Sunday, 24 September 2017

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 24/9/17

Strange tree at Turtle Beach near Fethiye, Turkey - it wasn't at all windy but I suppose it must be usually.

OneDad3GirlsSunday Snap

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Fab freebies of the week 23/9

Phew, welcome to the weekend - and another weekly round-up of the UK's best freebies. There's a nice mix this week so I hope you'll find something that tickles your fancy !


It's all go over at The Insiders at the moment - after the new campaigns I posted about last week, they have another one starting for Betty Crocker cake mixes

Grab yourselves a voucher for a free Chicago Town pizza - Offer available for first 3000 entries each week. Printer required. Printer software not compatible with mobiles or tablets

More free food if you have a Thaikhun anywhere near you - enter their competition and get a voucher for a free pad thai

Sign up to CherryActive's email and get your free sample shot of either BeetActive or CherryActive Energy Shots

My Mothercare expectant parent event in selected Mothercare stores across the uk - free gift bag for all mums-to-be

@delight_touch Free Ladies Self Defense Seminar & Free Cosmetic Gift For All Attendees See Video  … share & RT

Grab yourselves a collectible Royal Doulton plate from Jackpot Joy - 5000 available, first come first served

Fill in the form for a free Superheroes USB stick - these are cute so I hope they arrive !

@SparkleBeauty90 Samples available 🎁 Selected products only, UK only, Message for details 💌

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.

Friday, 22 September 2017

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 22/9

The weather has turned decidedly autumnal so I've got the slow cooker out and I'm loving coming home from work to a hot meal ready and waiting to be served :) I'll be trying dishes from my Cypriot-themed Kitchen Trotter box too.


lunch - Time for the traditional KFC/Burger King/McDonald's option

dinner - Beijing beef with noodles or rice and homemade prawn crackers (because I found a bag in the back of the cupboard and the kids love watching them puff up in the oil !)


lunch - roast dinner, probably chicken

dinner - leftovers from lunch or fridge grazing - or possibly chicken & veg soup if we had a roast chicken


 lunch - spaghetti bolognese

dinner - twice-baked potatoes (as long as I remembered to put them in the oven when I did the roast !)


packed lunch - tuna salad

dinner Ouzo-doused fish with boiled potatoes and either salad or veg


lunch - sausages, mash and baked beans

dinner - slow cooker BBQ pulled chicken with rice or wedges and whatever veg happens to be in the freezer


packed  lunch - spicy chicken salad or sandwich

dinner -  herby chicken breast with rice and ratatouille


packed lunch - Cypriot salad (watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, ...)

dinner - French onion soup with cheese on bits of toasted baguette to float in it- it tastes better than it sounds !
***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Madhouse recipe : Turkey, merguez & apricot tagine

This is a totally made-up recipe, inspired by the flavours of Morocco and Tunisia, and the fact that I wanted a meal that I could throw in the slow cooker and let it get on with it. Mission accomplished !

Turkey, merguez & apricot tagine

ingredients :

chicken or turkey thighs
a pack of merguez or spicy sausages
2 turnips
3 carrots
2 onions
a tin of chopped tomatoes
2 courgettes
a handful of dried apricots
salt, pepper
1tsp ras el hanout
couscous (to serve)

Cook the chicken/turkey on a high heat in a frying pan to sear on all sides. This isn't an essential step but it gives it some nice colour and extra flavour, if you have time.

Throw the chicken/turkey in the slow cooker. Peel and chop the carrots, turnips and onions and add them to the pot. (You might notice that I added my onions at a later stage - this is because I had run out and had to pop to the shop to buy some once it was underway  !)

Add a tin of tomatoes, fill the empty can with water and add that too. Sprinkle over some salt, pepper and ras el hanout spices. Turn the slow cooker on low and leave to cook for a couple of hours.

In the same pan you used for the chicken/turkey, fry the merguez - these are North African-style, spicy, dark red sausages that are widespread in France, but you could use chorizo or smoked sausages instead. Drain off the excess fat on kitchen paper and reserve.

About an hour before you want to eat, add the courgettes. (This is where I popped in the onions that I had just bought !)

