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I've never liked drinking bottled water and so, when I started being at home less, decided to invest in a Sigg bottle. I chose this brand because it's well known and people tend to recommend them.
The bottle is 1 litre and it's incredibly light. It is made of aluminium but has a coating inside so that any liquid you choose to put in it won't come in contact with aluminium. Apart from the obvious environmental reasons, I stopped buying bottled water because I always seemed to taste the plastic of the bottle, especially when I refilled it and used it again. Sigg claim that their bottles don't make water taste funny, but I disagree and can taste the coating that they've used for this bottle in my water. Some people are less sensitive however, and if you're using it for drinks other than water you definitely wouldn't notice.
One of the things I do like about this bottle is the cap, which has a loop on it. The loop means you can attach it to a rucksack and it's also less likely to get lost because I tend to stick it on my finger when I'm drinking. The cap fits well, though the plastic on it is wearing a bit - I've never had any leaks though.
I think the quality and durability of this bottle is good and no chance of it cracking. I haven't been precious with it and I think it'll last a while. However, I have found that the rim gets dirty easily - it looks quite disgusting actually, and it's really hard to clean the bottle inside. You'd have to get a special brush that fits inside, but from what I can see, stuff doesn't come off the inner coating easily and mine has turned from white to gray even though I've only ever put water in it.
Since this bottle was starting to look a bit horrible inside after a few months I decided to get a plain stainless steel bottle to hold my water. I like it so much better because it never leaves a horrible taste and it doesn't heat up like this Sigg bottle does when I leave it in my car on a warm day, making the plasticky taste really bad. I don't understand why all the other reviews are so good.
My brother gave me this ipod clock radio for use with my iphone 3GS and it's a great all rounder. I mainly use it for charging my iphone and playing the music on it. I prefer using this dock to charge because it's easier to just slot the phone in than having to plug in a charger.
In terms of playing music the speakers are quite impressive - better than I expected from something like this. You can turn the sound up pretty high and there's no distortion and the clarity of sound is really clear. The radio also works, if you put the aerial cable in the right place, but I barely ever use it, and I doubt many people buy this for the radio but rather to play songs from their ipod, for which it's great.
I have used this as an alarm clock and it's never let me down. It's easy to set up an alarm and if you set your phone to play the song you want before going to bed then pausing it, it'll automatically come on in that same place in the morning. You can also select what volume it will come on at. If you forget to put your ipod in, there's still an alarm sound on the clock so you'll still get woken up! There is a large snooze button - whether that's good or bad depends on how bad you are at getting up! There are two alarm settings, 1 and 2 so you can set two different times for alarms.
If you're just playing music from your ipod or iphone you can forward to the next or previous song by using buttons on the dock itself as well as pausing and playing, which I think is handy. There's also a nifty little remote control with all the functions on it, including snooze!
I like the design of this and think it looks ok though not as flashy as some docks you can get. It's light and quite small but seems very robust. You do need to plug it in, but that's the case with almost all docks. The clock screen also glows so you can see the time if you wake up in the night - it does annoy me a bit though as it's backlighted so I tend to put a book in front of it to stop the light distracting me - that's my only negative.
You can buy this for just under £50 from amazon and I think it's a great price for the quality.
As you may have noticed, I've currently got a bit of an obsession with trying out Green People products. If you don't already know, Green People are an Organic beauty company whose products are free from harsh chemicals such as Parabens, Pthalates and SLS among tons of others.
Green People toothpastes are Certified Organic and include Fairly Traded ingredients. My favourite is their mint toothpaste. It can be found online or at most health food shops. It does cost about £3.50 a tube which you might think is a lot but I think it's definitely worth it so read on to find out why! The reason I initially decided to try out their toothpaste was because I developed a mouth ulcer that really wouldn't go away. It seems (I did some research) that a lot of ulcers are caused by a chemical found in most toothpastes called Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS). Even though I was using a 'natural' toothpaste, I had a look and it did indeed contain SLS. I was a bit surprised but then you do need to be careful to check the ingredients when a product says it's 'natural' because that word is usually just a marketing ploy. After using the Green People toothpaste for a day, the next morning my ulcer was pretty much gone completely much to my surprise! I've been using it ever since.
