Thursday, 2 October 2014

Madhouse recipe : Autumnal Roast Pork

Last Sunday, I had a joint of pork to cook and decided to make a few tweaks to the usual Sunday roast. It made a nice change and has inspired me to get away from the usual roast potatoes and carrots accompanying the meat. I'll hit the farmers' market at the weekend and see what catches my eye for trying out other combinations.

Autumnal Roast Pork

ingredients :

pork joint
herbs and spices of your choice : I used Turkish meatball seasoning, oregano and garlic salt

2 sweet potatoes
3 courgettes
3 onions
5 mushrooms
3 carrots

Peel the veg and chop into large chunks.

Place the meat on top and season with the herbs and spices. Drizzle olive oil across the top of the meat and around the vegetables. Cook for 90 minutes or so until the juices run clear in the pork.

I've started multitasking when I use the oven, cooking two or three meals at once to save on energy. Here, for example, I have the roast pork and veg in the top, plus some Chinese 5 Spice marinated pork and some baked potatoes on the bottom shelf. 

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Early Reader book review : Twit, The Owl Who Wasn't Wise - Steve Cole

Pierre was very pleased to receive an Early Reader book to review by the hilarious Steve Cole, famous for (amongst others) his Astrosaurs and Cows In Action books. 

This book follows the adventures (and misadventures) of a lovely but rather dim-witted owl called Twit. His brothers love nothing more than setting him up and making him look foolish.

He eventually meets up with a kind-hearted vole called Norma who becomes his friend and decides to help him get his own back on his mean brothers. She has a lovely message for anyone who has ever been teased or bullied : "Everyone is a bit of a twit from time to time. But picking on people is a very twittish thing to do."

Juliette and Pierre giggled at all the silly antics but especially loved it when the underdog (or underowl ?!) came out on top. It's a fun read with an important life lesson for young readers.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £4.99

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Orion Childrens (3 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1444009699
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444009699
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 0.8 cm

Disclosure : We received a review copy of the book.

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Picture book review : The Dinosaur That Pooped The Past - Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter

Children's book review : The Story of World War One - Richard Brassey

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

#MorningWin - Getting the day off to a good start

BritMums have been inviting bloggers to share stories of the small victories that make your morning better and the little things that start your day off with a smile. They've partnered up with BelVita and sent us some of the new belVita Breakfast Crunchy biscuits in three varieties to try, Apricot, Hazelnuts and Choc Chip.

Sophie has been munching her way through most of them. She loves them in the morning when she "hasn't got time" for a proper breakfast (after doing her hair, putting on some mascara, sharing a million One Direction pictures on Facebook and texting her mates that she'll be seeing at the school gates in a few minutes), but they're also a welcome snack when she gets home from school totally ravenous. What is it about becoming a teen that suddenly makes their appetites double ?!

I've been saving myself a few moments every morning by laying out a pack of BelVita along with a satsuma or a banana to eat at the bus stop or on the way to work when I get my bag ready for the next day. It may only save me a few moments but every second counts in the morning and it means spending a few more minutes with the kids before packing them off to school for the day.

So, here are my top ten #MorningWin moments :

(1) Waking up at 6.14am just before the alarm goes off and realising it's the weekend so I can roll back over and go to sleep for a bit longer !

(2) Going to the fridge and finding that nobody has finished the orange juice (for once !) and that the kitchen doesn't look like a bomb's hit it because someone remembered to fill the dishwasher before going to bed.

(3) The kids getting up the first time I call them and in a good mood so I can grab a sneaky couple of minutes snuggled up under the duvet with them before jumping out of bed and getting ready for work.

(4) Looking in the mirror and seeing that I'm having a good hair day and that I'm looking bright eyed and bushy tailed, with no dark circles under my eyes !

(5) Getting to the bus stop just before the first bus arrives, rather than seeing its lights disappearing into the distance and having to wait ten minutes in the rain for the next one

(6) Knowing that all the kids' notes from school are signed, sports kit is ready and washed and everything's by the door ready to go with no frantic last minute searching

(7) Looking out of the window and seeing that it's a beautiful sunny day

(8) The clock radio coming on to wake me up with a song I love

(9) Stepping out of the door just as your daughter's best friend and her mum are walking past so she offers to drop the kids off at the school gate for you

(10) Not getting the slightly nutty/smelly/drunk/abusive person sitting next to me on the bus !

What about you? What gets your day off to a good start?

Disclosure : This post is an entry for #MorningWin Linky Challenge sponsored by belVita Breakfast. Learn more at

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Madhouse recipe : Bacon-wrapped Chicken Parcels

Thanks to Santa Maria for our Mexican family night in !

