Monday, 18 October 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 43


Final week before the holidays and all I can say is thank goodness for that ! Sophie has been getting lots of Too Good To Go bags lately so this has been changing our menu plan. As well as lots of cakes and loads of bread, she's had hot dogs, a hamburger, a toasted cheese sandwich, salmon pesto pasta, a curry and rice dish and several tuna baguettes. No complaints from me !

Monday

lunch- canteen for me (leftovers for the kids)

dinner - beef bourguignon (if Sophie remembers to set off the slow cooker) with pasta

Tuesday

lunch- canteen for me

dinner- something with mince - tacos? chilli con carne? spag bol? cottage pie? I'll see what we feel like

Wednesday

lunch- pasta carbonara

dinner- creamy chicken and mushrooms with mash (I might even make it into a pie actually)

Thursday

lunch - lunch with my friends

dinner- probably leftovers

Friday

lunch- a pasta dish made by Sophie (or leftovers)

dinner - creamy coconut curry (from a jar) with chicken or pork and rice

Saturday

lunch- McDonald's or equivalent

dinner- pizza or leftovers

Sunday 

lunch- roast dinner

dinner- bacon sandwiches or leftovers

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

Katykicker

Monday, 11 October 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 42


It's been a busy week and this next week is no better. We had a parent-teacher morning on Saturday which stopped me getting my late morning lie-in (boo !) and I feel like I've been trying to catch up ever since. On Wednesday morning, I have to go in on my day off (another lie-in that I won't get - I'm fed up of 6.15am alarms !) to supervise a cross-country run. Hopefully it won't rain as I have to go to a work lunch straight after. The next day, I'm signed up for two training days so in the morning, I have a meeting/workshop about the Norway critical thinking collaboration, then in the afternoon, I have to catch up on the bullying workshop that I missed in the morning and join in on the afternoon session. As if that's not enough, I have Pierre's parent-teacher evening after work. I can tell I'll be a zombie by the end of the week so I need some simple dinners this week !

Monday

lunch- canteen for me (leftovers for the kids)

dinner - creamy pork with rice

Tuesday

lunch- canteen for me

dinner- chicken, red pepper & tomato pasta bake

Wednesday

lunch- lunch with the Norway team

dinner- baked ham with mac & cheese (didn't get made last week)

Thursday

lunch - quick lunch somewhere between meetings (sandwich?)

dinner- quick meal needed after parent-teacher evening - pasta carbonara should do it

Friday

lunch- leftovers or a Sophie special (I'm guessing cherry tomato and cheese pasta)

dinner - beefburgers, couscous & ratatouille

Saturday

lunch- McDonald's or equivalent

dinner- pizza or tartiflette (stinky baked cheese on baked potatoes and onions) - the kids can choose

Sunday 

lunch- roast dinner

dinner- bacon sandwiches or leftovers

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

Katykicker

Book review : Primary Obsessions - Charles Demers


Primary Obsessions is a great new read by Charles Demers that combines two intriguing elements - mental health issues and a quest for the truth. The opening premise seems quite believable. Sanjay is a young patient, suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, who is arrested for the brutal murder of his roommate. At first sight, this is logical. Sanjay is subject to repeated thoughts of a violent nature so he is the prime suspect for the crime. The police are happy to have solved the case so quickly and all is well and good.

Except for Dr Annick Boudreau, the doctor that deals with Sanjay and other tortured souls in her psychiatric practice at the West Coast Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Clinic. She is shocked by the arrest and doesn't believe that Sanjay is capable of the crime. He is horrified by his violent thoughts and she is convinced that he would be incapable of acting them out in real life. The police and prosecutor are unwilling to help and Dr Boudreau is reined in by the doctor-patient confidentiality rules that prevent her from speaking out on his behalf. She can't get let it go though and sets out to investigate the case under her own steam.

