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I don't normally buy games on their release, I normally wait for them to come down in price but I loved the first Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter so much I made an exception for this and have had it almost two years now and I still love it! *Background & Plot* Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter or GRAW is a game designed by and set in the world of Tom Clancy. Your character is a member of a USA advanced Special Forces team called Ghosts who have access to advanced military equipment and are called in to resolve terrorist situations. The plot of the second game continues from where the first one finished, it involves a military coup in Mexico and the potential invasion of the USA. It is an original game where the camera is on top of your characters shoulder making it a cross between a first and third person shooter. *Graphics* Although the game is getting a little old now the graphics are truly next generation high definition. All the edges are crisp and sharp with no pixilation. A lot of detail is on screen at any one time with a draw point on the horizon a long way from the camera. With the game being set in Mexico dust effects are superb and worthy of a special mention. When the wind picks up dust can blow across screen obscuring your vision, this seems to be quite random and also affects AI players. *Single Player Campaign* With rebel forces closing the Panama Canal and causing civil unrest throughout Latin America you are sent to Mexico to investigate claims that hostile forces possess a dirty bomb which they plan to use on American soil. A dirty bomb is confirmed and the campaign continues at breakneck speed incorporating helicopter crashes, hostages, tank bombardments and the storming of buildings until you end up in Texas where the final confrontation takes place. The single player campaign consists of 3 acts and has three difficulty levels, I played through on the hardest first time without too much difficulty so none of them are too hard. Achievements are available for completing each act on each difficulty and are 'stackable' meaning if you complete a level on the hardest difficulty you get the other two achievements too. The total gamerscore value for single player campaign achievements is 225. *Multiplayer* Although the single player campaign is good it is multiplayer where I feel this game really shines. You can have up to four players playing splitscreen on the same console and can even all go online together where sixteen player games are available. Although this is a very good feature the simple fact that the screen is split takes a lot of detail out of the image (I find) so I prefer to play solely over the Xbox Live service. Up to sixteen players can play in any one game and there are numerous game types available. There are standard team and solo death matches along with capture the flag, cooperative elimination and a few other variations on them. My personal favourite and the mode I keep coming back to are the cooperative campaign mode in which players work together to complete a standalone campaign separate to the single player one. There are about eight levels (more to download at an extra charge) which are completed separately and in any order but should be done in order to benefit from the underlying story. The only problem with this game now is finding a team to play with. As it is now two years old most players have moved onto newer games so it is possible to wait for others to join for some time. As tedious as this sound the game is quite unique in the fact that you can start the game without anybody and they can join in progress so you do not need to sit in a multiplayer lobby for hours on end.
Potato triangles were a delicious, staple part of my childhood, a children's party just wasn't complete without them so I got a little overexcited when I saw these at a mere 92p on an infrequent trip to Tescos. I just had to reminisce with them! Tesco also had an offer on where you could buy 3 bags of any Tesco snack range for £2, as I'm a sucker for an 'offer' I indulged and also got some salt & vinegar sticks and cheese balls. The Potato Triangles come in a big 200g bag which is easily big enough to share. The packet is red with little pictures of the triangles on it as shown in the picture, wholly boring packaging. My excitement grew when I got home and opened the bag, the triangles look identical to the ones I remember, each side being about an inch long and puffy in places. Now either my memory is not what it once was or that is where the similarities end. The crisps are utterly inedible and are unfit for human consumption. They taste of cardboard; have no salt or seasoning on them and very little crunch. I only managed to eat two handfuls and then threw the rest of the bag away, they really are that bad!
I was on one of my regular bargain hunts at my local Morrisons supermarket last week when I came across this on a buy one get one free offer. The normal price was £2.20 so the offer made it a reasonable £1.10 per panini which I find is about normal for this type of product. That in itself wasn't enough to make me buy it because as a rule I hate the ready prepared microwave junk fare but I remembered a friend recommending them to me a couple of months previously. As the friend in question has very similar tastes to me I thought I'd give them a go. There were two flavours available but on closer examination one was Bacon, Cheese & Mustard Mayo. As I hate mustard with a passion I purchased two Chicken, Mozzarella & Pesto ones. The outer packaging of the product is papery plastic which is quite thick and the markings were clear and concise, with the ingredients, heating instructions and nutritional information (per 100g) being easy to read. The packaging opens easily by hand. Inside the packet is a cardboard crisping sleeve which had the heating instructions on with the panini inside. One flaw is that the microwave timings are not on the sleeve and were in a block of text on the outer packet, not very easy to read in a rush. To cook the product all you have to do was heat the panini in the sleeve for 1min 10, turn it over and repeat. You then had to add the pesto and allow it to stand for a minute. A very quick and easy cooking method when you're in a rush. The panini itself is not flat as you may expect but is more like a six inch long sub. The bread itself is nice with a crispy outer but is soft internally which I found to be a nice balance. Inside the 'panini' are three chunks of chicken breast. The chicken seems to be of reasonable quality and is tender, it doesn't quite fill the panini though so you might have a couple of bites of solely bread. The cheese is one strip of mozzarella which again isn't really big enough for the size of the bread. It does melt well though and becomes stringy as mozzarella should. It accompanies the chicken well. The pesto I was expecting from the packaging comes in a tube and is actually mayonnaise with a bit of pesto in it. I'm not a fan of mayo so found this a big disappointment and I feel it should be made clearer on the packaging. The panini is 170g and the following nutritional information is per 100g. kCal: 229 Fat: 8.6g Protein: 16.4g saturates: 3.1g Carbohydrate: 21.6g Fibre: 2g Sugars: 2g sodium: 0.6g For something which is quite unhealthy I would expect something more. It is not very filling and isn't substantial enough to be construed as a meal in itself. I actually had to have a sandwich afterwards as it did not touch my hunger. For £1.10 not a bad snack but I would certainly not buy it again at pay full price. I'll admit I expected a tasty meal and this just didn't deliver.
