giveaway in the rafflecopter widget below to win a set of 4 Ztringz worth £10.

UK only. Closing date : 14/5/19

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 !

Monday 29 April 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #18

Imagine a week of cooking without water - no spaghetti, rice, boiled potatoes or vegetables ... Well, that was the situation on Friday and over the weekend, after an accident ruptured the central water mains (the whole town and surrounding area is concerned so we've been grabbing bottled water from the shops and/or picking up the free water bottles from the council) so the menu plan was abandoned and I did what I could. Results of the possible bacteria problems should be back on Monday (I'm writing this on Sunday) so fingers crossed it'll all be over then. I'll therefore be switching some things around with last week's menu, when I couldn't make them. I'll try to come up with some "water-free" dishes for the first few days, to be on the safe side too.


dinner - hash browns, burgers and beans


dinner - baked potatoes, pork chops and ratatouille


lunch - fajitas

dinner - smoked sausage casserole (with beans, red/green peppers, onions) with pasta


dinner - chilli con carne & rice


 dinner - probably loads of leftovers to use up by now


lunch - McDonald's or similar

dinner - sandwiches or fridge clearout


lunch - roast chicken, roast spuds & veg

dinner - sandwiches or leftovers

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


Sunday 28 April 2019

Board game review : Cobra Paw

Thinking back to my favourite childhood games, they all have one thing in common. Snap, pairs, snakes & ladders, dominoes ... whatever we ended up playing over and over again, it was always simple to set up and simple to play. Cobra Paw fits perfectly into that category

Inside the box, you get two dice and twenty-one playing pieces, called Clawfuku Stones - you have been warned if you have a young child reading the rules out loud. Huge parental giggles guaranteed !

There is no complicated set-up required. Just lay out all the stones on the table where everyone can see them. The first player (we always start with the youngest) rolls the two dice then everyone frantically runs their eyes over the stones, trying to find the one with the same symbols. It may be in the centre of the table or maybe it's already in someone else's pile? If it is, you can still grab it ! 

The winner is the first player to grab six stones (or eight if it's a two-player, head-to-head duel). No fighting or sulking allowed - and that's about it for the rules ! 

It's very simple to set up and very simple to explain, although, as it says in the rules, 'The Cobra Paw technique can not be taught, only discovered.' - Master Meow. Here he is, if you don't believe me !

Each game takes between five and fifteen minutes, but you'll probably end up going for a rematch straight away ! The suggested age range is 6+ and two to six players can play (although Pierre likes to practise all by himself when I'm busy and has great fun doing so).

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

Saturday 27 April 2019

Fab freebies of the week 27/4

I'm sitting here, drinking a glass of water as I type, and I can't tell you how good that feels ! Last night, when I got home from work (and the shops were shutting), I discovered that the whole town's water supply has been damaged and we're not allowed to drink it as there's a bacterial risk. No problem, I declared, and opened the cupboard, to discover that we were completely out of orange juice and coke too. We had three small bottles of water which we kept for tooth brushing but all went to bed feeling thirsty. The town is distributing 1.5l of water per person in bottles today but it was closer to go to Lidl as soon as it opened so I've now got 12 bottles of water to keep us going over the weekend - hopefully, by Monday it'll all be a bad memory. So, onwards and upwards ! Here's this week's round-up of great freebies for you to get your mitts on :)


Last day to grab a sample from The Body Shop ! :
Want to ace your skincare routine? Then why not try our NEW Nicaraguan Coffee Intense Awakening Mask & our best-selling Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask for FREE?
Simply register for a voucher to receive a mask sample duo (2 x 5ml) and take it to your nearest participating store. *One sample duo per customer. Subject to availability. Voucher must be redeemed by 28th April 2019. T&Cs apply.

Get a voucher for £1 off Princes mackerel or tuna (the mackerel is currently £1 in Tesco's meaning you get it for free ! :) )

This month's Debenhams Beauty Club Box is a little gift of nourishing heaven. From Friday 26th April, pick up your sample of the Rituals' Magic Touch body cream, composed of a velvety formula of rice milk and cherry blossom.


And if you have a cat? Head over to The Insiders.They are looking for 650 owners and their cats to join their new Purina ONE® DualNature™ campaign by sharing and recording their results.

