Monday 30 September 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #40

There's a distinct feeling of autumn (if not winter !) in the air, so we're craving casseroles, baked potatoes and warming comfort food. Maybe it's time to dig out the slow cooker ! I made some chicken soup with the leftovers from our roast chicken dinner last night and everyone (particularly Pierre !) was enthusing about it being the perfect warming meal, so I'll definitely have to make that again too. It's so quick and simple, so I'm not complaining !


dinner - leftover roast chicken with rice, veg & gravy


dinner - sausages with mash & beans


lunch - spare ribs with ebly & coleslaw

dinner - breaded fish fillets with rice & carrots


dinner - spaghetti bolognese (or maybe carbonara)


lunch - leftovers if there are any - if not chilli con carne & rice

dinner - twice baked potatoes with cheese, beans and maybe some bacon or ham stuffed inside - hmmmm !


lunch - McDonald's or similar

dinner - toasted sandwiches - I'm craving cheese and ketchup as I write this menu plan but I may go for something more grown-up sounding by next weekend !


lunch - chicken & veg with noodles & lashings of soy sauce

dinner - chicken soup will probably be a big hit, otherwise sandwiches or leftovers

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


Saturday 28 September 2019

Fab freebies of the week 28/9


We're already at the end of September - time is flying by and we'll soon be into the mad run up to Christmas. Well, I suppose we've got Halloween to get through before that ! The leaves are rapidly turning brown on the trees and temperatures have dropped. I'm not complaining though - I like autumn. Whatever you're up to this weekend, have a good one, kicking things off with this week's freebie roundup :)

On Tuesday 1st October 2019, all participating Costa Express machines in the UK will be free of charge for 24 hours, excluding Northern Ireland. The offer commences from 00:15 on Tuesday 1st October 2019 – 00:15 Wednesday 2nd October 2019. Subject to location opening times and availability.
What drinks are available from a Costa Express machine? We serve the following drinks menu:
Latte, Americano, Cappuccino, Espresso, Hot Chocolate

On Instagram, for men's skincare Mesoa : As of October we’ll be giving away 30,000 FREE samples of MESOA For Men products, allowing you to see and feel the difference our products make - no strings attached. Simply send us a DM with your email address and we’ll arrange delivery.

Sleep & Chronic Health Survey - The survey will close on 31 October 2019. After this date, all participants who have completed the survey in full will be entered into a prize draw. Winners will be chosen at random with one person winning a £25 Amazon voucher and 50 runners up to win one of 50 x Nivea Cream pots.

Join our FREE mydryskin support programme today and receive lots of practical help, tips and support on how to deal with your dry skin condition. Plus, we have a free Balneum Dry Skin & Itch Relief Cream sample to give away to people who sign up to the programme.

Get your free sample pack of TENA Lady Discreet Mini & Normal, TENA Lady Extra & Extra Plus, TENA Lady Maxi, TENA Silhouette and more.

Sign up to our FREE mywellbeing support programme and get 19 weeks of dedicated information on a wide range of health topics for both men and women. If you sign up today you will also have the chance to get a free sample of Biofreeze as we have 100 to give away.

Get a free sample of Natvia sweetener

You can claim a free gluten free Glutafin Taster Box if you've just been diagnosed as Coeliac

Sign up to our FREE myeczemachild support programme today and unlock access to exclusive, expert information to help manage your child’s eczema. We also have 100 samples of Epaderm Junior Ointment or Epaderm Cream to give away when you join this programme.

Join our FREE myIBS support programme now and get exclusive advice from our medical experts about how to manage your condition. Plus, if you suffer from IBSD, we have 100 free packs of Enterosgel and £30-off your next purchase vouchers.

Sign up to our FREE mywound support programme and get expert advice on how to care for your wounds and limit the chance of infection. If you sign up today you will have the chance to get a free Kelo-Cote Gel, as we have 100 samples to give away when you join.