Chop the merguez into halves, and add to the pot, along with a handful of dried apricots.

Leave for an extra hour, giving it all a good stir to mix everything up. The chicken/turkey should be falling off the bone and the vegetables should be soft but not mushy. Serve with couscous (or as it is, if you prefer).

This was a family meal so I kept the spice level low, but you could add chilli powder or extra ras el hanout to take it up a notch.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up odds and ends from the freezer (turkey and merguez, leftover from barbecue season).

Back to school help from Vosene (review)

As a teacher as well as a mum, going back to school after the long summer holiday is always a bit of a nightmare, trying to get everyone (including myself) back into routine at the same time. Setting the alarm and getting up earlier is never a problem, but with three kids in three different schools, keeping track of who needs PE kit, swimming stuff, packed lunches or after school clubs on which days takes a while to get under control ! 

Vosene helped ease us into back-to-school mode with a fabulous package of goodies that have all been really useful. There was a big wall planner poster which is brilliant - I always use a calendar but seeing the whole school year at a glance without flicking through the pages is even easier, so I'll definitely be adopting this idea. The doodle pencil case is great too - you can colour it, customise it or use it to write notes about important things that you mustn't forget, then wash it and start all over again with a clean canvas. A funny Hurrah For Gin book and a cool "Raising Tiny Humans is Wonderful" coffee mug provide the necessary parent-fuel for both ends of the day ! And the different coloured A4 zip-up pockets have been a godsend - I wasn't sure what to do with them at first but they're great for keeping all the start-of-term paperwork for each child (and myself) separate - again, another idea that I'll be adopting for each new school year.

The ultimate hero products in the box, however, were these bottles of Vosene Kids' nit-repellent hair care products - both the 3-in-1 shampoo and the leave-in Conditioning Defence Spray, which we use on a regular basis when the kids are at school. We've been fairly lucky - in over a decade of schooling, the Madhouse kids have only brought nits home a few times, but it's never fun, so anything that can help prevent getting them in the first place is definitely a good idea in my book !

You might like to read our review of the Vosene Kids headlice defence range here, which includes some fascinating (and decidedly itch-provoking) facts that you may or may not like to know !

Disclosure : We received a back-to-school package from Vosene.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Globecooking recipe : Güveç (Turkey)

This is a recipe that I ripped out of the free paper that we were given on arriving at the airport in Turkey a few years ago. I typed it up and and it's been languishing in my drafts folder ever since ! I've taken a few liberties because the name Güveç comes from the little bowls that it is traditionally cooked in in the oven, but I adapted mine for the slow cooker. It bubbled away happily all by itself all afternoon, but that does mean that you get no step-by-step photos and I totally forgot to take a picture of the final dish once plated up - sorry !

That wasn't the only liberty I took though. When I went to get some stewing beef out of the freezer, there wasn't any left, so I used a pack of pork instead, which obviously isn't authentic, as Turkey is a Muslim country. To be honest, this is a hearty casserole-type dish that would work with pretty much any combination of meat and vegetables.

Here's the original recipe, as in the magazine. I'll add my personal notes and tweaks at the end.


ingredients :

500g lamb or beef
4 onions
3 green peppers
3 large carrots
1 large aubergine
100g peas
500g ripe tomatoes
3 large potatoes
fresh spices (pepper, paprika, thyme, cumin and salt)
olive oil
 tomato puree
0.5-0.75l water

Dice the meat and put it in a bowl. (Guveç means clay bowl.) Peel the onion and potato, dice them too and add to the bowl.

Wash the tomatoes, peppers, carrots and aubergine. Dice them and add to the other ingredients. Add the peas.

Combine the pepper, paprika, thyme, cumin and salt. Mix well and spoon into the little güveç bowl.

Mix the oil, tomato puree and a little water and pour over the food. Put the güveç in a bowl with lots of water then put it in the oven.

Cook for about 60 minutes at 200°.


I loaded the meat, onions, potatoes, carrots, red peppers and a can of potatoes into the slow cooker, along with salt, pepper and the spices. I left out the aubergine because I'm not keen on them. I put it on low and let it cook for 4 hours.

