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Hello. My name is Smyles and I am a Haribo Goldbears addict.
There, I said it. Yes, these colourful, chewy, friendly looking and delicious bears are incredibly addictive. You have been warned.
One packet contains 100g of sugary goodness, and although this may not sound like much, I find that this is definitely enough to last for at least a few days as they really are VERY VERY sweet. Even though I love them, I can't eat more than half a handful at a time. This I find great because they really kill a sugar craving when I have some but I don't feel like I've eaten a whole meal afterwards, like I would with a chocolate bar, for example.
What sets these apart from other similar products is, for me, the texture and the different tastes. The bears are so small, chewy, and kind of bouncy (if I can describe a food that way!) in texture, meaning that when you bite one there is initially a bit of resistance and then you rip the bear apart! So satisfying. Then, as you chew the severed bear in your mouth the full flavour of the sweet starts to spread through your mouth.
That brings us to the next best part about these: the taste. Some jube sweets taste the same no matter what colour they are, but the Haribo bears really do taste different. There are 6 flavours in all - orange, pineapple, strawberry, rasberry, apple and lemon. For me the pineapple are the best as they are so sweet and almost juicy tasting and my least favourite are the orange as there is quite a tartness to the flavour, which is not a nice tartness like in the fruit, but quite a chemical and artificial flavour. Of course, none of these really do actually taste like the fruit they claim to - they are artificial sweets after all! Personally this doesnt put me off too much as if I wanted to taste the fruit, I would buy the fruit, I eat these bears when I want sugar!
Although the bears do contain real fruit juice, I would not kid yourself in any way that these are healthy. They are not. They are completely full of sugar and not a whole lot of nutrition. However, if you can limit yourself to just a couple they are probably better than buying a different type of candy bar and then eating the whole thing. Plus, since 100g contains probably around 50 small bears, they are great for sharing!
I love these for a change and a bit of a sugar hit when I'm feeling sluggish. Give them a go! But be careful - you might not be able to quit! :)
This is expensive mascara... It costs £ 12.50 for an 8g tube, and when a standard mascara will set you back only around £ 3, that's quite a hefty price tag. The question is though, if it's worth four times as much, is it four times as good?
Well, I should start by saying that I got this mascara in a Christmas package of Clinique products. This is important because, not having shelled out all the cash myself, I didn't have those super high expectations of the product that you do if you've scrimped and saved to buy it yourself.
Getting down to business though, how does this mascara perform? In my opinion the answer is, simply, pretty darn well.
The packaging for most products doesn't really matter, but for mascara it makes a difference because if the bottle is not well designed too much (or, I guess, too little) mascara ends up on the brush once you pull it out, which can mean the end result on your lashes is sub-par. This isn't the case with the Clinique mascara. I simply unscrew the lid, and pull the brush out, and there seems to be just the right amount of mascara on the brush to allow for easy application. No re-dipping, or trying to scrape the mascara off the brush onto the edge of the bottle-neck (with normal application at least).
Application is simple really, like all mascaras, and because the brush is cone shaped (as shown in the picture above) it is quite easy to apply mascara evenly to all of your lashes at once. The brush seems to fit the curve of the lash-line quite well. The only problem is that if you're trying to accentuate the lashes at the edge of your eye, using the narrower tip of the brush only can cause some clumping because, naturally, being narrower, not as much mascara is scraped off the brush when it is pulled from the tube.
So how does it look, once on? Well, I like the fact that with this mascara it's quite easy to apply either just one light coat and have well-defined, darker, but still natural looking lashes. This makes this mascara good for day-wear and less dressy evening-wear. It can also be applied more thickly to create a stronger look. This I find is enough for me as I don't usually go for a very made-up sort of look. If you do prefer really bold eyelashes though I don't think this is the mascara for you... and I'm not sure that it lives up to its name of 'Lash Doubling Mascara'! But then, what mascara really does?? The good thing though is that the lashes are still quite flexible and soft, they don't feel brittle at all really.
As for wear, well I don't really have any problems with this mascara. It doesn't flake or clump, and it doesn't seem to wear off either. That being said I do sometimes get the tiniest bit of smudging after a long day (or night!), but I suppose that's to be expected.
Cleaning this mascara off is quite simple as it washes off quite easily in water (that being said I haven't ever had it run down my face when caught in the rain, if that's a concern for you!), and with a little makeup remover or moisturiser it comes easily off the skin.
It seems to last reasonably well too, I've had mine for about a year (yes, I know, I know, you're only supposed to use mascara for 6 months, but who actually lives up to that??) and use it regularly and it is by no means running out. However, most mascaras have about the same amount in them these days I'd say so I couldn't claim that it runs out any slower than other mascaras.
So that's I guess all I can tell you about how the mascara actually functions. Getting back to the original question, then, is this mascara worth it's rather hefty price tag? Well, I like the simple, rather elegant look that it creates, it's very easy to use, so I would have to say that it is definitely amongst the best mascaras that I've ever used. That being said it certainly isn't a miracle product and isn't going to somehow magically give you false-eyelash looking flappers. So it really comes down to what sort of budget you have for makeup, as to whether you should buy this product. For myself, I know I would be VERY happy to receive another tube as a gift, but I'm not sure that I could ever really justify splashing out on this myself, when no one is probably really going to notice if I use a product that cost a third of the price. This product loses a star for the price.
Recommended only for those seeking a bit of the luxury factor...
Finding the perfect foundation - or, sometimes, even a halfway decent foundation for that matter - can be a real challenge. There are so many things to consider; matching your skin colour, finding the right consistency, the right coverage, not to mention how it affects the state of your skin (oily foundation on oily skin generally being a big no-no). So when you find something good, in my opinion, you should stick with it. That's why I'm pretty sure I'll be sticking with MAC foundation for quite some time to come.
MAC (which stands for Make-up Art Cosmetics) started out as a cosmetics brand for make-up artists and gradually garnered cult status through it's reputation for cruelty free products, charity work, and celebrity endorsements. Originally an independent company based in Canada, the company was acquired by Estee Lauder in the late 90s. However the new owners kept the MAC AIDS Fund program running, which donates 100% of the Viva Glam range sale price to AIDS charities.
