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Hotel Chocolat (refered to from here as hc) is a high-class chocolate store, like thornton's but nicer! They sell many different varieties of chocolate, including unusual combinations such as dark chocolate with chilli powder.
They do large and medium sized boxes of chocolates, like a traditional chocolatier, but they are also reknowned for their chocolate slabs - 500g of chocolate with toppings such as crunchy biscuit bits, dried fruit, florentine, caramel buttons etc. They do mini versions of the slabs as well if you are looking to spend a little less - as well as mini boxes of 6 chocolates to sample.
One of my favourite things about HC is that they grown their own chocolate on their own cocoa plantation in st lucia, meaning that they created lots of jobs for the local cocoa farmers. They also source beans from many other countries in africa and south america. Their "Purist" range is all about making chocolate with beans from one source, so that really hardcore chocoholics can have a bar and appreciate the subtle differences. Mmmm.
However, this is not just a shop for hardcore choccies, there is something here that everyone would love. All their chocolate is so much better than anything produced by cadbury's or nestle, and I would just eat this all the time if it weren't so expensive!
This is the major downside - if you want quality, you have to pay through the nose for it. The giant slabs are £12.50, the larger boxes of chocolates £18, the littler bars and boxes range between £2.50 and £6.00.
So good for a treat but sadly a bit too expensive for me the rest of the time!
Great quality chocolate, lovely variety, just a bit too pricey.
To start things off, what would you class this product as? A chocolate bar? A biscuit? A biscuit-bar? I'm a bit unsure.
The fox's echo is a delicious chocolate biscuit-bar (just to be on the safe side) made up of 3 basic parts.
The biscuit is the first layer of the echo, and it is quite short-bready and has a definate crunch to it, yet it isn't so crunchy that it makes your face ache to eat it. It is chocolate flavoured and is a nice middle-ground sort of biscuit - not too chewy, nor too crumbly, nor too crunchy.
-The bubbly bit-
The next layer of the echo is made of bubbly white chocolate, and this is my favourite part of the bar. It is what sets it apart from other chocolate biscuit-bars. It is very nice quality white chocolate, and the bubbly texture adds something to the bar, making it lighter and a lot less stodgy than it would be otherwise. If you bite into the bar, your teeth sink right in before they hit biscuit, and this is a nice variety of flavours and textures. However, if you're like me and you enjoy dismantling your chocolate, I always bite the bubbly bit off first, then eat the biscuit afterwards.
-the outer chocolate-
The outer chocolate encases the other two layers of the echo bar and provides a nice chocolatey overtone for the whole bar. It is lovely smooth chocolate, contrasting nicely with the bubbly white chocolate. It also prevents the rest of the bar from falling to pieces.
The bar is a nice rounded shape which fits perfectly into the roof of your mouth, and the only bad thing I would have to say about it is that it's too small! It's not really that bad a thing to say, as it would be a perfectly adequate size for anyone else, I am just a bit greedy.
They tend to come in packs of 5 or 6 (I'm not quite sure which) and each pack costs around £1.20.
They also come in a mint flavour, but I can't really provide an opnion on them because I haven't tried them.
I recently stayed at the Durham Marriott (regrettably, it was only for one night) and the experience was one that I will never forget - it was wonderful.
We stayed in a room called The Chandler Suite (I'm not entirely sure why it was called that) which comprised of a small sitting area with a television, sofa and chair, a beautiful bedroom with a queen-sized bed, dressing table, wardrobe, television and best of all Trouser press! hilarious as it also had an iron and ironing board, so not 100% sure of the neccessity of the trouser press, but we tried it out anyway. The bathroom had the usual facilities including a large jacuzzi bath and for once the complimentary cosmetics actually smelt nice - lemongrass rather than lavender, which can be a bit old-ladyish.
You could control the temperature in the rooms as well as turning on and off the air conditioning with a simple control by the door, which I thought was a thoughtful touch - the air conditioning kept the other rooms nice and cool after the bath had completely heated up the rest of the bathroom.