I like beer, wine, spirits, any kind of alcohol really but unfortunately my waistline doesn't so I have been looking for some alternatives. I like to have a quiet night after a hard days work with a bottle of wine or a couple of beers but I recently decided I was drinking too much. I tried just drinking tap water but got bored of it very quickly so needed something different. I then came across Asdas sparkling water range. The range comes in a few different flavours but my favourite was Strawberry & Vanilla. The drink is available exclusively from Asda (obviously) and comes in a 1 litre bottle. It is currently available at 38p a bottle or 3 bottles for £1. It contains no fat or anything bad and only has 2 calories per 100ml so I can consume it guilt free. The labelling on the bottle is quite attractive and understated. It does not look at all cheap and nasty. The drink itself is very refreshing and although there is an undertone of strawberry it took me back to my childhood as it tastes just like cream soda. The strawberry tastes natural and not artificial and although it is sparkling water there were just the right amount of bubbles as they did not overpower the drink. Overall the drink is exactly what I was after, a refreshing guilt free alternative to alcohol at a fraction of the price.
I was staying in Cardiff last week at a Travelodge which is located just by this restaurant at the Atlantic Wharf Leisure Park. Also at the site is an Odeon cinema at which I saw District 9. I have also reviewed these separately. Old Orleans is an American style Cajun restaurant with a nationwide network of restaurants, from Newcastle to Brighton. The menu is impressive encompasses steak and burgers to stews and fish dishes with everything in-between. My friend is quite picky but even she found plenty she'd eat on it. Old Orleans have an arrangement with Odeon whereby if you watch a film and present your cinema ticket you can get buy one get one free on main courses. It is worth noting that your cinema ticket is retained and as Odeon do not have ticket stubs this offer must be taken after you have watched the film. Once we had our cinema tickets we went to the restaurant to book a table, after trying to find a member of staff we were told bookings were not taken and that tables were allocated on a first come first serve basis but that we should not have a problem getting a table on a Monday night at 20:30 when we would be leaving the cinema. Having seen the film we went to the restaurant and certainly didn't have a problem getting a table, there were only three other tables occupied. The restaurant is large with American diner booth style seating around the edge of the restaurant all in front of large windows. The centre of the restaurant is the bar area and the back is where the kitchens are, a lot of the restaurant was closed off when we were there but it all looked much the same. We asked to be sat away from the window as I can't stand people staring in at me from a foot away when I'm trying to eat so we were placed at a small table in the centre against a wall towards the back of the restaurant. For service purposes the restaurant seemed to be spilt into quarters and there was only one other table occupied in our section. The waitress attended us within a couple of minutes of us being sat down and provided us with menus. She then disappeared and it was ten minutes before she came back to take our drinks orders. As cocktails were 2 for £5 we decided to have Long Island Iced Tea as I adore the stuff! It was another 10 minutes while we waited for the drinks. When they arrived I was disappointed, I'm used to my cocktails being strong but this one just tasted of coke. Barely any alcohol had been used in its preparation. Food orders were then taken, twenty minutes after arriving. As the menu is so unique I decided to try the Gumbo as I had never even heard of it before, my friend went for the Blackened Catfish. Most people in the restaurant were given complementary popcorn while they waited for their food but our waitress did not seem to bother, after waiting twenty minutes for our food I asked for some in an effort to keep my stomach from disturbing other diners. Eventually, forty minutes after arriving we received our food and had to order more drinks as we had not seen the waitress since she had brought a small bowl of popcorn to us. My Gumbo was delicious! It consists of prawns and chorizo and rice in a tomato and jalapeno sauce served with corn bread. I'd never really tasted anything like it before, I would never have thought to put prawns and chorizo together but it does work. The dish was well cooked and the portion was just right. I tried the catfish and thought it was superb, a really meaty fish which was cooked to perfection, it came with stir fired peppers and onions and was very well presented. It was a thoroughly enjoyable meal. Not once did I see the waitress at any stage during our meal, I can only assume she was busy talking to the chefs or something! I did notice the family on the other table were waiting to pay for almost 15 minutes after they had managed to get the bill. About ten minutes after we had finished the waitress arrived to make sure everything was ok with our meals. It would have been unfortunate had it not been. She also took this opportunity to ask if we wanted dessert or further drinks, although I did quite fancy the Key Lime Pie and another drink I declined both as I wanted to be in bed by 02:00 and asked for the bill, this took another five minutes to arrive and I paid by cash as I could only imagine how long it would take to card it. The total cost of our meal, as we got buy one get one free was just under £25 including four cocktails so it was good value for money. The service took so long I went elsewhere for further drinks and I would only go back if time were not a factor. It's a good job we had to go after the cinema or we'd have missed the film.
