Sunday, 30 April 2017

New Year Resolutions Review week #17: Back to the grind

Back to work and I was exhausted this week, flaking out at 9.30pm two nights on the trot. I spent a few hours marking yesterday afternoon and, when the dog woke me up at 6.30am for a drink this morning (on a Sunday *groan*), I decided to stay up and crack on so that I could enjoy the rest of the bank holiday weekend.

1. Get Fit(bitting) !
I haven't even synchronised my fitbit this week, but I've been keeping track of my steps on the display. Oops, I've just gone to do it and discovered there was a Firmware update to install. Well, after synchronising my Fitbit, I've just earned the Serengeti badge - "You may not have seen wildebeasts, giraffes or zebras on this trek, but you have walked 804 kilometers — the same distance as the Serengeti, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World" ! I hit my 10k steps target on 3 days (11k on both) but got to 9k+ on three other days so it's not too shabby.

2. Get cooking bookmarked recipes ! 
As Sophie was poorly and not hungry, I spent most of the week cooking plain rice and pasta as it was all she could keep down. I did finally get round to blogging about bookmarked recipes that I tried in the holidays though : Sausages & Bacon with Apples, Pizza Style Meatloaf (one of the US comfort food recipes I'd bookmarked the week before) and Balmoral Chicken (chicken breast stuffed with haggis and wrapped in pancetta). I still have a few dishes that I've made but not had time to blog about yet too.

3. Get geocaching !
Two of my new caches went live but one was refused because it's too close to another one - it must only be a matter of a couple of metres because I checked on the map before hiding it. I didn't get out geocaching this week but I'm hoping to change that this afternoon ! One of my travelbugs has moved on to Lorraine, down by the German border. Will it make it into a new country ?

4. Get comping !
After winning two books last week, both from the Goodreads giveaways, I managed to rack up another win for April in the final days of the month : 6 month's supply of Hairburst vitamins, worth a whopping £119.99. My mum also kindly donated one of her prizes to me : 1kg of jelly beans - yum !

(January : 4 wins - £20 shopping voucher, Mr Lee's noodles, Ambrosia trifle glasses, set of 5 books; February : 1 win - tea & personalised mug (prize for Galina); March - 1 win - a Bear Grylls adventure book; April - 4 wins - a colouring bundle, And Then We Ran book, Aram book, 6 months supply of Hairburst vitamins)

5. Get reading !
 My review of Patricia Scanlan's Orange Blossom Days went live this week. I finished Paige Toon's The Last Piece of My Heart - the review is scheduled to go live this afternoon - and I'm now reading Little Gold by Allie Rogers, which is set in Brighton in the 1980's and reminds me of my childhood. I need to crack on and finish this one because I'm taking part in a blog tour on Friday and need to post my review !

6. Get FLYing !
Haven't had time to even look at the daily missions but I'm still basking in the glory of the major dejunk/tidy in the playroom.

 From this ...

To this. Aaaahhhhh !

8. Get bloggy housekeeping !

Blog stats are on an even keel, Klout doesn't like me any more and is descending to new depths and since saying I need to clear out my drafts folder, It's gone from 567 posts to 575 and now 581 - oops ! That should drop a bit once I've typed up my recipes and finished off the reviews that I've already uploaded photos for. I just need a few extra hours in the day - a bank holiday should help with that.

9. Get French !
Still no news. With next week's second and final round of elections, we're on tenterhooks to see if the National Front will be elected. My boss asked if I'd put in for French nationality to cover my back and was relieved when I said yes !

I like doing these round-ups because I thought I'd achieved nothing this week, apart from cracking on at work and running around collecting Sophie from the school nurse repeatedly, but I've actually done quite a lot !

What about you? Have you set yourself any targets, challenges or new year's resolutions this year?

Book review : The Last Piece Of My Heart - Paige Toon

It's a sure sign that summer is on the way when the chicklit review copies start coming in thick and fast ! I can understand why - it's the perfect genre for a bit of light, easy-to-read, feel-good escapism as you lounge by the pool under a palm tree sipping on a cocktail. Paige Toon is one of my favourite chicklit authors so I knew I'd be in for a treat when her latest novel, The Last Piece Of My Heart, landed on my doormat, along with a clever bit of tie-in merchandising - a jigsaw puzzle featuring the front cover picture.