Santa Maria (formerly known as Discovery) sent us through a fabulous box of goodies for a Mexican-themed family night in.

It contained everything we needed for a Mexican feast - soft tortillas, fajita seasoning, guacamole style topping, salsa, red jalapeños, onion & garlic dip and some nacho rolls. If you're nodding your head but saying "ah yes, but my kids don't like spicy food", rest assured - Santa Maria sent us both a hot and a mild fajita seasoning mix so even the kids could tuck in without complaining about it being too spicy. I also cook the chicken/vegetables then reserve some before adding the seasoning, so that anyone prefering totally unspiced chicken is also catered for.

The nacho rolls were something we'd never tried before and they're lovely - they have a light crunchy texture and the kids preferred them to the usual tortilla chips. They have a delicious sweet chilli flavour which isn't very spicy at all so everyone loved them. The onion and garlic dip was great with the nacho rolls but also with carrot sticks - the kids loved them so much, in fact, that I had to go and cut up some more mid meal, which got absolutely no complaints from me !

I usually make my own guacamole and salsa but I have to say, the Santa Maria squeezy bottles were not bad at all - everyone loved them and they were certainly a time saver. I usually put sweetcorn and salad out too but there was no sweetcorn in the cupboard and the salad had touched the back of the fridge and frozen solid - oops ! We also like to sprinkle grated cheese on the top of our chicken before rolling it all up.

The kids always love fajitas because they get to choose exactly what they want to put inside their wrap (you'd be surprised how much veg they pack in without me even suggesting it  - cherry tomatoes, sweetcorn and grated carrot are always popular, plus the red/green peppers, mushrooms and onions that I put in with the chicken). They also love the fact that they can eat with their hands !

Sadly, frozen margaritas weren't on the menu, unlike in my favourite Mexican restaurant, but we did have a lovely Frozen DVD to watch which was great too, and definitely more popular with the kids ! We'd never seen the film before and, to be honest, I wasn't sure the grown-ups would enjoy it much but I was won over by the fairy-tale storyline, the humour (my favourite character was the cheeky snowman !) and the songs.

If you don't know the story, it focuses around two sisters, Anna, an eternal optimist, and Elsa, who has the magical ability to turn things into ice and snow. When Elsa accidentally hurts her little sister, Elsa's powers are hushed up and the girls are kept apart until she learns to control her powers. Following the death of their parents in a sea storm, Elsa prepares to take the throne, but things go wrong when Anna declares her sudden desire to marry Hans, a prince that she has only just met. Elsa refuses to give her blessing and the emotional outburst accidentally reveals her powers so she flees the castle, leaving the kingdom in an eternal winter.

 Anna chases after her sister, enlisting the help of mountain man Kristoff and his sidekick reindeer Sven, along with a very funny snowman named Olaf. They find her, entrenched in an ice palace, and the girls are reunited but tragedy strikes (again) and Anna's heart is frozen. The only thing that can save her from becoming a block of ice is an act of true love. Luckily, there's plenty of love waiting in the wings, just not where you may have expected to find it.

It's a really nice, family-friendly, feel-good movie and was the perfect way to finish off our evening.

Disclosure : We received a "family fajita and film challenge" box of goodies.

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Bye bye Discovery, hello Santa Maria canapé challenge

Vamousse - the new sharp-shootin' head lice treatment ! (review)

When you're rushing about in the final weeks of the school holidays, buying new school shoes, PE kits, pencil cases and plimsolls, the chances are you didn't put a bottle of headlice treatment on your back-to-school-essentials shopping list. I wish everybody would though because within three days of the Madhouse kids going back to school, the "headlice alert - pleae check your child's hair" signs went up in both Pierre and Juliette's classrooms - aaaggghhh !

That must mean that the kids had headlice before they went back to school, which makes you wonder, why didn't the parents treat it? I remember the yucky treatments that were the norm when I was a kid - they stank and had to be left on overnight - but most modern treatments are really quick and simple, taking just a few minutes to eradicate the problem. Maybe some parents are embarrassed to go and buy the treatments because it's still quite a taboo subject but that's crazy - did you know that 1 in 3 UK school children aged between 4 – 11 will get head lice this year?

When Vamousse offered to send through some of their headlice treatments, I thought they would be handy to stash in the bathroom cabinet just in case. Little did I know, I'd be able to give them a roadtest quite so soon ! I can therefore vouch for the fact that it is an amazingly quick and effective treatment. It promises to kill 100% of lice AND eggs within 15 minutes of contact and it certainly delivered. The can has enough product for one or two applications depending on the length and thickness of hair, but the great thing is, you don't need to retreat hair a second time a week later, as with most of the other brands available. It comes in a convenient mousse format keeping mess to a minimum, doesn't smell bad and comes with a nitcomb in the box.