The Insiders are also are looking for 2000 Insiders who are parents of babies aged 0 to 6 months to try Bepanthen® Nappy Care Ointment.

It's a great week for pets ! You can grab some free Sheba Creamy Cat Snacks over at Shopmium. You can also grab some free Cerelac infants cereals and Piccolo Mighty Squeeze, The Curators Pork Puffs or Volvic Infusions Organic Tea (last day for this one)

Sign up to the Ladybird newsletter and receive a free activity pack for tots. Each month we’ll send you the latest stories, ideas and activities to help grow little readers.

Get your FREE “Jala! Jalapenos” T-Shirt TODAY and wear it loud and proud all year long.
We’re going to continue giving them out for free while we can – so get yours now before it’s too late. While supplies last!

This month, Balance have teamed up with Murad to give 100 BALANCE readers the chance to win a Retinol Night Cream 50ml worth £70.

One for the kids from innocent. Get growing at home. Sign up here for your chance to win a home growing kit. It comes with a packet of seeds, a compost disc, a handy growing guide and a special grower’s certificate. Everything you need to get growing your own veg.


From Waitrose : Try for free either Ariel 3 in 1 pods or Fairy non-bio pods.

Over on facebook : To celebrate hitting 10k followers on Instagram, we're going to be giving away 50 (YES, FIFTY!!) Official Avengers Endgame tees

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 26 April 2019

Perfect duck dishes at home with Gressingham Bistro (review)

Since Madhouse Daddy died last year, I've found myself vastly reducing my repertoire of dishes that I cook. While we regularly used to tuck into homemade curries, exotic dishes and meats like roast beef, veal and duck, I instantly know that the kids will turn up their noses and push it around their plates before leaving it on the side. This wastes my time cooking it and also the money for buying it, so I've reduced the weekly fayre to "simple" ingredients, such as chicken, pork and mince. I do miss the occasional bit of fine dining though, so I was very happy to receive some delicious ready-prepared duck dishes from the Gressingham Bistro range to try out.

Their Duck Breasts in Plum come in a Cantonese style Plum Sauce and you just need to oven cook it for half an hour - you can't get simpler than that !

As is often the case, I used up some leftover Chinese noodles with vegetables that were used in a separate dish, which perfectly accompanied the meat. The half hour cooking time was perfect, as it gave me the time to rustle up something for the kids (I didn't complicate things - they had chicken stir fry with the same noodles) and everyone sat down to eat together. The meat was perfectly cooked with a delicious fruity sauce - I was amazed at how simple it was to prepare, so you definitely don't need to be an expert.

 The next week, I decided to try the second dish, which I'd popped in the freezer. Again, it was simple to prepare - I just defrosted it the night before and it was ready to prepare when I got in from work. This time, it was Duck With Orange & Maple - a delicious twist on the classic Duck à l'Orange that I'd eaten in the past with Madhouse Daddy. This pack is ever so slightly more complex as the sauce comes in a separate sachet that needs to be added towards the end of the cooking time. Again, it was very simple though - just empty the two duck legs into the roasting tray, pop it in the oven and come back half an hour later to finish things off.

This was absolutely delicious alongside some leftover mashed potato and mixed veg (peas, carrots and sweetcorn). If you've ever been put off trying duck because you think it's complicated to prepare, these dishes are absolutely perfect as there is literally nothing to do besides putting them in the oven.

If you fancy trying something a little more exotic, Gressingham sent over a couple of delicious sounding recipes that you might like to try.

Duck Breast with Orange Sauce, Braised Lentils and Tenderstem Broccoli

Serves: 2

2 Gressingham duck breasts
220g tenderstem broccoli
2 cups of dried lentils
950ml of vegetable stock
Olive oil
For the sauce:
Zest and juice of 1 one large orange or two small oranges
150ml of pineapple juice
½ a chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp of white sugar
1 tsp of cornflour mixed with water to make a paste
4 orange segments
1 tbsp of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1. Preheat your oven to 200°C, Fan 180°C, Gas Mark 6.

2. Cook the orange sauce by placing the oranges, pineapple juice, chilli and sugar in a sauce pan, bring to the boil and reduce by a third. Stir in the corn flour, simmer for 5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Mix in the parsley and place to one side ready to reheat when the duck is cooked.