The range of products that the brand sells is huge and there is also a MAC Pro range for professional make-up artists. The brand seems to specialise in extreme colours, creative new looks, and variety - it's certainly not the brand I would think of if I was trying to create a very 'natural' look. That being said, no one wants to look as though their foundation is painted on. In fact no one wants their foundation to really be 'visible' at all... you just want it to look like you have perfect skin. Many of the MAC Foundations and primers are actually created with the spotlight in mind, meaning that they are designed to reflect the bright lights in flattering ways (unlike some products that make you look like a white ghost if anyone takes a photo of you with a flash!).
Personally though, I don't like heavy make-up or foundation that feels thick on my skin. I like to look fresh and natural but still know that my foundation can cover any redness, imperfections, or dark circles. Well, MAC Select is perfect for that. It is a water-based, liquid foundation, which MAC describe as having a medium coverage. It is also SPF15+ which is great to know when you're out during the day. It is non-oily and comes in 21 shades.
The shade is very important for me as I have extremely fair skin, so the slightest hint of orange or pink in the foundation is really noticeable on my skin. I am ALWAYS the lightest shade in foundation ranges, in fact I was completely floored by the fact that there are actually 2 shades in the MAC Select range that are lighter than mine. I think that's a real testament to the range of colours that they have available.
I find my tone perfect, I can even use it all year round since in winter it is just slightly darker / more bronzed that my (pasty!) skin and therefore gives me a nice bit of colour, but in summer I can still use it without it looking too pale. It's also great for both night and day, casual and evening looks. In the day I use just a very thin layer on my cheeks, nose, and chin to even up my complexion. I find that the liquid consistency glides really easily over my skin without clumping. The only time that I get a slight bit of streaking at the cheekbones is if I try to apply the foundation directly after applying moisturiser. It's definitely better to wait a few minutes for the moisturiser to be fully absorbed. This is probably mostly because I use quite thick moisturiser though due to having quite dry skin.
In the evening or if you are wanting a stronger look it is really simple to layer the foundation, just apply a larger amount, blend it out smoothly on your skin and then reapply on the problem areas. Again, there is never any clumping, streaking, or build up. I apply the foundation just with my fingertips and find that this works fine, with no need for a sponge.
In terms of wear, the foundation is great. It lasts through a full day continuing to give me a more even complexion, but after that if I was going out in the evening i would probably want to reapply. Even if you were out long enough for the foundation to wear off, this seems to happen completely smoothly and I do not find it flakes, gets patchy or builds up in any way. Again though, I don't tend to use a lot.
Probably the biggest downside to this foundation is the price. At 18 pounds for 30mL it is more expensive than some other brands (although by no means completely exorbitant). However, I think this is really good value for money. I have been using my foundation literally everyday for the last year and I still have around 1/3 left in the bottle. There has also been no appreciable deterioration in the liquid since I bought it, it doesn't cake around the lid or neck of the bottle, and it applies just as easily as always.
Would I recommend this foundation? Definitely. If you're after a light, multi-purpose foundation that can worn as a light or medium coverage then you should really try out the MAC Select range. I feel like it really makes my skin look its best without requiring me to put in heaps of effort, spend hours preparing or finishing my foundation, or reapplying throughout the day. I'll definitely be buying another bottle when my current supply runs out.
Ok, so, Tic Tacs. Let me start by saying that I am aware that this might not seem like the most fascinating of products on which to write a review, however, in my defense, I feel that these good old faithfuls have really been unfairly ignored in recent times. Proof of that is the fact that no one has even bothered to review the humble tic tac for the last 2 years! Well, this review will change all of that!
If you're anything like me, you know exactly what a tic tac is, what the packet looks like etc, but you couldn't for the life of you put your finger on the last time that you actually had one of these little bundles of joy in your mouth. Well, that was me until about 48 hours ago anyway.
I remember tic tacs being popular when I was a kid, but since then they seemed to have disappeared off the radar, replaced by the ubiquitous Extra chewing gum. I like extra, it may be a poor substitute for actually brushing your teeth but it does make your mouth feel fresher. However, I do not think that Extra fulfills all my mint needs. Firstly, it loses flavour (anyone else think that this is starting to happen faster and faster with Extra too??), secondly it can look tacky in certain situations to be chewing gum, and thirdly there are only a few sticks in each packet.
Enter Tic Tacs.
They are sweet, they are smooth on the tongue, they contain only 2 calories per tic tac (as if I really cared, but just letting you know), and best of all they are seriously minty! These are all good things! Add to that the fact that they come in a super handy little plastic container, that doesn't come open and drop pellets throughout your bag, and the fact that there are probably about 20 tic tacs contained in every box, and you have yourself a seriously viable mouth freshening option here folks!
The first taste when you put the tic tac in your mouth is clearly sweet, it is also more spearminty than pepperminty I would say and has (I don't know if this is just me) an almost caramelly undertone, only very slightly though. This then fades away to a slightly stronger peppermint taste and that minty 'airy' sort of feeling fills your mouth and gets stronger as you suck, or even stronger of course if you chew them. The mintiness is enough to overcome the taste/smell of whatever you ate for lunch but isn't going to have you rushing for the bin and calling the fire brigade on the way.
Depending on whether you suck or chew, one Tic Tac will last 2-3 minutes up to maybe 8 minutes and it in no way loses its flavour before it is entirely gone.
The only downside really (and where it is slightly behind chewing gum) is that once it is entirely gone, your mouth is left feeling minty but not entirely fresh. It's almost as though there is a slight residue or something on the tongue. This may be because of the extra sweetener in the mints. The mintiness and that slight cool feeling do definitely linger in your mouth though.
It may be important to you to know that there are no artificial colourings in these mints. As for me, it's just important that they taste good.
These are not something that I would buy every week or carry with me at all times, but it is certainly nice to rediscover an old favourite and realise that they're just as good today as they were when I was a kid. If you haven't tried tic tacs in a while, pick yourself up a pack - you might be surprised!
Sydney's Kingsford Smith International Airport (SYD) is a fine facility, with a logical layout, modern interior, and comfortable traveler friendly facilities.
