Tuesday, 30 March 2021

March 2021 Degustabox review : Hello Spring


This morning, I woke up to some lovely sunshine blazing through the windows and thought aaaaahh, spring is definitely on the way ! It's amazing how a little bit of sunshine can put you in a good mood. I got up thinking about spring cleaning, planting some bulbs and seeds out on the patio, dejunking the cupboards ...  Time for new beginnings ! This month's Degustabox fits in with this shift of mentality as its theme is Hello Spring.


Unpacking this month's goodies, I instantly spotted lots of brand names that we were familiar with. I think there were only two or three that were new to us in fact, but they are all new twists on old favourites and we were all keen to try them out.


First up, we discovered this pack of Apple & Raspberry Brynmor Flapjacks (RRP £2 - other subscribers got Caramel Fudge or Dark Chocolate & Ginger flavour). We've tried other flavours from this range in previous Degustaboxes and loved them and these ones didn't disappoint. They are vegan friendly, high in fibre and lovingly baked in Wales. As they are made with high quality, natural ingredients, they feel like a definite "not so guilty" treat ! Yum !

Esprala Apple & Red Plum (RRP £1.09) is a lightly sparkling fruit drink with guarana and green tea. It contains no added sugar and only 43 calories per serving. It's a pleasant, refreshing taste, perfect fresh out of the fridge on a warm day. Rumour has it, it's great as a gin cocktail mixer too ! Available on amazon.

 

The kids always love to try out new cereal brands so they were delighted to find a box of Organic Honey & Choc Cheerios (RRP £3). I wasn't sure about the combination of the two flavours, but it does work and the kids loved them. This product marks the brand's entrance into the UK organic market. It is a certified organic cereal made using organic honey hoops from five organically-farmed whole grains and chocolate cereal pieces. They can be enjoyed in a bowl with milk, made into cornflake cake type desserts or - as the Madhouse kids enjoyed them - straight out of the box by the handful as a snack !

Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Peanut Butter (RRP £2.50) confused me to start with - why are there so many different peanut butters with additions coming out lately?! - but closer inspection revealed that there are in fact no cornflakes in the pot, just some honey roasted peanuts in an ultra-smooth peanut butter. It tastes very nice - I think the honey on the peanuts adds some extra sweetness - and I, as a crunchy peanut butter lover, thought the texture was very nice. Great on toast, in sandwiches or even baked into cookies and muffins. Available at Sainsbury's, Iceland, Morrisons, One Stop and periodically at Aldi.


Enervit The Protein Deal (RRP £2.50 - subscribers received one of two bars, either Red Fruit Delight or Dark Choc) is designed as positive food for conscious and active consumers, food for people who want to keep fit & well, basically the perfect bars for mindful indulgence. The bars are low in sugar, gluten free, palm oil free and contain 20g of protein. As a snack, I think they're very expensive, but as a special treat when following a high protein diet or trying to get fit, they are a tasty treat.

 

Hippeas Chickpea Puff Snacks (RRP 99p) are a product that we have tried in previous Degustaboxes and these Salt & Vinegar Vibes didn't disappoint. They are light and crunchy with a definite salt & vinegar zing. Very tasty ! They are gluten free, vegan and come in at 91 calories per pack.

Mighty Chicken & Mushroom Mug Shot (RRP £1.49) is great as a swift and convenient lunch option at work or for the kids when they need a snack or quick meal. It is super quick to prepare - just pour in boiling water, stir and wait for five minutes - then it's good to go. It contains less than 2% fat and provides 440 calories. It's made with natural flavours and no artificial colours. When you dash home for lunch and need something fast to fill your growling stomach, it's perfect ! The great news is, you can feel super virtuous when you eat it as they have reduced the pot size while keeping the same quantity of ingredients, thereby using 50% less plastic, which is great news for the environment.


Lucozade Zero Tropical (RRP £1.49) is a sugar free pineapple and mango flavoured drink that is very tasty. I still remember the ultra sweet original Lucozade in a plastic covered, bobbly glass bottle that I would have as a child when off school sick, but this is a much lighter, more refreshing option. They have even made the bottle fully recyclable now too for some extra bonus points !

Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar (RRP £1.29) were welcome additions to the kitchen cupboard. Filippo Berio has been creating the finest oils since 1867 and the brand's ongoing success is no doubt testament to the passion and dedication of Filippo Berio himself, the man who set out with a dream to make delicious olive oils worthy of his friends, his family – and his name. I know and already use the olive oil, which is great for frying meat and vegetables or drizzling over salads. The vinegar, made with specially selected Modena grapes, has a smooth, sweet flavour that works well in vinaigrette. With salad season on the way, I'm sure this will come in handy over the summer !


