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From being a peanut butter hater a few years ago, I now get through plenty of the stuff especially for breakfast. Seeing as it has become a staple in my diet I thought I'd try out a few brands to see which I prefer.
I'd tried many of the more expensive brands and decided, with them costing £1.40 upwards, it may be time to drop a brand level and give the Sainsbury's basics crunchy peanut butter a go, especially at only 62 p a jar. I haven't tried much of the basics range but generally find Sainsbury's own brand stuff very good.
With the basics range you are not paying for superfluous packaging - just a simple plastic label and a plastic jar for this nutty butter (although the plastic jar can also be found on Sainsbury's next brand up PB too).
On opening the jar I was greeted by what I was expecting lumpy peanut coloured spread - although it did look a little shinier and runnier than other brands I'd tried. A quick investigation of the label explained this slight anomaly, only 87% of this butter is peanuts with two different oils - rapeseed and palm - being added to it (along with salt and sugar). Hmm was I about to try peanut oil? I spread some on my toast - easy to spread, a little going a longer way than other brands (sometimes slightly further than I'd wanted thanks to the runnier nature) and plenty of nuts - and tucked in. The peanut butter did not taste at all oily, it tasted pleasantly nutty and ever so slightly sweet, without the mouth gluing effect of thicker peanut butters. I've tested the next brand up of Sainsbury's peanut butter and I can't really tell the difference between the two as far as taste is concerned.
Nutritionally a large amount of peanut butter is never great for you and this brand is no exception with 610 cal per 100g (just under a third of the jar) and 52.6 g of fat (9.8g of which are saturates). But it's not a total nutritional nightmare with 22.2g of protein and 5.6g of fibre.
Looking at these figures I must stop eating teaspoons full of the stuff, having said that the runnier texture did stop me doing that to some extent. Although I did find it excellent as a dip with celery sticks!
All in all I would definitely buy this peanut butter again, I did miss the thicker texture of other brands but there was no degradation in the taste. And for the price you definitely can't do 'butter'!
Oasis - a drink that has recently been part of a fairly amusing advertising campaign but has been available, on and off, in UK shops for years.
And, not being a huge fan of fizzy drinks, it is a drink which I have enjoyed for years.
Oasis is a still fruit juice drink from Coca Cola. As far as I am aware it is only available in three flavours, Summer Fruits and Citrus Punch seem widely available, the Blackcurrant Apple on I have not come across yet. They are available in 500ml and 1.5 litre bottles.
My favourite flavour is Summer Fruits. I find the drink refreshing and fruity, but not too sweet (and I generally only drink sugar free drinks). It leaves me nicely rehydrated without the gassy after effects of a fizzy drink. Its not an overly natural drink the majority of it is water, but it does contain fruit juices from concentrates (surprisingly only 5%) and natural fruit flavouring (and carrot flavouring somewhat bizarrely - luckily you can't taste this). Nutritionally this drink only contains 18 calories per 100ml, not bad for a full sugar drink; less good news is the sugar content - 4.1g per 100ml, this is why I'll should really go for the sugar free option.
It comes in a wide neck, screw top bottle so the drink can be resealed if you can't finish it all in one go and it can be stored in the fridge for 3 days after opening (another advantage it has over fizzy drinks). The wide neck bottle can take some getting used to if you're drinking straight from the bottle, I can recommend not walking whilst drinking this!
All in all this is my drink of preference when out and about, shame about the sugar content though.
I don't have a huge music collection, although what I do have is somewhat eclectic, and I was enjoying listening to a selection of it on my I Pod Shuffle (which I still have and use for running) when my sister persuaded me to take advantage of an offer and buy myself an I Pod Touch. I hadn't really considered buying one before and I was a little steam rollered into this purchase; something I often would live to regret. Luckily several months on, and a litlle time spent getting to know my gadget, I am very pleased to say that on the whole I love my I Pod and would not give it back. And, in a very non-technical and hopefully non-geeky way, I'll let you know why.
Firstly this is a wonderfully sleek gadget, thin enough to slip in your back pocket (but I would think it would need removing before sitting down) with a shiny silver look back and and smooth touch screen face. To keep it looking this way it is a good idea to purchase some form of cover (finding one specifically for the touch and not the I Phone was tricky but a simple mobile phone sock works well for everyday use) and screen protector.
