Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Book review : Girl In A Smart Uniform - Gill James

Girl in a Smart Uniform is the third book in the Schellberg Cycle, a collection of novels inspired by a bunch of photocopied letters that arrived at a small cottage in Wales in 1979, giving insight into what life was like growing up in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. The other two books in the series are The House on Schellberg Street and Clara's Story : A Holocaust Biography, neither of which I have read. Girl in a Smart Uniform is apparently the most fictional of the three stories, but some characters, familiar to those who have read the first two books, appear again in this one, such as Clara Lehrs, Karl Schubert and Dr Kühn. It can be read and enjoyed even if you haven't read the first two books though.

The main character in the novel is Gisela, a young German woman, growing up in the years just before World War II breaks out. Keen to do her best and hopeful that Germany will be restored to its former glory, she joins the BDM - the Bund Deutscher Mädel, or Band of German Maidens, the girls' wing of the Nazi Party youth movement, the Hitler Youth. While she clearly looks down on Jewish people, she ultimately appears to be a good-hearted, hard-working girl.

While she rises through the ranks in the BDM, becoming a successful group leader, things are slightly trickier at home. Her mother's new lover is taking an unwelcome interest in her, her oldest brother Kurt has violent tendencies and her second much-loved brother, the kind and caring Eberhard or Bear, signs up as a soldier. On top of that, her new baby brother Jens seems to have issues and her teenage hormones are springing into life, seeking out the object of her heart's desires.

Halfway through the book, the narrative voice switches to Bear. Beginning in the same chronology as his sister, his account soon switches back twenty years and we see Gisela as a child, living through the post-World War I timeframe. Some fifty pages on, the narrative voice switches back to Gisela. While Bear's insights and stories are undoubtedly interesting, helping us to understand the larger historical picture and to see another side to Gisela, I found this plot structure to be a little clumsy.

In Gisela's final section, we can see her viewpoints slowly changing, until she turns her back on Nazi Germany. Her reasons for doing so are largely self-centred, as her relationship would undoubtedly be looked down on. Her racist opinions about Jews do not really seem to have shifted though, which left me feeling bad about the positive feelings I had towards her as a character. Maybe this reflects just how widespread anti-Jewish feeling was in society back then, but it bothered me.

It's an interesting book, showcasing the best and worst of human spirit in such a complicated time period. While I enjoyed it as an adult, I'm sure it would be loved by the young adult fiction market, as they would have much more to learn about life in Nazi Germany, some eighty odd years ago.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £10

  • Paperback : 260 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1910542423
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1910542422
  • Product Dimensions : 15.2 x 1.39 x 22.9 cm
  • Publisher : Chapeltown; Illustrated Edition (22 July 2019)
  • Language: : English


 Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Monday, 21 September 2020

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 38

I predicted last week that this week would be quieter. Well, luckily, I was right, as we've all been feeling pretty grotty. Just a bad cold, I think, but I did wonder about it being coronavirus at the end of the week. I was about to go and get tested then it all started to shift. I'm coughing less now which means I'm sleeping better and finally starting to feel human again. And my nose has stopped running which is fabulous as it's so annoying when you're wearing a mask all day and can't keep blowing your nose ! I've just checked the plan and the only thing I didn't make was cauliflower cheese, so that can go back on this week's plan, and cottage pie turned into chilli con carne. I figured something spicy might help shift the cold or at least clear out my nose ! Here's this week's plan.


lunch- leftovers or fridge grazing - I will arrive home just about as Pierre is heading back to school and Juliette is eating at the canteen.

dinner - Cauliflower cheese (or pasta in cheese sauce for Pierre) - I think I'll add bacon and some onions then that should do as a complete meal.


dinner- I have a meeting so I'll get home later than usual, so something quick and simple. Spaghetti bolognese should do it. And maybe I can convince Pierre to make some more of his garlic bread. He had a thing for it over the summer and loved crushing the garlic, mixing it into the butter then slathering it all over bread. 


lunch- Beefburgers and pasta. I'll use up some of the tomatoes on the side as they're getting decidedly squishy - either just chopped up or maybe fried, alongside the burgers.

dinner- Fish and rice. There may be some leftover cauliflower cheese to use up. If not, green beans.


dinner-  something based on Cheesy Chicken & Yellow Rice


dinner - Brown Sugar & Garlic Baked Pork Chops with potato chunks & carrots


lunch- McDonald's probably or whatever's in the fridge

dinner- depends on what I picked up when I went shopping but I'm thinking pizza


lunch- hmmm how about a roast chicken dinner ? sounds good to me - but again, it depends on what I ppicked up at the supermarket yesterday

dinner- toast? or maybe even a cheeky fishfinger sandwich?

