Friday, 24 March 2017

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 24/3

As I write this menu plan, it's my final night in Norway. Tomorrow we'll be flying home and it will be nice to get back into some routine. I won't have made a shopping list for this week's shop though, so it will be a case of using what's likely to be in the fridge and freezer !


lunch - roast dinner

dinner - homemade soup - pea and bacon maybe, as I know I have both in the freezer


dinner - mince and tomato crumble


dinner - chicken cau cau, a Peruvian dish which includes chicken, potatoes and peas, served with rice


lunch - sausages, mash and beans

dinner - home made deep pan pizza


dinner - baked potatoes with bolognese sauce (or rice stuffed round courgettes with bolognese sauce if they survived my week in Norway)


dinner - honey and soy salmon with noodles & veg

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

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Norway diaries : The Bunad, traditional Norwegian costume

This week has been pretty full-on but we've managed to find a few slots to discover a bit more about the town of Stavanger and the traditions of Norway. On Wednesday, our hosts took us to a small museum in a library to discover local costumes.

The museum was actually closed but, after a quick chat with the librarian, she kindly opened it up just for us ! 

The costumes change depending on the region and apparently they cost a fortune to buy - coming from a Norwegian, this is surely not an exaggeration because everything is expensive here !

Obviously, Norwegians don't wear this every day, but we did see people wandering about in traditional dress on Sunday, our first day here, when there was a service at the nearby cathedral to welcome in the new bishop, in the presence of the King of Norway.

One of the Norwegian teachers explained that it really represents Norwegian identity and her mother, who never wears it in Norway, frequently wears it now that they live in Dubai !

One of the recent controversies is Muslim people wearing the Bunad with a hijab. Traditionalists think this is a corruption of the national costume while others like the fact that it opens it up to a wider and more modern public.

There is a shop in Stavanger high street selling bunader.

Although we haven't actually seen any customers in there, it shows that it is still a part of modern Norwegian culture.

Most of the Norwegian teachers said that they own one and wear it on special occasions.

I won't be bringing one back in my suitcase though !!

Giveaway #616 : Win 2 x Drumond Park Wordsearch Junior - closing date 7/4

*** Check out our review of Wordsearch Junior - how young do the girls look ?! ***


Drumond Park's Wordsearch Junior (rrp £22.99, age 4 upwards) uses clever circular wordsearch grids, which become more advanced as the child progresses, as an exciting way to reinforce early reading skills. It can be played as a fun, fast-paced, multi-player race to find patterns, pictures (balls, animals, foods, etc.) and simple words, placing coloured counters over the images or letters on the turntable board when you spot them, or as a calmer one-on-one learning activity.

The nine double-sided circular puzzle disks have three different levels of play, covering a myriad of topics. Little ones can dive in straight away, searching for images and patterns on the starter-level blue picture pattern cards. The red level takes players through the picture hint cards – finding words with picture hints to help them. Using the green word-only cards, they’ll be looking for consonant clusters and vowel combinations - increasing their reading skills without even realising it!

For more information and stockists, visit

I have a Drumond Park Wordsearch Junior game to give away to two lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UK only. Closing date : 7/4/17

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 !

You may also like to enter my other giveaways :

Giveaway #615 : Win 2 x Anne of Green Gables on dvd - closing date 29/3

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Norway diaries : Climbing up Dalsnuten

This week, I'm on a teacher exchange project in Stavanger, Norway, and, although we're spending almost all our time in a conference room of the university working on a project about critical literacy, the Norwegian teachers did take us out on our first day to see some of the beautiful scenery. They all had loads of hats, gloves and scarves in their car boots so the first job was making sure we were all wrapped up warm enough.

That's not all they had though - despite the temperatures bouncing around zero and a few snowflakes falling from the sky, they gaily announced that we'd be having lunch outside and started unpacking water, cooking supplies and wood !

From the car park, we could see our destination - that big hill in the background. If you look closely, you can just see the little pillar on the top.

Stavanger is in the southwest of Norway and our hike was in Sandnes, the town just next to it. 

Dalsnuten has an altitude of 324 m and the excursion is described as "a refreshing walk through easy terrain to the summit which rewards you with a marvellous view". This is by Norwegian standards though and it involved lots of pretty energetic scrambling over slippery ice-covered rocks to reach the summit ! Picking our way back down was even trickier but it was worth it for the views.

Just a few metres from the car, the beautiful Norwegian scenery kicked in, with pure mountain lakes and woodland - Norwegian woods !

It's fabulously serene and untouched.

Our hosts said that we'd leave our provisions at the base of a tree and pick it all up a couple of hours later when we'd finished our hike. We laughed that if you did that in France or the UK, you'd come back and half of it would have disappeared ! They did say that this would be the same in the big towns but here in the mountains, there were just families so it was no problem. Sure enough, other people were leaving their food and possessions lying around in the woodlands.

There were a group of little wooden huts in a clearing in the woods that could be used by hikers and families as a rest stop. Little did we know that we'd find out more about them on the way back !

It was described as an easy walk but it was recommended to wear good walking boots - we soon found out why as we went stomping through waterlogged, boggy ground !

Then we climbed over the Norwegian version of a stile.

I didn't take many photos on the way up as it was complicated trying to find hand and foot holds and not slip on the rocks, but luckily the Sherpas had been through long ago to cut (very uneven) steps into the rock to help with the ascent. Two days later, I can still feel the burn in my thigh muscles though !

The mountain peaks in the distance were white with snow.

The wind really picked up as we reached the summit.

But the views out across the fjords made it all worthwhile.

The photos don't really do it justice.

But adding a couple of people to the photo gives you more of a sense of perspective.

This is the headteacher of one of the schools that we'll be visiting later in the week.

Right at the summit is the stone pillar (or cairn) that we could see from the car park.

There is a stone with a plaque telling you something but goodness knows what it says. Even if you could speak Norwegian, most of the letters have been rubbed off by the weather !

There is also a book for you to sign to say you reached the top.

I'm sure there must be a geocache lurking in one of these holes too !

A final look at the views and it was time to head back down - easier said than done, picking a path down through the rocks !

And back through the swamp !

The car park was full when we set out but we barely saw another person, except at the summit.

When our hosts had told us we'd be eating outside, we thought they were joking, but sure enough, we had a barbecue with snowflakes floating down around us !

The Norwegians had brought a big iron cooking tray, plastic food dishes, cups, cutlery, water, firewood and lots of vegetables that were already sizzling away by the time we got down to the base camp !

Next to us was a family with the kids cooking sausages on sticks which was really cute !

It was a bit smoky but the Norwegians even have a saying that the smoke always heads towards the prettiest girl. This makes you feel a bit better when you're spluttering and rubbing your eyes because the wind has changed direction !

On the way back, we stopped off at Sverd i Fjell, three 10 metre high bronze swords planted into the rock of a small hill next to the fjord to commemorate the historic Battle of Hafrsfjord in the year 872, when King Harald Fairhair gathered all of Norway under one crown. 

The largest sword represents the victorious Harald, and the two smaller swords represent the defeated kings. The monument also represents peace, since the swords are planted into solid rock, so they may never be removed.

We only took a quick photo though because the light was staring to fade and the wind was whipping across the fjord so it was freezing cold !