Now the only reason I bought this I Pod was as a music player and that it does very well, it's easy to transfer music via ITunes on your computer onto the I Pod; at its simplest and if you're not fussy about what goes onto the I Pod, all you need do is plug in the I Pod via its USB cable open I Tunes and it will auto update, selecting the music you want uploading isn't much trickier using I Tunes - a few clicks on the programme and your I Pod is loaded with music. (A point here about all I Pods - you can only download music to them via the I Tunes programme) The music is saved on the I Pod in albums with associated art work. As with all I Pods you can play you music by album, artist or in a random shuffle mode. The only issue I have with the Touch as a music player is that it only has 8Gb of memory, a fair amount but if you have a moderately large music collection (more than approximately 2000 songs) then you'll only be able to upload a proportion of the music. In actual fact due to the other gadgets on the I Pod you don't get the full 8Gb for your music, and thats before we get onto apps and everything else.
Over the last few months I have been expanding my use of the I Pod. The first step was testing out its wifi capability whilst on a long coach journey. The I Pod links simply to wi fi (I needed no instructions to do this) and you can browse all the internet. The slight problem is that browsing via the touch screen (for both its size and functionality) takes a while to get used to (this is where I probably should have read the instructions!). But as an 'emergency' method of using wifi it's fine. A point to note is that the Touch has no 3G capability so to use the internet you need a wifi point.
I have also recently realised that the Touch has camera functionality; it has two lenses - one to takes photos of what you are looking at the other to either take photos of yourself or to use Apple's talktime function (something I haven't tried yet so can't comment on) However the camera itself is fairly decent, I've used it to take photos for a blog and there was no hugely noticeable difference. A couple of minor issues were that it didn't compensate too well for indoor lighting and I couldn't find a zoom function, but for snapshots I can't find fault with it.
It is also possible to get various apps for the Touch and to watch video on it but again I haven't tried either of these yet so again can't comment.
One last point - having used this as a music player mostly I have found that the battery life has been pretty good and its easy to top it up via the USB cable when uploading your music. I would guess though that if you used the Touch to browse the internet or watch videos for any length of time, or purely left it connected to WiFi, then the battery would not last anywhere near as long.
As stated at the start this was an impulse buy that could've been a disaster but has turned into a gadget that I love. The best thing about the Touch is its multifunctionality (and its a pretty good music player too!), its a little pricy (at just under £190) but I think on the whole its worth it - although more memory for my money would be great.
Having fairly recently bought the Kenwood KMix coffee maker and needing a new kettle I treated myself to the red Kenwood KMix kettle to match (other colours may be available). I say treat as this was somewhat more expensive than any other kettle I have bought
But what do you get for your cash?
It's a well made (from stainless steel), traditional looking, little red kettle - very stylish. But when I say little I'm not joking. It can only boil 1.25 litres of water at a time, fine if you're single like me but not so great if you're brewing up for a group of visitors. Although this limited volume does mean that it takes up limited space on your work top, with a diameter of just 18cm.
Coming from an area cursed with the fuzzing up of kettles with limescale (can't remember if that's caused by hard or soft water) I was pleased to find out that this kettle had a concealed element (that is a flat metal bottom inside). I don't know whether this is better against limescale or anything, but it makes me feel that it will be easier to keep the insides fuzz free.
The kettle sits on a metal base and is free to rotate meaning that it is easy to pick up with either your left or right hand. The base is very handy but as there often is there's a con to dampen this pro a little. The cable coming off the base to plug your kettle into the wall seems somwhat short to me - less than a metre in length, although I guess that means that you don't have a lot of cable trailing all over your kitchen side it does mean you have to have your kettle close to the plug socket.
So it's stylish, but does it do the job?
You fill the kettle via this lid (well at least to me that seems the obvious way to do it) at first the lid seemed almost impossible to remove, but now after a few months of usage I've realised its reasssuringly tight fitting. The little gauge just below the handle is clear to read. The switch to turn the kettle on takes a positive prod and lights up orange so you know you've been successful.
I haven't found this to be a noticeably slow or overly noisy boiler. I was a bit sceptical about using the hand over the lid to pick it up but the close fitting lid comes into its own and means that there's no dangerous steam leakage. And ,as you'd hope with all kettles, it pours well with no random dripping or trickling, leaving me with a piping hot cup of tea and no puddles on the kitchen side.
So overall this is a stylishly, chic kettle ideal for the smaller home with smaller tea cups! I won't be replacing this kettle anytime soon and would happily recommend it.
In recent months I had decided to try and use a fountain pen more frequently in attempt to improve my amazingly illegible handwriting and so a search began to find a pen that would suit my needs. I eventually settled on a rather expensive pen with an italic nib which did seem to improve legibility matters somewhat, unfortunately the price of this writing implement meant that I was somewhat loathed to take it anywhere which kind of reduced its usefulness as a replacement to my usual assortment of biros which I used at work and studies. And so the search for the pen recommenced with the added criteria of its being not too expensive to actually use.