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


Sunday, 20 September 2020

Project 366 : Photo diary week 38

 This week, the lurgy hit. As a teacher, I'm quite used to getting a cold when we all go back to school. What with a total change of routine, feeling tired and needing more sleep, plus having dozens of kids coughing and sneezing all over you and not always remembering to put their hands over their mouths. (That's one advantage of them all wearing masks !) Juliette was the first to have signs of a cold, then mine started a day later and Pierre at the end of the week. It's basically just a really bad cold - a runny nose that means I have to keep walking into the corridor and taking off my mask so that I can blow my nose, then going back into my classroom and disinfecting my hands, a nasty cough and just a general feeling of being run-down. Then Juliette's friend, who is now in a different class to her but they get the bus together and still talk a lot, said that one of her classmates is off with coronavirus - but only half of the class is confined. And one of my pupil's parents messaged to say that the little sister has coronavirus so he'll be off for a week then will be back if his test comes back negative. For peace of mind, I decided I should go and get tested, but it would have to wait until the weekend and by then, it had started to shift. Even if it did come back positive, you only get a week off then need a new test and, if it's a pupil, the rest of the class stays open now anyway. Not how sure this is going to evolve ! :-/

Sunday 13th September - Juliette called from her sleepover to say she'd be home in the afternoon, so I didn't even bother cooking Sunday lunch. I used up leftovers with Pierre then cooked the roast dinner in the evening instead. Pierre went out with his friends on his bike in the afternoon so I was home alone. Didn't do anything special though. I just caught up on washing. I'm not even sure this tiger onesie fits Pierre any more but it's cooling down in the evenings so he might want to wear it soon !

Monday - Work in the morning then my afternoon off - aaaah ! I spent it catching up with marking and going to the supermarket to get a new Sodastream gas canister. Very exciting - not ! We're still enjoying taking Didou the dog out for a walk after dinner every evening. The nights are starting to draw in though. A few weeks ago, we'd be coming home in blazing sunshine, then we would have the sunsets on the way back. Now, the sunset is happening just as we head out and it's starting to get dingy on the way back.

Tuesday - Another sign that autumn is arriving and summer is basically over. Our fruit bowl currently has apples, grapes and figs in it. Gone are the strawberries and raspberries from just a few weeks ago. Today was a busy day at work. After lessons in the morning, I spent my free-hour sorting out a computer with a webcam with Windows 8 with the school librarian (we discovered the app wouldn't work on Windows 10) then spent the afternoon in a video conference with the Norwegian researchers and Spanish, British and French teachers for the Critical Thinking project. It all got put on hold during confinement so now it's kicking off again. I need to sort out a new lesson plan using critical thinking. I thought maybe I'd look at all the myths and fake news surrounding coronavirus and how to stay safe, then moved towards they myths of Thanksgiving, which should be easier for the kids to understand in English hopefully !


Wednesday - Just the morning at work then headed home ... and slept all afternoon. Oops ! Not feeling great though and coughing kept me awake last night, so it probably did me good. Juliette flaked out too. Hmmmm.

Thursday - A full day at work, then had a quick get-together to give some retirement gifts to one of our cleaners. She's lovely and has been with us for years, so it made us laugh when, the next day, she left a thank you card in the staffroom along with a tin of biscuits and two tins of chocolates ! Took the dog out and looked at all the flowers springing up in the fields. There are loads of really random flowers that I've never seen before. No idea what these ones are, but they look pretty cool and add a lovely splash of colour against the dark green grass.

Friday - This was dinner and I spent the whole time thinking "there's never going to be enough" ! I had a couple of large veal fillets that I chopped up and fried, along with some onions and mushrooms, before adding some cream. There was pasta to go with it, but it still didn't look enough, so I added a small tin of peas and carrots. It still didn't look enough but it turned out, there was plenty. I went from cooking for five to four after Madhouse Daddy died, then to three when Sophie went to England to study, plus Pierre eats like a sparrow, so I really need to reduce quantities. It's the same with rice, pasta and potatoes - I always end up adding more then they're not needed. Luckily Pierre can use them up for lunch so it's not wasted.

Saturday - Phew, we made it to the weekend ! I had planned on heading to the local covid testing centre but actually felt better after (finally !) a good night's sleep. Checked out symptoms lists online and I think it's just a bad cold. Treated myself to a lazy day. Went to McDonald's then the cemetery with Juliette and the weekly shop in Lidl. That was it - settled into bed with a book (a children's book, just for ultimate feel-goodness value !), then read and slept all afternoon. Aaah this is definitely the way to get over a cold ! 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Fab freebies of the week 19/9

So how are you all doing? Feeling fighting fit, I hope. We've all been feeling pretty grotty this week. I think it's just a bad cold and is on the way out now, but I almost went and got a test as I wasn't sure it wasn't coronavirus earlier in the week. There are a few cases in our school already so it could (and probably will) happen. The rules have changed so that if there's a case, the class isn't closed now anyway. The pupil stays off for a week then gets a new test and as soon as it comes back negative, he's back to school. Hmmmm. Not sure how this will work out ! Time to cheer ourselves up with this week's freebies :)


Over on Shopmium, you can grab free McVitie's V.I.B's (at ASDA and Sainsbury's), Peperami Chicken Bites (at ASDA & Tesco), S. Pellegrino Essenza Sparkling Water (at Esso & Co Op), Bodega Bay Hard Seltzer 4% Alc (last day so get in quick !)

