Thursday 30 April 2020

More than 85,000 free games available for NHS Carers

Hands up if you know an NHS Hero ! Send them news of this fab offer, which they might like to take advantage of themselves or to help keep their kids entertained.


The UK games industry has launched a major initiative, Games for Carers, to thank our frontline NHS heroes for their inspirational work during the crisis.

Over the past three weeks the games industry has united to include the government's ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ messaging within highly popular video games, as well as speaking directly to players across the country through social media.

Now, Games for Carers has been launched to provide frontline staff with a free game or game subscription to unwind with - either for when they get some well-earned down time, or to provide relief for their families.

"Our amazing NHS staff are working hard on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus, and it is brilliant to see the UK's video games industry uniting to say thank you through this campaign. We have worked closely with games companies to help keep people safe and I am delighted the sector is continuing to support the NHS in such an innovative way," commented Creative Industries Minister Caroline Dinenage.

NHS Staff will be able to claim their free game or subscription quickly and securely by visiting the dedicated Games For Carers site from 9am on Wednesday 29th April at and entering their NHS email address.

More than 85,000 free games across a wide range of genres, age ratings and platforms will be available to download.

Games for Carers is being publicly backed by major games companies such as EA, Codemasters, Konami, Jagex, Sega, Media Molecule, Xbox and Team 17, as well as independent studios such as Studio Zaum, SFB Games, Wired Productions, Bossa Studio and Dovetail Games.

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Madhouse recipe : Fruity Couscous Salad

As I went to the fridge the other day, glancing at the various leftovers and odds-and-ends in there, I wondered what to cook for lunch. I wasn't feeling particularly hungry so I didn't want a big meat-and-two-veg type dinner. What would use up various things that needed using up while still appealing to the kids? Fruity Couscous Salad was the answer ! The best thing was, it took all of ten minutes to throw together !

Fruity Couscous Salad

ingredients :

2 cupfuls of couscous (more or less)
a knob of butter (or a splash of olive oil) 
a pinch of salt
1 small tin of sweetcorn
1 tomato, chopped
chunk of cucumber, chopped
1 apple, chopped
big handful of grapes, halved
leftover cooked chicken (or ham, pork, beef, salmon, fish, cheese)
You could also add (depending on what's in your fridge !) : red pepper, gherkins, olives, celery, ...

Boil up some water in the kettle. Put the dried couscous in a bowl and pour on enough water to cover the couscous by 1-2cm. Leave to absorb the water while you chop up the fruit and veggies.

After five minutes or so (check the instructions on the packet), the water should be absorbed. Have a taste and check it's not still hard and grainy. If it is, add a splash more water. Once it's ready, stir through a knob of butter or a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Add the (drained) sweetcorn.

And the chopped tomato (or cherry tomatoes), apple and cucmber.

Toss in the halved grapes. (I used seedless, but you might want to dig out the pips otherwise.)

Add any leftover cooked meat. (We had some paprika chicken.)

Mix it all together. Toss in any spices, herbs or dressing that you want to use up. And that's it !

It's lovely as a light dish or could be served as an accompaniment to meat or even alongside other dishes at a buffet.

As this is a great dish for using up odds and ends during confinement, I'm adding this to the Kitchen Clearout linky. Feel free to come over and add your own dishes.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Book review : The Trophy Taker - Sarah Flint

The Trophy Taker is the second book in the DC Charlotte Stafford series, but it can be perfectly enjoyed as a stand-alone novel. It is written by Sarah Flint, who spent thirty five years working in the Metropolitan Police, surrounded by victims, criminals and police officers. This undoubtedly explains why the investigation part of the novel seems particularly realistic and detailed.

The prologue shows us a beaming bride, walking down the aisle, watched by her happy guests. The narrator, however, watching the scene, reveals that she ripped out his heart and will have to pay. Fast forward thirty two years to the next chapter and he has put his dastardly plan into action, killing her in a churchyard, chopping off her ring finger and cutting out her heart. Evil job done ... or is it?

DC Charlotte Stafford, also known as Charlie, is busy dealing with her current cases, in particular an evil, racist thug who thinks nothing of attacking his elderly victims with a broken bottle, just for the hell of it. When the graveyard killer strikes again (and again), adding more victims to his list who seem to have no relation to each other, she has her work cut out, trying to get ahead of him in his evil game.

