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I decided that my derailed weight loss efforts should get back on track, and just to make things easier for myself I picked up a few ready meals at M&S. Among their 'count on us' range, I found the Lemon & Ginger Chicken with fluffy basmati rice.
The list of ingredients is impressively detailed, and I recognised each and every one as an item I would happily store in my kitchen cupboard or fridge.
Each meal contains 420 calories, 6.8g sugar, 7.6g fat , 2.8g sat fat, 1.50g salt and even lists it as 6 ½ points based on the Weight Watchers points scale.
The front of the pack claims that it contains less than 3% fat, which is true if you're comparing it weight for weight (7.6g fat as a percentage of 400g meal). However, if you look at it in terms of calorific values, each gram of fat contains 9 calories so 7.6g of fat accounts for 68.4 calories out of the 420 in the meal. This means that 16.29% of the calories in the meal are made up of fat, which is still good. I usually try to aim for about 30% fat or less.
This meal is designed to be cooked in the microwave, and only takes 5 minutes to prepare.
After cooking, I put it on a plate and tucked in. The sauce was creamy and really quite delicate with just a bit of a bite from all the spices, chilli and ginger. The pieces of chicken were very generous, were tender and tasted very good. The rice was fluffy and light and just right. I'm no great lover of ginger, but this was delicious and the taste of ginger wasn't at all overpowering.
This was a really tasty dish, and also very satisfying. For me it was just the right amount, and by the time I finished I was no longer hungry.
The other day I found that we had too many eggs in the fridge, so I decided to make a Spanish omelette to use them up. Since this was going to be a dinner dish, I went shopping for some side dishes. I bought some Chorizo to fry and serve on the side, and then spotted the Tesco Garlic & Parsley Flatbread on the shelf, and decided to give it a try. Some salad and rocket leaves picked fresh from the garden and tossed in balsamic vinegar and olive oil completed the menu.
The garlic & parsley flatbread was light and delicious. It only took about 5 minutes to heat up in the oven, and it complemented the other ingredients in our meal perfectly.
The bag in which it was sealed said that it would be ideal with an Italian meal or that it could be covered with a topping for a tasty snack. There was a quarter omelette and a quarter of the flatbread left at the end of the meal, so I put the omelette on top of the flatbread and decorated it with the remaining few slices of chorizo, wrapped them all in foil and stored in the fridge. Reheated a couple of days later, it was still just as good as the first day.
One quarter of the flatbread contains 145 calories, and most of the ingredients are easily recognisable as natural.
I wasn't sure about the preservative listed as Calcium Propionate, so I looked it up. This ingredient has the E number 282 and is used in breads because of its ability to inhibit the growth of molds and other microorganisms. One website claims that it is one of the safest food additives, while another claims that it is neither safe nor necessary.
I liked this flatbread, and since it's suitable for home freezing, I think that it would be very useful to have a few stashed away in the freezer. I bought this for £1 although the usual price is £1.25.
Just over a month ago I urgently needed to get some bank cards and drivers licenses to my daughter, who is travelling. At the time she was in Georgia, and since she was travelling around, didn't have an address that I could send the package to.
There were two days, however, when she would be in Tbilisi, and someone she knew agreed to let her have the package sent to her work address.
I called a few courier companies, and some wouldn't handle bank cards, others couldn't guarantee delivery on time, and some were just too expensive.
UPS were very helpful over the telephone, and the person I spoke to was well informed and could guarantee the package arriving on one of the two days my daughter would be there. The critical arrival days were Tuesday and Wednesday of the following week, and we agreed that if I sent the parcel on Thursday it would almost certainly be there on Tuesday. Wednesday was the very latest that it could arrive.
I made all the arrangements over the telephone, and voiced my concern about the security of my packaging. I was promised a UPS envelope which I could seal, and given a pickup window (morning). I paid by credit card over the phone and was given the best price they had.
The courier arrived on time, with the UPS envelope for me to put my package into, and a form for me to fill. I filled in the form, sealed the envelope, and the courier left me a copy of the form with the tracking number, so that I could check on the progress of my package online.