The story focuses on Bridget, who I instantly warmed to, possibly because she's also a blogger. Initially a travel blogger, now trying her hand at writing a book, she is on a light-hearted but poignant mission to revisit all her exes and ask them to give back the piece of her heart that they held on to when they parted ways. The reason behind this isn't just her desire to become an author - she is also in a long distance relationship and feels unable to commit to marriage, so she is hoping that this will lay her demons to rest and allow her to move on to the next chapter of her life. When she gets a call from her agent with a book deal, she is over the moon ... but it isn't her book that they want. She is hired as a ghostwriter for a popular young author, Nicole Dupré, who tragically died before she had finished her long-awaited sequel. For one crazy summer, Bridget moves to Cornwall to stay with Nicole's husband and daughter while she works on the novel, trying to get into Nicole's headspace so that she can pick up her narrative, while simultaneously following up on her own mission, tracking down past boyfriends. When she finally works out who holds the final missing piece of her heart, it comes as a total shock (possibly more to Bridget than the reader as it seemed pretty obvious to me almost right from the beginning !) but the final "piece" offers her closure and the ultimate "peace" and happiness she craves.

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, the cleverly crafted novel allows us to follow numerous romances - both Bridget's checkered love-life and current relationship and Nicole's marriage, as well as her novel which seems largely autobiographical and focuses on choosing between two loves. I like the way that Bridget learns a lot about herself as she tries to understand another woman's heart and soul.

It's quite predictable but hugely enjoyable so definitely tuck a copy in your suitcase this summer. The action flips between Cornwall and Thailand so it will fit right in, wherever you're going !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (18 May 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471162559
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471162558
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.6 x 19.8 cm

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

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 30/4/17

Animals behaving badly ! Mr Donkey should put a hoof in front of his mouth if he's yawning (I'd never seen a donkey yawn before !) ...

This little piggy needs to wipe his nose ...

And this one was snoring his head off ! It gave us a chance to admire his rather impressive tusks though.

Sunday SnapOneDad3Girls

Saturday, 29 April 2017

BABY Born Puppy Doodle review

If your children have grown out of playing with dolls (even of the crying, weeing kind) but are still fascinated with all things involving bodily functions, they are bound to get excited about one of the latest additions to the BABY Born range : the interactive Puppy Doodle.

He is VERY well attached to the packaging so be prepared for a few minutes fighting with the twisted wires keeping him prisoner in the box before he will finally be free for cuddles !

The parental input isn't quite finished yet though ! After lots of futile looking at the box to see what type of batteries it required, I opened up the compartment and discovered that it needs 2 x AAA batteries. Once they were installed, we were ready to go.

He comes with a few accessories to play with, including a plastic bone that fits into his mouth.

There is also a squishy plastic feeding bottle that fits into his mouth and activates a lapping water noise.

When I was inserting the batteries, Pierre had already noticed that he has a "willy" - or more precisely, a hole. This means that if you fill the bottle with water and feed him, he will do a wee. Cue instant giggles and excited cries of "can we try?"

You need to press the nozzle deep in the hole in his mouth, stand him upright and press to squeeze the water inside him. A lot of water dribbles out of the bottle and his mouth so he quickly gets quite wet. It's also hard to tell how much water has actually been ingested.

Afterwards, you press on his back which makes him lift his leg and start weeing. You get a water noise which sounds more like a tap running than a genuine dog wee but it still had the kids in fits of giggles and, after a few false starts, he did start weeing.

Here's a little video to show how we got on. It's a bit hit and miss - it took us a couple of attempts to get any "wee" out at all (presumably it takes time for the water to work through the tubes inside his body - I wonder if that means there is some water that remains stagnant inside once you've finished playing?) and it takes about two or three bottles of water before he will wee properly, although this probably depends on how much leaks out when you feed him.

He does get quite wet all down his front when he dribbles and you'll need kitchen towel or a tea towel to mop up the water when he wees. It might be a good outdoor toy on the patio in the summer months, when it won't matter and he'll dry out quickly.

He also has a cute dog tag on his front but it is covered in paper - judging by how wet he gets, it would probably have been a good idea to have laminated it in plastic so it would be waterproof. To be honest though, as he makes the noises and lifts his leg with or without water, we'll probably play with him more without water than with, as it's easier, less messy and the kids are just as happy.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £29.99

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

Madhouse recipe : Sausages and Bacon with Apples

This was a recipe that I saw mentioned on someone else's menu plan and it sounded nice so I went to investigate - it comes from an old BBC Good Food recipe and it used just a few things that were in the freezer and the kitchen. Bonus !

It's incredibly simple. Just wrap a rasher of bacon around each sausage and lay them out in a roasting tin.

I didn't quite have enough sausages to go round so I used a couple of Cheestrings in the last bacon rashers, knowing that the kids would eat them.

Chop a few apples into wedges and arrange them in the tin, placing them between the sausages and around the edges. Dot a few tiny knobs of butter on top.