The author, Charles Demers, is one of Canada’s top stand-up comics and, all importantly, a longtime Cognitive Behavioural Therapy patient and his insight into the largely unknown (to me, at least) work of psychiatric practises is fascinating. I also enjoyed learning more about the intriguing city of Vancouver (even if this novel principally reveals its darker, seedier side) and the enchanting mix of cultures and heritage - Dr Boudreau is Acadian, her boyfriend is Chinese, her patient Indian and her partner at work  "one hundred percent of the Jamaican-Canadian Zen Buddhist community in Vancouver". Is that even a thing ?!

This book is the first in a series of mysteries, with each new title uncovering a different aspect of psychiatric care. The next book, Suicidal Thoughts, will be released by Legend Press in 2022. I'm looking forward to following the further adventures of the witty, feisty and unrelenting Dr Boudreau.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Legend Press (15 Sept. 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1800310013
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1800310018



Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.


Sunday, 10 October 2021

September 2021 Degustabox review : Family Sharing


Before we'd even started unpacking this month's Degustabox, the kids were already hovering behind me oohing and aahing in appreciation ! You can see why when you look at my first sneaky peek here - yes, I can see what they've got their eyes on too ! I giggled when I saw the theme of the box - Family Sharing. Hmm, I wonder how much of this month's contents will actually be shared. I bet I don't manage to get my hands on much !


The first product that was instantly munched was this pack of Brioche Pasquier Brioche Rolls with Chocolate Chips (RRP £1.50). The kids love the beautifully soft brioche and the generous quantity of dark chocolate chips in each bun. They're perfect for breakfast or an after-school snack when they get home ravenous.

Compal Orange Algarve (RRP £1.99) is another great breakfast option. Made using fruit from the Algarve, with its long hours of sunshine and high quality soil, it has a great flavour and level of sweetness. This is available in Portuguese stores and at delicias-uk.com


Carr's Ciabatta Original (RRP £1.59) are Italian-inspired oven-baked crackers that can be topped with all sorts of sweet or savoury toppings. The kids have been eating them with pâté, cheese and tomatoes or tuna, as well as chocolate spread, peanut butter and jam. They are as tasty and convenient as they are versatile.


Eat Real Tomato & Basil Hummus Chips (RRP £1.80) are this month's Product of the Month. Eat Real are on a mission to bring delicious snacks made with honest ingredients that never compromise. Their slogan is "real ingredients, real crunch, real taste". These crunchy snacks are surprisingly tasty and they are better for you than similar products, with 40% less fat. The little boat shape is perfect for scooping up salsa or guacamole but they are also very tasty on their own.

One of the Madhouse kids' favourite snacks from their time in France, Prince Chocolate and White Chocolate (RRP 2 x £1) are tasty, crunchy biscuits sandwiched together with a chocolatey filling. A couple of these biscuits with a glass of orange juice is all that is needed for a quick afternoon snack. They're even suitable for vegetarians.


Santa Maria Fajita and Chicken Taco Seasoning Mixes (RRP 2 x £1.05) are perfect for rustling up a tasty lunch in a matter of minutes that the whole family will enjoy. The Fajita mix, which includes a blend of chilli pepper, cumin, paprika and oregano, makes a regular appearance on our menu plan. The Chicken Taco mix was a new one though and was much enjoyed. The flavours of oregano, mild chilli, garlic and cumin are not overly spicy so it was well received. Add fajitas or taco shells, guacamole, tomato salsa, grated cheese, sweetcorn and salad to the table and let everyone serve themselves in a Tex Mex fiesta ! 


Kelly Loves Katsuo Udon (RRP £2.90) looks like an interesting snack or lunch option. It offers an authentic Korean Katsuo broth with a generous portion of Udon noodles and dried bonito flakes as a topping to bring extra umami. Erm, I only understand about half of that but it sounds like some great new flavours to try out ! Even better, the product is low in fat & sugar. Available in Sushi Daily kiosks at Waitrose and ASDA.

Sumol Passion Fruit (RRP 99p) is a refreshing, lightly carbonated drink that contains the juice and pulp of passion fruit. It's a lovely zingy flavour that we all enjoyed. While we've never tried it before, the brand has been around since 1954. Also available in orange and pineapple flavours. Available in Portuguese stores and at delicias-uk.com


McVitie's Jaffa Jonuts (RRP 50p) are a new twist on the old favourite Jaffa Cakes. A soft donut-shaped sponge base, tangy orange filling and crackly chocolate topping. Each ring contains 167 calories so they're not bad as a fun snack for the kids. Individually wrapped, they are available in multipacks.