After this time, I added some courgettes (to replace the aubergine), the remains of a can of peas and carrots from lunchtime, the tomato puree and, after tasting, some extra spices. I let it bubble away for another hour or two (an hour plus an hour "keep warm" time). At the last minute, I stirred through a couple of spoonfuls of gravy granules to thicken up the sauce.

Halfway between a soup and a stew, it was perfect on a cold, autumnal day.

Fancy trying some more Turkish cuisine? How about some of the following ?:
Chicken Tava
Deep Fried Ice Cream
Pide - Turkish Pizza
Turkish-inspired Salmon with Pomegranate Molasses & Sumac

Adding to the #KitchenClearout linky as it used up all the odds and ends of veg from the fridge, as well as half a can of peas and carrots from lunch.

Save on Nappy buys for Happy guys ! (Aldi Mamia nappies review)

Having a baby is a life-changing event, not just emotionally, but financially and socially too. With studies showing that babies can cost as much as £11,498 in the first year, it’s no surprise that mum and dad’s social life is often put on hold. New research from Aldi Mamia has found that 78% of first-time parents have had fewer or no date-nights since baby arrived, with nearly half (49%) citing less money than before as the main reason. 

I well remember those days, but for me, it was lack of sleep and the need to be on boob-duty that put a spanner in the works if we wanted a night out ! That said, I wouldn't have said no to some extra nights in on the sofa with a pizza or a Chinese takeaway, so a bit of extra cash is always welcome.

New parents could save over £400 a year by implementing simple switches such as using own-brand nappies compared to the market leader. With a newborn’s nappy needing to be changed up to 12 times a day, reviewing the nappies you are using is a simple way to start saving money. At 14p per nappy, parents using the nation’s leading nappy brand could spend as much as £613.20 on nappies in the first year alone (£1.68 per day and £11.76 per week). At less than 5p (4.6p) a nappy, Aldi Mamia parents are spending as little as 55p per day, £3.85 a week, £16.50 a month, and just £198 per year in comparison. A huge yearly saving of £415.20, or £34.60 a month – enough to make sure Mum and Dad can afford a babysitter for a well-deserved night off!

Aldi Mamia’s nappies don’t just come with a great price tag though, as they’ve scooped Gold for four consecutive years at the Mother & Baby Awards in the Best Disposable Nappy category and were awarded 10 accolades at the Prima Baby Awards 2016, with the Newborn and Ultra Dry Nappies taking Gold in the nappy categories. And if that wasn’t enough, the entire range of nappies has been endorsed by the Good Housekeeping Institute. 

I used to use them when the Madhouse kids were little and they were just as good as the much more expensive bigger brands that we tried, including Pampers and Huggies, so this is definitely a simple way of cutting your budget without compromising on quality. The wipes are great too - you might like to check out our review here.

Disclosure : Aldi sent me some vouchers as a thank you for sharing their findings. I won't be needing to stock up on nappies so, time for a mum-and-dad night in with a bottle of wine and some munchies maybe?!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Giveaway #647 : Win 2 x My Life As A Courgette on dvd - closing date 4/10

This week sees the release on DVD and Blu-Ray of a film that should have won an award for having the craziest name, as well as being nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award : My Life As A Courgette !

Behind the strange title is a stop-motion animation about a 9-year-old boy called Icare, whose nickname is Courgette, that is by turns cute and poignant but always quirky. After his far-from-perfect mother's death, in lugubrious circumstances, he is taken to a foster home to live with other kids his own age by a friendly police officer. Although he has trouble finding his place at first, Courgette quickly meets new friends, and, with their help, he learns to love and trust those around him, all the while finding a new family of his own.

Brought to life through unforgettable characters and beautiful animation, this is the perfect film for audiences both young and old. It reminded us of a cross between Tracy Beaker (for the story) and Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas (for the animation). It deals with some sad and serious issues, including child neglect and abuse, but manages to stay upbeat and positive, showing that people can cope with whatever life throws at them and find their way to a happy ending, however miserable their start in life.

If your kids have outgrown Disney and want something with a grittier edge, this is the perfect family movie that will have everyone enthralled, whatever their age.