Woop (Women Of Opinion) gives you the chance to win prizes in return for answering surveys - they currently have a Perfect Glow skincare campaign until the end of September

SIGN UP FOR A NEWSLETTER AND RECEIVE FREE ICE SAMPLES*.* Free ICE samples will be sent to 200 selected people who signed up to our newsletter via the form on this webpage. (It's a brand, not frozen water - trust me ! lol)

 We're giving 100 Caboodlers the chance to read Abigail Dean's beautifully written and incredibly powerful Girl A before it's out next year. 

We're giving 100 children the chance to read Angharad Walker's The Ash House, before it's out in March 2021.

Win one of 100 prizes in the Ballymaloe giveaway

Ryman also have a fab giveaway - It's completely FREE to enter and we guarantee a prize every time, so you'll be sure to bag yourself a student freebie. From exclusive vouchers to free stationery and homeware essentials to £500 Ryman Shopping Spree, enter our student competition now to win a prize.

Thisworks are giving away 5000 pillow sprays

 We’re looking for Mumsnet users to test Octenicare, a creme designed to help provide care for irritated, dry, flaky or fragile skin. This product test is open to Mumsnet users who suffer from dry, irritated, flaky or fragile skin, or have a child aged over 6 months who does. 

The Insiders have a new campaign to try out Winalot Feeding Greatness range with your doggie

Woohoo a new offer from Debenhams !  Happy Friday Beauty Clubbers! 💕 It’s back and BETTER THAN EVER, Grab your latest complimentary sample... the ultimate luxury skincare addition - Abeille Royale Night Cream! Now available from the Guerlain or fragrance counter at your local store, when you show your Beauty Club Card ✨ *T&Cs apply. Whilst stocks last. Registered Beauty Club card must be shown at the Guerlain or Fragrance counter to redeem. One sample per customer.

Sign up to Marie Claire Beauty Drawer - Discover personalised beauty products direct to your door COMPLETELY FREE. NO SUBSCRIPTION

Now available on Send Me a SampleNARS Climax Mascara Range. Just say to your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant… “Ask Send Me a Sample for NARS Mascara”. Then choose either “Climax Mascara” or “Climax Extreme Mascara”

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 :

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Giveaway #740 : Win a selection of Dentemp products - DIY dentistry at its best ! - closing 30/9

 If you're having problems with your teeth, you need to go and see a dentist, right? Well, yes, but right now, with COVID restrictions in place and high demand for appointments as people catch up, it can be impossible to get hold of one. Just over a month ago, one of my fillings fell out and I phoned the dentist straight away, only to be told that they were on holiday as from the next day so I'd have to get back to them at the start of September. I really must find a moment to set something up. I was warned that it would probably be quite painful, but luckily (fingers crossed), it's actually been totally pain-free. You may not be so lucky though, so it's always good to have some dentistry DIY products in your bathroom cabinet just in case ! 

Here's the one I needed  - Dentemp Refil-it Filling Repair MaterialLost fillings need fast attention, but you can't always get to the dentist right away – especially in the current climate with appointments being at a minimum. Refil-it is specially formulated for a safe and effective way to repair lost fillings whilst providing instant pain relief. Simply apply this cherry flavoured formula and wait for 60 minutes before eating. Sorted !

Dentemp Loose Cap & Lost Filling Repair is another option. Clinically proven and dentist developed, this easy to use formula is safe and strong, temporarily repairing loose caps and crowns and replacing lost fillings, whilst providing instant pain relief.

Dentemp Repair It is a kit that contains everything you need to fix breaks, mend cracks and replace loose teeth in minutes. Safe and easy to use, the kit is zinc free and a must-have for anyone with dentures.

Dentemp Reline It can make loose fitting dentures feel like new. This easy to use reliner gives you stability and confidence with your dentures which loosen over time, without having to use thick layers of denture adhesive.

Dentemp Recap It gives you the chance to fix loose caps and crowns in an instant. This fast acting and convenient liquid formula quickly reattaches loose caps and crowns and you can eat on it in 60 minutes.

Available at Boots, Superdrug, Savers, Lloyds, Amazon and all good pharmacies. Dentemp can assist with all your dental care needs and help fix your fillings, dentures, caps and crowns, until you can get to the dentist.