And then I came across the Lamy Al-Star, and was pleased to find that it was possible, from the right stockists, to buy this pin with various types and widths of nib at no extra cost to the (approx) £24 for the standard pen. And so the Al-Star was duly bought.
A quick note at this point - the Al-Star Graphit referred to in this product's title is actually just a colurway of the Lamy Al-Star pen, a dark grey version of the pen. The pen can also be bought in a silver coloured version, and metallic purple, pink and blue and possibly other, not in stock when I last checked, colours.
And the pen was duly purchased, with its Lamy ink cartridges (around £2 for six and availble in the usual colours and purple) and a converter (about £5 but some sellers include it as part of a bundle) so it could be used with bottled ink.
The pen itself is made of metal (in actual fact its a metal version of the Lamy Safari pen) and although fairly thick for an ink pen I find it very light and manageable even with the lid stuck on top of the pen. The grip of the pen is the only bit of plastic, it feels very substantial and is clear. Unfortunaly it has a sort of triangular shape which, depending on the way you hold your pen, can take a little bit of getting used to although it hasn't caused me to stop using the pen. The other bit of the pen's design that niggles me ever so slighty is the hole cut into the barrel about a centimetre in length which allows you to see a small portion of the ink cartridge. This doesn't cause me any issues in the actual using of the pen but I really can't see the point of it as you can't see the end of the ink cartridge though it so even if you can't see any ink in this window it doesn't mean the cartridge is empty, it just means it would be worth having a spare refill to hand.
So holding the pen is pretty comfortable but how does it actually write? I have to say that, in my experience to date, I have never used a pen that writes as smoothly as my Lamy. And I don't just use it on expensive paper, whatever paper I've used it on it just glides over and leaves a regular trail of ink. I thought it may just be the italic nib that I was using that caused this amazing smoothness but having spoken to somone who uses another variety of Lamy pen it seems to be a common trait of Lamy pens. This silky smoothness has actually led me to use the Lamy in preference to my more expensive Parker pen, which I wasn't expecting when I bought this pen. The pen also seems to releases its ink evenly throughout the life of the cartridge, no obvious blobbing at the start or end. I have also used the ink pot converter (which needs to be twisted to fill) and although I hadn't filled it very well (with a trapped air bubble) I haven't noticed any problems with the ink flow.
So to sum up this is a lightweight, chunky metal pen with a variety of nibs availble (with a little searching) and a very smooth writing style. Would I recommed it to a friend? Most definitely at the moment I'm recommending it to anyone who even mentions pens to me. I've even gone and bought myself a second Lamy Al Star. Having been brought up with the belief that Parker pens are the best, I think I'm a Lamy Al-Star convert and if you try it you may become one too. (Unfortunately it hasn't miraculously given me perfect handwriting to go with this perfect pen!)
Lakeland Limited that store full of kitchen gadgets that you never knew you needed and end up filling up your cupboards. However this is not going to be the case with my latest must have gadget from Lakeland.
I have a real fondness for fresh pineapple but the pre-prepared stuff is exorbitantly expensive and the whole fruits never seemed quite worth the effort of prepping, a serious test of my knife skills and the prickly skin and hard core ending up all too present in my fruity snack. So on the whole I had taken to glancing wistfully at the pineapples whilst going for the more manageable, but somehow less exciting, bananas and apples.
And then a family member recommended the lakeland pineapple corer to me. I had seen this in store before but was a little dubious about whether it would be worth the £8.95 price tag (price seems to be slowly creeping up as the first time I saw this it was £7.99).
The pineapple corer comes in an unassuming cardboard box with a set of small 'how to use' pictures on the back. For a Lakeland fruit related gadget the corer comes in a very quite white and grey plastic. There is a handle and three varying size corer attachments. Using the pictures on the back of the box it is possible to see what weight of pineapple each corer is recommended for. For the first (and possibly last) time in my life I weighed the pineapple I had purchased and so selected the medium corer. I think it is also possible to see which size corer to use by simply using your eyes to work out which on would fit the pineapple the best.
The corer attachment clicks onto the handle easily and is held fixedly in place by a simple push button locking mechanism. The whole corer is constructed from a strong plastic from the t-bar handle to the cutting mechanism.