The DVD incudes the original French version with English subtitles, as well as a dubbed version, and various bonus featurettes.

  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Thunderbird Releasing
  • DVD Release Date: 18 Sept. 2017
  • Run Time: 65 minutes

I have two copies of the DVD to give away to lucky Madhouse Madhouse Family Reviews readers. Fill in your entries via the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 4/10/17

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after 28 days, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray !

Picture book review : Yoga Babies - Fearne Cotton

There's no stopping Fearne Cotton ! Not content with being one of the UK's most in-demand TV and radio presenters, captaining a team on Celebrity Juice, completing arduous challenges such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and cycling the length of Britain with David Walliams for charity, being the face of BaByliss, launching her own fashion range with AND (arguably the toughest challenge of the lot !), being a mum-of-two, she has also just written a cute picture book called Yoga Babies.

Fearne completely understands the time pressures put on parents and kids in the modern world but she also believes that being healthy needn't be expensive, time-consuming or difficult, so she is on a mission to involve children and families from all backgrounds in activities that can improve their health and mental well-being, as well as promote a lifelong love of reading. Give the girl an MBE right now !

In the preface, Fearne says : "Yoga is such a wonderful activity for all the family and has a hugely calming impact all round. It's great for coordination as well as health and well-being. It's also lots of fun ! I love doing yoga with my kids but I'm not a yoga teacher. The text and illustrations in this book have been approved by a qualified yoga instructor, but Yoga Babies was not written as a 'How-To' guide."

The Yoga Babies are very cute. We had a good giggle when we spotted Sophie as well as Emily (my sister) among the names, but our favourite is George, running away squealing with his toys ! There are also Rex, Prakash, Maya, wild-haired Kit and the twins Sam and Tom. Whatever their looks and personalities, most young readers will find at least one that they can identify with.

The book, written in short rhymes, shows how yoga can be incorporated into your day without going to a class or making it into a big thing. The cute illustrations, by Sheena Dempsey, show the Yoga Babies striking a pose at a barbecue in the park, in the bathroom, in the garden or at Granny's house, amongst other places. It's a great way of bringing yoga to the masses, especially for those who might be put off by an official class, thinking you have to be extremely supple or invest in specific yoga clothes or equipment. Seeing how successful the mums and dads in the story use yoga to calm the kids down after a rough day or just before bedtime, if you fancy giving it a go yourself, there are a few simple (and above all fun) yoga poses that you can try with the kids on the back cover.

RRP : £9.99 (currently £4.99 on amazon)

  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Age Range: 2 - 4 years
  • Publisher: Andersen Press (7 Sept. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1783445645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1783445646

Disclosure : We received a review copy of the book.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Giveaway #646 : Win a Discovery toy bundle to explore nature! - closing date 2/10

Explore the autumnal season with Discovery toys!

How does nature prepare itself for the colder winter months? Get close to nature this autumn with the Discovery range and find out how plants, bugs and nature change over the seasons. See how the leaves change colour? Can you find out where the insects are? Go for a walk with your family and see if you can spot where the animals are burrowing down!

The Discovery toy range from Trends UK consists of different science toys which encourage exploration and adventure. Offering real working features and educational benefits they also support the STEM curriculum. Inspired by authentic Discovery Channel™ content, the Discovery™ brand motivates curiosity about the real world.

Win a Discovery toy bundle to explore nature!

The Discovery 30mm Explorer Telescope (£16.99rrp), Discovery Bug Barn (£16.99rrp) and Discovery Digital Walkie Talkies (£27.99rrp) are perfect for exploring the changes in nature as we switch from summer to autumn. We are giving away a bungle with all three Discovery toys to an explorer.

With an outdoors range of up to 3km, The Discovery Digital Walkie Talkies are perfect for keeping in touch while exploring, perhaps from one garden to another! With 3 channels, a ringing tone to alert incoming transmissions and LED display, one-on-one outdoor communication has never been more convenient.

Light and easy to focus, the Discovery 30mm Explorer Telescope features 15x magnification and is ideal for budding explorers and astronomers. Includes detachable tripod.

