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At the moment I seem to find myself tucking into a packet of crisps virtually every lunch time. Fancying an unusual flavour or alternative brand to my normal choice, I spotted something temptingly different whilst browsing the shelves of my local Co-op...The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Mixed Root Vegetable Crisps.
A price of 89p for a 40g bag made me grimace initially. I did stop and think twice about trying some but the product shot on the front of the sophisticated style packet persuaded me that these really needed to make their way into my basket.
A combination of root vegetables (parsnip, carrot and beetroot) are grown and specially selected on Tyrell's Court Farm in Herefordshire. The crop is apparently harvested at the optimum time and then immediately peeled, sliced and hand cooked in sunflower oil. Distinctive seasonings are added in just the right quantities to provide a delectable flavour.
The description alone was enough to get my taste buds tingling and on opening the packet for the first time (which is foil lined for freshness), I was greeted by such a delicious smell that I was positively drooling! A warm, rich and indulgent aroma, highly reminiscent of home prepared slow roasted vegetables which I absolutely adore. Following that, a slight touch of spiciness but not too strong to detract from the vegetables.
I chose to tip the crisps into a bowl rather than eat them straight from the bag. This is not something that I would do with regular crisps but I just felt the need to give these special treatment and savour them a little bit more. I'm so glad that I opted for the bowl as they look gorgeous! Like some kind of exotic, edible pot pourri in a wonderful array of rustic shades...the burnt orange colour of the carrot and a light brown of the roast parsnip together with a lovely deep red of the beetroot. Each crisp is a completely different shape with random sizes, curly and twisted crispy flakes. These would look wonderful presented as grown up party nibbles! The majority of the crisps are quite large (although smaller than regular potato crisps) with just a few broken bits in the bottom - somewhat unavoidable and to be expected from a snack of this fragile nature. I must admit that they don't look quite as perfect as the pack shot would suggest but it doesn't matter as they are only going to get eaten anyway!
The taste is quite simply savoury heaven. Rich, roasted flavours with a delicate hint of sweetness to the aftertaste. The crisps aren't too salty and in my opinion they are perfectly seasoned to compliment the vegetables without overpowering their natural flavours. I'm not sure exactly what the seasoning comprises of as ingredients simply state the vegetables, sunflower oil and salt. The crisps are certainly very tasty though and I find myself unable to stop eating a packet once I've started.
As well as the size, the texture varies between the crisps too. Some are a bit thinner and crispier than others...almost brittle. The slightly thicker ones don't have quite as much crunch to them, although they are still just as lovely. The variation adds to the appeal, simply making them feel more authentic and hand made. The crisps are very slightly oily on your finger tips but not excessively so. The presence of the oil obviously remains from the cooking process but is perhaps a benefit as it stops the crisps from feeling too dry on the palate. They don't actually taste greasy or oily which is an important factor.
On reading the pack description I noticed that these crisps are produced on Tyrell's Court Farm in Herefordshire. I'm aware that there is a similar product available called Tyrell's Mixed Root Vegetable Crisps (some reviews can be found here on dooyoo). Now I've never tried these before but surely the name isn't just a coincidence. It makes me wonder if the contents of the two packets are the same?!
Anyway, no matter...I love these crisps and I think it's great that they are made from home grown British vegetables! Due to the price I can honestly say that I won't be buying them on a regular basis though. Although they are scrumptious I can't quite justify spending quite so much on a mere snack all the time. They've certainly made their way to the top of my savoury treats list though.
Nutritional info (per bag):
Fat 13.9g (of which saturates 1.5g )
Carbohydrates 15.4g (of which sugar 9.3g)
Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
I've been a dooyoo member for roughly 8 years now but to be honest, I have never made massive earnings from the site. At first (as 'older' dooyooers will know) the miles reward structure was different to the current offering. There were no miles instantly awarded for simply posting an 'op' and each read by a member was relied upon to generate 3 pence in earnings. Emphasis was on quality not quantity with writers actively rating (to hopefully get some return reads) and also aiming to submit a terrific review in the hope of gaining a crown to boost miles even further. Uploading lots of reviews in the present reward system does seem to pay dividends to those who choose to do so but it's not for me...partly because I don't have the time! Although I'm managing to be slightly more active at the moment due to being very quiet at work, I'll still continue to use dooyoo in the same way as I did before. It won't get me huge rewards but I'll be happy with a little bit of extra pocket money!
So, how do I actually spend my dooyoo earnings?...
I occasionally request Amazon vouchers if I've seen something specific that I'd like on the Amazon website. I've purchased books in the past along with small electrical items such as a home telephone and a couple of birthday gifts from the jewellery section. On the whole, I find obtaining vouchers a bit limiting though and can often end in buying something for the sake of it, simply because you've got a voucher. I would much rather be free to shop around, spend my earnings on absolutely anything, and from anywhere that I choose. I therefore usually prefer to receive cheques as payment.
This does have its down sides in that once paid into the bank it is easy for the money to quickly 'disappear' into the day to day family expenditure. I must admit that I have purposely done this in the past though. It was during a period when hubby was unemployed and had been for some time. We were really struggling with cash flow at this point and a £50 cheque from dooyoo helped to alleviate a little bit of pressure that particular month! It was a shame to have to do it but at times, some things are just more important.
There's no denying that I like to treat myself though - don't we all! It's nice to reap some benefits from my efforts. A few years ago whilst pregnant with our first child I reached that lovely dooyoo cheque point. We had a list as long as my arm of all the baby products that we needed to purchase so I decided to strike two or three items off the list using my little bonus. As I had earned the money, hubby insisted that I bought something for myself as well so without much persuasion I trotted off to the shops. I came back with a lovely bracelet. Nothing too expensive or extravagant...it was just satisfying to be able to buy something for ME!
Payout is fast approaching again (so please continue to rate generously!) and I find myself in much the same situation. Now pregnant with our second child I feel that a similar solution is in order. We don't need to buy quite as much baby stuff this time around as we stored some items that can be used again, but it's always nice to have some new things. I think I'll probably get some tiny outfits for bambino. And of course...not forgetting a little bit of something for myself.
I'm not really into gadgets and gizmos so as a result, I'm not usually bothered about what mobile phone I have...as long as it works! Getting hubby's cast-offs is generally adequate for me as I don't tend to use them a great deal. After claiming his last one I thought it would see me fit for a while to come but plans changed when my 3 year old decided to dunk it (along with house phone...long story) in the bath. I soon realised that even considering limited use, I couldn't manage without one and had to get a replacement. I actually got the chance to choose my own for a change!
I'm not loyal to any particular brand and after looking at and comparing several makes and models I opted for the feature packed quad-band LG KP500 Cookie. As well as liking the quirky name I thought it seemed like a great little mobile for around the £100 mark. Currently available for roughly the same price I think the KP500 is still a fantastic choice.
DESIGN & SIZE
I immediately liked the feel of this full touch screen phone - very tactile. It's lightweight at 89g and fits nicely in the palm of my hand. Dimensions are 106mm x 55mm so it's not the smallest of mobile phones but it's relatively slim at just under 12mm. The outer casing is quite attractive in my opinion as the unusual matte black surface (also available in pink) looks stylish. It's almost 'rubberised' in appearance and I find that this wears better than the more shiny cases as the surface seems to prevent scratches more effectively. It's also a lot less slippy in the hand, helping to avoid droppages!
The majority of the front face is accommodated by the large screen, with just 3 solid buttons underneath...call, power/end call and a menu button for instantly accessing favourite applications. Other buttons are found along the edge of the device (lock, volume, camera shoot) along with discreetly concealed memory card slot and charging/handsfree/USB cable socket. A handy extendable stylus is included to assist in touching the screen accurately and this tucks neatly away into the bottom of Cookie for storage when not in use.
DISPLAY SCREEN, USER INTERFACE & FEATURES
The screen I just mentioned measures a fairly impressive 40mm x 65mm which is an adequate size for the display, allowing brilliant clarity and well proportioned mac style icons for easy navigation. It's clear and bright with the use of vivid colours. The layout and menu system has a lovely simplicity about it which I find to be very user friendly and intuitive. I'd never had a touch screen phone before and initially felt a bit awkward taking a step into the unknown. The lack of physical 'buttons' was a little disconcerting but I found that I soon got the hang of it. I like the fact that the phone vibrates very slightly when it recognises that you've touched an option. I find this to be almost reassuring at times. Overall, the Cookie is pretty easy to use once you've explored all of the attributes, and to be honest that isn't really a lengthy process. I expected to spend ages getting accustomed to my new phone but this wasn't the case at all.
From the customisable home screen you can swiftly and conveniently move around the features. At first glance the status bar can be seen along the top of the screen, displaying various icons which indicate things like signal strength and battery level. A handy pop up area is provided for you to adapt with your own choice of 'widgets' such as clock, calendar and gallery. There isn't a massive selection of widgets but it's still a nice function to help keep the user organised! Elsewhere on the home screen a quick touch of an icon takes you to an instant dial facility where you can manually input a telephone number for dialling. There's also a shortcut icon for your personal contacts list and another for quick access to SMS/MMS messaging functions. A final icon takes you to the more comprehensive lists and menus...
Fairly self explanatory I suppose! From here you can again access dialling, contacts and messaging functions, including emailing capabilities. There's an option to add speed dials if required for regularly dialled numbers and also an area to view your recent call history with dates and times.
Regarding messaging there are various input methods that can be selected. Choose between regular ABC keypad where the characters are arranged in groups per number (like a standard mobile phone) and you simply tap a few times to get the desired letter. The Cookie also has smart handwriting recognition enabling the user to literally write on the screen with the stylus, the strokes then being converted into typed figures. I tend not to use this very often as I'm just not used to texting in this manner. Plus when I have experimented with it, results have been a bit hit and miss with a few of my hand drawn letters annoyingly going unrecognised. Alternatively, turn the phone horizontally for an on screen QWERTY keyboard facility which although a bit different, I actually find to be great for texting.
As with most mobile phones you have the choice of using predictive texting. This is something I've never really been keen on with any phone but certainly not with the Cookie. I can't get to grips with it at all and find it be slightly erratic and somewhat unmanageable to say the least!
This menu is home to the camera and video modes, both of which have quite advanced editing functions. The 3 megapixel camera is OK but not brilliant. Picture quality is reasonable but only seems to work at its best when there is plenty of natural light available due to the lack of integrated flash. Adjustments can be made to settings whilst you are taking pictures...zoom in and out, alter brightness/exposure, change the size and quality or swap to night mode. I find that the picture taking can be a tad unresponsive and there is unfortunately quite a big time delay between pressing the shoot button and it actually capturing the image. If taking a piccie of my son, he's more often than not moved before the photo has been taken! I'm not too concerned by this though as I have a digital camera and wouldn't choose to use my phone for this purpose all the time anyway.
As for the video camera, I must admit this isn't something that I've used on many occasions. It's not exactly ideal for recording precious family moments but it's handy for capturing youtube style snippets. As with camera mode, alterations can be made to the video settings as you are shooting your videos.
The LG Cookie has a gallery to store the photos and video shots that you've taken. The phone uses advanced motion sensor technology and when viewing your pictures the auto rotating display turns images (or other documents such as Excel, PowerPoint, Word and pdf's) for correct viewing whether the phone is held horizontally or vertically...a nice touch! Here you can go into individual files and edit. There are lots of great things you can do to your photos to change them, add to them or liven them up a bit! Use crop tools, draw or add text over the top, even apply effects (like Photoshop style filters) such as blur, sharpen, sketch and emboss to name a few. If you're feeling a little adventurous there's also a 'muvee studio' where you can create mini movies and add music to your imagery.
