Friday, 20 April 2018

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #17

Last week was fun, shepherding the Norwegian teachers around and working on a common lesson plan, but hectic, as it was my first week back at work, which is why this week's plan is being written in the evening rather than ready to go live first thing this morning. The great news is, our two week holiday now begins - yay ! It's been a mini heatwave here for the last couple of days, but temperatures will be dropping by ten degrees next week apparently so I may hold off on planning salads for a while !


lunch - The French grandparents will be here for a special church service for all the people who died last month (including Madhouse Daddy) so I'll let them decide

dinner - see lunch - we may end up going out somewhere


lunch - not sure if the grandparents will still be here or if they'll have left before lunch, but roast chicken and spuds with all the trimmings would work either way

dinner - bacon sandwiches - they were on the menu last week but never got made so I'm still craving one !


lunch - cheese & bacon quiche with salad, coleslaw & cherry tomatoes

dinner - cheesy veg bake with leftover spicy sausages


lunch - battered fish with rice/chick peas/tomatoes

dinner - beef or chicken stir fry with veggies and noodles


lunch - I picked up some hot dog buns and I have sausages in the freezer, either with frozen potato balls or potato salad and probably some more coleslaw to use up the white cabbage (I might fling some apple in there too, to mix things up !)

dinner - moussaka


lunch - spanakopita - a cheesy bacon and spinach filo pastry dish. That's the second Greek-inspired meal this week - it must be the soaring temperatures inspiring me !

dinner - Joker day - using up the leftovers in the fridge (or, if there aren't any, pasta with a jar of sauce that's taking up space in the cupboard)


lunch - beefburgers with pasta or rice and ratatouille

 dinner - chicken casserole with green beans and mash

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

The Organised Life Project

Linking up with The Meal Planing Linky with The Organised Life Project and

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Celebrating National Pet Month with L.O.L Surprise Pets (review)

Did you know that April is National Pet Month? The lovely people at L.O.L Surprise did because they sent us a fabulous animal-themed package, containing chocolate paw print lollies, some cool cookie cutters and a  L.O.L Surprise Pet.

These Series 3 L.O.L Surprise Pets look just like the other L.O.L Surprise balls in the range, except they are yellow with a paw print design on the packaging.

You can tell from the blurry photo how eager Juliette was to get stripping off the layers. No time to hang about here setting up the perfect shot !

As with the usual LOL Surprise balls, the first layer revealed a sticker with an enigma to give you a clue about the identity of the doll or pet hiding inside. Juliette thought it was very funny that it was Friday 13th when she opened the ball and that date was part of the clue ! How's that for a freaky coincidence ?!

While Juliette continued gaily stripping off the layers of plastic, I had a quick look at the collector's guide inside the ball. There are lots of cats and dogs, as well as a couple of other animals that look like rabbits and guinea pigs or mice (actually, looking at the names, they must be hamsters), which follow the same concept of groups as the  L.O.L Surprise dolls, including the ultra rare Glitterati.

Back to Juliette, who by now had uncovered four little bags, as well as the usual sticker sheet.

The inside of the ball can be used as a little play area or bath tub, so that you can discover which water surprise your pet will have - will it wee, spit, cry or change colour?

Enough suspense - time to rip open those bags and discover the treasures inside !

We found a poop scoop, water bottle and accessory (little Polaroid type camera) to go with the two stickers, taking our number of surprises up to five. As with regular LOL Surprise dolls, there are seven surprises to reveal so what's left?

Well, obviously, the main event - the cute little critter itself ! We got a bunny called Jitter Critter, which is one of the Fancy ones.

The final element to look at is the litter tray, filled with a squishy Super Sand type material. You can use the lid to imprint a LOL Surprise logo and little paw prints in it.

Juliette starting scraping away with the poop scoop and - aha, here's the final surprise !

A necklace ! You can squish the sand back together and mould it in or out of the litter tray for extra playability.

Any LOL Surprise fan will be over the moon to add cute animal friends to their collection and we particularly liked the added surprise of digging for treasure in the litter tray. (Not something I would recommend in real life though !)

Series 3 includes 36 pets to collect and they're guaranteed to make any LOL Surprise fan very happy.

for more information :

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

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Kids' dvd review : Ferdinand

This week saw the release on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD of animated movie Ferdinand, which is inspired by the classic book “The Story of Ferdinand”, written by Mungo Leaf all the way back in 1936.