Nature's Heart Almond, Peanut & Double Choc Protein Bar (RRP £1.59) contains 10g of plant protein, "powered by pea and nuts". The bar is a combination of crunchy almonds and peanuts, covered in quality dark chocolate from certified sustainable cocoa. Each bar is gluten free, suitable for vegetarians and high in fibre. The perfect snack to keep you going during a busy day ... or just to nibble on when you fancy a tasty treat !


Toffifee (RRP £1.43 for a pack of 12) are one of those sweets that I've known about for years (decades, in fact !) but have never actually tasted. Well, now that I have, we'll be having them again as they're delicious and not even expensive. You get a crunchy hazelnut in a delicious caramel shell, smooth hazelnut spread, plus a drop of rich chocolate. Utterly delicious !


There was also a voucher for a Richmond Frozen Family Meal (RRP £4), available at ASDA, Morrisons and Iceland, that I haven't managed to use yet. These meals serve four people and sound perfect for a midweek meal when I get in late from work. You have the choice of Tomato and Sausage Pasta or Sausage Hotpot, both of which sound appealing to both kids and adults.

 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 - that's an even bigger discount than usual ! Just 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.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 41


From one day to the next, we've gone from summer weather (going to work in a T-shirt and denim jacket) to winter weather (T-shirt, hoodie and big winter jacket). It's currently blowing a gale outside, it's been raining non stop all day and the heating has just come on for the first time since the summer. It's my fault - I got the slow cooker out last week and we enjoyed tasty, comforting stews ! Oh well, more winter food on the way then, I guess !

Monday

lunch- canteen for me (leftovers for the kids)

dinner - leftover roast chicken, potatoes & veg in gravy (or possibly soup, if everyone prefers that - made with the same ingredients, either way !)

Tuesday

lunch- canteen for me

dinner- pork chops in a cream sauce, rice & veg

Wednesday

lunch- chicken burgers with ebly  & ratatouille

dinner- pork curry & rice

Thursday

lunch - meeting up with friends

dinner- chicken tacos

Friday

lunch- leftovers once I get home from school

dinner - baked ham with mac & cheese

Saturday

lunch- McDonald's or equivalent

dinner- pasta and hot dog sausages (Juliette asked me to recreate a meal I once made when they were little - chop hot dog sausages into chunks and push lengths of spaghetti right through, leaving long threads sticking out of each end, then cook for 5-10 minutes (depending on the pasta). It'll need some sauce to liven it up !

Sunday 

lunch- roast dinner

dinner- bacon sandwiches

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

Katykicker

Monday, 27 September 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 40


It seemed like a really busy week, probably because I gave up my Friday afternoon off to go and watch my trainee teacher in her lessons then talk through everything, plus I had an online meeting on Thursday afternoon too. This week, I'm in an online meeting/training session all of Tuesday morning. It should be an interesting project though, working against bullying. I just want a few normal weeks with no extras to get into routine ! Here's this week's plan.

Monday

lunch- canteen for me

dinner - sausage and lentil stew with ebly

Tuesday

lunch- canteen for me

dinner- chicken curry with rice

Wednesday

lunch- ribs with baked potatoes and coleslaw

dinner- beef bourguigon with mash and carrots

Thursday

lunch - possibly lunch in a restaurant with friends

dinner- chicken burgers, chips and coleslaw

Friday

lunch- gyros chicken with rice

dinner - veal stew with pasta

Saturday

lunch- McDonald's, kebab or fried chicken, probably

dinner- tartiflette (potatoes, onions, bacon and stinky cheese, baked in the oven)

Sunday 

lunch- roast dinner

dinner- bacon sandwiches

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

Katykicker

Monday, 20 September 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 39


Everything went down well last week. The mango chicken and noodle salad (which is actually a hot meal so I wouldn't have called it a salad) was popular, the chicken dishes went down well and the minced beef pies were as popular as they were the first time I made them. All in all, a great week for meals ! I've worked out that on Thursdays, I have a long day at school (until 5.30pm) and I'm too tired to cook anything complicated once I get home so I'll be planning on using up leftovers or quick dishes (or convincing Sophie to cook !) from now on. Here's this week's plan. There seems to be a lot of pork this week, because we cleared out the reduced meat section at the supermarket !