Mallow & Marsh Vanilla Marshmallow Bar Coated in Milk Chocolate (RRP £1.35) is a very tasty bar when you need a sweet treat. With fluffy vanilla marshmallow and a velvety smooth Belgian milk chocolate, it sounds like a match made in heaven ... and it is ! Even better, it comes in at 134 calories which is very reasonable. 

 

Maynards Bassetts Fruit Smoothie Jellies (RRP £1.32) instantly appealed to me, but I was even more keen to try them when I saw the flavours : Banana & Strawberry, Mango & Passion fruit, Pineapple & Lemon or Pomegranate & Berry. I love the originality of the flavours and these were polished off by the whole family in record time ! They contain natural colours and flavours, are made with real fruit puree and are a source of Vitamins C&E.

Smarties Milk Chocolate Sharing Block (RRP £1 - some subscribers got the Orange Smarties Sharing Block) is exactly what it sounds like - a big bar of chocolate stuffed with Smarties. What's not to like?! The kids polished this off and declared it very tasty. The paper packaging is even fully recyclable.


Finally, the kids were over the moon to discover Brioche Pasquier Pitch Bloc 'o' Choc Filled Brioche (RRP £1.40). They loved the soft, buttery brioche and the real stick of chocolate in the middle. They're perfect for breakfast or snacks any time of day. Their one complaint - there were only four in the pack and they needed more !

The kids were very happy with everything in this box and I can see us continuing to buy several of these products.

 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.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 13


For the first time in ages, this week was nice and calm. All my report filling and school meetings were done and dusted, phew ! It's just been announced that, as from this weekend, if one pupil is declared as Covid positive, the whole class will shut for a week and pupils will only be allowed back with a negative test, otherwise they have to stay off for two weeks. There's even a rumour that schools may be shut down completely from Wednesday onwards, so time will tell. We'll see what happens. I'm not overly worried as we're into the final term, so they've had most of their year in class. In other news, there was a report that the problems in the Suez canal may lead to a lack of toilet roll ! Sounds very strange but who knows - luckily I just bought some ! So, here's what's on the menu this week.

Monday

lunch- fish (or beefburger), mash & peas

dinner - chicken, veg & noodle stir fry

Tuesday

lunch- pasta carbonara

dinner- this is a bit of a "may be, may not be" dinner - I have what is supposed to be a spaghetti squash from my friend's allotment, in which case I'll serve it in something like this : Spaghetti squash with chorizo, cherry tomatoes and parmesan - but I might chop it open and discover it's not a spaghetti squash at all. We'll see ! The kids will probably turn up their noses so they can have leftover chicken stir fry

Wednesday

lunch- sausage & chips


Thursday

lunch - baked potatoes

dinner- Spanish omelettes (or leftovers for those who prefer)

Friday

lunch- I'll be at school canteen (unless schools have closed) so the kids can fend for themselves

dinner - spaghetti bolognese

Saturday

lunch- corned beef hash

dinner- pizza

Sunday 

lunch- roast dinner

dinner- toast or leftovers

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

Katykicker

Friday, 26 March 2021

Book review : The End is Where We Begin - Maria Goodin


The End Is Where We Begin must have been a very complicated book to write, as it completely lacks chronology. As you read it, you soon pick up on the structure of the book, but it threw me in the beginning as even within a chapter, paragraphs will jump about in time with no warning so it can be hard to keep track of the bigger picture. In fact, just like when you are piecing together a large, complicated puzzle, you will not get the whole picture until the very end, when you will look back at earlier events and realise how it all fits together. That said, I did soon fit into the narrative flow and really enjoyed it.

The book focuses on single father Jay Lewis, a man who is trying - and failing - to keep his life on track, with everything chugging happily along. Troubled by nightmares and flashbacks, he knows that he has to take account of events in his past that are throwing his life off kilter. If only it were that simple.

Just a few chapters in, the author mentions a tragic event that happened to Jay and his three best friends when he was just fifteen. The complete details are not revealed until the end of the book, but we understand that all the problems in his life stem from this event, as he just feels that he doesn't deserve to be happy in his life. Now aged 32, we follow his life up to this point and see the often unfortunate choices that he has made. He sets out to track down the figures from that fateful night - his ex girlfriend, his friends, ... - and to set things right.

