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raehippychick

raehippychick
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Member since: 27.02.2002

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      19.02.2009 15:29
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      Best mascara I have ever tried

      I am a sucker for trying out new mascara - it is the one thing I won't go out of doors without it and I have spent far too many years trying to find the ultimate one. It has to be dark, lengthening and non-smudging. Finally last summer I found the ideal one so far and trust me I have been looking for this a very, very long time! Last summer In our local Boots shop near the till (yes I am a sucker for that old ploy!) I noticed that there was a mascara I had not tried and was on special offer - well what more excuse did I need? I duly snapped one up Now I am not a huge fan of double ended mascaras, having tried a few in the past and been very let down by their wonderful claims, but this time I was happily surprised. This stuff is amazing - once the black coat goes on you can see the difference in length of your lashes, they are longer and thicker and it doesn't smudge because this is not like your old style mascaras Not only is the end result effective but it is also long lasting, I find if I am being lazy and don't take it off at night it is still there the next morning with no panda smudges at all and only needs a light touch up to last another day - bargain! Another bonus is that it just doesn't seem to smudge and even though it does not claim to be waterproof I find that is, I have been in the rain and I am talking about the rainiest rain I have ever been in - I looked like a drowned rat, but with prettier eyes! I have even been swimming wearing it, I do wear goggles, but having to take them off to demist means my eyes still get wet and even after a long swim I have minimal mascara damage as this stuff just doesn't smudge, it kind of comes off in little plasticky blobs which wipe away nice and discreetly. The only time I have inadvertently managed to get rid of it was when I sat in the Jacuzzi at the pool for too long - the splashing water and heat did the trick and I had a lot of clump wiping to do So far so good - in the past I have found that some waterproof mascaras are a nightmare to remove. Not this one! Just hold a warm damp flannel over your eyes for the recommended 30 seconds and it all gently peels off your lashes leaving you all fresh and clean. Do try and hold the flannel there for the time, rather than scrubbing impatiently like I do sometimes or you'll end up with tender eyes! When it comes off you can see the little tubes that are advertised on the pack The only thing that annoys me about this mascara is firstly the packaging - it's not easy to get in to and has almost caused me a broken nail at times, at least it is worth the fight and last a long time, I bought my past one back last summer and have only just replaced it last week - not bad considering I wear it every day At almost a tenner a pop this isn't the cheapest mascara on the market but I keep an eye out for special offers in Boots and Superdrug and stock up - last week I got three for the price of two - not bad at all for the best mascara I have ever used

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        11.01.2008 15:18
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        Great way to get electronic products in to your mitts quickly!

        For my mother's birthday (on New year's eve, a very awkward time to have it if you ask me!) this year I decided to buy her a digital photo frame as she is beginning to get the hang of modern technology quite well and also really enjoys her photos, particularly now that she has twin three year old grandsons as well as a twenty year old grandson who often sends her pictures via email. After having a good look round and finding that most places had sold out, so she had to wait a few days for her present Having used Amazon a lot with no problems, this was my first port of call. A quick search brought up plenty of options and along with standard digital photo frames I found a cute little key ring that holds up to 190 images... enough for any doting grandma! This was not available direct from Amazon, rather one of their marketplace sellers, digitalmediastore, but since I have bought second-hand books and new DVDs from assorted sellers I though I'd take a chance. Digitalmediastore have their own website as well as a store on Amazon and sell all kinds of things electronic, such memory cards, digital photo frames, batteries, chargers... well, have a look and see for yourself as they have such a wide range it would be impossible to list it all here Purchasing via Amazon was done in the usual way, I just clicked to buy, made sure it would be delivered to my mother's address and paid using a combination of my debit card and a voucher I had won in a prize draw. The post and packing was £4.50, not cheap, but not excessive and as I had a £5.00 voucher this didn't bother me. P&P on the website is not listed, but can be calculate by 'pretending' to buy an item and will be different for each item or combination of items. As with all reputable online stores digitalmediastore take a variety of credit and debit cards, (including Electron which some companies do not accept) via a secure transaction service, I could see no evidence of being able to pay via Paypal As this present was not coming direct from Amazon I contacted the seller to request they did not include an invoice in the package. The following day I received a very pleasant email saying that they would ensure no invoice was included but that as I had ordered via Amazon normally an invoice would be included as they only had the delivery address and not my account address, so it is a good thing I did email them. They also informed me that as they receive no indication that the buyer and recipient are not the same person and the lack of indication on the paperwork that it was ordered by another party means some people return the items as unsolicited goods I received an email confirming my order with a link to the digitalmediastore website so I could check the progress of my order. Their main website is simple to use, to check progress of an order I had to create user account so that I could log-in, which was a straightforward process and means that in future I can order direct from them without going through Amazon. The front page has a selection of their current deals and the search feature works well, although I have been unable to find the key ring, so I assume certain items are only available via their Amazon marketplace I ordered the key ring on Tuesday and it arrived safe and sound on the Thursday - can't fault that for service!

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        • yougov.com / Internet Site / 105 Readings / 100 Ratings
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          09.01.2008 15:47
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          get paid for being opinionated

          A few years ago when I first had good access to the internet I signed up for every possibly money making offer my little mouse could click on. Over time I realised that the majority of these amazing offers and fantastic opportunities weren't worth the virtual paper they were written on and were just stuffing my email account with rubbish and junk mail One name kept appearing in my inbox for a long time was YouGov, mostly I would delete their emails along with the dross, then one day a few months ago I read an op saying that they actually paid 50p for most surveys completed and they did pay out. Drat... all those emails I had cheerfully consigned to the waste bin with a cavalier click of my mouse I toddled off to look at the YouGov website and found it actually looks quite professional. Founded in 2004, the news archive shows that the media at least seem to take them seriously. So I decided that for the sake of a few clicks now and again and being prepared to answer an assortment of questions regarding my spending habits, perception of brand awareness and the like I may as well see if I could make a few pennies Joining is as simple as it is for most member only websites... go to http://www.yougov.com/ then, on the bottom left corner of the page is a link for new members click it and fill in your email address and name. Once your account is activated you are asked to fill further information in such as address, what type of work you do etc... the usual things consumer panels want to know so that they can build as accurate a picture as they can for their customers who want surveys carried out After that you just sit back and wait for their emails to turn up in your inbox. I find the survey requests come in fits and starts, sometimes I will get a load in a week and other times I could go for a few weeks with nothing. The majority of surveys pay 50p, some pay nothing other than an entry into a prize draw, but some are worth up to £2.00, although the best I have had is £1.50 You can clock up money quicker by time honoured method of referrals, YouGov will give you the same amounts of credit as the person who signed up via your link for the first three months of their membership. Personally I am far to embarrassed to ask any of my mates to do that, not sure why but I really hate asking people to sign up via a referral link for anything, I would rather tell them of a good offer and they get it the 'normal' way rather than me profiting from them. I know I have missed out on the odd few quid here and there over the years but I'd rather not gain money from friendship. But hey, that's me! Now, compared to some surveys that only offer you a chance for a prize or points that can be collected and exchanged for goods that you may not even want very much this sounds a pretty good deal for a few minutes of mouse play. Well, it is and it isn't. I have been a panel member since June 2005 and because I did not bother to complete any surveys for months on end it took me along time get a decent balance in my account and bearing in mind they will not let you cash in until you have earned £50.00 I can see that a lot of people would give up before reaching the cash-in amount. On the other hand, it really is money for old rope, you receive an email with a link, you click the link, you answer a few questions for about 10 minutes and another 50p (or more) is added to your account. Cashing in is as simple as it is here on Dooyoo, same principle really and about the same time for the money to be in my grubby little mitts The surveys are time limited so you will need to get them done fairly soon after receiving the request, but each email will state when the cut off date and time is. The surveys themselves aren't terribly exciting; mostly they seem to be about brand awareness and politics. I have noticed that when they have questions about football they now have an option to reply "I am not the slightest bit interested in football" which is good for me as I used to struggle to think of anything to reply to those questions before! So there you go, not a get rich quick scheme, but if you are on the internet anyway via broadband rather than dial-up-pay-for-every-second-and-it-costs-a-fortune, you may as well sign up and let the 50ps quietly add up for you. After all, if someone offered a cheque for fifty quid once a year or so would you say no?

