Sunday, 18 March 2018

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 17/3/18 RIP Madhouse Daddy

You may have noticed a distinct lack of blogging from us lately - here's why. RIP Madhouse Daddy. Taken from us way too soon (age 46) and way too suddenly. We all miss you.

OneDad3GirlsSunday Snap

Friday, 9 March 2018

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #11

I came up with a cracking menu plan last week, full of exotic bookmarked recipes, then one of Sophie's friends came to stay from Monday to Thursday and I thought she might not want to try weird and wonderful dishes so I went for safer options. This week's plan is therefore mainly the things I ended up making last week, and I'll mix and match with the recipes that didn't get made last week. Confused ? I will be !


lunch - The traditional Burger King visit

dinner - leek, bacon & potato soup


lunch - roast dinner - chicken probably

dinner - chicken & veg soup


dinner - crunchy chicken with mash and carrots


dinner - cottage pie


lunch - beefburgers, Actifry chips & ratatouille

dinner - tacos


dinner - grilled salmon, creamy spinach & rice


 dinner - spaghetti carbonara

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Madhouse diaries : Frosty half-term fun

January and February in and around Dunkirk means carnival (or carnaval, as they say here) so we started off the holidays with a quick wander to take in the sights and sounds of the "bandes". It's always a riot of colour with hundreds of tall umbrellas and unique costumes, embellished with feather boas, tiny bells and little teddy bears nestled in amongst the fake flowers and long feathers on the traditional hats.

The musicians, with big drums, tin whistles, trumpets and trombones are all dressed in yellow oilskins, as a nod to the origins of the carnival - it was originally a big celebration before the fishermen headed off to catch herring in the dangerous waters around Iceland, so they had a big send off in case they didn't make it back home again. This is also the reason why the mayor throws plastic-wrapped kippers from the balcony of the town hall.

Pierre found the best place to see (and keep out of the way of the crowds) was on Sophie's shoulders. I love the way he's hanging on to her forehead for dear life !

After the crowds, we decided to head to the wide open spaces of the beach. We had a watery sun and gorgeous blue skies but it was blimming cold.

 Pierre was most impressed to see that the showers (for cleaning the sand off your feet in the summer months) had frozen solid.

We continued our walk through the sculpture gardens of the LAAC, the modern art museum.

 Pierre went running up the hill to look at the world war II bunker (which is covered over with grass on one side but still visible at the back) and had some fun with shadow play.

Juliette was more interested in breaking the ice around the edges of the pond - don't fall in !

When we reached the big lake, there were lots of older kids and dads cracking off great sheets of ice and pulling them out of the water with sticks.

Pierre and Juliette joined in with throwing pieces of ice on the ground to shatter like glass and thought this was great fun.

They had a go with their own sticks but it was harder than it looked. I think Pierre looks like a garden gnome fishing in this photo !

When it got too cold and we felt like our fingers were going to drop off, we headed for home.

After watching endless reports of Snowmageddon across the UK, the Madhouse kids finally got a little bit of the white stuff to play in. This was the extent of our snow though and it only lasted one day.

Just enough to make a few snow balls before it melted !

Globecooking recipe : Peanut Butter Soup (Ghana)

ghana peanut butter soup

The very first book that I read in 2018 was Outcasts United by Warren St John, a non-fiction book that tells the story of a group of refugees from various countries around the world, trying to settle into a new life in small-town America, helped along by their relentless and passionate Jordanian soccer coach, Luma Mufleh. (Click through to read my review.)

While many of the mothers in the story are out working one or multiple jobs to try and get their new life on track, the kids are often left to keep house and feed the rest of the family, so there were several mentions of traditional foods from the various countries that they come from. This one immediately caught my eye.

p135 Kanue's role was to cook and keep the apartment. After classes each day at a public school called Avondale Middle, he went home and got to work making African food from recipes he'd learned from Grandma : beans and spicy stews of spinach and cassava leaves, which he poured over rice, and his favourite, peanut butter soup.

The idea of putting peanut butter into a soup sounded very strange to me, and I had visions of something very gloopy, oily and cloying. However, after googling it, I discovered that it is the national dish of Ghana, so surely a whole nation can't be wrong ! There are several versions available, many involving chicken, some as vegetarian options, with butternut squash, sweet potato or spinach. My original plan was to use up the leftover chicken after the Sunday roast, but we ended up eating raclette instead (a French dish consisting of potatoes, cured meats and oodles of melted cheese), so I went for a veggie version instead. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the end result.

 Peanut Butter Soup

ingredients :

drizzle of olive oil
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 sweet potato
spinach, fresh or frozen
(optional : chicken, cooked or raw)
1 chicken stock cube
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 heaped tbsp peanut butter
salt, pepper, chilli flakes
ground peanuts (to serve - optional)

Start by peeling and dicing the sweet potato into small cubes.

Fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil until they start to go translucent and soft, but don't go brown. If using fresh chicken, you could add it at this point. 

Add the sweet potato to the pot and cook for five minutes or so, stirring regularly.

Cover with boiling water and stir in the stock cube.

Cook for about 10 minutes until the sweet potato is soft but not mushy.

Add some spinach to the pot - I used frozen as I had some that needed using up, but fresh would be good too, or you can substitute for kale. Another common ingredient in American versions is Collard Greens and I'm sure they have an alternative green vegetable in Ghana/Africa so just use whatever you have to hand.

Stir through a tin of chopped tomatoes and heat through until the spinach is wilted and, if using frozen, completely defrosted. If using up leftover cooked chicken, add it now.

OK, here goes - time to dollop in the peanut butter. I had smooth but you could opt for crunchy instead if you prefer.

Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, for a few minutes until the peanut butter has melted and gone creamy. Taste and season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes.

I had a bag of ground peanuts in the cupboard so I sprinkled some on top of each bowl after serving.

It's a rich, creamy and surprisingly tasty soup, and all the different flavours blend and work together really well. The Madhouse kids were intrigued and wanted to try it, despite not being at all keen on spinach and sweet potatoes. Bonus !

Adding to the #readcookeat linky over at Chez Maximka.

Also adding to the #KitchenClearout linky as it used up some frozen spinach that had been lurking in the freezer for ages, along with a jar of peanut butter that had all the oil separating from it and the end of a bag of ground peanuts.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Giveaway #672 : Win a Cindy Lass Tiger Lily Needlepoint Kit - closing date 21/3

In our hectic modern day lives, sometimes we need to take time out to rest our ever-cluttered, chattering minds and relax. Stitching with needlepoint is the perfect way to focus the mind, bringing with it a feeling of calm and satisfaction upon completion. Now renowned artist Cindy Lass brings her original, beautiful works of art to life with Cindy Lass Needlepoint.

Cindy Lass believes passionately that painting should come straight from the heart. A self-taught artist, she has been painting for more than 20 years and has acquired a huge fan base of admiring art lovers, including celebrities such as Sir Elton John, George Michael and Victoria and David Beckham. Her famous painting of The Queen’s Corgis now hangs in The Queen’s private quarters at Buckingham Palace and her tribute to Anne Frank, Everyone Has The Right To Blossom, hung at The Anne Frank House Amsterdam from 2010, and is now part of the immersive exhibit Anne at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

Cindy’s Celebrity Pawtraits saw her painting the dogs and cats of international stars including Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley MacLaine, Brad Pitt, Geri Halliwell, Bill and Hilary Clinton, Heidi Klum, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall. Her inspirational All Our Hearts Beat As One project brought together people from all walks of life, from fashion designers to sporting stars, via actors, TV personalities and musicians, including, Emma Thompson, Cate Blanchett, Bruno Tonioli, Simon Cowell, Iron Maiden’s Dave Murray, Meg Matthews, Mary McCartney, Sinitta and many more. Her projects have helped many charitable causes including Battersea Dogs Home, Elton John’s AIDS Foundation and The Heart Cell Foundation.

Cindy Lass Needlepoint kits make the perfect gift for a loved one or a gift to yourself. It gives us the chance to own a piece of Cindy Lass’s art from the heart, her world of colour that will soothe the soul and bring us joy. These beautiful artworks handpicked by Cindy Lass would make the ideal Mother’s Day or Easter gift, or are perfect for Spring or just to bring brightness and warm the soul. They are all available in charted or printed formats for beginners and experts alike.

Here's what Cindy said about the Needlepoint range : ‘My art is my passion, and now it’s time to share this with you. I want my art to be accessible, I want to take away the snobbery and bring back the fun of connecting with the energy of the painting. As such I have chosen a number of my favourite paintings for the launch of Cindy Lass Needlepoint. Each has its own story, each has its own energy... you really do not need any special skills to make my kits! Just the intent to take time out for yourself and connect to your heart for a moment in time. I hope you enjoy stitching and creating the designs as much as I enjoyed painting them.’
Stitch from the Heart x
Cindy xxx



These beautiful floral designs are created from the show Celebrity Flowers which involved a host of stars including Sir Elton John, George Michael, Dame Shirley Bassey, Emma Thompson and Paul Bettany sharing their favourite flower with Cindy Lass. Sweet Wonders was based on George Michael’s favourite flower the orchid also known as the sweet wonders of life. Tiger Lily
was actor Paul Bettany’s favourite flower.


This powerful, colourful painting was created to launch All Our Hearts Beat As One. The heartbeat is a very important sound and vibration.