It's an interesting story and is cleverly put together with a few surprises thrown in to keep you interested. I often smiled at Jay's parenting antics, probably recognising myself as a parent of teens ! The idea of looking back at past events that cause you pain and setting things right is heart-warming and I appreciated the fact that it was a male character (for once !) pondering on his life.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.99
 

  • Publisher : Legend Press (16 Mar. 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1789559456
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1789559453



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

Monday, 22 March 2021

Giveaway #746 : Win Zog and the Flying Doctors on DVD - closing 5/4


THE ALL-STAR BRITISH CAST RETURNS IN MAGIC LIGHT’S HEARTWARMING SEQUEL, AVAILABLE TO OWN FOR THE FIRST TIME 

 ZOG AND THE FLYING DOCTORS 

OWN IT ON DIGITAL MARCH 1, 2021 AND ON DVD MARCH 22, 2021, FROM UNIVERSAL PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Everyone’s favourite orange dragon, Zog, returns in this beloved journey perfect for the whole family. In this new adventure, Zog the dragon (Hugh Skinner), Princess Pearl (Patsy Ferran), and Sir Gadabout (Daniel Ings) have taken to the skies! No sniffly lion (Lucian Msamati) or sunburned mermaid (Alexandra Roach) will go without care whilst the flying doctors are on duty. But Princess Pearl's unconventional career path doesn't sit so well with her uncle, the king (Rob Brydon), as he thinks princesses should stay in their towers and embroider cushions all day!

 Back again to bring this joyous tale to life is a star-studded voice cast of Sir Lenny Henry (Penelope) as the narrator, Olivier award-winning Patsy Ferran (God’s Own Country), Hugh Skinner (Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again), and award-winning British comedic actor Rob Brydon (‘Gavin and Stacey’). Also lending their voices for this sequel are Daniel Ings (‘I Hate Suzie’), Alexandra Roach (The Iron Lady), Mark Bonnar (‘Catastrophe’) and Lucian Msamati (The Good Liar). 


Based on the book by formidable children’s picture book author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler, ZOG AND THE FLYING DOCTORS is directed by Sean Mullen, with animation services provided by Giant Animation, Ireland. 

BONUS FEATURES AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL & DVD:
 Behind the Scenes - A behind the scenes look at Zog and the Flying Doctors. 
Storyboarding & Designs - A featurette on the storyboarding and designs of Zog and the Flying Doctors. 
Christmas 2020 Idents - Indents from Zog and the Flying Doctors. 
Artwork Gallery - A gallery of images from Zog and the Flying Doctors.

This is the eighth Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler picture book brought to life by Oscar nominated and BAFTA award winning Magic Light Pictures, producers of The Gruffalo (2009) and The Snail and the Whale (2019). There will also be a 2-Film DVD Collection to include the original Zog available on March 22.
 


I have a copy of Zog and the Flying Doctors on DVD to give away to a Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck !


UK only. Closing date : 5/4

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.


Sunday, 21 March 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 12


Another stupidly busy week with all the end-of-term meetings for each class, but hopefully, things will calm down a bit now - phew ! We actually stuck to plan this week, probably because I planned ahead with things to throw together in minutes ! The fridge is quite full at the moment, so here's the plan for now. The end of the week might get switched around if I end up buying things that need using up quickly.

Monday

lunch- fish (beefburger or leftovers for Sophie, who doesn't like fish) with rice + leeks

dinner - beef bourguignon with mash

Tuesday

lunch- Proven├žal chicken with ebly

dinner- spaghetti bolognese

Wednesday

lunch- I'm thinking there will be enough leftovers

dinner- a request from the kids - chicken nuggets (aaaggghhh ! lol) with rice & sweetcorn (I might find some leftovers instead !)

Thursday

lunch - pork chops, boiled potatoes & veg


Friday

lunch- leftovers or sandwiches

dinner - chicken burgers, rice & veg

Saturday

lunch- tacos

dinner- Oven baked BBQ chicken with mash & veg

Sunday 

lunch- roast dinner

dinner- toast or leftovers

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

Katykicker

Monday, 15 March 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 11


Where is the time going?! I only seem to have enough time to do the weekly meal plans at the moment. The rest of the week seems to shoot by. Last week, we had to fill in all the school reports and this week it's all the after-school class meetings to discuss results, etc. We only have two year groups in each day though, so we have lots of free periods, which are great for catching up on marking. Right, on to food. Last week's plan didn't really happen ! I used all the meat and veg as planned but it ended up being quick food rather than following the recipes I'd selected. Oops ! Here's what's planned this week.