With public transport connections to the center of the city through both the 'Airport Link' trains and an Express Bus service, the 9km trip is only 20minutes or so away, depending on the mode of transpor used. The 'Airport Link' train line, which, after being built for the Olympics in 2000, has been dogged by severe underuse ever since (and has subsequently been passed like a hot potato from Government into the hands of a number of commercial operators) is probably the cheapest option. The trip to the city will cost you a reasonably pricey $14 Australian dollars, but when you compare it with the similarly priced bus service that has a little longer travel time, and also to waiting in the queue that snakes out of the taxi stand (a good 20minute wait in itself and a fare that will cost you about $40-50 AUD) it makes a lot of sense.
The fact that Kingsford Smith is Australia's largest and most used international springboard and accommodates over 30 million travelers a year, is not really that surprising. The fact that is it the oldest commercial Airport in the world is a little bit so, but definitely credible. The fact that the airport has taken one of the most positive and progressive pieces of legislation to have swept through Governments around the globe over the last few decades and has used it to completely discriminate against and torture international traveling smokers, is unbelievable.
I am speaking in terms of the non-smoking environment they have created inside the International transit terminal. Being a non-smoker, it was not issue of personal distress for myself and I wouldn't even have noticed, had it not been that I was in direct contact with a few fellow travelers who were more than a little critical, and after they explained their distress to me, I think I have to say I was a little critical too.
Being citizens of the free thinking world, they, and I, found it quite unbelievable that they were denied a window to hang out of, a balcony to slip out onto, or a room to accelerate the onset of emphysema in. Not having either the time to leave the transit area or a visa allowing them to do so anyway, meant that exiting the building was forbidden, and with NOWHERE in the entire building where smokers could go, the weary travelers were told by staff (who where very understanding and compassionate) to "buy a piece of chocolate". Being an ex-smoker and frequent traveller I know that kind of sentiment is the last thing a smoker wants to hear when stepping off a 12 hr flight, with the desire to sit in real non-air-conditioned air and inhale their drug of choice sitting heavy in the moment.
Other than that.. with great viewing decks, plenty of seating, free Internet access, Sydney Kingsford Smith have almost got it right.. but with a little less nannying, they could make a really good airport excellent by accommodating for all of their travelers.
I recently flew with British Airways on a long haul flight from Europe to Australasia. Of course going on holiday is always nice, but I can just as certainly assure you that long haul flights like that are NEVER pleasant. Side note: if at al possible, try to take an extra week of holidays and stop somewhere mid-way between here and Australasia to give yourself a break along the way and another mini-holiday! Anyway, long haul flights may not be nice but the airline can certainly do a lot to either make the ordeal as easy to handle as possible, or they can send you absolutely into despair by making everything a whole lot worse than it needs to be.
When it comes to British Airways, I would have to put them somewhere in the rather uninspired middle ground between the two extremes.
On the plus side, the amount of leg room seemed to be at least as good as other major airlines, and did in fact seem slightly more roomy than the Qantas flight I had on the way back home. However I didnt measure the room so can't say for sure. The inflight staff were also reasonably polite and whilst they didn't exactly seem to take the initiative in terms of making your flight more comfortable they also didn't sulk or humph when I asked for extra glasses of water between meal times (which I have experienced on other flights if the hostess resents having to get up from her seat to attend to you). The entertainment options were also good, there was a good selection of films and tv shows available, although only one episode of each show was available, whereas I know other airlines offer at least three. Also there were no games available on the flight I had, which was a shame but not especially important to me - I can imagine it might be a real negative for other passengers though. The food was not bad in general, although I was annoyed to find that they had not processed my request for vegetarian meals and therefore I had to pick around the meat that I was served where possible - obviously this would be a complete no-go for stricter vegetarians.
On the negative side, the ground staff, especially at Heathrow (although this may have more to do with the airport than the airline) were really inefficient and reluctant to help, and the scheduling of the planes leaves a lot to be desired. My incoming flight to Heathrow was inexplicably delayed and then we had to circle above the airport waiting for a backlog of other planes to clear. This meant that we landed late and I had VERY little time to make my conencting flight. Running through Heathrow airport, trying to change terminals etc, I ended up missing the connecting flight. What annoys me the most though is that if there had simply been a member of staff or even a buggy to meet us as we got off the incoming flight, we wouldnt have had to miss the next flight. Instead the airline had to pay to put us up in the Heathrow Hilton (review on that coming soon) - which seems like such a waste of money to me! And meant that I ended up missing a day of my holiday with friends and family.
Then, when I was checking in the next day, there were all sorts of problem getting my suitcase loaded onto the plane - they had assured me the night before that it was better to leave my bag in the hold as it would then get automatically checked through onto my flight the next day. This meant that I was then in the same clothes for around 4 days by the time I arrived at my destination, as I hadnt a change of clothes in my hand luggage. To then be told several times before the flight that my bad hadnt been loaded and they didnt know where it was was very annoying to say the least! I can only imagine that the mini-tantrum that I threw right before getting on the plane managed to shock them into some action as my bag was eventually "found" and loaded onto the plane. At least they were kind enough to send me a message in my seat that my bag was in fact onbaord. Still I was amazed that right up until 5 minutes before flying they had no clue where my bag was - doesnt sound very secure!!
So, on balance I would give the airline a 3 out of 5 stars. It's a shame really because they have the potential to be a lot better, just a lack of organisation and trained staff on the ground really let them down.
Fish mornay is a dish my mother used to cook when I was young, and I always enjoyed it - it's such great comfort food. So, it's strange that for years after I left home I simply never cooked it. I couldn't say why, I guess I just forgot about it. But recently I was getting totally bored of eating the same old things all the time, and that's when I remembered this old favourite and decided to bring it out for a bit of a comeback.
I do think Fish Mornay (or at least the more traditional way that I make it) is not the most sophisticated of dishes. I wouldn't probably cook this if I was having company for dinner, however on cold nights, or when you feel like a change, it's fantastic.
So, to make the basic recipe you'll need butter, flour, milk, cheese, tinned fish (tuna or salmon), vegetables of your choice, and flavourings (I use salt, pepper, and nutmeg).