The entertainment area is the obvious location for music and games. Some games are included on the mobile phone and others can easily be downloaded and added. The motion sensor adds an extra element of interactivity to some of the games as players need to flip and twist the handset in order to play.
The Cookie is great for listening to music whilst on the move. An FM radio can be accessed by inserting the included earphones into the unit. These need to be used as they act as an aerial and they provide very clear reception. Up to 50 radio stations can be tuned and saved on your phone. And the MP3 facility? Add your own selection of tunes and listen to them through your Cookie with excellent sound quality! It works in much the same way as any other MP3 player...browse by artist, album or genre. Shuffle tracks or individually select with the ability to play, pause, skip to next song or skip to previous. The phone has an internal memory of 48MB which provides some storage space for your files. This can be expanded with an optional memory card though - a MicroSD of up to 8GB can be accommodated giving you loads of room to import music tracks and other files. Incidentally, any MP3 can be selected for use as your ringtone too!
Copying items to your Cookie can be done in different of ways. It has Bluetooth technology which enables wireless connection to any other compatible device, allowing quick transfer of files. Or you can connect (to PC or mac) using the provided USB sync cable. Alternatively, swap files directly to your memory card before inserting into the phone and they will automatically be filed in the correct internal locations. Connection (or 'synchronisation') also acts as a back-up, enabling the contents of your phone to be transferred in the opposite direction onto your computer for safe keeping.
The main function here is browser, allowing you to surf the web on your Cookie with full colour and fairly fast access. A variety of websites can be viewed but I get a little bit frustrated trying to navigate as it just doesn't compare to a full size screen with keyboard and mouse! I find it to be a little bit fiddly and only use it if and when I really need to. It's perfect for a quick look-up whilst out and about though.
The Cookie can interestingly be used as a modem when you are unable to connect your PC or laptop to the internet in the regular way. Simply use USB or Bluetooth to sync your phone, select the relevant options shown in the comprehensive user manual and your computer will basically connect to the world wide web through your mobile phone! Now this sounds good but in all honestly, I've never given it a try. Nice to know that there's a possibility of following this route should the need arise though.
Numerous other functions can be found under utilities: organise your calendar; set alarms; compile 'to do' lists; calculate; view world time and even record your voice! There's also a convertor which is handy for...converting (currency, weight, temperature, length etc). Oh, an a stop watch should you ever feel the need to time yourself in some way.
Lastly, this is where you can basically adapt and customise your Cookie to be compatible with your needs, as with most other mobile phones. Alter your screen settings with different pictures/colours/brightness to suit your personal tastes, set a pin code for security, change your ring tone and message alerts, apply call divert or activate auto lock. You can instantly lock the phone yourself but if you forget, this is a handy feature. Set to the desired time (30 seconds, 60 seconds etc) and the Cookie will lock automatically after a period of not being used - great for avoiding mishaps whilst the phone is in your pocket or bag.
For me, the KP500 seems to perform really well and in general it is really responsive. It's manageable using either fingers or the stylus, although people with larger fingers may find they accidentally press unwanted options! The touch screen isn't always as sensitive as I'd like - you sometimes have to tap/press quite hard to get results but this may be partially caused by the protective film that I use. Due to the nature of the phone, it's touch screen is frequently prodded and tapped and it is therefore recommended that you apply a screen protector (one is supplied with the phone) to preserve the life of the screen, avoiding scratches and scuffs. It is stated that the film may decrease sensitivity very slightly though.
I previously mentioned that the sound quality of the music functions is terrific. Well this can also be said about incoming calls. On most occasions sound quality is crystal clear although this is dependent on the quality of the callers reception too. On the whole, I don't have any problems with calling but I have a couple of contacts in particular that seem to be very quiet. Volume can easily be adjusted while speaking though as the button is located on the edge of the phone for quick access if you are in the middle of a conversation.
The Cookie does have a couple of niggles...the phone can freeze up occasionally, requiring a restart to get it going again. And I've known it to restart itself for no apparent reason too. For example, last night I heard it restart in the middle of the night whilst in my bag! Neither of these result in any form of data loss or problems though so it doesn't bother me too much (although it would be better if it didn't do it) and certainly doesn't effect my day to day relationship with the phone.
I find that the battery life of the Cookie is brilliant and a full charge lasts approximately 4 days, even with some quite heavy use during that time. Using the music facilities doesn't drain the battery like you would expect either, although for obvious reasons it does use a fair bit more power than simply sending a quick text. I like to keep my charger with me at work around the third day as the Cookie has a tendency to be on two bars one minute and then suddenly drop to empty very quickly without much warning. You get used to this though and I seem to know when it's about to happen!
Ultimately your choice of the Cookie would depend on exactly what you expect to get out of the device. Standard usage, calling and messaging functions are excellent. If you are hoping to eliminate the need for an MP3 player then I would also say that the Cookie is a strong candidate, provided you add the additional memory card for storing your music. When it comes to the camera facility it's not perhaps the best quality in its category but at only 3 megapixels compared to the current 10+ available on digital camera nowadays, I don't suppose you really need me to emphasize that. As a toy it certainly gives added enjoyment to the phone.
I quite simply love my little Cookie! I'm not an advanced mobile phone user by any means and the majority of the time I just need to make and receive calls and do some texting. The LG KP500 is perfect for my needs as the basic functions are easy and quick to use. I do think that owning the Cookie has increased my mobile phone knowledge though and I like the extra facilities at my finger tips. I feel that it's a practical mobile phone which is injected with elements of fun making it highly versatile...and more importantly, excellent value for money.
Firstly , let me tell you about the actual bag. I absolutely love it and was thrilled to receive it as a Christmas gift last year. It's my first Radley! They are known to be rather expensive and initially I was afraid to take it out of its protective dust bag and use it. A fear of spoiling it in some way, or even worse losing it had implanted itself in my mind. I've overcome that now though and my little black bag guarded by turquoise Radley dog goes everywhere with me.
It's a medium sized satchel shape (called Exclusive Pocket Bag) with a shoulder strap designed to be worn diagonally across the torso. I believe that it is a Radley best seller and I find that it's ideal for me when out with my handful of a son as it doesn't slide off my shoulder all the time. It fits perfectly!
My last day to day bag was a large, sloppy canvas bag which used to contain all sorts of junk. If you looked hard enough you might have even come across the kitchen sink somewhere in its depths! My Radley is positively petite in comparison so I had to seriously condense the contents - not such a bad thing really! You will now find...
~ Purse, keys and mobile phone ~
I've grouped these together as they are quite obvious items to have in your bag! Purse (although rather empty at the moment!) so I can quite simply buy stuff. Keys for locking my front door, getting in the car and driving to work. And mobile phone (LG Cookie) as I keep it with me at all times. I don't use it all that often but I like to know that it's there for emergencies. Especially at the moment - you never know what will happen whilst pregnant and out and about!
~ Notebook ~
I've had this book for more than 10 years now. I bought it from Paperchase on a college trip to London but it's so pretty that I never wanted to use it! Lovely textured paper pages and unusual blue cover make it really attractive although it's becoming a little bit worn now that I've starting writing in it.
I like to feel that I'm being organised...but whether I actually succeed is another story! My little notebook comes in really handy as it's full of my scribblings to remind me of lots of things. There're various notes in here:
To do lists - I love the satisfaction of crossing things off my lists as it makes me feel like I'm achieving something!
To buy lists - currently baby products that we'll need for our new arrival and ideas for a few forthcoming birthday presents.
Baby names - any thoughts we're having on names get jotted down here. Mainly girls names (as we've been told we're expecting a little princess) but we've picked a selection of boys names too, just in case.
Work related ramblings - I do some freelance graphic design work so if I have any brainwaves on a particular job whilst I'm away from my mac, I jot it (or draw it) in my notebook for later reference.
Survey earnings - I'm a member of quite a few survey sites and have a rough list of current point balances/earnings. This way I don't have to keep checking the websites to see if I'm ready to cash in. If I complete a survey, a quick glance in my book tells me if I'm likely to have reached pay out level. If so, I'll pop on line to redeem.
~ Diary ~
This is in my bag so that I can easily keep track of all appointments and birthdays etc. Being pregnant means that I have quite a few trips to see the midwife. Pregnancy also causes my memory to go a bit squiffy so I need to keep the dates and times written down. I have lots of birthdays to remember too so my diary would be useful for that alone! Holidays are listed in here as well, as are work related meetings and deadlines, car dates such as tax and MOT and also dates for my maternity leave (I'm counting down the days!). All a sign of my organised nature I suppose.
~ Anti-Bacterial hand gel and baby wipes ~
These are great to have with me, especially when out with my little boy. You never know when you'll need a baby wipe to clean up any mess! I tend to just keep a few of these in a handy travel case. The little bottles of hand sanitiser which claim to kill 99.9% of bacteria are terrific for getting rid of germs whilst you're on the go, particularly before eating or if a certain person has an 'accident'. A quick squirt takes no time at all to dry and doesn't require any water. I first began to buy these hand cleansers when Jack was born so that I could keep my hands clean after nappy changes but I find that myself and my family still use them now...and I'm sure we'll continue to do so.
~ Pregnancy notes ~
This is an A4 sized booklet which is full of medical jargon relating to my pregnancy, as well as contact numbers for my next of kin. It's supposed to be with me at all times in case of unexpected happenings but I must admit, I do forget it sometimes. The size annoys me a tad as I have to kind of roll it up to fit in my bag. A much more compact A5 size would be better!
~ Sat Nav ~
I only 'inherited' my Garmin recently as hubby bought a better one for work purposes. I prefer to keep it in my bag rather than in the car to prevent it being pinched. Plus we have two cars that we swap between so I don't have to worry about remembering to transfer the sat nav too.
My directional abilities are totally rubbish. I usually only know one route to get somewhere and it can take me anywhere up to ten journeys before I'm fully confident that I know where I'm going. As other road users will know, you occasionally stumble across an accident or some other incident which results in a diversion being put in place. When this occurs I am more often than not well and truly stuck with no clue where to turn instead. This is when I reach for my Garmin. It's helped me out a couple of times recently.
~ Post Office receipts ~
I've got a handful of Post Office receipts in my bag at the moment as I've just had a session of selling unwanted belongings on ebay...clearing out to make space and some money! I tend to keep all proofs of postage (with a 'note to self' scribbled on the back of each one so I know which receipt relates to each item) in case there's any come back or missing deliveries. As soon as I've received ebay feedback, I get rid of the appropriate receipt. Actually, come to think of it these can probably all make their way into the bin now!
~ Cereal bar ~
I always keep a cereal bar in my bag to refuel if I begin to feel tired, particularly in the afternoon. If I didn't have a cereal bar with me I'd end up buying a bar of chocolate so it's a much healthier option for me. My current favourites are Jordan's Frusli bars and Nature Valley Granola bars. Scrumptious!
~ Book ~
I slip my current read into my bag every morning - right now that would be The Outcast by Sadie Jones. If it's quiet at lunch time I like to lose myself in my book for half an hour as it really helps me to unwind and briefly forget about work, ready to start all over again in the afternoon. Work is very slow at the moment so instead of twiddling my thumbs I've even been known to pick up my book whilst sat at my desk. Either that or surf the internet...like I'm doing right now. Ahem!
Right, now that I've organised my bag I'd better get back to some work...or I might even read that book!