I hate my job so like to get away for a weekend every month or so. This month, having recently seen far too much Torchwood I decided on Cardiff and spent two nights in the Travelodge Atlantic Wharf last week. I always pre-book my hotels as you can get them so much cheaper that way so I booked this break back in August. I paid £64 for two nights meaning it was £32 a night, not the cheapest but by no means expensive. To just turn up and stay I overheard the receptionist saying it was £59, always well worth pre-booking then! The Hotel The hotel is very new and is situated in a new purpose built building on the Atlantic Wharf entertainment complex. The Red Dragon Centre as it seems to also be known is a new entertainment complex which has an Odeon cinema, Hollywood bowl, numerous restaurants and a couple of bars. Cardiff Bay itself with all its bars, restaurants and shops is only a three/four minute walk away. There are so many restaurants a short stumble from the hotel I could have happily eaten out every night for a year without getting bored. Cardiff city centre is a 15 minute walk up a main road or 10 minutes through a less salubrious part of the city. The hotel is a five story building with all the guest rooms being on floors 1-5. The ground floor consists of reception, a small bar & restaurant and what I assume are all the kitchens and staff areas. Reception is large and airy with there being two automatic doors from either side of the building. One goes to the car park and Red Dragon Centre, the other to the street. There is ample free car parking on site. Check-in We arrived at 14:50, ten minutes before check-in time and the receptionist actually made us stand there and wait until 15:00 before she would check us in. Although she did this in a very friendly manner I still thought it was a little unnecessary. When she allowed us to check-in it was swift and easy. As I had already prepaid online the process was complete within a minute. All the communal areas were clean and tidy. The Room We were given a double room on the third floor overlooking the car park and Red Dragon Centre. The room was very minimalistic with all the furniture being built in. Being a brand new hotel I had high hopes but was slightly disappointed. The room consisted of a king size bed, a chair and a small desk for the tea and coffee making facilities which were well stocked but did not have biscuits or any hot chocolate. There were no bedside tables just a small cranny built within the headboard just large enough for a cup; my bottle of water would not even fit in it. The en-suite bathroom was actually just a shower room, it was very cramped and there was no bath. The room was so small if you were using the toilet you couldn't actually close the door. No toiletries were provided. The room and bathroom, sorry shower room, were both very clean and tidy. The bedding was clean and crisp white cotton. I would stay at this hotel again with it being so cheap and being in such a good location but I'd make sure I arrived after 3!
I cooked this last night and it went down very well so I thought I'd share it with all you lovely people. I warn you now though only attempt this if you have a dishwasher or love your washing up as it uses a lot of pans! This will create a lovely hearty fish pie which was described as 'real comfort food' when I presented it. This will serve four and is only a guide and you can edit it to suit your individual tastes. The recipe is low in fat and reasonably healthy. Ingredients: 500g potatoes cut into chucks 250g salmon fillet 250g cod fillet 100g prawns three large spring onions 400ml milk 200g low fat soft cheese 100g broccoli florets cut into small chunks 50g peas 75g grated cheese mixed herbs chives pinch of salt Spray oil seasoning to taste 1) Fill a large pan with lightly salted water and boil the potatoes 2) Place the milk, cod and salmon in a pan. Simmer for 7 minutes until nicely cooked turning once halfway through. Drain and keep the milk to one side, allow the fish to cool. 3) In another pan cook the broccoli until softened 4) Spray a large pan with oil and cook the spring onions until they are soft. Add the soft cheese and stir until the onions are coated and all the lumps have gone. Add the milk you reserved earlier from cooking the fish. Mix it all well and add the broccoli, prawns, peas, chives and mixed herbs. Mix everything together well. It is at this stage you should try the mixture and season to taste. 5) Spray a casserole dish with oil and add the mixture you've just made. Don't worry if it seems runny it will thicken on cooking. 6) Drain and mash the boiled potatoes, add a splash of milk and mash until creamy. Season to taste. 7) Spoon the mashed potato onto the top of the mixture and sprinkle the grated cheese onto the top. 8) Cook the dish in a preheated oven at 220 or gas mark 7 until the top is golden brown and bubbling. This should take about 30min. 9) Enjoy! I served it with boiled broad beans and carrots.
