Sunday, 23 April 2017

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 23/4/17

WW2 bunker on the beach

(New blog post coming up later on this afternoon but you can see our previous walk along this section of the beach looking at all the bunkers here)

Sunday SnapOneDad3Girls

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Book review : Blame - Paul Read

When Lucas loses his father to a suspected heart attack, he expects to be wracked with grief. However, having been estranged for over a decade, and having gone through his own private hell, he doesn't feel anything much, except for a confusing mix of emotions that he can't (or doesn't want to) understand or deal with. Instead, he hops on a plane to New York with the lovely Mariana, but a dark secret threatens to put a spanner in the works and destroy the burgeoning relationship before it has even begun. As Shakespeare said, the truth will out and when the death is deemed suspicious, Lucas has to try to understand who may have wanted to harm his father. Looking for clues, he uncovers his childhood journal that retraces the traumatic family dramas and his interpretation of events that led to his rift with his father, forcing him (and the reader) to reassess his view not only of his father but also himself.

The book has an unusual structure, starting with a prologue ten years in the future which throws out lots of questions to pique the reader's interest. The rest of the book is a journey of discovery, revealing who Lucas is and how he came to be the man he is today. He hasn't had an easy life and while it is easy to empathise with him, I didn't find him particularly likeable, although he is wholly believable. The clumsy, innocent, childish diary entries of his 11-year-old self add a touch of lightness that contrast with the gloomy, angry and hate-filled young man that he has become. As Lucas unlocks the secrets of his past and the family dramas that were hiding behind the happy public exterior, he has to accept that he is not as different as he would like to think from the man he loves to hate. 

The novel is fast-paced and gripping and I couldn't wait to find out what deep dark secrets were lurking in Lucas's diary entries and his subconscious. It's an interesting look at how our adult personas are shaped by events from our past and, despite the poignant subject matter, there are moments of humour to lighten the tone.

The author, Paul Read, has worked as an Art, English and supply teacher at several inner-city schools in both England and Italy. A few years ago, Paul was involved in a hit-and run incident which put him in a wheelchair for several months, which is where he wrote the first draft of his debut novel, The Art Teacher, which I have also reviewed. (Click through to read that review.)

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (15 April 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1785079212
  • ISBN-13: 978-1785079214
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2.7 x 13.1 cm

The Blame blog tour is stopping off at Madhouse Family Reviews today - make sure you call in on the other bloggers taking part !

Fab freebies of the week 22/4

Well, the Easter holidays are drawing to a close - boo ! The good news is, the beautiful weather makes it easy to remember that the summer holidays aren't that far away - yay ! To help pass the time while we're waiting to be on holiday again (!), here's a BUMPER crop of freebies for your perusal !


Nominate your nursery for a Stickle Bricks pack! The much-loved Stickle Bricks are back and GP Flair are giving nurseries across the country the chance to receive a free play pack!
Inside each nursery pack will be activities, stickers, certificates and Stickle Bricks to play with. If you'd like to nominate a nursery to receive all this, simply send be the below information to
1. Your name
2. Name of nursery
3. Number of children at the nursery
4. Nursery contact details and contact name
5. Nursery address
Please ensure you have permission from the nursery before enrolling them.

You can request a sample of Fixodent Denture Adhesive on the Victoria website

Join the ELEMIS Review Panel for your chance to test and review brand new products before anyone else. For each new product launch we will select a panel of reviewers based on their suitability and provide full size items to be tested and reviewed. After testing the product, we will contact you and ask you to leave your review on the product page.

50,000 entrants will receive one Angel Muse Eau de Parfum flat spray sample

Win one of 2500 bottles of Lenor with Super Savvy Me

You can now claim to receive a free Dorset Tea™ Growing Kit to help you on your growing adventures. Each kit contains:
3 Dorset Tea™ cups
3 coir plant pots
9 coir discs
1 Dorset Tea™ flag kit
Growing kits are distributed on a first come, first served basis (1000 total Growing Kits available.)

Enter your details to claim your free 1 month's supply of vitamin D. On submission of your details a member of our staff will contact you to take your address so we can ensure correct shipment of your FREE 1 months supply of Vitamin D3. This is a No Obligation offer. Only one per household. Shipping will only be made to mainland United Kingdom.

We all know that when you find a product that really works you want to tell your friends and family all about it! That's why at Ortis we are giving you the chance to receive a free sample of Ortis Fruits & Fibres cubes (12 pack RRP £6.40) when you recommend a friend or family member who you think will love Ortis too.

