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As someone who spent many summers as a kid drinking gallons of the non-alcoholic version, it was nice to discover ginger beer with a kick.
Very gingery, but not enough to set your mouth on fire. Brewed for eight weeks with steeped ginger, the taste is strong, fiery and definitely not artificial! The good quality ginger and alcohol content knock off most of the sweetness associated with normal ginger beer, leaving a crisp, warming drink that is actually quite refreshing.
In the summer, it's great as a mixer with pineapple juice, over ice.
-But how does it compare to a proper pint?-
The alcohol content of the ginger beer is 4%, similar to a mild lager or cider. The colour is golden brown, and when poured into a pint glass, looks fairly similar to a golden ale.
When purchasing at a pub, it's usually priced in the same category as bottled ciders, and available for £1.89 per 500ml bottle at Tescos. This makes is slightly pricier than the average lager, but the product is marketed as a premium beverage.
It's not a 'session pint' though. The ginger beer is fairly fizzy, and the taste is a lot sweeter than normal beer, so more than a couple of these are likely to make you feel slightly sick and bloated. In fact, this is the only complaint I have - it could do with being less carbonated.
The king of thermos flasks
I purchased this for a week-long hiking trip, where a warming drink doesn't go amiss when you've been trudging along for several hours in the cold.
The flask holds enough for around 3 small cups of tea/coffee.
-So how does it work?-
Very simply, unscrew the lid (can be used as a cup), then the seal, and pour in your hot drink of choice! Few words of advice though:
- It is recommended that you 'pre-heat' the flask by pouring in hot water and leaving for a few minutes, then emptying and pouring in your drink.
- You are not meant to use dairy products with the flask, as I imagine if left for a long period of time, the liquid will start to attract bacteria as it cools. If you intend to drink the contents within a couple of hours, adding milk to coffee/tea should be ok.
- When brewing tea, I found if you stuck the bag in to the hot water in the flask, sealed the flask and left for a few minutes, the tea bag will float to the top and can be easily removed. Don't leave the bag in all day, unless you like ultra-strong tea!
Once the flask has been filled, firmly screw the seal back on, and then the lid. Your flask is now leak-proof and the exterior will not be hot to touch.
-And does it work?-
Yes! Even after a 9-hour hike, the contents were still warm, which was incredibly impressive. I was drinking black tea with sugar, which remained close to boiling hot for about 6 hours, then started to cool. It takes around 12 hours for it to cool to the point of being undrinkable. Even opening the flask during the day to have a drink didn't seem to increase the cooling process.
After a week of bashing the flask around the Swiss Alps, there isn't even the tiniest scratch mark on the bottle. This is definitely a top quality product, and cheaper imitations should be ignored.
As with most cookery books promising over 1,000 recipes, this book does not actually contain 1,001 original recipes, but variants on around 450. Still, that's a lot of recipes to keep you occupied!
-Format of the Book-
Spread over 300 pages, this A4 hardback book crams in around four recipes per page, usually two main recipes, and two variants. Each main recipe comes with a colour illustration of the final product. The ingredients required are listed in a coloured sidebar, which helps the book look uniform, neat and easy to read.
An index at the back can quickly help you find what you are looking for, and the book is also split by product type (cupcakes, muffins etc) into six sections:
Lists key ingredients that virtually all baked goods require, equipment you'll need and techniques such as melting chocolate.
There's loads of little hints and tips, which are a must read if you're new to the baking lark. Understanding the importance of accurately measuring ingredients and having eggs and butter at room temperature will save you a lot of grief further down the line!
The best part of the introduction for me was 'The Finishing Touches' double spread of essential icings, which lists key recipes for virtually all the icings you'll need. However, the book does not explain what these icings actually are, so if you're a novice who doesn't know the difference between ganache, buttercream, fondant and royal icing, a bit of research will need to be done beforehand.
-Cute Cupcakes and Buns-
A list of fairy cakes, cupcakes, scones and variety of other products such as doughnuts and gingerbread. The cupcakes cover a wide range of occasions, from weddings to children's parties, and the flavours range from basic vanilla and chocolate, to more adventurous apple pie and courgette!
I didn't like that a lot of the cakes used fresh cream in the toppings. Fine, if you're going to consume them on the day, but not great for having later in the week. You may have to experiment with different icings if this is a problem for you.
-Crowd-pleasing Cookies and Biscuits-
Almost every biscuit recipe you could ask for! A massive variety from chocolate chip to tropical fruit. In fact, you probably won't ever need to buy a biscuit recipe book again!
Aside from English and American favourties, the book also includes recipes from all over the world such as Spanish almond cookies, Dutch macaroons and Chinese fortune cookies.