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          • Top Ten Sweets / Discussion / 144 Readings / 134 Ratings
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            26.09.2007 11:01
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            A sweet trip down memory lane (with an icky bit)

            1. Sherbet Dip Dabs Ah, the mess of a sherbet dip dab… A small pink lollipop to dip into a pack of sweet, sugary lemon sherbet. One little packet could last me almost a day if I was careful and could resist the temptation to crunch the lolly to bits 2. Traffic light lollipops I loved the fun of traffic light lollipops; they started out with a red unidentified fruit flavoured lolly. As you sucked and melted the outer layer away you got to, my favourite bit, a lovely creamy, almost custard flavoured tasting yellow part and then, the not so fun bit; a green centre. When I got to inner core I would often swap it with my friend for one of her sweets. Yes, disgusting I know, but hey, back in the 70’s we didn’t have an obsession with germs, as long as we washed out hands before meals we’d survive. To be honest I find the current fixation on keeping everything germ free tedious and pathetic, as kids living in the country we were grubby a lot of the time and yet rarely had colds or bugs or infections. Sorry, rant over, back to the lollies… anyway, after we had shared our traffic light the sticks were lovely to chew as, being made of tightly rolled paper, one stick could last for ages as we ran around pretending to be Kojak 3. Space Dust This amazing sweet confection arrived when I was in my teens and was a novel sweet to us. A brightly coloured sachet of what looked like innocent sherbet. But drop a little onto your tongue and you were tickled with a crackling spitting explosion of taste that sounded a lot louder to your own ears than those around you. We sued to dare each other to put a whole sachet in at once… quite an experience the first time! After a while we began to get brave and would spend all our pocket money on Space Dust and pour whole packets into our abused mouths at once, I think the maximum ever was three packets… not something I tried, although I was highly impressed 4. Strawberry bon bons Innocent looking dusty pale pink sweets that could crack a filling in a careless instant, these were strange sweeties, but quite addictive. I loved to suck off the sugary dusty coating and then gently suck the toffee centre for hours while I read my favourite Enid Blyton books. But woe betide should I forget myself and give a quick bite, I’d end up at best with my teeth stuck together and once a quick trip to the dentist to replace a filling 5. Peanut brittle As a huge peanut fan, I am still a lover of peanut brittle. A long sticky plank of peanuts stuck together with a crisp toffee, a bar of this was another favourite accompaniment to my reading addiction. I had t o carefully unwrap this almost to the bottom of the bar as once engrossed in a book I could easily lose concentration on my nibbling and often ended up gnawing on the wrapper 6. Pineapple chunks These happy chunky yellow sweets always remind me of summer. During the endless holidays as a child we often had ‘days out’ around Norfolk and were allowed to choose a quarter of whatever sweets took our fancy should we come across a sweetie shop. Ah, the hours of deliberation as out parents stood patiently outside waiting for my sister and I to come to a decision. I was always torn between pineapple chunks and those hard candy peanut sweets shaped like peanut shells and filled with peanut butter, but after getting one stuck in my throat one day (a very scary experience that almost put me off all boiled sweets for life) pineapple chunks became a firm favourite. There is nothing like a small paper bag filled with those pretty yellow cubes dusted with powdery sugar and a smell of artificial pineapple wafting up at me to take me back to a glorious summer afternoon in the sweet shop in Holt, North Norfolk 7. Sherbet pips These were strange little things. We had hours of endless fun with these tiny little pink and white blobs of fizzy flavour, as they were the perfect size for dolls tea parties. A bag of the would start off I pristine condition with each pearl either clean pink or beautiful white and by the end of an afternoon of hard partying they would all be a dingy grey, but we still wolfed the lot down before going indoors for our tea 8. Anglo Bubbly Now, this is where this op becomes truly disgusting. I hang my head in shame, but you must realise that growing up in a village so small that there were only three main families, one bus a day and nothing to do but climb trees, something had to give. When I was around thirteen, we didn’t grow up as fast as kids today, and although boys were starting to become mildly interesting to us, we were more concerned with having fun and outdoing them than enticing them with our feminine wiles. Our village had a ford with a bridge where we all congregated in the holidays and at weekends; the bridge had large rivets holdings the planks on it. One long hot day a couple of the local lads decided to have a spitting competition using the rivets as targets. So far so revolting? Well, we girls wanted to beat them, so to this end we scurried to the village shop and stocked up on Anglo bubbly. We chewed all the way back to the ford and the bright pink bubblegum didn’t let us down; for some reason it produced the most marvellous quantities of spit of the perfect consistency for any spitting competition. Suffice it to say, that after a competitive afternoon the girls finally won! I don’t think we ever did let the boys in on our secret weapon! 9. Butterscotch Oma, my grandmother on my father’s side, used to arrive for her annual visit from London with a box of Dutch butter biscuits and a packet of butterscotch for my sister and I. The biscuits were always consumed on the first day during afternoon tea by the open fire, but the butterscotch was careful rationed. This was no ordinary butterscotch, it came in a longish flat packet and each piece was a small bar that could be sucked and replaced in its cellophane to make it last a little longer, or it could be crunched to make a delicious squeaky mess that stuck in the gaps of our teeth and then be sucked out gradually over a an hour or so. Thinking back, a lot of our choices of sweets were based on how long they would last, and out energies were devoted to eking these treats out as long as we could as a week between pocket money days was along time. It never occurred to us to ask our parents to buy us sweets in the ordinary run of things; sweets were paid for out of our own pocket money 10. Barley Sugar As a child I suffered quite badly with carsickness, probably not helped by my habit of reading in the backseat on every journey, but this inconvenience had its own rewards. In the glove box of our car was a tempting round tin filled with barley sugar nestling in a nest of softest icing sugar. I did have to be honestly car sick to get a piece of this, and I had to have stopped reading for some time, but it was worth forgoing my book for a short while to get my mouth round a lovely sweet lump of gold. Barley sugar has a strange taste, sweet but not overly sugary, but it really did the trick in helping a bout of nausea in the car. Although I think any boiled sweet would have done, barley sugars were what my parents bought. Looking back this may be because if they had a tin of assorted fruit flavoured boiled sweets my sister and I would have fought over who got which flavour so with barley sugar there were no arguments! The majority of the sweets we devoured as youngsters were of indeterminate taste, all full of artificial flavours, sweeteners and preservatives. All tooth rottingly unhealthy, but because we had to live with the budget of our pocket money we didn’t eat vast quantities of them and because we weren’t ferried everywhere by car we got plenty of exercise, out in the fresh air with our friends. As the saying goes: all things in moderation; we grew up healthy and with surprisingly few fillings Most of the sweets of my childhood can be found online at: http://www.aquarterof.co.uk/ although sadly the traffic light lollies are no longer as good as they used to be, I have yet to find any that are fully red on the outside to give the fascinating layering effect of uncovering a different colour as you suck; nowadays they seem to be sort of stripe, which to me negates a lot of the point of calling the traffic lights

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            • The Good Life / TV Programme / 92 Readings / 87 Ratings
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              20.09.2007 10:03
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              A '70s sitcom that has stood the test of time

