Tuesday 31 October 2023

Book review : It Began With A Ghost Story - Jean Harrod


When I was recently approached to review Jean Harrod's latest novel, I was intrigued. I've already read and reviewed the books in her Diplomatic Crime Series, Deadly Diplomacy, Deadly Deceit and Missing In Shanghai (click through to read those reviews) but her latest novel moves into the ghostly thriller genre.

The inspiration for the novel is a legend from the North York Moors. It tells the tale of Kitty Garthwaite, a young servant girl who, having discovered she was pregnant, was abandoned by her lover, Willie Dixon, and ended up dead in the nearby river at Hutton-le-Hole. The next day he was discovered dead in the same stretch of water and over the next twenty years, sixteen more men lost their lives in the same stretch of river. Kitty's ghost was blamed for the deaths, assuming she was taking revenge on the local men for their indiscretions.

In It Began With A Ghost Story, we follow the tale of Grace Winter, a young doctor whose mother has recently died. After her death, Grace inherited a house on the North York Moors that she knew nothing about, so she decides to go and visit to try to unearth this secret part of her mother's life. She takes her two best friends, Samantha and Evie, along with her. Both of the girls seem to have their own problems. Samantha seems to be hitting the drink a bit heavily and Evie is very fragile, having been left by her husband after several years of trying unsuccessfully to start a family.

Grace loves the house and explores its contents, trying to uncover her mother's secrets, but the girls are concerned when they encounter spooky visions. When a young man is found dead in the river, the girls become the focus of the police investigation, especially when Evie is discovered in the area. Do they really have anything to do with the murder or is there a ghostly killer in the area?

It's an enjoyable read with just the right degree of spookiness. You can read it as a sceptic, assuming that all the other-worldliness can be explained away or you can accept, with a tingle down your spine, that Kitty really did continue to haunt the area. Either way, the ending will probably come as a complete shock. I was pleased to see that this book is the first in a new Grace Winter series. I look forward to finding out more about this character in the upcoming novels as I'm sure she has a lot more to give.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ York Authors Coffee Shop Ltd; First Edition (15 Aug. 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 329 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1739671201
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1739671204

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

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Degustabox October 2023 review : Movie Night


When this month's Degustabox arrived, I glanced at the theme of the box and it seemed like a perfect match for the weather to me. With temperatures dropping and drizzly rain and wind replacing the seemingly never-ending summer sun of the past few months, Movie Night seemed like the perfect way of spending an evening or a Sunday afternoon, snuggled under a blanket on the settee. Bring on the snacks ! We have the choice of sweet or savoury in the box.


My top pick for movie snacks is this bag of Aero Caramel Melts (RRP £1.75). I love the smooth, bubbly texture of Aero bars and these buttons have a caramel flavour that makes them seem extra delicate and luxurious. They come in a "love to share" bag but I'm happy to hide these away and scoff them all by myself ! Available at major supermarket chains.

If you fancy a savoury snack, you might prefer Chipoys Fire Red Hot (RRP £1.99). This is a popular brand of American snacks made in Mexico with rolled tortilla chips. As the flavour name suggests, these are totally hot, spicy and intense. The kids liked them but I thought they were just too fiery ! Available across independent and convenience stores as well as on Amazon.

Love Raw Peanut Butter Cups (RRP £1.89) are a vegan version of the popular snack made of peanut butter wrapped in milk-free chocolate. As with all products from the brand, they are free from palm oil and artificial ingredients. They are also gluten-free. Juliette gobbled them up and declared them delicious. Available at Tesco, Waitrose, Ocado, Amazon, Loveraw.com and selected independents.


Caleño Tropical Non-alcoholic Pre-mixed Cocktails (RRP 2 x £2.50) are the perfect drink for a glitzy night out minus the hangover or a more special option for the non-drinking driver of the group. We got the sharp and fruity Passion Fruit Martini and the sweet and tropical Pineapple Pina Colada, both of which were deemed delicious. Available on calenodrinks.com and Amazon.

Kellogg's cereals (RRP 4 x 70p) in individual packs always seem extra special to me, probably because they remind me of the variety packs that I used to love when I was a kid. In the Degustabox, we got four different varieties, Special K, Rice Krispies, Coco Pops and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, which are my favourites. Other size packs are available at all major supermarkets.

Knorr Quick Soups (RRP 2 x 75p) are ready in minutes and are perfect as a quick lunch or snack. The kids like them as an after-school snack to tide them over until dinner. They're also great for warming you up on a cold day. We got Tomato and Cream of Vegetable with Croutons, while other subscribers got Chicken or Chicken Noodle. Available at ASDA.

Frutrip Fruit Purée Squeeze (RRP £7.50) is a product from Jeju Island, South Korea. It provides two flavours : hallabong ginger (hallabong is a citrus fruit native to Jeju Island) and green tangerine lemon. This nifty product can be consumed in a variety of ways, as a dessert, a dressing, an ice sorbet, a cocktail base or a topping. It is a pure product with no added water or artificial flavours. Available on UK Amazon.

Knorr Hairy Bikers' Spicy Stock Pots (RRP £1.90) are a quick and convenient way of adding a deep, rich flavour to chillis and casseroles. Perfect for adding a kick of heat to beat the chilli over autumn and winter. Available at Ocado, Waitrose and Tesco.