Get a free first aid guide - First aid knowledge at your fingertips

300 Deluxe Samples Of Murad’s “Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel” Up For Grabs

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 27 September 2019

Madhouse recipe : Chocolate Sheet Cake

Last weekend, Pierre asked if we could make a cake. I wasn't against the idea of baking in itself, but I couldn't be bothered going to the supermarket for supplies because it was pouring hard. This recipe was ideal as it used nothing that wasn't already lurking in the cupboards. It actually made a huge cake - what you can see in the top picture is only half of the finished cake - so you could easily halve the measures if you want something smaller. That said, it didn't last long, so you may want to stick with the bigger size ! I was intrigued by this recipe, as I'd never made a cake by boiling a mixture of butter and cocoa, so I was keen to see how it would turn out. When it was just out of the oven and barely cooled down, it tended to fall apart after cutting it, but the next day, it was perfect and held together very well. I used a recipe on The Alaska Life blog, but transformed the measurements from cups to weight and swapped quite a few ingredients around. Head over to see the original version though.

 Chocolate Sheet Cake

ingredients :

285g flour
1tbsp baking powder
450g sugar
225g butter
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
25cl water
1 yogurt (I used peach but it makes no difference)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs (slightly beaten)
to decorate : Philly with Milka + sprinkles

Put the flour, baking powder and sugar into a bowl and stir.

Put the butter, cocoa powder and water into a saucepan and gently bring to the boil, stirring to melt the butter.

Once it starts bubbling, pour the melted butter/cocoa powder mixture into the flour/sugar and stir it all together.

Add the yogurt, cinnamon and slightly beaten eggs and stir until well combined.

Pour into a greased baking tray - as there was such a large quantity, I ended up using a foil-lined roasting tin !

Bake for about 30 minutes (dependent on the size of your baking tin) at 180°C. 

Take the cake out of the baking tray and leave to cool. I then chopped ours in half, slathering one half with Philadelphia with Milka (check out my review if you've missed out on this delight so far ! - you could use icing or chocolate and hazelnut spread instead). Scatter over some sprinkles, nuts, meringues or whatever else you may have.

The original version used buttermilk, so if you want to have a play around with that, head over to the original recipe, which also has an option for homemade icing. This was a great cake for using up various odds and ends hanging around in the cupboards. The kids had just one word to say - hmmmmmm !

Thursday 26 September 2019

Book review : Dead In The Dark - Stephen Booth

Dead In The Dark is one of the books that jumped out at me recently when browsing the 3-for-£5 section at The Works. Two things attracted me in particular - the words "brand new, stunning and gasp-inducing" on the back cover and also the mention that it introduces the Peak District's dark subterranean world as a setting. What I hadn't realised is that this is the seventeenth book in the series focusing on detectives Ben Cooper and Diane Fry, but it can also be perfectly enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.

I felt slightly unsettled at the start of the book because too much seemed to be going on at once, without giving me time to collect my wits and work out the lay of the land. The first two pages describe someone lying in the dark knowing that they are about to die. The next chapter describes a Polish man who has been found dead in his flat. The third chapter goes back ten years and shares the tense scenes of a man, Reece Bower, being persuaded to phone the police about his wife, Annette,  who has gone missing while out walking the family dog. How, if at all, do all these different scenes fit together ?

Well, it turns out that Reece Bower's name has been brought up at the police station again, but this time because he has gone missing himself. His new wife called in his disappearance but nobody can work out where he would have gone. He was seen as the main suspect in his wife's murder until her father told the police that he had spotted his daughter, very much alive, thereby getting Reece off the hook. Maybe he knows that something new has come up, putting him back in the role of suspect, and has decided to disappear? Maybe someone was out to get him? The police go back to looking at Annette's story to try to figure out if they missed anything in the previous investigation.

Meanwhile, other stories are going on in and around Lathkilldale. A racist group are meeting up regularly, surely not helping to reduce the anti-Polish feeling in the town. A young man is killed when a barn is burnt down. At times, I felt that there were too many separate leads - many of them going absolutely nowhere - that made it hard to keep your mind on the main case. This does give you an idea of how busy and hectic life can be as a policeman though.