As an admirer of golf Cindy saw Jack Nicklaus play and decided for the first time to paint people – this is bold and fun sporting portrait.


During his presidency Socks was the treasured cat of Bill Clinton and his family, this wonderful painting was part of Cindy’s Celebrity Pawtraits Series.


In time for Her Majesty’s 80th Birthday, Cindy painted this striking, colourful picture of The Queen’s beloved corgis and dorgis. The painting hangs in her private apartments.


Hank was the beloved pet of Charlie Sheen & Denise Richards and a beautiful French Bulldog

I'm delighted to have a Cindy Lass Tiger Lily Needlepoint Kit to give away to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries via the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 21/3/18

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 mum wants ... "Ma"-vellous gifts for mother's day !

In case it's escaped your notice, this Sunday (11th March) is Mother's Day in the UK. If you're still sadly lacking in the inspiration department, here's a little roundup of some of the lovely goodies available at amazon, guaranteed to put a smile on your mum's face, whatever her interests. They even have one-day delivery options if you're completely unorganised and end up waiting until the last minute !

For the hi-tech modern mum, how about the Amazon Echo Dot ? (RRP £49.99, currently £39.99 with free delivery.) Mum can put her feet up and let Alexa take the strain with hands-free voice control to do everything from playing music, controlling smart home devices (including lights, switches, TVs and thermostats), providing information, reading the news, setting alarms and more. Even better, buy one for yourself too and stay in touch simply - you can call or message anyone hands-free who also has an Echo device or the Alexa App. Be prepared to explain repeatedly how it all works though !

For Cooking Mama, the Handmade at Amazon English Dinner Apron by Victoria Eggs (RRP £22) is the perfect accessory for the kitchen. As well as keeping her clothes clean and giving her something to wipe her hands on, it could also come in handy for choosing what to cook for dinner - roast beef? bangers and mash? fish & chips? or how about the retro classic Spotted Dick?! It's not just the food choices that are the best of British - the apron itself is screen printed and hand sewn in Lincolnshire, England.

For Green-fingered earth mothers, even those without a garden, this Indoor Herb Garden Kit (RRP £20.45, currently £12.97) is perfect for the kitchen window sill. There's something very satisfying about having homegrown fresh herbs (basil, parsley, chives) to add the final finishing touch and gourmet garnish to your meal, even if it's just spaghetti sauce out of a jar ! This kit has everything you need to start an indoor herb garden - a planter box, 3 rustic pots, growing medium & seeds. You even get some chalk to write the names of the herbs on the blackboard strip while you wait for them to grow ! Mummy Mummy, whose food is yummy, how does your garden grow ?!

For sweet-toothed mums, who love a little taste of luxury, Prestat chocolates go the extra mile in terms of taste and packaging. The 210g Large Jewel Box (currently £14.99) is Prestat's best-selling gift box and is packed with 16 of their favourite chocolates and truffles. Designed by artist Kitty Arden, the box and its layers of tissue paper conjure up the great stages of London, on which Prestat-lovers such as Sir John Gielgud and Dame Peggy Ashcroft plied their trade. They're not the only famous fans though.  Prestat say : “Our chocolates and truffles have been enjoyed by kings and queens, sultans and maharajas, princesses and presidents, stars of stage and screen, indeed by anyone who delights in the pleasure that only the finest chocolate brings”. Time to add your mum to that list !

Finally, for the Perfectly Pampered Parent, you can't go wrong with some luxury bath and body care products, and The Ritual of Sakura Relaxing Gift Set from Rituals (RRP £16.92) ticks all the right boxes. Celebrate each day as a new beginning with these lovely products based on the fabulous aromas of Cherry Blossom and Rice Milk. The gorgeous box contains Shower Foam, Shower Oil, Body Scrub, and Body Cream. Perfect for a pampering spa day in the comfort of your own home.

All of these gifts (and more) can be found online at and

Disclosure : I was gifted a selection of products.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The February "Our Family Selection" Degustabox review

As each passing month draws to a close, that signals that it's time for another Degustabox delivery to arrive on the doorstep and this month, the kids were in for a nice surprise - the theme of February's box was "Our Family Selection" and as soon as we peeled back the brown paper and bubble wrap, there were excited squeals.

Unusually, this month is all about snacks, with very few savoury options and nothing to cook with at all. I was slightly disappointed but the Madhouse kids thought it was great news ! In this month's box, there are eleven products, but two are doubled up so there are nine brands to discover, or rediscover, as several have featured in previous Degustaboxes. So what was in the box? 

The first thing the kids spotted (and instantly wanted to eat!) was Haribo Fruitilicious (RRP 2 x £1.29) - they have exactly the same great fruity flavour and chewy texture as usual but with 30% less sugar, which is great news. They come in strawberry, raspberry, pineapple, orange, apple and lemon-flavoured smiley shapes and we loved all of them.

