Monday, 22 January 2018

Book review : Anatomy of a Scandal - Sarah Vaughan


Sarah Vaughan's Anatomy of a Scandal is a gripping courtroom drama that focuses on three women and one man who links them all : James Whitehouse. From privileged public schoolboy and Oxford graduate (where he was firm friends with the future prime minister) to a well-paid and prestigious job as a Home Office minister, he is the golden boy with big plans but also a big ego and a big sense of entitlement.

Sophie, his wife, is content with her lot : an attractive, well-respected husband, two lovely kids and a plush Kensington pad. But her world is about to fall apart.

Olivia Lytton, one of James' work colleagues, has just gone to the papers with news of their passionate extra-marital affair. He's not denying it. With friends in high places, they weather the storm. Then she claims he raped her - will he deny that too?

 Kate is the ballsy, driven but secretly vulnerable barrister who is convinced that James is guilty and is determined to win the case. But she has a secret past that could put the whole case, and indeed her entire legal career, in jeopardy.

Having grown up through the eighties and nineties, I can remember the "scorned women" and the "bits on the side" being belittled and not taken seriously when these kinds of cases came to court - Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Hugh Grant and Divine Brown, even Charles and Camilla ... The message seemed to be that boys would be boys and it wasn't all that serious. These days, you can't turn on the news or open a newspaper without seeing news of historic sex abuse accusations and #metoo. The tide has definitely turned.

But Sarah Vaughan cleverly blurs the boundaries, leaving enough doubt for the reader to wonder about how much is truth and how much is exaggeration. James is adamant that he has done nothing wrong, but as he thinks he always knows best, would he admit (or even register) guilt anyway? Olivia is convincing in her testimony but she had just been dumped by him, so is she out for revenge? And just why is Kate so intent on getting a conviction?

It's an interesting read that will keep you guessing right up until the end, questioning the attitudes of the interested parties and the jurors, as well as your own judgements and those of society as a whole, both now and a few decades ago. It would be a great choice for book clubs to discuss at length, as I'm sure opinions will be divided.



star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £12.99 (I've just noticed that it's a bargaintastic £4.99 on amazon at the moment which is a great price for a hardback book)

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (11 Jan. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471164993
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471164996
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.9 x 23.4 cm



Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Get ready for a #superzingsparty on Thursday 25th January with prizes to be won ! #ad


The first twitter party of the year (for me) is on the way later this week and it's for a brand new collectible that you may not be familiar with yet : Super Zings.



Super Zings are based on food and other household objects that kids are bound to be familiar with and probably have in their own homes. They are either Heroes or Villains and each character has a rival that matches (an orange and a juice squeezer, for example).


There are already 80 characters to collect, with different Hide-Outs, Super Cars, Kaboom Traps, starter sets, blister packs and Mission Packs, available at @EntertainerToys and other leading grocery and newsagent retailers.


If you are extremely lucky, you might even find a Rare SuperZing to add to your collection – there are 6 Silver ‘Captains’, 3 Gold ‘Bosses’ and 1 SUPER RARE ’Enigma’ SuperZing character to collect. As they are sold in blind bags, you get the added excitement of never knowing which ones are hiding in your packs until you get home and rip them open.


Unlike many similar collectibles, Super Zings will appeal equally to children of both sexes, which makes it easier for siblings to swap their doubles. Great news for parents !


I have a whole host of Super Zing products to show you and you'll even have a chance to win some during the twitter party, so make sure you come along and join in the fun !

Check you're following me on twitter @cherylp59, as well as Magic Box (@magicboxtoysuk), The Entertainer (@EntertainerToys), and Playtime PR (@PlaytimePRLtd) and use the hashtag #superzingsparty.

 For further information about the Super Zings range, head over to www.superzings.com.


Disclosure : We received a party pack, as well as a voucher from The Entertainer, for taking part.

#MySundayphoto #SundaySnap 21/1/18


A tiny church in Jaeren, Norway - just enough room for nine people inside !