Ferdinand, voiced by John Cena (Trainwreck, Daddy’s Home) is a big bull but certainly not a big bully. In fact, you could even go so far as to say he is adora-bull ! His heart is as big as his bulky body, and, even if he gets teased mercilessly for it, he prefers friendship and smelling flowers to fighting and aggressivity. Mistaken for a dangerous beast, he is captured and torn from his home, but he rallies together a misfit team for the ultimate adventure and proves that you can’t judge a bull by its cover.

From Blue Sky Studios and director Carlos Sadanha (Rio, Ice Age), Ferdinand is an uplifting and often funny family-oriented movie. It does have its darker moments, with references to bull-fighting and the "chop shop" that may upset sensitive children, but ultimately it's a heartwarming story with great life lessons about avoiding violence, looking out for your friends and having the courage to not conform. Parents can have fun trying to recognise the all-star cast that includes John Cena, Kate McKinnon, David Tennant, Sally Philips, Gina Rodriguez, Anthony Anderson and many more, as well as picking up on some of the innuendoes that go straight over the kids' heads.

FERDINAND races onto Digital Download on 10th April and on 4K Ultra HDTM, Blu-ray™ and DVD on 16th April!

○ “Ferdinand’s Guide to Healthy Living” with John Cena
○ “A Goat’s Guide to Life”
○ “Ferdinand’s Team Supreme”
○ “Spain Through Ferdinand’s Eyes”
○ “Confessions of a Bull-loving Horse”
○ “Creating the Land of Ferdinand”
○ “Anatomy of a Scene: The Bull Run”
○ “Learn to Dance with Ferdinand”
○ “Ferdinand’s Do-It-Yourself Flower Garden”
○ “Creating a Remarka-Bull Song”
 “Home” Music Video
 Art of Ferdinand Gallery

Disclosure : We received a review copy of the dvd.

Monday, 16 April 2018

#readcookeat recipe : Shrimp and Macaroni Casserole (A Tangled Web)

As I mentioned last week, I browsed through my bookmarked recipes when I was menu planning and Sgt. Windflower came to the rescue with not just one but two great family-friendly dishes for us to try. After being inspired by a recipe for pan-fried fish with bacon, I tried my hand at recreating another dish with a seafood twist. Winston, the kind-hearted Mountie in Mike Martin's Sgt. Windflower series, loves his food, so he has already provided us with lots of dishes to try, from decadent desserts (especially cheesecake) and tasty mains. Here's the quote from the latest book, A Tangled Web (click through for my review), which inspired our delicious dinner :

p14 : Sheila had made a large plate of assorted cheese and crackers. There was some pepper Brie, Five Counties cheese and one of Windflower’s special choices, a Stilton with mango pieces. Plus, she had a cold bottle of Black Horse beer for him.

“This is perfect,” said Windflower as Lady, hoping to gather up any lost crumbs, carefully watched him place a large Stilton-topped cracker into his mouth. Windflower gave her a piece of the next cracker. While she was pleased with that morsel, she held out eternal hope for more. Finally, he shooed her away from the snacks on the side table, and she slumped into a mini-depression near the fireplace.

Sheila sipped on a glass of soda water and watched as Windflower neatly demolished the rest of the cheese and crackers.

“I didn’t think you were hungry,” said Sheila.

“Automatic response,” said Windflower. “I don’t think I ate anything after breakfast.”

“I’ll get you a plate from the oven,” she said as she headed back into the kitchen.

Sheila returned with a plate overflowing with steaming pasta and shrimp.

“Oh, my God,” said Windflower as he took a few small bites from his still-too-hot-to-eat dinner. “This is fabulous.”

“It’s not much, a shrimp and macaroni casserole. It’s easy to make and great for leftovers. That’s assuming you don’t eat it all tonight.”

Windflower smiled at her in response and continued to pluck out fat, juicy shrimps so that he could dip them back in the melted cheese. Sheila knew better than to expect conversation while he was eating, so she turned on the TV to check the news. Of course, the first thing she and Windflower saw was the Amber Alert notice flash across their screen.

 As usual, after taking note of the dish being devoured by Winston, I turned to google to see if this is a specific recipe, or if I could just go completely free-style with it. I did find a Shrimp & Macaroni Casserole Recipe on the Taste of Home website, which I used as a guide.

Looking in the fridge, I found two chunks of cheese - edam and mimolette - that needed using up, so I decided to try melting them in cream, rather than using my usual cheese sauce (starting with a roux made from butter and flour mixed into milk before adding cheese) and it was delicious. Juliette loves mac & cheese and she also loves prawns so she was in seventh heaven !