More sweets, or should I say candy, because these ones have an American twist. As I mentioned in my review of the January Degustabox, which contained Hershey's chocolate, the Madhouse kids are always extra excited by American imports (I blame youtube !) so they were over the moon to get the chance to try Tootsie Roll Midgees (RRP £2.50). These were new to us, although I did know the name, but they've actually been around since 1896 in the USA. Very chewy and very tasty.

We were all very familiar with the Kit Kat brand but Chunky New York Cheesecake Kit Kat (RRP 65p) was a new one to us. I do like Kit Kats, with their crunchy texture and indulgent chocolatiness, but I tend to be from the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. Would the addition of cheesecake filling wreck the original formula? Well, actually, no - it got a unanimous thumbs up (even if we only got a small taste each because I cut the bar into pieces to share out).

Moving on to the healthier snacks, Emily Fruit Crisps (RRP 99p) are made with fresh fruit and vegetables. We got Crunchy Fig Banana which were nice, but there are other various flavours available. They make a nice healthier swap for regular crisps and each bag only contains 81 calories.

Another healthy snack option came next, The Protein Ball Co Cherry + Almond (2 x £1.99), which are made with a handful of raw pitted dates, free-range egg white protein, juicy sultanas and sour cherries. Add the almond flavour and you can fool your tastebuds that you're eating a cherry bakewell without the calories and refined sugar ! I love the combination of flavours with just the right tartness, but they're quite pricey for what they are.

If you prefer savoury snacks, Indie Bay Sunflower Pretzel Bites (RRP £2.49) will be more your thing. We tried these in a previous Degustabox and the kids love them - I find them a bit too hard but last time, I blitzed some in a food processor and used them, along with some honey mustard, to create a fabulous coating for strips of chicken breast. The kids munched these ones before I could use them in cooking though ! They're high in fibre and protein and each portion contains less than 100 calories (depending on the size of your portion !).

Dr Karg's Organic Emmental Cheese & Pumpkin Seed Crispbread (RRP £2) offer a tasty lunch or snack option. The seeds and cheese stop them from being bland and they have a lovely crunchy texture. As with all crispbread, they tend to be a bit dry though, so we ate them topped with cream cheese or dipped into guacamole.

If you like muesli, Primrose's Kitchen Raw Beetroot & Ginger Muesli (RRP £4.99) is gluten-free and vegan, as well as being an interesting mix of original flavours. It's quite pricey but is packed with quality ingredients, including fresh English beetroot, British gluten-free oats, virgin coconut oil, large strips of coconut, nuts, seeds, psyllium husk and chia. It's handmade and slowly dehydrated at low temperatures to preserve nutrients and flavours, so it's a great way to start the day. You might also like to try out the fabulous two-tone muesli cookies that Galina made with it over at Chez Maximka.

The final product was an interesting one : True Nopal Cactus Water (RRP £3.49). We tried aloe vera water in Lanzarote so I guessed this would be similar. It's made from the prickly pear which grows on the Nopal cactus and has no hidden nasties : no added sugar, sweeteners or preservatives. It's also gluten-free, fat-free and sodium-free and apparently contains half the calories of coconut water. It's a pleasant, refreshing drink that the whole family enjoyed.

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 £7.99 - enter code 0BS6T 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.

#KitchenClearout recipe : Prawn & Pasta Mish Mash

OK, so I probably could have made more of an effort both in terms of name and visual appeal, but this tasted surprisingly good and cleared out all the odds and ends before the weekly shop !

Prawn & Pasta Mish Mash

ingredients :

leftover cooked pasta 
1/2 yellow pepper (red and green would be fine too)
4 mushrooms
2 onions
some cooked and peeled king prawns
a pouch of tomato & garlic sauce (or use tinned tomatoes & fresh garlic)
chilli flakes (optional)

All last week, I was hosting a half-term English class in the mornings, so Sophie was on lunch duty. On Friday, she made spaghetti carbonara without cream (so in other words, pasta and bacon - I'm not laughing, honest !) so the leftovers were my starting point for the evening meal. I gave them a quick zap in the microwave to warm them up before returning them to the pan.

A quick rummage through the fridge came up with some onions, mushrooms and yellow pepper and I found a pouch in the cupboard from a recent Degustabox.

Peeling the prawns was the only time-consuming part of the whole dish.

Quickly fry the onions, mushrooms and peppers and stir through the pasta.

Heat the prawns in the frying pan you've just used and stir through the sauce. Add chilli flakes if you like.

Add to the pot and give it all a good stir. Serve, topped with ripped basil leaves and some parmesan.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up lots of odds and ends.

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