OneDad3GirlsSunday Snap

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Fab freebies of the week 20/1/18


Welcome to the weekend, and another roundup of the week's best UK freebies. Hope you find something to take your fancy ! :)

****************************************

Answer 5 easy questions correctly to get your FREE 50ml sachet of Nikwax Polar Proof

We’re building the UK’s best baby product comparison site. Join our waiting list today and every 10th sign up gets a FREE travel sized Waterwipes (one sign up per household, while stocks last)

Check out if Urban Veda are in your local Boots and bag yourself free products

Register to receive a FREE Fit to Dance educational resource pack for your school! Once again, we've teamed up with Disney On Ice, to bring you the 2018 Fit to Dance education progamme, supporting the national curriculum for English and P.E. Packs are free, but are limited to 1,500 schools across the UK - one pack per school. To qualify: you must be a teacher or head teacher at a UK school, teaching children age 4 to 8, or in an SEN environment with a similar educational level.

Taste Test Our New Vodka For Free. We are looking for some members of the public to soon taste test our new Vodka recipe*. No purchase necessary, all we ask is that you let us know what you think of it.

Request a voucher for a free sample of Estée Lauder Night Serum


Become a Company of Animals product tester and get free products and a £10 voucher! (T&C's Apply)

If you have the free Shopmium app, you can currently bag yourselves a free Bol Salad Jar and Watermelon drink

This may not work for everyone as it came in an email where they are trying to tempt me back, but if you fancy researching your family tree, get 15 free Genesreunited credits with code Claim15

Request a sample of Dr Shea skincare

Discover irresistible taste with two free samples of L’OR Aluminium Espresso capsules Lungo Profondo and Espresso Ristretto.

If you have a baby on the way, make sure you're signed up for a free Emma's Diary pack including a pack of 22 nappies

Vileda are looking for testers for their new mop

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 :

coming soon !

Friday, 19 January 2018

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2018 week #4

You may have noticed that I've changed the way I label my menu plans this year, opting for week 1,2,3 rather than the date. For me, this highlights even more just how quickly January is zipping by - I feel like Christmas was only last week but we're already looking ahead to February and Juliette's birthday ! Still plenty of time for winter warmers and comfort food before spring puts in an appearance though. I've been using the American cookbook that I got at Christmas for inspiration this week.

Saturday

lunch - The traditional Burger King visit - with all our gadding about at Christmas/New Year then my week in Norway, I haven't been since before Christmas!

dinner - chestnut soup (not sure about this one but I have a pouch of chestnut puree lurking in the back of the cupboard !)

Sunday

lunch - a roast of some shape or form - probably chicken or pork

dinner - soup with the leftover meat, potatoes, veg & gravy from lunch

Monday 

lunch - meatballs in tomato/onion/red pepper sauce with couscous

dinner - Tartiflette (potatoes, bacon, onions and stinky cheese !)

Tuesday 

dinner  Chicken Spaghetti, a recipe that sounds like a souped-up pasta bake (literally !) - recipe to follow

Wednesday 

lunch - probably leftovers from the last few days

dinner - American-style goulash with mash & carrots

Thursday 

dinner - BBQ spaghetti (a twist on spaghetti bolognese)

Friday  

 dinner - Chicago-style deep dish pizza with salad

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Norway diaries : Beautiful views in Jaeren


I've been looking through my (numerous) photos of Norway from our work visit to Stavanger last week and I still find the views just as breath-taking as in real life. I've decided that the power of the beauty lies in the unique Norwegian light. Night falls so quickly - all of our sight-seeing was packed into the two hour window of daylight between school finishing for the day at 2.30 and nightfall at 4.30 - so by taking the same shot three or four times, you'll get a whole array of different light effects and you're bound to get one that looks stunning. 


Take this quaint little white wooden church at Varhaug for example, just down the road from Varhaug School that we had been at all day. It is one of the smallest chapels in the area, if not the country, with just enough space for nine guests. It's very popular for weddings because it's so scenic but the guests all have to stand outside ! 


It's very pretty but the real views were going on behind us, with the fading light and the big open sky providing the perfect backdrop. 


We could have stood here quite happily watching the sun go down behind the ornate gravestones overlooking the sea, but we had other places to see before it got dark.


We drove into the rocky outcrops and recognised something from the last time we visited - Hitler's teeth, which are concrete blocks that the Nazis installed to prevent Allied landings. You can find out more in my blogpost Exploring World War II bunkers in Vedafjellet - we thought it was remarkable how intact they were and creeping through the dark tunnels with just the light from our mobile phones to light the way seemed incredibly spooky, especially given the history of the place.