Following the minimalistic pictures on the back of the box I cut the leafy top off the pineapple. And this is where I have my first user's niggle with the corer. The instructions are very minimal, the corer is very simple to use but a couple of hints as to correct usage such as where to place on the pineapple or which direction to turn would have been useful the first time I tried the corer. Anyway I carried on glibly putting the corer 'blade' flat against the cut pineapple top and applying a light downward pressure. One hint from me at this point check that the central tube of the corer is over the core itself to avoid getting unwanted firm bits in your fruity treat!
Keep on turning until you have reached the bottom of the pineapple, I have not yet gained the knack of telling when this is yet although cutting through the skin is I think unlikely and not the end of the world if you do manage it. On reaching the bottom of the pineapple firmly (and carefully due to the juice in the pineapple skin shell) pull the pineapple's innards out and you will be greeted by a spiral of pineapple all ready for you to serve as you wish. A prepared pineapple without having to wield a large knife.
I confess that I haven't checked whether this is dishwasher proof as I don't actually have one but it hand washed easily enough.
As stated at the start this is definitely, in my opinion, a keeper gadget. The initial cost of the corer is recouped when you consider the money saved by not buying pre-prepared pineapple or binning the pineapple that you haven't managed to separate from skin and core with a knife. The instructions did any on first usage but after that the corer has been simplicity itself to use. I am really struggling to find any negatives for this gadget, the only one I can think of is the three 'blades' and handle combo do take up quite a bit of room in my somewhat limited kitchen storage but I wil always make an effort to make space for it.
A summer eating lots of pineapple looms and I will be recommending this gadget to everyone.
So regularly driving a 2 hour journey each way each week, as a minimum, I decided that a hands free would be useful as people seem to always phone while I'm driving and my timekeeping is rubbish so its also useful to be able to phone whilst I'm trying to progress my journey.
I bought this handsfree set to go with my new phone (Samsung Genoa ) which had decided to totally ignore my other (Nokia) hands free ear piece. I paid around £15 for it in a well known mobile phone retailer but I've fond it elsewhere for £12.50 (repeat to myself always shop around!). The handsfree earpiece proclaims Bluetooth 2.0 technology. It is one of the hook over the ear type of hands free devices, and with a bit of simple twiddling with the hook it is possible to make fit either your left or right ear.
A quick read of the instructions, a brief hold of the breath when introducing the earpiece to my fussy phone, and the linking oof the two devices was quickly and easily achieved. It was then connected to its wall charger. I do have a slight issue with the charger, a bit of a silly one but, it requires a totally different charger to my phone so now I need to lug around my phone charger and my hands free charger when I go away (not to mention the chagers for all my other electricals!).
The controls on the earpiece are simple a strip button on the front for on/off and answering the phone and a volume button on the side, which I have easily managed to find and use whilst driving and not able to see it. The device seems robust enough, its been shoved in bags, full pockets, glove boxes and my central console junk pot without any ill effects. Althought the hoook is fairly thin flexible plastic so it may not stand up to really rough handling.
The hook fits comfortably over my ear but you do need to push it firmly into your ear else the slightest nudge can knock it out of your ear. If it's in firmly then I have also managed to wear a pair of sunglasses with this earpiece with no snags. It fits my little ear ok but I have noticed that it starts to make my earhole ache a little after wearing it for 3 hours non-stop. You can angle the microphone bit of the earpiece as you desire to pick up your conversation.
I've used this with female and male callers, young and old and not had any problem hearing the conversation, in actual fact I've had to turn it down a little. I've been asking all callers how it is for them and on the whole they can hear me though it has been a little muffled briefly, although it was admitted it may have been picking up road noise. It proclaims a week of battery on standby and I'm happy to confirm this after leaving it switched on accidentally in my car for a week between journeys. Call time battery life is advertised as 8 hours, I haven't had long enough phone calls to e able to question this but then again I also haven't had it cut out during a journey yet.
All in all I'm pleased with this earpiece, it fits much better than I expected and is easy and effective in use. I'd recommend this to anyone (once they've shopped around!)
On deciding that, as I am totally incapable of making a decent cup of cafetiere coffee but love the taste of real coffee, my life needed a coffee machine I ended up choosing the KMix coffee machine mostly on its cute looks and brand name (definitely not on price) - unusual shallowness for me!
The KMix coffee machine is available in either this raspberry red or, with a slightly different product number, black - as you can tell from the picture above I went for the red having a love of colourful kitchen objects.