Bake at 200° for about half an hour, until the apples are soft and the sausages and bacon are cooked through.

The cheese had splurged everywhere but I scraped it off the bottom and it was still gobbled up !

Serve with mash or rice and veg.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Globecooking recipe : Pizza-style meatloaf (USA)

Classic American meatloaf topped with pizza sauce and parmesan (or mozzarella would be even better) is ideal for a quick and simple, family-friendly midweek meal. Serve with pasta, rice or mash and salad.

Pizza-style meatloaf

ingredients :

drizzle of olive oil
2 onions
1 clove of garlic
3 mushrooms
500g minced beef
salt, pepper, oregano, basil
a good shake of dried breadcrumbs
1tbsp ranch seasoning (optional)
1tbsp fajita seasoning (optional)
1 tin of pizza sauce (or tomato puree)
chopped parmesan

 Finely chop the garlic, onions and mushrooms. Gently fry in the olive oil for 8 minutes until soft and translucent.

Break up the mince in a bowl and stir through the onions, garlic and mushrooms. 

Add the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, oregano and basil.

As I had some American-style seasonings to use up, I added some of these too but they are purely optional.

Mix it all up and pour into a roasting tin or ovenproof dish. 

Use your hands to press it into a loaf shape.

Bake at 180° for half an hour. Stab in the centre with a sharp knife to check the juices run clear.

I had a can of pizza sauce which has a lovely rich herby flavour to complement the tomatoes, but you could use regular tomato puree instead.

Spoon on top and spread it out so it is covered in a thick layer.

Dot with chunks of cheese. I used parmesan but mozzarella or cheddar would be great too.

Pop back in the oven for ten minutes until the cheese melts. 

Cut into slices and serve.

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

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 28/4

We've only been back to school a week and there's already a bank holiday this week and next week - hopefully the weather will play along ! Several things got bumped off of last week's menu plan because Sophie was feeling poorly so I was cooking lots of plain white rice and bland food that was easy for her to keep down. There might therefore be a few repeats but I also want to get stuck into my Mexican-themed Kitchen Trotter box.


lunch - it's that time of week again ... McDonald's !

dinner - Cazuela de camarones - a spicy prawn stew


lunch - roast dinner or BBQ depending on the weather

dinner - Sopa de Lima - Mexican lime soup with chicken, onions and tomatoes


lunch - noodles with stir-fried veggies and leftover meat

dinner - Chalupas de salsa verde - homemade corn tortillas topped with green sauce


dinner - chicken tetrazzini - a creamy chicken & pasta dish


lunch - mac & cheese with pork chops

dinner - chicken popover pies (like Yorkshire puddings stuffed with creamy chicken) with peas and mash


dinner - barbacoa with tortillas & guacamole


dinner - there's bound to be a fridge full of leftovers to use up - if not, spaghetti bolognese

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Globecooking recipe : Balmoral Chicken (Scotland)

On a recent #KitchenClearout, I dug deep into the freezer and came up with a pack of haggis and some sweet potato croquettes. OK, this could be interesting, trying to make a meal out of that ! After winning a big delivery of haggis, I have tried quite a few different recipes with it : The Holy Trinity of Haggis, Veggie Haggis with Baked Onions & Tomatoes, Haggis & Cheese Pastry Parcels, Sri Lankan Red Lentils with Wild Boar Haggis, Moroccan Spiced Vegetarian Haggis Puffs, ... What else could I do with it? Google came up with an interesting idea : Balmoral Chicken, which is chicken stuffed with haggis and wrapped in bacon or pancetta. Okey dokey, let's try that !

Balmoral Chicken

ingredients :

(per person)

1 chicken breast
a thick slice of haggis
2-3 slices of pancetta / bacon / cured ham
salt, pepper

Lay the chicken breast out flat, flip out the small inner fillet (leaving it attached) and use a sharp knife to widen the slit and make a pocket. Season with salt and pepper.

Use your fingers to press the haggis into a sausage shape. (One per portion.)

Press the haggis into the chicken pocket and flip back over the inner fillet to partially close it.

Carefully wrap each chicken fillet in bacon, pancetta or smoked ham.

Bake at 180° until the chicken is cooked through (20-30 minutes, depending on their size).

It was nice but a bit dry. It definitely needs a sauce of some description - gravy or whisky cream sauce are traditional, but I used some shop-bought sweet chilli sauce, which was very nice with it too. If I make it again, I'll add a knob of butter on top of the haggis filling to baste it while it cooks.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky because it used up things that had been lurking in the freezer for ages.

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