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Now I'm quite a Jamie fan, my general attitude being: can be a bit of a plonker, but his heart's in the right place, he does something about it and he generally does pretty good cook books. So when hubbie came home with this book for me I was delighted.
However, I'm realising that a couple of months on I've barely cooked anything from it. Now it could be a bit out of sight out of mind but I think there's more to it than that. This is a high concept cookbook and the concept doesn't really work for me!
The idea is that in today's busy world we don't have much time to cook, so Mr Oliver has designed a book that presents 50 (I think!) meals rather than separate recipes, and each meal - so he claims - can be prepared in 30 minutes start to finish. Most of this sounds fair enough but there are several problems.
I haven't tried to do a whole meal in 30 minutes from this book, but I've heard plenty of people casting aspersions on how realistic the timings are. I imagine you'd need to be already familiar with the recipes and work at chef-speed to get them done, and who wants to do that if they've only got half an hour to make tea after getting home from work. Opening the book at random, the meal on display is: smoky haddock corn chowder, spiced tiger prawns, rainbow salad, raspberry and elderflower slushie. Now I enjoy cooking but to me this sounds like a lot of different things to be making, and a bit complicated for a Tuesday night dinner!
Creating more washing up:
First things on Jamie's list of kit you'll need are: Food processor (with all the attachments), liquidizer, microwave and electric whisk. From my point of view it's all very well speeding up prep time by using these gadgets, but you're also creating a lot more washing up after dinner just because you didn't have time to slice a carrot before dinner - some false time economies are in here I think!
It's difficult to separate the recipes:
When I have cooked from this book, I've not wanted to make the whole meal suggested, but rather part of it. The book does not make this easy, as the steps in the method for each meal are chronological and so interweave the steps required for each recipe that forms part of the meal. I was going to say that maybe it would have taken too much space to describe the recipes individually as well as in the 30 minute meal format, but actually many pages have been taken up with full page spreads of... a close up of a pan boiling, or a hand squeezing an orange, so that can hardly be the case! (I'm all for a good picture of the finished result but don't really need a double page spread of Jamie switching on a food processor in a lovely kitchen!)
I'm now thinking that this is the reason I haven't used the book more, and it's a shame because there are some really nice sounding recipes in there. I know he's probably put a lot of thought into dishes that go well together, but it shouldn't be forced!
One thing I do like is the contents page which lists the meals on a double page spread so you can see everything that's in them, and there is clever colour coding of the ink so that, for example fish/seafood recipes are in orange ink, veggie is in green, meat is in blue. A nice clever touch, but it's a poor recommendation when the best thing you have to say about a cook book is its contents page! Could do much better with a bit more thought.
My husband is a bit of a gadget freak - Wii, PS3, Xbox360 and now iPad - we've had them all and I rarely use them. We recently got the Nintendo DS 3D but I'm pretty much banned from touching it. The reason is, that when Mr Neenaw got the original Nintendo DS, and when he upgraded to the DS Lite I kind of annexed them for my own exclusive use. So, while gaming on most platforms leaves me fairly cold, the Nintendo DS is a different story and I find it highly addictive.
I like the tiny size of the DS. While it obviously has implications for screen size and graphics, when a game gets it right for the format you can't beat curling up with a DS on your lap and a cup of tea at your side! It's obviously designed to be highly portable, although to be honest it doesn't leave our home much. But when it does, it's easy and light to slip into a bag for a journey.
The other main reason I think I like the DS so much is the little control stick which you use to tap or slide on the screen to control game play. I'm not a big fan of the traditional button controls, especially for quick action games, and I've really taken to the DS's little stick, which slots neatly into the console when not in use. The dual screen is a nice feature - with a second screen on the inside of the console's flip up lid - doubling the screen space (although the 2nd screen is not touch sensitive).
As I mentioned you have to have the right game that doesn't rely on large screen and uber-cutting-edge graphics to make the game entertaining. Some of my favourites on the DS have been Legend of Zelda (I forget which one!), Civilization, Nintendogs (so cute!) and my absolute favourite of all time - Advance Wars. You see, I prefer a strategy to an action game any time!