Aided by her trusty team of police officers, she follows the clues to an unlikely suspect. Will she manage to track down all of her bad guys before more innocent victims have to suffer?

Charlie is a likeable and believable character, as are her work mates. I'd be interested to follow on with further books in the series (there are currently four available), to find out what they all get up to. The criminals in the book seem slightly overdone - are real-life people genuinely this thoroughly evil? - but I really enjoyed reading this one.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Aria (3 Oct. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1788549899
  • ISBN-13: 978-1788549899
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm

Monday 27 April 2020

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 18

Back to (home) school this week, which will be fun (not !). It shouldn't be too bad for me, as I worked out all this week's lessons and uploaded them yesterday, so I'll just have emails to answer throughout the day and incoming work to mark. That will just leave Pierre's work to deal with (and Juliette to kick up the bum from time to time, if she starts slacking off !). I'll need to go shopping midweek so the latter part of this week's menu plan will depend on what they have available instore. I'm clearing out the freezer compartment of the fridge too, so I'll have to remember to defrost things the night before.


lunch- homemade sausage rolls with baked potatoes and salad

dinner- baked ham with rice and leeks


lunch- fishfingers, mash & veg (plus extras for the kids to finish off tonight)

dinner- I still have some partridge in the freezer box - two whole partridges as well as another pack of partridge fillets - so I'll do something with those. Not sure the kids will be keen though, so they can fall back on leftover fishfingers if necessary. (I'm thinking roasted partridges with bacon and potatoes for me.)


lunch- Honey garlic chicken with rice & veg/salad

dinner- pork casserole with potatoes & veg


lunch-  chicken gyros with couscous

dinner- leftovers I think, if not bacon sandwiches


lunch- hot dogs, chips & coleslaw

dinner - chopped up sausages, with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and pasta


lunch- I'm thinking there are probably still leftover sausages (it was a giant 1kg pack from the freezer !) so sausages with rice and a sweet onion sauce (or maybe a sausage casserole if I have a pack of seasoning)

dinner- something from Lidl, as I will need to go shopping today - quiche maybe? with potatoes & salad ... or something from their frozen section


lunch- roast chicken with potatoes, veg & gravy

dinner- toast or maybe leftovers

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


Sunday 26 April 2020

Project 366 Photo Diary : Week 17

Into the second week of holidays and, after sorting out the patio last week, this week the plan was to dejunk the house and have a good spring clean.

Sunday 19th April - For the first time in ages, we had a proper roast dinner today. Roast chicken, roast potatoes, carrots, gravy, ... yum ! Afterwards, as it was a sunny day, Pierre asked if we could go outside on the big car park opposite our house so that he could ride his bike. Well, normally I say no, but as we're going back to school in three weeks anyway, it seems kinda pointless trying to keep ourselves away from everyone else - I'm sure we'll all come into contact with the virus or at least the carriers, which is what the government originally said when they shut the schools. Anyway, we headed outside, with our signed attestation in my pocket, giving us the right to an hour outside, and, as the car park now had two families riding bikes/scooters on it, we went for a big walk around the block. It was lovely to take in the sights of spring, with blossom and flowers everywhere. Heading back home, we crossed the car park opposite our house for the first time in over a month and I noticed a hole in our roof ! One (or maybe two) of the tiles where the roof joins the chimney has slipped down, leaving a hole. I wonder how long it's been there !

Monday - Today's job was to sort out someone to fix the roof. As I expected, I phoned about fifteen companies that were shut or not answering their phones, then finally, someone picked up - phew ! I had to send photos (not easy with the sun just behind the chimney !), then sign a quote sent by email. They will get back to us. We finished off out on the patio, doing a Yucky Science kit with Pierre, then playing Monopoly twice (after raiding Sophie's room for all her old craft kits - she did say we could !).

Tuesday - After yesterday's unexpected day off my house-cleaning mission, I was back on track ! I started catching up on laundry, then attacked the bathroom, cleaning and dejunking the cupboards. There are so many review products that never got used or finished so I was handing things out to the kids and being ruthless ! Finished off with a video chat with my parents, then watched some episodes of The Society with Sophie on a Netflix party - you watch the same thing at the same time and have a chat box at the side of the screen. It's a nice way to stay in touch when you can't see each other. The Society follows a group of high school kids who come back from a cancelled summer camp to find that their town is empty, their houses abandoned and their town surrounded by dense woodland. They struggle to keep things going and work out what's going on.

