Sunday 29 August 2021

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

We're back ... again ! Did you miss me ?! After our trip around Belgium, we got back home, settled back in, then decided to make a last minute trip back to the UK to catch up with my family. It cost a fortune (top whack prices for the Eurostar, as it's August, plus they're only running one train per day) plus train tickets from Dunkerque to Lille and from London to Hastings), then the silly prices for the COVID tests (we're all double vaccinated, even the kids, and we got free ones two days before leaving France, but still needed to pay for non-NHS ones for two days after we arrived in England - about £60-80 per person, which is a bit of a killer, as we all knew they'd be negative - ah well !). Well, we're now back home and getting ready to go back to school on Wednesday (me) and Thursday/Friday (the kids).


lunch- tacos with salad, guacamole, cheese, tomatoes, etc

dinner - Pineapple pork chops with red peppers, onions and broccoli, served with rice (one from our last menu plan that never got made)


lunch- last restaurant meal out as a family before we go back to school

dinner- Pulled chicken in BBQ sauce with broccoli and mash


lunch- I'll be eating at school - the kids can have leftovers

dinner- cottage pie


lunch - I'll be at school - fridge grazing for the kids (there should be leftovers)

dinner- smoked paprika chicken with rice and broccoli/carrots/peas


lunch- I'll probably be at school again (I won't know until I get my timetable on Wednesday) so the kids have free reign of the kitchen

dinner - spaghetti carbonara


lunch- omelettes for those who like them, leftovers for the others

dinner- Sophie's bagels (chicken or bacon/egg with Philadelphia & salad/tomatoes) with wedges (she assures me they're lovely and it sounds like she's cooking - even better !)


lunch- roast dinner (we have gravy granules and apple sauce again - woohoo !)

dinner- toast or sandwich for anyone who's hungry

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


Thursday 19 August 2021

HEXBUG Junkbots review

HEXBUG have launched a new project that merges toys with entertainment through a new eight-part digital series and game on the Roblox platform based on Junkbots. (More about that at the end of the review.) The series and Roblox game will follow a new adventure that all kicked off when Junkbot Jack Static received a cryptic radio transmission. To celebrate the launch, Pierre was delighted to receive a package containing lots of Junkbots, as well as some sweets and popcorn to accompany our movie night.

We started off with the smallest product in the range, the Junkbots Trash Bin (RRP £4.99). This cool bin-shaped box contains 15 pieces of rubbish to dig through.

Here's what we got inside this trash can. The little black bin bags have extra secret pieces of rubbish to open up and discover. The grown-ups in the family instantly picked up the little pieces of paper, unfolded them and tried to find the pieces necessary to recreate the character shown. Pierre just jumped in and started fitting random pieces together. Well, he got on better than we did, so I think he had the right idea - or we were just useless ! - but either way, he loved developing new characters and seeing what he could slot together.

We moved on to the bigger Junkbots Industrial Dumpster (RRP £19.99), which is the biggest box in the range. It contains a whopping 50 pieces to discover and get creative with.

As well as lots more intriguing black bags to investigate, this pack includes special elements to allow you to animate your bots with a motor or dynamic vibrations or add a light-up cover.

Pierre emptied out the final product - the Junkbots Dumpster (RRP £9.99), which is the twin-pack, top left in the top picture. This contains 30 pieces, plus an energy module, allowing you to build two different Junkbot figures (or just get creative, as we did). Time to let your imagination run wild and fit pieces together !

There are all sorts of interesting things in there, including a chainsaw, a birdhouse, a cowboy hat, a broken tennis racket, plus lots of interesting product packaging to discover.

Here's one of the Junkbots (minus the arms !) that Pierre put together following the character sheets.

And here's another character that he completely made up. I love the concept of creative play, just letting the kids loose on all the interesting little bits to see what they can find and how they can fit together. It is the perfect toy for one child to play with on his own or two or more siblings or friends to work on together. I will be honest - we totally missed the energy/movement modules, so we'll have to look out for those the next time we get it all out !

Head over to HEXBUG Official on YouTube to start watching the series and join in the fun with the launch of the Roblox game on 20th August.

Instagram and Twitter : @HEXBUGUK
Facebook : Hexbug UK

Disclosure : We received the products in order to write a review.