              From 1975 to 1978 I used to love curling up in front of the goggle box to watch The Good Life. Living in the countryside on a smallholding with our own pigs and chickens probably helped me to relate particularly well to this programme of a middle class man who decides to cut loose from the rat run and become totally self sufficient… in middle class suburbia Perhaps the fact that five years before my father, a draughtsman like Tom Good, left his work to run our little ‘farm’ made me understand and appreciate the nuances behind the comedy. The storyline begins with Tom reaching his 40th birthday and deciding that the stresses of middle management in a fir the makes the plastic free gifts for cereals was not how he wanted to spend the rest of his life The British institution that is Richard Briers played Tom, as ever he brought depth and warmth to his character, even when Tom was being annoyingly frustrating you could still feel for him. He was a man who lacked any real ambition for his work, and was determined to change his life. While he could be stubborn and single-minded he could also be generous and kind. A favourite episode of mine was when he realised that his wife might not always want to spend here entire time in jeans, homemade clothes and up to her knees in pig muck. Tom organised a beautiful dinner out for their anniversary and paid for it by doing some contract work for his former boss. His wife was livid with him for betraying his principles until he revealed that the extra work he had done was to pay for a beautiful piece of jewellery for her. Tom’s wife Barbara was played, as any man over the age of about 35 will tell you, with a glazing of his eyes, by the delightful Felicity Kendal, winner of rear of the year a number of times. She was my generation’s Kylie in terms of male fantasies. Barbara was a cute and feisty character who usually kowtowed to Tom’s dominance, but if pushed too far would spark back at him. She wholeheartedly embraced their change of lifestyle and on the odd occasion when Tom’s optimism left him could be relied on to cheer him up. Felicity looked adorable even in patched jeans and oversized spectacles as she worked to turn the standard suburban garden into a smallholding with pigs Pinky and Perky, a goat called Geraldine and a clutch of chickens. Her support for her husband in the face of neighbourly consternation could have cost her the friendship of Margo ad Jerry Leadbetter in the next-door house, but her charm soon smoothed over any problems caused by Tom’s single mindedness Margo and jerry Leadbetter were my favourite characters by a short head. Margo is wonderfully played by Penelope Keith as a slightly uptight middle class whose job was being a corporate wife. Penelope carries this role off with great style and grace, she keeps a perfect balance as she shows us a snobby annoying woman with no sense of humour or understanding of why the ridiculous is funny, her less endearing characteristics are tempered by a very believable vulnerability. The episode where the four neighbours go out to dinner after a furious row between the Goods has resulted in Tom buying a new ‘posh frock’ for Barbara but having no money to ensue he has the bottom half of his dinner suit shows Margo at her best. Barbara is highly embarrassed on arriving at the restaurant to discover Tom has teamed his dinner jacket and dickie bow tie with shabby old tweed trousers, and Margo comes up trumps by proudly taking his arm and walking into the dinging area with him… of course in true Margo style she then quietly asks him to sit behind a pillar! Margo went on later to star in the extremely successful To The Manor Born series, where she played an upper class lady fallen on hard times Jerry Leadbetter was a very underrated character in my opinion. Played by the sadly departed Paul Eddington of Yes Minster fame, Jerry sometimes came across as a downtrodden husband with overweening ambition at work who sucked up to his boss and let his wife walk over him. But watching repeats recently Paul’s subtle playing of the character is interesting, he shows that he genuinely loves is wife and wants her to be happy, but not to the extent that he is submerged by her strong character. The occasions when he stands up to her a re some the best parts of this series While Margo did not truly understand that Barbara was happy to forgo modern luxuries for what she and Tom believed in, she did try to help in her, often tactless way, causing Barbara to flare up with frustration. Jerry could see what the Goods were attempting to do, but like his wife found some aspects bemusing and the shenanigans next door were a source of endless amusement to him as he teased the pair, he also found Barbara attractive, but he was not the type to ever attempt to take his attraction any further. The four neighbours are the main characters in the series and they work extremely well together with beautiful counterpoints that rarely jar Of the few other characters that appeared, Jerry’s current and Tom’s ex boss Andy, or ‘Sir’ is probably the most memorable. He never noticed Tom until he left work and afterwards frequently tried to tempt him back in times of need. Tom and Barbara had no fear of him, but Jerry and Margo would ask ‘how high?’ if ‘Sir’ said ‘jump’! Andy was gruff and an archetypal 1970’s manager who could not understand that Tom turned down work on principle and that offering more money each time would make no difference to his final answer. That said, he did often have a twinkle in his eye as he attempted to pressure Tom to return to a ‘normal’ lifestyle Andy and his wife Felicity turn up in a few episodes, but other than that other characters are very few and far between, usually just shopkeepers or passers-by. One interesting episode was when the Goods played host to a pair of students who both began to worship Tom and have crushes on both Tom and Barbara. To begin with Tom had his head turned and began to puff up with self importance, until in his inimitable way he realised how silly he was being and gently brought the situation back down to earth with the help of Barbara’s commonsense Whilst this series is very typical of the seventies, with its interest in the new fashion just coming on the scene to be green and organic, the natures of the characters involved are no different from today. I think that watching this as a child and again on repeats over the years combined with having spent a few years with our own mini farm has had a lasting impact on me… I put my name on the waiting for an allotment recently as all those lovely green, self sufficient hippy thoughts have just got too much for me to ignore and tubs of herbs and tomatoes is not enough… now if we could just move to somewhere with a bigger garden I’d be able to have some chickens too! Much as I would love to be able to reproduce the Good’s level of self-sufficiency, sadly the way the world is now it is virtually impossible. Tom used to buy his pig magazine from the newsagent using eggs as currency; the council rates were paid in loose copper coins and can you imagine a middle class avenue putting up with a couple of pigs and a run of hens without calling down the wrath of the local council and health and safety officers? This is a really enjoyable, relaxing comedy series full of gentle humour that extols the virtues of a greener life albeit from a slightly rose tinted perspective. Available from Amazon for around a tenner a series

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                17.09.2007 11:46
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                A brilliant shampoo that even makes damaged hair look good without the need for a conditioner

                For my lovely fella’s birthday recently I treated us to a couple of nights in the divine Maison Talbooth hotel in the beautiful Constable countryside of Essex, a place of unadulterated luxury and comfort. In the blissfully large bathroom I was delighted to find a delicious array of Molton Brown goodies. I had carefully packed a wide selection of pretty dresses, sandals and handbags and in my excitement had managed to completely forget any shampoo or conditioner. Now, my hair is a not very natural blonde, lets face it my poor tresses have been so abused over the years I’m awaiting a knock on the door from some department of the social services! Luckily help was at hand in the form of a generously large bottle of Molton Brown’s Healthy Hair shampoo. I was very concerned that as there was no conditioner, and the bottle did not promise to soothe the ravages of chemicals, I would have to spend the evening with hair like candyfloss. I stood in the extremely large walk-in shower and nervously contemplated the plastic bottle of amber liquid and realised I’d just have to hope for the best and trust Molton Brown would deliver. Having spent the afternoon in the hot tub my hair was in desperate need of good clean and condition, if only to rid it of the very mild chlorine smell. The bottle had a handy little pump so it was easy to extract a couple of small squirts The scent as I began to rub it into my hair was wonderful; a very refreshing clean smell with a certain zinginess to it. The shampoo was of a lovely consistency, thick enough to feel very posh, but not so thick it didn’t bubble up quickly. Now at this point I got a bit worried that the end result may end up with me insisting on a room service dinner and hiding my abused hair under a towel all night, as I could feel a nasty edge of roughness in my hair as my fingers massaged the bubbles about. It wasn’t helped when I began my usual second wash, nor when I rinsed it al away. I was interested to find that all the bubbles rinsed off very quickly and easily, although this was possibly helped by the fact that I was standing under the biggest shower I’ve ever seen On exiting the shower to survey the result in the mirror, I was still apprehensive as my hair definitely looked significantly coarser than it usually does. So, hurriedly wrapping my head turban style on a one of the fluffy white towels I wandered out to have (another) glass of champagne to try to calm my fears. Eventually I plucked up courage to go and deal with this situation and face the ordeal of getting a comb through my bedraggled locks But wait! Imagine my surprise when my comb did not come to an abrupt halt in the middle of a knot of tangles. Admittedly it wasn’t going through quite as smoothly as when I condition properly, but it was surprisingly easier than I had been dreading. And after a quick blow dry I was amazed to find my hair actually looked pretty good, nowhere near the strawlike result I had feared. All I needed was a quick spritz of my shiny gloss spray and I was on my way out for a swanky dinner, looking pretty good, if I do say so myself I used the shampoo a couple of times a day during our stay, mainly because of using the hot tub such a lot! And then on our last morning I used it one last time. What I did find interesting when I got home was how long my hair stayed feeling fresh and clean afterwards. Normally I have to wash my hair every other day as, probably due to the conditioners, it begins to feel lank, but after three days my hair still looked, felt and smelled fresh. I did wash it then but just because I felt I ought to Having checked on Molton Brown’s website I have discovered that the shampoo has extracts of ziao jao, keratin proteins and chlorine neutralisers. Now I have no idea what ziao jao is, but I giuess that is what makes it smell so good, the keratin probably what helps it look good, and the cholrine nuetraliser was great for after the hot tub. Molton Brown have an excellent range of all things lovely for the body and hair, so I will try not to spend my entire wages on tings to go with the shampoo! They are also nicely green, using recyclable packaging and do not test products on animals, which is nice for a hippychick like me, it means I can look and smell good without guilt! Come payday I am going straight to my nearest stockist and getting my mitts on a bottle of this heavenly shampoo. At around fourteen quid for 300 ml it isn’t the cheapest hair care product, but it is going to worth every penny, as I only need a small amount, the effects last a long time and I end up smelling like a fresh spring morning!

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                  16.08.2007 16:07
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                  You really are only as old as you feel! Go get an education if get the chance!