Wednesday - Another day sorting out the bathroom, and the laundry, and the cooking, ... Then I gave myself the afternoon off and played Monopoly with Pierre again. Finished off cutting Juliette's hair (she wants to go shorter - it used to be down around her waist, then a year ago, she chopped it up to just below her shoulders - this time, it is just sitting on her shoulders). Watched more of The Society with Sophie on another Netflix party.

Thursday - I took a day off tidying the house today and went shopping instead, as we were out of orange juice, apple juice, squash and potatoes. As they're all heavy, they're all the things that get left when I can't carry any more ! I did some baking with Pierre, making butterfly cakes, and cleared out some packets from the back of the cupboard, making black cherry jelly and caramel flan.

Friday - The caramel flans that we made yesterday had cooled down in the fridge, so we were ready to squeeze the caramel topping over them. It had gone very firm in the sachet though, so this didn't go quite to plan ! They still taste nice though, luckily. A quiet day today, with more tidying, some blogging and another Netflix party with Sophie.

Saturday - A quick bit of DIY aka bodging ! The metal hose that attaches to the shower head has corroded and needs replacing. The DIY stores are all closed though (just found out that they reopened yesterday in fact, but there are big queues of people waiting to get in), so I "mended" it by wrapping Duck Tape all around the bit with the hole. It'll work for a while (and if it doesn't, we'll just use the shower attachment in the bath).

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Saturday 25 April 2020

Fab freebies of the week 25/4

Another week of lockdown done and dusted ! These past two weeks have flown by - I can't believe I need to start getting back into online school mode for Monday morning. I'll probably sort it all out on Sunday actually, uploading all my lessons in advance, then at least I'll just have Pierre' s work to deal with and emails to answer. I'd rather still be on holiday, that's for sure ! Some freebies still seem to be getting sent out, so I'll continue with the round-ups for now. Have a great weekend! :)


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Caboodle Firsts: Get one of 100 early copies of The Sin Eater

Wanna try before you buy? Simply sign up to our newsletter and fill in the form below consenting your request for Que Bella to add you to our subscriber list. You’ll receive a surprise free sample to try. (Choose the face mask that you wish to try)

Enter Nestlé's Paralympics competition - use code 8801 to participate.

Take part in Uniball's Pen to Zen giveaway - loads of prizes up for grabs.

To redeem your £1 coupon on Carpet Fresh, just print off the coupon and take it on your next shop. Just click the coupon and print

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 24 April 2020

Book review : The Woods - Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is a huge name in the world of contemporary fiction, particularly if you are a lover of mysteries, crime fiction and thrillers. Well, that sums me up rather nicely, especially during lockdown, where I will happily while away an afternoon turning the pages and racing through to the end of my latest book. My first foray into his work was a slight let-down, as I wasn't at all impressed with the ending of Fool Me Once, even if I had loved the rest of the book, but I gave him another chance in Long Lost and could finally understand why he is so popular. (Click through to read those reviews.)

The Woods is, therefore, the third of his books that I have read and this time, it's a stand-alone thriller. This is refreshing if you like to pick your latest read without obsessing over whether it fits into a series and worrying about lacking vital information that you may have missed in previous episodes (something which happens way too often to my liking).

The central character Paul Copeland is balancing being a dad with fulfilling his professional role as a prosecutor. His wife passed away a few years earlier and, luckily for him, he can count on his sister-in-law and her husband to help look after his daughter. That's not the only tough thing he's had to deal with in his life though. When he was a teenager camp counsellor at a summer camp, enjoying some one-on-one time with his girlfriend in the woods, their moment of intimacy was destroyed by a scream - a scream highlighting a murderous spree that left two people dead and two, including Paul's sister, missing.

As Paul is watching his daughter doing a gymnastics show at school, he is pulled aside by two policemen - they have a murder victim on their hands, who had various documents about Paul and the camp in his pockets. When Paul clears his name, proving he isn't a suspect, he looks at the body and is shocked to see a scar, revealing that the corpse belongs to one of the missing victims of that night. If this is indeed Gil Perez, as he believes, how could he have still been alive and does this mean that his sister survived that night too? Gil's parents refuse to identify the body as that of their son, but he is sure.

