Sunday, 30 August 2015

#silentSunday #mySundayphoto #SundaySnap 30/8/15

Grandad-grandson bonding !

No guitars were injured in the taking of these photos !

Sunday SnapOneDad3Girls

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Children's book review : Sister, Sister - Jess Bright

Imagine what it would be like if you suddenly discovered that your father isn't an anonymous sperm donor, as you've always been led to believe, but he's actually trying to get in touch with you. That's just the first bombshell for bewildered teen Willow though. She discovers that she also has a critically ill half-sister who is desperately in need of a bone marrow transplant and Willow just might be the highly sought after match that her unknown family have been hoping and praying for. If only she didn't have a phobia of blood and needles ... And if only her sick little sister Bella didn't hate her and not want anything to do with her. Surely she could be a little bit grateful ?!

Poor Willow goes through the emotional wringer, experiencing every feeling possible, from anger and sorrow to guilt and hope. Bella comes across as a stroppy little madam, but her illness, and the fact that she is worried about her new half-sister taking her father's love away from her, help us to empathise with her. The only characters who behave badly in this book are the adults really - while they are trying to make the best of a bad job, it is their dubious choices all those years ago that have led to such drama and upheaval and I couldn't feel anything but contempt for Willow's father's selfish reasons for getting in touch with her.

Sister, Sister takes an honest and poignant look at what friendship and family mean, as well as the emotional release offered by both reading and writing/blogging. It is a heartwarming, realistic read that targets a tween/young teen female audience, similar to Jacqueline Wilson, but I still loved it, even as a forty-something woman !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £6.99

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (2 July 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192738135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192738134
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm

Disclosure : I received a copy of the book in order to write an honest review.

Delicious Alchemy Gluten Free Oaty Cookie Mix review

One of the products in this month's Degustabox that got the biggest squeals of delight was this bag of Delicious Alchemy Gluten Free Oaty Cookie Mix. 

All you need to add is 75g melted butter or non-dairy equivalent and 30ml of water.

A peek inside the bag revealed a crumbly oaty mixture that already smelt nice.

Pierre came to help, using a spatula to squish the last bits of unmelted butter.

Then pouring in the cookie mix.

A quick stir was all that was needed. Pierre was already sneaking spoonfuls out of the bowl when he thought I wasn't looking and making appreciative murmurs !

We decided to jazz things up by using up the end of a bag of mini Smarties.

The mixture is lovely to work with. It's soft and squidgy but holds its shape really well so I just dolloped little piles on a foil-lined baking tray and shaped them with the spatula. The pack says you should get ten cookies but we got seven - they came out quite large though so you could easily make them smaller.

After 15 minutes in the oven, they were ready to devour. They were beautifully sweet and chewy and the kids kept coming back for more ! Very impressive for cookies that are gluten-free, suitable for vegetarians and dairy-free (the mix, not my cookies, which contained butter and milk chocolate).

RRP : £1.99

for more information :

As I used up the end of the mini Smarties, I'll add this to this month's #KitchenClearout linkie.

Disclosure : I received the product in this month's Degustabox.

Smells Like Green Spirit ! Comfort Intense review

You may remember that last month, I reviewed Comfort Intense Fuchsia Passion, and I loved the vibrant, feel-good fragrance, so I was delighted when they got in touch again with news of their latest campaign and a bottle of their Sunburst fragrance to try out. 

For their latest campaign, they created the Comfort Garden in the heart of London’s Covent Garden, which was opened to the public for one day only and which was made from hundreds of clothes, freshly washed in the four new Comfort Intense fragrances. The amazingly realistic garden took a team of specialists over 159 hours to create and is made of over 1,846 items of clothing, including roses made from shirt cuffs, foxgloves made from socks and even a tree made out of a mixture of tights and scarves. 

To celebrate the garden opening, brand ambassador Kimberley Walsh was crowned with a beautiful flower headdress, where all of the delicate blooms were made from responsibly sourced clothing. I've looked really closely and they still look like real flowers to me !

In-keeping with the garden theme, Comfort Intense sent us through a lovely kids' gardening kit, some sunflower seeds, pegs and a bottle of their Sunburst fragranced fabric softener.

Pierre headed straight out to the patio to have a little play and we've promised that he can grow the sunflowers next year, as it's a bit too late for this year.

Having smelt how lovely the Sunburst fragrance is, with its mixture of petals and vanilla, I didn't even mind too much when he came in covered in mud !

Don't forget, you can still grab a free sample of Comfort Intense on their website. (Click on Try). 