Being pregnant, I'm increasingly finding myself attracted to all manner of sweet treats in which I wouldn't normally indulge. I know I shouldn't as I don't want to excessively pile on the pounds, but as I'm the one carrying the baby lump around, I feel that I deserve the odd treat!
I've always been a fan of Soreen Malt Loaf as it reminds me of my childhood. We always had some in the cake tin, ready to serve with a slither of butter. So, when I saw that Soreen now offer other varieties of loaves/cakes for around 89p each, I couldn't resist! On offer (BOGOF) at Tesco, I decided to try a Soreen Cinnamon and Raisin Loaf and also their Lincolnshire Plum Fruit Loaf - the latter being the subject of this particular review.
Described as a richly spiced fruit loaf with sultanas, cherries, currants and citrus peel (but curiously no plums!) I thought this cake sounded rather delicious and I wasn't disappointed...
The size of the loaf is just the same as the original Malt Loaf but once you peel back the wrapper, you'll find that it's much paler in colour. Appetising pieces of fruit can instantly be seen across the surface - deep brown sultanas and red cherries glistening through the nicely browned crust. And I must say that the initial smell is very enticing too; a rich fruitiness accompanied by the quite prominent aroma of the spices and hint of citrus.
The product has a similar feel to Malt Loaf - quite firm to the touch. In fact, it actually appears to be quite hard and weighs heavily in the hand. This got me a little worried as I thought that the overall texture would possibly be a bit too tough for my liking. But, slicing through the cake (I find that a sharp, serrated knife used with a 'sawing' motion is most effective as it doesn't squash the slices whilst cutting) I could immediately tell that once past the exterior crust, the cake is lovely and moist. It's by no means a light and crumbly cake such as a Victoria sponge - it's a great deal thicker, heavier and almost 'stodgy' in comparison, making it much more substantial. As with a Malt Loaf there is a certain degree of scrumptious chewiness to the texture...particularly if you find yourself with an end piece. The cake tends to stick to your teeth somewhat but in my opinion that simply adds to the enjoyment!
The Soreen Lincolnshire Plum Loaf contains generous helpings of juicy fruit, quite evenly spread throughout. Cake mixture can sometimes be a bit temperamental when it comes to ingredients such as fruit as it's not always possible to ensure that it's mixed thoroughly enough. Plain patches can sometimes be found in a cake once it has been baked. This product seems to be successful in that respect though...and I've now sampled quite a few to date, each with the same results!
The blend of flavours tastes very pleasant and I find that the different fruits compliment each other perfectly. Combined with the hint of mixed spice (which isn't quite as rich as what the product description might suggest) a lovely balance is created. Following the serving suggestions it's a loaf which is equally nice however you choose to serve it - either plain and simple slices, smeared with some butter or lightly toasted. A touch of jam or marmalade can really emphasize those fruity flavours too!
Although the packaging clearly states that the cake doesn't actually contain any plums, I thought that the name may simply be suggesting that a flavour of plums is present - but surprisingly, it's not! So why is it called 'Lincolnshire Plum Fruit Loaf' then? Let's google it to find out...
According to Soreen, this product is baked to a traditional recipe called 'plum duff'. I can't find any particular regional reference that specifically relates to Lincolnshire but it's thought that generally in the 17th century, plums or prunes were used in many fruit puddings. These were gradually substituted with sultanas and raisins but the original name of the pudding remained - reminding people of their former ingredients. The recipe apparently led to the creation of Christmas Pudding in the 1800's too. The husband of Queen Victoria had a huge appetite for 'plum duff' and requested a much richer version as a Christmas treat. And so Christmas Pudding was born!
So there we are. Perhaps not a complete explanation as to the origins of the name of this product but it at least offers a slight insight. And to be honest, I'm not really bothered - all I know is that this loaf is delicious! I find it perfect as a quick afternoon snack at work. As well as being tasty it helps to keep my energy levels up when I can feel myself flagging. And as a bonus, the nutritional content is not bad - 95% fat free too! I therefore don't feel guilty about scoffing 2 or 3 slices to keep me going. Based on an 8th of a loaf nutrition details are: Calories - 65 (3% of your guideline daily amount), Sugar - 5.4g (6% of GDA), Fat - 0.9g (1%), Saturates - 0.1g (1%), Salt - 0.1g (1%).
Some allergy advice and warnings are featured on pack...contains Gluten and Whey (from Cows Milk) and may also contain cherry stones, although I've never come across any. The loaf is suitable for vegetarians and it's also completely nut free as it's not even produced in a factory which handles nuts. Soreen advise that the product should be consumed within 2 days of opening...not a problem for me (greedy guts) but in my opinion, another couple of days doesn't affect the loaf. Perhaps it's just better served toasted in the latter days. And lastly, the loaves tend to have a use by date of approximately one month but they are suitable for home freezing (on day of purchase - eat within 3 months). I've never actually tried this though.
More information about this and other products in the range can be found on the soreen.com website. If you'd like to experiment with something a bit different a recipes section can even be found. For example, if you fancy venturing down the savoury route, why not try grilling Lincolnshire Plum Fruit Loaf with ham and cheese, then serving it with chutney. I haven't tried this yet but when baby and my tastebuds give me a savoury shout, I think I'll give it a whirl!
Soreen Lincolnshire Plum Fruit Loaf ingredients:
Wheat Flour, Water, Sultanas (12%), Glace Cherries (6%) (contains: Glucose Syrup (16%), Colour E127 and Preservative E202), Currants (3.5%), Golden Syrup, Sugar, Vegetable Fat, Mixed Citrus Peel (1.5%), Malt Flour, Wheat Gluten, Dried Whey (from Cows Milk), Salt, Mixed Spice, Yeast, Preservative E282, Emulsifier E471, Flavouring
A Twix milkshake sounded too good to resist whilst I was doing my shopping at Tesco a couple of weeks ago. On promotional offer, I was suitably tempted and bought one each for myself, hubby and also 3 year old Jack as what I hoped would be a special treat.
Marketed by Mars under a new 'dessert drink' category I was a bit unsure as to when we should sample the shake. Described as Super Thick (so thick you can stand your straw up in it, no less!) I thought that it would perhaps be a bit too filling to consume as a dessert immediately after a meal. We therefore decided to wait a while and indulge whilst watching an evening movie.
As it is made from heat treated milk, the Twix Super Thick Shake can be stored at ambient room temperature but it's recommended that you serve chilled to maximise the taste experience. We had the perfect opportunity to stick the product in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours before giving them a try. I couldn't wait!
Packaged in a frappucino style paper cup (which is covered with unmistakable Twix branding) and topped with a clear plastic dome lid, it immediately looks modern and similar to something that has come straight from a coffee shop. Promising the 'ultimate milkshake' is a bold claim to make but it seemed believable due to the overall presentation and appearance...and not forgetting the bag of Twix Mini Stix which are provided as a fun addition to make the caramel flavoured shake extra special!
The little 12g confectionery sachet comes stored under the plastic lid and can either be poured directly into the milkshake or eaten alongside. I was expecting the sticks to be great for dipping but they are too small for this. They are in fact so small that I thought they could possibly be sucked up through the supplied extendable drinking straw. Keeping this in mind, I let Jack eat his separately so as not to pose as a choking hazard for him.
Twix Super Thick Shake doesn't instruct the consumer to give the cup a shake before opening but I had the urge to do so and gave it a quick shimmy before removing the dome top and peeling back the foil lid. In went my Mini Stix followed by a quick stir and now for the test....does the straw really stand up?
The answer is a resounding 'Yes'! The delicious smelling caramel shake didn't feel particularly thick whilst stirring, not offering much resistance, but it does indeed hold the straw up so it must be pretty thick. Hubby on the other hand didn't agree and his straw fell over. He didn't give his cup a shake first so I think that's what did the trick for me. So, remember to sh-sh-shake it!
Now on to the taste. I must admit that I thought the caramel milk shake may prove to be too sickly but it wasn't at all. The sweetness was just right and balanced perfectly with the creaminess. Rich but not at all overpowering and a lovely smooth texture too, feeling like a pleasant cross between flavoured milk and a dairy dessert. Combined with the Mini Stix, the Twix shake felt extremely indulgent. The crunchy, chocolate covered shortcake biscuits (which do remain crunchy throughout and don't go soggy) taste just like tiny Twix, but without the actual caramel as this flavour is provided by the shake itself. An absolutely delicious combination!
Just thought I'd let you know that I didn't choke either! None of the little sticks found their way up my straw and they all had to be fished out. Luckily, the provided straw has a special scoop shaped end to act as a spoon. This feature allows the product to cross over into dessert drink territory and makes it an overall more tactile experience - a bit more involving than just a drink. It also means that they can easily be consumed while out and about. I think they would make a great addition to a picnic as a special treat, although preferably kept in a cool bag as I don't think it would have the same appeal if served lukewarm.
The 200ml serving was just the right amount in my opinion. It was satisfying but not too filling. Due to the fact that it was so scrumptious I probably could've managed more...but I would have no doubt regretted it and felt slightly sick afterwards. Incidentally, to avoid a poorly tummy we didn't give 3 year old the full serving and removed some from his cup when he wasn't looking. The product doesn't have to be consumed immediately and can be kept in a fridge for up to 3 days after opening, but I had an inkling that he wouldn't let us take it away half way through. He thought it was fantastic by the way and his little eyes lit up when he took his first taste! It's not something I would let him have on a regular basis but fine for the occasional treat.
At the time of purchase the nutritional content of this product wasn't at the forefront of my mind. I didn't take it into consideration as I wasn't buying them to feel guilty. Sometimes these details are just best ignored! For anybody who would really like to know, or needs to know in terms of allergies etc, nutritional figures are featured below along with a long list of ingredients. If you don't care, simply skip 'em! I will point out here that this product is suitable for vegetarians.
Although Twix Super Thick Shake is very nice, a regular price of £1.69 seems a little bit high and I can see that a large proportion of that cost must be attributed to the packaging. This is something that I can't imagine can be avoided though. In a more basic form, the product just wouldn't work across the intended market. The special offer of £1 at Tesco was much more reasonable, making it great value for money. I might sample another flavour if the offer is still on...Malteser and M&M variants are also available.
Nutrition information (per 100g)...
Twix Caramel Milk Drink: 118 kcals, 3.0g Protein, 18.5g Carbohydrate, 3.5g Fat
Chocolate Covered Shortcake Biscuits: 497 kcals, 6.2g Protein, 61.7g Carbohydrate, 26.7g Fat
Twix Caramel Milk Drink:
Semi Skimmed Milk (1.6% Fat) 80%, Caramel (17.5%) (Glucose, Condensed Skimmed Milk, Milk Fat, Vegetable Fat, Salt, Flavour), Sugar, Stabilisers (Tapioca Starch, Cellulose Gum, Xantham Gum), Emulsifier E471, Natural Flavour.
Chocolate Covered Shortcake Biscuits:
Shortcake Biscuit 50% - Wheat Flour (includes statutory additives), Vegetable Fat (Rapeseed/Palm Oil blend), Sugar, Partial inverted sugar, Skimmed Milk Powder, Tapioca Starch, Salt (includes Sodium Hexacyanoferrate), Sodium Bicarbonate, Ammonium Bicarbonate.
Milk Chocolate 49% - Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Whole Milk Powder, Cocoa Liquor, Lactose, Whey, Lecithin.
Glaze 1% - Gum Arabic, Glucose Syrup, Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Citric Acid, Sorbic Acid.