That was the fun part. I checked once a day over the weekend, and could see where the package had reached and when it had left, until eventually it arrived in Georgia. It was safely delivered, as promised, to my daughter's friend in her office on the Tuesday, with plenty of time to spare.
This is was a super service, and solved a massive problem of delivering vital documents during a very small window of opportunity.
One day, I took a good look at my oatmeal coloured carpets and realised that they were really grubby. I knew from past experience that hiring a professional carpet cleaner would only be a short term solution before normal wear and tear (spilled drinks, muddy feet and paws, etc.) started to show up again.
For less than it would have cost to have a couple of rooms cleaned by a professional cleaner, I bought myself a Bissell Quick Wash Lightweight Deep Cleaner. This means that I can now shampoo as small or as large an area of carpet as I like, anytime I want to. It's almost as simple as hauling the vacuum cleaner out from under the stairs, but with the addition of some cleaning solution.
It's lightweight (less than 5 ½ kilos), easy to assemble and very uncomplicated to use. It comes with a good supply of cleaning solution, and a clear set of instructions, so you can get started straight away.
I've found the best time to use it is last thing at night, because it's unlikely to get walked on while it's drying. By morning, any areas I've cleaned are usually dry.
You do have to clean the brush head and dirty water tank after use, but that isn't too difficult.
It works very well. There had been some areas where spilled drinks had stained the carpet, and I had to go over those a couple of times before they disappeared, and they haven't resurfaced.
I've been very happy with this machine, and I no longer worry about anyone trailing in dirt, or pets leaving muddy paw prints on my carpet, because cleaning it all up is now so easy and the appliance for the job is stored right under the stairs.
Available for £70, it comes with an unlimited 2 year warrantee.
I haven't used the hard floor attachment, so I can't comment on that.
Pritt Stick is usually my glue of choice. I've been using it for years, and it's clean, safe, and easy to use. I have these glue sticks scattered throughout the house, so I usually have one close to hand. I keep one in the study, one in the kitchen, one in the sitting room, and one near the front door.
It has so many uses, mostly sticking paper to paper, although I've used it to stick bits of fabric to paper.
It's great for kids' projects, since it's quite safe for them to use. It glides on quite easily and if they get it on their fingers it isn't hard to wash off. The other advantage is that if they spread the glue outside of the areas they are trying to stick, it dries clear and doesn't show.
Around the house, it's useful for craft projects, organizing photos, and anything else that needs sticking. Sometimes the glue on envelopes becomes unusable, and instead of having to throw the envelope away a quick swipe with a Pritt Stick does the job of sealing it.
Sometimes, when I'm wrapping a present and I don't want sticky tape to show, I'll use the Pritt Stick to stick the paper down, and end up with a neatly wrapped gift.
The glue slides on in a smooth and even layer if you apply it gently. But if you press down too hard when you're applying it, it can leave little lumps of glue on the surface of your project.
I've never kept a Pritt Stick in my handbag, although a small 10g stick would take up very little room and always be on hand. I'd worry that I might mistake it for a lip salve or gloss!
Pritt Sticks come in three sizes: 10g, 20g and 40g. There aren't a great many good products priced at less than £1, but you can buy a single 10g Pritt stick for 99p, or as little as 62p per stick if you buy a 6-pack. It's really good value for money, and if you keep the lid tightly on when you aren't using it, it won't dry out. I've unearthed Pritt sticks that I'd forgotten about years after putting them away, and they're still good to use.
DI Geraldine Steel is a dedicated police officer working on a mobile murder investigation team. Feeling betrayed after the breakup of a 6 year relationship, she moves to a new flat near the small town of Woolsmarsh, where most of the action in the book takes place.
Trying to put her life back together isn't easy for Geraldine. As she struggles with the demands of her job, a small part of her yearns for what her sister has - marriage, kids and home, but without wishing to sacrifice her career at the altar of domestic bliss.
Woolsmarsh is terrorised by a serial killer who strangles and leaves the bodies of his victims in the park. Geraldine is trying to track down the Woolsmarsh Strangler, while closer to home a malicious vandal is attempting to victimise her. Are the two connected?
Right from the start the reader is taken into the head of the strangler. Bit by bit we are shown the workings of a sick and twisted mind and gradually learn who the killer is, as one by one he picks off his victims.