Request a free issue of Men's Health magazine.

The first 50 parents to get in touch will receive four Sip n Sound Farmyard Straws. All you have to do is keep two and give the other two away for your little ones friends to enjoy. Ideally once you have received them you will spread the word about these fun straws via your Facebook and Twitter accounts. To receive yours simply email with your name and address.

MIND will send you a free packet of forget-me-not seeds to say thank you and ask you to join thousands of others like you in planting these seeds to show your support, so that no one should have to face a mental health problem alone.

Sign up to get free nato straps & see an exclusive preview from Fin Watches. Because you're special :)

Dole will be selecting 5000 Trialists to receive a free Dole Frozen Fruit Gift Pack containing:
1x Printed Tote Bag
1 x Trolley coin
1 x fridge magnet photo frame
1 x recipe card
1 x briefing leaflet
2 x full value coupons for Dole Frozen Fruit Packs
4 x half price coupons for Dole Frozen Fruit Packs to pass on to friends
(together, the “Trial Pack”).
Eligible Participants will be scored via a survey to judge their suitability for trial using the following criteria:
Demographic profile: mothers or expectant mothers will be prioritised
Shopper behaviour: favouring those who shop at Morrisons
Social behaviour: those who try new products and share frequently with friends will be scored more highly
The 5000 highest scoring Eligible Participants will be selected by the Promoter to receive a Dole Frozen Fruit Gift Pack (each a “Trialist”).

You've still got time to sign up for the SMA Insiders campaign : We are looking for 2,000 mums and dads with a toddler between 11 months and 2 years old to try SMA® PRO Toddler Milk. Are you interested? Subscribe by 24/04/2017

They also have a new campaign for dog owners for Purina Beyond (not to be confused with the Purina Bakers campaign a couple of weeks ago - I've just been email to say I got into that one) : We are looking for 450 Insiders and their dogs who would like to try Purina® Beyond®. Subscribe  before 03/05/17 and maybe you and your dog will be amongst the lucky ones!

The first 500 people who take a quote out with Goskippy using the following link will receive a limited edition Goskippy Toy.

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.

You may also like to enter my current giveaways :

Giveaway #623 : Win Bob The Builder : Dig This dvd - closing date 4/5

Friday, 21 April 2017

Madhouse recipe : One Pot Sweet & Sticky Noodles

One Pot Sweet & Sticky Noodles - also known as how to get the kids to gobble down their veggies without even noticing !

This started off with the question "what shall I do with the leftovers from Sunday's barbecue?". A couple of chicken skewers, some spicy sausages and a few pork chops.

It followed on with a glance in the kitchen cupboard and the realisation that I had quite a collection of instant noodles, from various Degustaboxes and a competition win. It's also a great way of clearing out the veg box of the fridge. I made a big potful, thinking there were would be plenty for the whole family, but the kids polished off the whole lot and I had to make more for me and Madhouse Daddy ! This is so quick and simple that it's perfect for a midweek meal after a long day at work or maybe a Monday lunchtime, to use up the leftovers from the Sunday roast.

One Pot Sweet & Sticky Noodles

ingredients :

a drizzle of olive oil
2 carrots
3 mushrooms
1/2 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
2 onions
3 packs of instant noodles
leftover cooked meat
a generous squeeze of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)

Slice the veggies and use a potato peeler to shave thin slices off the carrots.

Add boiling water to the instant noodles and leave to soak for a couple of minutes.

Heat the oil and stirfry the veggies for five minutes. You want them to be soft but retain some crunch. Add the meat and cook for a few more minutes until totally heated through.

Drain the noodles and add to the pot. Drizzle over the kecap manis. (If you don't have kecap manis, you could use regular dark soy sauce and a drizzle of black treacle -thanks Jane from Onions & Paper ! -  but I suggest giving it a try because it's gorgeous stuff !)

Give it all a good mix so that the veggies and meat are evenly distributed throughout the noodles. Serve, with an extra drizzle of kecap manis on top if you like.

The kids had great fun eating this with chopsticks (the kids' ones that are held together at the ends !)

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky.

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 21/4

As I write this menu plan, we're in the middle of the school holidays, but next week we'll be back to work and I'm sure I'll appreciate some simple stress-free meals that the whole family will enjoy. In an idle moment, I googled "American comfort food" (probably as a result of making Chicken Frito Pie last week !) and found loads of recipes that I want to try, so I've decided to put them all on next week's plan. I'm sure the kids will approve !