Brendan and Sherilyn Gutteridge live in the pleasant, affluent area of Tamley in Manchester. They are quite new to their street and prefer to remain private, keeping to themselves a great deal. To everyone else they appear to be the perfect couple...nice house, lovely car, designer clothes, expensive lifestyle and overall, completely immersed in each other and totally, utterly in love.
A child is born. To most people this would be a fabulous occasion, thoroughly cementing the unity of a couple and opening a new chapter in their lives. But the Gutteridge bubble is different. Do they love each other so much that they would be willing to commit the most hideous of crimes?
As a baby, Samantha is seen occasionally but as she grows into a toddler, she is seen less and less. When one of the streets residents reports that she hasn't caught a glimpse of the little girl for a long time, suspicions are raised and a sickening chain of events are uncovered...
Monster Love is not a mystery so don't expect any suspense beyond the first few pages! It becomes apparent very early on in the book exactly what has happened to Samantha. And it's not for the faint hearted. Each and every reader will put the book down in shock, drawing a gasp of air in absolute disbelief. But then intrigue kicks in and this is where the majority of the tale begins, revolving around just one question...'why?'
Carol Topolski presents an unusual literary format in this, her debut novel. Each chapter is written from a different perspective - a device which is used to thoroughly examine the lives of Brendan and Sherilyn. Neighbours, social workers, work colleagues, Police officers, family members and of course, the couple themselves all play an individual narrative part in detailing the events that have happened and the ripple effect that the aftermath of such a horrific crime can have on a community.
You may think that the varying voices would inhibit the book, making it disjointed and somewhat awkward. I found that it is very cleverly structured though. It's well balanced and each chapter flows well, slowly piecing the elements together and also revealing the backgrounds of the Gutteridges. An insight is provided and the reader discovers that the pair are each hiding their own damaged childhood...perhaps offering an explanation as to the origins of their complex behaviour and current psychological states. By no means an excuse for their crimes, it does unearth a feeling of guilt overlapping innocence (and vice-versa) and sympathy for the couple does emerge. This is only possible for a short period though as it becomes clear that they have no perception or acceptance of their actions. In fact, they are almost completely without feeling.
The author currently works as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist with previous roles as a probation officer, film censor and the director of a rape crisis centre. I think she has been massively influenced by her experiences throughout her career - her research in essence - and has drawn from this to successfully create the lead characters in her book. I can imagine that she has met some very unsavoury characters in the past but this has obviously assisted her a great deal in terms of representing someone with a severely damaged psyche.
I must admit that when reading a book I like to get to know particular characters within its pages but the writing style of Monster Love doesn't really allow for this. As each character has only brief chapters they are somewhat under developed and on occasion I was left feeling like I wanted to hear more from that person. Having said that, I think that the multi-voice format (alongside the odd touch of humour) lightened the dark nature of the book to an extent, causing it to be quite a page turner. Considering the heavy and disturbing subject matter of the story, I couldn't wait to read on...see who was going to 'talk' next and tell us what they had seen or heard. This also added to the feeling of realism as in our newspapers, we are only given snippets of information and eyewitness accounts, piecing together the latest headlines. If Monster Love had been written in a more standard manner I really don't think it would have had the same effect and impact.
Towards the end of the book drama in the courtroom unfolds. This manages to keep up the sense of pace which is not always the case in conventional crime stories. Again, the technique of varying viewpoints adds greatly to the interest.
At around the same point in the novel a seemingly telepathic connection between the Gutteridges is detailed. This suggestion spoilt the story a little for me...a bit over the top and verging on the 'supernatural'. I can understand that it was included to emphasize the intense closeness of the couple and their inseparable bond but it just didn't do anything for me. It is a necessary addition to assist the ending though. Although I have read reviews where people have claimed that they found it to be predictable, I can honestly say that it caught me completely by surprise. I wasn't expecting it at all!
Despite the harrowing content and sometimes strange developments within Monster Love I found it utterly compelling. Carol Topolski has produced a very brave, experimental attempt at tackling the question of why seemingly harmless people do unspeakable things. And of course, making the point that none of us really knows what goes on behind the closed doors of our neighbours, friends and even family.
Published by: Penguin Books Ltd (2008)
Cover price: £6.99
I'm not really a fan of chewing gum...which I suppose is not a great start to a review about gum! I don't dislike it but it just seems like I'm chewing for no reason and more often than not, it makes me feel hungry. And when other people make horrible clacking sounds whilst chomping on gum it drives me mad!
In recent months I've tried some more unusual gum flavours in the form of Trident Splash. Strawberry and Lime, Apple and Apricot...something a bit different and I really like them. Now I've discovered Trident Sweet Kicks!
The green and brown packaging caught my eye as I was waiting at a supermarket check out. It looks quite different to the other Trident variants as the colours aren't particularly bright. It still succeeds in being eye catching though. The design is quite 'playful' and it has a 70's inspired swirly effect (reminding me of Tales of the Unexpected) combined with tiny female silhouettes. I just had to take a closer look to see what the flavour could possibly be. As I edged closer...Chocolate Mint chewing gum?? Surely that's just wrong. But then I thought "Actually, it might be quite nice!" and stuck a packet on the conveyor.
Trident claim that their new release is "...a heavenly tongue-in-chic gum that is the perfect way to get that chocolate hit. It's gum-defying indulgence of the sweetest kind."
A little research tells me that Sweet Kicks is aimed at women and is to be sold as a snack substitute, attracting those who wouldn't normally buy gum. It apparently offers indulgence in the chocolate mint flavour but as it's sugar free and low calorie, it doesn't come with the guilt of snacking on a piece of chocolate. Sounds a bit too good to be true!
So can the Sweet Kicks moment of pleasure really replace good old choccie?...
Sliding the blister pack out of the cardboard sleeve I can see nine white tabs of gum. Slightly disappointing as I was envisaging Minstrels and expecting a dark brown shell to adorn the pieces, emphasizing the chocolatiness. The shape of each tab looks a little bit different to regular Trident - a tad shorter and fatter in proportion, but on the whole, just like chewing gum!
Popping a piece through the foil my nostrils are instantly greeted by a delicious, unmistakable smell. Mouthwatering mint chocolate reminiscent of a Mint Aero or an After Eight mint. Oooohhhh...this is so promising!
Placing the tab on my tongue it initially feels cool, minty and slightly tongue tingly. I cracked through the shell with my teeth to release a sudden lovely burst of chocolate flavoured brown liquid. A tiny splodge providing a really quick choccie taste (must be the 'kick') and then it's virtually gone. It lingers for a very short time, mingled with the mintiness of the shell. I can still detect a very, very slight hint of chocolate after about 10 minutes, after which it is gone completely and just a regular minty gum is all that remains. Not at all unpleasant but simply normal in terms of chewing gum. Perhaps a bit boring after the unusual introduction and I'd even go as far as to say that it was a bit of a let down for me.
The overall mint taste is good, lasting for about half an hour before beginning to lose flavour. The gum itself starts to get really bland after about 50 minutes but a refreshing after taste is left, accompanied by a tiny bit of tongue tingle. At this stage the gum is still chewable too. Breath does remain fresh for quite a while but I don't know if that is particularly important in relation to this product. I suppose it depends upon what you are actually expecting from Sweet Kicks and what you want it to achieve.
Due to the low calorie claim I thought I'd check out the nutrition figures. These are given per 100g (see below) which I find is a bit annoying - I want to know per piece!
(Of which: Sugars 0g, Polyols 65.6g)
(Of which: Saturates 0.1g)
My immediate thought is great, no sugar...but what on earth is a Polyol?? Google tells me that; "Polyols are sugar-free sweeteners. Polyols are carbohydrates but they are not sugars. They are used volume-for-volume in the same amount as sugar is used, unlike aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose which are used in very small amounts"
That explains it! But hang on, the ingredients state that other sweeteners are used as well...
Sweeteners (Malitol, Sorbitol, Erythritol, Aspartame, Acesulfame K, Sucralose), Gum base, Flavourings, Stabiliser (E422), Gelatine (Bovine), Colours (E171, E150d), Emulsifier (Soya lecithin), Glazing agent (E903), Flavour enhancer (E620), Thickener (E466).
And while I'm investigating the content I may as well tell you that from an allergen point of view, Sweet Kicks contains Soya and may also contain nuts and sesame seeds. It contains a source of phenylalanine. Oh, and excessive consumption may produce a laxative effect!
One particular gripe I have with Sweet kicks is the product consistency. As I worked my way through the packet over a course of a few days, I found that the tabs of gum were a bit hit and miss. The first piece I sampled provided a real squirty burst of liquid centre. Some of the following pieces seemed to have the liquid missing as there was no burst! Biting into them I could see that the filling was there but it wasn't runny enough, therefore didn't create the desired effect on release. It was as if the liquid had soaked in. The chocolate flavour was still present though...the sensation just wasn't quite as satisfying. This occurred with roughly 4 out of the nine pieces so a bit disappointing.
At 50p a packet it doesn't exactly break the bank and if you're looking for a change to your regular gum then I wouldn't discount Sweet Kicks. After all, we all have varying tastes and you may find that you enjoy it much more than me. Personally, I know this is not something that I will buy on a regular basis although I may purchase occasionally.
I'll admit that Sweet Kicks is a unique chewing gum experience offering a new twist on tradition but in terms of Trident's selling proposition, it doesn't hit the mark in my eyes and I just can't visualise the gum as a snack substitute. The balance of flavours isn't quite right in my opinion...more chocolate and less mint would do it for me! I think it's great that Trident are pushing boundaries and experimenting with exciting products and flavours. Although this particular one didn't overly impress me, it may be a winner with many people. I find that the whole thing is quite quirky and it makes me think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. What will be next...three course meal flavour gum?!
Trident Gum is produced by the Cadbury Trebor Basset group.
For further information:
Trident Customer Service Team, PO Box 7008, Birmingham B30 2PT.
My face feels almost naked when I'm not wearing mascara. It's one product that I certainly wouldn't want to live without as I feel that mascara frames the eyes, opening them up and instantly making a face appear more feminine.
I've tried many different brands and types of mascara. In fact I virtually try a new one every time I run out as I like to experiment. My current mascara has got to be my favourite so far though...Le 2 de Guerlain.
I received this product as a gift from a family member who knows how much I love mascara! When I first slipped the item out of its slim black box I was surprised by how attractive the tube is. Designed by Helle Damkjaer, the gold casing is long and extremely elegant. It's really tactile too...so shiny, cool to the touch and with a 'twisted' tapering design that almost feels like it's moulded to fit your hand. Although it looks attractive, it's just a bit too long and doesn't easily fit into some small make up bags, but I can live with that as I rarely have to take it out with me.
So what's so special about this mascara? It's got two brushes! The 'Le 2' in the product name refers to the fact that it is a double ended mascara. There is a standard sized brush which is formed from a silicone type material giving it rubbery 'bristles'. This offers flexibility, allowing the brush to "follow the lashes' natural movement, giving a multidimensional effect". Due to the tapered shape of the brush head, it also claims to provide 360º coverage whilst sweeping the upper lashes skywards.
Brush two is much smaller in size (you could call it a mini brush) and is made from more traditional style fibre bristles. It is positioned at a unique 7º angle to assist in catching those harder to reach inner and outer corner lashes, as well as managing the lower lashes in a neater, more precise manner than a large brush.
The mascara formula itself apparently contains innovative polymers (instead of more commonly used wax) to provide volume and length, hold lash curve in place and give intense colour.