We also received the protective shampoo which repels headlice and avoids a reinfestation. I've been using it on all the kids ever since and so far, so good !

Vamousse have even launched a free mobile gaming app, High Noon for Head Lice, to keep the kids occupied while parents treat the lice. It's available now in the App Store and Google Play and it would be great for this to go viral, so that kids start talking about headlice in the playground and stop it being such an unmentionable subject that is best brushed under the carpet rather than tackled head on.

Vamousse Head Lice Treatment is available to buy at Boots, Superdrug and all good pharmacies with a RRP of £14.99

*** STOP PRESS ! : If you head over to their Facebook page before the 3rd October, you can try to win a headlice treatment and protective shampoo. There's another chance to win on their twitter page. ***

for more information :

Also advice on protecting against head lice:

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

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Cussons Mum & Me Baby Snuffles #voiceofmums

#alphabetphoto : u is for ... upside down

My little monkey !

My #alphabetproject so far :

To see what everyone else found for this week's letter or to join in yourself, head over to PODcast

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Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Ambu Tree Zingtiliating Chinese Five Spice Marinade review

You may remember I tried out The Ambu Tree Mild Tandoori Marinade recently and was majorly impressed with not just the taste but also the low fat and calorie content. I decided to try out the Zingtiliating Chinese Five Spice Marinade on a joint of roast pork at the weekend.

It's a runnier sauce so I poured it all over the top of the meat (the joint weighed about 1kg) then rolled it over and spooned the sauce that had pooled at the bottom back over the top.

Now I admit, this doesn't look very appetising but it tasted wonderful. The marinade is quite salty so you don't need to season the meat before marinating it. It gave a wonderful exotic flavour to the meat -  not hot and spicy but definitely Oriental, vaguely aniseedy and slightly sweet. The ingredients list is beautifully free of hidden nasties : gluten free soy sauce, balsamic vinegar (sulphites), ginger, spring onion, tomato puree, agave nectar, Sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon, fennel, cloves, star anise, chilli. 

The whole 100g pot contains 93 calories and 1g of fat so it's great if you want to liven up a diet-friendly meal.

star rating : 5/5

RRP: £3.85 for 100g

for more information :

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

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Madhouse diaries : A fab day out at Parc Galamé

Autumn is definitely on the way so before too long, the nights will be drawing in and it'll be getting cold and wet. I'm trying to make the most of these last vestiges of summer by getting out and about as much as possible. I asked Madhouse Daddy if he was up for a spot of geocaching and when he said he was, I decided to go to Parc Galamé, an amazing park about 15 minutes from our house.

I love this park because it combines everything you need for a great day out and it's totally free. The fact that someone had gone round hiding a whole series of geocaches was just the icing on the cake !

Unsurprisingly, the kids wanted to start off at the play area - they've had a revamp but still kept this really old fashioned-looking merry-go-round which is always hugely popular with kids of all ages.

Then we doubled back to the more wild part of the park because I'd seen that there was a big geocache lurking here somewhere. Pierre asked to be in charge of the GPS and proudly carried the treasure bag too !

We soon found the box, after a baby frog jumped out of the undergrowth and gave me a heart attack, much to the delight of everyone else !

I was excited to see that there was a travelbug lurking in the box. It's always great fun picking these up and seeing where they've been before helping them on their way. This one started in Germany before going to Portugal, England and France - I wonder where it will go next.

The kids had fun trying out the exercise equipment along the way !

We wandered through the little garden and spotted this enormous metallic ladybird.

Followed by this equally big rabbit, hopping around minding his own business !

Who's that trip-trapping over my bridge ?!

The park has a collection of animals that you can wander round and stroke. We saw sheep.

Madhouse Daddy got friendly with the geese. (Sophie avoided these ones - she has a bit of a goose-phobia after being pecked on the bum and chased by a goose when she was small - it still makes me laugh when I remember it !)

The goats are always very friendly.

As was the horse.

The donkey stayed over the far side eating the grass though.

We went hunting through the undergrowth for more geocaches - Pierre found one behind this tree stump.

Despite hanging off the bridge and scrambling down the slopes, Madhouse Daddy didn't find this one though !

Some were very well camouflaged.

We headed into the woodland.

Sophie needed a quick rest !

Juliette took control of the GPS !

And we found this ingenious cache hidden up a tree. You had to unwind the string to lower it down from the branches on a pulley !

Despite being a big one, there wasn't much in it apart from a logbook, so we filled it up with treasures from our own bag. (It's a great way of clearing out all the little bits at the bottom of the toyboxes and rehoming McDonald's happy meal toys still in their bags !)

Time for a last visit to the play area.

Where do they get all their energy from ?!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
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