In the meantime, a college professor, Lucy Gold - the daughter of the camp's owner and Paul's girlfriend all that time ago - is shocked when one of her students hands in an anonymous piece of work, detailing what went on that night. Why is this being brought up again? Is she in danger?

Eventually, Paul gets in touch with her and the pair come together again, desperate to work out what really went on that night and why it is all coming back to haunt them. Paul becomes convinced that his sister is still out there somewhere and is obsessed with finding out the truth, whatever it takes.

It's a fast-paced, exciting read with more than a few twists and surprises up its sleeve. While this is the main storyline, there is also the current case that Paul is working on, featuring a young stripper accusing two college boys at a frat party of rape. Watching the scenes play out in court is equally tense and the consequences are far-reaching for all concerned. This is just the kind of compelling, gripping work that explains why Harlan Coben is such a big hit.

star rating : 4.5/5

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (19 Jun. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781409150565
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409150565
  • ASIN: 1409150569

Thursday 23 April 2020

Madhouse recipe : Yellow Rice with Chicken & Beans

Absolutely perfect for cooking in lockdown, this is a dish that can be tweaked to use up whatever you have in the cupboards and the fridge. You'll need rice, a bit of turmeric if you want a vibrant yellow colour, then whatever vegetables, tins of beans and meat leftovers you have. It actually tasted really good and the kids wolfed it down !

 Yellow Rice with Chicken & Beans

ingredients :

a splash of olive oil
1 onion
1tsp turmeric
half a red pepper
any leftover cooked meat (sausage, chorizo, chicken, beef, pork ... whatever you have)
a tin of red kidney beans (or I used mixed beans)
salt, pepper
1tsp chilli or paprika (optional)

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or saucepan. If using raw meat, chop it up and fry it off then reserve on a plate. Fry the onion and red pepper (I left out the red pepper as we'd run out) on a medium heat for about five minutes, stirring from time to time, until they soften.

Add the rice to the pan (for a family of three plus leftovers, I poured in enough to cover the bottom of the pan by about 2cm) and continue to cook, stirring frequently for 1 minute.

Add boiling water to the rice (enough to cover the rice by about 2-3cm) and stir in 1tsp of turmeric, plus the salt and pepper. Don't worry if you haven't got any turmeric - it just gives it a lovely yellow colour. You could opt for chilli, paprika or any other spices you may have instead. Stir and cook for 8 minutes (depending on the cooking time given on the box of rice).

Stir in the beans and the cooked meat. 

Continue to cook for about five minutes, until the water is completely absorbed and the rice is cooked. (If the rice is still a bit hard, turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan (or a plate over the top, if you haven't got a lid). Leave to sit for 5 minutes then stir.)

This is a great dish for using up leftovers. As well as being perfect with a variety of meats, you could even stir through any leftover cooked veggies - I think broccoli, spinach, peas, cauliflower and carrots, among other things, would work well with this. Feel free to have a rummage through your spice rack too - you could go for Italian seasoning (in which case, leave out the turmeric maybe), BBQ seasoning or add extra chilli/paprika if you want some extra zing in there !

Adding to the #KitchenClearout linky - come on over and see what you can make with your leftovers ! Feel free to link up your own recipes.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

April 2020 Degustabox review : UK vs International

"Mum, I'm hungry" ... "Mum, have we got any sweets?" ... "Mum, what time's dinner?" ... I bet I'm not the only one who has this going on all day long as my lockdown soundtrack ! We've been baking lots but, even so, the arrival of a new Degustabox and its potential contents involving snacks and sweet treats was a cause for much excitement !

We unpacked everything and the kids quickly took stock of what they wanted to devour instantly - crisps, chocolate and biscuits, obviously ! This month's box has an intriguing "UK vs International" theme, offering a mix of classic British treats and some interesting international products to try. Here's what was inside.

The first product that we pulled out was a pair of Brynmor Flapjacks (RRP 2 x £1.29), lovingly baked in the heart of the Welsh countryside. They promise to have the perfect balance of health benefits and, all importantly, great taste. The Apple & Raspberry bar got the thumbs up, with the sweetness of the apple perfectly offsetting the sharp tanginess of the raspberries, but our favourite was the Caramel Fudge flavour. Delicious ! These are great as fuel for outdoor adventures, but, if you're stuck on the settee during confinement, be aware that each 80g bar contains 16.1/18.4g of fat, 21.4/25.9g of sugar and 349/369 calories (depending on which flavour you go for) !