I know this review is going to be very unpopular but some things just need to be said, so that warned lets get on. JD Wetherspoons are a nationwide chain of pubs with a reputation for providing cheap food and drink which is celebrating 30 years in operation, having been formed in 1979. During these last three decades the chain has gone from strength to strength and almost everybody in the country must have experienced its delights with there being a JD Wetherspoon (or Spoons) on what seems like every corner in the country; often even next door to each other. According to jdwetherspoon.co.uk which is the official website for the chain there are now 735 Wetherspoons pubs in the UK meaning there is certainly one near you. The location of the pubs is widespread, they are everywhere from local and high streets to retail parks and airports so with all these 'cheap' pubs and with pubs and freehouses closing at record rates is there any room left for the classic local boozer? I have lived all over the country from Newcastle to Portsmouth and have visited almost everywhere in-between and Wetherspoons are the one constant up and down the country. They really do have a monopoly on the industry now. When the chain started its heavy expansion plans prices were very cheap and you could buy a burger and a pint for under £4. With prices like those it was hardly surprising people started frequenting them instead of the local pub which could never compete. It seems to me that the old often Victorian pubs have gradually had to close and are now being developed into luxury flats. Have a look down your local high street, I bet you've got at least one! In the current economic climate this process seems to have hastened as people have had to tighten their belts even further. On my local High Street we now have two Wetherspoon pubs, a Walkabout and a Lloyds No1 bar (essentially a slightly more expensive Wetherspoons which plays music) Three local pubs there have had to close this year. So is this such a bad thing, they must have something to offer besides cheap drinks? Sadly they don't really no. Atmosphere I realise the pubs do vary but I am talking about the majority of them here. The atmosphere in the pubs is non-existent, picture this. There are one or two small flat screen tellies showing the obligatory Sky Sports News with subtitles on. No music is played so the only noise is the raucous group in the corner spending their Incapacity Benefit and interrupting the quiet drink you're trying to have with your partner. Its pension day so a dozen men in their eighties have been sat in the same chair since breakfast and are dozing with their face in their ninth real ale pint of the day at 11:00. Quite often a small amount of urine has escaped and is soaking into the chair around them. Not exactly appealing is it? This is my local Wetherspoons on a daily basis. Food They have a national menu which does not vary, except between England and Wales where a few differences occur. A new menu was introduced on 1st October. It differs very slightly from the old one with a few new rather bland items having been added and everything is far more expensive than it was. The menu is very safe; there is something for everyone on it but nothing overly exciting. It consists of things like pie, fish & chips, scampi, curry and steaks. There are a few dishes available for £2.99 such as tomato pasta and jacket potato but these come in very small child size portions. Generally everything is made of cheap ingredients; bulk purchased to be frozen and then is heated up in the microwave. There are a few exceptions but that is my humble impression. One such exception is the breakfast. I had a large one a couple of days ago before a long train journey and was very pleasantly surprised. The large breakfast costs £3.89 for which you get 2 fried eggs, 2 rashers of bacon, 2 sausages, baked beans, 3 hash browns, a mushroom, half a tomato and 2 slices of toast with butter. It was very filling and everything was cooked very well, albeit deep fried. The toast was manually thick cut and was very fresh. The hash browns were not as crispy as I like them but that is probably just a taste thing. Overall a cheap filling breakfast which I would certainly purchase again. On certain nights of the week a 'club' is offered. On Thursday it is 'curry club' where a curry and drink cost £5.99. For this price you get a curry, rice, naan bread, popodom, and mango chutney with a free drink from a limited selection. I had a curry from this 2 weeks ago and while it is good value and actually tasted reasonable it made me very ill the following day. Drinks Although prices used to be cheap I find a round of drinks is no longer the bargain it once was, they seem to have been slowly putting their prices up for the last few years and now unless you drink specific cheap drinks things will cost about the same as elsewhere. Lager drinkers are not very well catered for anymore, Coors used to be a nice drink at a cheap price but it is no longer available. Wetherspoons have replaced Coors with Tuborg a Danish lager which is quite gassy and I find it rather yeasty. Not only this but they now charged almost £3 a pint. Also widely available on draught in their pubs are Kronenburg and Fosters. Westons Organic Cider is available which is a premium 7.2% cider with a lovely taste to it and is a reasonable £2.30 but I can only drink it in moderation. Also available is Strongbow which always tastes very cheap and artificial to me and is actually more expensive than Westons. Spirits are cheap if you limit yourself to dark rum, Sailor Jerry being £1.39 a shot, 10p more than it was last month. One of the major good things about Wetherspoons was that you could 'double up' (make your drink a double) for an extra £1 but they have now put this up to £1.50 making the second shot more expensive than the first. Ok if you opt for one of the expensive spirits like Smirnoff at £1.89 doubling up saves you a small amount but it is no longer the incentive it once was. I don't drink real ale but Wetherspoons is a member of Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) and it is the one type of drink which is still good value, hence why the older person is so attracted. Conclusion I may be a cynic but I can't help but feel that JD Wetherspoon is a major contributor to the decline of Britain's pubs. They lured everybody in with cheap prices, killed all the competition and are increasing them slowly in the hope that people won't notice. I'm not sure I like that sort of business practice, I'd rather spend my money in a locally owned bar, having said that they do a good breakfast!