I ordered some icecream from room service, which was brought up promptly by a friendly member of staff, however, in the menu it said that the icecream would be £5.95, whereas it actually came to £8.45. Could the menu have been out of date? Or could that have been the charge for the icecream had I ordered it in the restaurant? Regardless, I have never paid so much for 4 scoops of icecream before, never do I ever intend to again!
We didn't eat at the restaurant of the hotel, nor drink at the bar, but we did have breakfast in the cruz brasserie, which was lovely. It was a self-serve breakfast, with different sections - cooked english, continental meats and cheeses, cereals, and baked goods. I had muffins and preserves along with some fresh fruit and a cup of tea, I can't remember what my partner had but it was of a similar amount - then the bill came. For one thing we hadn't been expecting that, because when we booked the room, we got the impression that there had been the words "breakfast included free". But now we discovered that not only wasn't the breakfast free, it cost £30 for the 2 of us! I found this slightly ridiculous, and my partner spoke to the concierge, but it seems that we had been mistaken and ended up paying through the nose for it.
The Durham Marriott also has a leisure club attachted to it including a swimming pool, fitness centre, sauna, sanarium, solarium, steam room, plunge pool, jacuzzi and tropical fun shower. Whatever the tropical fun shower might have done, I sadly didn't get to experience, as it wasn't turning on for some reason or another. The rest of the facilities were wonderful, I especially enjoyed the sauna and plunge pool, it was very refreshing!
All in all, I found staying at the Durham Marriott to be an extremely enjoyable experience, regardless of a few price hiccups, and I would be more than happy to stay here again.
Generally, I'm quite a lazy person when it comes to nail varnish - once it's on, it's on, and I can never be bothered to take it all off and do it again at the first sign of any chips. The most that I will do is give them a quick touch up, but often, I won't even do that, just letting it chip off, looking ugly and unfinished.
Barry M nail varnishes are better than some of the other brands that I have used in the past because they are pretty resilient, and they don't instantly start chipping off after you've worn them for a day. You also don't have to do lots of coats for the colour to show up clearly, like with some of the lighter colours in particular.
Getting onto colour, which in my opinion is one of the very best things about the Barry M range. There are more than 50 colours in the range, and unlike some brands, they aren't just all variations on red and pink and other generic nail varnish colours, they are bright and loud and spunky. They also do different tones of the same colour, so you aren't just limited to "blue" or "green" but a wide variety of blues and greens. They have pretty much every colour you can think of, including some metallic and glitter polishes in addition to the sheens and matts.
They are also reasonably quick-drying, meaning that you don't have to sit around for hours with your fingers spread apart on your lap, not daring to touch anything.
In addition, they are pretty cheap, you can get them from superdrug and boots for under £3, which I think is pretty decent for such quality nail varnish.
I always used to think of these as "grown-ups crisps" when I was but a wee lass, and this is something that sticks with me even now - there is something very sophisticated about these crisps.
The black packet with white writing on is very classy, and once again says to me "expensive" and sophisticated". It is also not shiny like a lot of crisp packets but has a sort of matt feel, this all adding to the high-quality air. The packet is also very easy to get into, unlike some crisp packets, which I feel is of highest importance.
When aforementioned packaging is opened, a lovely salty, peppery aroma wafts out and makes your mouth water in anticipation. I always need a fairly big drink to accompany these crisps, as they can dry your mouth out a little if not washed down with something.
Golden and delicious, thicker than normal crisps and covered with little black flecks (the peppercorns), these crisps are nice to look at, but not as nice as when they're in your mouth. They are properly crisp and crunchy, and they have a very nice bite to them, which is given an extra kick from the salt and peppercorns. They aren't boring at all, but because of the relatively neutral flavour (in comparison to other crisp flavours) it mean that they are also ideal for eating with dips(A personal favourite is cream cheese).
Sadly, these crisps, or any crisps for that matter, aren't exactly healthy, as they contain a lot of fat and salt. Another sad thing about these crisps is that they really are quite expensive - it can cost about 75p for a little bag or up to £2 for a big bag.
All in all, wonderful crisps, just expensive and unhealthy.
Nutella is a hazelnut and chocolate flavoured spread which can be used on bread or toast, crossaints, in cakes etc. It comes in various sizes, but we alway end up getting the massive jar as we all end up eating a lot of it!