First, simply start like you're making a basic white sauce. Put a generous scoop of butter in a pan on medium heat until it melts. Add enough flour to make a paste, then quickly add the milk, stirring constantly. Depending on how much you're making, you'll need at least 2 cups of milk. It is important to keep stirring the sauce so that you don't get lumps. Once the sauce is started to thicken, add your grated cheese. You can experiment with different cheeses - obviously something like a parmesan would give you a stronger flavour. I usually just use gouda.
Next stir in your drained, tinned fish, and essentially that is the basis of the fish mornay. But of course there are loads of extras you can add, in different combinations, to make the dish both more nutritious and tastier.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can use it to use up almost whatever veges you have left in the fridge at the end of the week. Particular favourites of mine are green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots (veges should be chopped and boiled or steamed for a few minutes, until soft but still firm, before being added to the mornay). However, you can add pretty much anything.
Tinned products can also be added, such as kidney beans, or tinned corn. I also like hard boiling a few eggs and chopping these up to add in to the mornay just before serving, and frozen peas are also great as they give the dish a nice bit of colour.
In terms of seasoning, you will definitely want to add salt and pepper, and I usually use a few other spices too - especially if you're not using a strongly flavoured cheese. Nutmeg is fantastic with the white sauce, but paprika is also good.
To serve, you can ladle the mornay over bread or toast, eat it just as it is, or serve it over rice for a more substantial meal. It's nice to add something a little fresh on top such as sliced spring onions, or parsley. And voila! An easy, relatively healthy (especially if you load up on the veges and use low fat milk), delicious comfort food meal. Enjoy!
This fragrance has been one of my favourite since I was a teenager. Probably I initially just liked the very unusual and exotic looking bottle, but as I got older and became more experienced with other scents, I began to appreciate just how special this perfume is.
Launched in 1993, the perfume is described as 'Floriental' since it combines both oriental, spicy flavours, with the lightness of floral scents. The notes that are associated with this fragrance include rose, mandarin, orchid, iris and woody amber. It is definitely a very romantic, sensual perfume, not something very fresh (like, for example, Gucci Rush, that you would probably want to wear during the day or in summer) but something more suited to eveningwear, or days when you want to feel a bit special.
Myself, I only really notice the citrusy mandarin elements of the fragrance when it is first sprayed on the skin. As with most perfumes, the scent on application is quite different to the main scent of the perfume. In some perfumes this is disappointing, but for Classique, the mid-notes that create the long-lasting scent of the fragrance are definitely the most enjoyable.
After a few minutes, the softer, more mature notes come through in the perfume, including the rose and the amber. It does also smell a little bit spicy to me, which I suppose is the oriental element, though I couldn't pinpoint exactly which spice it reminds me of.
This perfume wears incredibly well. It is quite noticeable for a few hours, and after that it will still be a subtle scent that you and anyone who gets close enough (ooh lala) will be able to smell. I like that it lingers in this way, without being overpowering - there's nothing worse than people smelling you before you walk into a room (or 20 minutes after for that matter!). In fact, if I spray this on my skin before going out in the evening, I can often smell it on my wrists, very faintly, the morning after. I find this quite amazing, and I think it's great as you don't feel like all your scent is gone before stepping out the door at night. It also means you're going to get more mileage out of a bottle- which is good since this stuff is not cheap!
A 50mL bottle of Classique will set you back around 30 pounds, while a 100mL is around 45. This is approximately the same as other designer brand perfumes, or perhaps just a little more than some. But you get what you pay for since this perfume is a wonderfully unique, mature scent, and will last on your skin and clothes for ages. Also, this is no fad product, and will never smell cheap or generic.
My recommendation? Convince someone to get you a bottle as a gift, buy some duty free, or just save your (dooyoo) pennies and get yourself some. This perfume is divine, and definitely here to stay.
I am something of an addict to my regular lip balm, but occasionally people give me other balms as presents, and as such I feel obliged to use them. Such was the case with The Body Shop Rich Plum Shimmer Lip Balm. I have a feeling that this was one of The Body Shop's line of Christmas Products, so it may not be available all year round.
Getting straight down to it, I would describe the texture of the balm as very greasy, not creamy or waxy as some other lip products. The balm is a very rich, deep purple colour, and the slightly lighter shade of purple shimmer is visible in the pot. The standard container of this balm contains 10mL of the product. The product has a strong, very sweet scent, but I certainly wouldn't say it smells at all like plums. It is also largely tasteless - so don't be expecting sweet lips with this product!
You only need a very small amount of this product to cover both lips well as, for one thing, as I said the balm is very greasy and therefore spreads thinly over the lips, rather than giving you a thicker coating like some lip products. The other reason you wouldn't want to apply too much is that if you use any more than a very thin layer your lips will actually take on a decidedly purple tinge. This is not attractive as it is not a smooth colour, it looks more like those very cheap glosses you probably wore as a child when playing dress-ups. I wouldn't be too harsh on the product for this though, as when only a little is used it does give a nice shimmer and only the slightest hint of colour, which is quite pretty. It also doesn't make your lips look glittery, if that is something you're not too fond of, instead it gives the whole lip a 'wet look' shine.
However, this is not a lip gloss or colour, it is supposed to be a lip balm. So the question is, how well does it do protecting and moisturising your lips? I actually find that in terms of protecting the skin, this product does a great job. Especially during the winter months it's easy for lips to get dry, but this product seems to put rather an impenetrable layer over the skin to protect from chapping. However, you do need to apply it often as it comes off with just about any contact, I find. The problem is, the balm seems really to only sit on the top of the skin and doesn't seem to actually absorb much in order to give any moisture to the skin. Therefore, as a moisturiser I don't find that this really helps at all. That for me is a major strike against this product.
My next major gripe is that this is one of those balms that doesn't seem to stay where it's supposed to, i.e. the lips. I find it constantly gets inside my mouth and I can taste/feel that sort of sticky feeling at the back of my throat due to the greasiness of the balm. Whilst this is not exactly the end of the world, I do find it annoying, and with so many other lip products out there that don't do this, I really don't like wearing this product as much as others I have tried.
All in all I am giving this balm three stars since it does do part of it's job (i.e. protecting the lips from further drying) even if it doesn't seem to actually improve the condition of the lips much. Also, it does have a nice shimmer, and I'm sure that some people would enjoy having the light colour in their lip balm. This product is probably the sort that you'll wear for a few weeks or months but then throw out without having finished the little tub (which does seem like it would last for absolutely ages given that you need so little to cover the lip). It's ok, adequate, but not particularly inspiring, and you would always need to use it in conjunction with another product that has better moisturising properties.