Come Dine With Me is a channel 4 program which revolves around people throwing dinner parties. One full show is made up of five individual programmes. These programes are on Monday till Friday at 18:00 on channel 4 or you can watch all five back to back to waste a Sunday afternoon on More 4. Personally I prefer the latter as it is a nice easy, relaxing watch. There are five contestants who take it in turns over the course of a week to host a dinner party, hence the five episodes. The show gives each person £100 and they have to cook a three course dinner of their choice for the other contestants. It may not sound a very interesting concept but it has developed a cult following which is growing quickly and makes entertaining watching. Throughout the show a commentator overtalks what is happening onscreen which I find hilarious as he is often just mocking the contestants. It is much better than it sounds and really must be seen to be aprriciated but he really does make the show what it is. Channel 4 chooses the people by geograpiphical location as each dinner party is hosted in that persons home. This can be particually funny as some of the people who apply for the show are rather excentric and their houses show it! The contestants are all strangers and have never met so are all introduced on the first evening. They are always from very different walks of life and personalities often clash resulting in some outrageous behaviour. I'm sure Channel 4 are very careful to ensure they have an interesting and entertaining mix of people. By the end of the week friendships and hostilities have developed and on the final night peoples true feelings often emerge. The host of each night must provide the producers with their menu in advance of the show. During the day of their event they have to go out and purchase their ingrediants, cameras follow them around as they do this but I'm sure alot of it is staged as everybody seems to be on first name terms with their butcher/baker/fishmonger. Everybodies menu is different and some contestants go to far too much trouble and make things too complicated with five or even seven courses on offer. I've seen episodes where people use Asda Smart Price ingrediants and those where somebody spent over £200 on a tiny tin of caviar. The show then follows all their cooking and preparation which can provide some useful recipes and tips. All the while the commentator is participating like he were in the room. The guests then arrive and, generally, alcohol starts flowing. While the host finishes off the starter the other guests have a nosey around their house. There seems to be nowhere which is offlimits at this stage and some of the things they come accross are rather personal and really should have been hidden better! As I've mentioned the contestants are from all walks of life so the houses range from bedsits all the way through to Georgian country estates. Next is the actual dinner party stage where conversations really get heated and the food is loved or as can often happen completely hated and slated. There have been some real disaters with burnt ingrediants or people forgetting to put things in the oven so the main course doesn't arrive until 23:00. At the end of the evening each guest secretly marks the host with a score out of ten. This should be based on food, atmosphere and entertainment. The person with the most points at the end of the week wins the show. Each episode is really different and through the course of a week I find myself really hating some contestants and I always know who I want to win. The winner not only recieves the acolade but gets £1000 cash. All the recipes from the show are added to the Come Dine With Me website, sometimes they are altered to actually work but if you see something on the show you'd like to try the recipe can always be found.
Wow really not what I expected from this film, having said that I'm not really sure what I did expect. It is a very unique film and one which cannot really be compared to anything before seen on film, for me it actually reminded me of real life rather than some rehashing of a twenty year old movie cliché. The film is set in writer Neill Blomkamps hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa and is quite clearly based on his observations of apartheid growing up there. The story is centred on a race of aliens known detrimentally as 'prawns' who arrived on Earth 20 years previously and settled in a refugee camp in Johannesburg known as District 9. The area has since deteriorated into a slum where food is scarce and crime is rampant. A group of Nigerians based in the district are taking advantage of the aliens and running the area like a dictatorship. As local South African residents do not want their city overrun with crime and aliens a corporation known as Multi-National United (MNU) has been tasked with relocating the entire race of two million to a new camp well outside the city. Without giving too much away the film follows the main character Wikus van der Merwe who and is set after its events and consists of two main parts, the first part is in a documentary style. This consists of MNU video footage which was supposedly documenting their attempts to disperse the aliens, Wikus was in charge of the operation. This archive footage makes up over half the film and I personally found it getting a little tedious, this plot setting just took too long. The second part of the film is shot in a traditional cinematic style, this switches when Wikus develops 'problems' and becomes a target of MNU, as Wikus is on his own a documentary style wouldn't be possible. I found this the better half of the film. I would not have thought shooting one film with two drastically different styles would work but this does, it all fuses together quite well and makes sense. The story is good and although the reasoning behind the sequence of events which triggers Wikus' 'problems' is never really explained I didn't find myself questioning things. Although the film tackles some big issues it never condescending or belittling and grants the audience with the intelligence to see the underlying message and make their own decisions and choices. No basic dialogue is added which wouldn't have actually been said in order to explain the obvious. Wikus is played by Sharto Copley who I have never encountered before. Overall he was good but I did find he actually overacted some moments a bit. Wikus starts off a nerd who I took an instant dislike to but the character develops brilliantly until he actually becomes quite a believable action hero with some major flaws. I thought this development and the depth of character was the major draw of the film. This is one film where knowing too much will actually dull your enjoyment so I will not give anything else away, overall an interesting and incredibly unique film which highlights some important issues. I don't know whether it was the backdrop of South Africa or the vulnerability of the aliens but I was reminded of the apartheid issues of South Africa throughout.