Comfort Intense has a RRP of £3.30 for 38 washes and £4.89 for 64 washes, available from all major supermarkets from July 2015.

For more information visit, or #comfortintense.

Disclosure : I received the product in order to write an honest review.

Fab freebies of the week 29/8

As we've been busy visiting both sets of grandparents, I haven't had much time for hunting out freebies this week but I've managed to find a few new ones. Enjoy !


Free issue of Homes & Gardens magazine and/or The Economist here

Grab a free sample of Hugo Boss The Scent

I've just signed up instore for a free Love Your Body card at The Body Shop and apparently you get a £5 no minimum spend voucher for your birthday, as well as other offers and promotions throughout the year

Claim a FREE sample of My Dog Is… for your small dog with a BIG personality!

There are also 5000 x 250g samples of Purina Beta dog food here

Shopitize users can get a free Kinder Egg at the moment! Open your Shopitize app and click on vouchers to get your freebie - details here

Spotted on Facebook here : Who in the UK or USA/Canada would like to try THRIVE for FREE!!,Sample Packs being sent out Monday!.just goto: ,watch the short video,close it and then click on CUSTOMER in the top right hand corner of the website,it's a FREE sign up,no credit or debit card required and I will then get your FREE sample pack sent to you!!

If you pop into Starbucks, look at the shelf where you get serviettes, sugar and straws and there is a box of cards with a "free song of the week" download code

If you’d like to sample any Munchy Seeds with your kids this summer, get in touch via Facebook or Twitter and we’ll send some your way!

There are 5000 Glutafin cracker packs up for grabs if you fill in their survey

You can try two Annabel Karmel toddler meals for free at Sainsbury's - details on how to get your money back here

They also have news of a New Parent Panel which pays you for taking surveys

You can also get a free photo book using the £15 code from Annabel Karmel

Kikkoman are offering samples of their sesame dressing in return for feedback

Dior invites you to discover Dior Sauvage, a spectacular artistic collaboration with Johnny Depp,
the ultimate icon for all generations. A powerfully fresh and confident composition,
for a man authentic and true. Visit your nearest Dior counter to enjoy a complimentary sample of Sauvage.

You can see previous weeks' freebie roundups by clicking here but be warned, many of the offers are only valid for a short time. Let me know if any have expired and I'll remove them from the roundup.

You may also like to enter my giveaways :

Giveaway #499 : Win 1 of 2 Horlicks bundles - closing date 3/9

Friday, 28 August 2015

Forget Turkey and Brittany .... the next globecooking destination is Colombia !

August is the month in which we do our real-life globetrotting so I haven't actually had a chance to do any cooking at all, let alone globecooking lately. I'm itching to dig into the August Kitchen Trotter box though, which will be whisking our tastebuds all the way to Colombia. I have no idea what they eat in Colombia but, as it's a South American country, I'm expecting spicy Mexican style dishes to set our tongues on fire !

The first product that I pulled out of the box was White Maize Flour for making arepas, Colombian pancakes/flatbreads.

An intriguing spice mix was next - Triguisar, which is a blend that is used in many Colombian dishes.

Panela - cakes of solid brown sugar.

More white maize in a different form, this time as grains.

Crystallised ginger and guava jam.

And to finish off, some Bocadillos Veleños Rojos - traditional Colombian sweets.

So, what will I be cooking with this little lot?

Arepas con chorizo y guacamole - apparently pancakes garnished with avocado and sausage 

Posta Negra - marinated roast beef.

Fruit Salad with Ginger

Maza Morra Antioqueña - I wonder if it's anything like the Peruvian Maza Morra Morado

*** Don't miss my country-by-country globecooking recipe index ! ***

Does size really matter? Sure Compressed v Regular test

Before the kids arrived, I was great at travelling light. I'd throw a few T-shirts and a pair of jeans, some underwear and a few toiletries into a bag and I'd be good to go for a weekend or even a week away. Now that we're a family of five, travelling light isn't so easy. For our fortnight in Turkey, we had three suitcases, a Trunki and each of the Madhouse kids had their own backpack, stuffed with cuddly toys, travel games and a variety of other sometimes unexpected things that they couldn't bear to be parted with for a fortnight. One case was almost entirely full of beach towels, arm bands, rubber rings, snorkels and even - on the way back - a huge inflatable crocodile, so finding space for my essentials turned into a bit of a Tetris-style headache, squishing things into the remaining gaps wherever possible !