Children will love to investigate the world of insects up close with the Discovery Bug Barn! Use the viewing container to gently collect and observe common bug specimens. Includes observation room, magnifying glass, tweezers, canister, net and instruction manual.

I have a fabulous Discovery toy bundle, including a Discovery Bug Barn, Discovery Digital Walkie Talkies and Discovery 30mm Telescope, to give away to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries via the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 2/10/17

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after 28 days, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray !

Globecooking recipe : Sloppy Joes (USA)

At first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking this is a hamburger, but it is in fact Sloppy Joes, one of the recipes from my USA-themed Kitchen Trotter box last month. Sloppy Joes are basically a cross between chilli con carne (minus the beans) and bolognese sauce, served in a burger bun. I have made a tweaked version before - Garlic Bread Topped Sloppy Joes - but I decided to follow their recipe to the letter to see how they turned out. I was worried they would be a bit, well, sloppy to eat, and they were, but the kids loved them and it's a great way of sneaking extra veg into a hamburger type meal !

Sloppy Joes

ingredients :

600g minced beef
herbs, spices (see below)
a sprinkle of brown sugar
1tbsp Worcester sauce
500ml tomato sauce
2tbsp tomato concentrate
1 onion
1 carrot
1 green or red pepper
1/2 a celery stick
olive oil
salt, pepper
hamburger buns

Start by chopping up all the veggies. The original recipe said to use 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1/2 a stick of celery and a red or green pepper. I decided to have a clear out in the veg box of the fridge, so I used 2 carrots, 1 leek, 1 onion and a handful of mushrooms.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the diced and sliced veggies until they are soft.

Remove from the pan and put to one side. I felt like diving in with a fork already !

In the same pan, fry the minced beef on a high heat until it goes brown.

Add the tomato sauce (I used a small jar of pizza sauce) and tomato concentrate, as well as the herbs, spices, Worcester sauce and sugar. I was supposed to have received a sachet of Sloppy Joes seasoning, made with brown sugar, salt, onion powder, paprika, Cayenne pepper, garlic powder, cumin, white pepper, ginger and cloves. However, it was missing in the box and I'm still waiting for it to arrive, so I just used what I had - a sprinkle of brown sugar, garlic salt, smoked paprika, sweet paprika and BBQ seasoning. 

Put the vegetables back in the pan and give it all a good stir.

Fill the burger buns with the mixture.

I served ours with twisty fries and coleslaw on the side. 

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up all the odds and ends of veggies in the fridge.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

A culinary trip to Cyprus with this month's Kitchen Trotter box

It's been grey, drizzly and distinctly chilly since the kids (and I) went back to school, so I was very pleased to see that this month's Kitchen Trotter destination was somewhere warm - Cyprus, to be precise. Hmm Cyrpus? Not sure what they eat there, but I'd guess similar to Greece. Let's dive into the box and find out.

The first things that I pulled out looked very intriguing. On the left, a bag of sweet mint and dried onions - not a combination that I'd have thought of, so I'll be interested to see how it works. On the right, the very coarse, crunchy black salt that Cyprus is apparently renowned for (although I admit to having never heard of it !).

Two bottles came out next - some red wine vinegar with basil and garlic, followed by a little bottle of ouzo - ahh so I was right with the Greek flavours. I'm not keen on aniseed but I'll see how it works in the recipes. I always love discovering totally authentic and unheard of products so I was pleased to discover two total unknowns - a jar of spoon sweets, which are half way between jam and tinned fruit (this one is made with watermelon) and chewing gum made with terebinth, which is a Mediterranean tree formerly used for making turpentine. Not sure about that one ! There is also some Turkish delight and some measuring spoons.

On to the recipes ...

A Cypriot Salad, featuring watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes and onions.

A fish dish - Ouzo-Doused Bream.

The dessert is Su Muhallebisi, which looks like sweetened, thickened milk topped with the watermelon spoon sweets.

And finally, Elioto - bread flavoured with sweet mint and onions.

There are some unusual combinations of flavours so I'm intrigued to see how they work out. I'll be back to share the recipes with you very soon.