Watching the detective follow through every tiny lead, looking for the one that would break open his case, was enjoyable and believable. I was slightly disappointed by the ending though, as it seemed just a little too convenient and tidy to be completely believable. The setting, with its contrast of beautiful natural scenery and hostile local residents, often seemed the perfect location, showing that murder and wrongdoing can exist even in the most perfect and unlikely places.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (17 May 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0751567574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0751567571

Wednesday 25 September 2019

September 2019 Degustabox review : Family Sharing and Home Cooking

There was much excitement at The Madhouse this week when the postman dropped off our latest Degustabox. The kids couldn't wait to see what kind of goodies would be stuffed inside this month's box. Grabbing the information card, I discovered that this box has a theme that really appeals to me : Family Sharing and Home Cooking. Sounds perfect for our family.

Carefully unpacking everything on the table, I could instantly recognise most of the brand names, but as always, the Degustabox is a great way of trying out new product ideas from well-known brands that may well have passed by under the radar, as well as some new, unknown brands. Time to take a closer look at the contents of this month's box.

First, we pulled out two packs of Chum Fruit Bites (RRP 2 x 79p), in Peach and Berry flavours. As it says on the bottom of the packs, these snacks are 100% Wild, with No Fake Stuff. That means they are made with 100% fruit, no added sugar, they are non-GMO, Kosher, Vegan, Gluten-Free and even count as one of your 5-a-day fruit and veg portions. They are slow baked to retain vitamins, protein and fibre and, best of all, the kids loved them. Great as an after-school snack or for popping into a school lunchbox. The company even donates 15% of profits to, to help save their "chums". We'll be looking out for these again, as an occasional treat, as they have so many good points going for them.

There were lots of oohs and aahs when the kids spotted the next product - two bags of Milkybar Buttons (RRP 2 x 55p). I used to love eating these when I was a kid but I hadn't tasted them for ages, and I loved rediscovering the unique, smooth, creamy taste. The kids loved them too, obviously !  I'd never really thought about it, but as it says on the pack, milk is the number one ingredient in the chocolate, which is great. They are also free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives and these packs have a QR code on them which gives you access to '80 Awesome Things To Do'. I'll definitely be popping some of these in the trolley again too !

Another snack option that the kids already know and love - Hartley's Jelly (RRP 55p per pot). The Madhouse kids love jelly - both making it and eating it ! - so I knew they'd love the fruity taste of strawberry jelly. Having it in ready-to-eat pot form is great for packed lunches or instant snacking, when you can't be bothered to wait for jelly to set !

After lots of snacky things for the kids, I was pleased to find a more grown-up oriented product next, that I could sneak aside for me without feeling guilty ! - Alpen Protein bars in Berries & Yoghurt and Chocolate flavours (RRP £2.69 for a multipack of five bars). I have eaten Alpen muesli for breakfast before, but the bar format was a new idea, so I was keen to see what I'd think. They are designed to fill you up and keep you going for longer than a regular cereal bar, so I thought they'd pack in the calories, but looking closer, I was impressed to spot that they contain less than 130 calories per bar. They provide 19g of protein and are also high in fibre. They're great as a snack mid-afternoon when energy levels are slumping and you still have a couple of hours to get through at work !

Boka Cereal Bars (RRP 79p per bar or £2 for a multipack of four) are another great snack to pop in your bag for when you get the munchies. They come in Caramel and Choco Mallow flavours and, amazingly, they have four green traffic lights, meaning they are low in sugar, low in fats, low in salt and under 100 calories. They taste great and I was very surprised to see how "healthy" they are. Perfect for when you want something delicious as a guilt-free snack.

Back to the kids for the final snack option - Paw Patrol Yummy Bakes from Appy Kids Co (RRP £1). You get 5 bars in a box, making this great value. They are made with real fruit, fortified with fibre and baked with wheat and oats. No artificial colours, flavours and preservatives are added and no palm oil is used either. The kids thought they were nice and if you have a Paw Patrol fan in your midst, they'll be even more appealing.