I like the taste of this toothpaste - it's straightforward mint, and subtle. It's not at all like conventional toothpastes such as Colgate which I feel have a really strong overpowering flavour which makes my mouth feel chemically (probably because it is). The toothpaste doesn't foam like conventional toothpastes either - Green People have not included the ingredients that make toothpaste foam because they are definitely not good for us. Foam doesn't mean your teeth are getting cleaned any better and I find this just as effective.
One great thing about Green People toothpastes (and indeed a lot of their other products) is that I would be happy to have children use them. They do have toothpastes specifically made for children but I would be happy to use this Mint Toothpaste too because I know there aren't any chemicals that might be bad for them in it.
This toothpaste doesn't contain fluoride which might bother some people. There are doubts over whether fluoride is really needed, and too much fluoride has been linked to a host of horrible conditions which is why Green People don't use it. I'd rather not be taking in too much fluoride which most people probably are anyway so I don't mind this.
Apart from healing my ulcer (and I haven't had any more since!) this toothpaste is effective, it's good for people with sensitivity or bleeding gums, and it also doesn't make my gums inflamed like other toothpastes. I think the lack of harmful chemicals makes for a much healthier mouth all round.
I got this Morphy Richards toaster for my parents for Christmas a couple of years ago and it's still going strong. I often use it when I'm staying with them and am very glad this is the one I chose!
Firstly and possibly most importantly, this toaster always toasts bread perfectly evenly. There's also enough room to fit thicker slices of bread and crumpets and has a high lift function to help you get smaller things like crumpets out once they're toasted. There are two sets of dials so that you can toast just two slices if you want. I always see this as a must on 4 slice toasters as I often only end up toasting 2 slices. The toaster has the normal heat settings and I find a number in the middle to be sufficient for the way I like my toast. The really handy button is the from frozen button which you press if you are toasting frozen bread. It means that you don't have to change your heat setting or toast it twice - the toaster adds on the time needed to toast something frozen and you don't have to think about it!
This toaster hasn't yielded burnt toast for me yet but I'm a bit paranoid (and impatient!) with toasters so often use the cancel button to see if it's ready. The handy thing with this toaster is that if you press the cancel button and push the bread back down within a few seconds, it continues with the cycle it was on which means that it doesn't just start the time again. Sometimes with other toasters I check and see that the toast is not ready, push it down again, forget about it and smell burning some minutes later! Doesn't happen with this toaster. The other option is the reheat toast button which does what it says and does it without burning the toast.
Cleaning the toaster is quite easy as there's a crumb tray underneath that you can pull out. The chrome doesn't seem to get too smeared with a bit of a wipe. The toaster has rubber on the bottom so it doesn't move around on your worktop. I really like the design on the toaster, both in terms of the functionality and the aesthetics. It looks really nice and not tacky like a lot of kitchen appliances you can get. It also seems to be very well made. My parents use it every single day and after over 2 years have had no problems which I think is good compared to my experience with other toasters!
Recently I ordered a few new products for my face to try, all from Green People. I've never been someone who really uses toner so I'll admit I don't have much to compare it to. However, I did try this product for over a week.
Green People toner comes in a 50ml bottle and costs £9.95. It's also available in a 10ml travel size so you can try it out before you splash out on the bigger bottle. It is supposed to be ideal for all skin types, not that I ever really understood how one product could be 'ideal' for all. The product is certified organic and has apparently won a Natural Health Magazine beauty award, so I thought, it must be good right?
Wrong. This toner does seem to make my skin feel a little softer in places but overall it made it feel incredibly tight. Now I know toners do tend to do this but I really felt it was a bit much. I also found that it made the area around my nose - which is quite sensitive - very itchy. In fact my whole face just felt horrible until I put moisturiser on after the toner and then it still felt itchy for a bit. I did however feel that the moisturiser glided on easier and was possibly easier absorbed by my skin.