Fancy winning a selection of Dentemp products ? Just enter your details in the Rafflecopter widget below to go in the draw. Good luck!

UK only. Closing date : 30/9/20

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.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Book review : The Secret Hangman - Peter Lovesey


The Secret Hangman is the first book by Peter Lovesey that I have come across - I think it was a random pick from The Works in their 3-for-£5 offer - but he has a huge back catalogue that you can check out. He is best known for writing two series, one featuring Sergeant Cribb, a Victorian-era police detective based in London, and the other Peter Diamond, a modern-day police detective in Bath. The Secret Hangman falls into this latter category and is the ninth book in the series - a series which contains a whopping nineteen titles, the last of which was released this year. If that's not impressive enough, his son, Phil Lovesey, also writes crime novels. Despite all this, I enjoyed the book, even without having any of the background. The only thing that I would assume I have missed out on is the tale of his wife's death, as he is a widow in this book. I'd be intrigued to find out what happened to her, but not knowing certainly didn't detract from thoroughly enjoying this book.

Peter is happy enough on his lonesome, but a trip to the supermarket that ends in disaster brings a new woman into his life. He is also receiving some rather unwelcome anonymous gifts and messages from a secret admirer at work. His woman troubles continue with his slightly condescending boss, who wants him to look into the missing daughter of one of her choir friends. 

Things take a turn for the worse when a woman's body is discovered hanging from a swing in a playground, with a suspicious second ligature mark that suggests this wasn't a suicide. As another body is discovered, Peter isn't sure if things are as simple as his boss assumes, and decides to investigate further before everything is filed away as a solved case. With his trusty team of detectives, they manage to uncover the details of another pair of supposed suicides, whose deaths tie in with this new loss of life. What if there's a serial killer on the loose ? 

Peter is a believable and appealing character, happy enough to bend the rules when he thinks his boss is wrong and things need checking out, but ultimately a kind-hearted and trustworthy character. Despite the multiple deaths, the storytelling avoids the excesses of violence that crime fiction sometimes falls into. Think more along the lines of an Agatha Christie whodunnit that an all-guns-blazing Hollywood crime flick ! I'd definitely be interested in reading more of the series and finding out more about the homely detective Peter Diamond.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback : 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0751539600
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0751539608
  • Product Dimensions : 19.8 x 2.2 x 12.6 cm
  • Publisher : Sphere; paperback / softback Edition (3 April 2008)
  • Language: : English

Monday, 14 September 2020

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 37

We stuck to the menu plan all week last week, then veered off at the weekend as plans changed. Juliette went to her friend's house for a birthday sleepover on Saturday so me and Pierre used up leftovers, then I bought a whole chicken to roast for Sunday, so there will be leftovers on Monday. This week should be a bit quieter (hopefully !) as all the start of term rushing about has been done - thank goodness for that !


lunch- leftovers or fridge grazing - I think I'll have a sandwich. Ham and cucumber sounds good to me :) Then chilllll, it's my afternoon off ! :)

dinner - Time to use up the leftover chicken, roast potatoes, veg and gravy from yesterday. Maybe made into a pie or curry, depending on what's left.


dinner- I have some prawns for me and Juliette, which I will serve with pasta, herbs and cream. Pierre doesn't like prawns so he can have pasta with ham or hot dog sausages instead, unless there is still some chicken from Sunday


lunch- I have some veal fillets. I think I'll chop them up and fry them with onions and tomatoes, throw in some spices, then serve it with rice.

dinner- Cottage pie


dinner-  leftover cottage pie


dinner - Crispy chicken fillets for the kids, trout for me, with ratatouille & rice


lunch- McDonald's probably or whatever's in the fridge

dinner- Cauliflower cheese for me and Juliette - hopefully there will be leftovers for Pierre. If not, I'll cook some pasta and he can have that with some of the cheese sauce. Ooh I think I'll put some baked potatoes in to cook at the same time. They'll come in tomorrow.


lunch- There will be leftover cauliflower cheese and the baked potatoes from yesterday. I think I'll go for twice-baked potatoes - scoop out the inside, mix with cooked bacon, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes, then restuff and top with cheese. Doesn't really go with cauliflower cheese but never mind, I'm sure Juliette won't mind ! lol

dinner- Pizza

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


Sunday, 13 September 2020

Project 366 : Photo diary week 37

 The first proper week of school for everyone. We're all getting back into routine now, which is good. I had all the usual last-minute running around, buying things that the teachers asked for in the first week back, and picking up Pierre's bike. Got lots done but I was tired out by the time the weekend arrived ! Quite a few Covid cases are being announced in schools locally - none in ours yet - but it seems to result in two weeks at home. We're apparently back in the red zone, so we'll see what happens.