We were heading somewhere much more tranquil though - a little fishing port where we stopped to eat some iced buns and take in the view, while giggling at the Norwegian mealtimes. After having lunch (sandwiches) at 11am, we were taken to a bakery at 2.30pm for a snack, before going to a local teacher's house for dinner at 4.30pm. One of my colleagues joked that it was like being babies, having to eat every three hours, which made the Norwegian teachers laugh !


The water of the fjord here (and in fact everywhere we went) is crystal clear so we could see right to the bottom and the dozens of crab shells scattered about, presumably from the fishing boats. The water is also totally still so the reflections in the water are amazingly crisp.


The sense of peace and tranquility forces you to stop and just soak it all in - mindfulness at its best !


I think I could use pretty much any of my Norway photos as a screensaver ! They all ooze tranquility and well-being.


I'm tempted to get this one, from our final stop at one of the local beaches, printed out on a canvas - I love the hint of pink in the sky, the reflection of the clouds, the ice formations at the edges of the water and the walkway that looks as if it leads out to infinity.


The walk through the dunes from the car park already had us wowed but it was just the prelude to the main event ...


 ...one of Jaeren's many sandy beaches.


The Norwegians were blown away by the vastness of the sandy beaches when they visited us in Dunkirk, but I think it's the perfect reflection of the sky in the water that makes the Norwegian beaches and landscapes in general look so huge and never-ending.


You feel so small and insignificant in the scale of things that any day-to-worries seem mere trifles. You only get a couple of hours before it gets dark though so you have to make the most of it while you can !


I'm the King of the World !


What you can't see in these photos, though, is how blimming cold it was getting !


As the light started to fade, we headed back to the car, still oohing and aahing at the views all the way !

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Madhouse recipe : Hairy Bikers Vietnamese Pork


When it comes to cooking, I have two missions - trying out new flavours in exotic dishes from around the world and using up things that have been hanging around in the spice rack, fridge, freezer and cupboards for too long. When I spotted a recipe online for Hairy Bikers Vietnamese Pork, it ticked both boxes. I bookmarked it, added it to my menu plan, defrosted the pork then started cooking and noticed that it needed to simmer for a couple of hours. Oops, I had hungry kids hanging around in the kitchen already ! I adapted the recipe to make a super-speedy stir-fry and it was still delicious, getting a thumbs-up from the whole family. Here's my quick version but make sure you click through to see the original too.

Hairy Bikers Vietnamese Pork

ingredients :

2tbsp coconut oil
5 pork chops, meat cut into strips (because it was what was in the freezer - boneless pork would be better !)
3 onions
2 cloves garlic
2tsp ground lemongrass 
2tsp Chinese Five Spice
2tbsp fish sauce
4tbsp light brown sugar


Melt 1tbsp coconut oil (or use vegetable/olive oil if you prefer) and fry the pork for about 5 minutes until cooked through. Reserve.


Melt the remaining 1tbsp coconut oil (in another pan or reuse the same pan) and fry the onions and garlic until soft.


Add the sugar, spices and fish sauce and cook, stirring, until it starts to bubble and caramelise.
  

Return the pork to the pan and heat through, tossing the meat so it is completely covered in sauce and onions. Serve over rice or noodles.


Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up some ground lemongrass and Chinese Five Spice that was cluttering up the spice rack.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Aldi's Baby & Toddler Event is back !


The average British family spends up to £800 celebrating Christmas, spending a whopping £473.83 on presents alone, so it’s no surprise that come January, budgets are tight. Luckily, for parents across the UK, discount supermarket Aldi’s hugely popular Baby and Toddler event is back and available online (at aldi.co.uk) from 14th January and in stores on Thursday 18th January.

With over a third of Brits resolving to streamline their finances in the New Year, Aldi’s amazing selection of products available at everyday low price means Mum and Dad can make fantastic savings on essential items for their little ones. They also have some great deals on larger items, with products ranging from bedroom furniture to buggies, feeding time to bath time and more. Here are some of the highlights to look out for.


HOME COMFORTS

Make your nursery stylish and cosy with a beautifully designed Aldi Mamia furniture set including Nursery Wardrobe (£119.99), Nursery Cot Bed with Drawer (£129.99), and Nursery Changing Unit (£99.99). With a combined cost of £349.97, its 75% cheaper than the popular Silver Cross Nostalgia Complete Room set that retails at £1,402.50.