Moving on to the 'home cooking" ingredients, I was very intrigued to discover a jar of Zhoug Pesto from Epicure (RRP £2.99). This is one of five products available in the box, with the others being Chermoula Pesto, Mojo Verde Pesto, Chakalaka Pesto and Chimichurri Pesto, giving you the chance to try out the flavours of Africa, the Middle East and the Canary Islands. The Zhoug Pesto promises to be a "spicy sauce with coriander and green chili" and can be used in a multitude of ways -stirring through pasta or rice, using it as a dip or marinade or even just dolloping some on the side of the plate (perfect for jazzing up your own dinner while cooking something "plain" for the kids, if they don't like spicy or exotically seasoned food).

Gran Gallo Risotto Arborio (RRP £2.29) offers a plump, stubby grain and a high starch content, which give it the perfect balance of creaminess and bite when making risotto. Riso Gallo bring you the best Italian risotto rice, selected from the best rice fields in Italy. I used to buy this (or something very similar from Riso Gallo) years ago, but I'd switched over to regular long grain rice as a shortcut. This has reminded me that the texture is completely different and you really should buy the proper risotto rice for a genuine, traditional flavour. Delicious - I'll definitely be buying it again.

Another product that I have used in the past - Very Lazy Garlic Paste (RRP £1.85). It's perfect for keeping in the fridge and stirring into everything from curries to spaghetti bolognese. Who needs to waste time peeling, chopping and crushing garlic? Who wants to avoid pongy fingers ?! It's great as a store-cupboard basic, for adding some extra zing to whatever you're cooking with minimum fuss.

Eisberg Sparkling Alcohol-Free Rosé (RRP £4) is lovely if you want a grown-up option for anyone who is pregnant or just trying to avoid the booze. It is bursting with the fruity notes of red cherry and strawberry and each 125ml glass only contains 33 calories. This sounds great as an option for Christmas, birthdays or just a friendly (alcohol-free) drink with the girls !

And finally for this month, Lucozade Zero, in Orange or Pink Lemonade flavour (RRP £1). (Subscribers received one or the other.) My first thought on seeing the name Lucozade was that they would be packed with sugar and calories but no, this is Lucozade Zero, now without the sugar. They taste lovely and are great straight out of the fridge.

This month's card offers a recipe for Pea and Marinated Cherry Tomato Risotto, which sounds lovely - I definitely think I'll be giving that a go. I love everything in this box and the kids have happily munched their way through most of it. I thought there were slightly too many snack bars in there, but the kids said I'm talking rubbish !

 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 24 September 2019

Book review : Christmas in Newfoundland : Memories and Mysteries - Mike Martin

I couldn't help but smile last week when my facebook feed started including numerous mentions of Christmas. Not just craft ideas (which may take a while to make) and festive recipes (for which you'll need to buy ingredients and maybe have a trial run before the big day) but also people saying that they'd been out Christmas shopping. In September ?! Shouldn't we at least wait until Halloween is out of the way first ?! Well, I have to admit, I'm about to be just as bad, as I've just finished reading Mike Martin's latest release, Christmas in Newfoundland : Memories and Mysteries.

If you're a fan of Mike Martin, you'll already know his key character, Sgt Winston Windflower - the big-hearted Mountie who lives in Grand Bank with his wife Sheila and their baby daughter Amelia Louise, putting just as much effort into walking the dog and polishing off a slice of peanut butter cheesecake as dealing with any local crimes. (If you have missed out on the series so far, feel free to head over and check out my reviews.)

This book is not really involved in the collection of Sgt Windflower mysteries though, so even if you don't know the series, you can still enjoy it wholeheartedly. It features a heartwarming series of nostalgic festive tales, as well as a new Christmas-themed story involving Windflower. Think of everything that essentially sums up the perfect Christmas : friends, gifts, oodles of food and a generous dollop of snow on top. It's all in there !

I really enjoyed looking back at Christmases past, when things as simple as taking a bus ride to check out all the local Christmas lights on display or walking down a massive, ice-encrusted hill with your mum to go Christmas shopping were a necessary prelude to the big day. It was lovely to catch up with some of the well-loved characters from the books but see them in a new light, taking a glimpse at their childhood lives in Grand Bank. Sgt Windflower still holds these same values deep in his heart, and the effort he puts into making sure everyone has a great Christmas is uplifting and satisfying.