 Shrimp and Macaroni Casserole

ingredients :

cheese (I used up some edam and mimolette, as well as grated cheddar)
20cl single cream
shrimps or prawns, cooked and peeled
salt, pepper, oregano

Preheat the oven to 180°. Cook the macaroni in salted water, drain and set aside. 

Gently heat the cream until it starts to bubble. Throw in the cheese, chopped into chunks.

The chunks stayed semi-firm so I added a handful of grated cheddar that melted into the cream. It started off stringy but keep cooking and stirring and it sorts itself out. Add a little extra cream or milk if it is too thick. Season with salt, pepper and oregano.

Add the drained macaroni to the pot and stir through the sauce.

Time to stir through the shrimp. I initially planned on using big king prawns but there was some cooked, peeled shrimp on offer at the supermarket so I opted for that instead.

Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Scatter over some parmesan.

Bake for 15 minutes or so until the top is golden and bubbly. Serve with salad or broccoli. 

Juliette, who is a huge mac and cheese fan, said this was even better than usual - the ooziest, creamiest mac & cheese she's ever tasted !

Adding to the #readcookeat linky over at Chez Maximka.

Also adding to the #KitchenClearout linky as it used up odds and ends of cheese.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Fab freebies of the week 14/4

Last week, freebies were a bit thin on the ground and I predicted a bumper week this week to make up for it. I was right - it's raining freebies this week ! Enjoy :)


Zoflora have 100 bottles of their Very Berry disinfectant to give away

On Origins facebook page :Who else is seriously crushing on Glow-Co-Nuts™ right now? If you haven't tried it, get to your local Origins counter for a free sample...on your marks, get set, GLOW!

Sopost have a Caudalie offer (but the chances are, they'll all be gone by the time you read this !)

Sopost also have a John Frieda sample set available - get in quick !

Bag yourself a free can of our Jameson, Ginger & Lime. You're Welcome! Simply enter your details and your can will be on its way to your home.

Crew Clothing have 100 polo shirts up for grabs

Just fill in the form to sign up for the Rush newsletter and get your free sample of L'Oreal Serie Expert Magnesium Silver Shampoo.

One for your doggy : Never tried Duncan's Deli before? Just fill in your details below and we'll send you out a treat size bag absolutely free!

Head over to British Gas rewards section and grab one of 10,000 Wilbur the Penguin soft toys

Refilling your water bottle for free rather than buying a single-use plastic bottle is eco-friendly, economical and you can work towards a great freebie into the bargain - Get our free app Refill to find businesses local to you that support our cause and will happily refill any water bottle you have handy. With over 1600 Refill stations across the UK refilling has never been easier (and friendlier!). You can also earn points each time you refill to get a free water bottle and more.

Innocent have 30,000 seed growing kits up for grabs

The Insiders is launching a campaign that lets you really discover the power of Pearl Drops. They're looking for 750 lucky Insiders to take part in this campaign and get to know Pearl Drops whitening toothpaste, and all its benefits.


Can you do something wild every day throughout June? That’s 30 simple, fun and exciting Random Acts of Wildness. We're giving you a free pack of goodies to help you plan your wild month, plus lots of ideas from your Wildlife Trust to inspire you to stay wild all throughout June (and beyond!). To get your free 30 Days Wild pack, which includes a wallchart, a poster, an interactive booklet and some stickers to help you go wild, just select who is taking part and take the next step!

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, 13 April 2018

Giveaway #677 : Win an award-winning Bshirt for breastfeeding mums - closing date 28/4

When a press release landed in my inbox recently for ethical breastfeeding clothing brand The Bshirt and their award-winning ‘Lift The Flap’ tops, I felt all nostalgic. I absolutely respect every mum's choice to breast or bottle feed their baby, but I have to say, those precious moments of absolute intimacy and special bonding with a newborn (and not-so-newborn, as I kept going for well over a year each time) remain some of my favourite memories of each of the Madhouse kids. That said, breastfeeding in public is always tricky, which is why The Bshirt looks so fantastic - the perfect combination of funky and functional.

The Bshirt is delighted to announce the launch of their award-winning ‘Lift The Flap’ tops on innovative shopping destination site for mums, NINERY. The online portal dedicated to providing mums and mums-to-be with must have clothing and accessories is a hub of ideas and inspiration. Brimming with unique fashion forward finds, The Bshirt joins leading brands and will be available from April 2018.

Stylish and empowering, The Bshirt can be worn on its own or as a vest top under clothes, to help make breastfeeding even more fashionable. Co-founded by two Devon based mumpreneurs, the Bshirt ‘Lift the Flap’ range of breastfeeding tops are all made from organic cotton, feeling super soft and easy to wear.