3. Heat oil in heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add lentils and stir for 1 minute. Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until lentils are just tender, stirring occasionally for about 35 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

4. When the lentils have been cooking for 10 minutes, score the skin on each duck breast and pat dry with absorbent paper. Season the meat and skin with salt and place into a frying pan skin side down on a medium heat with no oil for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Pour off the fat regularly and seal the other side for 1 minute.

5. Place the duck breasts skin side up on a rack in a roasting tin in the middle of the preheated oven. Cook for 15-18 minutes depending on how you like your duck cooked.

6. When the duck is cooked to your liking rest the meat in a warm place for 5-10 minutes before serving.

7. Add your broccoli to the steamer and cook for 10 minutes. Once everything is ready and the duck breasts have been left to rest, carve the duck and then add the lentils to the plate, followed by the tenderstem broccoli, sliced duck and tangy orange sauce. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Duck Legs with Blackberry and port sauce

Serves: 2
2 Gressingham duck legs
3 large roasting potatoes, peeled and cubed
8 shallots
200g kale
For the sauce:
350ml of port
2 tsps of white sugar
1 punnet of blackberries
400ml of chicken stock or water
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
50g butter
1 tsp of corn flour (mixed with a little water to form a paste)
1 x star anise

1. Preheat your oven to 180°C, Fan 160°C, Gas Mark 4.

2. Pat the skin of the duck leg with a kitchen towel to remove excess moisture and prick the skin of the leg all over. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Place on a wire rack on a roasting tray and cook in the middle of the oven for 90 minutes.

4. While the duck is cooking place the potatoes and shallots in a roasting tray, drizzle over the olive oil and salt and pepper and roast for 50 minutes.

5. While the duck and potatoes are cooking prepare the sauce by pouring the port into a pan, heat until the liquid is reduced by half (this will take 10 -15 minutes).

6. Add in the stock or water, the blackberries, vinegar, star anise, sugar and reduce by 2/3 (this will take around 15 minutes).

7. Pass through a sieve into another pan, stir in the cornflour, season and simmer for a few minutes until the mixture thickens. Mix in the butter.

8. Place the kale in a steamer cover and cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

9. Remove the duck and potatoes from the oven and the kale from the steamer and arrange on plates or in a large serving. Drizzle the sauce over the top. Enjoy.

(If you're eating on your lonesome, don't despair - the leftovers heat up absolutely perfectly the next day !)

I remember the first few times that I cooked with duck, I was nervous about cooking times and preparing the meat, in which case the ready-to-cook dishes are perfect. Once you've discovered how lovely it is though, you may want to try out your own dishes, in which case you might like to try some of the recipes I've tried : Duck breast with baharat and pomegranate molasses, Peking duck with noodles, or how about Singaporean Teochew Duck Rice or Teriyaki Duck with Soba Noodles ?

If you head over to the Gressingham Duck website, you can request a recipe booklet and even try your luck in their giveaway to win a duck hamper.

Have you already eaten duck? Do you have a favourite duck dish to share ?

Disclosure : I received the Gressingham duck dishes in order to share my honest review.

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Book review : Face Off - Brenda Novak

Face Off by Brenda Novak is a novel that I picked up in the 3-for-£5 offer at The Works. I didn't actually realise that it is the third title in The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles as there is no mention of this on the front cover or even in the synopsis on the back of the book. It can be enjoyed perfectly well as a stand-alone novel, but there are lots of little references to things that happened before that suggest the whole series is well worth a read.

Evelyn Talbot is a psychiatrist from Boston, now working at Hanover House, a prison in Alaska where some of the scariest psychopathic serial killers are being studied to try to understand them. She lives with Amarok, the local cop, but is unsure whether or not she wants to spend her whole life in remote Alaska.

Over twenty years ago, she was the victim of her then-boyfriend, Jasper Moore, a psychopath who tortured her and slit her throat, leaving her for dead. He has since killed several of her friends, as well as his parents, and she is sure that one day, he will come back to finish off the job that he messed up.