                  When I had my son (twenty years ago now, where does the time go to?) I made the decision that I wanted to stay at home with him until he went to school. This was fine until he was about three and I realised he was a sociable little chap and needed more than just his mum and I was ready do something other than play with a toddler all day. So I made the decision that since I had no decent qualifications I would look into going into further education Having a dearth of O levels but a few years of experience in catering I decided I wanted to work in an office as the hours were more suited to coping with the needs of a child. Norwich City College was on my doorstep and a quick peruse of their prospectus (bearing this was before we all had the internet) I found that they offered an HND in Business and Finance. Just what I was looking for: a good basic grounding in all things office related. I sent off my application form and very soon was offered an interview, as, as I knew, I did not have the requisite entry qualifications. Luckily I was interviewed by an understanding lady who had been in the same situation as myself and she offered me a place that day. Come September I was very nervous, something I think my son may have picked up on, as when I dropped him off at nursery he wailed and screamed and had a death grip on my hair. Having had a couple of visits to the nursery I knew he would soon settle and be happy there, but it left me in a right old tizzy as I made my way to the business block. Because it was a business course I did not wear the traditional torn jeans and scabby T-shirt of a student, but some smart slacks and a polo jumper. You can imagine how I felt as a respectable dressed 27 year old, walking into a room full of hulking denim clad teenagers Luckily the next day I was back into my comfy jeans and scruffy tops and soon became one of the crowd. Although there was about 7 years between my contempories and me and I was the only woman on my course with a child this never became an issue. Possibly this was because my house was halfway between the college and the nearest Chinese takeaway and the friends I made who lived on campus soon realised that if they descended en masse I would provide them with plates and cutlery in return for a spoonful or two from each plate! I had a dishwasher so this was no hardship for me and a great way to meet up with fellow students as being a single mother I could not easily go to any study get-togethers (or booze ups) in the college after hours I was very lucky as I was one of the last few who were able to benefit from the grant system, so not only were my tuition fees paid for but I also got a grant, not much, but enough that I could, with a great deal of scrimping afford to buy a tiny terraced house. Nowadays that would not be possible, not only do people have to pay their own fees and receive no grant but house prices have sky-rocketed out of the reach of normal people’s funds. My son and I were extremely hard up, but very happy. He benefited immensely from being at the college nursery, which was staffed by the loveliest girls you could wish for and the nursery course students would do placements there too, so every adult working really wanted to be there, resulting a great atmosphere. If you could imagine the most perfect nursery you could wish for and then add some, you’d be close as to how good that place was Although initially nervous about being the old f*rt on the course, any worries soon disappeared as I got to know the others I studied with and because the majority were in halls of residence on site and many away from home for the first time we soon became close. The work itself was not too much of a problem and any time I was stuck there was a college lecturer available to point me in the right direction. Fortunately we all wanted to do well and pass the HND, so we all had a good attitude towards the actual coursework and exams we had to get through, but we also partied hard. I can remember some great college balls where we all dressed up to the nines. The first ball was my favourite, as when I arrived to meet up for the coach carrying us to the hotel, all the young lads had hired Moss Bros tuxes which were covered in little bits of white fluff. My mother instinct took over and I brushed them all down before letting them take any more photos. They looked so sweet and I treasure some photos of line-ups of gawky young chaps looking a little uncomfortable, but very proud and rows of teenage girls more confident in their sparkling finery all set against the delightful backdrop of student accommodation breezeblocks Towards the end of the second (final) year my now close friends and I were sat one evening reminiscing back on the months of hard work we had all put in and the fun we had had. My son had gone to bed and been read his bedtime story by one of the gang and we got to chatting about work habits. Now, it had become a habit that my friends would fetch their takeaways and arrive around half past six and stay until around midnight. They did their homework straight after college, ate their tea, came to me and then went back to bed, I explained that when they did their homework I was feeding and bathing my son. At this point someone suddenly asked when I did my homework. “Well, after you guys go home” was my simple reply. Cue stunned silence as they realised I had been doing the course on about half the sleep they had! So for two years, I worked hard and played hard, but a mature student, especially with a dependent I was far more committed to completing the course than I would have been when I was younger. I look back on those two years with very happy memories. At 27 I was still young enough to manage on less sleep than I should, young enough to have a great time, but old enough to know the work still has to be done, preferably before the fun starts I worked for a few years, then went back again to top my HND to a degree at the same place, but as ever places change and although I really enjoyed going back again, nothing could be beat those first two years with such a great crowd of people. A sad thought to me is that my parents paid taxes, I paid taxes both before my college days and am still working and paying taxes now, and my son pays taxes, but if he wants to get a degree he will have to pay for it all himself If you can possibly afford to go back into education as a mature student I can thoroughly recommend it. You will have the common sense to keep up with the work and being around younger people will give you a whole new lease of life and different outlook on things

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                    14.08.2007 16:09
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                    A good all round hotel with a great restaurant

                    The other week my boss asked me to go to Sweden for a few days. Great news, you might think? Well, apart from the fact that I have a small (huge!) fear of flying that’s what I thought too! Luckily the weather was fine, the seminar went well, Gothenburg was a lovely green tree filled city and the Swedish people I met were all friendly, so the trip was a success! I had no choice in my hotel for this trip, so I was pleasantly surprised by an attractive, very tall, shiny building with an enormous marble floored foyer. On check in the staff fortunately spoke fluent English and were extremely helpful and polite. My room was located on the 12th floor (of 23!) in the west tower. It was the usual modern hotel room that I expected, with a large walk-in shower but no bath. The cleanliness was exceptional and the décor very modern and comfortable Having unpacked I nipped back down in the lift to reception to ask if there was anywhere I could smoke in the hotel (yes, I know, it’s a disgusting habit!) and the receptionist asked if I would prefer a smoking room. Cue stunned silence from me; since we went non-smoking over here in the UK I wasn’t expecting this potion at all. So ten minutes later I had whizzed back up and down 12 floors, collected my new key card, crossed the vast expanse of foyer and gone up 5 floors into the east tower to my new room This new room, whilst being clean and comfortable was not of the same quality as the first one. It looks like the west tower has recently been modernised, as there is a definite difference in the style and quality of decoration. This said, the room was perfectly adequate and other than having a broken, but still usable hairdryer was fine. The hairdryer was also one of those ghastly brown box ones on the bathroom wall, as opposed to a nice ‘normal’ one like in the previous room One thing to note about this hotel was the security. Not only did I have an easy to use safe in my wardrobe, but also to get to the floors with rooms you had to use your key card in the lifts. Being blonde I managed to muff this up a few times on my first evening and spent some time needlessly going up and down a few floors. Apparently you have to put your key card in the slot in the lift first and then press your room floor. Still, I got there in my own inimitable way The whole hotel was beautifully clean and airy. Airiness and spaciousness was something I saw a lot of in Gothenburg. Sweden clearly has more space than us! A lot of office buildings were built around a large open space, often going up to the top floor and the hotel was no exception. For a city hotel there was a surprising amount of empty space, which made the whole place feel very pleasant. There were plenty of lifts for the 704 rooms, and although I did notice that sometimes one would not be working I never had to wait long for one to arrive This hotel is designed primarily for business and conferences with a large conference centre on the 2nd floor (that is the first floor to us Brits – the 1st floor over is the ground floor), again with vast amounts of open space, broken up by a the occasional grouping of a few chairs and sofas. There are two restaurants, one on the ground (1st) floor and one on the breathtaking 23rd floor of the west tower. The latter, Heaven 23, is an experience not to be missed. I didn’t actually eat in the restaurant, although I peeked in, and it looked really good, as I was seduced by the view from the bar area. I perched on a high stool with matching table on the west side of the room with all of Gothenburg spread out under a glorious evening sun and enjoyed the view and the sunset over a glass of red wine and a delicious light snack of bleak roe with salad and crispy biscuit. One thing that particularly appealed to me was being given a large glass of water with my glass of wine, just a small touch, but most appreciated after a long day I think the red wine had some magical properties as when I had finished, instead of returning via the normal lift, I actually braved the piece de resistance of the modern design of this hotel; a large lass lift on the outside of the building. Yes, that’s right, I went down all 23 floors in a silly glass box! And I kept my eyes open all the way down! I’m glad I did as the view spectacular, particularly the lights from the fun fair opposite The second night I tried the restaurant on the ground floor, Incontro. Again, with plenty of space and a modern feel, this has an Italian theme and a good bar menu. I opted for their speciality called Kingsize, having seen people eat it in the top floor bar the previous night. When they say Kingsize, they really mean it! It is basically an open prawn sandwich on brown bread with a boiled egg and mayonnaise, but I have never seen so many prawns on one plate. At 159 SEK (around 11 quid) it might not be cheap, but it was very fresh and tasty and certainly filled me up The rooms as I say were standard fare for a business hotel, my second room had a modern art deco feel to the decoration and had the usual trouser press, desk, chairs and television along with tea and coffee making facilities. The mini bar had a small selection of beers and soft drinks but I couldn’t see a price list and didn’t fancy anything anyway. I made do with a tumbler of cold water and ice from the ice machine near the lifts, which they provide an ice bucket for. The television had Sky and BBC News 24 along with plenty of subtitled American sit-coms showing in English, so I was able to while away the latter evening hours quite nicely As well as television, a wireless keyboard is provided for Internet access via the TV, but as usual this cost so I didn’t bother trying it. All rooms have phone-lines and wi-fi connection for those who just can’t live without their email and Internet access at a price: 139 SEK (approximately a tenner) for 24 hours, or 59 SEK (about £4.00) per hour The best part, other than that stunning sky-high restaurant was breakfast. Served from 6.30-10.30 in Estrad, on floor two near the conference centre, it is buffet arrangement with a slight canteen feel and again plenty of space. There were seven main areas to grab your goodies from: a drinks station that served coffees, teas and fresh juices, I discovered a very appetizing mixed fruit drink called vitality, not being able to speak Swedish I am not sure what was in it but the was a definite passion fruit taste. I patronised the cold meats and cheeses bar a lot as the bread rolls were simply divine, very fresh and soft with tasty seeds and nuts on top. There was a good selection of cold meats and cheeses and, slightly bizarrely in that section, dishes of jam and marmalade. I found that blackberry jam goes very well in a cheese and ham roll. Other sections catered for fresh fruit, toasts and breads, cereals and hot food. On the my last morning I spoiled myself with pancakes and bacon liberally drizzled with maple syrup The only downsides I could find were, the broken hairdryer, one day they forgot to replenish my tea and coffee sachets and the bar staff, although very polite and pleasant could have been a bit quicker with the service: I had to wait some time for my bill in Heaven 23, but these are all minor gripes Other than the two main restaurants, the breakfast restaurant and the conference centre, the hotel has a large penthouse function room at the top of east tower and a ‘relax area’ with a steam room and sauna, but no swimming pool, although they do offer discounted rates to a pool and gym nearby. It was a shame there was no pool as I really enjoy a dip and would have had plenty of time on this particular trip Overall I would say this hotel is ideal for the business traveller. The staff are all polite, helpful and efficient and although it is large it does not feel as impersonal as some hotels I have stayed at in London One day I am going to surprise my lovely fella with a trip over for dinner in that top floor restaurant. Well, if I book up via Ryan Air in advance it I can be quite cheap to get the and as it only an hour and a half flight (not including the interminable queuing) from Stansted to Gothenburg City airport it is quite feasible to get there and back in a day for us My double room cost 998 SEK (around £75.00) a night including all that lovely breakfast, s although not overly cheap, not too dear either. I am not sure if I would book here for pleasure and at my own expense as I tend to prefer places that are a little more intimate, but when it is all on expenses I am not going to complain! They have a website http://www.gothiatowers.com/index.asp that is also available in English for us non-Nordic speaking people