Growers Garden Broccoli Crisps (RRP £1.99) are a product that we remember fondly from a past Degustabox, back in October 2019. Finding a forgotten bag in the cupboard, I recently used these as a topping for Crunchy-Creamy Chicken, which was great as a "confinement special", using whatever we had in the cupboards ! Made from 'wonky veg',  they are gluten free, low in saturated fats, a source of fibre and vegan. The kids love the sour cream and chive flavour and, if I put them in a bowl, they aren't put off by the fact that they contain 27% fresh broccoli !

Percy's Chocolate Shortbread Sticks (RRP £3) are made of delicious buttery shortbread, coated in caramel chocolate, then, if that wasn't already decadent enough, topped with hand-spun dark chocolate. Yes, they are as delicious as they sound ! I'd never tried Percy's products before, but they have generations of experience behind them, so I definitely need to investigate !

Ahh, these are my favourites - with an extra surprise hiding inside : Terry's Chocolate Orange Minis Exploding Candy (RRP £4 with a Terry's Chocolate Orange Easter egg). I love Chocolate Oranges and, as far as I'm concerned, you still can't get better than the original ball-shaped chocolate that needs tapping to release the segments. That is usually reserved as a special Christmas treat though, so these are great for random snacking ! The mini milk chocolate segments are flavoured with real orange oil, which is where their superb taste comes from. The kids love the fizz, crackle 'n bang fun of the popping candy pieces too.

Very Lazy Ginger Paste and Very Lazy Lemongrass Paste (RRP 2 x £1.85) are perfect for saving  on preparation time or adding a quick squeeze of flavour to a stir-fry or sauce. While lemongrass is perfect for creating Pho and Thai curries, it can also be used in cocktails for a refreshing twist. (As a rough guide, 1 teaspoon is equal to half a stalk of lemongrass.) Ginger can be used to boost stir-frys, curries, marinades, smoothies and so much more. (For recipes, visit They're really convenient and avoid the annoying moment when you realise you're lacking a vital ingredient when cooking an exotic recipe from scratch.

Well, that's it for the UK selection ... on to the International options ! Sxollie (RRP £1.80) is an award-winning range of craft ciders from South Africa. They explain that the word, pronounced Sko-llie, means: 1. [Sociology] term used for a hustler 2. [Composition] single varietal cider 3. [Fact] best cider out of Africa ! They produce Golden Delicious cider, Granny Smith cider and - the one in the Degustabox - Cripps Pink cider. The apples are sourced directly from the Elgin Valley in South Africa and they produce a light, easy-to-drink, very tasty cider that is perfect for sipping as you watch the sun go down.

Remedy Kombucha drinks (2 x RRP £1.85) are healthy soft drinks, made by naturally
fermenting sweet tea with a live culture. The result is a sparkling drink that contains live cultures, tea polyphenols, organic acids and no sugar, naturally! There are two flavours in the box - Raspberry Lemonade and Cherry Plum - which both sound delicious, but I have passed them on to Sophie, as she loves these kinds of drinks. She really enjoyed them and loved the sweet but slightly sour taste that they offer.

Tilda Peri Peri Basmati Rice (RRP £1.59) is great as a quick option for dinner - just rip open the sachet and shove it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Couldn't be simpler ! This rice has a vibrant flavour so can be enjoyed with grilled meat, fish or maybe stuffed into peppers for a veggie option. It combines bird's eye chilli heat with green and red peppers, sweet tomato, garlic, smoky paprika, oregano and a squeeze of zesty lemon. It is gluten free, suitable for vegetarians and vegans and contains no artificial flavourings, colours or preservatives. I love having a couple of sachets of Tilda rice in the cupboard for those days when you need something on the table with zero effort and next-to-no time.

Peppadew Sweet Piquanté Peppers (RRP £3) start off with a sweet flavour, which soon gives way to a burst of heat. I love stirring a spoonful into tomato-based pasta dishes or adding them to pizzas for an extra burst of flavour. They can also be used in salads, wraps, soups, burgers, sandwiches ... whatever needs a little kick added to it ! The kids tell me they're lovely stirred into mashed potato too - well, why not ?!