Several threads run through the story - sometimes crossing, sometimes touching and then drifting off in different directions, but always keeping the reader guessing. Leigh Russell skilfully weaves these threads together until Geraldine finally grasps all the relevant ones and solves the case. The author then puts the icing on the cake by collecting all the remaining threads and tying them up nicely.
I really enjoyed this book. It kept me turning the pages, and the different undercurrents captured my interest and retained it throughout its length. There were interactions between the different members of the team, the domestic and public goings-on of local celebrities, and a budding romance in Geraldine's life.
The tantalizing clues and hints that are dropped throughout the book make for an excellent crime thriller which carries the reader along to its final climax and revelation.
The book is sold with a money back guarantee, which I, for one, won't be claiming.
The Milton Keynes Theatre area is a pedestrian area with restaurants, bars and pubs as well as a club or two. The Theatre itself is at one end facing the shopping centre, with an art gallery right next to it. At the other end of this area, facing the Xcape building (famous for its indoor snow ski slope), are car parking spaces.
The Tai Pan Restaurant is quite close to the theatre, and offers a pre-theatre dinner for £8.50 per person, excluding drinks. On one trip to the theatre I was in a group of four people, and we decided to have dinner at the Tai Pan before going to see the play.
We were greeted and led to our table by an extremely polite and welcoming waiter, who gave us our menus, took our drinks orders, and left us to decide on what we wanted to eat.
We decided to try the pre-theatre dinner option. Two chose duck crispy pancake rolls, one chose prawn crackers (complete with tails), and I chose the vegetarian pancake rolls. We all enjoyed our selections. My pancake rolls were light and crispy and very tasty. The prawn crackers were an amazing sight, with the tails poking out of the toast, and were reportedly delicious.
For main courses, two of us chose beef with onions and black bean sauce, and two chose sweet and sour chicken. I didn't try the sweet and sour chicken, but judging by the reactions of the two who did, it didn't disappoint. My beef dish was excellent. The meat was tender, and the sauce was very tasty with just that fiery hint you expect from a black bean sauce. It came with delicious egg fried rice, and the one person in our party who is allergic to eggs was catered for with eggs-free fried rice.
We all shared a good Argentinean white wine, and our final bill was £51 for the four of us, including drinks. The service throughout was excellent, with smiling waiters and very short waiting times, so that we left contented and in good time for the play we were going to see.
I came across Marks & Spencer Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice Jelly by accident and decided to give it a try. When I pulled back the lid, the first thing I noticed was the fresh scent of oranges. I also noticed that the jelly wasn't a very solid one. It wasn't quite soft enough to drink, but it was definitely wobblier than expected.
This is a really nice jelly, which tastes like fresh orange juice. It's actually quite strange when you eat it because the jelly feels more solid in the mouth than the flavour leads you to expect. It reminds me of the fresh orange ice lollies that we sometimes freeze at home.
It would make a nice refreshing course at the end of a meal, and at approximately 122 calories per pot, it's a pud that's very nearly guilt-free.
There is no added colouring, so that the jelly is a natural shade of orange. This comes in 175g pots, and each 100g contains 70 calories. The listed ingredients are: Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice (45%), water, sugar, and pork gelatine. The pork gelatine makes this unsuitable for vegetarians and anyone who can't eat pork, and for this reason I'm only going to give it 4 stars.
A friend and I went to the Chelsea Flower Show last month, and since we were travelling to London by train, decided we'd arrive in Sloane Square in time to eat a spot of lunch before going into the show at 3.30 pm.
We weren't sure about where to go, but we both fancied burgers. After checking out what restaurants were nearby online, we were quite overwhelmed by the numbers available to choose from, and decided the best bet was to get there and follow our noses.
When we got to Sloane Square station, we set off down the Kings Road, taking in all the shop window displays, and looking at the menus of any restaurants we passed. We didn't have to go very far before we tripped over the Blushes Café, read the menu which boasted a 100% beef Blush burger, savoured the aromas wafting out of the door, and walked right in without a second thought.
The restaurant was pretty empty, and the waitress who met us told us we could sit anywhere, so we headed for a table set for four at the back. Another waitress politely asked us if we could choose a table for two, and since those were in the front section against a wall, we settled on one of those and sat down feeling a bit puzzled since there were loads of free tables.