One word of warning though - all those brain training games - absoloute pants!
Misfits tells the story of five self-styled ASBO kids thrown together for their community service. But early on a mysterious lightening storm strikes, leaving them (and others) with superpowers, and their probation worker as a homicidal maniac.
I've been inspired to write this review because, having seen the first series but missed the second when it aired on E4 and Channel 4, we're currently halfway through series 2 on DVD and loving it! Misfits is often described as a cross between Heroes (which I never watched) and Skins (which I've watched for five minutes and just felt way way way too old!). It certainly creates a very successful mix between the weird and unnatural world of superpowers and the everyday normal banter and problems of the five leads. In a way this reminds me of the brilliant Being Human, though it features a younger cast and focuses more on the comedy and a bit less on the characters, especially in the first series. For me, this is one of its slight faults: in the first series I found the characters and situations entertaining and funny but didn't really empathise with the characters. However, halfway through the second series I think we're brought to feel more for the characters and what they're going through rather than just being entertained spectators.
The success of Misfits rests on the five leads and their interaction. Kelly is hard as nails, wears a Croydon facelift and can read people's thoughts; Simon is a shy, socially inept and slightly creepy arsonist who can turn invisible; pretty girl Alisha turns people wild with lust at the touch of her skin; up-and-coming sports star Curtis, shamed by a drugs conviction can rewind time; and the incomparably gobby, obnoxious and crude Nathan can... well, can he do anything apart from be utterly unembarrasable? (No spoilers here!)
With the brilliant and exuberant Nathan and Kelly, and the intriguing and a little bit disturbing Simon, the (relatively) quieter characters of Alisha and Nathan are less memorable in series 1, so it's nice to see them coming into their own in series 2.
I don't want to say too much more for fear of spoiling plotlines, but this series is definitely worth a look - reckon it's one you'll either love or hate!
The Pure Evoke 2XT was our first venture into the world of digital radio. I want to say we've had it about two years, but I suspect that means about four years in real time! And over those 2-4 years our Pure Evoke radio has been in almost constant use. Most of the time it sits happily in the kitchen and makes washing up/cleaning the kitchen a much happier experience. But it's easily portable so gets moved around our flat, particularly when other chores/decorating are going on.
The look and feel:
Before you even switch the thing on, you have to admire the look and feel of the Pure Evoke 2XT. With it's wood/silver finish it manages to look both modern and retro and very stylish! It feels reassuringly solid and well put-together.
It can be powered by mains, chargepak or battery - and keeps going for several hours on either of the latter power supplies. You wouldn't want to be carrying this for miles as the handle is built for style rather than comfort and it would be a bit heavy, but it's absolutely fine for moving around your home and garden.
Great! The sound is very clear and fills the room. We get no problems with any sound or receiption and this was a revelation to me after a lifetime of somewhat crackly FM! For a portable system the speaker quality is excellent.
Controls/ease of use:
The controls are very very simple to use. There are three dials for volume, tone and tuning the different stations. As you scroll through the stations using the tuning dial the station name appears at the bottom of the small display screen, and you just press the dial to tune to the station you want when you get to it. You can have up to 6 stations preset using the buttons below. The other 4 control buttons are for menu, on/standby, timer, and DAB/FM/AUX. To be honest, the only one of these 4 buttons I ever use is the on/standby as our radio is permanently on DAB and we don't bother to use any alarm functions etc.
As well as scrolling the radio stations when you're tuning, the display screen shows the station you're listening too, battery levels, clock and strength of signal. A scrolling display along the bottom tells you what you're listening to.
Sooo, is there anything not to like? Well, not really! As it's a few years old now I think there are more sophisticated models on the market now (just looking Pure Evoke 3 models have functionality to record radio and to rewind live radio) - but frankly, this model does everything I need!