My personal favourite are the cherry & chocolate diamonds, which are light, buttery and very moreish.
If sweet cookies aren't your thing, there is also a large selection of biscotti recipes.
-Blissful Brownies and Bars-
An extensive collection of brownies and blondies recipes, plus yummy traybakes such as coconut bars and caramel shortbread squares. It's amazing what you can do with the humble brownie - the brownie cheescake has to be tried!
As most of the traybakes are creamy topping-free, they'll keep for at least a week, longer if you slice them up as needed.
The cupcake's bigger, slightly less sweet cousin. A nice selection of slightly healthier sounding recipes, such as low-fat blueberry muffins, that are perfect for an indulgent breakfast or an afternoon pick-me-up.
There are even savoury muffin recipes, that are a great idea for picnics.
Profiteroles, fudge, truffles... all those naughty little treats that are so bad for you! Some of these recipes are a bit fiddly, but if you want to give a gift with a difference, who won't be thrilled to receive a homemade collection of treats?
There's loads of canapés and petit-fours ideas for dinner parties, and the far superior taste of homemade goodies will make the extra effort well worthwhile.
So far, every recipe I have tried from this book has turned out fine. The great thing about this book is that the huge variety means that you'll always be able to whip up something from the ingredients you have lying around. It's also great for inspiration, as the book includes loads of basic recipes that you can play around with to try out new flavours.
The only downside is that book doesn't include 'proper' cakes, although you could use the batter from the cupcake recipes.
I received this book as a present, but at £17 from Amazon, it's still a worthwhile purchase. Have a hunt around bargain bookshops on the high street, as they sometimes stock books like this for less.
Perhaps this is a bit unfair of me to review this product, being of German origin, but it really annoys me what supermarkets pass off as lebkuchen.
-What are Lebkuchen?-
A spicy, nutty, chewy biscuit popular in Germanic countries around Christmas time. They keep forever, so can be made well in advance, usually in November. Swiss lebkuchen tend to be slightly drier than the German version.
The main spices are ginger and cloves, and the main nuts used are almond and hazelnut. The biscuits are very lightly iced, and occasionally alcohol (usually Kirsch) is added to the mix for a bit of a kick.
They are often confused with gingerbread, but the spice mix and texture differs greatly.
-How do Sainsbury's Lebkuchen taste?-
Not great. If you've never had proper lebkuchen before, these probably seem like a sweet, slightly artifical tasting, gingerbread. If you have tasted lebkuchen before, you'll probably realise these are nothing of the sort. I was massively disappointed (even though I wasn't expecting much!), and will stick to making my own. I'll be posting up the recipe on Dooyoo shortly.
If you fancy a sweet, supermarket gingerbread, you'll probably find these quite nice. If you're after lebkuchen, stick to Christmas markets or making your own.
If you're fed up with spending a fortune on sanitary products and don't like lugging them around in your bag, this could be the one for you.
Hardwearing silicon that is easy to disinfect, and will last for years.
-Ease of Use-
The product takes some getting used to (probably around three periods), so make sure to have back up during the time.
The common problems are:
- Inserting. The mooncup website, plus many others selling menstrual cups show various 'tricks' to help you insert the product comfortably and correctly. Experiment until you find the right one for you. When done correctly, you won't notice it at all. When done incorrectly, it can be painful and cause leakage
- Leaks. Even when inserted correctly, if not changed regularly enough, it will leak. After a few periods, you begin to get a feel for how often it needs changing. As with tampons, you should not leave the product without changing for longer than eight hours.
- Mess! As it is reusable, you can't just chuck the product away. The contents should be emptied into a toilet, and until you get the hang of this, you might accidentally spill the contents, so try practicing at home first.
- Cleaning. It is recommended that you clean with unfragranced soap and rinse with drinkable water. When your period is finished, the cup should be placed in boiling water for a couple of minutes, just to ensure it thoroughly disinfected. The cleaning routine isn't really practical in public loos, but a quick wipe and remembering to clean it properly when you get home is sufficient.
Once you have got the hang of using the cup, you'll never look back. Its convenient, comfortable and none of the dry unpleasantness associated with tampons.
These products retail for around £20, but given that an average period probably costs you around £5, that's a bargain!
For all those people who have given Wong Kei's a bad review because of the service... what?!?!
Even without being forewarned, about the seating arrangements (sharing a table with strangers) or the waiters (want to take your order quickly), surely the fact the restaurant is constantly rammed, the portions are huge and the prices low should speak for itself.
Where else in central London can you get a freshly cooked decent meal for under a fiver? And with free tea too!