This month's recipe cards are for Rustic Pizza with Chicken, Mozzarella, Red Onion & Peppadew Sweet Piquanté Peppers or Very Lazy Lemongrass Mojito, which both sound perfect for a chilled out evening. As I said last month, I'm loving receiving a box of extras in these times of confinement, when we are tending to reduce our shopping needs to the strict minimum. 

 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. With all the current problems involving in trying to get your hands on some shopping, this would be a great time to sign up for a home delivery.

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 21 April 2020

Book review : Wild Dog - Serge Joncour

Wild Dog is a new release from Gallic Press, written in French by Serge Joncour and translated by Jane Aitken and Polly Makintosh - they get a special mention as they have done such a fantastic job. You actually forget, when reading, that this is a translation, as it flows so beautifully. You're probably not familiar with the name Serge Joncour - I certainly wasn't anyway - but, even if this is his first work to be translated into English, he has published fifteen novels and collections of short stories, winning several awards along the way. Wild Dog won the Prix Landerneau des Lecteurs and the Prix du Roman d'Ecologie in 2018. That's not his only talent though, as he is also a screenwriter, having written most notably the screenplay for Sarah's Key, which starred Kristin Scott Thomas and was released in 2011, becoming the most successful foreign film of the year in the US.

Wild Dog tells the story - or two stories, in fact, separated by just over a hundred years - of a secluded house, perched high up on a hill in the Lot region of France. Parisian couple Franck and Lise have rented it for their three week summer break. While Lise, in search of peace and serenity after recently recovering from cancer, loves the fact that they are so cut off from civilisation, Franck is desperately worried to see that he has no internet or phone connection. How will he keep in touch with his treacherous work colleagues, who are probably getting up to all sorts of sneaky deals in his absence?

In alternate chapters, we catch up with the history of this sleepy village, back at the outbreak of the First World War. As the men are called away to fight, the women take over in the fields, not having any idea of when things will go back to normal. A German lion-tamer, who up until the outbreak of war had been travelling with a circus, needs a place to hide out with his animals, and he ends up living in the house at the top of the hill. The villagers can hear the lions' fearsome roars and, when several of the villagers' sheep, hidden up in the hills, begin to disappear, they fear that he is killing them to feed his lions.

Back in modern times, when Lise and Franck begin hiking in the hills, exploring their lush surroundings, they come across an enormous cage, hidden in the valley. This is obviously a relic of the lion-tamer's story. But Franck also decides that it could help him out of his current situation at work ...

It's an enjoyable read on two levels. The look back at the past is interesting, watching the inhabitants of the village head into war, having no idea of what will happen. The village is far from the front lines so, although the menace of war is always in their minds, they are more worried about day-to-day issues, such as farming and looking after the children, or even giving in to the petty jealousies that  can cause so many problems. Franck and Lise's story offers a modern viewpoint, with Franck, in particular, finding it hard to unwind. The arrival of a wild dog helps draw him into the surrounding countryside and he seems to draw on his new friend's courage and aggressiveness, taking control of his problems in a surprising way. In both stories, the lushness and opulence of the valleys between the hills, filled with animal noises that suggest that a whole different world exists just out of view, bring the two time periods together.

Definitely well worth a read !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £10.99

  • Paperback: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Gallic Books (2 April 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910477796
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910477793
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Monday 20 April 2020

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 17

Last week's menu plan worked like a dream, apart from the weekend, as I went shopping on Saturday. I bought a chicken for Sunday, instead of what we had planned, so there are leftovers to use up today. I also bought a bag of frozen potato letters and had great fun with those, as you may have seen on my #Project366 photo diary for the week ! Anything that makes us laugh is good at the moment ! Right, on to this week ... I should make it through to the end of the week without going shopping until next Monday.


lunch- leftover roast chicken to use up - I think I'll do a simple dish with pasta, chicken, tomatoes and mushrooms.

dinner- Breaded fish with rice and salad


lunch- I bought a big pack of chipolatas so I'll use half today and finish them up tomorrow. For today, just plain chipolatas with couscous and baked tomatoes.