First, before I start on the actual product, I just have to have a little rant about the current television advert for nutella. It shows mothers spreading nutella on toast for the children, who then eat it as they leave the house. The voiceover tells us that we probably want to give our kids something like toast for breakfast, but what should we put on it? Hmmm.... I don't know, whatever did we do BEFORE nutella came along? Jam, peanut butter, margerine, honey and marmite clearly don't exsist at all! The advert then goes on the talk about the healthy benefits of nutella, saying that one portion has 2 whole hazelnuts (2 WHOLE hazelnuts! omg!) a glass of milk and some cocoa powder. Put like that, it sounds almost healthy. But why are they trying to market it like this? Its blindingly obvious that nutella is not healthy in the slightest, it is chocolate that you spread on bread? why aren't they just trying to sell it as delicious (which it is)?
ad rant over.
Coming to the actual product itself, it is a very delicious and suprisingly versatile product to keep in your cupboard - my personal favourite way of eating it is to spread nutella on one slice of toast, peanut butter on another, then sandwhich the 2 together. You can also mix it with icing sugar and a little bit of water to make delicious chocolate icing.
Nutella has a faintly nutty taste, although I do find it is mostly overpowered by chocolate. The texture is mostly very nice and smooth, although if it is kept in a place which is relatively cold (like my boyfriend's kitchen on winter mornings) it can become very hard and quite difficult to prise up out of the jar.
Nutella is fairly reasonably priced from what I know of it, it's about £1.80 for a 400g jar, and although you really can't pretend that it's healthy to have on a regular basis, it is nice for a treat every now and again.
I think that me and my partner are the only people I know of who have actually used a "Nando's Loyalty Album" (a little cardboard book with areas in it for stamps) but because of this, the next time we go, we get a free chicken! A whole one! You can work your way up through quarter chicken and half chicken, get to this one, and then we'll start another one! quite looking forward to it.
Nando's is a chain restaurant that is based entirely around a portugese way of eating - lots of chicken with peri-peri spices and sauces. You can choose your "level" of spice - the options are; lemon and herb, medium, hot, or extra hot. I personally always go for the lemon and herb because I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to spice. It is an eat-with-your-fingers sort of place, and most of the main meals are based around chicken, most of which are cooked on a grill. Some examples of the chicken-heavy menu are "chicken breast fillet burger/pitta" "1/4 chicken" "chicken wings" "chicken legs" "chicken salad" etc etc etc. With all the chicken, you can also order "sides", which we always end up doing, mostly corn on the cob or chips with "perinaise" - their garlic bread leaves something to be desired and the spicy rice is just disgusting.
That said, I would happily eat everything else on the menu, as it is freshly cooked and tasty. The quality of the meat is consistently good, and for a chain, I would say that it is one of the best.
The puddings vary in quality, the bottomless frozen yoghurt is lovely, but the chocolate mousse had a bit of a ready-made feel about it.
One of the best bits about nando's is the price - it is incredibly good value (we often get chicken breast burgers with a side each and bottomless frozen yoghurt for less than £15) and you feel full when you leave. A great place to stop by for lunch is you're in the mood for chicken!
Having read an excellent review of Oldfields and planning a mini-break to Durham, I decided that this would be the perfect place to go out for dinner.
It was conveniently situated in the center of Durham, near to the Gala theatre, although from the outside it looks rather nondescript and has nothing to pick it out from the rest of the street. Inside, the decor was slightly nicer, although nothing about it really sticks in my memory, so I imagine that it must have been fairly basic.
However, the dull decorations were more than made up for by the food, which was superb, and rightly so, as the food should be the best part of a restaurant! For a starter we had smoked salmon with new potatoes, which was lovely to share, but I feel it would have been too much if we had had one each. Then for a main, my partner had roast chicken with venison stuff and leek pudding, and I had venison sausage and mash, served with bacon and onion gravy.
The chicken was done to perfection, tender and delicious, and the leek pudding was an unusual but tasty way of complementing the meatier flavours in the dish. The venison sausages were wonderful too, corsely ground (the way I like my sausages) and filling, along with the creamiest mashed potatoes I have ever tasted.