As for the results, this toner is supposed to be 'hydrating' and said to have 'amazing anti-ageing benefits. Reducing wrinkles by over 7%'. As I only used it for about a week and a half I wouldn't expect to have finer lines, but in that time it didn't make a difference. I also didn't find it hydrating, but it wasn't really drying either. I would say though that it's definitely not suitable for people with very dry skin. Since using this product my skin has taken a turn for the worse. My pores are bigger if anything and I had more spots than usual whilst using this.
I'm not saying you shouldn't try this product. It might work well for your skin and there is a trial size. There are a lot of good reviews on the Green People website. But that's just it - they don't seem to feature bad reviews. I also feel that people tend to get better results by using two or three products together as recommended by the website. For example this toner is said to work well with the Green People Anti Ageing facial oil. I'm guessing that I might have liked it more had I combined it with that, but I also would have been spending a lot more!
Having become quite a fan of Green People during the past few months, I'm now unsure whether to try anything else as this isn't the only products that's disappointed. However, if you're not using Organic products already I highly recommend that you try some as I have found that they're less irritating to the skin. Their shampoos and conditioners are especially good. But I wouldn't recommend this toner.
Blokus is a strategy game which works best with 4 players, though you can play it with two or three. You take it in turns to place pieces on the board, each person starting from their own corner and with their own colour. Every new piece has to touch a piece of the same colour, but can only touch pieces of the same colour at the corners. The game goes on until no one can put any more pieces down and the person with the least squares left to put down wins!
I always like a game that's highly tactical with only a little based on luck. You have to try to block other players and try to make sure there's space for you to play all your pieces. The game requires a lot of concentration to win it. Having said that, it's incredibly simple to play and you won't need to spend ages looking through the instructions before you get it.
According to the box Blokus is suitable for ages 8 and up and I'd agree with that having played it with an 8 year old, though they may not be as good at the strategy as an adult they will still love it. It's excellent for children and adults alike. It's not a game I can imagine getting bored of playing either - definitely not one of those ones that sits in the cupboard gathering dust for years on end!
You can currently buy Blokus for £14.29 on Amazon and I would definitely recommend it for that price. The board and pieces are made of plastic and seem incredibly sturdy so it's going to last a long time. There are compartments in the box to separate the different coloured pieces.
The game can take from about 15 minutes to play depending on how fast your players are at making decisions, so it's pretty quick, though as soon as you've finished a game you'll want to play another!
Green People sells natural Organic cosmetic and skincare products. Their products are all free from certain nasties present in most beauty products that can be incredibly bad for you. They're a very ethical company and their products are always top notch. Their Sun Lotions (which have won a load of awards) are no exception.
The SPF15 Organic Sun Lotion with Tan Accelerator 200ml costs £17.95 on the Green People website. Now this may seem a little more pricey than other sun creams, but it's definitely worth it. I got this cheap when it was on offer with the Green People After Sun. If you're not sure, there are trial sizes available for much less that you can try out before buying a bigger tube. Green People products tend to go further anyway - you don't have to put as much on for it to be effective so it lasts longer than conventional sun lotion.
Putting it on
Green People sun lotion comes in a little tube which you just squeeze the lotion out of. Some people might prefer sprays, but this worked for me. The only criticism I have of their sun lotion is that it does require a bit more rubbing in than some sun lotions, though a lot of sun lotions are like that anyway. A previous reviewer said that it didn't get absorbed by her skin and sat on top, but I think she was probably putting too much on. I use a little and rub it in until it's not visible anymore and haven't found it to offer any less protection than just slapping a load on and looking like an albino! It's very non greasy and I don't feel like I have to wash my hands after applying. The scent of the product is more to my taste than conventional sun creams. Green People tells you to reapply the sun lotion every 2 hours or after swimming, though I've found it lasts longer.