This is really not the type of book that I would normally pick up, let alone choose to read, however it was given to us as a gift and therefore I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. Being an avid reader I am always on the look out for more material to feed the fire, so am not one to look a gift book in the mouth, so to speak.
Rutherford seems to have made a career of writing these sweeping historical fiction novels, basing the novel around a particular place - Dublin, in the case of this novel - and using a series of characters through the centuries to explore the history. Dublin is his fourth of fifth book following this format - the preceeding ones including London, New Forest and Russka.
I can see how this premise would be very appealing to many readers - it combines some well-researched and interesting historical information (all the better for improving one's ability to hold high brow dinner party conversations), with the usual blend of best-seller simplicity, stereotyping, and sex (the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down). If one could separate the novel from its best-seller tendencies, I can see how, in the abstract, it is an interesting idea to put the focus of a novel on a place and its common history, rather than a specific set of characters. I would be interested to read a novel that follows this theme but holds itself to higher standards of storytelling.
Dublin starts out reasonably well, although still with that extremely plot-driven best-seller style of writing. The first characters we are introduced to belong to a small-fry chief's family residing in the area that will one day be Dublin, and the then High King of Ireland's family. The love story that develops between two of the characters is engaging, if somewhat predictable. The focus on the Druids of ancient Ireland was particularly interesting, and helped to get me stuck into the novel.
The trouble was that fairly soon (since this is historical fact I probably can't blame the author entirely!) the island's native religious belief system begins to be overrun by Christianity, which since we have recently formed attachments to the previous characters, does not sit so well with the reader, however Rutherford still expects us to sympathise with the whole new cast of characters coming in to play in subsequent generations.
Basically this encapsulates the problem with the novel; Rutherford tries very hard to get us to associate and sympathise with his characters, succeeding far better in some cases than others, but then no sooner have you become attached to a character than they disappear again into the mists of time. Instead, Rutherford seems to try to engage the reader by following the lines of several families through history, using the most stereotyped and in some cases ridiculous characterisations imaginable. For example, we had one family of crafty merchants whose defining feature is a bulging eye that seemed to somehow have a terrible ability to see to the heart of all matters (or some such rubbish), and we were constantly reminded of the 'piercing green eyes, and dark good looks' of the sensitive, spirited descendants of Fergus (one of the initial chiefs in the area). Personally I found this a cheap substitute for real character development, and even, at times, a little insulting to the intelligence - the way the author tried to 'allude' (about as subtly as a sledge hammer) to a new character's lineage.
The novel also seems to take very little stance, politically or ethically, in relation to the different people that came to Ireland to repress, conquer, exploit or otherwise influence the country and it's population, which is a bit weak from my point of view. If you are writing a novel which chooses to centralise a place, rather than characters, then surely there should be some feeling of engagement with the city and it's development. Personally I felt no emotional connection at all to the development of the city, and reading the novel I never particularly cared which army won during the various battles. It was all told so matter of factly and through characters that I didn't really care about that I couldn't really get invested.
So why keep reading through the 1200 odd pages, I hear you ask? Well, for all its failings, I did find the scope and vision of the project to be interesting, and there were sufficient hints throughout the book that something worthwhile might actually happen to one of the characters soon for me to keep reading (these were largely false hopes I should add). There were a few notable character interactions that engaged me enough for me to want to keep reading - one for example, being a series of misunderstandings between two women leading one to suspect that the other was trying to cheat her out of her husband, her land, and her money, when indeed quite the opposite was the case.
The trouble is that these well set-up character inter-plays never actually reached satisfactory conclusions. In the case of the two women, the ending was simply that the pure motives of the one woman became clear, and the other felt foolish for her suspicions. Then the story moves on to the next set of characters. Not exactly terribly satisfying.
The novel has also clearly been meticulously researched. I am no scholar on Irish history so cannot attest to the accuracy of the information, but it does at least seem to be fairly detailed, which leads me to believe that Rutherford has done his homework. It is just a shame, in my opinion, that he doesn't seem to have invested the same effort into sufficient character development to make the story really engaging. For example, we could have had much more focus on a few sets of characters throughout the period addressed by the novel, and perhaps the time gaps between these generations could have been filled by characters telling the history of their ancestors, or some other such device to make the characters seem more 3D.
All in all I would find this hard to recommend, as it isn't really especially successful as a work of fiction, or as a historical account. It's probably only worth reading if you're a particular fan of historical fiction, if you have a specific interest in Dublin and Irish history, or if, like me, you can't find enough to read and need something to keep you occupied for a week or two.
It was raining lightly as we waited in the queue with other ticket holders to get in. In the queue of non-ticket holders (that is a queue that numbered in total one), there was the most unusual looking woman. Possibly 40-45 years old, well dressed, and by the look of her, well fed. Nothing noteworthy I hear you say and I agree, but what made her stand out of the crowd (despite the fact she didn't have a ticket) was that she stood there shouting in a heavy husky voice "Break on through to the other side!" over and over to what some could possibly classify (if faced with a man with an assault rife and intent) as 'a melody'.. the whole while with a fist in the air and Beer bottle in hand.
Now being only a part time Rollins fan I began to wonder if I was missing something. Was this just one of the legion of Henry that, while possibly unable to afford the moderately hefty ticket price, was going to show her allegiance to the bulked up former king and current ambassador of most things punk in anyway she knew how? I scratched my head and searched my limited knowledge of all things Rollins (Black Flag, Rollins Band and cameo appearances in numerous films, current US TV show) and came to the conclusion that this woman was either an extreme fan of great credibility who knew of an obscure cover that that no-one else did.. or she had mistaken the big man for a more slender and tuneful Jim Morrison (1943-1971).
As with anyone as prolific as Henry Rollins, it's difficult to claim to know everything that he has had a hand in over the last 30 odd years, and with a tally of his spoken-word albums alone reaching around 20 (give or take a few) his CV would definitely need to be explained and described by the man himself, and therein lies the lure of the Henry Rollins spoken word tour. The draw-card of this show for most is the travel bag of musings, tales, and anecdotes that he tells from a non-rock star's perspective, despite the fact has lived a rock star like life, and did it all sober and taking notes as he went.