Sunday 7th September - Sunday is my day of rest, but somehow I seemed to be on the go all day today ! The morning was quiet and I chilled out online, then cooked dinner. Then it was time to catch up on laundry, talk to my mum and dad on the phone, clear a bit of marking, walk the dog with Juliette, have a shower, talk to Sophie on video chat ... and then it was bedtime ! The sun is definitely starting to set earlier now. It's starting to get slightly dingy on our walks with the dog. The seagulls didn't seem to mind though, hanging out on the barges.

Monday - Work in the morning then, as it was my afternoon off, I decided to chase up Pierre's bike. They'd said they'd call me when it was ready, supposedly a day or two later, but I hadn't heard anything all week. Phoned them up and yes, it was ready to pick up. Got the bus there then walked back with the bike. All mended and just had to pay €3 for the new bit they'd changed. It took about an hour to walk home, but as the bike was just too low to walk properly, I ended up with backache. Still got talked into taking the dog out for a walk though ! We spotted some conkers so there's definitely no denying that autumn is here.

Tuesday - Work, work, work ! Asked our science teacher where I could buy the required safety glasses for Juliette's biology class (they no longer share them, due to covid) and he gave me a spare pair. Yay, one less thing to do tomorrow ! No exciting photos to share today so you can have a quick snap of the water tower I walked past on my way to the bus stop !

Wednesday - Work in the morning, then no school in the afternoon for any of us. Headed off to the big supermarket to pick up a new scientific calculator for Juliette, as requested by their teacher (cost : €70 - eeek !) and a lab coat for Pierre. Grabbed a few extra exercise books, pens and folders. That should be it now. The sun was blazing through the trees in the park, casting cool shadows on the ground.

Thursday - Another full day at work. Got home, dashed to the shop for some essentials, cooked dinner, walked the dog then zonked in front of the telly ! Another photo of our walk along the canal is as good as it gets today.

Friday - I don't start until 11am so I can chill out at home until 10am, after getting the kids off to school. Aaahh ! I had a meeting during our lunch hour so it was a bit of a rush, but it's better than having to stay later. Today's photo is the old and the new - the primary school that Pierre has just left in the background and the new secondary school on the left of the photo. Both the girls went to them too. They're really close and our house is just across a huge car park so it's really convenient.

Saturday - I had to go to a meeting at Juliette's school so I couldn't even have a lie-in this morning - boo ! Phoned the kids when I got out and they came into town to meet me. They had all the boats in for a sailing race, which normally has a really good "village" of stalls and games for spectators. Alas, Covid did away with that, so we didn't stay to watch. Bought Juliette's book that she has to read in French, plus a birthday present for her friend, then a quick McDonald's and back home. Juliette headed off to a sleepover at her friend's house, I went shopping then chilled - aaaahhhh !

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Fab freebies of the week 12/9

The kids have gone back to school and it's all starting to feel quite autumnal, with the leaves beginning to turn brown and fall from the trees. The wind mid-week probably didn't help though ! I even pulled out the slow cooker and made a lovely warming beef casserole mid-week. Yep, the summer is definitely a thing of the past ! How are things going in your neck of the woods? Still enjoying the last of the summer heat or feeling the cooler weather welcoming in the autumn? If it's a bit chilly, you have my permission to go and hide under a blanket on the settee and check out this week's roundup of fab freebies ! Enjoy !


Hopefully there will still be some left (I managed to grab one !) - over on Sopost : Introducing MY WAY Eau de Parfum, the new feminine fragrance by Giorgio Armani. 

Feed the bees ! It’s easy peasy. Enter your details below and we’ll send you a box of free wildflower seed balls to plant at home. 

 Sign up now to be the first to try Caudalie's new Cashmere Cream in travel size!

Win one of 100 VK party packs, including 24 bottles and more !

If you have a kitten, sign up for a Royal Canin Kitten Food sample box

From So Natural Cosmetics :  Sign up to our email list and claim your FREE SAMPLEof our natural Waterproof Make Up Remover

Also from So Natural Cosmetics : Sign up to our email list and claim your FREE SAMPLEof our unique Deodorant Liquid Gel.

Yeo Valley Organic: Win 1 out of 100 Get Back to Nature Boxes 

 If you are lucky to be one of the first 5,000 eligible entries on instagram, This Works will send you a full-size deep sleep pillow spray to share with your chosen friend or family member.