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

dinner - cheese & potato soup


lunch - roast dinner or BBQ depending on the weather

dinner - Kentucky Hot Browns - toast topped with turkey, bacon, tomatoes and Mornay sauce (a buttery sauce with parmesan)


dinner - meatloaf with mash & veg


dinner - deep pan pizza


lunch - Brown sugar marinated steak with rice or chips and peas

dinner - chicken & brisket Brunswick stew


dinner - King Ranch Chicken mac 'n' cheese


dinner - Pork chops with cabbage & apples

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Geocaching diaries : The dunes of the maritime hospital

On Easter Sunday, after the kids had done the traditional egg hunt, I wanted to get out on a hunt of my own - geocaching ! It was a beautiful day (again - we've been really lucky with the weather for the whole of the holidays so far) so we jumped on the bus (which are free at the weekends - always a bonus) and headed down to the dunes near the Belgian border. We jumped off at the Hôpital Maritime in Zuydcoote, which was originally a sanatorium, before becoming a military hospital during the two world wars - there's a film, called Weekend à Zuydcoote, which focuses on the Evacuation of Dunkirk and features the hospital. It's still used a hospital now, although few of the original buildings remain.

Our first cache was literally a few metres from the bus stop so we were off to a great start ! When you've been geocaching for a while, you can spot the likely hidey-holes from a mile away so we honed straight in on it !

We stomped through the woods and found a second cache in another tree.

The caches have been here for a few years and they're quite damp so the treasures were a bit mouldy !

Juliette filled in the logbook while I admired a lone bluebell.

Our trail headed out of the woods and into the dunes next.

We were on a roll and soon uncovered caches 3 and 4.

I managed to spot some more bluebells - I wouldn't have thought they'd have grown in the dunes as I've only ever seen them in woodlands.

The dunes are covered in very short dry grass that crunches when you walk on it so it sounds like you're walking in snow.

It was a beautiful day and we could see the sea when we were on the higher ground.

Turning around and looking behind us, the water tower on the right is where we were geocaching the week before at the Fort des Dunes.

The gps sent us down a very overgrown path next, with lots of spiky bushes to pull back and squeeze through. The hint was "under bricks behind bricks" so we knew we'd be looking for a wall or a building, which seemed strange as it was in a wild area of the dunes with nothing man-made in sight. Sure enough, we stumbled across a bunker.

It goes quite some way back but has half filled with sand over time.

There was a crawl space into a separate room but I didn't venture in there - it would appear to be a popular place to hang out and drink beer though, judging by the pile of empty cans ! The path had pretty much dwindled away to nothing and, to avoid getting scratched to pieces, we gave up and doubled back to the main path. Looking through the logs afterwards, I think we were on the wrong path and were supposed to be up above the bunker, not down below at the entrance.

Juliette wanted to stop geocaching and head to the beach but I kept the gps on, to help find our way. We just happened to go right past a geocache so we grabbed that on the way past. Funnily enough, this one has been archived but it's still there so we signed the log anyway.

A short walk later, we arrived on the sandy beach and Juliette suddenly found a reserve of energy ! We had an interesting 2km walk back to the bus stop which took us past the world war II bunkers, so I'll blog about those in a separate post.

The Young Person’s Guide To The Modern World blog tour : Trolling and online bullying

A couple of weeks ago, I took part in the blog tour for The Parent’s Guide to the Modern World and shared a guest post, by Richard Daniel Curtis, author of the book and The Kid Calmer, entitled How to keep your children safe without appearing overprotective. Parents aren't the only ones who need a helping hand to find their way in the modern world though, and there is a partner book for young people.

Richard explains : "Finding your way in the 21st Century is not an easy ride. There are so many things out there that your parents never had to deal with, so it’s hard to find someone to understand. There are pressures put on you from your parents, from school, from your friends and it can feel overwhelming and frustrating.

Technology is fantastic, but every so often you end up having to unpick a mess on social media. Sometimes it is easier to retreat to your room and escape the world, but even then you don’t get left alone.

Life in the modern world is great when it’s all going well, but at the same time it is a bit scary and you wish you knew what to do about some of the concerns you have.

That’s why I wrote The Young Person’s Guide for the Modern World. I originally wrote a book just for parents, but then I realised that it would be far better to talk to you directly. So I rewrote my book for you.