We wasted no time in ordering: Blush burgers of course. Our drinks arrived quickly, soon followed by our burgers. The servings were huge, and the burgers were delicious. They came with a side of chips and salad, far more than we could eat.
Halfway through our meal we realised why the waitress had asked us to take a table for two. We must have arrived just before the lunchtime rush, and the place was completely full, with people starting to queue up outside.
My friend managed to find some room for Chocolate Fudge Cake, which she thoroughly enjoyed, and we both had coffees, which were excellent.
In total our meals averaged out at £20 per person, including drinks (wine, beer and coffee) and tips. The food was good, the service was good, and the atmosphere was conducive to eating without feeling rushed.
The menu is quite varied and extensive. Meals arriving at other tables looked appetising, and the diners seemed to be enjoying them.
Overall, we were pleased to have found such a nice restaurant for lunch. Based on prices along the Kings Road, it didn't seem too expensive for such a filling and enjoyable meal.
My daughter's dog, Hooli, had a car harness which he outgrew. So when we were in the pet shop buying him some food recently, she bought him a new harness to wear in the car.
There was a large selection and we looked at quite a few, but she eventually plumped for the EzyDog Harness.
This harness is definitely an improvement on Hooli's old one. Apart from the fact that it isn't too tight on him, there is also a padded chest support, which makes it more comfortable for him to wear.
The straps are made from sturdy webbing, are adjustable, and open and close with easy clips. There is a swivel looped strap which clips onto a D-ring in the centre of the back. You can also clip a lead to the D-ring if you want to.
When used in the car, you just thread the seat belt through the looped strap and this holds the dog safely in place. Unlike the previous harness Hooli had which clipped into the actual seat belt, this allows some give. So in case of a sudden stop or accident, it would operate in the same way as someone sitting in the seat and give a little before locking. Hopefully, this would mean less stress on the dog.
The looped strap is useful when you arrive at the end of your journey. It means that if you're in a public area and just need that extra bit of control, you have the looped strap to hold onto as he gets out of the car and before you put a lead on him.
Hooli seems much more comfortable with this harness.
This harness costs between £14.95 and £17.95 and can be found in pet stores.
My son and I stayed at Hotel24Seven in Bristol a couple of months ago. After scouring the internet I picked the hotel because it was cheap, central, had good reviews, and to be quite frank, because it intrigued me.
On its website it claims to be an automated access hotel, something I'd never come across before, so of course I had to try it. At £30 for a single or £40 for a double for single use, I decided to push the boat out and book two double rooms for single use.
The confirmation arrived in my inbox straight away giving me my reservation number, and the Reservation Details email arrived the following day. This told me which room numbers were booked in my name, and a different entry code for each room, with instructions and information.
I forwarded the email to my son, telling him which room I had chosen for myself, so that he knew the other room was his. We would be arriving from different parts of the country, and this meant that he could arrive whenever he liked and just go straight to his room using the code I had forwarded to him.
There's no need to check in or check out. The entry code for your room also opens the outside door, and only works for the period that you've booked and paid for the room. The rooms are all supposed to have
* Wireless Broadband
* Writing Desk
* Colour TV & DVD
* Hot Drinks Facilities
* Iron & Ironing Board
Arriving at the hotel, I parked on the road rather than use the secure car parking facilities. For me, this was the simpler option, since the hotel car park was down a side road behind locked doors, and involved having to call someone out to unlock them.
Entry to the hotel was simple, using the code for my room, and since my room was on the ground floor just by the entrance, it was easy to access. I was a little disappointed because the room was so small. The double bed took up most of the space and the Hot Drinks Facilities were on a tray on the bedside table, which was jammed into the corner by the bed. It didn't feel comfortable having it there right by my pillow. There was no fridge, probably because there was no room for a fridge.
The en-suite was just large enough to hold a loo and a shower with a sink in between. The two towels provided were on the small side.
My Hot Drinks Facilities only had sachets of decaffeinated coffee in the little basket which held tea, coffee, sugar and little pots of milk. I called the number for the concierge and she was very apologetic and was quick to turn up at my door with another little basket which had some sachets of fully caffeinated coffee.