dinner- Breaded turkey fillets, chopped up and mixed in with creamy pasta


lunch- Turkey burgers .... ahh I forgot the buns, never mind ! ... with rice & salad

dinner- The rest of the chipolatas in a sausage casserole, with mash and carrots


lunch-  Chicken goujons, probably with leftovers (mash/rice/pasta/couscous), if not with whichever one of those the kids fancy, and maybe a tin of beans

dinner- Mediterranean-style chicken drumsticks, in a chicken casserole, with rice


lunch- I have some chicken ...hmmm, let me have a rummage in the cupboard ... I still have half of the Cajun seasoning from last week, so that'll do ... ooh with macaroni cheese - haven't had that for ages

dinner - something with mince, but can't do cottage pie as I'm out of potatoes - ooh, this looks good - Chilli Cornbread Pie, with rice and salad


lunch- leftover Chilli Cornbread Pie

dinner- Pepperoni pizza


lunch- chicken cordons bleus (stuffed with ham & cheese, then breaded) with mash & carrots

dinner- baked ham with rice or whatever leftovers are in the fridge

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


Sunday 19 April 2020

Project 366 Photo Diary : Week 16

This week was our first week on holiday - yahoo ! I had loads of jobs lined up around the house (still lots more for next week too !) and, even with confinement, we had lots of fun.

Sunday 12th April - Today was Easter Sunday and I'd originally bought a few eggs that I planned on just giving to the Madhouse kids. Pierre asked if we could do an egg hunt though. Well, OK then ! I hid them all over the patio and he had fun running around finding them all. (Juliette didn't want to join in, she just wanted to eat them !) The kids had asked for an "apéro" - drinks and snacks before lunch, so think crisps, peanuts, cheese, salami, etc. Well, after all that, they weren't hungry any more, so we finished off with a quick pizza and switched our main meal to the evening ! In the afternoon, me and Pierre set out on a mission to sort out the patio, as it's our only outdoor area. We moved things around and put them back in place after they had all been blown around by the wind.

Monday - Our patio revival continued. Pierre was having great fun using the secateurs for pruning all the dead bits off the plants, mainly because they used to belong to his dad and he likes anything that makes him feel close to his memory. I was a bit worried about his fingers at first, but he was being careful - phew ! After cutting back all the dead bushy bits, it all looked much better already. We then went through the seed collection and Pierre started planting lots of things in pots - peas, salad, tomatoes and flowers mainly, I think.

Tuesday - The final day of Project Patio ! I went round sweeping up, emptied out all the leaves and twigs from the drain and found more things for Pierre to plant. We put cushions out on the seat for a nice rest and Pierre played with all the snails we'd uncovered - ewwww! 

To finish off, the patio needed a good wash (for once, it would have been good to have some rain !) so Pierre opted for the water fight version - I got to throw buckets of water at him as he brushed it all down ! I was nice and opted for hot water, so he loved it !

Wednesday - Pierre has been checking on his seeds every day but, unsurprisingly, nothing has grown yet ! I did warn him that they may not grow, as they are very old seeds, from the collection I found in the garage. Madhouse Daddy died two years ago, so I think they must be at least five years old, if not more ! I decided that, as I needed some bin bags (for an upcoming dejunk), I would head to Lidl and see if they still had some plants on offer - they did, so I managed to buy a big tomato plant, some roses and six other random flowering plants. 

Now the patio looks complete ! Pierre chilled out under the parasol for a while, while I had a tidy up in the bedroom and folded loads of laundry.

Thursday - A quiet day. I caught up with my marking (teachers are never really on holiday !), while Pierre spent some time playing Fortnite and Juliette watched more Netflix ! We finished off with a game of Scrabble, which we haven't played for ages. I think this is one of the first times we've used our Scrabble Deluxe from an old review - I'd forgotten it had a board that you can twist around for each player and proper wooden letter tiles. Very posh !

Friday - This week I was using up lots of cooking kits and seasoning sachets from the kitchen cupboards. Our favourite was Blue Dragon Street Food Teriyaki Skewers. Pierre helped threading the chicken on the skewers and smothering them in sauce and sesame seeds. They were deliciously sticky.

Saturday - A quiet day today, catching up with my blog, the laundry and reading. I started Harlan Coben's The Woods yesterday and loved it so I raced through the whole thing in two days ! I had a moment of madness while serving dinner - I think I may have laughed more than the kids ! Tee hee hee !

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