Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Christmas is a time for giving - how about offering a #SafeChristmas for someone who needs one?

It’s freezing cold, there's frost/snow/slush on the ground, a chill in the air – and you’ve seen someone sleeping rough on the streets. So what do you do? Turn the other way and pretend you haven't seen them? Give them money, while assuming it will probably get spent on drink or worse? Buy them a hot drink and a hamburger? It's always a tough call, but Centrepoint, the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity, have put together the following simple points to give guidance on how best to help young homeless people this Christmas. Latest figures reveal 16,000 young people will be at risk of homelessness this Christmas. Young people means 16-25 year olds. That's Sophie's age. The thought of her, or any of her friends, sleeping rough, worrying about which one of their friends will put them up for a couple of days or not having a safe place to spend Christmas is heartbreaking. It's so hard to know how you can help, but these tips from Centrepoint really can be used by anyone. Christmas is a time for giving and if you can give a #SafeChristmas to just one person, you'll have helped to make the world a better place.


Contact Streetlink

Streetlink is an app whereby you can immediately report someone sleeping on the streets to your local authority. You can download the app from Apple or Google – alternatively call the 24 hour helpline on 0300 5000914. Be sure to be as detailed as possible with their appearance and location to give the team the best chance of finding the individual who needs help.

Refer them to Centrepoint Helpline

Alternatively, if you know of a young person who might be at risk of becoming homeless, the Freephone Centrepoint Helpline is available for any young person aged 16-25 in England. Open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm – call 0808 800 0661.

Many young people do not realise they are homeless. The stereotype of the rough sleeper in the grubby sleeping bag can lead young people to believe that their situation is “not all that bad”.

However, research show that sofa-surfing’ is incredibly common, with over two-thirds (68%) of homeless young people having temporarily stayed with friends or extended family (compared to 10% of the general population).

If safe, ask them if they are ok

The decision of whether or not to give money or food is always a personal one. However, a small act of kindness can make a big difference: even if you have nothing else to give, a friendly face and acknowledgement will always be welcome.

As a follow-on from this, if you feel someone’s health is at immediate risk, ring the emergency services, who will be able to help

Get involved with Centrepoint

Centrepoint is urging people to donate this winter; just £18 could give a young homeless person a warm, safe room, hot meal and support in rebuilding their life. 

This last point is something to bear in mind when buying Secret Santa or Christmas gifts - there's always someone who is hard to buy for because they seem to have everything they want, so it's easy to fritter away money on something silly like a novelty toy or insipid box of chocolates/biscuits. Personally speaking, I'd much rather receive a charity donation in my name and know that it's done some real good to someone, rather than receive something that will end up taking up cupboard space or being donated to the charity shop !

Madhouse diaries : The Christmas Parade

Last weekend, on a bitterly cold evening, we wrapped up in scarves, coats and thick jumpers and headed into town to see the traditional Christmas parade. We chose to watch it opposite the big wheel that is part of the festive decor, so that we could take in the pretty lights while we waited.

As well as nine floats, there were hundreds of participants dressed up in festive costumes, walking, dancing and waving their way along the route.

Santa's elves led the way, followed by everything from alphabet blocks, chimney sweeps and Eskimos to gingerbread men ...

... as well as my favourites, the reindeer and polar bears, which were very cute.

With the accompanying music, it all felt very much like a Disney parade and you couldn't help but get swept up in the Christmas spirit.

The larger than life Eskimo fishing in the ice kept waving at us and doing thumbs-up when the traffic got held up just next to us, which made us laugh. 

The kids laughed that Mother Christmas's turkey was even bigger than Nanny's !

It's hard to really show it off with photos taken in the dark, but the ice queen or snow fairy or whatever she was had a long flowing dress that attached to the ice crystals and they were all lit up from the inside, which looked quite spectacular.

I'm not sure who had the biggest smiles - the spectators or the people taking part !

There was a squeal of excitement as the "flying" reindeer announced the star guest ...

Good Old Father Christmas closed the show.

Happy faces all round !

Especially when Juliette realised she had enough money in her pocket to buy a "chocolate kebab" - a pancake filled with chocolate sauce, squirty cream and real slivers of chocolate sliced off the turning "kebab" !

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Madhouse recipe : Pumpkin & chicken curry

This was the starting point for last night's dinner - our Halloween pumpkin ! This year, I picked up a pumpkin from Lidl a few days before Halloween but we were so busy, we never got round to carving it before the big day. It didn't really matter because it came with a spooky face stuck on and it actually had the huge advantage of reducing food waste because leaving the skin intact it stops it from going off. We're only a fortnight away from Christmas though, so I didn't want anything too Halloweeny, such as pumpkin pie. I turned to google for inspiration and found a Hairy Bikers' recipe for Caribbean chicken and pumpkin curry. I tweaked it quite a lot, making a quick midweek version without marinating the meat, so do go and have a look at the original recipe to see how it should be done with more time on your hands. It was still a perfectly acceptable, tasty and warming meal though, even as a rush job.