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                    • Breakfasts / Discussion / 66 Readings / 61 Ratings
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                      13.08.2007 11:38
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                      A good way to start the day

                      Breakfast at Tiffany’s? More like breakfast at the hippy’s! Come and stay with me and my lovely fella and we will cook up a storm for you… well, truthfully, he will cook it and I’ll serve it! Generally on a weekday I’ll be having a bowl of comfort food to start my day off: Ready Brek has got to be the loveliest daily breakfast for me. A warm dish of childhood sprinkled with Demerara sugar and if I am feeling particularly indulgent, a swirl of double cream. I am very particular about my Ready Brek… it has to be made with plenty of milk, but not too much. There is nothing worse than a stiff pasty mess that is so solid the spoon stands up! If we have a little more time I will have porridge instead of Ready Brek. Quaker Porridge Oats being my horse food of choice, they are a lot quicker to cook than you might think. Take one cup of oats to one and half cups of milk and/or water and gently simmer for around ten minutes until thoroughly cooked. It really can work with just water; when I was younger I suffered with a milk allergy and really missed all things creamy and naughty, so my mum cooked me up some porridge just using water. Surprisingly it was excellent, although nowadays I do tend to use milk. For an extra healthy touch, I top it with fresh fruit, strawberries being my favourite My lovely fella often has poached smoked haddock for his weekday breakfast. Take a chunk of fresh haddock and lightly simmer for a little under ten minutes and serve with a knob of butter and a slice or two of lightly toasted wholemeal bread and you get a healthy breakfast that sets you up for the day. For that extra touch top it off with a lightly poached egg and a sprig of parsley It is weekends where we come into our own though. You have a choice of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon lightly drizzled with cream served on granary toast, or the traditionally large breakfast feast The trick to a full cooked breakfast is in the order the food is cooked… Sausages should be cooked first (either grilled or fried) as they keep their heat well, then sling in the bacon – if you are frying bacon the fat from it makes the eggs taste lovely. If there is room in the pan liver can bee cooked with the bacon and then eggs as these tend to go hard if left too long. Last but not least use up all that lovely greasy fat by lightly frying a slice of crusty white bread. I adore fried bread that has been lightly spread with marmite! Serve with a big pot of fresh tea and racks of fresh white toast slavered in butter. Not the healthiest meal we eat, but for an occasional weekend treat it can’t be beaten… we rarely need to eat again until the evening after one these specials! When I am in hotels abroad I thoroughly enjoy taking advantage of the fantastic buffet style continental breakfasts so many places off nowadays. Recently in a Swedish hotel I was impressed by selection on offer – everything you could wish for from a wide range of fresh fruits and juices, breads, cold meats, cheeses and the traditional hot breakfast items including pancakes. I pigged out each morning on simply the best seeded bread rolls I have had I a long time stuffed with sliced cheese and ham, smeared with blackberry jam. An odd combination you might think? Well, I liked it! In the Jura in France we treat ourselves to a long, lazy start to our days. I amble to the nearest boulangerie for a fresh, warm French stick and croissants. After nibbling the nose off the my stick on the way home (and blaming the ice) we wash the delicious pastries down with copious amounts of strong aromatic coffee, sometimes complemented with a pot of steaming creamy milk from the beautiful cows that stroll around the stunning mountains of the Jura. After an extensive breakfast of bread smothered in apricot or mirabelle jam and perhaps some brioche we usually need to recover with a short nap before the day can really begin For a special treat this last weekend we indulged in a Canadian breakfast of pancakes and bacon liberally drenched in Tesco Finest maple syrup. I saw this once in a teashop years ago and thought it was such an odd combination of flavours that I just had to try it. It has been a firm favourite for a treat ever since. Not something we have often though as it is a bit rich for everyday eating for us If it is fine at home we’ll eat on the patio in the early morning sun or if the weather is inclement breakfasts are served in bed on a large tray with all the trimmings. We always eat in style! PS – Cadbury Crème Eggs are perfectly acceptable for breakfast too – eggs are breakfast food aren’t they?!?