Over on Shopmium, grab some Peperami Chicken Bites, San Pellegrino Sparkling Water (at Co Op & Shell), Allinson's Bread (at Tesco)

Tour the greatest coffee cities on earth, access insider brewing tips and the latest coffee gear, witness some of the world's best baristas compete head-to-head, join cocktail and espresso masterclasses, cook up the perfect brunch from the comfort of your home, meet the most influential coffeepreneuers, listen to The Coffee Festival all-star favourite artists and DJs, buy art, win prizes and be part of the global coffee community. Want in on the fun? Don't delay — register for your FREE Virtual Event Ticket here!
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.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Asmodee UK Blogger Board Game Club review : Dice Academy

We've had a lovely summer, making the most of the sunshine, splashing about in a big pool on the patio and walking for miles with the dog, but sadly, those days are behind us. The kids have gone back to school and the sun seems to have been replaced with grey skies and even drizzle. Boo ! As the colder months catch up with us (and who knows ? - maybe even a second confinement ! Eeeek !), it's always nice to have some fun new games to enjoy as a family. The Asmodee UK Blogger Board Game Club has kicked off again, sending us some new games to have a look at. The first is Dice Academy.

This game is suitable for the whole family, apart from small children, with recommended ages being 8 - 99. If you're a parent (and if you're nice !), you'll end up taking your time to answer and help out the younger players, but if all players are adults or teenagers, it will end up being very competitive and fast paced.

Setting up the game is dead easy. There are ten coloured dice in the box - five with themes and five with letters. Just throw them all and you're ready to play. You need to match them up, using the guide in the instructions. In the game above, we have "TV programme or series" on the red dice (EastEnders ... Neighbours ... Sesame Street  ...Vampire Diaries ... I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! ... easy peasy !), "Something Big" on the green dice (iceberg ... vat ... super-tanker ... erm ... extremely big dog ?! ... n.... erm give up !), yellow is "fictional character" (Ernie the fastest milkman in the west (blimey, that's showing my age !) ... Superman ... Victor Meldrew ... Nemo? Does that count ?!  ... I ... Icarus? Does Greek mythology count as fiction?), blue is "fish or underwater animal" (Eel ... Newt ... Shark ... V ...ummm, very difficult ! ... I ... impossible !) and pink is "item of clothing" (I ... erm, an "I love London" T-shirt ?! ... Vest ... Shirt ... Nightshirt ... E ... erm ... oooh earmuffs !).

My attempt here shows you how you can have fun playing by yourself, but normally you should pit your wits against one or more competitiors. In this case, you decide how many points you want to try for (10 for a quick game, 30 for a regular game) then roll the dice. Make sure everyone knows what the symbols represent, then start matching up the dice, making sure you don't match the two dice of the same colour. It's a great game because, as well as being a serious challenge, trying to find sensible answers quickly, it can also turn into a joke if you start making up silly answers. Will they be allowed though ?!

It's a fun activity that can be played in minutes and isn't complicated to set up. If you have literally five minutes while you're waiting for the dinner to finish cooking, you've got time for a quick game, either by yourself or with some other players. It's a good way of keeping your brain active and, while I hope we don't end up in confinement again, it's an enjoyable way of whiling away some time, whoever you're stuck inside with. It's lovely to find a game that different generations of people can play together and this would even be a good game to play together online, in a video chat games session.

RRP : £10.99

2-6 players, age 8+


 Disclosure : We received the product for free in order to shar our honest opinion.

Monday, 7 September 2020

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 36

As predicted, we didn't really stay on plan last week, but that was inevitable, as we didn't have a clue who would be home and when. I didn't plan on Pierre forgetting his keys and ending up at the neighbour's for lunch on Friday though ! :-/  Ah well, this week is slightly calmer as we at least know everyone's timetable, so it makes things a bit easier.


lunch- Pierre will be home from 12.00-1.30 but I finish at 12.30 and won't be home until about 1pm, which will be too late to start cooking, so it's a free for all. I'll probably just have a sandwich. Pierre can go fridge raiding.

dinner - As it's my afternoon off, I'll set up the slow cooker and make something with some stewing beef that I bought. Beef in ale or beef bourguignon or something along those lines, with carrots & onions in the sauce and rice on the side. Oh, I have a pack of green beans that needs using up too so they could go well with this.


dinner- garlic & herb chicken with pasta and leftover green beans


lunch- chicken spring rolls

dinner- sausage casserole with mash


dinner- Provençal chicken (with tomatoes, onions & paprika) with rice


dinner - Probably leftovers - if not chicken sausages with pasta & ratatouille


lunch- quite possibly a trip to McDonald's

dinner- pizza or cheese on toast


lunch- marinated chicken breasts with rice & veg

dinner- fridge grazing or a sandwich

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


Sunday, 6 September 2020

Project 366 : Photo diary week 36

This week was all about "back to normal". We all went back to school and Sophie went back to the UK. The big question, though, is how long will the new normal last ? If there are three cases of COVID in one school, apparently it will be closed, and, according to one of Sophie's friends, there are already two cases in the upper secondary school that Juliette has just started at. Oh well, we'll just have to wait and see what happens. There's nothing else we can do !