When a young woman discovers a dead body in the wood shed of a hunting hut, she soon becomes Jasper's latest victim. Jasper, however, has a new name and, thanks to plastic surgery, a new face, so he can get right up close to Evelyn without raising any alarms. 

It's a nerve-tingling read, watching Evelyn trying to get her life back on track, knowing that her nightmare is far from over. Jasper is a troubled but intelligent man, and it is spine-tingling to watch him getting close to Evelyn, without anyone suspecting his real identity. I did rather enjoy the final scenes in the epilogue, where Evelyn has got back the power and enjoys tormenting the man who tried to cause her so much pain and suffering. 

I've just noticed that there is a new book in the series coming out this summer, in which Jasper remains behind bars but another psychopath sets his sights on Evelyn.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Eternal (29 Nov. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1472241010
  • ISBN-13: 978-1472241016

Monday 22 April 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #17

Back to work/school this week - boo ! Ah well, at least we get Monday off to ease into the week nicely ! :)


lunch - chicken & mushroom pies, mash & veg

dinner - potato waffles, breaded chicken & beans


dinner - I have another duck dish to review for the blog - the kids can share or probably have spaghetti carbonara instead !


lunch - Juliette's got to go to the orthodontist's so possibly McDonald's if we're running late

dinner - leftover duck for me, other leftovers for the kids if there are some or mac & cheese


dinner - pork chops, rice & veg


 dinner - couscous with meatballs, peppers, onions, dried apricots


lunch - McDonald's usually but maybe not if we went on Wednesday lunchtime - we'll see what happens

dinner - sandwiches or fridge clearout


lunch - roast chicken, roast spuds & veg

dinner - sandwiches or leftovers

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


Saturday 20 April 2019

Fab freebies of the week 20/4

Hope you're all having a lovely Easter break. It's like summer here at the moment, which is fabulous. Let's kick the weekend off with this week's round-up of the best UK freebies. Enjoy !


100 lucky families will be selected and receive a party pack full of everything you need to put on the ultimate play date including a book for each child to take home! If you’re selected, this is what you’ll need to do:
• Host a #CampbellBooksParty for 5 babies/toddlers (and their parents) any time between 24-30 June
• Take part in the party activities for chances to win EVEN MORE goodies
• Create content and post it across your social channels using the #CampbellBooksParty hashtag
• Complete a post-campaign survey
Good luck!

Not sure about the quality of our natural handmade soaps? No worries as we have got samples for you to try out. Get free sample

Request a free sample from Temana Tahiti skincare

The Baby Box Co. offers free online parenting classes from healthcare experts, and rewards for completing them—like Baby Boxes, onesies, and more. Check out more on the Lidl website.

Boots Advantage Card members can currently get 200 bonus points free (worth £2) when they download the Boots app for the first time. It's available for Android and iOS. Link up your Advantage Card then go into 'My Offers' and load the bonus 200 points to your card.

Vote for your fave beauty products and get a free Benefit Gimme Brow

This is a charity fundraising freebie, but it sounds fun - take part in Ration Challenge UK 2019 and receive a food pack to last you a week

The Insiders are looking for 2000 Insiders who are parents of babies aged 0 to 6 months to try Bepanthen® Nappy Care Ointment. Are you interested? Subscribe before 8th May

Sign up for a 30 Days Wild pack with the Wildlife Trusts

There are 1000 prizes up for grabs in the Anker giveaway

 Hey, would you like to be one of our beta testers? We need your valuable Feedback to improve it. In return, you'll get a sample for FREE. Amazon users(USA/UK/JP) only.If you are interested in our review plan, please follow us through Twitter for more information 
(Looks like it's for a hairdryer)

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.

Wednesday 17 April 2019

April 2019 'Best of British & Outdoors' Degustabox review

Yesterday, the postie called and dropped off our latest Degustabox. What would this month's theme be? The kids gathered round excitedly. Aha, this month's box has a Best of British theme - sounds intriguing ! It has a secondary "Outdoor" theme too, perfect for the warmer weather that we've been enjoying recently.

We had a quick guessing game and tried to work out our top British foods that might be in the box. Tea? Baked beans? Fish and chips? Worcester sauce? Crumpets? Sliced bread? Well, I'd say we were half right - there are indeed a couple of our top picks (tea and beans) but we were pleased to see that we still have lots of complete unknowns to discover this month. Time to dig in !