This is the best suncream I've ever tried. I used to suffer from prickly heat, which for those of you who are lucky enough not to know what it is, is a horrible itchy rash some people get after being out in the sun. But I've never had it since I started using this. I haven't really burnt whilst wearing it and it moisturises my skin so find that my skin doesn't peel after being out in the sun for a long time. Not that I care about getting tanned, but I've noticed that I tan more evenly with this sun lotion. It makes my skin feel and look moisturised. The sun lotion is water resistant and I've found it to be effective even whilst spending a lot of time swimming in the sea.
The best thing (apart from its effectiveness) about Green People sun lotion is that it's not full of nasty cancer causing chemicals and skin irritants like most sun lotions are. It even has cancer fighting antioxidants in it! It is made without Parabens, Lanolin, phthalates, artificial perfumes, petrochemicals and colourants. I would recommend this sun lotion for children as it's even more important that products used on their skin are free from harsh chemicals with their skin being more absorbent at a young age. Green People also have a sun lotion especially for children and babies.
I've tried other 'natural' and organic sun lotions but in terms of effectiveness I would say this one is the best. Look forward to some more Green People reviews soon!
Goodness Direct is an online shop where you can buy a vast range of healthy groceries and household items. Firstly let me say that the choice on their website is excellent and it's a site I might go to if I need a hard to find health food. It is an excellent place to shop for people who have allergies or are on a special diet as they stock a lot of foods that are gluten free, dairy free etc. They also stock cleaning products, beauty products, books and baby products and foods. They also stock loads of Organic foods.
I've found the prices on Goodness Direct to be quite good. Some things are more expensive and some things are cheaper, but I've never seen anything outrageously pricey on their website. They always have a sale on some items and the first time I ordered I found a £10 off orders over £30 voucher by doing a search on google which I thought was an amazing offer! It's definitely worth doing that if you want to try them out.
The food I ordered from them came in excellent condition and well packaged. However, the thing that really lets them down is that when I ordered from them they contacted me to say that something I wanted was out of stock. I asked when they would have it in again, and they said the Friday of that week. They then included that and sent out my order, without a couple of other things that were also out of stock! It was really annoying as had I known I would have to wait that long for something I wasn't going to get anyway I would have gone somewhere else! An online shop that has such varied stock is probably always going to have problems with not having things in stock at certain times, but it would be nice if they could somehow keep their website up to date. In the end I waited over 2 weeks for a delivery. However, I guess this isn't something that happens too often, so they're still worth trying.
The website itself is easy to navigate. It's a bit more than just an online shop as it has things like a recipe centre, information about health conditions, herbal remedies and weekly news. Whilst shopping you can look at the ingredients and nutritional values of food items just like you can in a shop. They also have a rewards system where you get points every time you shop which you can use to buy things on their website.
I wouldn't use Goodness Direct if you definitely need something by a certain time as they don't seem that reliable, but otherwise they're great to stock up on foods that are hard to find (and expensive) at the supermarket.
There are hundreds of veg box schemes across the UK to choose from, but Abel & Cole is one of the biggest. This has it's advantages and disadvantages as you'll see. The point of a veg box scheme is that each week you get fresh fruit and vegetables which have been sourced as locally as possible, possibly even straight from the producer. Large schemes like Riverford and Abel & Cole can never compete with smaller schemes in terms of freshness (or price) and in terms of carbon footprints, the smaller schemes are always going to be more environmentally friendly. However, for me Abel & Cole more than makes up for that in the choice that they offer and the quality that I have experienced.
It's easy to sign up to the website, and the site is easy to use, well designed, and nice to look at. The FAQ is really useful and there are plenty of contact details - they're not a massive company where it's hard to get hold of anyone. The website is integral to what Abel & Cole do, and makes getting a veg box incredibly easy as well as giving people the choices that they want. The website has plenty of recipes (and you often get recipes in the veg boxes too) as well as an interesting blog.
There are various different boxes to choose from. Everything in the boxes is organic, or occasionally they'll include something from an 'in conversion' farm, which means that the farmers are in the process of converting to organic. If you're not happy to receive in conversion produce you can opt out, but I think it's great that we can choose to support farmers who are making a positive change.