Pumpkin & chicken curry

ingredients :

1tbsp coconut oil (or a glug of olive oil)
1 clove garlic
2 onions
1/2 tsp ground ginger
4tsp South African (mild) curry powder
salt, pepper
1/2 - 1 pumpkin
4 chicken breasts
3 tomatoes
chicken stock

Melt the coconut oil in a large pan and gently fry the garlic and onions until they go soft and translucent but don't go brown.

I used South African curry powder that I found in the spice rack, but the Hairy Bikers recipe used Caribbean. Any mild curry powder would do though.

Stir through the salt, pepper, ginger and curry powder.

Chop the chicken into chunks and add to the pot. Cook until the chicken is white all the way through (about 10 minutes).

Chop the tomatoes and add to the pot.

Add the peeled and chopped pumpkin to the pot and cover with chicken stock.

Leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Stir, adjust the seasoning (I added a drizzle of pomegranate molasses to bring out the sweetness of the pumpkin) and serve, with rice or just on its own.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up our Halloween pumpkin, as well as some over ripe tomatoes and a pouch of curry powder that was lurking in the spice rack.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Giveaway #661 : Win a duo of fruity 2-in-1 shampoos from Vosene - closing date 28/12

Wind, rain, snow, temperatures below freezing ... Mother Nature seems to be throwing it all at us at the moment ! There's nothing nicer than coming home from work or the school run, jumping into a steaming hot shower then getting into fluffy pyjamas and snuggling on the settee with a hot chocolate (maybe topped with marshmallows, if we're feeling particularly decadent !). While the grown ups and the girls at The Madhouse prefer taking a shower, Pierre still loves splashing about in the bath, so he was over the moon to receive a package of festive bath-time goodies from Vosene, including a bathroom light show and a Santa sleigh and accompanying reindeer rubber ducks !

I had a good giggle when I got to the bottom of the box and discovered some stripey elf bobble hats, complete with pointy ears ! I'm going to Norway on a work trip in the first week back after Christmas, so this will come in very useful for staying warm ! Heading off to work with damp hair is always horrible in the cold (and even if I wash my hair in the evening, it's still slightly damp in the morning) so maybe I could get away with wearing it on the bus to work in the mornings too?!

The stars of the show, though, were the bottles of Strawberry and Melon 2-in-1 shampoo, in suitably festive green and red bottles. We love these shampoos because, as well as keeping hair soft and tangle-free, they have a fabulous, fruity, feel-good fragrance that the whole family loves. Both have a RRP of £1.99 at ASDA.

Vosene (who I think should be renamed Ho-Ho-Vosene during the festive period, as they're being so generous !) have kindly offered to send a bottle of each of the shampoos (Melon and Strawberry) to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. (You'll have to find your own elf hat and santa rubber ducks though !!) Fill in your entries using the rafflecopter widget below (-ho-ho - sorry, I can't help myself !)

UK only. Closing date : 28/12/17

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 ! 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. 

You may also like to enter my other giveaways :

Giveaway #660 : Win 2 x Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie on Blu-Ray - closing date 17/12

Madhouse diaries : Christmas in Dunkirk

Braving the winds of Storm Caroline (called Storm Xanthos in France) yesterday afternoon, we headed into Dunkerque town centre to see the Christmas decorations, starting at the ForĂȘt EnchantĂ©e.

Following the pathway through the forest of Christmas trees, we peered into each of the wooden chalets.

Each chalet presented a different scene, from schoolroom and woodland scene to carpenter's studio, each one with animated figures.

They were pretty and the festive music and smell of pine needles added some extra Christmas spirit, but we didn't think it was quite as good as previous years when they featured moving teddy bears.

 There were still some nice surprises hidden around corners though.

After seeing Santa working through the Christmas mail with his band of merry elves, we came across the man in red himself. 

The organisers announced that they were closing the forest as a safety measure because of the wind, but we just had time to see the rest of the display on our way out.

 Choo choo ... from one train to another, as we headed into the town hall opposite to see a demonstration of model trains.

The town hall had had the Christmas decorators in too, but we were just as impressed with the big stained glass window, representing the history of Dunkirk and the local hero, privateer Jean Bart.

 From the top, the Christmas tree looked even bigger. Meanwhile, Sophie was whispering sweet nothings in the polar bear's ear !

We headed down to the Christmas market in the main square but they were being forced to close as a safety measure too. We just had time to buy a chocolate pancake before heading home. I've no doubt the Madhouse grandparents and Auntie Em weren't looking quite so smiley a couple of hours later. Due to the wind and an earlier ferry accident in Calais, there were humungous delays on the Channel Tunnel on the way home. (Three hours at time of writing.) I hope they had a good day all the same.
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