When you're just about fit to have a nervous breakdown in a couple of months, because your child's much longed-for Christmas present is out of stock or you can't manage to lay your hands on the vital ingredient for your festive baking, it's the perfect book to dip into to help you remember what Christmas is really all about - as Mike Martin says himself, good food, good friends and always another chair at the table !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £10.71

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Ottawa Press and Publishing (20 Aug. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1988437253
  • ISBN-13: 978-1988437255

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

Monday 23 September 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #39

As you may remember, I've ditched the freezer, after the defrosting disaster this summer that left us with a putrid-smelling machine, despite the cleaning. We're getting on quite well with just the freezer compartment of the fridge actually, but at the weekend, I'll be receiving a big delivery of sausages to review, so this week's mission is to clear out whatever's in there. Could be interesting !


dinner - Spanish chicken, rice & veg


dinner - pork & apple sausages with baked potatoes & beans


lunch - Bacon, egg & mash with grilled tomatoes

dinner - chicken & lentil curry with rice


dinner - spaghetti carbonara


lunch - cottage pie with carrots

dinner - leftovers


lunch - McDonald's or similar

dinner - bacon patties (like burgers) in burger buns with chips & coleslaw


lunch - Sophie is over for the day with Nanny & Grandad - probably a roast dinner, unless we decide to head out somewhere

dinner -  sandwiches or fridge clearout (or maybe we'll start eating any sausages that didn't fit in the freezer box !)

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


Saturday 21 September 2019

Book review : The Slaughter Man - Cassandra Parkin

Cassandra Parkin is a name I have come to know through reading her previous novels, including The Winter's Child and Lily's House (click through to read my reviews). In both of these books, the narrator has a painfully intense relationship with a family member and this is continued in her latest novel, The Slaughter Man.

The central character of the novel, seventeen-year-old Willow, is having a hard time. Her identical twin Laurel has just died and one of the symptoms of her grief is that she has lost the ability to speak. Her parents are doing everything they can to support her, but, following a visit from her uncle Joe, she heads into the countryside with him to spend a few months in his cottage.

She has her own room with its own independent entrance, which gives her great freedom of movement - not always a good thing, as she sleepwalks at night. Her dreams take her, literally and figuratively, into unknown places which allow her to work through her intense feelings of dealing with "life after Laurel". Her twin often puts in an appearance and seems to want Willow to commit suicide, but is this really a dream or Willow's own inner torment?

In a nearby farmhouse lives Katherine, a no-nonsense farmer who is friendly with Joe. She is looking after a boy called Luca, almost the same age as Willow, and the pair form an instant friendship. Will he be good for Willow though or does he have his own dark secrets? And what about the sinister slaughter man who lives in a log cabin in the nearby woods?

It's a tense read, in which almost everybody seems to be suffering in silence - not just Willow but Luca, her uncle and her parents. When suffering with grief or other emotional issues, people are always encouraged to talk and share their pain, but sometimes, it would appear, listening to others can be just as effective. The book ends with the idea that things will soon be better, but nobody actually has a final solution - just a sense of hope. Having gone through our own experience of grief when Madhouse Daddy died, I wasn't sure how I would feel about reading this book, but it is actually reassuring and life-affirming, suggesting that even when pain is at its very worst, you will eventually come out of the other side and find a sense of peace. I just wanted to give all of the characters - Willow, Luca, Joe, the parents - a great big hug at the end of the book and share in their tentative desire to look towards a new beginning.

star rating : 4/5

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (16 Sept. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1789550572
  • ISBN-13: 978-1789550573
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm

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

Fab freebies of the week 21/9

Welcome to the weekend again ! This week we have absolutely nothing planned, which sounds good to me. Unlike next week which is going to be packed ! Whatever you have planned, I hope you have some time to wind down and relax. How about starting off with this week's selection of fab freebies ? :)


We're giving 100 Caboodlers the chance to read Louise Hare's atmospheric This Lovely City, before it's out next year.