The coffee machine is pretty compact, about 30cm deep and 20cm wide, designed not to eat up too much of my precious kitchen worktop and with a metal body. The coffee machine comes with a glass jug, small measuring scoop (I believe it's designed to be one scoop per cup but having doubts now whether that is per little coffee cup or normal cup - I usually use one per normal cup, the coffee tastes fine but maybe I just like it weaker than I realise), a mess coffee filter and paper filters. The jug is listed as a 6 cup jug but this actually means 6 little coffee cups or 3 smallish mugs.
The machine is ridiculously easy to use as it is only suitable to make filter coffee with, no additional options for frothed milk or anything else, which was fine with me as I only wanted coffee but I realise that most people enjoy the extras too. As I said making coffee is simple open the top pour in the correct amount of water (into the water section not the coffee section next to it as I have inadvertently attempted to do a few times! It's obvious what goes where) and scoop the desired amount of coffee into the filter lined coffee section. I have only ever used the reusable mesh filter, without any problems. Press the on switch, it's the only switch on the machine, and away it gurgles for a few minutes before providing a perfectly brewed grounds free cup of coffee. If like me you enjoy having a couple of cups in fairly rapid succession there is a hot plate below the jug which will keep your coffee warm for 30 mins. The chrome top gets warm too, I suppose to warm the cups before use, but I have never made use of this or noticed it as I use pretty chunky cups which don't respond well to gentle warming.
The machine makes perfect filter coffee every time and does its job well, albeit the only job it does. Having said that, as I alluded to at the beginning for the price yo pay for it you may expect it to do more. Currently this maker retails between £55 and £70, you are definitely paying the price for a quality brand as you can get much less stylish, plasticy coffee machine from supermarkets for around £20 or ones with more features but less style for the £70 mark. Is the functionality of the machine worth this price, in all truth no, but the brand is a very good one and I'd expect this machine to far outlast any cheaper model so I see it as an investment and it was a treat. Would I recommend this machine to anyone - yes I would assuming that they were just in the market for a reliable and stylish coffee machine. Am I happy with my purchase? Yes I am; it's compact, gorgeous makes coffee far better than I can (I have even got it plugged into a timer to brew me coffee before I wake) and I'm now on the hunt for the best priced matching kettle. I have had a hard time star rating this but as it does the job I wanted it to, and it said it did, well at a somewhat high price I feel it deserves 4 stars.
Radox, whilst not my favourite shower gel brand, is a brand I trust and am more than happy to buy when the price is right. 200ml currently retails for £1.75 in supermarkets.
The Radox Skin Nourishing shower gel is a thick cream coloured gel, in a unpretentious looking bottle with the lid at the bottom to help you use every dollop of the gel. Incidently I have had no problems either opening this lid with wet hands of with the liquid leaking out, Radox seem to have got their bottle design just about right in my opinion.
On the back of the bottle we are told...nourish shower cream is made with natural shea butter which cares for your skin, leaving it feeling soft, supple and lovely to touch. We've also added a pinch of zingy ginger root for some extra spice... which all sounds good especially as I like spicy scented washes.
On squeezing the gel out of the bottle I'm greeted by a thick shower cream which feels luxurious, and lathers up nicely by hand or really well by bath puff giving lots of thick creamy scented foamy lather.
And it is with this scent that I have a problem - at first the shea butter is most noticeable with a vanilla-ry scent, good so far. Then the ginger kicks in and I just hate it, it reminds me of the yellow medicine I had as a child - a sweet, sickly, synthetic smell. The scent is such that I don't enjoy using this shower cream at all.
I can't actually comment on the long term results of this gel as I have relegated it to a washbag for occasional use. However, when I have used it it hasn't left my skin dry or scaly looking and luckily the scent doesn't linger.
I think that the quality of this gel is such that if they were to use the same mix with a different scent I wouldn't hesitate to use it and enjoy it, as it is I can't stand using it as I find the scent very repellent.
The anniversary of the Battle of Koom Valley is looming in the multi-cultural city of Ankh-Morpork. The tale of the Battle is lost in the mists of time, who started it is a issue for debate, it was ended by rain and no-one can remember whom the referees decided in favour of, but what is known is that it was fought between the trolls and the dwarves and the enemity still remains. Commander Sam Vimes and his Watch are used to dealing with the Koom Valley anniversary, but this year it's different, there's an atmosphere and everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop. To add to the tension one of the dwarfs deep-down, rabble-rousing leaders has been murdered, the trolls have got a messiah, a famous art work has been stolen from the city gallery, the watch has hired a vampire, and Sam Vimes has an appointment at 6pm every day to read "Where's My Cow?" to his son with all the noises done properly.