The current form of his show is called "Provoked" and consist of Henry, a microphone, a big sound system and quite nice lighting, and one hell of a manic run down memory lane.
The show began and immediately I was overwhelmed with a the urge to get up on stage and simply put an arm around the friendly fellow, tell him he was o.k in my book, and ask if he could please speak a little slower. He sounded and looked like he was spinning his wheels in a very eccentric kind of way, which to be honest, I wasn't expecting from someone who has been doing their own stand-up (oops.. I mean spoken word) for over 20 years.
The initial minutes consisted of so many anti-Presidential-American gags on comedic par with those overweight international spam e-mails, that they almost left me beginning to regret having made it this far. This overload of US anti-war mileage was not the best of starts, but I was sure it was leading to a heroic trebuchet assault up and over the wall to his pile of musical reminisces I came along to see.. so I hung in there.
Dedication works. Maybe that was the underlying life lesson that he was trying to teach us - that persistence pays off. Much to my relief his tales moved from war time politics and his need to apologise for all the mistakes of one country's President, to tales of Iggy Pop, Minor Threat, Van Halen the relatively unknown punk kings "The Rutts" and a Christopher Walken impression that had most in the venue doing double takes. Very good. This seasoned with his globe trotting tales of his travels in countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Israel, that were warm and interesting enough to make a well travelled European audience laugh, made very good entertainment.
So as a whole, I believe the hardest working man in non-rock and roll was definitely able to share enough tales, get enough giggles, and give enough insight to inspire, entertain, and inform and despite the political blunders of preaching the anti-war message to the converted or serving up a pointless one sided debate with himself over very safe topics that have everything to do with an MTV audience, but have nothing to do with the kind of audience that comes to see him live (and to put it bluntly, comes off sounding somewhat condescending.. ) <phew>.. I'd still put my arm round him tell him that he is o.k in my book and go and see him again in the future.
Go Rollins go.
Have you been fooled into believing that there is no such thing as a dessert that is easy to cook AND will impress the heck out of any friends/business associates/exes that you are cooking dinner for? Well, throw aside that falsehood and step into the world of creme brulees. I know, I wouldn't have believed that these delicious custardy treats were easy either, but I assure you they are.
You'll need cream, milk, sugar, eggs, and whatever flavouring you'd like for the brulee itself (such as cinammon, lime, coconut - more on this later). You'll also need small, oven-proof dishes or rammikins for baking, and a brulee torch wouldn't go astray either but is absolutely not essential, especially if you're just testing this dessert out.
To begin take a cup each of milk and cream and bring these to the boil in a pot on the stove. Once the mixture has briefly boiled, turn down the heat a little so that it simmers, and stir in one cup of sugar (or a little more or less depending on how much of a sweet-tooth you are). You can make a plain creme brulee, that is without adding any additional flavouring, but if you want to get a bit creative you add your flavouring at this point. If it is something that needs to be infused and then removed - such as tea flavours, whole leaves, etc, add the flavouring to the warm milk mixture while you're preparing the eggs. Otherwise, with dry spice these can be added with the beaten eggs. Add one egg for each cup of other ingredients (therefore, in these quantities, 6 eggs - but if you want to make a larger batch simply add one more egg for each cup increase in the measurements). Remove the milk mixture from the heat and stir in the beaten eggs.
The next step is simply to pour the mixture evenly between your rammikins and set these into a moderate oven (about 150 degrees) for around 30 minutes, or until set. Then remove the dishes from the oven and let them cool. They can also be stored in the refrigerator if desired.
Before serving, add about one and a half teaspoons of sugar to the top of each brulee and spread it evenly over the surface. If you have a brulee torch it is easy and quick to glaze the surface of the dessert, without heating the pudding through. Otherwise it is perfectly acceptable to use a hot grill in the oven and set the brulees under it until the sugar has melted.
The brulees can then be served plain or with cream or ice cream. Delicious! And there's nothing more satisfying than cracking the sugar layer on the top!
Now onto some great ways to flavour your brulees...
There are of course simple and fantastic flavourings like cinammon, nutmeg, star anise, or vanilla. But really you can let your imagination run wild with different ideas. For example, why not turn your favourite tea blend into a subtle and sophisticated brulee dessert! Simply add a few tea bags (preferably made at home from loose leaves) to the milk mixture while it's warming. Early Grey is especially good but Broken Orange Pekoe would also be great.
Another great option is to make a crust for your brulees to give it more of a tart flavour. Simply crush plain, sweet biscuits, and stir in sufficient melted butter to make the crumbs combine. Then press into the bottom of the pan and pour the brulee over the top.
Hope you enjoy making these easy and fantastic brulees - you'll be addicted sooner than you can say "lemon, lime, and coconut!".
Newfoundland dogs are indigenous to the Canadian island of Newfoundland, that is, the breed was created on the island from other species that were native to the island. The are very large dogs, usually weighing around 60 to 70kg when fully grown, and standing at about hip height on an average human. They are not a common breed, probably due to the relatively high level of care that they require, and they are also generally very expensive to purchase when bred by lisenced breeders.
I was lucky enough to grow up with a Newfoundland dog, and as a result I have fallen in love with them for life. Newfoundlands are well known for their sweet and gentle temperaments, and this was certainly my experience. I have never seen an aggressive Newfoundland, nor did we EVER have any problems with our Newfie being aggressive. Of course it's true that a dog's temperament will be largely dependant on how it was raised and trained, there are some species that are naturally more predisposed towards fighting (often, like dobermans or bull terriers, this is because in the history of the breed they were specifically bred for these qualities).
Newfies on the other hand were bred traditionally as rescue dogs. Somewhat like a water version of the St Bernards that used to carry the little flasks of Brandy up to people lost on snowy peaks, the Newfoundland breed was originally bred to assist in water rescues in the freezing waters surrounding the island of Newfoundland. As a result the Newfies have some rather peculiar features for a dog - they have webbed feet for a start (really! there are little webbed bits of skin between their toes), and they also have extremely thick, water-resistant coats.