It's heartening to see Being Human with so many five star reviews because that's exactly what it deserves. It's pretty much my favourite drama of the moment and when people try to justify the existence of BBC3 they shouldn't forget to mention this series as well as Gavin and Stacey! I'm currently ploughing through the box set of series 1-3 and already looking forward to series 4 which has been commissioned.
For those who don't know, Being Human centres around three twenty-something housemates and is an indefinable mixture of drama, comedy and the supernatural. George (a reluctant werewolf) and Mitchell (a vampire trying to give up the blood) move into the house where Annie used to live with her fiance. She's a ghost who (mostly) can't be seen by humans, but then George and Mitchell aren't human.
We follow the three in their day to day lives, trying to be as human as possible, while dealing with their "conditions" - the constant craving for blood and a gang of vampires intent on taking over the world (starting with Bristol, naturally) for Mitchell, avoiding detection and risk to other people at his time of the month for George, and finding out why she's still here and what she is capable of for Annie.
The plot is a mixture of day to day crises and rather less mundane supernatural antics, but throughout the three main characters and their relationship with each other remains central. And the three leads do sterling work. Ignore the picture above as only Russell Tovey (playing George) made it into the series (the photo above is from the pilot episode). He's a bit of a nerdy control freak - so losing that control once a month bothers him perhaps even more than it would anyone else! Tovey is great, - very funny but also very heartfelt. Annie the ghost is played excellently by Lenora Critchlow, and again does a great job portraying Annie's faltering confidence and ditziness. Aidan Turner is Mitchell - he does a good line in dark brooding, which is spends quite a lot of time doing. But he also has his comedy moments - the pathetic reaction of a vampire to being kicked in the shin is sheer quality, and his job interview in series 3 (with his "guardian angel" Annie in the room entirely putting him off - and for that matter making him wear a tie entirely out of place with the rest of his usual pretty grungy, gothy look) is brilliant. There's also a nice line in undermining his undeniable easiness on the eye - I particularly like the moments again from series 3 where he's referred to as the last Russell Brand in the shop, and hygiene standards are dissed by Adam the teenage vamp.
There are some great supporting cast members too (with the notable exception of whoever plays Lauren the girl Mitchell turns into a vampire at the start of the first series - crimes against acting!). Sinead Keenan plays the increasingly pretty thankless role of Nina - George's girlfriend, who becomes more of a player in later series - very well. And from the DVD extras she seems like an absolute sweetie - not much like Nina! There are some great cameos - in the third series notably Robson Green (who would've thought it?) as an itinerant werewolf and Lacey Turner as a dead girl giving tours of purgatory. But best of all, the brillian Jason Watkins as local leader of the vampires in Bristol - a terrifying and very funny portrayal of the banality of evil.
So that's my summary. I've tried to avoid all spoilers and so not gone into the plot too much because if you've got any sense and you haven't already seen it, you'll go out and get the boxset DVD tomorrow. Enjoy!
For ages we didn't have any docking system for our ipod. Our stereo was an oldie, made before the brave new world of MP3, so while it would happily play CD's (and cassette tapes!!) we had no speakers for the ipod. I didnt' really think about it too much - after all I don't have my own MP3 player and my husband's is almost permanently glued to him so a docking system for everyday use seemed fairly redundant. However, when we moved to a flat where dining was in the kitchen rather than the living room, and hubbie began to complain he couldn't listen to all his favourite tunes in the bath, it got me thinking...
I wanted a docking system that would have a decent enough sound but also be really portable, so it could be used in the living room, and easily moved into the kitchen or even bathroom as needed - and all at a reasonable budged. The Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere certainly fits the bill.
Price-wise, the system can be found online for under £80 (I got a shock when I just googled and saw one under £60 but that was refurbished!)
It's a lovely compact little system measuring just 34cm(W) x 9.5(H) x 4.5(D) and light as a feather to move around. It plugs in at the mains, but has a 10 hour rechargeable battery too. To be honest, I don't think we've tested the battery anywhere near it's limit, so can't say how accurate that 10-hour life is. The Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere also looks good, with a stylish minimal design in black.