Medium: 9 different types of veg (2-3 people) £12.50
Large: 12 different types of veg (3-5 people) £17.75
Small: 7 different types of veg (1-2 people) £8.50
Salad: 7 types of crunchy things for making salads (1-2 people) £10.50
Small gourmet box: 8 types of veg, with more adventurous things included for example more things like portabello mushrooms, peppers, sweetcorn, vine tomatoes, sugar snap peas. These are the types of things that may be included in a normal veg box, but not as often as they're more pricey. (2 people) £14.50
Medium gourmet box: 9 types of veg, same as above (2-3 people) £17.25
Fruit and Vegetable boxes:
Boxes that include fruit as well as vegetables, in small, medium or large. I won't list all the prices again, but for comparison a medium fruit and veg box for 2-3 people is £16.75 and has 8 vegetables and 3 fruits. There's also a Baby & toddler box which includes fruit and vegetables that will be easy to puree. I think this is great, as it's important for children especially to be fed plenty of fresh organic fruit and veg without all those nasty chemicals.
There are small, medium and large fruit boxes available as well as a 'deluxe' fruit box which includes more exotic varieties such as pineapples. You can get fruit boxes delivered to your workplace as well as to your home.
There are hundreds of other groceries available on the Abel & Cole website. They're much more than just a veg box scheme. You could do all your food shopping on their website, though it might get a little expensive. Most of the food they sell is organic. You can also order extra fruit and vegetables on top of your veg box. You don't have to order a veg box to buy from their website but you have to spend a minimum of £10 which is reasonable. Abel & Cole have an excellent selection of Organic meat and poultry, and sustainable fish. I think this is great, as it's sometimes really hard to find these on the average high street or supermarket. They also sell organic alcohol. If you have allergies, or are vegetarian or vegan they also sell groceries for you.
Choice is something that is sometimes an issue with veg boxes. Britain doesn't yield particularly interesting vegetables at certain times of year, and not everyone wants an excess of swedes or potatoes in their box every week. This is why Abel & Cole are great. They have a great variety of fruit and vegetables and the boxes differ a little every week. It is based on what's in season, for example, you won't get asparagus in the middle of Autumn. Abel & Cole use local or British producers whenever possible, but things that aren't grown in this country, such as bananas and other exotic fruit and vegetables are imported.
What I loved most about Abel & Cole when I used them was the fact that you can tell them which fruit and vegetables you dislike. You do this on their website, which means it's saved so you never have to receive anything that you're not going to use. If something you have 'disliked' on the site is supposed to be in the veg box one week, they will replace it with something else that you do like. You can also 'favourite' foods, and they try to include your favourites whenever possible, though that only happens if they're available/in abundance.
I've received veg boxes, fruit and veg boxes, fruit boxes, deluxe fruit boxes and gourmet boxes from Abel & Cole, so I've experienced most of what they have to offer in terms of their fruit and veg. The quality has always been excellent so I was very lucky. It's the best veg box I've received in terms of the quality always being good, where as other boxes can be hit and miss. I have heard that the quality isn't as good when delivered to some other areas (from other reviews). What I recommend is that you try it and see for yourself. If you find that the quality is lower than you expected, you can ask for a refund - I have done this with other veg box companies and they are always happy to refund or replace produce as they take quality very seriously. If you're a customer with Abel & Cole and you have, for example very bruised and damaged bananas one week, they will send you extra next week or they'll credit your account, depending on what you prefer. I think this is very reasonable, and it's easy to complain to them - you just send them an e-mail or call them. Luckily, I've never had to. Everything always tasted great and fresh.
I've always found Abel & Cole delivery drivers to be very polite and friendly. You let them know on the website where you'd like the box to be left if you're out - in a recycling bin, under a hedge, or you can even give them a key for your garage or shed and they'll leave your box there each week. Unfortunately you can't pick your delivery day or time, but it will be around the same time each week, and always the same day. Some people find this annoying, but it's so that they can keep their fuel use down, which keeps the prices down. The delivery charge is 99p whatever you order. Anything that's meant to be refrigerated is always delivered cold, so I was happy with that.