For pudding I had Pimms and lemonade jelly, served with fresh strawberries and vanilla cream, and my partner had a butterscotch and cinder toffee sundae. The jelly was just right after what had been a fairly heavy and meat-laden meal, but the sundae was a little too much, and a bit too heavy on the cinder toffee, which I always feel you really don't need too much of.
The service left something to be desired, which was a shame, but is always something that me and my partner pick up on, as we both work in the service industry and value customer service pretty highly. The waitress who seated us and served us mostly was pretty brusque and for some reason seemed slightly affronted when we didn't want to see the wine menu. Several waitresses were also within clear sight of our table when we were waiting with dirty dishes in front of us, and although my partner caught their eyes a couple of times, they just continued to ignore us and chatted to each other.
This poor service aside, the food was delicious and not outrageously expensive - the whole bill came to about £50 for 1 starter, 2 mains, 2 puddings and a glass of amaretto. Mostly a good experience, and perhaps we just had bad luck with the waitress. Overall a reasonable experience.
Accessorize has been one of my favourite stores for a very long time. Being a larger lady, I often find shopping for clothes pretty stressful as lots of things don't fit/don't come in my size/say that they are my size and then are actually teeny tiny. However, with Accessorize, this is never a problem, due to the fact that they sell things that fit everyone - accessories! Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, bangles, scarves, sunglasses, knitwear, handbags, and they have even branched out into swimwear and shoes recently! I don't get the swimwear, but just about nothing else in this shop is out of bounds for me for reasons of size - this is one of the reasons that I love it.
Another reason is that I can always find something (if not several things) that I want to own in there - the style is often quite ethnic, and draws inspiration from other, more exotic countries, such as China and India. The colours of the accessories (the jewelry in particular) is always very bright and striking, there being a particular lean towards a beautiful, bright turquoise. However, this shop caters to many different styles, and there are also some slightly more conservative jewelry pieces based around silver or pearl-style beads, and they also sell some beautiful, simple leather handbags.
The prices are mostly fairly reasonable, although I did recently have a bad experience with some retro hair grips, which cost £8 for 3, and then snapped as soon as I put them on. Some of the items can be a little bit expensive for what they are eg £12 for a pair of rubber flip-flops, but on the whole, they are quite reasonable, and generally of pretty good quality too.
I would recommend this store to anyone, there is something for everyone, a good place to get gifts, and great if you want a little something for yourself.
As mentioned in previous reviews, I have very dry, curly hair, and while sometimes I can live with that, a lot of the time, I turn to my straightening irons for assistance, whether it be to straighten or curl my hair. Therefore, once I've styled it, I want to leave it alone, as it takes a while to do, but sooner or later I know I'll have to wash it again, and start the whole ghastly process all over again.
Onto the scene comes the concept of dry shampoo - you don't need to wash your hair, just spray this on at the roots and your hair with be all clean again! Hmm, I thought, now there's an idea.
So I went out and got this one, and it does indeed do what it says on the can! If I'm too rushed for a shower and blow-dry and style (which takes waaaay too long some days) then this is perfect! I just spray it on at the roots for a little while (not too long as I discovered that if you put too much on it's like talcum powder), give the top layer of my hair a quick re-style (if it needs it, which it sometimes doesn't) and I'm good to go!
It doesn't smell amazing, which I was a little disappointed at, because lots of the other Toni and Guy hair products smell very good. However, although I try not to use it too much, as it really just is a quick fix and you shouldn't go too long between showers, but it is a good product, and it gets the job done.
My hair is incredibly dry in addition to being curly, and I often find it very difficult to prevent frizz when I'm not killing it with hair straighteners. My number one hair product has to be conditioner - my hair needs a lot of moisture, and more often than not, a lot of detangling, so a good conditioner is vital.
This conditioner, for starters, smells lovely - it is made using Australian Macedamia nuts and it really is lovely to have your hair smelling great all day. It does unfortunately wear off after about a day though.
One of the main qualms I have with this product is that it doesn't come in a very big bottle - the corresponding shampoo bottle is 50ml bigger for some reason that is unknown to me - I always need more conditioner than I do shampoo!