I would prefer it if there were some basic controls on the box itself. Instead, everything is controlled by remote, which is pretty simple and intuitive. And I guess there's not much space on the dock itself. On the slightly more technical side (not my strong point) it is compatible with iphone and all ipod models, which is nice.
And finally and most importantly, the sound. This is where the Logitech really impressed me - it has a much bigger, meatier sound than I expected. It doesn't feel tinny and easily fills a decent sized room with good clarity. I should add the caveat here that I'm no hifi expert or sound geek (which I'm sure you could already tell) who might not be satisfied with the sound, but then they can go and buy themselves some high end separates system with uber-speakers - and leave me with this natty compact portable docking system that punches well above its weight!
It may be because Schweppes was the only tonic water ever to be seen at home when I was growing up, but I absolutely love the stuff and really struggle to drink any other brand of tonic. There really is a big difference in taste!
One of my favourite alcoholic tipples is a gin and tonic, and while I will accept various different brands of gin (though Bombay Sapphire is favourite!) Schweppes is the only tonic water for me! It has just the perfect taste and right level of fizziness to complete my ice-cold G&T! A couple of years ago I was shocked at how much I disliked another brand of tonic (Waitrose own-brand - only bought because they had no Schweppes!) a I hadn't realised how different it could taste.
Schweppes tonic comes in various formats. There are large bottles, great if you're having a party as you get more for your money - but it will go flat in the fridge fairly quickly, and you need your tonic to be properly fizzy! You can also get smaller bottles - good for a few drinks. And the shops also stock multipacks of small 150ml cans of tonic. These are great as one can makes one drink perfectly - no waste, no flat tonic!
Schweppes also do a diet version of their tonic water - and these days I usually use Schweppes slimline tonic water and find that it tastes just as good as the fat version. And that means that my drink is healthy, right? Final word - it also tastes great without the gin in it (but do have plenty of ice and a slice of lemon or lime!)
When I first discovered and started using the Clinique 3-step skin care system many years ago it felt like a revelation. However, I haven't used it for quite a while now, because while I think it does what it does very well, there are other products out there that do just as well for much less money!
The three steps in the system are cleansing, exfoliating and moisturising. There are different formulations available for different skin types in each step. So for example in the exfoliating step, you have a four different clarifying lotions and you use the most suitable one for your skin type depending on whether you have dry/combination or oily skin.
For cleansing you use either bar or liquid facial soap. In the past these were separate formulations for different skin types but there seems to be one for all skin types now. For exfoliating you use the clarifying lotion mentioned above together with cotton wool pads. For the moisturising step you use the 'Dramatically different moistursing lotion' or a gel formulation for oilier skins.
As I have very dry skin I've always used the number 1 clarifying lotion, which is very mild. It basically does the same thing as a toner. The higher numbered clarifying lotions may be more exfoliating for skins that can take it!
What I found very useful when using this system was that it helped me to understand what kind of products to use and what to avoid on my skin, i.e. for dry, sensitive skin don't use any alcohol-based toner as it will just dehydrate the skin, and avoid heavy duty exfoliatiors as the skin can't take it.
However, now that I know this I see no reason to spend £13 plus a bottle of moisturiser/toner/cleanser. I find that much cheaper brands (Simple is a favourite) do just as well! In addition, I've never really got on with the Clinique moisturiser. It moisturises well enough, but I've always found it had a weird texture, slightly gloopy and sticky when applying - and why they made it yellow I'll never know!
I've had this cook book for several years now, and quite a few recipes have become regulars in our house. It features healthy Low GI recipes for all kinds of occasions.
Starting with breakfast, a variation of the banana and berry smoothie has become my husband's regular work-day breakfast. I love the breakfast fruit loaf, and other recipes such as scrambled eggs with smoked salmon are very simple but add in some nice touches (chives and dill as herby flavourings, plus some spinach in this case).