Claim two free tickets to the London Homebuilding & Renovating Show with The Independent

Just bring in your unwanted plastic toys to our restaurants and we'll recycle them into new ways to play! Show your toy at the counter between 19th September and the 30th September and you’ll get a free King Junior meal! #Meltdown #BKMeltdown (NB : free kid's meal when you buy an adult meal)

Win a 250ml bottle of Zoflora's brand new Secret Garden disinfectant - you can play every day

If you have the card, head over to Debenhams (and if you haven't, request one quick !) : Discover the new JOY by Dior Eau de Parfum Intense, a joyful tale of exceptional floral notes. Collect your complimentary luxury box from Friday 20th September 2019: simply present your Beauty Club card at your nearest Dior Beauty Counter. As an additional treat from Dior you will receive a complimentary Sauvage Parfum luxury miniature.

Over on Talkhealth : We also have 300 samples of Balneum Dry Skin & Itch Relief Cream to give away when you join this programme.

Head over to Shopmium for free Felix Soup Cat Food, Felix Play Tubes Cat Treats, Candy Kittens Gourmet Sweets, Olly's Olives and Piccolo Organic Baby Food Pouches. Lots more cheap but not free offers on there too.

5,500 savvy circlers will join us in our fab project with the new Flash Speedmop.

On Sopost so these will go quick : Naturally flawless, shine-free, total matte coverage in our most extensive shade range. To those who want more from your foundation. We’ve got you. #GetYourFix with Mac Studio Fix Fluid.

Enter now for the chance to win an LFC scarf and travel bag, we have 350 to give away!

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 :

Thursday 19 September 2019

Perfect Harry Potter gifts from Paladone (review)

Earlier in the week, I was having a good giggle to myself about people on facebook talking about starting their Christmas shopping already - we're still in SEPTEMBER after all ! I confidently thought to myself nope, not even going to start thinking about it until after Halloween. Well ... I'm not suggesting you necessarily have to start your Christmas shopping now, but I do invite you to have a look at Paladone and bookmark it for later. I'd never heard of them when an email popped into my inbox, but having gone to have a sneaky peek, I'll definitely be back - I think I could get all of the kids' gifts there and, even better, some things for those "complicated" people who seem to have everything and want/need nothing ! They sell gifts, gadgets, toys, movie merchandise and gaming collectibles that are guaranteed to make them very happy.

We were gifted with a £30 voucher and headed off to look at the Harry Potter merchandise, as the kids are big fans. There were lots of oohs and aahs as they scrolled through the products on offer, but they eventually made their choices and the order was placed - all very quick and simple and you can pay via PayPal, credit or debit card. Delivery costs a very reasonable £1.99 but orders over £30 are currently delivered free. When this was done, we just had to sit back and wait for the postie. Luckily we didn't have to wait too long, as the kids were constantly asking if it had arrived yet !

The first product that the kids had opted for were these Gadget Decals which have a RRP of £4.99. The stickers, which are waterproof and easily removable, can be used to add some extra magical coolness to laptops, tablets and smartphones (or anything else you can think of !), with a variety of different sized stickers to suit all your devices. The four pages of stickers come in a mix of cream, black and gold designs - perfect for fans of all ages.

Juliette opted for the cool-looking Harry Potter Trouble Water Bottle (RRP £9.99), which features  Harry Potter's famous quote from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, "I don't go looking for trouble. Trouble usually finds me." Yep, sounds just about perfect for Juliette ! We love the silver top which makes it look like an old-fashioned medicine bottle and it has pride of place on her desk, perfect for sipping as she's doing her homework.

The next choice was for Pierre - the Harry Potter Savings Bank (RRP £9.99). He loves having somewhere to stash his cash when he's not spending it, and I think he's hoping that some Harry Potter magic might increase his savings when he's not looking too ! The slot for coins is in the top and the iconic Hogwarts crest makes it cool as an ornament too.

The final object was the Charm Key Ring (RRP £3.99) which was originally chosen by Juliette as a bag charm, but has since been donated to Pierre as a key ring, as he has recently received his own front door key. It includes three Harry Potter themed charms - Harry’s glasses with his famous lighting bolt scar, the sign for Platform 9 ¾ and the Hogwarts Sorting Hat. 