That said, it really is a good quality conditioner - thick and creamy, it combs through hair quickly, detangling it and making it nice and shiny! It is also fairly easy to wash out, a problem that I have had with conditioners in the past - having dry hair and then suddenly discovering a crispy bit. ergh.
It doesn't do amazing things for preventing frizz, but I realise that with hair like mine you need to use quite a bit of product in order to keep to frizz to a minimum, so in general I think that this is a pretty good product.
The Big Lebowski follows the story of The Dude - a deadbeat who bowls, drinks white russians, and appreciates a good rug - and his friends; Walter - an Vietnam Veteran who seemingly can't talk about anything other than Vietnam ("I watched good men die face down in the mud so that we can all enjoy this family restaurant!") and Donny - a good bowler who is extremely downtrodden by Walter, with the immortal phrases "shut the f**k up, Donny" and "Donny, shut up, you're out of your element!".
The story follows the dude as he gets mixed up in all kinds of queer goings-on - large sums of money, a runaway bride, a missing rug and some nihilist germans on motorcycles.
A true Cohen brothers' effort (and one of my favourites of theirs), this film is hilarious at some points, but also emotive at others, and basically full of little eccentricities that make people... real. Such as paying for a single pint of milk with a cheque.
In addition, the film has a wonderful soundtrack, and at some points drifts into musical territory, when the Dude is blacked out, his dreams take musical form, all based around bowling.
The film (as many of the Cohen Brothers' do) shows what life is like (for some people at least) in a certain part of America (in this case LA) - something which I think they do incredibly well, showing how the little people live in different circumstances. Another film which shows diversity in their canon is Fargo, the name of the film itself being the place where the whole film is based.
Sex and the City is a TV show about 4 successfuly career women in their 30s and 40s living in Manhattan, looking for love - or just great sex will do for now! The six-series show followed their lives through dating, fashion, career, marriage, divorce, motherhood and lots of sex.
The fun and light-hearted storylines are based around Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her 3 best friends; Miranda Hobbs (Cynthia Nixon); Samantha Jones (Kim Catrall) and Charlotte York (Kristin Davis).
Carrie is a writer for a newspaper (the New York Star) in which she has a column entitled "Sex and the City", in which she writes about wildly differing topics, from threesomes to testicals to true love. She is pretty much obsessed with fashion, and one of my favourite parts of the show is seeing all the wonderful and slightly crazy outfits that she wears that you would only really get away with in New York. She is pretty neurotic, often worrying about what to do in regards to men, and she really is looking for her Mr Right, even if she doesn't say in so many words. After dating throughout the series - and some men looking pretty serious, such as Aiden Shaw, a furniture maker who asks her to marry him - it's really only about one man - Mr Big. He is referred to only by that name throughout the entire series, and we finally see that his name is John is the very last episode. His full name (John James Preston) is finally revealed in the film of SATC.
Miranda is a partner in a law firm, and she is a bit of a workaholic - when she has her son Brady, she tells her firm that she has to "cut way way back to 50 hours a week"! Miranda is pretty cynical and firm and her style reflects her corporate "Take-me-seriously" attitude. Miranda dates a lot of men during the series - apart from Samantha, she is probably the most independent of the 4 main characters, as she owns her own apartment and fiercely defends her right as a single 30-whatever year old woman. She also wants to find her Mr Right, and although she is even more reluctant to say so than Carrie is, she eventually finds him - after dating him and then dumping him 3 times! Steve Brady, a bartender.
Charlotte works in an art gallery at the start of the show, but she eventually gives up working when she starts trying to get pregnant with her first husband, Trey Mcdougal. Throughout the series, Charlotte is hellbent on one goal - find Mr Perfect, get married and start a family. She is often described in the show as a "Park avenue Princess" and she reflects that - she is obviously from a good background and she was the Prom Queen in high school - as well as being a cheerleader, a teen model and owning her own horse. Her style is quite preppy and generally she is the most proper of the girls - she is the least comfertable talking about sex and she doesn't tend to swear as much as the others. She marries Trey Mcdougal thinking that he is the perfect man - but following a long list of problems they divorce, and Charlotte quickly falls for her divorce lawyer, Harry Goldenblatt. While Harry isn't as "perfect" as Trey, he is a lot better for Charlotte, as he is warm and funny and they have great sex - something that was very absent from her first marriage.