There are also chapters on lunches, soups and salads, dinner and desserts. There are some particularly nice pasta dishes (favourites include chicken pasta with caramelised onions, and linguine with salmon and peas). There is a nice range of recipes using lentils and pulses, which I love. These include chicken breasts with lentil mash, baked salmon with mixed bean salsa and roast pumpkin and chickpea salad.
Most of the recipes are pretty straightforward and practical for those with busy lives, although there are also some recipes for more special occasions, like the slow-roast lamb with chickpeas. The recipes are all pretty healthy, and give a summary of whether they are Low/Medium GI, the nutritional content (calories, protein, carbs, fibre, fat and sodium). The lovely thing about this book is that they combine healthy eating, practicality and yet stilltaste delicious and don't feel like deprivation diet food - it's all about moderation and it does it very well!
The LG Optimus One is my first smartphone, and I've had it about three months now. I'd been wary of smartphones before because I'm not a great lover of touch screen and I know there's so much they do that I'm just not interested in (gaming, watching videos etc) - plus I can't (or don't want to) afford the £££ for an iphone! But I decided to give this one a go as it seemed to have pretty good reviews and I was able to get it free with all the internet time in the world for £15.32 a month with T mobile - not a bad deal!
So, the verdict so far:
In terms of basic phone functions like making calls and texting I still find the touchphone a bit annoying: it's much easier to slightly miskey or fail to register than you've pressed the screen at all, making texting a bit slower. I've also sometimes missed calls when the slide-to-answer just hasn't picked up. However, I suspected this would be the case - I can't say if it's anything to do with this particular set as I suspect all touch phones would be exactly the same!
On the plus side, all my contacts names, numbers, emails and facebook details synchronise from my Google account - knowing I only have to update contact details in one place is just excellent!
The predictive text function on my phone was really weird - it only seemed to predict names that were in my contact list rather than normal non-proper noun words. HOwever, this problem was easily fixed by downloading a free keyboard app - of which there are several to choose in the Android market place.
And this is where I find Android pretty cool - there are endless apps for pretty much anything you can download. Unlike with iphone (as I understand) there are many free apps as well.
The extra functionality I use most often compared to my old phone is instant access to Twitter, Facebook and my Google account. It can be very handy to be able to check emails away from a computer, and it's good to check out social networking sites when you're bored on a train! The GPS and Google maps functions are also handy.
I do link through to the internet fairly often, but find the small screen of the phone makes this less than a satisfying or particularly efficient way to go. I know there are smartphones out there with a bigger screen size, and I guess every mm counts, but I can't imagine wanting to do too much of this on my phone.
In terms of this handset, I understand it doesn't have the biggest processing power but I don't care as I don't use it for gaming or other things that require a lot of processing. I've used the camera a bit and it's fine for a camera phone but not particularly exciting. I find it quite bulky compared to my old phone, but that's because it needs the bigger screen for accessing internet etc.
I'm fully aware I probably haven't used 90% of this phone's capabilities, but then I suspect a lot of users like me won't. I don't think it's the best phone out there but I think it's probably a really good value deal for those who are new to the smartphone experience - it lets you get used to it, see what you like and don't like, without spending a fortune. Although I moan about the touchscreen for texting and phoning, I can see myself sticking with a touchscreen handset next time as I suspect I'd miss the other functionality too much now!
I started using this primer a couple of years ago after a Laura Mercier makeover in prep for my wedding. In fact, I'd never used a primer before. I'd just read about them occasionally in magazines and thought it was probably an extra makeup step (and expense) that wouldn't make too much difference.
However, I must say that now I'm a total convert. On a day to day basis I don't bother with eye makeup/lippy or blusher, but I have always put a bit of slap on my face - foundation, concealer and usually powder. Since discovering primer that routine has now become primer, foundation, concealer, powder.
It's a cream in a tube that you put on a small amount on your face before foundation and any other make up. It prepares the surface of the skin for your foundation, and helps create a more even finish and helps the foundation stay put and looking fresh for longer.