My son had already gone on to meet up with my daughter at the event we were attending, so I didn't get to have a look at his room until the next day.
After the event, I came back to my room for the night. Since it was on the ground floor, facing out onto the front of the hotel and the road, I hadn't been able to open the venetian blind earlier in the day for reasons of privacy. When I turned out the light to get into bed I became aware that the spotlights illuminating the front of the hotel were seeping in through the gaps between the slats in the blind, and lighting up the room - all night long! So between having an electric kettle right next to my pillow and a brightly lit room, I had a bit of a restless night.
I was a bit dissatisfied with my choice of hotels, but my faith was restored in the morning just before we left. I ran upstairs to check out my son's room, and it did actually live up to the description on the website. It was adequately large for a double room, with a fridge and everything else listed as being provided. There was adequate room around the bed, and the beside table carried normal bedside table accessories. The Hot Drinks Facilities were placed well away from the bed. The bathroom was large enough to move around in. I asked my son if his room had let lights from outside seep in, and he said he didn't notice. He'd gone to sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
So, overall, I'm going to give this hotel 4 stars, because it met the standards outlined in the website as far as my son's room was concerned, but fell short as far as my room goes. Overall, the hotel was clean, and service was prompt, courteous and helpful. I didn't look in the kitchen, so I can't report on that. If I had stayed there a couple of days, I may have tried using it to prepare myself a meal.
15 Acramans Road
Telephone 0844 770 9411
Fax 0871 714 6695
I love popcorn, of the salted variety and with just a dash of melted butter.
I've always prided myself on making excellent popcorn from scratch, but have recently found that whatever popping corn I've been able to buy just doesn't seem to pop up as big and light as I'm used to. Now, for someone with years of experience at popping corn the old fashioned way, I can only think that the fault lies with the corn kernels I'm buying and not with my cooking skills.
However, Popz Microwave Popcorn delivers a perfectly popped bag of popcorn every time. It's simple and it's quick. I just put the bag in my microwave oven and cook on full power for 3 minutes. Then take out, open the bag, shake, and eat.
One of the highlights of going to the movies is to munch my way through a bag of popcorn. Now I can do the same when I'm watching a movie on my TV screen at home.
Each 100g (1 bag) serving contains 480 calories. But it also contains a whopping 27.5 grams of fat, which when you work it out at 9 calories per gram, comes to 247.5 grams, and makes up more than 50% of the calories. But I try not to think about that.
Popz Microwave Popcorn is available in three flavours: sweet, salty and butter. At £1.95 for a pack of 3 x 100g bags, it's quite a lot cheaper than buying it at the movies
My Australian sister-in-law brought me a tube of Lucas' Pawpaw Ointment the last time she visited the UK, and waxed lyrical about its amazing properties. I thanked her and put it in my first aid box, only half believing what she said. Then one day I needed an antiseptic, and decided to try the Pawpaw Ointment. I was so impressed by the results that it's now the first thing I reach for when I need any sort of ointment or cream.
On the tube it says: "A local topical application for boils, burns, chafing, cuts, cracked skin, gravel rash, splinters, open wounds, insect bites and nappy rash."
When you squeeze some of the ointment out of the tube, it looks and feels like petroleum jelly. It smells slightly fruity, and you don't need very much at all since it spreads quite easily. It comes in tubs and tubes, although I have the 25g tube, which lasts quite a while. The plastic 25g tube is bright red, with black writing printed on it. It's a simple design without any embellishment, as if the ointment is saying "I know I'm good, so I don't need to make a big song and dance about it."
Being small and lightweight, I popped it into my suitcase when I went to the Canary Islands last November. First of all, on a very long and strenuous rainforest walk, I got some blisters which burst and bled. I successfully treated those with the ointment, but then I had one of my periodic flare-ups of athlete's foot. This is something that had been plaguing me for years and I didn't have any cream with me. Rather than try to explain what I wanted in a language I didn't speak, I decided to try the Pawpaw ointment. The athlete's foot cleared up within a couple of days and it hasn't come back since.