I start by explaining to you the changes that are happening in your brain as you approach adulthood and why these are important to helping you find your own identity. Most of the book is then devoted to going through the different aspects of life, from gender identity and sexuality, to gangs, to drugs, to social media and technology. I give you information on the risks related to each to help you to make easier decisions. Finally I talk to you about the world that you will see in the next 20-30 years, getting you to think about the ways you can prepare for the technology that’s just around the corner."

 Richard has kindly penned a second guest post for Madhouse Family Reviews, aimed at young people and dealing with the thorny topic of trolling and online bullying. Sadly, this is something that I have experienced personally, both in my job as a teacher where "facebook fights" often carry on in the classroom, and also as a mum. My eldest daughter had a run-in with some online bullies but luckily we nipped it in the bud - the most important thing is definitely being there for moral support, rather than letting your tween or teen bottle it up and try to deal with it alone. Here's Richard's advice.

Trolling and online bullying

The internet has changed the world we live in, with just a few clicks you are able to be in communication with people around the globe. However, with that comes social responsibility. Unfortunately, that is very easily more often said than done, people abuse the anonymity of the internet and there are daily cases of online bullying and trolling happening in our social circles.

One of the biggest things that the current age has done is move social activities online. This means that many of the friendship groups and social engagements that were experienced in the playground or out playing now take place online. Unfortunately, this also includes bullying, not just the seemingly harmless name calling that many people did as youngsters; this can be serious and prolonged from an individual or a group. Trolling, specifically Internet trolling, is the practice of posting comments or remarks that are offensive, aggressive or disruptive to the conversation.

The reason is threefold - the Internet allows people to be anonymous, the Internet puts words into print or pictures, the Internet removes inhibitions.

Being anonymous or taking over someone’s identity allows people to hide behind a mask and intimidate or bully online. As many sign-up processes online are automated, it is very easy to either create fraudulent or fake accounts. To create a fraudulent email account only takes a few personal details about the person, such as their gender and where they live. Other things like date of birth, pet’s name and other personal data can often be stolen from social media, such as someone’s (or their relative’s) Facebook page. Once they have these details they are able to take over other social media accounts, using the personal information to reset the password and change the email address on the account. It is easy to set up fake accounts, by again beginning with an email address, which only requires a phone number for verification. Again, from here it is easy to then set up fake profiles on social media.

Even without anonymity people will often post or make unkind comments on social media. Celebrities and people in the spotlight are often the focus for Internet trolling, however with teens the target can often be other young people. Peer pressure and gang culture may amplify this, with people being subjected to comments and ridicule from multiple others. Even innocuous comments, which if said as part of a conversation would be let go, are there for our minds to keep revisiting.

The Internet allows people’s inhibitions to be removed; very often people will comment on posts or forums with seemingly little or no regard for the impact. They don’t see the reaction of the person receiving the message and often don’t know them personally, so don’t need to moderate themselves. The brain tricks them into thinking there will be no effect, because it’s not the same as saying it to someone’s face, or that it’s inconsequential. The little thoughts that everyone has inside their minds can be posted online quicker than the other voices in their heads react telling them to stop.

What are the risks?

It’s very easy to slip into trolling. It’s different to bullying, which tends to be a more directed attack on an individual on multiple occasions. It is then easy to move from making incongruent comments that go against a post or conversation (Internet trolling) to it becoming a campaign or regular occurrence (bullying). To be a victim of bullying is a matter of perception; if the individual is secure in their own self-identity and resilient enough to walk away and not be affected by the campaign, even if by a group, then they are unlikely to be a victim of bullying. However, if someone feels insecure, depressed or anxious then they may more likely focus on the comments or take them to heart. This can lead to further insecurity, depression, paranoia or vulnerability.

Unlike in-person bullying and intimidation, which can often be left behind by walking away, social media reminds us of its presence. Social media will inform users they have a new comment, notify them when they log in. In the case of someone who is being bullied or feels picked on by the comments or replies, then this adds a level of fear and dread to the receiving of notifications.
The hormones released in the brain cause a fight, flight, freeze response in the body and also secrete pheromones in the sweat, causing the so-called smell of fear. The same process that helps us to love now links emotional pain to an experience. This will cause a sense of dread whenever notifications are received, but also the dopamine boost that makes it almost irresistible to not read it.


Walk away from people who upset you, do the same online.
Stop and think before posting comments, photos or videos.
Talk to trusted adult for advice about social difficulties if you need to, there will be times your brain lets you down and makes it hard for you to problem solve.