As I've never used another primer I can't compare this to other brands and products on the market. However, I can say that the Laura Mercier primer really does make a difference. It makes the skin feel really smooth and really does give a longlasting foundation finish.
My one complaint would be that it leaves my (dry) skin feeling a bit tight. However, my most recent purchase was the hydrating formula variation and that's just perfect for me. There is also an oil-free formulation which I assume would be great for oily skin.
At around £28 per 50ml tube it's not cheap, but you only need to use a tiny amount and it lasts for ages. And if you're going to spend money on your makeup I think it's much more worthwhile spending it on getting the basics for the face right than on stuff like eyeshadow!
Ooh, we're loving our new micro hifi from Roberts MP53 Sound 53. We bought it to replace our old little system which had served us well for many years but was looking rather clunky and tatty and pre-dated any thought of docking stations or digital radio (it was old enough to have a tape deck, bless).
So, our priorities were to have a system with digital radio and ipod docking capabilities, as well as a CD player as we continue to buy and use CD's regularly. We wanted something that would fit nicely into our living room without taking up too much space, and that didn't cost too much. It needed good enough sound quality for a reasonable sized living room, but we're not hifi junkies so not overly concerned with having the best sound requiring top speakers. For about £230 from Amazon, we've got everything we wanted and more.
The system provides all the functionality we wanted: DAB radio, a single CD player and a docking station. In addition it has FM radio and USB and SD ports so you can play music directly from your USB stick or memory card. Setting up the system is simplicity itself. You pretty much just plug it in, the digital radio tunes itself and it's ready to go. The controls are mostly via the remote control, with just a volume and CD eject button on the box itself. You can switch between several display options on the display panel on the box (e.g. playing now/station name when you're using the radio function) and the clock. I've seen reviews complaining this is a bit bright if it's in your bedroom, and I can see how that could cause problems, but it's not an issue for us as ours is in the living room.
The remote control is pretty intuitive, although as usual there's several buttons and options I can't see myself using so would need to look up the instructions to remember what they are. But it has the functions you'd expect including clock and alarm functions, track repeat or random settings.
The system does has speakers built in rather than separate speakers. I'm sure you would get a better quality of sound by spending a bit more for a system with separate speakers, but for us the sound is fine. I'm sure I'd notice a big difference if you compared two such systems side by side, but I'm happy with what we have with the Roberts. And, of course the advantage is you have a lovely compact little system, just 36 cm wide, in a very nice looking sleek, black box.
All in all, we're really happy with our new Roberts system. We've not had it long so can't comment on long term reliability, but so far this micro hifi system ticks all our boxes and more.
Mmmmm. Who can resist a book dedicated to chocolate recipes? Certainly not me. This book was a gift from friends a few years ago and makes regular appearances in my kitchen!
Unfortunately, waistlines will not allow for chocolate desserts, cakes, biscuits (you name it!) to be produced too regularly in our household, but for special occasions I often turn to my Green & Black's book.
I've greatly enjoyed several variations on the above mentioned chocolate mousse (including a Toblerone mousse!). Most recently I made some lovely chocolate brazil biscuits from the book. The drunken damson dessert is divine, as is the dark chocolate mousse cake. The chocolate lemon drizzle cake would have been lovely but was a bit undercooked - oops! And perhaps my favourite, taken from Nigella Lawson, a clementine cake with a chocolate topping (I love this cake so much I adapted it to cupcakes with white and dark chocolate ganache - easier than grating lots of chocolate! - for our wedding cupcakes). The pictures of recipes from the book are gorgeous too, and there are also pics of chocolate production, cocoa beans etc which are very interesting. Sadly quite a few recipes don't get their own picture though - I always like a preview of what I'm trying to create!