The Watch is suffering the fall out from the upcoming Koom Valley anniversary and is in need of new recruits, although hiring a vampire may be a step too far for Vimes. But that isn't the worst of his problems and the day is just beginning. On finding out about the murder of a high level dwarf Vimes is determined to solve the murder before a revenge action occurs, but the dwarfs are both uncooperative and nervous. The trolls on the other hand have found "Mr Shine" but who or what this is is less than clear, although they do seem to be more organised than usual. Trouble is more than brewing, its all ready to be served in the heart of Ankh, on Sam's patch.
This is an audio reading of Terry Pratchett's 30th book in the Discworld series and re-introduces us to the Watch and their leader, Commander Sam Vimes. As well as focussing on the Watch this tale explains to us some of the enemity between and the beliefs of the dwarfs and trolls - both those in Ankh-Morpork and those from the old country. There's a (humourous) look at how moving away from home can change people's views. The story is quick moving and travels from below Ankh-Morpork and a murder, to the city itself and potential war and then to, what may be Koom Valley, with the odd trip to the Vimes family nursery to read a bedtime story. There are plenty of twists and turns and I for one could not see the twists coming (except for the fact that the Watch was likely to come out, mostly, on top).
Pratchett's characters are as colourful as ever, further developing the peoples and the history of the Discworld of the Discworld. But its not just his characters that are detailed within this book he details a game (Thud! - a battle between dwarfs and trolls) and includes a children's story (both of which have now escaped the book and can be read or played by fans).
The version of Thud read by Tony Robinson and shown in the picture above is an abridged, 3 disc version of the tale with a running time of about four hours. I'm aware elements of the original book version have been edited from the audio book, but its a while since I last read the book so I can't say what bits are missing but I found that the omissions did not affect my enjoyment of this audio book. I actually found that the shortish running time meant that I was more able to listen to the book in only one or two listens (I have a twice weekly two hour car drive for which this audiobook proved ideal) and it was easier to keep concentration on and follow the storyline.
Tony Robinson has narrated several (I'd almost say all) the abridged Discworld audiobooks and he does it well, with just a couple of slight niggles. He's not so great at differentiating between some of the female characters (although in his defence the two females which caused me confusion do happen to come from the same area of the disc) and Sam Vimes' accent does change a little throughout. As I said niggles and nothing that has caused me to relegate the audiobook to the charity box.
I always enjoy Discworld tales which focus on the watch and this is no exception. There's a good mix of well loved and new characters and the story keeps moving - although it does become a little mystical in places, although Sam himself is quick to pooh-pooh this so its not too annoying. As with many Pratchett books there are nods and digs at our society - in this one "The Da Vinci Code" is nodded at several times - and there are places which make you laugh out loud. Being an abridged version you will miss out on some of the sidelines and character developments, but nothing too significant, and definitely nothing that will ruin the story. Although if you are someone who is working through the whole series you may want to find an unabridged version. Having said that, don't panic if you are a newcomer to the Discworld each of the stories stands up on its own and this one doesn't require you to have read/listened to the previous 29 or even the other Watch tales to enjoy it.
All in all this is a good addition to the Discworld audiobook collection and one that I have listened to several times.
Pears to my mind is a very traditional cleansing range, with shower gels, bar soaps and hand gel soaps.
When I buy shower gels, Pears shower gel lurks on the shelf but is usually ignored by me as I go for the fruity scented, multiple claims shower gels. However, all it took for my preference to be swayed was a special offer on the Pears shower gel (this gel usually retails for £2 for 250ml so not too expensive in the scheme of things). I had used a Pears bar soap before so was aware of the brand's quality.
The shower gel is a rich amber in colour and is in a classic looking bottle. The bottle wears it's claims subtly - it is soap-free, hypoallergenic, skin pH balanced and non-comedogenic. Hopefully the first three are fairly obvious to all, the fourth claim I've found means that this shower gel is non-pore blocking. All in all this shower gel is supposed to be a non-detrimental experience for your skin.
As with many shower gels Pears' has a hook at the top and the lid and gel exit hole (which has a non drip rubber seal just in case you don't clip the lid back properly) at the bottom, allowing for the use of every last drop of the shower gel.
To get a good lather from this shower gel, either using a bath puff (amazing amount of lather) or just bare hands, only a relatively small splodge is required - about a 50p sized splodge (which means you can get several showers worth from the 250ml bottle). The gel sits in your hand well; it's not on the thin side. There is a fairly inoffensive, clean scent to it but I haven't worked out what it is, sort of woody-herby, but the scent isn't too important as it doesn't linger on your skin for long.