Monday

lunch- canteen for me

dinner - pork lomo with mash and coleslaw

Tuesday

lunch- canteen for me

dinner- pork stew with rice

Wednesday

lunch- baked potatoes with bacon/bean stew

dinner- chicken fajitas

Thursday

lunch - sandwiches (or leftovers)


Friday

lunch- leftovers

dinner - spicy pork belly with rice and coleslaw

Saturday

lunch- McDonald's or kebab

dinner- leftovers

Sunday 

lunch- roast chicken, roast potatoes, gravy & veg

dinner- fridge diving !

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

Katykicker

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Book review : The Ghostlights - Gráinne Murphy

 

Last year, I reviewed Gráinne Murphy's debut novel, Where The Edge Is. (Click through for that review.) Her new book, The Ghostlights, has already been listed as one of the Irish Times Best Books of 2021, so I was keen to see what I'd think when my review copy turned up.

The story begins with an elderly gentleman booking into a B&B in a small village in rural Ireland. Nobody knows him and nobody even notices him, until his body turns up in a lake four days later. Who was he? What happened to him? If you're thinking to yourself "ahh, that's the typical start to a work of fiction, that would never happen in real life !", it did. In Co. Sligo in 2009. I love it when a book is inspired by something that happened in real life.

The women running the family B&B where the ill-fated guest was staying take over as the main characters. The timescale moves back a few days so we see the man paying for his room, then we are introduced to the trio of women. Liv is a single mum to her teenage son, Shay, and I instantly fell in love with her as she timidly steps around him, savouring the brief exchanges when he lifts his head away from his social media accounts. (You can tell I'm the mother of teenage children - I could relate to her instantly !) Her twin sister Marianne has just arrived home, supposedly taking her annual leave from work, but Liv is sure there's more to it. Their mother Ethel keeps things running smoothly but does like a drink (or three !). 

I loved seeing the women interact with each other, with each character taking the narrative reins in successive chapters. As their stories unfold, we discover that they all feel trapped by their pasts and the difficult choices that they have made. They love each other dearly but have a complicated and complex relationship, full of resentment and frustration with each other, which really rings true. 

Following the guest's suicide, each of the women takes a sharp look at who they are, how they came to be that person and how they can move on. Despite dealing with some dark emotions, the book remains uplifting, putting the spotlight on the value of close family bonds and friendship.

I really enjoyed the local setting with its powerful background of religion, superstition and folk tales. The shocked cries of "Jesus Christ tonight!", for example, really reminded me of my childhood days playing with the Irish children next door and left me grinning, as did the constant black humour and witty replies of the sisters.

It's an enjoyable read, which I loved coming home to after a long day at work. There are deep questions within that will have you thinking long after you've turned the final page.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Legend Press (1 Sept. 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 272 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 180031941X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1800319417
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 12.9 x 19.81 cm

 
 Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Monday, 13 September 2021

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


We're pretty much back into routine and it all seems to be going quite well so far. Weather-wise, it's really hot and humid, so I think I'll stick to summer-type recipes for a while. The winter warmers can hang on for a bit ! Everything from last week worked really well. Pierre absolutely loved the chorizo and bean stew and it's so simple, I've told him he can make it all by himself for lunch, if he likes. The Southern-style chicken was a big hit too and it's convinced me that the kids are ready for me to start adding more spice to the meals - sounds good to me ! Here's this week's plan.