Le 2 de Guerlain is perhaps a little more time consuming to apply than a regular mascara because you have to swap brushes for the full effect. On the other hand, only one coat is required so you don't have to wait for your first layer to dry before you can apply a second coat. I don't mind changing brushes though and I think that the little bit of extra effort is worth it as the results are fantastic!
I find that the consistency of the formula is really nice - not too thick yet not too watery. Alongside the 360º technology, this helps it to grab the lashes easily. I don't have to use a zig-zag motion to get good coverage as I would with some other mascaras. Just a few straight sweeps from root to tip is sufficient along the length of the lash line. Voila! Eyelashes are instantly transformed as the mascara lengthens, curls and separates. Dramatic but not tacky. In my experience no unsightly clumping is produced and eyelashes don't look overloaded with mascara. I love the fact that the overall look created is not spidery or false. The characteristics of the individual brushes combine to create perfect lashes. The precise application allows eyelashes to be defined - right down to the finest, tiniest ones.
The achieved look may take a bit of getting used to because you find that you've got mascara on more lashes than you're probably used to. In fact, I find that the brush captures lashes that I didn't even know were there! Personally, I don't need to use curlers with this mascara either. I would usually curl my lashes but the product successfully lifts and curls by itself. Perfect!
The mascara is actually comfortable to apply too. The wands of both brushes have been deliberately shortened making them easier to handle and manipulate during application. I find that it really helps in controlling the brushes, particularly the small brush (which is even shorter than the main brush - see dooyoo piccie) where a careful and steady hand is most needed. The angled design I mentioned earlier is also a great touch and really helps to eliminate mistakes.
And does it wear well? Quite simply, yes! It doesn't feel heavy on the lashes and isn't stiff. My eyelashes still feel flexible and supple rather than rigid. So to me, it's really wearable. The achieved curl holds for as long as you are wearing the mascara which is brilliant. I have never experienced any smudging or flaking whilst wearing Le 2 de Guerlain either. It really stays put and actually lasts all day without causing any irritation (Ingredients are listed at the bottom of the review for anyone who may be interested due to allergies etc). I've even gone to bed with it on (slapped wrist for me) and didn't wake up with panda eyes. It is a little bit stubborn to remove (although not to the extent of a waterproof formulation) but a cleanser or eye make up remover shifts any product with a few swipes.
Le 2 de Guerlain is available in a limited range of four shades - Black, Brown, Blue and Violet. I have the black version and it darkens lashes beautifully. My eyelashes are virtually black anyway but I can see a noticeable difference in colour when I apply this shade so it must be really dark. I can't comment on the other colours but blue and purple aren't really my thing when it comes to mascara!
There's only one thing that I really dislike about this product - the price! An 8ml (0.3fl oz) tube will set you back approximately £20 which seems really expensive and makes me feel like you're paying a premium for the image and brand name - something which usually bugs me. I have used a YSL mascara in the past (which happened to be my favourite until trying Le 2) which also comes with a whopping £20 price tag. Again, I was given the product as a gift so I didn't actually pay for it...I have never spent that much on a mascara in my life! I must admit, I'll be quite tempted to do so in the future though as I absolutely love this stuff. I'll certainly try dropping some Le 2 hints and fluttering my eyelashes around Christmas and Birthday time.
Overall, Le 2 de Guerlain is a highly luxurious and extremely effective mascara that produces fabulous results, accentuating the eyes perfectly. When it's stated like that, I feel that perhaps it is worth that price tag after all!
Water, Paraffin, Polybutene, Cera alba, Styrene/acrylates/ammonium methacrylate copolymer, bis-diglyceryl polyacyladipate-2, C18-36 Acid triglyceride, VP/Eicosene copolymer, Palmitic acid, Stearic acid, Triethanolamine, Acacia Senegal gum, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Phenoxyethanol, Butylene glycol, Parfum, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Laureth-12 sulfate, Sodium laurylsulfate, Tocopherylacetate, Potassium sorbate, Methylparaben, Propylparab EDTA, BHT.
Nestle Rolo Desserts caught my eye in the supermarket the other day and I don't mind admitting, as a big Rolo fan the sight made me drool! I'm trying to cut back on unhealthy snacks and desserts at the moment but having felt somewhat cheated and let down by my last impulsive treat (Rosemary Conley's Low Fat Belgian Chocolate Mousse) I decided that as a few days had passed, it wouldn't do any harm to take the plunge again. But then I noticed the price tag of £1.21. Now I'm not tight but we are trying to watch the pennies a bit and I thought that this pack of two little 77g pots was not worth that mark up, no matter how deliciously tempting they looked as they called to me from the chiller cabinet. As I walked away (sulking) a bright red tag jumped out at me...BUY ONE GET ONE FREE. Deal done - in the basket they went!
Recognisable Rolo branding adorns the [recyclable] cardboard sleeve around the two split-pots - instantly attractive and recognisable and probably why they stood out to me on shelf. Combined with the small size of the pots, some might say that the style and presentation of these desserts is targeting kids and I think that I would tend to agree. While these shouldn't be bought as part of an everyday diet, I'm sure they are acceptable as an occasional treat.
At this point I would like to lead on to the mention the nutritional content. Let's get it out of the way now so it can be forgotten about and I can then concentrate on the pud itself. Any offering with the description "Wickedly delicious milk chocolate and toffee dessert" is bound to have your waistband straining at the mere thought. In fact, I'm sure another pound just jumped onto my hips. And there's another one heading for my bum - the little swines!
Each pot of Rolo Dessert contains 188 calories, 21.2g sugars, 9.5g fat (of which 6.8g saturates) and 0.2g salt. The overall calorie content isn't as bad as I expected but the amount of fat isn't too good and those sugar levels are really high unfortunately. So in reality, not particularly one for the health conscious among us. But hey, I'm over it already (how many calories was that?). Onto the best bit - the taste test!
I actually felt quite excited with anticipation holding onto the tactile little brown tub (I don't get out much) and eager to peel back the lid in order to sample the delights to be found inside. Tearing the lid off unleashes a scrumptious and unmistakable aroma of milk chocolate. My nostrils didn't know what had hit them. Followed by a tantalising hint of caramel the pleasant smell is drool inducing to say the least!
The dessert is formed from two layers - toffee at the bottom (in a rich caramel colour) overlayed with milk chocolate (yep, you guessed it - brown in colour). It's nice to see that the layers actually stay where they are supposed to be and don't slop about together and mix while in transit from the supermarket. To get the full experience of the flavour combination, I carefully plunged my spoon right to the bottom, ensuring I scooped adequate amounts of both layers.
The consistency of the dessert surprised me as it is very unusual. It's much thicker than a yoghurt - not runny at all, although the toffee seems to be just a tad thinner than the chocolate and a little more 'saucy'. Yet it's not fluffy like a mousse and hasn't got a bubbly texture either. It looks so enticingly smooth!
It feels smooth on the tongue too. Thick and creamy to be precise, gliding luxuriously down the throat. And the taste is dreamily divine! Just like Rolos but in an almost liquified form. The tasty milk chocolate and toffee mingle together, complimenting each other perfectly and they certainly work together to satisfy my sweet tooth. I thought that the dessert may be a little sickly but no, not at all. Rich, indulgent and full of flavour are how I would describe it. Simply glorious, sumptuous...I want more!
And that's the only downside - the pot is just too small! But if it were any bigger, I suppose those nutritional values would also escalate in line with the portion size, making Nestle Rolo Dessert even more of a guilty pleasure than it already is.
I think you can probably tell that I absolutely love these gorgeous little pots of sheer indulgence. It's just a shame that this product may contain traces of nuts so it's not quite suitable for everyone. I hate to think that anyone has to miss out on this pud!
I'll most certainly buy Nestle Rolo Desserts again, but not at the full price. I can't justify a ridiculous 60p per pot, no matter how delicious they are! I'll only treat myself if I find them on a BOGOF offer again. You can guarantee I'll be checking every time I do the shopping - I get so excited at the mere though of sampling one again!
Ingredients for those who'd like to know:
Whole Milk (38%), Cream, Sugar, Milk Chocolate 12% (Sugar, Milk, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Powder, Whey Powder, Emulsifier: Soya Lecithin, Flavouring); Water, Toffee Syrup 6% (Glucose Syrup, Sugar, Milk, Hydrogenated Vegetable Fat, Water, Flavouring, Salt, Stabiliser: E450); Modified Starch, Beef Gelatine, Skimmed Milk Powder, Cocoa, Caramel (Sugar, Maize, Glucose, Water); Reduced Fat Cocoa Powder, Stabilisers: Carrageenan, Xanthan Gum; Salt, Emulsifier: E471; Flavouring, Acidity Regulator: Sodium Hydroxide.
We're trying to be really good in our house at the moment, cutting back on all the naughty foods in an attempt to improve our diet and also save some pennies in the process. They do say that 'a little bit of what you fancy does you good' though, so hubby popped to the supermarket for a little treat for us both. He came back with Rosemary Conley's Low Fat Belgian Chocolate Mousse - £1.50 for a pack of two.
In brief, for those who haven't heard of her, Ms Conley is a diet and fitness expert who has been well known in her field for the last 20 years. She has a diet plan, similar to Weightwatchers etc, but incorporates exercise as part of a healthy regime. She now endorses a small range of foods to coincide with the plan.
I've never followed a Rosemary Conley plan or tried any of her products but as we're watching what we eat, these mousses sounded great. As the cardboard sleeve around the pots states "...a really indulgent and tasty treat whilst looking after your fat and calorie intake". With only 122 calories and less than 3% fat per pot the words guilt-free sprang to mind. Perfect!
I must admit each 110g pot appeared quite substantial in size and the content looked tantalisingly chocolatey through the clear perspex. Peeling of the foil lid and scooping some of the mousse onto my spoon, it was instantly very promising. The mouse looked extremely nice...just the right amount of firmness with a light and fluffy texture, complimented by a mouthwatering chocolate aroma. Quite rich and enticing to say the least!
Plunging the spoon into my mouth, the mousse felt delightful...smooth on the tongue with a slight bubbly texture. Now, Rosemary Conley promises "a melt in the mouth texture" which I'd agree with, but not in a positive sense. The mousse certainly melted in the mouth but it quickly dissolved into a weak and watery consistency. No where near as creamy as I'd hoped it would be.
Onto the taste now and I was initially impressed with the mousse as it provided me with a rich chocolatey hit - delicious. But unfortunately this was then followed by a bitter aftertaste which remained (quite annoyingly) on the palette for quite a while after consumption. Not like a bitter Belgian chocolate though - more like the kind of bitter sweet taste that I associate with artificial sweeteners. It wasn't particularly pleasant if I'm being entirely honest.
Looking at the ingredients (listed below for those who are interested) there is no mention of sweeteners as such, although I did notice that the sugar content is high with 20g per pot. Sugar appears second in the ingredients list with only skimmed milk before it. This suggests that there is more sugar than chocolate in the mousse! It seems to be quite a common occurance that a product low in fat has high amounts of sugar to compensate, creating an argument that these 'healthy' options aren't quite so healthy after all. Regarding allergy warnings, this product contains cows milk and soya.
Overall I was disappointed by the Rosemary Conley Low Fat Belgian mousse. The size of the pot and it's content was satisfying but the flavour of the mousse just didn't hit the right spot for me. In my opinion I would say that it is ideal for people who regularly eat this kind of dessert as you can do so without consuming lots of fat and calories - you just have to make a sacrifice when it comes to taste and texture, and be aware of the sugar levels.