As you can see there's a great variety from more everyday cakes and biscuits, pudding-y desserts to very sophisticated desserts. There are also chapters particularly aimed at children (for them to eat and get involved in making). I haven't ventured into the "Create a Stir" chapter, which includes a chocolate courgette loaf and savoury dishes such as chicken mole and Swedish chocolate coffee lamb. Every recipe in the book has chocolate or cocoa involved to a greater or lesser extent. While it doesn't have to be Green & Black's you will sometimes find yourself directed there non-too-subtly. For example one of the mousses involves a raisin and hazelnut milk chocolate - the only quality brand in this particular combination you'll find in the supermarket just happens to be Green & Black's! However, this doesn't detract from the deliciousness of the recipes.
My one real gripe, and I find this with a few cook books, is what I consider the novelty "interesting" chapter organisation and headings: Magic, Time to shine, Melting, Licking the bowl, Create a stir, Treasures, Mystical, Wicked, Abracadabra and Old times. Most of these don't tell me much about what's in the chapter. How about: Cakes, Biscuits, Hot puddings, Chilled desserts, Childrens - too boring? Maybe, but a lot more helpful! Maybe I'm just getting old...
I never buy diet or healthy eating cook books in order to follow a particular diet stringently, but to find a few healthy recipes to add to my repertoire.
The Food Doctor everyday diet cookbook certainly fits the bill. It's based on the principles of low GI (glycaemic index) diet and has sections on Breakfast, Food fast, Slow cook, So there's nothing to eat in the fridge, Cook now, eat later, Family food, Food for friends, Lazy weekends, Occasional desserts. Just to quickly mention my perennial cookbook bugbear - while some of these chapter headings are logical (e.g. breakfasts, things to cook now eat later) - several are not helpful. Let me decide if a meal is for my family or friends please!
But moving on... this book has given me several recipes which I now use regularly. The chicken & red ri9ce with roast tomatoes is a particular favourite. I often use the flatbread recipe here to complement an Indian dahl dish.
We often adapt ideas for slightly other uses: the smoked fish mash and chickpea and caramelized onion mash, suggested as toppings for bagels, go really well as a sandwich filling and accompaniment to a bit of fish or meat respectively. The corn fritter recipes make a really nice substantial but healthy weekend breakfast or brunch too.
On the downside, I find some of the recipes a bit too much like hard work for regular everyday meals when you've just got in from work. And while the corn fritters mentioned above are lovely - during the week my breakfast consists of a rushed bowl of muesli and nothing more involved than that. I would also say that there are a fair number of recipes in here which don't inspire me too much. You have to find the gems in amongst the rest. However, the book has introduced me to some new flavours and ingredients I wouldn't otherwise have tried - I now love red rice (unlike brown rice which is just horrid!)
We took out a tracker interest only mortgage with Nationwide last year as first time buyers.
Application process: We used a financial advisor, so he helped greatly with the application process. I have heard so many nightmares from friends who've had last minute problems or demands imposed. Nationwide wanted lots of information and it did feel like jumping through a few hoops, but I understand that this is pretty standard in the current climate. Ultimately we had no problems and the mortgage was approved quickly. The standard (drive-by rip-off!) lenders valuation survey was completed efficiently and without problems too.
What I really like about this mortgage is the flexibility it offers. We had a 20% deposit, which gave us access to quite a few mortgages, but also put many out of our range. The interest rate is currently 3.68% (2.5% above base rate - variable 2 year mortgage). It is an interest only mortgage which allows overpayment of up to £500 per month, plus if you have overpaid you can underpay in future to the extent that you are in debit (if that makes sense!). As I'm self-employed this flexibility makes us feel very secure as we can easily manage the interest payments (plus a little extra to allow for future interest rate rises) on just my husband's salary.
I've not had any dealings in person with Nationwide since getting the mortgage because we've had no problems! I manage payments and monitor our balance online but also receive postal statements. One thing which would be helpful would be a more user-friendly online system. The screen only shows the total interest for the year to date, and the payments received each month. It would be very good to see a breakdown of this into a bit more detail.
Overall I would recommend considering Nationwide for a mortgage as for us they provided a relatively good deal with great flexibility.