Co-founders Lisa and Philippa commented ahead of the launch: “We are huge fans of NINERY and are thrilled about the first Bshirt collection launching on the site this spring. The Bshirt is so much more than just a top, helping new mums to breastfeed with confidence by empowering women to breastfeed wearing their favourite fashions. The launch is an exciting step for us to be able share our breastfeed with confidence message with even more mums.”

NINERY founder, Penny Harrison said: "I am so thrilled that our customers can now find the Bshirt collection for sale at NINERY. I've been keen to work with Philippa and Lisa right from the beginning as their brilliant Lift the Flap top is exactly the kind of product I had in mind when creating the concept of my marketplace site.”

Penny continued: “I am passionate about bringing together lots of independent, stylish brands for mums and mums-to-be all at one contemporary shopping site, so women don't have to spend hours trawling online. I hope that as many mums as possible can discover exciting breastfeeding fashion options at NINERY and we're really proud that the Bshirt is joining us on our journey."

A social venture launched in March 2017, Bshirt co-founders Lisa and Philippa are passionate about improving breastfeeding rates in the UK and enabling women to breastfeed confidently for as long as they wish. The UK currently has some of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world and both the NHS and Unicef list embarrassment at feeding in public as a major barrier to breastfeeding.

The Bshirt has seen amazing results from customer surveys, with 83% of saying they feel more confident feeding in front of others while wearing their Bshirts. The team is also thrilled to have just been announced as a Gold winner in the MadeForMums Awards 2018, within the Breastfeeding accessory category.

Browse the full range available and find your perfect outfit pairings for any occasion this season, To find out more information on The Bshirt and wider collection, visit

Bshirt, Lift the Flap, £25.39 (Two for £41.39) including delivery

Available in sizes 8 – 18

Colours - white/ black/ grey/ navy / plum

I am delighted to have a Bshirt to give away to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. (I'll send the winner's email over to the company to arrange size/colour choices.) Fill in your entries via the rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 28/4/18

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. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. The winners' personal contact information will be passed on to the PR / Brand responsible and used only for delivery of their prize. 

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #16

This will be a weird week as I'm going back to work, but I'm also going to be busy looking after the visiting Norwegian delegation, which means two meals out with them in the evenings. I'll be dashing home in between the conference/workshops and the evening events to sort out the kids' homework and food, but they'll be on simple dishes that they can reheat for themselves. Lunches will be back to school canteen or fending for themselves at home. Then once we get back into routine, it's the school holidays ! No complaints here though :)


lunch - The Madhouse grandparents are over for the day so I'm not sure what I'm cooking yet - I might go with the usual roast dinner a day early or we might even take them out somewhere for our traditional Saturday fast food

dinner - spaghetti bolognese


lunch - Sunday roast or possibly a meal out (fast food or a cheap family-friendly restaurant) depending on what we did yesterday

dinner - for some reason, as I write this plan, I have a craving for bacon sandwiches - I'm sure the kids won't complain ! I might make them slightly healthier by doing BLTs or I may just listen to the kids and add just ketchup or brown sauce !


dinner - I'll be dashing in and out again for the welcome meal with the Norwegians so I'll cook up something simple like beefburgers, rice & Chinese veg


dinner - After a reception at the town hall, I'll be home in time to cook - but the kids will probably be starving so a quick option is needed. Meatballs, couscous and ratatouille should fit the bill nicely (and they can even have it with spaghetti instead if they prefer). 


lunch - the kids will be fending for themselves - there's a big tin of ravioli in the cupboard or they can fridge-graze instead, if there are leftovers (which there should be, if I've planned well enough)

dinner - an evening off so time for some proper cooking - chicken breast with baby potatoes and green beans


dinner - I'm out fine dining with the Norwegians but the kids will have to make do with a frozen pizza or something simple like a pouch of microwavable rice, sweetcorn or baked beans and hot dog sausages


 dinner - back to normal, the Norwegians will have left ... but the in laws may be arriving for the month-anniversary church service of Madhouse Daddy's funeral tomorrow (which they wanted to drive up for) ... so I'll go for a joker day - could be leftovers, could be takeaway, could be cheesy veg & bacon bake if it's just us

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

The Organised Life Project

Linking up with The Meal Planing Linky with The Organised Life Project and

Thursday, 12 April 2018

#readcookeat recipe : Pan-fried fish with bacon (A Tangled Web)