Monday

lunch- canteen for me

dinner - creamy mushrooms and chicken with colcannon mash (I'll use leeks instead of cabbage) and peas

Tuesday

lunch- canteen for me


Wednesday

lunch- BBQ minced beef pies with mash & veg


Thursday

lunchcanteen for me - leftovers for the kids

dinner- chicken fajitas

Friday

lunch- tomato, pepper and courgette tart (a Sophie invention that she will make while I'm at work !) with salad

dinner - slow cooker BBQ beef with rice and homemade coleslaw

Saturday

lunch- McDonald's, probably

dinner- cauliflower cheese for me and Juliette, pasta bake for Pierre and Sophie

Sunday 

lunch- roast chicken, roast potatoes, stuffing and veg


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

Katykicker

Saturday, 11 September 2021

August 2021 Degustabox review : Back To School & On The Go


A few weeks ago, the postie dropped off our August Degustabox. How can that only be a few weeks ago? It seems like months have passed by, what with days out, catching up with family and going back to school ! It really was just a few short weeks ago though and now, we're back into long school days and piles of homework to work through - awww ! Luckily, last month's Degustabox was packed with treats to keep smiles on everyone's faces !


Here's the contents of the box, laid out to give you a better idea of what was hiding inside. I could instantly spot things for family meals, teenage snacks and cheeky treats to share - perfect !


The first thing that we pulled out was two packs of Lady Gaga Oreo Cookies (RRP 2 x £1.08). Now, I know all about normal Oreos - the kids regularly hoover them up while doing their homework ! - but I had no idea that Lady Gaga had got involved somewhere along the way. Juliette did though and she was all excited, until Sophie said that these are regular coloured Oreos, not the green and pink Lady Gaga ones that were released in America, because the food colours aren't allowed in Europe/the UK. I have no idea but I couldn't actually tell any difference whatsoever with regular Oreos ! They taste very nice though, with their chocolate flavour biscuit and vanilla cream filling.


Pagen Gifflar Cinnamon Rolls (RRP £1.70) are a delicious sweet treat that the kids loved munching on, for breakfast along with a glass of orange juice or just as a snack throughout the day. They are lovely and soft with a tasty swirl of cinnamon. I can definitely see us buying these again. They're available at Tesco, Asda and Ocado.

5th Season Freeze-Dried Sensational Strawberries (RRP £1.50) were another big hit with the kids. Each pack contains 80g of fruit and nothing is added - no hidden nasties whatsoever. The soft, crunchy texture that melts in your mouth and the rich strawberry flavour give you the impression that you're nibbling on something decadent but the whole pack only contains 30 calories. Available at Sainsbury's, The Good Club, Mighty Small, Amazon and on https://5thseasonfruit.com.


Cirio Pasta Sauce Ragùs (RRP £2) are perfect when you get in late from work and need a simple but great tasting meal that can be on the table in minutes. We got the Mushrooms & Sausage variety, but other options are Beef, Pork & White Wine or Pancetta, Mushrooms & Grilled Peppers. The rustic style sauces are made with 100% Italian meat and tomatoes plus extra virgin olive oil. I usually like to add extra fresh vegetables, such as onions, peppers and mushrooms, to jars of pasta sauce, but this really didn't need it. Even the kids approved ! Available in Ocado.

Skippy Choc Chip Swirl Peanut Butter (RRP £2.65) is, just as the name suggests, a smooth, creamy peanut butter, swirled with lots of melted chocolate pieces. I have to admit, I wasn't sure about this combination but Pierre has been slathering it on bread and toast and gobbling it up in record time ! We'll definitely be buying this again, as the current jar has almost all gone ! Available at Morrisons and on Ocado.


Virtue Clean Energy Drink (RRP £1.50) is a healthier version of an energy drink. We got the Lemon & Lime flavour, while other Degustaboxers got Berries. It contains zero sugar and zero calories and is made with all natural ingredients. It offers the same amount of caffeine (80mg) as the leading energy drinks or coffee and the natural energy is sourced from green coffee beans. I passed this on to Sophie, who said it was very nice.

Knorr Zero Salt Veggie Stock Cubes (RRP £1.49) is part of a new range of products that have been awarded the prestigious Netmums Recommended Accreditation, with 93% of testers saying that they'd recommend them to friends and family. The range, which includes Chicken and Beef flavours, is the first zero salt option available. They're great for adding depth of flavour to casseroles, sauces and soups and you really don't notice the lack of salt.