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                        06.08.2007 09:55
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                        Why I think Dooyoo beats the other sites into a cocked hat

                        Well, okay dooyoo didn’t actually die young but a few years back it was touch and go for its survival! I joined dooyoo a long time back at the end of February 2002 because in those days writing here could earn me ipoints and I wanted to get enough to pay for flying lessons for my lovely fella. It didn’t take me long to realise I would have to write (and rate a lot) daily for a good few years to achieve this goal. But by then I had become happily addicted to dooyoo, so I stayed! I have never been a very prolific writer here (only 70 ops over five years, including this one) but I found things easy to get the hang of and the community mainly friendly without being too intrusive Then came the sad time when dooyoo was almost constantly inaccessible and new products were rarely added, so I, along with many others, I temporarily jumped ship. I still craved an outlet for my urges and joined ciao. At first there was a honeymoon period as people dropped me gushy comments and left cloying messages in my guestbook and I am ashamed to say that my head was turned for a little while. It was fun also to find other dooyooers over there and catch up with them as we were in exile due to dooyoo’s technical problems It didn’t take very long before I found that things were not as rosy as they seemed on the surface in ciao land. All those welcoming greetings, all the cute little comments and in-jokes soon began to show a darker side to ciao. I quickly began to find the incessant dot chasing of some people tiresome. Those community points are designed to encourage people to write and fill the site, but as in all walks of life a competitive system like can bring out the worst in some people. I tried to keep myself to myself as I was asked by an albeit small minority of members to join in helping someone to reach the next colour level, or to take sides in thinly veiled vendettas and arguments The café side of ciao which seemed fun at first soon palled as well; al those interminable navel gazing question and answer pieces that I soon learned to avoid. In those cases I felt I was judging the writer’s own self rather than their skills when I rated lower than the top ratings My final straw was the people who started coming over and asking why I had*only* given them a Helpful when they thought they deserved a Very Helpful or even an Exceptional rating. The tedium of logging on each day to trawl through swathes of people begging for higher rates bored me silly. Actually it wasn’t quite as bad as it sounds as I felt that I did rate fairly, but it did get a bit wearing. I also got pretty fed up with reading reviews that were laid out identically in a prescribed manner, all similar headings and characters for underlining etc, the same way of phrasing things all made for pretty dull reading. It took a lot of the joy out of being there for me, so I did the decent thing; cashed in my few measly quid and quietly deleted my account It is a nice place here at Dooyoo on the whole. Sure we get the odd revenge rater, some clicking cartels and the annoying churner who clogs up the new reviews list with reams of useless, poorly written ops. But nowadays these silly people are dealt with nice and quickly by dooyoo. I find the product suggestions are implemented quickly after I suggest them and the reward system is good The reward system is definitely an area where dooyoo stands head and shoulders above ciao. Every time a logged in member reads a review, the writer receives 30 dooyoo miles; the equivalent of three pence. Simple, straightforward and easy to understand – this makes revenge rating a pretty pointless exercise that only succeeds in making the revenge rater look petty. This simple system makes greedy people attempt to defraud dooyoo, but it also helps to show them more easily too; if a few people who write shoddy ops all rate mainly each others shoddy ops, usually too highly it soon comes to light and dooyoo will sort them out. This is why sometimes our miles fluctuate quite alarmingly as dooyoo will suspend the accounts until their investigations are done, during which time should any of those involved have rated your op(s) their miles will vanish from your total If both your fellow members and dooyoo deem your op good enough you could earn a nice shiny crown, and the bonus of 1500 miles… nice! Some categories do not earn the miles, but even having an unpaid crown is nice and gives you a little boost. The nomination process for crowns is anonymous, which I believe also cuts down on the backbiting and name calling that can happen elsewhere. Some people do have the urge to leave a message saying that they have nominated a review, but thankfully not too often. I have left a few of these messages myself but only when I have been particularly moved or impressed by an op, usually I am quiet nominator As they would say on Radio 2… other review sites are available! Most of which, I joined in my self-imposed exile. Naturally I took the easy route with all of them and copied my dooyoo ops across, but not one of the sites could satisfy like good old dooyoo The review centre is quite nice, although I have yet to see any reward from it, as the main payment seems in the form of monthly draws. Mouthshut is a total disaster with masses of incredibly badly written reviews and a cliquey feel that makes ciao pale into insignificance. Helium is just plain confusing; I really haven’t got the hang of that place at all! The rewards rack up quickly if you write enough and do plenty of reading, rating and commenting around the site. Cashing in your hard earned pennies is also, on the whole, trouble-free. A quick click and you can get a wonderful Amazon voucher delivered straight to your inbox. Sometimes this does take a few days, but a chaser email to dooyoo get things moving I have found It is grand see dooyoo good and busy again after all the problems sometime back, when so many people were lured away to the dark sides of opinionating! I enjoy dooyoo because it doesn’t take over my life, I can write as and when I like on a variety of topics and come and go as I please without being hounded by people who enjoy the community side more than the reading and writing. That said the community side is there for those who want it, I have even made a few friends myself here, which is a nice bonus

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                        • Mateus Rose / Wine / 62 Readings / 60 Ratings
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                          30.07.2007 11:59
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                          A nice drinkable Portuguese rosé that is perfect for summer picnics

                          Ah… the funny rounded bottle that I remember from the 70’s. When the APs (that’s the Aged Parents… funny how they never appreciated that nickname!) had their cheese and wine parties someone would always turn up with a bottle or two of this This poor old wine has suffered for many years with its dated image, but now it could be making a bit of a comeback… hopefully a more successful one than its ill-fated alcoholic friend Babycham Recently I’ve noticed a few adverts on the goggle box trying to persuade us that mateus rosé is a cool drink. So being a lover of all things pink and partial to the odd glass (or two) of wine I thought I’d give it a whirl. Well, at the reasonable price of £4.35 a bottle, in Tesco, I couldn’t go too far wrong could I? I quite like the old fashioned styling of the bottle. Even though the bottle has been redesigned and updated, it still has a styling that takes me back to my youth when people would save these bottles to make into lamps, not something I would have in my house personally but the nostalgic feeling is nice on a warm summer day when the birds are singing, the bees are humming and I have time to lie in the grass and dream… sorry, back to business here! The worst thing about white or rosé wine is having to wait for it to chill, luckily I bought this after work one evening so come Sunday, our first summery day for ages I took the bottle(s) from the fridge, packed a little picnic and headed to our local green as there was a jazz band playing that afternoon. There is something about jazz and rosé wine that go so well together… Lying on the fresh green grass with the sun streaming over me, a light wind ruffling my hair and the strains of some good old trad jazz playing I popped the cork and poured a glass. The colour is delightful on a sunny day; not too dark and not to pale, some rosés can look a little insipid and almost vinegary The bouquet is light, fresh and quite summery with a hint of fruitiness and if you stick your nose in far enough the bubbles will tickle it… something we all ended up doing after a few glasses, when the giggles got to us The flavour is delicious, a refreshing, slightly sweet fruitiness that is lighter than a red wine and less acidic than many whites and the slight fizziness is a pleasant tickle on the tongue with none of the over bubbliness of many sparkling wines and champagnes. The crispness of this wine and the fact that is of a medium flavour; not too sweet and cloying, nor so dry it puckers your mouth means it is a very good lazy Sunday afternoon drink… the bottles seemed to evaporate in the summer heat at a fairly swift pace, but we all felt mellow and relaxed without going over the edge into staggering drunkenness Perfect with a summer picnic or for just drinking with friends at 11% it pays to be a little moderate in your consumption as tomorrow morning could find you clutching your head and cursing that stubby bottle And of course should you choose to recycle your bottles they still make pretty nifty candleholders… much easier to make than table-lamps!

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                          • Slow Cooking / Discussion / 62 Readings / 57 Ratings
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                            26.07.2007 11:02
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                            Lazy comfort food that looks, tastes and smelss lovely