Peppadew Sweet Piquanté Peppers (RRP £3.25) combine a sweet and tangy crunch with a mild heat. Each pepper is de-cored by hand and can be munched straight from the jar or chopped and added to salads, pasta or pizzas. They're great for adding a bit of zing to plain meals. Available in major supermarket chains.

Simply Cook Jerk Chicken (RRP £2.50) is from a range of products designed as a great way of getting out of a cooking rut and injecting some excitement into mealtimes. 140+ chef created recipes in the range only need half an hour or less to provide dinner on the table. You'll need to add 4-6 fresh ingredients but all the magic comes in the little pack. Other subscribers received Nasi Goreng or Cajun Jambalaya kits. I love this way of adding some excitement to dinner without extra hassle or inconvenience.


Tilda Sticky Rice (RRP £1.54) is this month's Product of the Month and it's ideal for use in sushi or poke bowls. With its subtle flavour and sticky texture, it's ready for use in just 90 seconds in the microwave. It is gluten free and suitable for vegetarians and vegans. The girls will love this for using with their sushi kit. Available in major supermarket chains.

Very Lazy Teriyaki Paste (RRP £2) is part of the range of cooking pastes designed to give you "Maximum Flavour, Minimum Fuss" in the kitchen. The sweet and savoury paste is perfect added to chicken, beef or pork to create a richly flavoured dish in minutes. It's not a product that I would have bought but having tried it, it's great to keep in the fridge for when you need a meal after a long day at work. Available in Sainsbury's, ASDA and Morrisons.

According to the leaflet in the box, I should have had a gift pack of Love Corn Sea Salt Flavour but it wasn't in the box. I actually thought the kids had gobbled it up without telling me, but they've promised me that they didn't ! We've had this product range before though and love the taste and texture of the crunchy corn kernels.

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 15 October 2023

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

Into the final week of school before the holidays. This week is busy on the after-school appointments - we have a trip to the dentist for Pierre tomorrow to discuss his getting braces, then the day after is his parent-teacher evening. I have two hours in a meeting instead of class tomorrow morning to discuss how to talk to the kids about the killing of a teacher on Friday by extremists. On Friday I have a day of sophrology (relaxation exercises) instead of lessons too so it's a fairly quiet final week before the holidays. 


lunch- I'm eating at the school canteen, Pierre can pick through the fridge

dinner - pork in tomato sauce with pasta


lunch- beefburgers, rice and ratatouille

dinner- baked potatoes with bacon, cheese, onions, mushrooms and beans


lunch-  battered fish and hash browns

dinner- Chinese chicken with rice and veg


lunch- school canteen for me, Pierre can use up leftovers 

dinner- spaghetti bolognese


lunch- baked ham, mash and green beans

dinner - pizza


lunch- maybe kebabs, if the kids want fast food

dinner- leftovers


lunch-  steak, mash and grilled tomatoes

dinner- pasta carbonara

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

Sunday 8 October 2023

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

This first term at school is zipping by. I can't believe we're looking forward to the holidays in a couple of weeks. This week, I finally went to watch Pierre playing football and I was impressed - he's pretty good ! He's got a bit of a girlie fan club following him around at the stadium too, which was quite funny to watch. Into another week of work. Here's what's on the menu plan for this week (although I haven't been shopping yet so there might be some substitutions).


lunch- I'm eating at the school canteen, Pierre can pick through the fridge

dinner - bolognese stuffed chicken breasts with rice


lunch- beefburgers, mash and beans

dinner- baked potatoes with bacon, cheese, onions, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes


lunch- smoked sausages with lentils 

dinner- pasta bolognese


lunch- school canteen for me, Pierre can use up leftovers 

dinner- chicken chow mein with noodles


lunch- spicy chicken, rice and salad in wraps

dinner - late night at work so probably Deliveroo


lunch- steak & onion pie, mash and veg

dinner- pizza


lunch-  pork filet mignon with roast potatoes, peas and carrots

dinner- pasta carbonara

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

Sunday 1 October 2023

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

The new recipes from Taste of Home were a big hit and also quick and simple to prepare, which made me happy ! The pepperoni baguette pizzas were the best thing I've ever cooked apparently, and the beef and bacon gnocchi and nachos pie were happily gobbled up too. Not really a big surprise there ! I'm going back to look for more recipes to try this week. I'm also going to work through some of the seasoning sachets in my kitchen cupboard. Juliette has been home for another long weekend, so some things didn't get made as she didn't fancy them. This week is a calm week, with just a late night at work on Friday for the ceremony to give out the exam certificates. Here's what is on the menu this week.


lunch- I'm eating with friends, Pierre can pick through the fridge

dinner - sausage pasta


lunch- Italian chicken risotto

dinner-  pork casserole, boiled potatoes and veg


lunch- chicken cordon bleu with rice and green beans


lunch- school canteen for me, Pierre can use up leftovers 

dinner-  butter chicken (with added potatoes) and rice


lunch- pasta carbonara

dinner - Kokkinisto warming beef and tomato stew with mash


lunch- smokehouse bbq chicken wraps

dinner- Caribbean chicken and rice


lunch- chicken, roast potatoes, carrots & gravy

dinner- pepperoni baguette pizzas

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

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