While menu-planning last week, I decided to have a browse through my bookmarked recipes and came across a dish that I'd noted down from Mike Martin's most recent Sgt. Windflower mystery, A Tangled Web. (Click through for my review.) Sgt. Windflower is a man who likes his food, so I've already recreated many recipes from his tales, including Newfoundland Raisin Molasses Bread, Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake, Triple Layer Vegetarian Lasagne and Pea Soup with Dough Boys. He adores cheesecake but also eats a lot of fish dishes, and that is what I came back to this time.

p118 "I'm a bit groggy but feel a lot better smelling that delicious fish. What's the ETE?"
Sheila laughed. "The estimated time of eating will be after you get a shave and cleaned up."
"I'm on it, Ma'am."
Half an hour later, Windflower was sitting at the kitchen table as Sheila scooped mashed potatoes on his plate along with string beans. She laid a piece of the halibut alongside the potatoes and poured a little sauce over top of everything. The fish was browned nicely on top and there were small pieces of meat sprinkled in the sauce. Windflower took a taste of the fish along with a small piece of meat. "This is delicious. What's the meat?"
"It's prosciutto," said Sheila. "It's the packaged stuff. I bet it would be so much better with fresh ham. I wasn't sure how this recipe for pan-fried halibut but work out, but I think it's okay."
"This is pretty darned good," said Windflower. "Garlic mash too," he added as he tried a forkful of potatoes. "Perfect."

I had a quick look on google but this doesn't seem to be a specific recipe, so I used it as more of a loose inspiration for my own creation. I didn't have prosciutto to hand so I used bacon lardons instead, but I wanted to move away from the basic Fried Fish with Scrunchions type dish that I'd already recreated. I opted for the addition of leeks and cream to make a rich sauce for topping the fish.

Pan-fried fish with bacon

ingredients :

fillets of halibut or any other white fish 
a knob of butter
salt, garlic pepper
2 leeks
150g bacon lardons (or prosciutto)
20cl light crème fraîche

Heat a knob of butter in a frying pan and fry the fish. Sgt. Windflower used halibut but I opted for whiting as it was on offer in the supermarket.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, fry the bacon lardons until they release some fat, then add the leeks. If using prosciutto, you may have to add a little butter. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft and starting to separate into rings.

Add the cream and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens.

Serve the fish and spoon some of the sauce over the top. Sgt. Windflower ate his with garlic mash but we opted for the end of a bag of duchess potatoes from the freezer. I also skipped the string beans as I'd already added lots of leeks.

If your kids aren't keen on fish, this is a great way of disguising it. If you are a fish lover, go easy on the sauce so that it doesn't drown the flavour though. It's a quick and simple but indulgent dish, perfect for a busy midweek meal. 

Adding to the #readcookeat linky over at Chez Maximka.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Moj Moj review - So soft, so cute ... so moj ! #MojMoj

An intriguing parcel arrived at The Madhouse this week, screaming "Pick me !" and hinting at the new collectibles inside : So soft, so cute ... so moj ! 

Inside we found four Moj Moj Mystery Packs and a bag of sweeties (in a matching stripey bag) nestling in some pretty rainbow-hued crinkly shredded plastic.

The packaging is really pretty, with its pastel palette of pinks, blues and yellows and stripey or polka dot designs. This also gave us our first sneak peek at what would be hiding inside - the Moj Mojs are apparently a collection of ultra cute, mainly animal, characters. Time to go and meet them !

Inside each mystery pack, we found two Moj Moj characters in plastic bags, as well as a collector's guide, which was what we looked at first. The first Moj Moj series, named "😀" moves away from the typical numbered series and introduces family groups to collect, which include Adventure Seekers, Party Animals, Couch Potatoes, Happy Campers, Sun Bathers and Day Dreamers. It features an assortment of limited-edition, rare and ultra-rare must-have Moj Moj characters from puppies to pandas and seals to starfish, which are apparently designed to bring emoji’s to life.

Here are the ones that we discovered - they are all very cute (Juliette's favourite is the panda) and they reminded her a bit of Num Noms and Tsum Tsums because they can be stacked.

They are made of a soft, slightly sticky, almost slime-like material that can be squashed, prodded and stretched to your heart's content before springing back to its initial shape. Juliette was intrigued to know if they were scented, like Num Noms, but they just have a slightly chemical, plasticky smell.

There are already almost a hundred Moj Moj to collect in series one and if your children love cute collectibles along the lines of Num Noms, they won’t be able to resist buying, trading and squeezing these cute, colorful characters. Moj Moj is available from @EntertainerToys and Mystery Packs containing two Moj Moj retail at £4, which is a little pricey for what you get, but well within pocket money prices.  

for more information :

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