Abel & Cole use their own delivery lorries, and they don't deliver everywhere in the UK, which is why I don't use them anymore - I live in Wales now. But I think this is sensible, as it means their produce is more likely to be fresh the shorter a distance it's been transported.
If you go on holiday, you can just update the dates of your time away on the website and a box won't be delivered but will go back to normal once you're back. Nice and easy.
The veg boxes are cardboard, and you can leave them outside your door each week when you're done with them so that the delivery man can take them away to be reused. The fruit and vegetables never come in extra packaging such as plastic unless it's really needed to keep them fresh or undamaged. This is much better than the excess of packaging we see at supermarkets. Mud is always something you're going to find in a veg box - some people like that and some don't - but Abel & Cole veg boxes never have much mud and I've never found any insects or slugs! They put potatoes in an extra bag (which is needed as they shouldn't be exposed to light) which keeps that mud off everything else.
Abel & Cole try to source produce as locally as possible but things that don't grow in this country are imported - but never air freighted which is an incredibly carbon intensive way of transporting goods. So you can rest assured that whether the goods have been sourced here or abroad, everything's as ethical and environmentally friendly as possible.
I found that getting a veg box with Abel & Cole was cheaper than buying organic produce at the supermarket, and as I do prefer my fruit and veg to be organic I was glad of this. The other products they sell aren't cheap, but they're no more expensive than anywhere else - it's just that you pay more for organic. More local veg boxes tend to be cheaper than Abel & Cole, but you're paying for choice and ease of use.
There are offers every week on the groceries Abel & Cole sell, so I quite often browsed those and chose a few treats that didn't break the bank!
If you're thinking of signing up, I recommend looking out for offers, for example at the moment if you set up a veg box delivery with them you'll get your 4th veg box free. When I signed up a while ago, after 4 veg boxes they put £50 credit on my account, which was absolutely amazing value!
I've used various Ecover products, but their non-bio washing powder is what I use most. Ecover as a company pride themselves on producing products that are more sustainable and ethical than most on the high street. Their washing powders are all made with plant based ingredients which are better for your skin and for the environment. Ecover do not test on animals and the ingredients in their products have minimum impact on aquatic life.
What you really want to know, I suppose is how well this stuff washes your clothes, and the answer is absolutely perfectly. I've never had a problem, even with really dirty clothes, they always come out looking spotless. Fabrics come out smelling neutral with a slight fragrance, which I think is a good thing. I often find that many washing powders have overpowering scents. The best thing is that when washed with Ecover washing powder, my clothes don't irritate my skin, which sometimes happens with other detergents. So if you have sensitive skin, I recommend this product. Even if you don't, many ingredients in other washing powders can be carcinogenic, so this is a safe option.
I think this washing powder treats my clothes really well. In the past I've had problems with washing powder leaving white stains on my clothes, but since using Ecover, I've found that my clothes tend to keep their original colour longer. There have been a couple of times when I've found white marks on my clothes, probably because the powder doesn't desolve properly in lower temperatures - but it depends whether you have hard or soft water, which affects most washing powders anyway. I would say that other washing powders probably leave your clothes feeling softer, but if you want that then get fabric softener.
The price is what puts a lot of people off buying Ecover products, but I think it's worth it. I've found that I don't have to use as much powder as they recommend on the box, which means it doesn't turn out so expensive. You can quite often find it on offer or buy it in bulk on the internet. Ecover washing powder has been designed to work with lower temperatures, so you can switch your wash to 30 and save a bit of money on your electricity bill.
You can get Ecover washing powder in different boxes/bags, but I prefer the boxes, which usually have a cardboard box that comes with it to measure the amount you put in. They also come in tablets. Their packaging is generally made of recycled materials. You can get some Ecover things refilled at local health food shops, but I've only ever done it with liquid Ecover products, so you'd have to check with your local shop (if you have one) to see which refills they stock - this sometimes makes it quite a bit cheaper.
