Friday, 30 June 2023

Book review : Evergreens - Liam Brown


If asked to look back at the best moments in my life, I would probably list off a whole host of memories of unforgettable nights out in my student days, exotic travels, falling in love, having my children and seeing them grow up. All of these things happened in my twenties and early thirties but would I have liked time to stop for me back then? Such is the hefty question put to the characters in Liam Brown's Evergreens.

After attending a free lecture about a clinical trial called Evergreens, twenty-something Ben decides to sign on the dotted line, happy to have the opportunity to never grow old. On-off girlfriend Sophie is not part of the project though so while Ben stays young forever, she ages as she moves through her life, taking steps to fill her time with happiness and personal progress. While Ben would seemingly have more potential to live the ultimate life, he doesn't manage to find his own definition of happiness, shifting from one unfulfilling job to the next and consuming vast quantities of beer.

I found it hard to really warm to Ben, who has this great gift and fails to take advantage of it. While Sophie starts off the same as him, living through a pandemic and becoming dissatisfied with her life means that she takes control of her situation and makes changes to provide herself with a happy life. I felt much more inspired by Sophie and her less-is-more outlook rather than Ben who had it all and totally wasted it.

While the book features on the past experiences of Ben and Sophie, some parts, written in italics, show us where they are now, in the year 2070. Ben is in a coma in a hospital bed with his ageing life partner Sophie looking over him. This peek into the future is not very reassuring, with mentions of climate change and environmental problems but also AI nurses replacing real human health care. I don't think I'd sign up to the Evergreens project in these conditions !

star rating : 4/5

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Legend Press (15 Jun. 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 302 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 191564383X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1915643834

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

Wednesday, 28 June 2023

Degustabox June 2023 review : Picnic & On The Go


The latest Degustabox recently arrived and, as we're stuck in the middle of an unrelenting heatwave, I absolutely loved the summery theme of the box : Picnic & On The Go. Several of the ingredients instantly inspired me for eating with dips or adding them to salads and the drinks options were perfect for sipping on a hot, sunny day. Here's what was in the box.

  

Hellmann's Real Garlic & Herbs Dressing & Dip (RRP £2.60) is a lovely, rich, garlicky sauce that is perfect for drizzling over salad or spreading into a sandwich. It's packed with flavour so it's all you need to add to lettuce for a simple side salad. It's also great stirred through boiled potatoes and tomatoes for a quick potato salad. Other Degustabox subscribers received Caesar Dressing, Fat Free Vinaigrette, Real Thousand Island Dressing or Real Honey & Mustard Dressing. If you buy several varieties, you could eat salad every day of the week and never get bored so it's perfect for summer !

Cawston Press Sparkling Rhubarb (RRP £3.50)  is a deliciously tart drink made from pressed rhubarb, apples and sparkling water. It's very refreshing served straight from the fridge or over ice. It's also available in 330ml cans, alongside Elderflower Lemonade, which was received by some Degustaboxers. All Cawston press drinks are made with a "no jiggery pokery" rule, which means no added sugar, no concentrates, no sweeteners and no shortcuts. The 750ml glass bottles are available on Ocado, Amazon and cawstonpress.com.

Two Brooks Craft Hard Seltzer (RRP £2) tastes delicious, just like a fruity flavoured sparkling water drink, but with an added hit of alcohol. Founded by three siblings, Two Brooks are intensely refreshing and crisp craft drinks. We got Mango Hi-Ball, which has a lovely tropical, fruity flavour, while other Degustabox subscribers got Passion Star. Perfect for sipping under a parasol in the back garden on a hot, sunny day. Available on amazon and twobrooks.co.uk.


Manomasa Tortilla Chips (RRP 2 x £1) are a great way of adding some Latin flavour to your summer salads by sprinkling them over the top. The two flavours received in the box are some of the most popular : Manchego & Green Olive and Serrano Chilli & Yucatan Honey. Imagine layers of juicy Mediterranean olives, sweet red peppers and tasty manchego cheese or traditional Serrano chilli and Mayan Yucatan honey from the mountains of Puebla, a handful of coriander and green lentils. Even if just munched straight from the pack, they're a great way of adding some punchy flavours to your snacks and summertime meals.