                            As our promised hot summer has been somewhat of a washout, instead of salads and barbecues, and sunshine and champagne, a bit of comfort food is in order, so here is my favourite winter warmer recipe, which is very good for cheering up a grotty British summertime… lamb stew with herby dumplings (at least) one bottle of red wine Lamb chunks – a couple of handfuls Onion One or two potatoes One or two carrots Small turnip Small swede Bouquet garni Mixed herbs A stock cube or two or a couple of pints of stock More stock Suet – I prefer Atora light as it makes less leaden dumplings and of course has fewer calories Self-raising flour Mixed herbs – one of the sachets from a refill pack should do, or about half a jar Couple of teaspoons of salt Cold water Slow cooker Frying pan Big saucepan(s) First things first… open the bottle of wine to let it breathe. If you are not going to be out driving or operating heavy machinery for the day, now is the time to taste the wine. Unlike most of my recipes I don’t really recommend you slurp too much right now unless you are planning a very relaxed day, in which case open another bottle to ensure you don’t run out The quantities in this recipe are necessarily vague, as I don’t know how big your slow cooker is. I usually go to the butcher with my hands cupped in front of me and ask for ‘about that much diced stewing lamb…’ thus giving me my couple of handfuls Fry the lamb lightly in a minimal amount of oil until it is nicely brown but not cooked through, then transfer it to your slow cooker If you do not have stock, then you will need to get a kettle boiled to pour over your stock cube, I personally prefer the vegetable stock cubes, as the flavour is not to overpowering; some of the meat cubes are too salty for my taste Once you have your meat browned and your stock ready to pour it is time for things to get dicey! Peel all the vegetables and cut them into chunks of about an inch square and sling them in the slow cooker Give your meat and veg a quick but gentle stir and add the stock until it comes to just under an inch from the top of the pot. Sling in your bouquet garni and about a teaspoonful of mixed herbs. Plain mixed herbs are fine, but I find that herbes de Provence go particularly well with lamb Pop the lid on and switch on the slow cooker and leave for at least four hours. The lovely thing about lamb stew is it only takes a few minutes to prepare At the end of the day you come home to a delicious aroma of warm lamb and vegetables wafting through your home, unless you have had a power-cut in which case go straight back out and find a nice hotel with power, hot and cold running waiters and a decent menu Boil up some more stock ready to cook your dumplings Resume wine tasting and slurping Dumplings are so easy to cook that I don’t know why I don’t make them more often, oh yes, I remember – they have lots of calories! But ooohhhh… they are scrumptious! For two very hungry people, or four normal appetites I use half a packet of Atora and half a small packet of self-raising flour. Just pour the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, do NOT forget to add the salt – I did that once and believe me dumplings with no salt in are not good! Stir the dumpling mix round with a fork and slowly add cold water, as soon as the mixture begins to form a ball and the sides of the bowl are still coated with lots of flower, ditch the fork and get your hands in and gently work the mixture together [you did remember to wash your hands before didn’t you?] until you have a slightly sticky mess that gets under your nails and is easily formed into balls, but not so sticky you can’t work with it. It pays to add water very slowly as you don’t want your dumplings disintegrating when they are in the pan. You can add a little more flour if things do get too damp You can cook your dumplings in the slow cooker but I find it takes ages for them to cook this way and with all the lovely aromas floating round the kitchen I want my grub as soon as I can! So I fill a large saucepan with stock and when it is simmering I drop in my dumplings and let them simmer for about twenty minutes, turning them once halfway through Drink more wine while you wait Drain your dumplings and either serve with the stew alone, or with a nice hunk of crusty bread – if you have a bread making machine you can stick that on to cook while you are out too This stew is perfect served in large bowls accompanied by a good red wine The stew can also be cooked in a covered casserole dish in a low oven – about gas mark 3, although you might want to experiment with this when you are in the house in case you need to top up with stock

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                            • Top Ten Chocolates / Discussion / 110 Readings / 103 Ratings
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                              11.06.2007 11:59
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                              a chocoholics recommendations

                              To misquote Showaddywaddy’s 1975 hit… Now there are three steps to heaven Just listen and you will plainly see. And as life travels on and things do go wrong Just call it steps one, two and three Step one Find a chocolate bar to love Step two You rip the wrapper off Step three You smooch and suck it nicely Yeah! That sure seems like heaven to me On to my top ten in time honoured reverse order… 10 – Cadbury’s Crème Eggs Now most people I know can only one or two at the most of these richly sweet, creamy little darlings. In my wild youth I was challenged over how many I could eat at once - my record is half a dozen, one right after the other! Nowadays I am far more restrained and rarely have more than three at a sitting 9 – Maltesers Delicious light bubbly chocolates… a box of these is a great present for when you go to visit someone, that way you can share them without getting that slightly sore feeling in your mouth that comes from eating an entire family sized box all by yourself 8 – Mint Aero I only like the flat Aeros… those chunky ones they brought out are just all wrong! The mint one is nice because the mint flavour is light and quite refreshing. Ideal for when I am need of a light hit of chocolate and don’t want something too rich 7 – Snickers The ideal energy boost! Nothing hits the spot like a massive Snickers bar when I have a bit of an appetite and no time to grab a meal. The only drawback to these is the stupid name… they were much better when they were called Marathon 6 – Terry’s Chocolate Orange (dark) An almost perfect confection, as long as it is the dark version… the milk one is likely to be chucked at the giver’s head. I love unwrapping one of these in secret (so I don’t have to share it) once the orange wrapping is unfurling I give it a mighty whack as lightly tapping it like on the adverts does not result in the segments gently falling apart. Even with a good whacking the segments still tick together a little, but it is worth grappling with little blighters as the taste is divine – dark, rich chocolate with an almost bitter undertone mingled with a the clean freshness of the orange flavour. It is certainly not Terry’s or Dawn’s – it is mine, all mine I tell you! 5 – Mars A traditional comfort food from my childhood. Too sickly to eat more than one at a time, unless I am particularly stressed, but a Mars Bar will always please me. As a child when things were a little tight my mum would buy one bar and slice it into three segments; one each for my sister, herself and me. Every time I eat a whole one, I always appreciate the pleasure of having one all to myself 4 – Green & Black’s Organic dark chocolate Having tried numerous very dark chocolate bars over the years, this is the best I have found. Bournville can be a little too sweet when I am in need of a major chocolate rush and some others are too powdery or bitter, but G&B have hit the nail right on the head with their 70% chocolate. It is it the perfect combination of dark and moody chocolate with a smooth texture that melts perfectly in my mouth. This is something I tend to keep in my desk drawer at work because one or two chunks will satisfy the chocolate craving for a good couple of hours 3 – Galaxy This should only be bought in large bars as the smaller ones leave me feeling unsatisfied and wanting more… lots more. I can easily polish off a 150g bar of this in the blink of an eye. The smooth silky creaminess gratifies my urge to stuff my face with a good quality chocolate without breaking the bank. Galaxy is another chocolate not to be shared – it is too self-indulgent for me to want to let anyone else near it, if this is ever in my desk drawer I make sure it is well hidden so nobody sees it and drops hints 2 – Cadbury’s Dairy Milk A true sharing chocolate. I often buy the largest family size bar, crack it up, open and keep it in my drawer at work for sharing. In one job a few years ago I would force-feed co-workers a chunk or two each morning for breakfast. Although they thought this a little odd initially they soon came to understand my rationale, that chocolate is a good way to start a day… it put them all in a much better mood 1 – Minerva Chocolates - http://www.minervachocolates.com/ The piece de la resistance in the world of chocolates… all other chocolates bow down before these! I buy these from a delightful little shop in Colchester or Woodbridge, but for all of you who live to far to enjoy the enchantment of being in the shops and breathing in the sensuous aromas the lovely Minerva people also deliver whatever you want right to your door. A few clicks, a long drool over the stunning pictures and the following day a brown paper wrapped parcel will be arriving for you. If are really nice you can also get them delivered to friends and family, I guess it depends how much you love other people really And never forget… THE RULES OF CHOCOLATE ~ If you've got melted chocolate all over your hands, you're eating it too slowly ~ Chocolate covered raisins, cherries, orange slices & strawberries all count as fruit, so eat as many as you want ~ The problem: How to get 2 pounds of chocolate home from the shop in a hot car. The solution: Eat it in the car park ~ Diet tip: Eat a chocolate bar before each meal. It'll take the edge off your appetite and you'll eat less ~ A nice box of chocolates can provide your total daily intake of calories in one place. Isn't that handy? ~ If you can't eat all your chocolate, it will keep in the freezer, however if you can't eat all your chocolate, what's wrong with you? ~ If calories are an issue, store your chocolate on top of the fridge. Calories are afraid of heights, and they will jump out of the chocolate to protect themselves ~ Money talks. Chocolate sings ~ Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look younger ~ If not for chocolate, there would be no need for control top tights. An entire garment industry would be devastated ~ Put "eat chocolate" at the top of your list of things to do today. That way, at least you'll get one thing done

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                              • Calamity Jane (DVD) / DVD / 83 Readings / 81 Ratings
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                                05.06.2007 15:27
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                                Yeeharrr!! Wild west fun with a fabulous score