As it was the biggest thing in the box, we started with the box of Nestlé Oat Cheerios (RRP £2.69), which the kids tucked into this morning. They are high in fibre, contain no artificial colours or flavours and include 9 vitamins and minerals. More importantly, they taste great. We enjoyed them topped off with chilled milk but on the box, it says they can be eaten with warm milk too. Might be worth a try !

Bull's Eye New York Steak House BBQ Sauce (RRP £2.49) is a lovely, rich, deep- flavoured sauce that is perfect for adding to the side of your plate or even using as a marinade when barbecuing. It's perfect with red meat - think steaks but also sausages and burgers - and I'd even add a bit to meals like chilli con carne too for extra depth of flavour.

Candy Kittens Wild Strawberry Gourmet Sweets (RRP £1.50) are a very tasty offering, part of a range of gourmet sweets that are completely free of gelatine and gluten. They're big on taste though and we loved them. They are available at Tesco's, Sainsbury's, Superdrug and Morrison's.

Crafted by Cracker Drinks Co Mango & Passion Fruit Fruit Juice Drink (RRP £2) is a delicious fruity option, with no added sugar or sweeteners. It contains 330ml, the same quantity as a can of drink, but we love the fact that it is resealable so you can keep it with you and sip it on the go. Very tasty and it even counts towards your five-a-day. Yum ! Available at cafés, delis, farm shops and convenience stores. 

On to a big brand next, Heinz, but a couple of products that we were yet to try. Heinz Beanz Organic (RRP £1) offer a tasty alternative to regular beans and we couldn't detect any change in flavour. Perfect for beans on toast or, as we did, for accompanying bangers and mash !

Heinz Cream of Tomato Pot Soup (RRP £1.19) is another tweaked product - the great taste of regular tomato soup but served in a recyclable, microwaveable pot. This is a great option for lunch at work so I think we'll be stocking up.

London Flavours Street Food Pho (£1) is an interesting snack food option, giving you the chance to discover an array of different, exotic flavours. I wasn't sure what we'd think but the kids polished them off ! Also available in Teriyaki and Sticky Ribs flavours, they can be picked up at premium independent retailers.

Love Corn (£1.29) is another delicious snack option. The kids loved the Smoked BBQ flavour and the crunchiness of the corn. It's vegan and sugar and gluten-free. 

Skinny Food Co #Not Guilty Bites (RRP £1.49) are a delicious snack option, available in Milk Chocolate or White Chocolate. (We got both flavours to try but you usually get one or the other.) They are gluten-free, have no added sugar and come in at under 100 calories, despite tasting deliciously indulgent. They also provide an impressive source of protein. Great as a snack on the go.

Pachamama Snack Bars (RRP £1.39) offer a guilt-free taste of the Andes ! (We got three bars but you usually get one.) They are a delicious mix of cacao, dates, nuts, grains and seeds and are available in two flavours : Cacao & Cashew or Andean Berries & Raspberry. They're zingy and get your taste buds tingling. I was a big fan but the kids weren't overly keen.

Robinsons Pear & Elderflower Cordial (RRP £2.49) is a delicious, refreshing drink that will be perfect for warm summer days. It makes a lovely change to the usual fruity flavours that we regularly buy. 

Slim Rice Sushi (RRP £2.55) is an easy-to-roll sushi rice made with natural ingredients including Japanese sushi rice and konjac rice. It's free from gluten, sugar, fat and salt and each piece only contains 9 calories. Scientifically proven to help you manage your weight and lose weight, it can also be used as sticky rice. 

And finally, there was a box of 80 Foil-Fresh Typhoo Teabags (RRP £2.20). I still remember the old advert that said "you only get an ooh with Typhoo" ! A much-loved British tea brand since 1903, Typhoo's team of expert tea buyers and blenders carefully select the finest leaves to ensure great taste, quality and freshness from every cup.

This was a great box, with lots of well-known and well-loved brands offering their new products, as well as some totally new things that we'd never seen or heard of before. 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.