Nakd Protein Bars (RRP 2 x £1.25) instantly appealed to Pierre, who is keen on upping his protein intake and boosting his muscles, especially when it tastes this good and comes in a simple, ready-to-eat format. Made with 100% natural ingredients and no added sugar, these plant based protein bars come in three flavours and we got two : Peanut Butter and Cocoa Hazelnut. (There is also a Caramel variety.) Very tasty, according to Pierre.

 

Rio Tropical (RRP 85p) offers the ultimate fruity, sunshiney taste of summer, with orange, guava, apricot, mango and passion fruit juice added to sparkling water. It's a great tasting and refreshing drink to sip straight from the fridge and is also a source of vitamin C. 

Rosemary & Sea Salt Ryvita Thins (RRP £2.20 - other Degustaboxers got Multi-Seed Ryvita Thins) are great for dunking into anything from guacamole and salsa to cream cheese or hummus. They are very light and crunchy and can be used to add some interesting texture to a salad dish too. Perfect for summertime snacking.


Skittles Desserts and Skittles Squishy Cloudz Fruits (RRP 2 x £1.25 - other Degustaboxers got Squishy Cloudz Crazy Sours) offer sweet and creamy or soft and juicy flavour combinations that are very appealing. They promise a rainbow of happiness in each pack and they do make a nice change to regular Skittles, which I still love. Perfect for nibbling on in the summer instead of chocolate as they won't melt on your fingers !


Smint XXL Peppermint (RRP £1.50) are something I have never tried before so I can't compare but apparently they are three times bigger than regular Smint. They come in a convenient tin that is perfect for keeping in the car or in your handbag. They offer a powerful and long-lasting freshness so they're great for nibbling on after you've had a meal.

 

Forest Feast Salt & Vinegar Nut Mix (RRP £1.25) is a tasty mix of colossal cashews, almonds, pecans, peanuts and jumbo pumpkin seeds, all slow-roasted with hand harvested sea salt and cider vinegar. They have great flavour and I love their crunchy texture.

Garlic & Basil Olly's Olives (RRP £1.50) are dressed to impress in a tasty marinade and served in a convenient pouch that contains no messy oil or stones. They're vegan-friendly, a great source of fibre and each pouch only contains 75 calories so you can nibble away with a clear conscience.

 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, 25 June 2023

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 25

Well I didn't think it would last but we're still sweating our socks off in the middle of a major heatwave. Salads and sandwiches are on the menu now and I'm looking for more summery options that the kids will like despite the added veggies. I'm still trying to find things that everyone likes - green beans are a surprising winner at the moment. Into the last two weeks at school with two days supervising exams on Monday and Tuesday. Can't wait for the holidays - bring them on !

Monday

lunch- canteen for me, fridge grazing for the kids

dinner - chicken sausages with pasta

Tuesday

lunch- canteen for me, fridge grazing for the kids

dinner- Proven├žal marinaded chicken with rice and ratatouille

Wednesday

lunch- chicken burgers, tomato salad and potato salad

dinner- breaded fish, rice and peas

Thursday

lunch lunch with friends for me, fridge grazing for the kids

dinner- pasta bolognese

Friday

lunch-  canteen for me, fridge grazing for the kids


Saturday

lunch- leftovers or Deliveroo

dinner- twice-baked stuffed baked potatoes (with chorizo, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms)

Sunday

lunch- BBQ chicken with couscous & tomato salad

dinner- big mixed salad with bacon, mushrooms and cheese

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

Sunday, 11 June 2023

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 23

This weekend, temperatures soared and I'm currently sweating my socks off in front of a fan even though it's half past eight at night. I bet it doesn't last though - there are thunderstorms forecast so I can see it all ending in a downpour. I went shopping in a different supermarket last week and picked up lots of different things to try out, which is great as my one big complaint about my local Lidl is that they rarely change what's on offer. 