For someone like me who only occasionally succumbs to a tempting treat such as chocolate mousse, I'd say avoid this product. I wouldn't really call this mousse a treat. Next time I'll be going straight for the full fat alternatives to guarantee a really indulgent and tasty offering. And no, I won't feel guilty about it!
Rosemary Conley Low Fat Belgian Chocolate Mousse
Reconstituted Skimmed Milk, Sugar, Chocolate (3%) (Cocoamass, Sugar, Emulsifier: Soya Lecithin, Flavouring), Fat Reduced Cocoa Powder, Gelatin, Emulsifiers: E472b, E471; Modified Maize Starch, Stabilisers: E412, E417, E410.
Feet are peculiar looking things aren't they? I particularly hate my own feet - they're quite simply horrible. OK, so they're a size 5 which is a nice size for a woman's foot but that's the only good thing I can say about them. I seem to have inherited my dad's toes (by that I mean shape and not hobbit style tufts of hair!) and my mum's dry, cracked heels.
I don't really help the situation though. I've never been one to pamper my feet and I certainly wouldn't let anyone else do it. So at the end of the day I've only got myself to blame. Spending the majority of the year hidden inside socks and shoes, I spend very little time actually concerned by the condition of my feet. This summer though, I've felt particularly conscious. I think an advert I saw on TV was responsible for this. It was for a product called Scholl's Dry Heel Repair Cream and featured a woman with nasty heels going up an escalator. This resulted in immense paranoia on my part whenever flip-flops and escalators happened to combine...in fact, just wearing flip-flops in general was beginning to feel like a no-go for me. So I decided to try some of this Scholl stuff. Afterall, smoother heels were promised in just 2 weeks!
So off I went to Boots...to find that they offered their own brand 'Cracked Heel Balm'. At £3.99 for 50ml this was nearly £2 cheaper than the Scholl version! Always one to make a saving, and happily confident that it would still be a very good product, I came to the assumption that the Boots balm was the one for me.
I must say that I instantly liked the word 'balm' in the title. It's a much better descriptor than 'cream', suggesting a thicker and intensely nourishing formula. This in turn gives the impression of a more effective product. If the before and after shots featured on the packaging are anything to go by then it's certainly going to work with dramatic results. The Boots balm claims to 'Improve the appearance of cracked heels - works in 7 days. Complete results after 2 weeks'. Such a bold statement to make but if it's printed on the box I thought, surely it must be true!
So, does it work?...
I've reached the end of my 2 week experimental trial and I can honestly say that I'm really impressed by this stuff. Applying a large pea sized amount twice daily (morning and night, as instructed) has done the trick and actually given me smooth, soft heels. Aswell as feeling better, they also look greatly improved with hardly any roughness remaining at all. The skin is so much more supple and I'm quite happy to show off my feet now.
Apparently the 25% Urea content is the main benefit factor of the formulation as it helps to relieve dry skin. Now I don't know about you but the word 'urea' immediately caused me to think of wee. 'Surely not' I thought...and thankfully, after a quick google I discovered that although urea is the name of the main component of mammalian urine, it is also a substance that is naturally present in healthy skin. Normal skin contains approximately 1% urea. If this level drops, the result is dry skin. A product that contains this component is therefore highly beneficial as it is directly regenerating the skins moisturising layer, helping to recover a healthy skin condition. Now I understand why this balm is so effective!
To achieve the best results, Boots recommend that you use a pumice stone to remove excess skin as part of your daily footcare regime, prior to applying the balm. I must admit that this is probably only necessary in extreme cases. I certainly didn't feel the need to use a pumice stone - the balm works sufficiently well enough for me on its own. Once the desired outcome has been achieved and the skins condition has been restored, the balm can be used less frequently - perhaps just once a day or as and when you feel it is needed to maintain the smooth skin. I'm finding that an application every 2 - 3 days is adequate.
The balm is somewhat pleasant to use. A subtle fragrance is present which is not too overpowering and it feels almost indulgent during an application. The balm is easy to apply - simply rub it into the troublesome area and let it dry. It has a thick consistency which is also quite oily, leaving an almost tacky residue for a short period of time. This is fine as long as you can put your feet up for a few minutes while it dries, or at least put on some socks or slippers. If you immediately walk around on a carpet your feet will get covered in fluff! For this reason I much prefer to apply in the evening, just before bed. I feel like it's really getting work as it soaks into my feet while I sleep. For the morning application I tend to use a smaller amount - more convenient as it dries in a shorter time.
I find that the balm doesn't rub into my hands very well so they need washing with soapy water after an application. The regular style screw top tube is always a bit sticky where I've screwed the lid back on with the balm still on my hands, but simply giving it a quick wipe solves this little problem.
One thing that really annoys me about this product is the packaging. Or the excessive use of packaging to be more precise. The tube is placed inside a box, which is a procedure usually followed to group an item together with an additional information leaflet...but there's no leaflet with this balm. I therefore feel that the box is a tad unnecessary. Remember those before and after shots that I mentioned earlier? Well, I think these are the reason behind Boots' chosen packaging route. The photography virtually fills the box, maximising the impact to attract attention. I must admit that it does have the desired effect, visually convincing the consumer that this product really works. It's just a shame that it isn't more environmentally friendly!
It's due to this negative factor that I can only give a four star rating instead of a five. On the whole, Boots Cracked Heel Balm is an excellent and highly effective product which offers great value in comparison to its higher priced competitor. A bigger version of the tube is also available - 125ml for £8.99 - even better value for money and one that I will certainly buy next time!
If you suffer from dry, cracked heels, give it a try...it's crackin' stuff!
Ingredients for those who'd really like to know:
Aqua, Urea, Lanolin, Petrolatum, Paraffinium liquidum, Glycerin, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 dimethicone, Hexyl laurate, Polyglyceryl-4 isostearate, Phenoxyethanol, Parfum, Dipropylene glycol, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Tetrasodium EDTA, BHT.
I know what you're all thinking...'not another one!'. Well tough. Don't read if you're not bothered. But for those who are, here are my answers to the terrible ton of questions that are doing the rounds. I hope you're sitting comfortably...now I shall begin.
1. WHICH DO YOU PREFER - SHOWER OR BATH? AND WHY?
I prefer showers as they are much quicker and somehow more refreshing...but unfortunately it has to be a bath everytime as we don't actually have a shower! Something about low water pressure...blah-di-blah...and not enough distance...more plumbing jargon...between ceiling and bath to position a shower head. A nice long soak in the bath is wonderfully pleasant when I want to relax but I just wish I could have a shower once in a while!
2. WHAT DO YOU SWEAR YOU'LL NEVER DO?
Start smoking again. I gave up when I found out I was pregnant (feeling very guilty having smoked for 10 weeks not knowing I was pregnant!) and I've never started again. That was about 5 years ago so I think I'm doing pretty well. I do get the odd nicotine craving, more so on social occasions whilst having an alcoholic beverage, but I haven't given in and don't intend to do so.
3. WHAT'S THE MOST EMBARRASSING THING YOU'VE EVER DONE?
Fallen over (and I mean proper arse over tit, not just a slip) walking into Superdrug because my heel snapped off. A busy Saturday afternoon in front of loads of shoppers. Need I say more.
4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SAYING?
Not that I'm a pessimist or anything but...If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
5. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE HOLIDAY? AND WHY?
Barcelona on a college trip. It was sooooo much fun and a fabulous city. I'd love to go again, but this time with my hubby as he's never been. I'm thinking of arranging a special 10th anniversary trip for next year.
6. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD TOY?
I used to have a soft rabbit who went absolutely everywhere with me. His name was Robert and I used to hold his ear up to my nose whilst I was sucking my thumb.
I only recently discovered that I still have the rabbit...I found him in the loft amongst some other soft toys that I was getting out for Jack. Looking threadbare (particularly his ear) and grubby though!
7. DO YOU HAVE ANY PETS?
I have a Staffie (a fantastic breed of dog) called Levi. She's 10 now and beginning to get a few grey whiskers, bless her!
We also have some fish...Cichlids to be precise. One of them is a complete beast! It seems to be rapidly outgrowing the others and is a bit of a bully. The tank was bought after my hubby insisted he wanted fish and promised he'd clean and maintain them etc etc. After much badgering I gave in. Honestly, he's just like a child sometimes. Now the novelty has worn off, guess who has to clean the tank everytime...
8. SAVOURY OR SWEET?
Gotta be sweet! Preferably chocolate but biscuits are also a winner. Oh, and icecream. Actually, cheesecake is rather ni...that's enough! I'm starting to drool!!
9. HOT OR COLD?
Depends on the context. For example, a cup of coffee has to be nice and hot yet a glass of juice extremely cold. Food? I prefer delicious hot meals, although salads are nice too. In relation to general temperature? Warmer is definitely better but not too hot please.
10. WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE DRINK?
If we're talking alcohol then it has to be Baileys over ice. I also love a nice glass of Southern Comfort with lime and lemonade. My favourite non-alcoholic drink is coffee - preferably freshly brewed rather than instant.
11. WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD?
I'm a big fan of food! It's hard to pinpoint a favourite but spaghetti bolognese, traditional Sunday roast and delicious Indian meals come top of the list.
12. WHO DO YOU HATE THE MOST?
One of my work colleagues. For some reason he never talks to me and tries to blank me as much as he can. The thing is, I've never done anything to offend/upset him so I really can't understand why he behaves in this way. I don't let it get to me though. I just ignore it and carry on with my work. He's still a w@nker though.
13. DO YOU HAVE A CRUSH ON SOMEONE? IF SO, WHO?
To be honest - no!
14. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE COLOUR?
I seem to be quite attracted to the colour green at the moment.
15. WHAT DID YOU DO LAST NIGHT?
What didn't I do! Finished work at 5pm then picked Jack up from nursery at 6pm. Straight home and made an evening meal. Then into the bath for Jack, out again, jammies on etc. Stripped his bedding and put fresh sheets on. Back downstairs to wash up the dishes while he had a cup of milk and a biccie. Put some laundry on and put away washing that had dried from the day before. Fed the dog and the fish. Did some drawing and jigsaws with Jack. Made some lunch to take to work the next day. 8pm - time for Jack to go to bed for a story. Then more work for me! I'm a full time graphic designer but I also try to get some freelance work aswell. This unfortunately has to be done at home during the evening. I finally finished at 11pm when I had a quick glance over the newspaper and then fell into bed!
16. WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE THING TO DO?
Spending time with my family is definitely my favourite thing to do. Playing with my son and watching him learn new things is simply fantastic and totally amazing. To relax, I love nothing more than to sit down with a good book as it really helps me to unwind and forget the stresses of the day.
17. FAVOURITE MOVIE, T.V PROGRAMME, BOOK?
Dexter is my favourite TV programme at the moment. Movie...The Usual Suspects. And book? That's a tough one because I've read so many. In fact, I don't think I've got a favourite.
18. WHO'S YOUR HERO?
My mum! In my opinion she's done a fabulous job (along with my dad) in raising my brother and I. I can only hope that my own kids grow up to feel the same way about me. It's certainly something I will strive for.
19. FAVOURITE SONG OF ALL TIME?
I have varied tastes in music and enjoy listening to different genres. My all time favourite song is Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton. It's special for my husband and I.
20. HAVE YOU EVER HAD A SUPERNATURAL EXPERIENCE?
21. FAVOURITE SOUND?
The sound of laughter is always uplifting. I also think that no sound at all is terrific. To sit in absolute silence is sometimes bliss!
22. FAVOURITE SMELL?
I love cuddling up to my little boy and smelling his hair.