Sunday 30th August - The last day of the school holidays for me, so we opted for a lazy day. I phoned home and we worked out when my mum and dad would be picking up the keys for Sophie's new flat. I sorted out my school bag (first time I've looked in it since July !) and we went for a walk with the dog, along the new canal path. It looks really pretty with the reflection of the sky in the water. It's crazy to think that this used to be in the middle of a big road. They rearranged the two lanes of traffic and added a bus lane, a cycle path and this lovely walk in the middle, at a lower level so you can't even hear the cars. Pierre had a problem with his new bike. Something to do with the gears block on the back wheel. Our next door neighbour helped him sort it out but suggested we dropped it back for them to check, as it's a new bike.

Monday - Back to work for me but, as I'd managed to see my timetable online last night, there were no big surprises for me. There are three English teachers in my school and, since my colleague retired a few years ago (the one I visited last week who gave me the tomatoes), I always end up with one trainee teacher and one fill-in who only stays a year. This year, I have two fully fledged colleagues - woohoo. Unfortunately, one of them is off sick long-term so they need to find a replacement again *sigh*. Got home and Sophie had cooked dinner - big smiles ! She'd been busy making a Harry Styles bag as well, which actually looked really good.

Tuesday - It was the kids' turn to go back to school today, so I was welcoming in my form class all morning. They seem nice enough but it's a bit of a squash, with the "socially distanced" tables ! Pierre went in for the morning and was off in the afternoon. Juliette went in late morning and stayed all day. It all went OK, but Juliette is in a brand new class with none of her friends from her old school so she feels a bit lost ! We headed back to the sports shop with Pierre's new bike. They kept it in and are going to rework the gears - apparently something needs changing. They'll phone when I need to go and pick it up. It's just as well the buses are free or we'd have spent a fortune going there and back over the past two weeks ! There was a strange "black hole" cloud formation today, which looked a bit weird.

Wednesday - Today was the integration day for the 11-year-old pupils, so they had a special teambuilding mission, going around school (to meet the teachers and see everything important in the school). We had all created Powerpoint questionnaires for them to learn the rules and give them important information for each subject, but, as always happens in September, computer issues meant that we had to totally make something up on the spot for the first group. Nightmare ! Sophie's last day at home so she was busy packing and choosing recipe books and foodie things from the cupboards to take with her !

Thursday - I headed off to work slightly earlier than usual, at 6.25 rather than 7am, so that I could go with Sophie to the station. Her train from Dunkerque to  Lille was at 6.50 but it was cancelled. Luckily, she could get the next one at 7.12, which still got her there in time for her Eurostar train *phew*. I was at work but sneakily checked my phone in between lessons to check she was getting on OK. There was another delay at London but she still managed to make it to each connection just in time ! My dad picked her up, dropped her at the flat, went to get her click-and-collect shopping, dropped that off then she had time to settle in, unpack and figure out how everything worked. Except the oven which totally confused her !

Friday - Last day of the week *phew*. In our school, each class is confined to one room, except for lessons that need specific equipment (science, art, PE, music ...) so there's lots of running about for the teachers. In both Juliette and Pierre's schools, they change rooms for each lesson though, so there's no effort to keep things socially distanced. Most of the computer issues in the various rooms in my school are getting sorted out, which is good news. I have a new replacement teacher - woohoo ! Only had time to say a quick hello before the bell rung though. She's starting on Monday. Got home and discovered that Pierre had taken completely the wrong key with him so he couldn't get back into our house at lunchtime. Luckily, our neighbours took him in and gave him lunch. He has no idea where he put his real key so I'll have to get another one (or maybe two !) cut. *Shakes head in disbelief* ! Another dog walk picture for today - thank goodness it's the weekend !

Saturday - Slept in until about 10.45am ! Blimey ! Obviously all my early starts at 6.15 have caught up with me ! I'll soon get back into routine hopefully. We went to McDonald's for lunch, then grabbed some extra exercise books that the kids needed for school and dropped into the cemetery to water the flowers. A quick dash to Lidl and that was all that was required today - aaah ! Caught up with Sophie on a video chat and asked my dad to go and help her work out the oven. It took them ages apparently, even with the instruction manual ! I've been munching my way through the pears that my friend Catherine gave us last week from her allotment. They are totally delicious - really sweet and juicy. Hmmm !

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Fab freebies of the week 5/9

Yay, it's the weekend ! Now that we're all back to school and work, it actually makes the weekends seem more special, which has to be a good thing. No plans for us this week - just chilling out, checking we have everything we need for back-to-school, signing a million pieces of paper and that's it ! Have a good weekend and enjoy this week's freebie offers :)


On the Savvy Circle, there's a new test :  In return for your quality social shares, you'll join an exclusive team of women just like you to form the Braun Beauty Ambassadors. You’ll receive a premium Braun Silk-expert Pro 5 IPL completely free of charge and have your social posts seen, shared and promoted by Braun.