Sunday 8 August 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 33

Last week worked well, using up lots of things from the freezer. We've been picking up lots of Too Good To Go packs lately so there are quite a few random bits in there at the moment ! Sophie is off visiting friends in the Netherlands for the first half of the week, so we can catch up on eating things she doesn't like, like fish and cauliflower cheese. The weather is dull and rainy so it's more like autumn at the moment - I'm not sure whether to plan on salads and summery food or just get the slow cooker out !


lunch- battered fish with rice, peas and carrots

dinner - cauliflower cheese (Pierre can have pasta with bacon instead)


lunch- lunch with a friend (if Pierre's feeling up to it, as he has his second covid jab in the morning)

dinnerJuicy chicken thighs with leftover cauliflower cheese and/or salad


lunch-  Pineapple pork chops (I'll go for the option with added red peppers, onions and broccoli) with rice


lunch - time to use up leftovers

dinner- lamb couscous


lunchHomemade breakfast sausage patties in buns with potato wedges and salad (ooh, I fancy making coleslaw to go with this actually)

dinner - Easy butter chicken with rice


lunch- maybe McDonald's - if not, spaghetti bolognese

dinner- probably more leftovers to use up


lunch- roast potatoes with pork chops, veg & gravy

dinner- cheese on toast or leftovers

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


Thursday 5 August 2021

Book review : Safe Harbour (Sgt. Windflower Book 10) - Mike Martin

I've just finished reading Safe Harbour, the latest instalment in the cosy life (and not quite so cosy job) of Sgt. Windflower, the kind-hearted Cree RCMP officer who has resettled (albeit temporarily, as he suggests partway through the novel) in St John's, a larger town close to their regular haunt of Grand Bank, that allows his wife Sheila to follow her studies at the university.

Windflower has taken on a desk job and isn't overly enthused by the introductory online course that he has to follow. Another downside is the big RCMP outreach van that he has to drive around in, constantly waving at people and agreeing to be taken in photographs.

Wandering around downtown, he spots a poster informing people about a missing girl, which leaps out at him because her parents come from Grand Bank. Over the coming days and weeks, more signs go up about other girls and Windflower is drafted in on a new mission between the two towns to try to uncover a sinister human trafficking plot. This brings in worrying tales of biker gangs, underage prostitution and drug gangs that show a bleaker side to this wintry wonderland.

Luckily, Windflower is there to put a positive spin on things, enjoying his family life, moaning in ecstasy as Sheila provides yet another plateful of delicious home-cooked fayre and branching out on a new project - building a skating rink in his back garden ! Their girls are growing up fast - daughter Amelia Louise has definitely inherited a cheeky streak of sassiness and a love of good food from her father and adopted daughter Stella, who joined them in the previous book, has settled into her new family life but finds it hard to talk. Sheila is on the case though and I'm sure this struggle to overcome the traumas of her early life will be picked up in the next book.

It's a peaceful, stress-free read, despite the difficult cases that Windflower is working on, and you'll come out of it with a smile on your face, feeling like you've spent a week catching up with your best friends in their happy family home, rather than worriedly following the local crimes that could give you nightmares.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £11.59

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Ottawa Press and Publishing Mystery (31 May 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 262 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1988437733
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1988437736
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 15.24 x 1.68 x 22.86 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Monday 2 August 2021

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 32

You may have noticed I didn't do a menu plan last week. That was because we headed off on an impromptu trip on the train to Belgium for the week. It was nice to have a change of scene and wander around Antwerp and Brussels, taking in the sights, and we managed to avoid the rain. (It had all been flooding the week before.) The kids particularly had fun checking out a "selfie museum" with loads of props and decors for taking snaps to share on social media and a virtual reality experience, plus checking out the old monuments like the Manneken Pis. But now we're back and I'm looking forward to taking some time to deal with jobs around the house and just chilling out for a while ! Here's this week's menu plan, but I haven't been to the shops yet so things might change.


lunch- pork chops, rice and grilled courgettes/onions/red peppers

dinner - I had planned on making chilli con carne but the kids asked for kebabs ... well, it's too hot to cook so why not ?!


lunch- lunch with a friend

dinner- probably leftovers from the kebabs ... if not, spaghetti bolognese


lunch- beefburgers and tomato rice (I'm not too sure about adding cinnamon so I might just leave that out !)

dinner minced beef tacos or fajitas with loads of salad, guacamole and rice

lunchchicken, veg & noodle stir fry (I'm thinking something along the lines of chicken chow mein but with extra mushrooms, mangetout and carrots


lunch- ratatouille pasta salad with rocket to use up the ratatouille from last night (or pasta carbonara or bolognese, for those who prefer)

dinner Parma pork with potato salad (or mash)


lunch- Epic summer salad (for me and Sophie), sausages and rice for Pierre and Juliette (and Sophie will probably pinch a couple of sausages too !)

dinner- Mexican pulled chicken and beans with rice or tortilla chips (I can guess which one the kids will go for !)


lunchTurkish meatloaf and grilled veg salad with couscous

dinner- I'm thinking there will be leftovers to nibble on

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


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