Monday

lunch- leftovers

dinner - creamy pork with pasta (+ whatever is left in the fridge - I think there are mushrooms and red pepper, oh maybe even leeks - that would work better !)

Tuesday

lunch- beefburgers, mash & veg

dinner- I'll be in a zoom meeting until late so something quick once that's finished - chicken stir fry with noodles & veg ?

Wednesday

lunch- pasta carbonara

dinner- mince & potatoes with veg

Thursday

lunch - chicken burgers, chips & salad

dinner- school meetings until late so the kids can cook something (or probably go and grab a kebab before the 6pm lockdown !)

Friday

lunch- I'll be at the school canteen - the kids can fend for themselves !

dinner - Juliette loved the chicken & Boursin in puff pastry and asked if we can have it again - well, why not ?! With rice & ratatouille

Saturday

lunch- spaghetti bolognese

dinner- gratin dauphinois (creamy potato bake) with pork chops

Sunday 

lunch- roast dinner

dinner- toast or leftovers

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

Katykicker

Sunday, 7 March 2021

Book review : The Double - Ann Gosslin


The Double is Ann Gosslin's second novel, after The Shadow Bird, which I read and reviewed last year. The Shadow Bird featured Erin Cartwright, a young psychiatrist just starting out in her career, who had to follow up on the story of a man ready for release from a maximum security psychiatric facility. In trying to get a grip on who he really was, she headed back to her (and his) home town and the reader got some valuable insight into Erin's own past. I was convinced this new novel would delve even deeper into Erin's story but I was wrong. Although it follows the same psychoanalytical theme, we are introduced to brand new characters.

The story begins at an awards ceremony in Denmark, where prize-winning neuroscientist and Cambridge don, Vidor Kiraly, is gratefully making his acceptance speech. When he unexpectedly leaps off the stage to attack a man, his life is about to veer off in a new direction. He finds himself sent to a luxurious clinic in the Swiss Alps, where Anton Gessen, the clinic's director, launches into the complex task of trying to unravel Kiraly's sense of identity and motivations.

Is Kiraly really the person he claims to be or is there something sinister being covered up? Where did he start out and what influenced him to become the man he is today? Kiraly is pretty dismissive and doesn't seem to realise the seriousness of the situation he is in. Especially when one of the clinic's other patients goes missing ...

It is a very slow paced novel with lots of descriptions of people and places, all fitting together to build up the complete portrait of Vidor Kiraly. Not a lot happens for the first two thirds of the book, but if you hang on in there, the pace picks up, with several surprises and twists in the final part.

It's not a big action-packed, suspense-filled thriller, so if you come looking for that, you will be disappointed. It is an interesting and complex investigation into the life of Viktor Kiraly though and, let's face it, in the current lockdown, we have plenty of time to settle down for a slower read !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Publisher : Legend Press (16 Feb. 2021)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1800319371
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1800319370
  • Dimensions : 13 x 2.2 x 20 cm 


Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 10

 


I had planned on catching up on some blog posts last week, but my last post was in fact last week's menu plan - oops ! I did continue sorting out the house though, which isn't a bad thing. We were supposed to get a new boiler installed on Wednesday but on Tuesday afternoon, the company phoned to say they were cancelling because the work was impossible! Why did we sign the contract then? All the financial aid from the government was set up for this company so I had to dash about checking they weren't going to get their hands on the money. Blooming gits ! Next week, we're back to school but only half of the year groups are in on each day so half of the work will be online, half in class. There are two days where my only face-to-face lesson of the day is at 8am ! So, here's the meal plan for this week. (Page numbers refer to recipes from DK Books Family Kitchen Cookbook.)

Monday

lunch- beefburgers, rice & veg

dinner - chicken & veg stir-fry with noodles

Tuesday

lunch- spaghetti bolognese

dinner- Panacalty  (corned beef/potato stew)

Wednesday

lunch- Pork schnitzel with creamy mustard sauce (p129), mash & veg

dinner- General Tso's chicken with rice (p100)

Thursday

lunch - Auvergne torte (cheese, potato & bacon pie) (p180) with tomato salad

dinner- Brazilian pork & beans (p141) with rice

Friday

lunch- leftovers

dinner - Chicken & Ebly stew (p104)

Saturday

lunch- maybe a cheeky takeaway? - kebab or fried chicken (it's from the same shop)

dinner- there should be leftovers from lunch

Sunday 

lunch- chicken thighs, roast potatoes & veg

dinner- toast or leftovers

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

Katykicker

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