Sam doesn't generally have relationships throughout most of the series - just lots and lots of sex. She works in PR, has a very sexy, obvious style, and claims to love her body, although she obviously has some self-image issues and her way of dealing with it is by being as sexually explicit as possible. Throughout the series, only a couple of men (and a women) have really managed to get through Samantha's hardened exterior to have a realtionship. There was James, who Sam had a wonderful connection with - until she found that he was lacking a lot in the trouser department! Then there was Richard, whom she opened up to until he cheated on her and she left him. There was also Maria, for a short time, although Samantha backed out of that one pretty quickly, claiming that she was not a "realtionship person". Finally there was Smith, young actor and model who stole her heart and kept it as far as the end of the series. Smith understands Samantha completely, and as she puts it "I feel closer to you than to any man I've ever known."
In conclusion, The series is wonderful, you get to know the characters, and they are well rounded ones at that, there are some excellent storylines, hilarious friends (Carrie and Charlotte's Gay best friends, Stanford and Anthony) and general happy endings - but they feel real because you've seen all the main characters working so hard for them.
The Jeremy Kyle show is something that I end up watching out of TV lethargy. Not because I actually want to, but because daytime television is awful, there's nothing better on, and I just want to relax because I work in a bar and don't have to do things during the daytime.
The show is based on a bunch of people telling the nation about their problems and then Jeremy Kyle shouts at someone. Or possibly everyone. There doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to it.
The people who come on the shows are generally accused of being bad parents, on drugs or alcohol, or cheating on their partners, and then there are often lie detector or paternity tests followed by more shouting from Mr Kyle.
I find this incredibly irritating - he bascially never lets the "guests" get a word in edgeways, looks meaningfully at everyone, and always ends up talking about his age for some reason. E.g. "You're 18, I'm 43 and that was A PACK OF LIES YOUNG LADY!!"
He is so unqualified to help people that he never does any of the real work, whenever something is resolved enough for people to need actual help and counselling, he always calls on Graham, the only real worker in the whole show (not counting that massive black guy who brings on the tissues, he's cool too) to sort everything out while he goes off to shout at someone else.
Also, he never varies in what he says, after shouting at everyone there for a while, he always ends up talking about "the child in the middle of this mess" because there ALWAYS is one! He always ends up saying something along the lines of "Well, you two are adults and you need to put away your own problems and spare a thought for the child in the middle of this mess!"
sorry for the ramble, he just really gets on my wick!
While I was a bit young to get spaced the first time around (I was 9), I got the 2 series on dvd recently and completely fell in love. It is Simon Pegg and Nick Frost at their very best, even more so than their more mainstream works like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
The plot centres around Tim Bisley and Daisy Steiner, 2 twenty-somethings who both need places to stay (Daisy was previously living in a squat, Tim just broke up with his girlfriend), and after meeting in a cafe and poring over the "flats-to-rent" sections of the newspaper, they decide to move in together. The one catch is that the only place available is advertising for a "professional couple" and neither or them fill that brief, so they decide to pretend to be a couple to get the flat.
The rest of the series is based around their (non-exsistant) careers (Tim is a comic book artist, Daisy, a writer), and their strange and hilarious friends and neighbours. There's Marsha, the wine-swilling, fag-smoking landlady; Brian, the introverted and slightly creepy artist who lives downstair; Tim's best friend Mike, who is obsessed with the army, gun etc. He is in the TA due to a problem with eyesight; and Twist, Daisy's best friend, who is "In fashion" (works at a dry-cleaner's) and is basically a bit of a bitch.
The humour is a very distinct type, and I know from experience that it's not to everyone's taste, but personally I find it to be hilarious. Quite a lot of it is visual comedy, but then some of it is also based on wordplay and funny situations.
Daisy: (thinks) "This would be a really good time to be telepathic. Don't you agree Tim?"
The Camera turns to Tim. He simply has a stupid expression on his face.
Daisy: (Thinks) "Shit."