I don't suffer from any significant skin issues but I have noticed after using this gel for a few weeks that I haven't had the dry, slightly scaly skin I someimes get after showering. And where I have greasy patches no break out of spots even after a particularly vigorous gym session.
I have found using this shower gel a enjoyable experience, and, once I've used up my present stash of shower gels, I will definitely be using it again.
I often have a tin of soup for my lunch and my brand of choice, in fact the only brand I eat, is Baxters soup thanks to their wonderful range of flavours and the number of low fat/low cal substantial soups they offer.
I usually go for a broth as they feel more like a meal, but when I want something that feels more decadent and is richer then it has to be the Royal Game soup.
Royal Game is part of Baxters Favourites range and the tin is exactly as shown in the picture above. It costs 75p - 90p per tin, which is a little more than some other well known brands but I believe that you get what you pay for.
On pouring the soup into its heating vessel (this can be heated on the hob or in the microwave - I've tried both successfully) you are greeted by a rich dark, brown soup which just cries out "meaty", there are small chunks of meat and veg floating in the soup - no watery soup here. The meatiness comes from the main ingredients of venison and pheasant and, within the broth and in no way identifiable the venison liver and heart. The vegetables (oh yes more than one type) are potatoes, carrots and swede. All chunks of meat and veg are small, but noticeable, and do add to the overall enjoyability of the soup.
While I'm on about the ingredients a quick mention as to nutritional values, a half can (205g) of this soup contains just 83 cals, 0.6g of fat and 0g (zero) saturated fat, in my mind this makes for a very healthy soup.
So the ingredients and looks and nutrition is good - what about the taste you ask. This lives up to expectations, it is a rich, meaty tasting soup with a slight peppery kick enhancing the flavour and substance from the veg and meat chunklets. This soup is lovely with a chunk of bread to dip in it.
All in all, even considering the few extra pennies you have to pay for the soup, I can't find anything to fault this soup on. If you want a tasty meat sop then you can't go wrong choosing this one.
So before I begin a quick confession, I didn't buy the Innocent Smoothies for Kids for a fussy child, I purely purchased it for my own consumption. There I've said it, I'm not a terribly fussy eater and love the concept of smoothies (not being a great solid fruit eater) and adore the taste of them it's just that I can't get my head round drinks with bits in.
I had tried and enjoyed the strawberry and banana innocent smoothie and was looking to brave another flavour when the kids' smoothie caught my eye. A smoothie with a no bits recipe sounded too good to be true, having a peek in the helpful "how much is a serving and how much is left" window on the side of the carton it looked like a rich orange juice. I was going to leave it, as at £2.90 for 1 litre this was going to be an expensive failure if it turned out to be just juice, but I couldn't face any of the other smoothies on offer (there's only so much strawberry and banana a girl can drink) and the flavour - oranges, mangoes and pineapples - really tempted me so it went into the basket. I quickly checked the fruit content against the other smoothies, they boasted 2 of your 5 a day per glass whereas this smoothie only contained a measly one a day, a closer look revealed a difference in glass size - when using the same glass size all innocent smoothies offer 2 of your 5 a day or there abouts.
The smoothie is made from oranges, pineapples, mangoes and bananas and nothing else - it does contain a relatively high 11.9g of sugar but these are sugars which naturally occur in the fruits. For those that are interested in all the facts and figures, 100ml of smoothie also contains 56 cals, no fat worth talking about, 0.9mg of fibre, 47mg of vit C (not sure how much of an adults RDA this is as the figure on the box is for children) and, according to the carton, no magic lamps or genies (pity!).
On trying the smoothie (after giving it the recommended good shake) I was greeted by a thick tropical flavoured liquid, definitely closer to a smoothie than juice and very refreshing. And I am happy to say that after consuming the contents of the carton over the four days in which Innocent recommend it is drunk by once opened I did not find a single bit (and trust me I would've found one if they were there). I will definitely be buying this smoothie again, I can see it becoming a firm favourite. The only thing that goes against this drink is that a litre costs around £2.90, although there are often multibuy offers and as the juice is pasturised it can be kept in the sealed carton, in the fridge for around a month.
For as long as I can remember (around 25 years at least) my mum and I have been making trips to Abakhan Fabrics in Mostyn to get our fabric and crafting fix. Abakhan Fabrics have been open in North Wales since the second half of the 1940's and is still popular today with crafters on a budget.
Abakhan Fabrics is located in North Wales on the A548 just east of Flint, its visible on the right of the road as you travel from Flint but is not signposted. It is in a range of old mill buildings and has a large, if somewhat rough and ready car park, there is a cafe in which to leave reluctant shoppers (haven't used this for a few years but it used to make a reasonable cuppa (and now has free wi-fi I have just found out) and a small (unsupervised and unfenced) play park in which children can burn off excess energy.