Monday

lunch- canteen for me, fridge grazing for the kids

dinner - fake steak (something I bought at the supermarket - it's a kind of burger made from chopped up steak rather than minced beef. No idea what it'll be like but we'll see !) with pasta and peas

Tuesday

lunch- canteen for me, fridge grazing for the kids

dinner- pork curry with rice

Wednesday

lunch- baked potatoes with creamy chopped pork

dinner- chicken casserole with rice

Thursday

lunch lunch with friends for me, fridge grazing for the kids

dinner- BBQ chicken with mash & creamy cheesy leeks

Friday

lunch-  canteen for me, fridge grazing for the kids

dinner - freezer diving - I think there are some chicken burgers or pork chops in there, with boiled potatoes and ratatouille

Saturday

lunch- I think I'll go for chicken lazone again as it was such a big hit last time with rice

dinner- maybe a takeaway

Sunday

lunch- roast chicken, roast spuds, veg and gravy

dinner- bacon sandwiches

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

Sunday, 4 June 2023

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 22

It's all go here at the moment. Last week, Sophie and Juliette were off in Paris for two days watching Harry Styles in concert. This week, Pierre has a day in London on a school trip. You can tell the end of the school year will soon be upon us ! While everyone is busy having fun days out, I'm catching up with end-of-term reports and class meetings. Definitely not fair ! Into the final month though so there are no complaints from me, all the same. Here's what we're eating this week.

Monday

lunch- canteen for me, fridge grazing for the kids

dinner - chicken burgers in buns with chips

Tuesday

lunch- canteen for me, fridge grazing for the kids

dinner- ham & cheese omelettes

Wednesday

lunch- fishfingers, mash & beans

dinner- pork curry with rice

Thursday

lunch lunch with friends for me, fridge grazing for the kids

dinner- creamy pork and mushrooms with pasta

Friday

lunch-  canteen for me, fridge grazing for the kids

dinner - meatballs with risotto and tomato sauce

Saturday

lunch- twice baked potatoes with cheese/onions/bacon/mushrooms/beans

dinner- takeaway or deliveroo

Sunday

lunch- roast dinner

dinner- leftovers or cheese on toast

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

Friday, 2 June 2023

Book review : In The Shadows - Jane Isaac

 

The recently released In The Shadows is the fifth book in the series by Jane Isaac, featuring the determined female police officer, DCI Helen Lavery. I have yet to read the others but nevertheless really enjoyed this book and I felt as if I really understood the lead character and her motivation.

As a popular school reunion disco at a busy pub winds to an end, all hell breaks loose as some of the guests head outside. With gunfire puncturing the stillness of the night, five victims are left lying on the ground and the assassin has fled into the shadows. Who is behind these murders and why has the peaceful town of Hampton been targetted ? Could this be linked to the past investigations of DCI Lavery and her detective father and the criminals they put behind bars?

Helped by the counter-terrorism unit, Lavery leads the investigation into this bloody crime. But that is not all she has on the cards. The trial of Chilli Franks is being arranged and this organised crime boss has Lavery and her family in his sights as revenge for being put in prison back in the 1990's. Helen's teenaged son Robert is best friends with Zac, who just happens to be the nephew of Chilli Franks. DCI Lavery has her hands full, trying to solve the case, track down the criminal but also look after her family. 

With short chapters packed full of action, the tension builds as the narrative progresses. The constant references to the issues going on in DCI Lavery's personal life help to see her as more than just a police inspector and help us to understand the stresses that she is going through.

It's a gripping read and has definitely made me want to go back and catch up with the previous titles. The only bad point in my view is that I frequently read way past my bedtime and felt tired the next day, but it was definitely worth it !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Legend Press (25 May 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 336 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1915643899
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1915643896

 

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