                                Once I had a secret love… now my love’s no secret any more! Without a shadow of a doubt this is one of my all time favourite movies. Great for a Sunday afternoon, a quiet evening in, a good sing along musical I put it on every chance I get… mostly when my chap is out of the house, as sadly, he is not a fan at all! The movie opens in fine fashion with Calamity Jane riding into Deadwood atop a traditional stagecoach singing the opening number; The Deadwood Stage and the infectious songs don’t stop until the end credits finish rolling Doris Day brings her cute shiny-toothed blonde haired charms to this movie as the rough and tumble heroine Calamity Jane. Her character prides herself on being as good as, if not better than any man in town, but underneath it all beats the heart of the true 1950’s American gal longing for love and a cosy home life. In a town mainly populated by cowboys the Golden Garter saloon owner, Henry Miller, inadvertently hires a man instead of the actress Frances Fryer he thought. Naturally mayhem erupts as the women starved chaps loudly proclaim their disapproval. Although before Francis’ wig is neatly swiped from his head by the trombonist they seemed quite happy with him. Calamity rushes to Henry’s rescue, in her usual gung ho manner, guns ablazing and vows to bring back the current hit actress Adelaid Adams from the windy city of Chicagy. Following a deliciously heated interchange between Calam’ and Wild Bill Hickok, played divinely by Howard Keel, as they duet in the toe tappingly funny “I Can Do Without You” Calamity heads off to Chicago to bring back her woman. By this point in the film it is all too clear how appropriate Calamity’s name is as she manages to amuse the Chicago townsfolk by mistaking a wig store for the aftermath of a massacre, almost shoot a wooden Indian and then upset the lovely actress she is intending to persuade to perform in the backwoods of Deadwood by coming across as so masculine she gets mistaken for a man On her return to Deadwood with her prize in tow things don’t get any better for poor Calamity as misunderstandings and heartbreak ensue. Is Adelaid Adams all she seems to be? Will Calamity bag her beloved lieutenant? Will Wild Bill ever be tamed? Who is Calamity’s love rival? Will everyone live happily ever after? Well, lets face it folks this a traditional family oriented musical of the 1950’s, do you really think the ending will be all that unhappy? You’ll no doubt guess fairly soon into watching the film what the outcomes will be but go along with it for the fun of the ride – it is well worth it as there is never dull moment, the songs are so catchy you’ll find yourself humming them for ages afterwards and the humour is fun without getting tacky or too sharp and never descends into a cringing farce Released in 1953, this is one of Doris Days classic roles. She plays the part beautifully beginning as very believable tomboy who grows to be a stunningly attractive and feminine woman. The costumes are perfect for both Doris and her role as she goes from dirty old buckskins into a stunning pink ballgown, albeit with more than a slight nod to 50’s fashion than would have been likely in the late 1800’s when this is supposed to be set Howard Keel is so gorgeous in this role that I had a huge crush on him for many years. Shame this happened during the 1980’s and in real life he was an old grey man in Dallas TV series before I discovered his yumminess! It would be worth watching this film for the sight of a sexy Howard Keel alone if you only know him for later roles. He plays Bill Hickok wonderfully, with enough of a hint of wildness to pique a woman’s interest but not so much he makes anyone uncomfortable. As a professional singer he and Doris give their songs a polished performance while still looking like they are enjoying themselves – this feeling comes across from all the performers which is something that really adds to the atmosphere of the show Certain liberties may have been taken with fashions, people and storylines, but this is all forgiven (even unnoticed at the time of watching) because of the perfection of the movie as a whole and those glorious songs. Not only one of my favourite movies but also one of Doris Day’s too – this could realistically be described as an early romantic comedy as well one of the all time great musicals Find a copy, watch it, laugh, and cry, sing along and sigh at the happy romance of it all ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Doris Day ... Calamity Jane Howard Keel ... Wild Bill Hickok Allyn Ann McLerie ... Katie Brown (as Allyn McLerie) Philip Carey ... Lieutenant Danny Gilmartin Dick Wesson ... Francis Fryer Paul Harvey ... Henry Miller Chubby Johnson ... Rattlesnake Gale Robbins ... Adelaid Adams Oscar winning songs include… "The Black Hills of Dakota" "The Deadwood Stage" "I Can do Without You" "It's Harry I'm Planning to Marry" "My Heart is Higher than a Hawk" "Secret Love" (winner of Academy Award for best song in a movie, 1953), which topped the Billboard and Cash Box musical charts at number one. "Windy City" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The DVD has limited extras that I have looked at once – no interviews or much of any interest unless you enjoy original trailers and newsreels! Bonus Footage - 1. Newsreels: Western Style & Photo Play Trailer - 1. Original Theatrical Trailer Interactive Menus Scene Access Available for around a fiver from Amazon – c’mon, that’s a bargain for 97 minutes of fun…!

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                                • Packed Lunches / Recipe / 92 Readings / 87 Ratings
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                                  04.05.2007 10:11
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                                  Easy, tasty, healthy packed lunch

                                  It’s a nightmare isn’t it, making packed lunches? What to put in them? You try and get your little (and larger) darlings to eat healthily, but usually back comes the Tupperware box still half full of good food and a whole pile of crusts… strangely the chocolate bar is never left! My most successful packed lunch is stuffed pitta bread. Cheap, tasty and good for using leftovers! Pitta Breads come in a range of sizes and flavours; ordinary white, wholemeal, white with sesame, small round pockets, large… found in the bread aisle of supermarkets they are reasonably priced (around the 50p for 6 to 10 mark, or as cheap as 26p for 6 in the Tesco Value range) and they freeze well, so take advantage of any BOGOF offers! ~ Pitta bread ~ Salad – lettuce, tomato, spring onion, beetroot… let your imagination run riot… ~ Cold meat ~ Cheese ~ Mayonnaise ~ Anything interesting you find in the fridge that can be eaten cold The first thing I do is to chop up a selection of salad and the cold meats, cheeses etc I have chosen for my filling. It is a good idea to do this before you begin to cook the pitta as they do cook very quickly and if you try to save time by chopping while grilling this usually ends in incinerated pittas being chucked in the bin! Now take your pitta and lightly toast it under the grill until it begins to swell a little. You’ll need to watch it carefully as they burn quite quickly. Depending on the power of your grill it only takes a few minutes With a clean tea towel (toasted pittas are surprisingly hot) hold the pitta in one hand and using a sharp knife slit open the bread along one long side so that you have a flat envelope with an opening. Don’t go too far round but do make it open enough so that when you come to stuff it, it doesn’t end up tearing I always put the cheese in first, as the heat melts is a little giving a nice texture. Sliced Leerdammer is very good for this if you make packed lunches in the morning as it doesn’t fight back like grated cheese can Then I add any cold meat, a squirt of mayonnaise and fill the rest of the space with salad bits Personally I wrap my pittas in tin foil, as it is flexible enough to hold everything in place until I am ready to eat it and it is easy to rip it down and use as a holder as I munch – it minimises drips and tomato escapees Currently favourite mode of transport for my packed lunch is a good sized Tub-It box as I can squish a large filled and foiled pitta in then top it off with a layer of seedless grapes. That way I eat a few grapes before the pitta and a few more after – makes a good 3-course lunch! I find one large well stuffed pitta served with grapes and a little chocolate will do me for lunch. Small, round pitta pockets are an ideal size and shape for children - they have a snap-off top to them that takes a little more care at the filling stage, but works well at preventing leakages at the eating stage. Those with large appetites might need two large pittas to satisfy them, and to stave off boredom you can vary the filling of the two Cheese and ham with salad works very well, but almost anything takes your fancy can go in a pitta. Leftover cold meat from a roast is lovely; try cold roast beef with salad and instead of mayonnaise substitute a smear of horseradish for mayonnaise Some suggestions that have worked well with my son over the years (we all know how picky young lads can be!): ~ Cold roast pork and apple sauce ~ Lamb and mint sauce ~ Ham and cottage cheese (the one with pineapple is his favourite) ~ Bacon and avocado ~ Cheese and pickle ~ Pitta cut into strips with a small (well secured!) Tupperware filled with a dip ~ Cheese and onion Basically any combination that you might find in a sandwich will work in a pitta Mix all of the above with a selection of salad – it is a good way to get ankle-biters to eat some of their 5 a day! And of course there are no crusts to come back and haunt you! As children get older let them experiment with their favourite fillings – ham and jam was fad for a short time with a friend’s child – it doesn’t matter if you think what they choose is disgusting because if they have designed their lunch themselves they are quite likely to eat it To save time if I am feeling organised on a Sunday night (well, it happens occasionally!) I cut up the cold meats, cheese, salad etc and store them in plastic tubs in the fridge ready to build the pittas in the morning. I don’t really recommend making pittas the night before, although I know some people who say they taste fine – I find they are so quick and easy to prepare I can easily manage to get them done before I go to work in the mornings Most workplaces have fridges so as soon as you get to work pop it in there until lunchtime. For kids and those without access to fridges pop a frozen ice-pack in with the food to prevent icky tummies! Today I have Leerdammer, thin ham and avocado with baby tomatoes and salad… roll on lunchtime!

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