Tuesday 16 April 2019

Book review : Notes On My Family - Emily Critchley

Notes On My Family by Emily Critchley is undoubtedly a teen read, but even as a grown-up, I loved reading through it, participating from a distance in the trials and tribulations of Lou, the thirteen-and-a-half year old narrator. Lou has a few issues and is quite possibly on the autistic spectrum - she won't eat starch and protein together and has specific food colours for set days, for example, but nevertheless, she often appears to be the most sane and settled person in the family !

The book begins with a family meal - well, calling it a family meal is perhaps going slightly too far, as the Dad decides to choose this moment to announce that he and Mum are about to get a divorce. And he is currently dating a sixth-former. In his daughter's current school. Where he is the PE teacher. Things just keep going from bad to worse !

While Lou, along with her elder sister Sarah and her cooking-mad and quite possibly gay brother Mickey, come to terms with the new state of affairs, their mum has a ‘brief psychotic episode’, shoplifting and almost burning down the house.

Unbelievably, things do start to get better though. Accompanied by a supporting cast of weird but wonderful characters, including their nan (who goes to seances) and Lou's new best friend Faith (who has six gay 'parents' bringing her up), Lou manages to get through most days, at school and at home, in pretty much one piece. 

Coming of age is never simple and Lou seems to have an awful lot thrown at her, but she ends up being the heroine of the novel, when her brother, struggling to come to terms with his sexuality, disappears and Lou, along with her whole mismatched family, manages to track him down.

It's a fun, upbeat read, despite the content, and I really felt for Lou. Any teens going through one (or possibly even more !) of Lou's issues would undoubtedly find reassurance and strength, as well as a moment of light relief, through reading the novel. 

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Everything with Words (18 Oct. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911427059
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911427056

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the novel.

Monday 15 April 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #16

Last week, there was no menu plan as we were busy visiting the family, but this week, we're back home and still on holiday so I'll be having a big sort out, dejunking (hopefully) and having a spring clean, including in the kitchen cupboards and the freezer. I wonder what I'll find ! In the meantime, I'm sorting out this week's plan while away from home, trying to remember what's in the cupboards !


lunch - not sure as we'll be on our way back home - maybe burgers or sandwiches, we'll see !

dinner - chicken & veg pies, mash & beans


lunch - chicken stir fry with veg, noodles & beansprouts

dinner - I have a duck dish to review for the blog - the kids can share or probably have pizza instead !


lunch - spaghetti carbonara

dinner - pork chops, roast potatoes, parsnips, swede and carrots


lunch - time to use up the leftovers, assuming there are some - if not, beefburgers, baked potatoes and beans

dinner - mac & cheese


lunch - BBQ chicken with rice & veg

 dinner - spaghetti with meatballs (or possibly spaghetti bolognese - I'll let the kids decide)


lunch - McDonald's

dinner - sandwiches or fridge clearout


lunch - roast chicken, rice & veg

dinner - sandwiches or leftovers

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


Saturday 13 April 2019

Fab freebies of the week 13/4

Welcome to the weekend ! And another round-up of the week's best freebies. Enjoy :)


Receive two free samples of 111SKIN products! Simply fill in this quick questionnaire before the 30th of April 2019. The first 1000 people to complete the survey will be sent both complimentary samples, postage free.

100 readers to win Murad Retinol Night Cream worth £70

Insiders, we’re looking for 1,500 of you to take part in this campaign to try SMA® ADVANCED Follow-on Milk and let everyone know what you and your little one think of it.

Join the drink tank - share your opinions and earn gift vouchers

Get involved in the Bahlsen 'Pick Up' - Spreading the Word Campaign 2019 and share choccie biscuits with kids aged 12-17

Pick up a FREE History of Civilisations Poster from the BBC, thanks to the Open University.

British Gas have thousands of goodies to give away this Easter including Wilbur toys and restaurant tickets

Anker are giving away 1000 prizes in their Easter competition

Win 1 of 100 Nakd Mind Blown Boxes

Users can sign up to receive FREE beauty product samples they can test and review

Grab a free Stanley/Stella sample pack from @Ralawise, the brand's new and exclusive UK & Ireland distributor. The offer runs until 5pm, 15 April or while stocks last. Visit the Images website now to claim your pack. (T&Cs apply.) #tshirts #hoodies #Sweatshirts #competition

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.
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