One area I did manage to gain a few precious inches of packing space was by taking the Compressed version of my deodorant. At the start of the summer, Sure asked me to carry out an interesting experiment, sending me the Compressed and Regular versions of their Cotton Dry anti-perspirant. Despite being half the size (125ml instead of 250ml), the packaging promises that it will last just as long as the larger, non-Compressed can. I've already used the Compressed cans (you can read a previous review here) so I knew that they lasted for a long time, but I'd never compared them directly to their bigger counterparts. That's what Sure asked me to do, using the non-Compressed can on my left armpit and the Compressed on my right for six weeks or until they ran out. I was slightly concerned that they wouldn't have the same fragrance and I'd end up smelling like the Debenhams perfume counter, but I needn't have worried - they're identical.

Well, I've been happily spraying and waiting to see which one would last the longest and the answer surprised me - the Compressed can actually lasted a bit longer. Only by a couple of days so I think it was down to me applying more with the bigger can (it seems to come out more quickly, but that may just be an impression, as the Compressed can has a softer spray that feels gentler on your skin). The rest of the Madhouse family were pretty gobsmacked by the result, as were the other people I have mentioned it to in passing, but their cynicism actually surprised me. Consumers have happily adopted concentrated versions of laundry detergent and fabric softener or even ultra concentrated squeezy fruit squash, so why is it so hard to believe that deodorants can be Compressed too?

If you're wondering how it all works, the Compressed cans have an innovative spray system which means that they require less gas to deliver the same protection in each spray. I love the fact that they take up less space on my bathroom shelf, are smaller and lighter in my shopping bag and need less raw materials to make the cans so they're better for the planet too. The smaller size also makes them ideal for keeping in my handbag or desk drawer at work.

Still not convinced? Well then, how about buying a can of each and taking the challenge to see for yourselves that Compressed really does last as long as Regular? I'd be interested to hear how you get on !

RRP : £3.29

for more information :

Disclosure : This is a sponsored - but nevertheless 100% honest - post.

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 28/8/15

Our travels are over. After two weeks in Turkey, four days in Brittany and four days visiting the Madhouse grandparents, the summer is drawing to a close and we've headed back home with heavy hearts, ready to go back to school and work next week. That means picking up our routines, including menu planning, for the first time in over a month. As we're about to go shopping, I'll do a plan for next week but also what's left of this week.


lunch - pasta with tomato, bacon & mushroom sauce

dinner - big mixed salad with ranch dressing


lunch - sausage, mash & beans

dinner - soup of some description & homemade bread if I have time


lunch - roast dinner or last bbq of the summer, depending on the weather

dinner - sandwiches or leftover soup


lunch - turkey dinosaurs with a sachet of microwaveable rice (Sophie will be fending for herself as I'm back to work !)

dinner - goulash with spätzle


dinner - Jamaican jerk chicken with rice & mango salsa


lunch - tacos

dinner - posta negra - a Colombian roast beef dish - with rice & veggies


dinner - pasta bake or leftovers


dinner - Callalloo rolls with salad & rice

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

Meal Planning Monday

Want to see what everyone else is eating ? Head over to Meal Planning Monday at Mrs M's blog !

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Ty Beanie Boos Domino Game review

When we were given the chance to review a Ty Beanie Boos Domino Game, I thought it looked like something that 6-year-old Pierre would enjoy playing with, but I didn't initially make the connection with 10-year-old Juliette's beloved "big eye toys".

She did though and she squealed with delight when the postie dropped it off !

She went running off to her room to round up her collection of toys and had great fun looking for the matching pictures on the cards !

Once the excitement had died down slightly, we sat down for a proper game (or ten !). The cute illustrations and vibrant colours would appeal to children of both sexes, regardless of whether they are fans of the cuddly toys or not.

 Dominos is such a classic game - it's great fun, simple enough for kids of all ages to play and encourages strategic thinking and logic skills. It's also a quick game so it's ideal if you want to spend some quality time with the kids when you have a million things to do ! The cards are nicely cut with rounded corners and are made of sturdy thick cardboard. Every toy box needs a domino game and this is a particularly cute and appealing one.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £7.99

Disclosure : We received the product in order to write an honest review.

Madhouse diaries : She was a skater girl

I couldn't help but giggle when I looked out of the window at the in laws' in Brittany and saw Sophie gaily skateboarding down the middle of the road ...

... in a dress !

It sometimes looked like a strange combination of skateboarding and ballet dancing !

But at least she didn't fall off. Grazed knees definitely wouldn't go with this look !