There are loads of gift ideas in the store but I do have one word of advice - if you see something you love, make sure you grab it quick, because products seem to go out of stock rather regularly and I'm not sure if they are restocked or just removed. I think this is going to make Christmas shopping, as well as birthday shopping, a little easier from now on !

for more information :

Disclosure : I received a voucher from the store, in order to try them out and share my opinion.

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Book review : The Theory of Death - Faye Kellerman

The Theory of Death is labelled as number 23 in Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus thrillers series, featuring the good-natured and mutually-supportive American-Jewish husband and wife team. It can be perfectly enjoyed as a standalone novel though. Certain things rang a few bells as I was reading, and I discovered that I had also read and reviewed Hangman, which is book 19 from the series, a few years ago. It doesn't really add anything extra to the story though, but the couple are so comfortable together that they are enjoyable to watch. The series apparently contains 25 titles at present and, as they are already getting on in years in this novel, I would think they'll be retiring soon, if they haven't already !

In this novel, the couple are approached by Tyler McAdams, who was apparently Decker's partner at some time in the past, currently studying at Harvard University and looking for some study time off campus at their home. He never seems to spend much time in front of the books though, as he is soon dipping his nose into Decker's latest case.

A body has been discovered in the local woods, but is it a murder or a suicide? They soon identify the victim as a maths student in Kneed Loft College, but he appears to be a kind, wholesome young man with no enemies or personal problems. As they dip into his background, looking for anything suspicious, they discover that he was involved in a slightly dodgy group of students and tutors, using their mathematical knowledge in underhand, if not really illegal, ways. Then another body is found. 

It's a fairly sedate crime fiction novel, relying on clever thinking rather than fast action, so it will appeal to those who don't want too much blood and gore. I was slightly disappointed by the role of Rina Lazarus in this book, as she has basically a bit part, providing food and moral support to her tired husband but not a whole lot else. Even their children are simply brought into the novel for a family meal in New York, without seeming to serve any real purpose.

If you want to read an interesting but calm crime fiction novel that offers family values more than bucketloads of blood and chewed fingernails, this is perfect.

star rating : 4/5

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (7 April 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007517718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007517718

Monday 16 September 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #38

We're all settling into our new routine. The kids both come home to eat lunch now - I'm at work so they tend to use up leftovers, which is great, but they do also have kid-friendly options like mac & cheese or things that just need popping in the oven at their disposal. They're doing a great job of working out what they want to eat, so I'll let them get on with it without adding anything to the plan. On Fridays, I manage to get home for lunch, which makes a nice change too - even if the buses were a total nightmare this week, absolutely packed and running late. Maybe because of the lovely weather ? Anyway, here's this week's menu plan. Page numbers relate to one of my cookbooks that I've dragged out for inspiration - What's For Dinner? by Romilla Arber - which offers week-by-week menu plans with recipes. Some of it looks quite good, even if I'm adapting lots of the dishes to suit our tastes and what's already in the cupboards. 


dinner - chicken thighs with curry sauce & rice (adapted from chicken biryani recipe, as I have a couple of jars of shop-bought curry sauce to use up) - I also have a recipe for tomato, cucumber & red onion salad which sounds good (p448)


dinner - spaghetti bolognaise


lunch - cheesy risotto with sausage - this sounds like the ultimate kids' meal so I think there will be clean plates all round ! (p461)

dinner - gratin dauphinois (creamy potato bake) with leftover meat - or if there isn't any, I think I'll just add some ham or bacon to the dish


dinner - chicken & chickpea stew (p72) - this has carrots, potatoes and chickpeas in it so it's a good one-pot recipe


lunch - there should be plenty of leftovers

dinner - beef & root veg stew with boiled potatoes


lunch - McDonald's or similar

dinner - homemade tomato & courgette soup (p449) - perfect recipe to try, as I was given lots of courgettes and tomatoes


lunch - chicken pie, peas/carrots and mash or roast potatoes (depending on what everyone wants) - either way, a nice bit of gravy would go well with this

dinner -  sandwiches or fridge clearout 

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


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