I've had chronic and painful eczema on my foot for the past ten years. I've seen doctors and tried all sorts of ointment and creams, and finally kept it under control by using a heavy intense moisturising cream on a daily basis. By that, I mean that if I kept it moisturised it didn't crack, or get infected or cause me pain. One day I ran out of the cream I use, so decided to try the pawpaw ointment.
I'm almost afraid to say it, in case I jinx myself: my eczema has cleared up completely. I've gone for days without using any creams or potions, and there's no cracking, peeling, inflammation, or anything. All I can see is normal, healthy-looking skin.
Lucas' Pawpaw Ointment is available online, and costs £3.70 for a 25g tube. I bought a six pack for £20.49 from pawpawshop.co.uk, so that I could give one to each of my kids and have a couple of spares in the cupboard.
This case fits over your Flip Ultra Video and makes it waterproof up to 30 feet in depth.
It's a clear plastic case with controls that fit over the control buttons on the Flip. This means that while you're underwater you can do everything related to switching on and off, videoing or replaying videos.
I tested the underwater case when we went on holiday to the Canary Islands. I tested it in the sea and in the swimming pool. The deepest that I took it to must have only been about 5 feet, and it worked brilliantly.
Even though it was sealed, it still let enough sound through.
When filming underwater, I found it hard to see the LCD screen clearly, so a lot of the time I was pointing and guessing.
At the end of about half an hour of off and on filming underwater, I found one or two drops of water inside the casing. This wasn't a problem, and I just wiped it off with a towel when I took the Flip out of the case. I assumed that it was a touch of condensation, and in fact the instructions that come with the underwater case do warn of this.
However, I have seen online that some people had serious leakage problems. So I would recommend that if you buy this product you should test it out by dipping it into and out of water quickly just to be on the safe side. Having said that, any experiences I've had with this underwater case have been excellent and great fun.
Where and How Much:
This is available online, but at confusing prices. Amazon.co.uk is selling it for £75 while Mobilefun.co.uk has it listed at £24.43. In contrast, Amazon.com in the USA is selling it for $11.70!
I've had my Flip Video for almost a year. My kids bought it for my birthday last year, and it's been all over the place since then. I've used it at home and away, and have some really nice quality videos to show for it. My daughter took it with her when she cycled across China for charity, which shows how simple it is to use because she got lots of filming done at the same time as riding a bicycle.
What it looks like
It's very small and lightweight, and the casing is metal but with a rubberised skin. So it's smooth to the touch without being slippery. It's rectangular and about the size of a packet of extra long cigarettes, and easily fits in your pocket.
At the front is the lens and microphone, and at the back there is a 1.5 inch LCD screen with the controls underneath.
The controls are very straightforward. On the left is the play button and on the right is the delete button. In the middle is a red button for recording and this is surrounded by a metal plate with four markings like the points of a compass. Where North would be is a plus sign for zooming in, and at South is a minus sign for zooming out. East is an arrow pointing to the right which moves forward one recording, and West is an arrow pointing left which moves back one recording.
On one side panel is the on/off switch and an indent with a little bar for fixing the wrist strap. On the other side panel there is a hole marked 'TV' to plug in the wire to connect and play videos directly from the Flip to the TV. On the same side is the flip up USB arm, for which the Flip is named.
On the bottom is a hole so that the Flip can be screwed onto a tripod or other mount. Also on the bottom is a sliding lock which, when unlocked, allows you to slide most of the front panel off, giving you access to the two AA batteries which power this camcorder.
How it works
It's very easy to use. You just switch it on, point and press the red record button. When you want to stop, you press the red button again. If you want to play back what you've recorded, you just press the play button. If you don't like what you recorded, you press the delete button.
You can record up to one hour of video at a time, and the batteries last a long time. I use rechargeable batteries and although I've never actually timed them, they seem to last for ages before they need recharging.
To copy to your computer, you just flip up the USB arm, and insert it into a USB port in your computer. The software is built into the Flip, so apart from prompting you to make some choices, it does all the rest for you. You can also capture photos from the video.
The picture quality is really good. Even playing it on my 32 inch TV, the picture was still crisp.
Where and How Much
It's on sale online and in stores, and you can get it for about £80. This time last year it cost £90, but worth every penny. We've had so much fun with it.