I would recommend this product, but I've found that I prefer Ecover's laundry liquid, which smells nicer and is a little easier to use.
The Global Vegetarian Kitchen is a collection of well over 100 vegetarian recipes from around the world. There is an emphasis on sustainability and the recipes are original and versatile.
The introduction is full of interesting facts and figures. It is wonderfully written with little stories, and gives information in an accessible and engaging way that isn't patronising. There is also a section on the benefits of growing your own vegetables and why it's good to buy local. As someone who know all this already, I didn't mind reading it as it was so well written.
The recipes themselves are wonderful! The sections in the book are:
Starters, Soups and Snacks
Salads, Side Dishes and Sauces
Desserts, Drinks and Cakes
Most of the recipes have two pages to themselves, with one of those pages filled by a picture of the prepared recipe. I do love cookbooks with big colourful pictures in them because they inspire me to make the effort! The recipe is set out on the opposite page with the ingredients and instructions as well as how many people it serves, the preparation time and cooking time. Measurements are shown in metric but there is a big emphasis on vegetables so most ingredients just tell you how many of each vegetable to use.
The top of each page shows the name of the country from which the recipe originates. There are recipes from Nigeria, Thailand, Europe, Chile, Asia, Costa Rica, Australia, Britain, India, Italy....and many many more countries. One of the things that sets this book apart from other cookbooks that take inspiration from all over the world, is that this one doesn't just centre around European dishes. There are dishes from Africa, The Middle East and South America. Recipe books may include a few recipes from Asia and Mexico, but it's great to find that such a wide range of countries have inspired this book.
Underneath the name of the country is the name of the dish (with a translation if it's in another language) and then a paragraph about the dish. Most of the time these paragraphs say how the dish would be cooked in that country and give you little tips on how you could vary the recipe. Sometimes the author includes little stories about his experience of the dish. The book has a lovely personal touch to it and it's really interesting to learn about food in different cultures.
The recipes don't use ingredients that are difficult to find, and if they do, there are substitutions offered, which is great if you don't live near shops that sell specialist ingredients. A lot of the recipes are simple and some are more complicated. Either way they all blend flavours together magnificently. A lot of the recipes in the book are dairy free. It's not one of those meat-free books that just substitutes meat with a load of cheese in every recipe. For heathy eaters, or people aspiring to be a bit more healthy, this book will show you that you don't need to give up wonderful tasting meals to be healthy. There are recipes that are a bit more naughty, but the emphasis on vegetables means that overall they're very healthy.
This book would make a great gift. It's beautifully designed. The cover is really nice and sturdy- it's hardcover - made from FSC (well managed forests, controlled sources and recycled wood or fibre) materials. The pages smooth, matte, quite thick and of very high quality. There are 256 pages in total. The book is 25.6 x 19.6 x 3 cm - not as big as A4 but bigger than A5.
The front of the book lists what's in each section and the page numbers. In the back there is an index by ingredient which can be handy if you've got some vegetables lying around that need using.
You can buy the book from the New Internationalist website, who published the book (a great organisation might I add), or you can buy it on Amazon, where it's cheaper at £13 down from £20. It's worth every penny.
To give you an idea of some of the recipes, I'll list the names of some of my favourites:
Gazpacho (Spain) - It's one of the best gazpacho recipes I've tasted
Butternut Squash Curry (Europe)
Empanadas (Paraguay) - Stuffed pastries
Parsnip and Apple Soup (Britain)
Tom ka-gai (Thailand) - a type of Thai soup
Soybean Bake (United States)
Lentil Salad with feta cheese and vegetables (Mediterranean)
Sweet Chili Sauce (Australia)
Banana Cake (West Africa)
There are a couple of nut roast recipes. One of them is really simple and quick and the other is more complicated with a sauce to go with it. There are also a few incredibly tasty sounding drinks recipes (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) but I haven't had a chance to try them yet. There are so many more amazing recipes that I've yet to try. Everything I've tried so far has been lovely.