Up & Go Banana & Honey Breakfast Drinks (RRP £1 for a single unit, £2.75 for a multipack of 3) are perfect for breakfast on the go when you're running late or for sticking in the kids' school bags when they can't face eating before heading out of the door. Each carton is made with milk and oats, is high in protein, fibre and calcium and has the same sugar content as a glass of semi-skimmed milk. If you don't like banana flavour (personally, I don't, but the kids did !), there is also a chocolate variety. Available at Tesco, Morrisons and on Ocado, currently only as a multipack.

 

Nescafé Gold Iced Salted Caramel Latte (RRP £2.98) is this month's Product of the Month and it is the perfect drink to enjoy during the current heatwave (in September ?! It's even hotter than back in August !) Just add cold water and ice then settle down to enjoy a deliciously milky drink with a hint of salted caramel flavour and velvety froth. I'm not a coffee fan but Sophie thinks they're delicious.

Shreddies "The Simple One" (RRP £2.50) is a cereal option that contains less than 5% sugar and is made with just four simple ingredients : whole grain wheat, sweetened with banana puree and date syrup, along with a pinch of salt. I hate all the overly sweet cereal options so this makes a nice change, although I do like to throw in some fresh fruit or yogurt to jazz things up a bit. 


Tweek Sour Supreme (RRP £1.99) are, as it says on the pack, "sweets with benefits". They contain 95% less sugar, are high in fibre, provide 45% less calories and are made with natural flavours and colours. Nevertheless, they taste just as good as regular sweets and the kids gobbled them up !

Clif Bar (RRP 75p for the 28g bar, £1.69 for the 68g bar) is described as the ultimate energy bar designed for active lifestyles that incorporates plant-based ingredients from sustainable sources. We got two flavours, out of the six available - White Chocolate Macadamia and Crunchy Peanut Butter. Both got a big thumbs up in terms of flavour and also for being good for the planet.

There are several brands in this month's box that we'll definitely be throwing in our trolley on a semi-regular basis !

 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 £9.99 - 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, 7 September 2021

Missing travel? Forget your passport, grab a book ! (review)

Did you manage to get away on holiday this year? We visited family in the UK and went on a mini adventure in Belgium, but that was it. No big trips planned for us again, as, even though we're all double vaccinated, I just didn't feel at ease with travelling to exotic, far-flung places. I do miss it though - seeing new places, meeting new people, tasting exotic dishes and discovering things that are completely different to anything we find at home. Luckily, publishers Cranthorpe Millner came to the rescue and sent me some fabulous books that gave me the travel experiences without leaving the comfort of my favourite armchair !


My first read was Secret Lands, Petrol Clams and a Bagful of Bolivar by Sharon Cracknell, author of the fabulously-named previous book, Pringles, Visas and a Glow in the Dark Jesus. The titles tell you everything you need to know about her writing style - she's full of exciting travel stories about off-the-wall places that cannot fail to make you laugh. You know all those things that go wrong on holiday but you say, "Ah well, at least we'll remember this and get a good story out of it" ? Well, imagine that to the power of a hundred and you'll have a good idea of what to expect in Sharon's writing !

I love the way the book instantly had me googling things before I'd even turned to the first page. I'd never heard of bolivar so I was intrigued to find out what it referred to. A quick google search revealed that it is the currency in Venezuela. Aha ! Sure enough, stories are revealed about Sharon quaking at the airport as her bag stuffed with illegal banknotes goes through a Venezuelan airport scanner. And petrol clams? Well, yes, google had the answer again. It's a traditional North Korean way of preparing clams on a barbecue by dousing them in petrol then setting them on fire. Sounds crazy ... and probably tastes crazy too !

Even those places that are not so far off the beaten track are revealed in new ways. Whilst giggling at Sharon's tales of dodging epic farty-pants on a hike up Mount Toubkal, I was surprised to learn that this is in Morocco, a country I've been to. It's also the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains. How had I never even heard of it ?!