Troll, it’s very easy to do and hard to retract.


Want your parent to understand all of these pressures on you? Why not get them to buy The Parent’s Guide to the Modern World.

About Richard Daniel Curtis

Based in Southampton with his partner and their young son, Richard Daniel Curtis is an internationally renowned behaviour expert and futurist passionate about helping people understand mindset and psychology. A former teacher, and mental health support worker, Richard is known for his impact with turning round some of the most extreme behaviours and is consulted about adults and children around the globe, even having two assessments named after him. He has founded The Root of It -an organisation of qualified professionals available to support schools and individuals with behavioural difficulties- for which he was awarded the Gold Scoot Headline Award in 2015 and Best New Business in 2014. Most recently he launched The Mentoring School to train the psychology related to mentoring people of all ages. For his work and expertise he has been interviewed for the BBC,ITV and Sky News TV and various international print media and radio. His previous titles include: 101 Tips for Parents, 101 More Tips for Parents and 101 Behaviour Tips for Parents (2014) and Gratitude at Home (2016).

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Geocaching diaries : The Tom Thumb Circuit

The day before, we'd had a fabulous day out at the park and at the Ferme Vernaelde educational farm, but I hadn't managed to squeeze in any geocaching. Luckily, Juliette was up for retracing our steps but this time hunting for caches rather than visiting the play areas and animals. Our first stop was the Jardin d'Eau or Water Garden, a little area that has been created on what was pretty much wasteland.

It's been left quite natural, with insect hotels made out of old tree trunks and wild flower zones to encourage Mother Nature to do her stuff.

Just next to the garden is the old bag factory, which dates from the 19th century. It's been converted into a new community centre with cafes and a creche.

It took us a while rummaging through the ivy but we soon found the cache - yay !

Our next cache took us to a nearby town square ... which was round !

We needed long arms but soon uncovered this cache too.

We headed into the woods. Juliette couldn't decide whether to keep her coat on or take it off so she decided for a one-shoulder option. Nutcase !

Funnily enough, the route to our next cache took us straight through the Ferme Vernaelde. We'd only been there the day before but Juliette couldn't resist going round to see all the animals again !

The donkey yawned, as if to say "you again ?"!

The goats were all snuggled up together.

We were confused about where the pig's tusks had disappeared to ...

... until Juliette rustled a sweet wrapper in her pocket and a load more pigs came out. We've only ever seen one pig at a time so we always thought he was all by himself.

Aahhh there's Mr Tusky !

We headed over to the far end of the farm, dodging an escaped pony with a couple of girls desperately trying to catch him (they did eventually !) and Juliette used the gymkhana equipment for some gymnastics !

Followed by a quick rest !

We had to walk right through the horses' pasture.

Spotting a couple of burrows on the way, presumably belonging to field mice. "Or snakes?" gasped Juliette !

Our GPS made us force a way through a hole in the hedge which Juliette wasn't too pleased about ... especially when we arrived on a big path and realised that we definitely hadn't taken the easiest route, even if it was the most direct !

She soon stopped grumbling when she laid eyes on the cache though - it was enoirmous.

And even better, it was full of Kinder egg capsules. We had to sort through them all to find the log book to sign and were delighted to discover that most of them contained a little treasure to swap.

While Juliette sorted through to see what she wanted to take home, I rummaged through our bag to find suitably sized treasures to replace them with.

The little treasures are always a bonus when we find them, because they are few and far between in France.

A few hundred metres on, we found another cache. This one was sneakily hidden inside a fake brick, especially made as a geocache. It's hollow and has a little sliding door to seal the log book and treasures inside the compartment.

And we found another little treasure to swap - Smurftastic !

As we continued on our walk, we came across what I was always thought was a camouflaged shelter for hunters. That made sense because this series of caches is inaccessible over winter because it is a hunting area.

However, on closer inspection, it's actually a shelter for birds, with water troughs and a grain dispenser. We headed into the trees for the next cache.

Aha, here it is - carefully pushed into a hole in a tree !

We walked along a muddy path that covered Juliette's trainers and jeans in a thick, oily black substance - that will be fun to get off later then !

We didn't manage to find the final cache for the day but we did miraculously discover that we were just next to a road and our bus was waiting for us, ready to leave in five minutes. The next one didn't come for half an hour so we were really lucky !

Country Kids