23. FAVOURITE PLACE TO BE?
I'm quite happy to be at home really. I always love going to my mum and dads house aswell. I have lots of fond memories as it's where I grew up.
24. HAPPIEST MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?
The day I gave birth to my son. Or, it could be the moment I found out I was actually pregnant after 2 years of trying!
25. SADDEST MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE SO FAR?
When my gran sadly died. We'd always been really close as I was her youngest grandchild so I think she spoilt me that little bit more. We also shared a birthday which was special to us both. On the year of my birth my mum asked her what she'd like for her birthday. - and she simply said that she'd like a granddaughter. I must've heard her because I arrived more than a week early, on the day of her birthday!
26. WHAT IS YOUR DREAM JOB?
Creative Director of a graphic design agency. Lots of pennies!
27. WHAT WOULD BE YOUR IDEA OF A PERFECT DATE?
I'm a cheap date really. A simple romantic meal has always been enough for me, with some quiet drinks afterwards. It doesn't even have to be anywhere expensive! Just make sure it's somewhere that serves delicious food and I'm happy.
28. WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE NEWSPAPER/ MAGAZINE?
I don't read either very often so I haven't really got a favourite.
29. WHICH CELEBRITY DO YOU LIKE THE MOST?
I'm not really 'into' celebrities but if I had to pick someone it'd be Angelina Jolie - for her family values and generosity.
30. WHAT RELIGION ARE YOU?
In quite simple terms, I'm not.
31. DO YOU HAVE ANY SIBLINGS?
One older brother. We never got on when we were younger as there's an 8 year age difference and I used to annoy him. As we've got older and developed more things in common, we get on much better. I don't see him very often though as he lives in Scotland and I live in Yorkshire. Due to go and see him very soon though as his wife has just given birth to their third son!
32. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN HOSPITAL? IF SO, WHY?
Fortunately I've only ever had to go to hospital twice. The first time was when I was aged 13...see below for the rest of the tale as it involved a fracture.
My second trip to hospital was to give birth to my son so I suppose you could say it was more of a pleasant experience.
33. HAVE YOU EVER BROKEN A BONE OR HAD STITCHES?
On the first day of our family holiday in Italy I fractured my finger. We'd been at the beach for just 5 minutes and the deck chair I sat down on collapsed underneath me. Instinct stupidly told me to grab the sides of the chair which was of course the wrong thing to do as my pinkie got trapped in the concertina section of the fold up chair. I had to go to the local hospital and I was absolutely petrified. All the doctors were jabbering away in Italian and I obviously couldn't understand a word of what was going on. I had to spend the rest of the fortnight with a splint and massive bandage on my finger...which meant that as well as the usual white bits I also had a white finger!
As for stitches, that's also a continuation from question 32 as I had to have an episiotomy when I had my son. Ouch!
34. DO YOU BELIEVE IN ANGELS/GHOSTS/DEMONS?
I don't know if I believe. I certainly don't disbelieve anyway...I'm sure there is an element of the unknown somewhere out there. If it takes the form of an angel, ghost or demon, I couldn't possibly say!
35. ARE YOU SUPERSTITIOUS?
Nah. Although I do tend to salute Magpies...so maybe I am.
36. WHAT COLOUR EYES DO YOU HAVE?
Plain and simple brown. I quite fancy trying some of those coloured contact lenses and having bright, royal blue eyes for a change.
37. WHAT COLOUR HAIR TO YOU HAVE?
Again, plain and simple brown! Although this has altered over the years as I've experimented with various hair-dyes.
38. IF YOU COULD CHANGE 1 THING ABOUT YOUR APPEARANCE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I need to lose my baby belly. There's a stubborn bit that will not go.
39. IF YOU COULD CHANGE 1 THING ABOUT YOUR PERSONALITY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I would stop myself getting so stressed about things all the time. I wittle about the smallest of things and I shouldn't because I feel like I'm constantly under pressure.
40. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR?
Now that I am a mum it has got to be a fear of something bad happening to my son. The news often reports horror stories about children...being snatched; attacked by dogs; suffering from illnesses...some of which have the worst possible outcome. I try not to let it consume me too much though as I think overprotecting your child can also have a negative effect on them. It's just so difficult to know where to draw the line. The fear of getting it wrong is also present.
41. DO YOU HAVE ANY REGRETS? IF SO, WHAT ARE THEY?
I kind of regret getting married when I did. Not so much the marriage itself but the way in which we did it. At 18, I got married to my hubby but we didn't tell anybody (apart from two close friends who acted as witnesses). We both knew it was right for us but felt that our families wouldn't agree at such a young age...so we went and did it anyway!
Thinking about it now, I slightly regret not hanging on and having a big white wedding. I know my parents were very upset at missing out on watching their daughter get married. But hey, that was almost10 years ago!
42. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN LOVE?
I have been in love and I still am...to the man mentioned above, of course.
43. WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO YOU IN THE WORLD?
The happiness and security of my family.
44. WHAT'S YOUR MOST TREASURED POSSESSION?
Apart from my little cherub, it's a watch that used to belong to my grandma. I've never worn it in case it gets lost or broken!
45. WHAT'S YOUR JOB?
I'm a graphic designer. I get to design all sorts of cool stuff...corporate identities, advertising, packaging, brochures, point of sale, fliers. It's a great job because I get to be creative all the time.
46. WHAT'S THE NICEST THING ANYONE HAS EVER DONE FOR YOU?
Booked me a surprise weekend away.
47. WHAT'S THE WORST THING ANYONE HAS DONE TO YOU?
Keyed my car and slashed all of my tyres. The tyres had only been on the car for a week aswell which was even more annoying. As you can imagine, the air was blue.
48. DREAM CAR?
Ooooh. That's a tough one - I love cars! I'd quite like an Aston Martin DB9. The Audi R8 is also a fabulous looking car and the TVR Tuscan is stunning aswell. I'm spoilt for choice!
49. FAVOURITE CELEBRATION?
Christmas! It's wonderful to see everyone enjoying themselves, particularly the kids. I'm just hoping my son behaves better this year though. He turned into some kind of devil child last Christmas. I think it all went to his head a bit because he had huge amounts of presents and just thought he could do absolutely anything he wanted. The words Spoilt and Brat spring to mind!
50. WHERE DO YOU HANG OUT?
Just at home really. Occasionally at the local pub but that doesn't happen very often.
51. WHAT SCHOOL DID YOU GO TO?
Oaklands School which is in Acomb, York.
52. WHAT/ WHO ANNOYS YOU?
53. DO YOU RECYCLE?
I do try to wherever possible as I think we should all do our bit. I also 'recycle' by sending boxes, pots and cartons etc to my son's nursery where they use them for arts and crafts time.
54. WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE SPORT?
I don't play any sports and I'm not particularly keen on watching most sport either. If anything, I'd say boxing. I love watching Joe Calzaghe.
55. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON TO UPSET YOU?
My husband during a silly argument.
56. WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES?
Drawing/painting. Reading. Music. Family stuff. Crafts/card making. Shopping!
57. WHAT WAS THE LAST JOKE YOU HEARD?
What is white and furry and smells of peppermint?
A polo bear.
58. WHAT IS THE BEST JOKE YOU'VE HEARD?
A man is driving up a steep, narrow mountain road. A woman is driving down the same road. As they pass each other, the woman leans out of the window and yells "PIG!!"
The man immediately leans out of his window and replies, "WITCH!!"
They each continue on their way, and as the man rounds the next corner, he crashes into a pig in the middle of the road.
If only men would listen!
59. WHAT'S THE WORST JOKE YOU'VE HEARD?
I phoned my local pizza restaurant the other day and ordered a thin and crispy supreme. They sent me Diana Ross.
60. NAME 3 PLACES YOU HAVE BEEN ON HOLIDAY:-
One place that springs to mind is LaManga in Spain. This was a family holiday when I still lived at home, probably around the age of 10. We enjoyed the holiday so much that we went back to the same hotel the following year. That's the only time we've ever done that so it must've been good! A German family staying there were obviously of the same opinion - they also returned the following year at the same time as us. I can clearly remember them as they were very distinctive. Probably due to the matching blonde mullett hair-dos on mother, father and son!
A holiday I remember for the opposite reasons was the Dominican Republic. This was the first proper holiday that my husband and I went on together. We'd been married for 5 years and just hadn't been able to afford to go anywhere. We were therefore really looking forward to it and saved up to go all inclusive for a fortnight. It was terrible! Everyone came down with a stomach bug and the food was horrible. Although we were all inclusive, we ended up eating out nearly every evening and spending on the credit card. It therefore cost us a small fortune. Very disappointing!
And who can forget Rome! This was a short break (which I reviewed here on dooyoo) and it was fabulous. A great experience.
61. WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 10 YEARS TIME?
Hopefully with more children (either another one or two) and therefore living in a bigger house because there wouldn't be room for everyone in our current home.
I like to think that we'll be in a better position financially...the growing family and house move would depend on this!
62. FAVOURITE SEASON?
I'm a summer girl as I like the warm weather. Not that we're really having any this year!
63. WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE WEBSITE?
I'm loving mutualpoints.com at the moment. I'm getting some great cashback rewards and I even won £100 for writing review of the month in July!
64. WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE SHOP?
Zara. Gorgeous clothes.
65. WHAT'S YOUR WORST HABIT?
I don't think I have any bad habits! My hubby will probably say otherwise though so I'll have to get back to you on that one
66. WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE ANIMAL?
Dogs - after all, they are man's best friend.
67. WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE FANTASY?
Now that would be telling!
68. CAN YOU COOK?
I can now. When I first got married and moved in with my husband I was absolutely useless! My mum had always done everything for me so I didn't have a clue.
69. WHAT IS THE LAST LIE YOU TOLD?
I told my son that we had no Quavers left! He loves them and would happily scoff a full multi-pack if I'd let him (which I don't I hasten to add). A couple of days ago he'd just finished a packet and asked for some more. Instead of just saying 'no', I told him that they were all gone. Naughty mummy...but it kept him quiet.
70. FAVOURITE FLAVOUR ICE-CREAM?
My favourite plain icecream is vanilla. When it comes to Hagen Dazs it's Praline and Cream. Ben and Jerry's? Cookie Dough!
71. FAVOURITE TAKE-AWAY?
Erm, I'd say Indian although I'm also rather fond of Chinese.
72. WHAT DO YOU HATE DOING THE MOST?
Housework. For me, there aren't enough hours in the day. The last thing I want to do is clean when I get a spare moment. I do it though...hating every minute.
73. WHAT DO YOU LIKE DOING THE MOST?
Same answer as number 16 really...simply spending time with my family.
74. IF YOU WERE A SUPER HERO WHAT WOULD YOUR NAME BE?
75. WHAT IS YOUR PORN STAR NAME (TAKE THE NAME OF YOUR FIRST PET AND YOUR MOTHER'S MAIDEN NAME AND PUT THEM TOGETHER)
76. IF YOU WERE AN ANIMAL WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
I'd quite like to be a tortoise. I could lounge around all day taking things really slowly. In fact do bugger all if I so wished. I'd really enjoy being able to disappear into my shell if the going got tough and I was having a particularly bad day. Knowing my luck though, some swine would tip me onto my back and I'd be completely stuck.
77. WHAT WOULD YOUR ANIMAL NAME BE?
78. IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT TIME WOULD YOU GO TO?
I think I'd go back to the 60's. I'd like to check out my parents when they were younger, just like Marty McFly in Back to the Future.