SWEET DREAMS

Back by popular demand is Aldi Mamia’s Moses Basket (£19.99) along with Stand (£10.99). 


There are also Cellular Blankets for only £2.99 each and a 2.5 tog Baby Sleeping Bag (£9.99), perfect for cold winter nights.





ON THE GO

Getting out and about has never been easier thanks to the Hauck Travel System (£99.99), exclusively available on aldi.co.uk for 35% less than its normal RRP of £154.99, and with a car seat, changing bag, and foot muff included, you’re getting a fantastic saving without compromising on quality

. Also available is the Hauck Sport Buggy at just £29.99, the 3-in-1 Baby Carrier for only £13.99, and customers can pick up a Buggy Organiser for £4.99.



That’s not all that’s on offer - there are fabulous prices on nappies, clothes, food and more! 

Julie Ashfield, Joint Managing Director of Corporate Buying at Aldi, said: “Everyone knows that finances in January can be tight, which is why Aldi is committed to helping parents save as much money as possible. The Baby & Toddler Specialbuy event offers everything from beautifully crafted nursery furniture to everyday essentials, like our award-winning Mamia Baby Wipes, at exceptional quality and prices to ensure parents and baby get the best possible start to 2018.”

All offers are available while stocks last – as with all Specialbuys – when it’s gone, it’s gone! For a full list of items available in The Baby & Toddler Event please see below:

FOOD

ANNABEL KARMEL BREADSTICKS £0.99
ORGANIX BANANA BABY BISCUITS £0.99
ORGANIX BAKED CORN SNACKS £2.99
ORGANIX OATY BARS £1.99
ANNABEL KARMEL FRUITY BAKES £1.29

HEALTH & BEAUTY

NUROFEN FOR CHILDREN £2.99
NUROFEN FOR CHILDREN IBUPROFEN ORAL SUSPENSION £3.89
THERMOMETER £9.99

TOYS & BOOKS & GIFTS

BABY CROSS STITCH KIT £2.99
READY TO GO BABY BOOK £3.99
BABY CROCHET KIT £2.49
STORY BOOK £0.99
BATH TOYS £3.99
STICKER & ACTIVITY BOOKS £0.99
MILESTONE CARDS £3.99
BABY CASTING KIT £9.99

BEDDING, TOWELS & MAT

MUSLIN CLOTHS 3PK £2.99
JI-COT BUMPER £6.99
COT AND COT BED SHEETS £2.99
CELLULAR BLANKET £2.99
V SHAPED PILLOW £5.99
BABY CHANGING MAT £3.99
BABY SLEEPING BAG 2.5 TOG £9.99

ELECTRICS

CALPOL VAPOUR PLUG IN & NIGHT LIGHT £5.49
MOTOROLA BABY VIDEO MONITOR £54.99

CLOTHING

INFANTS TIGHTS £2.49
INFANTS CHARACTER T-SHIRT 2 PACK £5.99
BABY BIBS & CLOTHS £2.99
BABY SOCKS 5 PACK £2.49

FEEDING

TIGGY SOOTHERS £1.99
FEEDING BOTTLES 3 PACK £1.99
FLIP IT CUP, STRAW CUP AND POP UP CUP £1.99
3PC CHARACTER BREAKFAST SET £4.99
SOFT TEETHERS £2.99
KID’S CUTLERY SET £4.99

FURNITURE

NURSERY RUG £19.99
NURSERY WARDROBE £119.99
NURSERY COT BED WITH DRAWER £129.99
WALL STICKER ASSORTMENT £1.99
GAMMA WOODEN HIGHCHAIR £39.99
MOSES BASKET £19.99
BABY SAFETY GATE £12.99
NURSERY CHANGING UNIT £99.99
MOSES BASKET STAND £10.99
COT BED MATTRESS £29.99

TRAVEL

3 IN 1 BABY CARRIER £13.99
HAUCK SPORT BUGGY £29.99
HAUCK TRAVEL SYSTEM SHOP N DRIVE (ONLINE ONLY) £99.99

Disclosure : Post created in collaboration with Aldi. I received some vouchers in return for sharing news of the Specialbuy event.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Norway diaries : A wintry wander around Stavanger


During our first trip to Stavanger last year in April, we asked our local guide if the lake in the town centre just down the road from our hotel was used for skating in the winter. She said that it did sometimes freeze over but it was quite rare. I was therefore delighted when we arrived last Sunday and it was not only frozen solid but also covered in snow. 