I was in Cardiff on a short break this week and while I was bumbling around the shopping precinct I noticed every other person carrying a loaf of Hovis Soft White Bread. Just when I thought I was losing my mind I came across a Hovis gazebo where half a dozen attractive young ladies were handing out free loaves, being a bit of a bargain hunter I decided to try a loaf. I normally purchase Danish style loaves purely because they are only half a weightwatchers point per slice instead of a point per slice for standard loaves of bread so this loaf came as a welcome return to normal bread. The first thing that struck me was just how soft this loaf of bread is. Because I was visiting Cardiff I stuffed a loaf in my bag and carried it around all day. It got very squashed and I was expecting it to be irretrievably dead and flattened but the second it was put on my worktop it fluffed out and retook its original shape. The bread is medium slices of about half a centimetre which is ideal, although certainly not what I'm used to with my measly Danish. The crusts on the bread are not too thick and are cooked to perfection; there were no burnt or uncooked areas anywhere on the loaf. The taste of the bread is quite light and smooth. It is airy and is not in the slightest bit doughy as some competitors are. When I came to butter a slice of this is where the only problem arose, I use spreadable Country Life butter and where the bread is so soft I did struggle to put the butter on without ripping the bread and damaging the surface. I persevered and with some effort managed to get it buttered, although I did have to have it a little thicker than I would have liked. As I got this bread for free I have no hesitation in recommending it but I would have to think twice before paying double what I normally would for a loaf of bread with its price tag being on average a whopping £1.25. They gave away so many loaves I suppose they have to recoup the cost somehow.
Anybody that has read any of my other reviews will no doubt be aware that I can't resist a good bargain during my grocery shops. Well this was my latest, on offer in Tescos on buy one get one free. As I'm going round friends for a pizza and drinks tomorrow I thought this was ideal. However after a long day at work I got home last night and munched them both to myself and I'm actually rather glad I did, it would have been embarrassing turning up with this! The packaging is as the picture and is very good. It is far superior to other frozen pizzas and actually looks quite dare I say, posh? The box is totally cardboard with only a small slit so you can see just a fraction of the pizzas edge. I can't help feeling this is quite deliberate as if you could see any more there is no way anybody would buy it. The base of the pizza is allegedly 'Stonebaked Ciabatta'. Granted it is thicker than a standard thin and crispy base but I certainly wouldn't describe it as Ciabatta, I actually like Ciabatta! This is just a thick crispy base which is slightly chewy in the middle. I was expecting something different and was not impressed. From the base on up things only got worse. The toppings on this are almost non-existent! There should, according to the packaging be Ham, Tomato and a 'Basil Pesto'. The pizza has a standard tomato puree base which is so thinly spread you can actually see the 'Ciabatta' beneath in almost all areas of the pizza. There is a sprinkling of cheese on top of that and when I say a sprinkling that si exactly what I mean, even when cooked and melted you can see the individual cheese gratings. The ham is very cheap and thin cuttings of which there was only six on one pizza and five on the other! The tomatoes on the pizza are sliced baby ones which were actually the best part and I'm not normally a fan of tomatoes. They cooked well without burning and tasted firm yet moist. As for the basil pesto, I'm not sure I actually even came across any! I don't normally buy frozen pizzas, I get them from Asda and 'create my own' from their counter then freeze them myself. Next time I see frozen pizzas on offer I'll walk on past!