This makes them extremely cute dogs as they are very fluffy and soft, however it also has a drawback as it means that they do drop a lot of hair and require a lot of brushing. Therefore Newfies are definitely not the breed of dog for you if you don't have a lot of time to spend with them.
The extra work though is definitely worth it. Newfies are extremely loyal, do not yap, make good 'guard' dogs (that is, they look big and have a very deep bark, which is likely to scare away any burglars - however, if it actually came to having to guard your house a Newfie is more likely to try to lick a burglar to death than actually attack), and are extremely good with children.
In fact, when I was growing up, my younger brother who was only a toddler, used to sit and lie on our dog when she was lying on the floor, and play with her ears and 'pet' her (you can imagine this probably wasn't the nicest petting for a dog) and our Newfie never used to complain or move or in any way object. Again though, this love of human interaction, while it means that you will have a very dear friend in your Newfie, also means that you have to be prepared to devote a lot of attention to the dog. Newfies will not amuse themselves, like some other dogs or perhaps cats will, instead if they feel like you are not giving them enough attention, they will follow you everywhere, get under your feet, or sprawl themselves out on the floor in the most high-traffic areas of your home! And with a dog of this size that definitely means that you won't fail to notice them!
Newfies are most often black, although they can also be found in chocolate brown and even white with coloured markings. Show-quality Newfies have slightly higher front legs that back and their front legs are more developed. They have big chests and heads, with floppy (irresistably cute!) ears, and big tongues. To be honest, they do tend to 'slobber' quite a bit! As part of their friendly natures, Newfies love to lick and nudge anyone who'll let them. However, our dog never had any issues with the sort of drool that St Bernards get, i.e. that leaks out of their mouth at all times! So in that sense they are a little bit easier.
As puppies Newfies are absolutely gorgeous - just like racing balls of fluff. However they quickly grow bigger and it is important (as with all dogs) that they are properly trained as when they are young and a little boisterous, and obviously unaware of their size and strength, they can be unintentionally rough when they're playing. Most Newfies then slow down quite considerably as they get older, and require a lot less exercise. Our Newfie though was rather atypical and thought she was a puppy right through until old age! That being said, they do still sleep a lot... they're probably not the ideal dog if you're looking for a jogging partner for example. Our Newfie would go tearing out of the driveway and then 10 minutes later be looking towards home... oh dear.
As with all big dogs, Newfies do have a tendency to suffer problems with their hips as they get older, and it is therefore extremely important that they are kept fit and healthy. Again, a common feature of all big dogs is that they do eat quite a lot more than smaller pets. This will obviously have a cost, so make sure that you are prepared for this before considering getting a Newfie.
All in all, if you have the time, and the space, and are prepared for the cost, I can't recommend Newfies highly enough. Our Newf was the sweetest, most loyal, and friendly dog for all of her 13 years and we were all devastated when she passed away. They are great with children, do not get jealous or possessive, and are extremely fun-loving. They are also easily trained and love water (except for when it's bath time of course!), so if you live near a beach or lake that would be ideal. They do need extra attention in the summer when their thick coats can become extremely hot for them, but all the attention if definitely worth it.
The Con is the fifth album from young Canadian folk-rockers Tegan and Sara. The band is somewhat unusual in that it actually consists of two identical twins; Tegan and Sara Quin. The twins hail from Calgary and have already delivered a surprisingly large amount of material, given that they were only born in 1980. While Tegan and Sara are yet to reach full-blown international success, their blend of quirky pop, indie-folk, and rock has won them a loyal following in many countries. They have also secured support gigs for many big names including Neil Young, Ben Lee, The Killers, and Cake.
The Con is the girls' first release since their most popular offering, 2004's So Jealous. Recorded predominantly in Christopher Walla's living room and with guest appearances from both unknown and recognised musicians (e.g. Jason McGerr from Death Cab for Cutie) the new album takes the band's sound even further into the quirky but infectious rock-pop territory that they do so well. The girls have recorded an album which includes 14 tracks but is still barely over half an hour in length. This allows them to play with a variety of style and the album feels sort of like a smorgasbord of different sounds and styles, tied together by the girls' unique vocals.
The opening track "I Was Married" is a great example, at just on one and a half minutes it is a sweet and upbeat track that sets the mood of the album perfectly. This swiftly segues into "Relief Next To Me" which has a slightly stronger bass line and rockier overtones. One of the things that makes this music so listenable is the simplistic but layered sounds and excellent lyrics that keep you constantly ready for a repeat listen. The two girls sing back-up vocals on each other's songs and their voices harmonise perfectly together.
The title track epitomises what this band does so well - catchy guitar riffs, a killer chorus that, and an irresistable sing-along sound, that still manages to stay well away from cheesy or predictable. "Knife Going In" is another change of pace, with slightly more dominant drums, a slightly slower pace, and darker, more raw vocals. It is incredibly refreshing to hear pop music (or indie-pop) that isn't all candy and rainbows, and Tegan and Sara give us intelligent, emotive, and powerful pop music that is nevertheless very accessible.
The sixth track on the album "Back in Your Head" is the most undeniably pop-influenced song on the album. Seeing the band perfom the song live, the girls themselves described the song as "the type of song you hear once and by the end feel like you've heard it a thousand times". The catchiness though is not the tired mass-produced pop of the Top 40, the slightly retro feeling keys in the back of the mix give this song a little something that won't grate on any but the most intense pop-haters out there.
The upbeat mood continues with "Hop a Plane", but "Soil, Soil" is another slightly more sombre offering, with acoustic piano and interesting vocal combinations that are instantly engaging. "Burn Your Life Down" is one of my favourite songs on the album with it's strong vocals that I can just never resist singing along with! It's great music whether you want to sing along in the shower, or go tearing down a freeway with the windows down.
"Like O, Like H" and "Dark Come Soon" are both great additions to the album, the first with it's slightly ominous sounding distorted guitar and the vocals that the two twins seem to toss back and forward between each other. The second with an awesome guitar hook and driving bassline, punctuated by simple chorus. However I really couldn't pick and 'weak links' on the album, so it's probably just personal preference as to which songs are highlights. Some albums have clear filler tracks that have evidently been bashed together at the last minute, but there is absolutely no sense of this on The Con. Each song is like a unique but necessary piece of the puzzle.