The menu is massive, with virtually anything you could possibly want from a Chinese, including a lot of stuff you probably really don't want to try (intestines??). As the portions are really very large, you don't need more than one dish each, and perhaps a side.
Winners for me are the seafood noodles and sweet and sour chicken with rice.
As it's based in London's China Town, near Leicester Square, it is absolutely perfect for a pre-show meal when you haven't got hours to put up with slow service and don't want to spend a fortune on overdone pasta.
A warming fragrance that evokes memories of cold autumn nights.
Dior have gone for a heavy, musky scent, unleashing an even darker side to the Poison collection. If you like your fragrances to be light, citrus florals, then this is definitely not for you!
Jasmine and vanilla form a rich, floral base, with all sweetness and light kicked out with the addition of bitter almond. The resulting heavy spice lingers all day, and is a perfect occasion perfume.
For me, the fragrance evokes bonfire night - wood burning, roast chestnuts and mulled wine.
The shape is standard for all Poison perfumes, with the bottle colored a rich claret for Hypnotic Poison. In fact, it looks eerily like the poisoned apple in Snow White!
I personally love the shape of the Poison bottles, and like the way you can cradle the bottle in the palm of your hand. The curved bottle is very elegant and pleasing to look at.
Priced usually around £46 for 50ml
No one really likes cleaning, so any product that makes the job easier is more than welcome. Unfortunately, a lot of these products comes at a price.
-What can they be used for?-
Pretty much any surface, unless delicate or easily stained, can be cleaned with these wipes - dining room tables, kitchen surfaces, bathrooms. These handy, hardwearing wipes are great for cleaning up dirt on a daily basis. They can cope with pretty much anything, but to avoid wasting the wipes, stubborn stains are best tackled with elbow grease and detergent first.
You can technically use the wipes for a weekly clean, instead of cloths and sprays, but depending on how large your house is, you could easily go through a whole pack of wipes doing so. At over £3 a pop for 90 wipes, this isn't exactly cost effective.
The wipes are best suited for daily tasks, such as giving work surfaces a wipe over after cooking - no mess, no fuss. Just use the wipe, then chuck!
I prefer Flash to Dettol, as the scent is less artifical/chemical. The wipes come in neutral or lemon, both of which are quite refreshing and pleasant.
These thick weave wipes will not come apart in your hands, and can withstand a lot of elbow grease! The wipes pick up dirt really well, and leave surfaces gleaming. I personally like using them on the kitchen sink at the end of the day, which leaves the sink positively sparkling!
Owch. As mentioned above, at over £3 for 90 wipes, you'll want to use these sparingly. Supermarkets sometimes have 3 for 2 etc. deals on, which should be used as an opportunity to stock up.
Ok, these wipes are not essential for your wellbeing and happiness, and the price might put people off. But if you're lazy like me, and don't want to get the cloths and sprays out at the end of each day to clean the kitchen, the wipes are almost a lifesaver.
Lenses are expensive business - the cost of the lenses, the visit to the opticians and all the associated paraphernalia. And as we're talking about our vision, cutting corners for the sake of price isn't really an option.
So when a decent product comes along at a reasonable price, you'd be mad not to get it.
-What is it suitable for?-
Storing and lubricating contact lenses. You can also use this product for rinsing after removing the lenses at the end of a day, but I personally feel this is a waste of the product, as a cheaper saline solution will do the job.
If you don't use a peroxide formula for storing lenses, this does the job quite well, although you won't get the disinfecting benefits. The lens solution does come with a screw top lenses cases for storing lenses, and I generally only use this solution for storing if I need to take my lenses out for a couple of hours (sleeping on a train etc). Otherwise I personally prefer to use peroxide for overnight storage.
Accordingly, what I mainly use the solution for is rinsing and lubricating my lenses in the morning. The solution has a thick, almost silky feel, which is perfect for making the lenses comfortable to put in first thing in the morning. The solution also completely rinses off any of the peroxide residue, so there is no stinging or irritation when putting in the lenses.
I have in the past used brand names for lens solution, but since trying Tesco's own, I haven't looked back. There is actually NO difference whatsoever between this solution and the brand names. The only major difference is that this solution is about half the price!
The solution and lenses case used to come in a cardboard box. Now, the packaging is a bit more 'green-friendly', and comes with no packaging at all, except a small strip of plastic attaching the lenses case to the bottle.
A brilliant product at half the price of the brand names. If you're still buying brand name solutions - STOP! You only need this product
Trying to teach yourself a language can be pretty hard going, and without a support network, almost impossible to develop confidence in speaking the language.
But language lessons can be expensive and impractical and not all of us have a large group of friends who speak the language we are trying to learn. So along came LiveMocha.