I went on my first proper holiday in years last October so dug my decade old trusty camera out. Looking at it I realised that it was three mega pixels and the camera on my mobile phone was of a better specification. With this realisation I decided it was about time I replaced it. Then came the big question, what to replace it with? Now the last thing I wanted was a huge camera around my neck making me look like a Japanese tourist every time I went out and as I'm no avid photographer a big SLR wasn't necessary so a compact camera was certainly the way to go. I did my research and this being a new release had by far the best specifications being a mighty 14.7 mega pixels and having allsorts of options which we'll go over later. I purchased this camera in October 2008 from Play.com and paid £169.99, unfortunately it didn't arrive so they resent it and I finally got it in the November after my initial holiday. Not a good start but I have used it many times since, so onto the camera: Packaging The box it comes in is much smaller than I expected being roughly the size of five stacked DVDs. Upon opening the box everything was well packaged. The box contains the camera itself, manuals, and software. A component HD cable so you can connect the camera to your TV for playback functionality, a USB cable which also doubles as the mains charger and a wrist strap. Also included is the rechargeable battery but no memory card. USB cable The USB connection on the camera is unique to Samsung so only a Samsung cable will connect. The included cable has a indicator light at the camera end. This changes colour from red to green when the battery is fully charged. The connections are all very robust and I've never felt like they're likely to get damaged or snap. The other end of the cable is a standard USB connection so it easily connects to your computer, TV or other USB compatible device such as an Xbox. This same cable also doubles as your mains charger, included with the camera is a mains adaptor which the USB cable plugs into so you can also charge the camera from a wall socket. A very well designed multiuse cable. Appearance The overall size of the camera is a mere 94.9 x 59.5 x 19.9 mm making it very pocket friendly. This camera comes in a variety of colours but mine is silver with a black edging to the top, bottom and one side of the camera, it looks very sophisticated. The bottom of the camera has the battery and memory card hatch, the USB/charger connector and a tripod mount on it. The top of the camera has the power button which is small and difficult to accidentally press in your pocket but easy to use when you want to. It also has the shutter button which changes colour from red to green when the auto focus has done its bit and a dial settings selector which I'll discuss later. The flash is of a popup design on top of the camera on the left hand side so when it is not in use the lines of the camera aren't intruded upon. The front of the camera just consists of the impressive wide focus Schneider lens, the flash viewfinder and has Samsungs logos on it. The rear of the camera has a large 3 inch touch screen with several small buttons down the side of it which access the menu, slideshows and control the zoom. Overall the camera is very attractive and looks classy and elegant. The Flash The flash unit automatically pops up when you depress the shutter button if it is required. As I've mentioned the flash is on top of the camera on the left hand side which unfortunately is the exact place where you would naturally put your finger so it can catch you by surprise. This is the only badly designed thing about an otherwise impeccable camera. The flash itself performs well and can light up even the darkest environments although on close up pictures it can reflect back at the lens making part of the picture far too bright. Settings You can edit just about every setting imaginable on the camera in manual mode, I actually have no idea what half the things are for so I stay well away from that and stick to the other modes which are: Automatic, Video, Scene, Beauty shot, Night mode, Anti-shake and Program. I generally stick to the Automatic mode, which despite the name is fully automatic as you still have to set whether you want landscape or macro (close up) mode. Although you can manually change most of the settings such as flash, focus style and picture quality it isn't really necessary. I just set the picture quality to maximum and everything else to automatic and the resultant pictures are incredible. Anti-shake mode is very good if you're cold or have had a couple of drinkies as it makes turns on both stability modes which makes a huge difference and the pictures come out without any blurriness. The video shoots in 720p high definition and, if watched back on a HD TV look as good as any television channel. Beauty shot is a very clever idea; it takes out any blemishes in a persons skin tone allegedly making them look more beautiful. I'm not sure it actually makes too much of a difference to the end result but maybe that's because I'm so beautiful without it. Scene and Program modes are very similar, you chose from a variety of pre-programmed situations which should result in the best photos. I never actually use these as I find automatic mode more than sufficient. For Night mode to work effectively you would really need a tripod as the shutter stays open for a long time in order to get enough light for a good shot. To hold the camera in this mode makes the image very blurry just from your breathing. I have tried it by putting the camera on a wall and the image is actually very good. Functionality The touch screen is the best I have ever come across. It always knows exactly where you've touched and makes no mistakes. When the camera is on there are virtual buttons along the bottom of the touch screen which you use to change the camera settings. The screen is quite easily scratched as I found out after two days of owning the camera so a suitable case is a must. The 3x optical zoom is accompanied with a follow on digital zoom meaning you can focus successfully on something a long way into the distance. While the optical zoom functions perfectly with the Schneider lens the digital zoom is a little disappointing. When the digital zoom is in use the resultant pictures are grainy and can be out of focus. I have actually taken to using the extent of the optical zoom and going no further so I do not use the digital. Because the camera is 'Plug & Play' I have not ever actually installed the Samsung software. The included software is the generic Quicktime and Adobe along with Samsung Master which can be used to edit photos and videos although as this can easily be done with Windows I'm not sure why you would use this. Battery life on the camera has been remarkably impressive; one charge has easily lasted me a two week holiday of normal camera use. I would say the battery lasts for approximately three hours before a charge is required. When you have the camera set to 14.7 megapixels and the quality set to superfine the pictures are about 5MB which is a very large file. A lot of websites will not allow you to upload photos of this size so if that is your intended use for the photos you'll need to adjust the settings. I find with the settings on 'Fine' and 8 megapixels the file sizes are about 1.5Mb which seems fine for websites. Due to the potentially very large file sizes the onboard memory of 40MB is nowhere near large enough and an additional memory card is therefore a necessity. The camera supports MMC SD and SDHC memory cards. I opted for a SDHC as these are available in a large 8GB capacity. Other capabilities of the camera which haven't come up elsewhere but I feel are worth a mention are the smile and face detection technology. This is capable of monitoring numerous faces at once and automatically taking a photo when everybody is smiling. You can also create a slideshow on the camera and add music and effects to create your own unique gallery. A superb, well made camera with a myriad of options and functions for everybody of all experiences. Reliability and picture quality are second to none and I would recommend this camera to anybody. Even a year on this hasn't aged technologically or aesthetically. You can still expect to pay about £170 for it today, still worth every penny!