This is the beauty of the book. As well as being an enjoyable read, it is an educational and informative one. Sharon goes to places that most people, even those who enjoy travelling, will never go to. Ethiopia, Cuba, Columbia, North Korea, Tanzania, ...  even Kyrgyzstan, that I'd never even heard of !


The next book that I discovered was Because Japan by Ash Watson. The tone is quite similar and frequently had me chuckling as I raced through the pages. It focuses on the time that author Ash Watson spent in Japan, in particular the two years he lived in Tokyo, working in a private high school. Japan is a country that is frequently shown on TV and in magazine articles, but here, you get the real deal - what life is like behind the scenes in Japan, through the eyes of an expat. The Journal of Firsts, kept by Ash during his time there, to record all the weird and wonderful experiences along the way, became the basis for his book. It's an interesting and intriguing collection of memories, covering everything from the ultra modern (Pokemon Go) to the ancient and symbolic (Mount Fuji). 

While the tales of culture shock are perfectly predictable, the author also faces bigger issues involving mental health, racial discrimination and sexual orientation. While developing a new understanding of the country around him, the author looks deep within himself and grows as a person. That sounds very serious though, whereas the main thing I brought away from this book was a bagful of belly laughs !


The Banana Road by Andrea Montgomery is subtitled It's Tenerife But Not As You Know It. Well, that's not complicated for me as I've never been to Tenerife, but we did take a family trip to another of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote, a few years ago. I had some misgivings about going before we left and, I must admit, when we arrived, I was put off by all the cafes selling full English breakfasts and English-speaking bars which just seemed like any random British seaside town with a bit more sunshine. However, we hired a car and travelled further afield, giving us an insight into what life was really like away from the touristy areas. This is what the author does, telling the story of her time in Tenerife, getting to know the locals (humans and animals !) and really discovering how the locals live.

Along with her husband Jack, she set off from Manchester to discover a new life in the north of the island, in a little house surrounded by banana plantations and a pitch 'n' putt golf course. The people that they come into contact with are so weird and wonderful (with the accent on weird !) that it is sometimes hard to remember that this all really happened ! As well as providing a great deal of humour and an insight into what life is like on the other side, so to speak, we also get to see what happens when things start to go wrong. This book constantly had me reading just one more chapter before turning off the light, even when it was already way past my bedtime, because I wanted to see what would happen to the couple and their dreams of a new life in an exotic location. I'd love to catch up with their story and see what happens next !

for more information : www.cranthorpemillner.com/


Disclosure : I received review copies of the books, n order to share my honest opinion.

Sunday, 5 September 2021

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


We went back to school at the end of last week and, while Pierre and Juliette are both a bit underwhelmed at the moment, I'm actually quite pleased with my timetable this year. I have Wednesday off and Friday afternoon off so I will be a lady of leisure ! Well, hopefully it'll all be a bit less manic than the last couple of years anyway ! Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, I'll be at the school canteen so the kids will be fending for themselves. I'll make a rough plan but it's up to them what they eat. (I can see Sophie taking over on cooking when I'm not there.)

Monday

lunch- canteen for me - leftover roast chicken & potatoes for those at home

dinner - meatballs and pasta (with onions, red pepper, mushrooms)

Tuesday

lunch- canteen for me, the kids can sort themselves out (leftovers or sandwiches probably)

dinner- baked potatoes with chorizo and bean stew

Wednesday

lunch- Portuguese-style pork bifana sandwiches with wedges and coleslaw

dinner- Provençal chicken (minus the aubergine as I don't like them !) with rice

Thursday

lunchcanteen for me - leftovers for the kids

dinner- spaghetti bolognese

Friday

lunch- beefburgers and couscous (with leftover coleslaw, if there is any)

dinner Baked Southern-style chicken with rice and coleslaw

Saturday

lunch- maybe a trip to McDonald's - if not, pasta carbonara

dinner- pizza

Sunday 

lunch- chicken & veg stew with gratin dauphinois (potato bake)

dinner- cheese on toast

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

Katykicker

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