79. ANY PERSON ALIVE OR DEAD - WHO WOULD YOU MEET?
Oooooh. Decisions, decisions. Princess Diana so I could ask her what really happened on that night in Paris.
80. IF YOU COULD LIVE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, WHERE WOULD IT BE?
I couldn't see myself living abroad to be honest. I'm happy here in the UK but perhaps a move to somewhere like Cornwall would be nice.
81. TEA OR COFFEE?
Hmmm. Depends on my mood but I usually opt for a nice steaming mug of fresh coffee. I can't drink coffee too late in the day though as I find that the caffeine disturbs my sleep. So it's a cuppa tea after 8pm!
82. WHAT WAS/IS YOUR NICKNAME?
Hubby calls me Foxy-Lady....hence the dooyoo name. So now you know!
83. HAVE YOU BEEN TO COLLEGE?
I have. Straight after leaving school I studied GNVQ Art & Design at York College for two years. I then went on to gain a HND in Graphic Design after a further two years of subject specific studying.
84. WHAT IS THE WILDEST THING YOU'VE EVER DONE?
Three words...Mile, High and Club.
85. CAN YOU PLAY AN INSTRUMENT?
Not anymore. I used to play the recorder at school but I wouldn't have a clue now.
86. WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE DISNEY CHARACTER?
Awwww. It's got to be Bambi.
87. FAVOURITE THEME PARK?
I'd say it's Flamingoland.
88. WHAT SIZE FEET ARE YOU?
My feet are a size 5, although my right foot is ever so slightly bigger than my left!
89. IF YOU WERE KING/QUEEN FOR A DAY WHAT 3 CHANGES WOULD YOU MAKE TO THE WORLD?
It'd have to be an end to poverty, an end to all fighting and an end to any terrorist threat. But then I think this would be a bit beyond the capabilities of a Queen. Oh well, I can dream.
90. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE NIGHT CLUB?
Night Club...what's one of those? Only kidding, I do remember. It's just that since I had my son (he'll be 3 in January) I haven't ventured into one. The mere thought of being out at 2am and not tucked up in bed makes me feel exhausted! I must be getting old.
91. NAME ONE THING THAT MOST PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
Something really random here! I was the hand model on one of the Black&Decker Dustbuster Auto Vac boxes. I was doing the artwork for the packaging and ended up getting roped into doing the photography shoot aswell!
92. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? AND WHY?
It was Saturday evening. No reason in particular...I was just feeling a bit down and frustrated, letting things get on top of me too much. It sometimes feels good to have a little cry and get it out of your system.
93. IF YOU COULD HAVE 3 WISHES, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
Not wanting to sound greedy but my first wish would be for financial security for me and my family. We're really struggling at the moment - the after effects of my hubby being unemployed for 7 months. He's back working now but trying to recoup the money is proving to be impossible. Debts just seem to be escalating!
Second wish? A long and happy life for my kids. No explanation needed.
And lastly, I'd wish that the world was a better place. There are so many horrible people out there. Let's just wipe them all out and the rest of us can then live happily ever after.
94. WOULD YOU EVER HAVE PLASTIC SURGERY? IF SO, WHERE?
I'd possibly consider a boob job as having a child has taken its toll on 'em. I'm a bit squeamish though so the thought of going under the knife makes me shudder. Plus it's damned expensive. Although I've recently done some design work for a local plastic surgeon (logo and business card etc) so if he offers me 'mates rates' I may just go for it!
95. WHAT ARE YOU MOST ASHAMED OF?
I have my shopping delivered by Tesco. A few weeks ago I ordered some nappies but they didn't arrive with the shopping. I called customer services who promptly refunded the amount. A couple of days later, guess what I found...the nappies! My little boy had picked them up and put them away in his bedroom before I'd even seen them. I feel a bit ashamed about it because to me, it feels like theft!
96. THONGS OR KNICKERS/ BOXERS/ PANTS - ON YOU/ ON SOMEONE ELSE
I know some people find them really uncomfortable but I prefer to wear thongs. On my fella, it's got to be boxers - but the tight fitting lycra ones though (like Calvin Kleins), not cotton boxers. He's got really big, muscly legs and they look scrummy on him!
97. BLONDES/ BRUNETTES OR RED HEADS?
Got to be brunettes. Dark and mysterious.
98. WHAT DO YOU FIND SEXY?
I've always had a bit of a thing for pierced eyebrows.
99. IF YOU COULD HAVE A SUPER POWER/ ABILITY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
The ability to pause time. That way I could get some peace and quiet and put my feet up with a cuppa whenever I felt the need. I could also use it to get more things done. I never have enough time to do everything I want so pausing time would give me chance to simply do more stuff!
100. DID YOU ENJOY THIS?
Let's just say it was a break from the norm :o)
*Film only review*
Richard has been away in the Army, but now he's back...and he wants revenge. During his absence a local gang cruelly targeted and tormented his mentally retarded younger brother. Surely the culprits should pay for their unfair and thoughtless actions.
Set in a semi-rural part of Derbyshire, Dead Man's Shoes features some bleak yet peaceful and atmospheric scenes as Richard and his brother Anthony stroll through areas of countryside, either in complete silence or idly chatting as siblings do. These tender moments are in stark contrast to the violent nature of the film and the innocent council estate location certainly proves to be an unexpected setting for the sinister themes involved.
Unable to forget the past, the elder brother dwells on Anthony's experiences (the impression of a certain degree of guilt for leaving him can be felt) and plans his subsequent attacks with a reluctant and clearly uncomfortable Anthony in tow. Tracking down each of the drug dealing gang members, Richard finally gets the opportunity to voice his anger and unleash his rage, making sure they know who he is and why he has suddenly appeared in their lives.
Some very gruesome scenes follow as the tormentors are approached one by one. At first, the merciless rampage seems to be a bit extreme as the people in question aren't exactly big city hardened criminals - more like small time hoodlums. The attacks begin to feel almost necessary though as throughout the film gritty black and white flashbacks are interspersed to gradually explain exactly how Anthony was treated by the gang. Accompanied by unsettling acoustic music, these shots are almost too awkward to watch. You want to look away but you can't. Although deeply upsetting they serve to add meaning and reason to the actions of Richard.
This innocent young man (who quite clearly suffers from learning difficulties) is picked on and made a laughing stock of because he isn't capable of fully understanding what is going on. The flashbacks become chilling towards the end of the film as the true extent of Anthony's degradation is revealed.
I must say that Dead Man's Shoes is not entirely without its lighter moments. There is an element of humour, particularly amongst the low-life gang who drive around in an old Citroen 2CV and have a touch of the Chuckle Brothers to their personas. They come across as pretty stupid at times...a scene discussing the meaning of the term 'al fresco' whilst reading pornographic magazines instantly springs to mind!
Dead Man's Shoes was produced on a low budget in 2004. Directed by Shane Meadows, it has a very similar feel to his earlier film Once Upon a Time in the Midlands and even more so, his recent direction of This is England. In my opinion the tight budget is an advantage as nothing feels 'over done'. The basic style is very natural due to the simplicity. At times it seems almost improvised and emits a fly-on-the-wall documentary kind of quality, resulting in a gripping sense of reality.
The characterisation is simply excellent with Richard being played by the fabulous Paddy Considine (who featured in Borne Ultimatum, Hot Fuzz, In America). He really fits the part well, giving a powerful and emotional performance. Convincingly ferocious and macabre on one side, a loving depth can also be felt towards his brother, played by Tony Kebell. Kebell (who was little known at the time) stands out a great deal due to the unusual nature of his character. A superb and sensitive portrayal, so convincing that you could cry for him and share in his brothers anger.
A host of recognisable faces also feature in the film...for example, ex boxer Gary Stretch plays the role of gang leader and old Coronation Street actor Stuart Wolfenden also belongs to the gang. Not all particularly well known names but many are obviously selected for being quite local and therefore able to speak with a certain amount of regional dialect, ensuring conversation flows naturally and isn't stilted by dodgy out of place accents. All adding to the reality of the tale.
There's no disputing that Dead Man's Shoes is deserving of its 18 certificate rating. A brutal thriller, it offers very strong language, violence, drug taking and scenes of a sexual nature. Although it is a very graphic film and sometimes disturbing, it is an overall moving story and I absolutely love it.
At a satisfying 90 minutes long the dark tale of retribution challenges the viewer to condone or condemn. They say that revenge is sweet, but is it really justifiable and to what extent? Watch Dead Man's Shoes and decide for yourself.
DVD with extras available at play.com - £4.99
Occasionally shown on Film4 (which is where I saw it)
As a dog lover and owner, I've wanted to read this book for a while now. The thought of a family pet being the main character of the story really appealed to me in its unusual concept. In my mind I thought I'd thoroughly enjoy it...and I was right!
Marley. Where does one begin with a dog such as this one! The subtitle of the book is 'Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog' and I would say that it is a very fair description!...
Introduced into the Grogan family home as practise for having a baby (?!), the Golden Labrador puppy instantly exhibits signs of his 'interesting' character. A chance meeting with the seemingly unhinged father should have set alarm bells ringing with the Grogans but they thought nothing more of it. The usual playfulness of a canine youngster is present but Marley is...how can I put it?...a bit different to say the least. You could even go as far as calling him unique.
Punctuated with snapshots of Marley at the start, the reader would be forgiven for thinking that butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. This wonderful book chapters his life as he leaps and bounds from one disaster to the next, including many funny, embarrassing and cringe inducing moments. Many dog owners will fully sympathise with the Grogans as Marley destroys yet another item of furniture or chews up personal belongings. I could certainly relate to many of the tales told by John Grogan, an American journalist. I have a Staffie who is now 10 years old but when she was a pup she had a fondness for chewing - anything and everything. We came home one day to find that she had eaten into a plasterboard wall, leaving a gaping crater in the wall. Picking objects up off the lawn that had 'passed through' was not unheard of either! Her behaviour was not a patch on Marley though.
Hyperactive, destructive, powerful and cheeky are just a few ways to describe the personality of this memorable and unusual hound. Traits which result in a somewhat haphazard relationship with the Grogan family, not helped by his severe phobia of thunderstorms which unleashes a 'mental' side that can only be calmed with the use of sedatives.
Despite his wealth of flaws and mischievous nature it's apparent that Marley is an overwhelmingly loyal and faithful dog, simply eager for affection from his owners. Anecdotes of his naughty escapades are intertwined with general stories of day to day life and just how Marley fits in with the dynamics of the family and grows with the increasing brood. Boundless energy remarkably disappears in the presence of the children and a tender side to the 97 pound gentle giant emerges. You just can't help but grow to love this dog!
Having said that, how the Grogans coped with Marley I'll never know. I think I might have been tempted to give up! Patience and perseverance were obviously needed, particularly during the attempts at training when some amusing tales of obedience classes are recalled. It's highly entertaining to say the least.
Written in a straightforward and honest manner, I can't fault this book. As well as offering something a bit different in terms of content, it's hilarious, it's poignant, it's touching and it's emotional. Dog owners will laugh knowingly at Marley's socially unacceptable behaviour and whilst reading, the book really makes you think about your furry friends, giving them an extra big hug. And when old age finally forces Marley to grow up, the tears will be literally rolling down your cheeks as you reminisce about old friends or envisage your family pet a few years down the line. It's quite upsetting but it's thought provoking too.
I can clearly see why John Grogan decided to write this book. Having a much loved dog with such a psychotic persona, you'd want to put it down in words too!
Cover price: £12.99 (available on Amazon for £8.59)
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton (June 2006)