There were some disgruntled ducks and swans splashing about in the area that hadn't frozen over and over the next few hours, it did thaw somewhat (as you can see in the picture), but one half of the lake stayed frozen for the entire week that we were there.


The wintry landscape seemed perfect for Norway and somehow made it all seem extra magical.


We were lucky because the Christmas decorations were still up for the first day of our visit but by the second day, they'd all been taken down. I particularly liked the red heart lights in the tree overlooking the lake, which add a little splash of colour to the frosty scene.


The animal statues dotted around the park and the town in general looked extra striking with their dusting of snow.


My favourite statue is the little boy with the ducks, just next to the frozen lake with its real ducks.


Heading out of the park, I wandered past Stavanger Cathedral, known as the Domkirken. It was completed in 1125, the founding year of Stavanger, and is the oldest cathedral in Norway.


The cathedral is bang in the middle of the town centre (and 100 yards from our hotel), with pedestrian streets of shops heading off in all directions and this rather striking gentleman looking down on all the shoppers bustling about. His name is Alexander L. Kielland and he was one of the most famous Norwegian realistic writers of the 19th century, classed among "The Four Greats" of Norwegian literature, along with Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Jonas Lie. (Thank you wikipedia !)


A vintage, Soviet-looking truck caught my eye and I went to investigate - it turned out to be a food truck selling baked potatoes, fish and chips, chicken and other takeaway food. It was closed but, even if it had been open, we didn't fancy picnicking in the snow !


I continued my walk by heading into the port area, which leads out into the fjord. As well as historic boats from the maritime museum, there are ships related to the oil-industry and you can also take a cruise through the fjords from here.


I love the way art is integrated into the town wherever you look, whether in statues, such as this one staring out at the water, or the colourful street art that pops up all over the place.


There are informative displays dotted all around town, which I don't remember noticing last time, which give lots of fun facts about Stavanger in the past with things to twist, turn and lift to keep the kids interested.


I wandered along the quays, looking at the maritime museum and the souvenir shops that we visited last spring, but most of them were closed because we were out of season.


I glanced up at the old district, called Gamle Stavanger, with its cobbled streets and rows of uniformly white houses, but I didn't fancy slipping up and down the steep hills in the snow.


If you had to sum up the scene in one word it would be white : the houses, the snowy streets and even the sky !


The numerous murals add a welcome splash of colour though.


I found the tourist information centre but it was closed as it was Sunday. We popped back later in the week and had a lovely chat with the Russian lady working there - she wasn't at all keen to let us go though, so I think she must be short on visitors !


So, where next ?!


I decided to head back through the port to the town centre, past the Port Authority and another funky and brightly coloured mural.


The Sandnes ship, with its bright green hull standing out against the grey/white backdrop, looked very striking, in its berth opposite the maritime museum


Then my eye caught the name of its berth-mate : the Rogaland. The last time I saw this ship was when it was brought to Dunkerque and transformed into a hospital ship during the filming of Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk film last year !


In a similar vein to the celebrity handprints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Stavanger harbour features various plaques with the footprints of Nobel Peace Prize winners.


Turning back into the shopping streets, I cut through the town centre and out of the other side.


This led me into the quieter residential areas of Stavanger, which still feature predominantly white wooden houses.


I spotted two very different churches - the dark, reddish, brick-built St Petri Chruch, which dates from 1866, and the more traditional, white, wooden Hetland Church, built in 1854. The one thing they both have in common is that they have a geocache hidden just next to them - yay !


After all this roaming around, it was time to meet up with my colleagues for a spot of lunch.


We opted for a very Scandinavian-looking coffee shop, selling sandwiches and soup.


I opted for a Reuben sandwich, filled with pastrami, sauerkraut and cheese, which was tasty but cost an eye-watering 89NOK - just over £8. This is expensive but typical of Norwegian prices, with a bottle of beer or cider costing about the same in the bars. Our discoveries - both culinary and geographical - continued in the afternoon when we went for a beautiful walk along the pathway at Hafrsfjord.
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