I refuse to pay a huge amount for shower gels but the supermarket chain Morrisons normally have Imperial Leathers Little Treat range on a buy one get one free offer which makes them a reasonable 75p for a 250ml bottle. The bottle itself is ergonomically curved to fit nicely in the hand and is made from transparent plastic so you can easily see how much shower gel you have left. The labelling is also clear giving the bottle an expensive and sophisticated look. The lid is pink to match the colour of the gel and flips up to reveal a small hole through which the product will flow. The first thing that hits you when you open the bottle is the smell of the gel, its divine!! It is hard to describe exactly how it smells as it is so unique but it is sweet and you can certainly detect an undertone of cherry. It does smell good enough to eat, although I wouldn't recommend it! When you pour the gel it takes a little while for it to actually appear as it is just so thick and creamy. It lathers up very easily and you only need a small amount to wash yourself meaning it lasts longer than its competitors. It cleaned well and made my skin feel very soft and smooth. The scent lasted subtlety on my skin for hours after my bath and kept me feeling clean for just as long. I absolutely adore this product and actually now have the hand wash and bubble bath to match.
I normally cook things from scratch but, with it being on offer in Sainsburys for £1.50 at half price I thought I'd get it to use when I couldn't be bothered to cook. Yesterday was such a day. Firstly I don't really eat lamb as I think it is a rather fatty meat so I substituted turkey mince for the suggested lamb mince. The only other ingredient you need to make the kit (other than water) is natural yogurt, I used Sainsburys basics natural low fat yogurt. As I got my meat when it was reduced and froze it the entire meal cost less than £4 for two of us. The concept behind the kit is simple; the kit contains five sachets which need to be mixed with the above ingredients according to the instructions. The first step and by far the quickest and easiest is to mix sachet 1 with the natural yogurt. This creates Raita, the herbs look horrible so I was at this stage expecting a trip down to the local takeaway. I did this stage in the morning, went to work and left the mixture to infuse through the course of the day, I think this actually improved the end product no end. When I got home I browned the mince and, although not mentioned in the instructions drained the excess fat. You then have to mix the mince with the contents of sachets two and three. These are the spices and vegetables. It tells you to cook for a couple of minutes but I just ensured everything had a coating of spices. The vegetables which come out of the sachet are a mixture of peas and onion and look dry and revolting. The instructions tell you to simmer. You then add water to the mix and the instructions tell you to simmer for fifteen minutes. Like everybody else seems to have I actually simmered for more like twenty five until I felt the consistency was right. Meanwhile while you're doing the curry you also have to do the rice, this is simple enough just empty sachet 4 (the spiced basmati rice) into a pan with 350ml water cover and simmer for 12 minutes. The rice came out perfectly cooked and fluffy by following these instructions. The final stage is to make the Roti breads, according to the instructions this should also be quite simple, empty sachet 5 into a mixing bowl and mix with 150ml warm water. I did this and created a dough, I then spent a good five minutes kneading the dough to make it pliable. I then ran out of time as all the other stages were almost cooked so added the oil as directed and created four balls of dough which I then rolled flat. The dough was very good and did not stick to the work surface. I dry fried it as directed but instead of golden brown parts went black while other bits were barely cooked. I persevered and the bread came out ok, the middle was not as well cooked as I would have liked. I suspect I may not have flattened the dough as much as I should have and the mixture was too fat. The breads were still edible and were dare I say quite nice when served with the Raita. The kit was actually fun to make and made preparing the meal a sociable affair. The meal finished cooking at about the same time, and dished up it looked very appealing. Even the vegetables which gave me my initial reservations came out well and my partner and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The kit made two large portions and was tasty and very filling. As I got the kit on offer it was good value for money but I would not pay full price for it.