-What is LiveMocha?-
LiveMocha is an online community for people trying to learn a foreign language. As the community is worldwide, you have people from all over the world trying to learn an assortment of languages. Similar to Facebook, the idea is that you make friends with people from the country whose language you are trying to learn. In turn, people will want to become your friend because of the language you speak naturally. This allows you to build up a support network.
-What do you actually pay for?-
The website (www.livemocha.com) can technically be used for free. However, you have the option to purchase 'premium' courses in your chosen language, which provides extensive online tutorials and quizzes, including role plays, videos and writing exercises.
As you are provided a log-in for the site, you can complete as much of the course as you like per visit to the site, and return at your convenience. Your progress will be saved online.
The premium courses are divided into 4 modules, and on completion of all 4, you should have a decent grasp of the language. Each module is divided into 10 units, and each unit contains tutorials on vocabulary and grammar, a video-based exercise and a large selection of other exercises. You must achieve a reasonably high score in the end-of-unit test to be allowed to progress to the next unit. At the end of the module, there is a longer test, which again you must pass to progress.
In addition to the course, there are games you can play primarily designed to test your vocabulary and a few other free exercises you may find helpful.
-How do you network?-
Each unit contains at least one exercise that you can, if you wish, submit to the general LiveMocha community for review. Native speakers of the language you are trying to learn will review your submitted exercise and provide feedback (for free!). In return for their help, you have the option to review exercises submitted by people trying to learn your native tongue.
The exercises are easy to review, and the website provided guidelines on how to review. You do not need to be a languages teacher!
Everything I have submitted has been reviewed promptly, and I make it a general rule to review one exercise for every exercise I submit.
You do have the option to pay (about £1.25) for a proper tutor to review your submissions, but I personally feel this is a waste of money.
One thing to note is that you pay for additional services using tokens. These tokens are purchased with money, you can't earn them.
You also have the option to chat, freestyle, with your 'friends' on LiveMocha, if you're feeling confident enough to talk to a native speaker.
-Does it work?-
Yes! Being forced to record yourself speaking in a role-play, then submitting it to someone who actually speaks the language massively boosts your confidence. The units are almost fun to work through, and you earn points when you complete each unit, which is a bit of a motivator. You can't actually do anything with the points, but its nice to see your progress!
Chuck away your boring textbooks and get yourselves onto LiveMocha! It's a bargain at around £30, and you don't have to spend a penny if all you want to do is chat to native speakers. I've been studying various languages for over 10 years, and this is definitely the most engaging product out there.
The premium exercises only come in 'popular' languages e.g. English, French, German, Spanish.
The site is free to use for basic exercises in other languages.
One of the classic Dior perfumes, long running and withstood the test of time!
A spicy-sweet floral fragrance that is deep and sensuous. This is certainly no litte girl perfumes, or something that would be promoted by the pop star du jour.
Magnolia provides a creamy vanilla fragrance, giving sweetness without the sickliness. Cedar and cinnamon add a refined touch, taking the edge of the sweet vanilla, and providing depth and spice.
The end result is light enough for every day use, but retains its individuality and adds a classy, sophisticated touch.
Cedar is actually used a lot in male perfumes, so the masculine touch makes it perfect for wearing to work.
The initial vanilla notes hit you when sprayed, but die down to release the spicier, more masculine scents. This scent lingers throughout the day, and still smells fresh after eight hours.
A dappled sunlight effect bottle is meant to evoke the Italian Riviera. Whether it actually does is down to the individual, but it certainly is a unique design. The clear bottle allows the natural golden colour of the perfume to shine through, and lends the bottle a classy finish.
As with most perfumes in this range, you can expect to pay £50 for 50ml. Boots usually offer the 100ml bottle at a reasonable price in comparison, otherwise your best bet would be duty free (can be as low as £35 for 50ml).
If you'd like help with your fitness regime, but don't want to spend loads on fancy multi-gym equipment, this could be the one for you.
-Ease of Use-
This was really easy to put together - I don't even think it took half an hour. The instructions in the box are easy to follow, and there's nothing too fiddly to put together. Remember to keep the instructions though, as you'd probably find it difficult to dismantle and put together again (e.g. if moving house) without them.
The saddle and pedals are easy to adjust, and can be made comfortable for a large range of heights, so unless you are well over 6'6", there's no reason why you shouldn't find a comfortable setting.
The cycling monitor shows four bits of information:
- Time spent cycling in that session
- Distance done in that session
- Current speed
- Calories burnt. I would note that this feature is not accurate, and if you are serious about calorie burning, separate, specific monitoring equipment (e.g. heart rate monitor) would be needed.