Trnd, on the other hand, have the Braun Series 7 Flex available to try out ! 

We're so confident that your cat will taste the difference and love our new range of natural dry cat food that we’re giving you your first pack for free. Take the Natural Choice Challenge and claim your free pack.

You can now play your favourite Global station by saying 'Hey Google, play Capital!' To celebrate our partnership with Google, we’ve got 50 Nest Minis up for grabs!

Skin + Me are offering a free trial of their service & products (worth £19.99 - you need to pay a pharmacy fee of £3.50). You can cancel whenever you like.

Over on Fragrance Direct facebook page : CLAIM YOUR FREE SAMPLE 👑 Fancy trying the new Paco Rabanne 1 Million Parfum before it launches? Like this post and head on over to our site by clicking on this link to sign up now! http://ow.ly/l0Cv50BfFrn

Request a Rejuvenating Moisturiser sample from Pure Muse

Receive a Flowerbomb Dew or Flowerbomb Classic fragrance sample

This week on Shopmium, you can grab free Beleaf Almond Dairy Alternatives (at ASDA/Tesco), Peperami Chicken Bites (at ASDA/Tesco), S.Pellegrino Essenza Sparkling Water (Shell & Co Op), Minor Figures Oat Mylk (at Waitrose & Booths), Rachel's Organic Cream Top Yogurts (at Waitrose), Allinson's bread (at Tesco), Tango (at Tesco)

Weetabix are giving away 250 limited edition recipe books.

 As a thank you, once you’ve answered all the questions below (it shouldn’t take more than five minutes), the first 1000 participants will be directed to a page with a voucher for a free packet of Tenderstem® broccoli that you can pick up from your local supermarket.

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.

Friday, 4 September 2020

Book review : Let It Shine - Josephine Cox

Let It Shine is set in northern England in the early 1930's. If you can imagine a combination of the homely old Hovis adverts, making us feel all nostalgic for the good old days and close-knit families, and the dangerous, ruthless atmosphere of Dickens' London in Oliver Twist, you'll be well on the way to understanding the overall feeling of the book. People worked hard, looked after their families and had no big dreams of travelling abroad, buying the latest iPhone or following celebs online or even on TV. Nobody in the novel even has a radio, as far as I remember, but there is one old-fashioned telephone that puts in an appearance ! I felt as if I were watching a TV series - something like Call The Midwife or Downton Abbey - that gives you a real sense of daily life in a specific time period. One thing that I found sadly lacking, however, was any mention of things going on in the world at the time. Even if reduced to the quick mention of something in the newspaper headlines or a subject of discussion between the women at the end of the street, I'm sure something could have been introduced about the first worries about a coming war (it is a little early, admittedly, but there is no reason for the book to have such a specific date line typed out in the table of contents) or other world or even domestic affairs.

The first part of the book focuses on a cheerful house in Blackburn, filled with the perfect, happy, hard-working Bolton family. Sylvia is happy cooking and cleaning the house while her husband Jim goes off to work, happy to put a roof over them and their three children - teenaged twins Ellie and Betsy and big brother Larry. You may have noticed I used the word happy three times in that sentence. Well, maybe it's me, but that was the impression I got from the book. Everything was just a little bit too happy and perfect. They all love each other very much and are determined to look on the bright side of life, but I'm sure a few mentions of daily problems would have helped make it all a bit more believable - water dripping through the roof, stinky chamberpots needing cleaning, a cold draught blowing under the door, ... Maybe I'm a cynic but I find it hard to believe that the "good old days" really were quite that good for the working class families at the time.

However, the richer families don't seem to have it any better ! Ada Williams, an elderly lady with a deep, dark secret that will come out later in the book, is decidedly unhappy sharing her (bigger and better equipped) house with her nasty, disrespectful and frequently violent son Peter. He seems to have anger issues and at times seems decidedly sociopathic, but he's just presented as the villain of the piece, similar to the evil characters in Christmas pantomimes who make the audience boo and hiss every time they come on stage ! This is my biggest issue with the book - people are either wholly good or wholly evil, with the exception of one character (John) who switches sides, but even then, he is one or the other. Complex personalities or 'good guys' with moral faults (or even just a grumpy frame of mind) don't exist in this book.

I won't give away the entire plotline of the book, or you won't have anything to enjoy. Suffice to say, a Christmas Eve fire will leave the Boltons torn asunder when the parents are both killed, Larry is crippled and the girls are sent to live in a foster home. It all comes good in the end though, so if you're looking for a heart-warming tale of good things coming to those who deserve them, it will definitely put a smile on your face.

star rating : 3.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback : 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1472245695
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1472245694
  • Product Dimensions : 14.1 x 2 x 20 cm
  • Publisher : Headline (20 April 2017)
  • Language : English

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...