And onto the serious stuff - the craft shops...
There are three main buildings within the Abakhan Fabrics complex - one for sewing, one for knitting and one for general handicrafts.
The largest building is dedicated to sewing and fabric, and one of the significant features about Abakhan fabrics is that this fabric is not just sold off the roll but there are also seconds fabrics, precut, which are sold by the kilo. A bit of a hit and miss way of buying the fabric but if you find a piece the size you require it is definitely a cheaper way to go. There is always a huge selection of fabric available - cottons, furnishing, lycra, wool, leather, etc, etc, and so forth - both on the roll or by the kilo but you can't always guarantee they will be carrying a particular range or colour. However, everytime I've gone to Abakhan with a specific dressmaking or furnishing fabric requirement in mind I've always come back with an ideal fabric, you just need to be prepared to dedicate a decent amount of time to browsing what is available. Along with the impressive selection of fabrics there is a gargantuan number of haberdashery items - zips, elastic, trims, buttons - at a very, very reasonable price. And if, once you've got to Abakhan, you need some inspiration as to what use to put all this fabric to then there is a good sized area devoted to the quiet browsing of sewing patterns. And if you have a few pennies left after wanding round the fabric shop for an hour or two then outside is a large stand holding bargains - whole rolls for a few pounds, bags of stuff for 50p - something the most dedicated crafter will be sure to find a use for!
The wool shop carries a good range of "everyday" yarns, nothing (generally) containing luxury fibres but ideal for everyday knitting requirements. As would be expected there are also knitting needles, patterns and trimmings available - including patterns for knitted toys.
The craft shop is always somewhere I go for a good browse as it caters for a wide range of crafting hobbies. There is, again, outside the building a discount stand selling craftable fabrics at a low price - maybe not what you need but something you can find a use for. Its a smallish log cabin but crammed with crafts - cross stitches, crafting fabrics, scrap booking, books just to name a few. Again no guarantee what they'll have but almost always something to persuade you to part with your cash.
There is also a home goods and gifts type shop within the Abakhan Fabrics complex however, being a bit of a purist when it comes to shopping at Abakhan, I have only been in there once - they do seem to carry an excellent range of large flower pots though.
The prices at Abakhan are generally lower than usual but the sales are something else, with everything generally discounted by 10 or 20% and some items with up to 70% off - somewhere definitely to go and spend your Xmas money.
In all the years I have been visiting Abakhan Fabrics I have never met an unfriendly member of staff, they are always willing to help you with your purchase, not pushy, and never complain (at least not in the customers' hearing) when you manage to turn a basket of seconds fabrics upside down in the search for the perfect piece. They definitely add to the shopping experience.
I believe the original store was the Mostyn store, however there is now a chain of Abakhan Fabrics shops across the North West. The only one I have visited is the Chester store and while much, much smaller it still carries an pleasing and ever changing stock.
If you've got some time to dedicate to your craft shopping and don't need a specific item then this is the place for you. Somewhere I always make an effort to visit when I'm in the North West.
(Stores also available in Estonia and Latvia.)
So on Xmas day one of my presents was a garlic press. No idea why - no particular fondness for garlic, no significant fear of vampires and never a complaint about the bash and chop method I had been using previously - no reason to get it for me but I'm really glad someone did.
The garlic press is made of gray metal with no other material present. The handles are comfortably curved but there are no significant grip areas. It consists of the bottom handle ending in a square metal bowl with holes in; the top handle has a hinged "masher" with small blunt prongs corresponding to the holes attached to it. Easy enough and it works like any other garlic press with one very simple difference which makes it the garlic press of all garlic presses. Rather than having to peel each garlic clove before pressing you just drop each clove into the bowl and press and out comes squished garlic and in the bowl is the left over peel. You can even stick a couple of cloves into the press at once and get good results. A real time saver and no more fiddly peeling. Unfortunately my press is one of the ones that comes without a cleaning device but taking the peel out isn't too bad. Getting the remnants of the garlic out of the press is no worse than cleaning out any other press - a bit of a soak and a scrub and you're good to go again. I don't have a dishwasher but I would imagine that this would successfully clean the press too.
Having had a little look round the internet for prices it seems as thought the Zyliss press costs around £10. Somewhat expensive for a press but it is a robust tool which does its job highly effectively and saves faffing around in the kitchen peeling little cloves. If you were in the market for a new kitchen gadget you couldn't go wrong with this press.