The monitor can be set to 'scan', so it flicks through all four items while cycling, or you can lock one in place, so it will just show that information. The data recorded can also be reset at any time (it automatically resets if you haven't used the bike for several minutes).
You also have the option of setting a certain distance you wish to cycle, and the monitor will show you your progress.
This is a very stable, reasonably hardwearing bike, which should last several years if used correctly.
After six months of use, I have no faults to report. The pedals can spin if your foot slips a bit during use, but this is something that would happen with most exercise bikes.
This product is at the cheaper end of the market, which is reflected by its simplicity. It will certainly enhance a fitness regime, but other exercises will need to be incorporated, as it does not provide a full body workout. And remember, you can't buy willpower!
A bit of a tourist trap given the location, but not to be missed.
We went around Christmas time, so can't comment on the beer garden, but the hall/restaurant itself is lovely. Reminiscent of something from a Saxon or Tudor era film, the hall is all wooden beams, coats of arms and antlers. Dim lighting and candles on the long tables add to the atmosphere.
Seating compromises of booths, and long tables, which is good if you're into meeting new people.
The food is restaurant standard rather than pub grub. YOU DO NOT NEED A STARTER! The main courses and litres of beer are more than filling enough.
My partner had steak, and I had duck, both which came with ample sides. We found it a bit odd the waiter didn't ask how we wanted the steak, but it was cooked to perfection.
Our waiter was very friendly, and explained to us the brewing process for the Augustiner beer. At the end of the meal, he gave us a souvenier from our meal, which we were told to smuggle out of the restaurant. I'm not sure if we really needed to smuggle it out, but its the sort of thing you find amusing after a few beers.
We'll definitely go back again, hopefully in the summer to try the beer garden.
This is an aluminium water bottle, with a screw on lid. Sigg bottles come in a variety of sizes, with a maximum capacity of 1 litre.
I purchased this bottle for a hiking trip in the Swiss alps. Due to the packs we were already carrying, we couldn't use 'camel packs' as an alternative to water bottles. I decided to go for Sigg, as they seemed to have a good reputation for this sort of product.
A hardwearing bottle that withstood a tumble down a mountain in the Swiss Alps (which my unfortunate partner was sent to recover!). Aside from a tiny dent in the bottle, you wouldn't notice it had taken a fall. Additionally, the fall didn't cause the top to be knocked out, nor did any of its contents leak.
The water doesn't absorb any metallic taste from the bottle, and stayed cold all day, despite blazing sunshine.
The bottle is easy to drink from and simple to fill. Water disinfectant tablets don't affect the integrity of the bottle, so can be used without worry.
Sigg market themselves as a top of the range water bottle, and accordingly charge an appropriate price. The plainer colours (pearl and silver) tend to be lower priced, and can be purchased quite cheaply on Amazon. As this product could quite possibly last you a life time, and is pretty much essential on hikes, they are definitely worth the price.
When looking for a MP3 player several years ago, I didn't want any fancy gadgets - just something hard wearing with a massive memory. The classic iPod seemed the best bet.
Aside from playing music, the iPod classic has a few other useful and not so useful features:
-Photos, handy for storing your photos, although obviously they eat into the memory. They need to be organised prior to syncing with iTunes, as you can't organise them on the iPod.
- Videos, podcasts and a pub quiz! I don't really see the point of playing videos on such a tiny screen, but each to their own.
- The actual music player lets you shuffle songs, play by artist/genre and Genius, unique to apple. This feature allows you to put together a playlist based on one song. The Genius software selects 24 other songs that are similar to the one chosen. Works wonderfully with popular music, less so if you have more unique tastes.
Still going strong after several years. There are a few glitches, namely:
- A tendency to freeze if it hasn't been used for a while. This can be remedied by locking and unlocking the iPod, then holding down the centre and pause/play buttons, until the main menu flashes on.
- Randomly replacing album covers with those from other bands. I have no idea why it does this, but resyncing in iTunes seems to help!
Otherwise it has been absolutely fine. No 'sticking' or jumping while listening to music and the casing barely has a scratch!
The same can't be said for the earphones, which died a sorry death several months after purchasing. The sound was quite tinny, so despite Apple's reign, they still don't seem to have made the effort with their earphones.
-Ease of Use-
The iPod is probably Apple's crowning product in terms of intuition. Although the controls are bespoke (the 'click wheel'), they are extremely easy to use and become second nature, even if you have never used an iPod before. All features are simple to use, as most appear on other MP3 players.
Overall, if you want a quality MP3 player with a large memory, you can't go wrong with the iPod classic.