The last track on the album, "Call It Off" is certainly a highlight. Watching the DVD you can see that the track was recorded almost entirely in one take when Tegan managed to come out with one of those miracle moments singing and playing her guitar. The back-up vocals and other instrumentation are sparse and preserve that amazing sense of a heartfelt song that just somehow perfectly comes together. The lyrics also are amongst the strongest on the album. At just under 2 and a half minutes the song is short, sweet, and keeps you wanting more. Like the album generally.
Quite apart from the music, the album can be recommended by the highly amusing and engaging DVD that the girls made during the recording of the album, and which is included with the CD. The DVD includes footage of the musicians' performances during recording of the album, the girls' interviewing their friends and peers, and them talking with producer Chris Walla about their views of the album. All in all it makes for fun viewing, whether you're interested in the recording process, a fan of the band, or just looking for some easy entertainment and a few laughs. Tegan and Sara come across as very anassuming, down to earth people, who are nevertheless passionate about music and love what they do.
The album artwork is also interesting. The band has opted for the rather unusual card packaging in favour of the standard plastic case, and an album booklet with lyrics to all the songs is included. It's nice to see a band that looks at their album as a whole package and the package that Tegan and Sara have come up with reflects their creativity and individual style.
All in all, if you haven't come across these Canadian lasses yet, go out there and beg borrow or buy yourself a copy of The Con. It won't be long before you're looking for their back catalogue too. For a start, check out their website at www.teganandsara.com and if you get the chance to see them perform live, grab it with both hands - they're definitely worth it.
I first watched 28 Days Later a few years back with no prior knowledge of plot, film techniques or directors. A friend and fellow Zombie flick fan had merely informed me that if I wanted to survive the impending Zombie revolution I had best get myself down to the Cinema. There was a new development.
To put it simply, I was a semi-committed Zombie film fan with a basic knowledge and understanding of what Zombies could, should, and normally do, an education straight from the much loved "Night/Dawn (etc) of the Dead" school and was looking forward to being treated to more tales of the undead.
But director Danny Boyle had changed the face of Zombie forever, by teaching the undead (well.. they aren't technically dead in these films) that they were no longer there for comedic value, but there to serve a punishing purpose - to be damn scary. This new Zombie 2.0 did it well and at high speed.. it could sprint faster than the brain fodder they were chasing and were no longer interested in just one over rated human organ, they would take what ever they could get. I was thoroughly impressed.
As soon as I heard of the sequel I was already looking for the closest cinema.
In '28 Weeks Later', Juan Carlos Fresnadillo took over the Directors chair and with him came his appointed director of cinematography Enrique Chediak.
The film starts slowly and in the same time frame, if not shortly after, the original movie. The virus that infected most of the population of England, removed their senses, made them over-clocked Zombie like murder machines and almost brought Britain to a smoking ruin, is still in the initial stages.
Cue the couple of Don (Robert Carlyle) and Alice (Catherine McCormack) to relate their dangerous position and selected segments of their frightening tale. They do this through a series of obvious hints and cues and sorrowful looks which are understandably crucial in setting the scene and story but at the same time always seem a little condescending and annoying in movies like this (especially in a sequel) as the majority of viewers are waiting for someone's head to explode, limbs to be removed.. and so on and so on.
Trapped in a farmhouse in rural England, the couple gently give a human face and personal interest to the conflict as we learn of their two children Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) and Tammy (Imogen Poots) who, being abroad abroad at the time of the initial outbreak and subsequently were spared of the terror, but are currently of great concern to them. A gentle explanation of the 'not so difficult to pick up on' story line (which, lets face it, is not why you pay your squid to go to see this kind of movie).
The tension mounts as we realise just how scary the English countryside can be, especially being surrounded by a mob of frenzied zombies waiting to get their chance to take chunks out of the uninfected.
After the lazy start, the first heavily anticipated action shapes up to be a good ride, despite the use the over used exaggerations of the now industry standard hand (or not so steady) cam, the same over used hand-mounted cam that still, after all this time in mainstream film and television, not to mention in the original 28 Days Later, leaves me feeling frustrated, like the production crew cut corners, and like I've just stepped out of a washing machine. The action tells the story as the house captives are forced to leave the house in grand style, and try to make their escape.
After the dust of action settles and the viewer can return to the chair they left moments earlier (and most importantly 'lower their voice'), it's time to enjoy the more broader impersonal picture and update, after being up front and personal for most of the movie so far.
We are given a brief explanation of important events that happened as we are fast forwarded to the current time point of 28 Weeks (Later) after the initial outbreak. The re-population of Britain is taking place in the centre of a highly militarised zone in central London, patrolled and controlled (strangely?) by the long arm of Uncle Sam's law, while the virus is thought to be dying out in the wild due to the lack of subsistence farming skills in the wider Zombie community (and flesh to eat).
As new characters are introduced the story develops and it looks to be evident that the children Andy and Tammy will be central to the story.. and that is where I will leave that.
The cast.. well.. there is Soldier with an unbelievable and improbable approach to free will and authority, a believable military medical specialist with not so good common sense, an all too believable Military commander with his finger on the detonator, and a lot of Zombies and Zombie food in between.
The Actors mostly did a good job but with no real amazing performances. The stand out scenes really only came with the introduction of the virus and the vehement nature in which it takes its victims, which leaves the obvious here not really needing to be said, but I will say it anyway - The real star of of the film is those infected - the Zombie.
Despite the movie actually losing a bit of steam 3/4's of the way through, and the feelings of bewilderment regarding some of the somewhat daft choices made by main characters supposedly trained to deal with combat situations (possibly and probably due to budgeting restrictions in the production) it is a thoroughly enjoyable movie.
A warning for those of you on a tighter intestinal leash or easily made green.. there are a few scenes here where you might be thinking enough is enough, waiting for director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo to tag you out of the ring (the scene will cut very soon etc) but throughout the movie there are moments when it doesn't. It's perfectly balanced and weighted to genre and subject matter and in terms of gratuitous violence factor, it definitely gets a believable rating of three and a half severed little fingers out of five. Great.
I look forward to the next.. (or did I just give it away?)