If you're looking for an introduction to eating meat-free or dairy-free or if you've been cooking meat-free meals for years, but want to add some variation and more international influences, this is perfect for you. I think everyone should have it. Despite showcasing and taking inspiration from dishes that have been passed down through generations, this book is unique and exciting.
I went to Italy a couple of months ago with my partner and we travelled around by train quite a lot. We were in North East Italy, and we travelled from train stations including Verona, Vicenza, Venice and Treviso. I can't comment on trains in the South of Italy, but as the same train companies operate throughout Italy, I think my experiences are a pretty good indication of what it would be like elsewhere.
First of all, the prices are great. Trains in Italy tend to be much cheaper than buses. We managed to find some pretty cheap tickets. Only about Euro3.90 single for a journey to a city that was about an hour away. In the UK you'd never pay that little. Prices vary throughout the day in Italy depending on Peak and Off-Peak times. Sometimes that same Euro3.90 could have been Euro20 but we specifically planned to travel when trains were cheapest.
This is where the Trenitalia website came in handy. If you're planning on taking trains in Italy, I suggest that you check the prices before hand on the internet. The Trenitalia site is easy to use and you can select to use it in English. They don't really do Advance tickets in Italy so you can just buy the ticket in the station on the day, which is really useful just in case you don't end up going the time you thought you might. If you don't want to use the internet to check train prices, you can just go to the train station wherever you're staying to find out. This was the case in the region of Italy we travelled within. In other areas of Italy, you sometimes need to buy a reservation as well as a ticket for busy trains, and sometimes you should buy them in advance, off the website or at a train station. The best thing to do is to research the journeys you're planning before you even get to Italy. Most of the time though, buying tickets is really straightforward.
The train stations themselves are pleasant enough. If you're not comfortable speaking Italian, you can buy tickets from machines at the station. The machines have a few different languages to choose from so you won't have a problem understanding them if you're an English speaker. There are usually little shops (quite often a Spar shop) at train stations (especially ones in towns and cities) which sell a range of food (much better than shops at the average train station in Britain). There are plenty of benches to sit on. The only problem with the stations is that you usually have to pay to use their toilets.
The trains have a lot more space than British trains. There were always plenty of spare seats on the trains we went on and lots of room for luggage. Most of the trains have two floors, which was a bit of a novelty for me. It was lovely to watch the country as we rushed past. The seats are comfortable with plenty of leg room (we were in standard class). Regional trains only tend to have standard class, but intercity trains also have first class.
The trains in Italy are quite speedy but it depends which one you get. If you're in a rush I recommend checking before hand which is the fastest train because there can sometimes be an hour difference (or more if it's a really long journey). There are incredibly fast trains between the major cities with many high-speed rail lines. Trains are often late though. I wouldn't say it happens more than it does in Britain, but keep this in mind if you're trying to catch a flight for example. You may want to allow some time for a train being late. When we were in Italy the longest we had to wait for a late train was about 15 minutes.
Before you board any train in Italy, you have to validate your ticket. Ticket validating machines can usually be found on platforms. Once you've seen one you'll always know what to look for. They're little yellow/orange boxes. You just put your ticket in and it stamps the date. Do this just before you board a train.
One of the big complaints I have about Italian trains is that they're not really friendly for people in wheelchairs or elderly people, or anyone who struggles to walk. In North Italy the platform always seemed to be a lot lower than the train. It was quite a step for an elderly person and we saw a few people struggling to get on. The double-decker trains especially can not be boarded by a person in a wheelchair as there are metal handrails too close together to allow a wheelchair to get on the train. I didn't see any provisions for people in wheelchairs at all. For us all this wasn't a problem, but it was something I noticed.
Carrying your bike on a train can be a challenge in Italy. Many long-distance trains don't have space for bicycles but regional trains often do. As in Britain, you should reserve a space for your bike, and sometimes you have to pay a fee. There is always loads of bike parking at train stations so I would feel confident leaving my bike at a station. Always check beforehand if you want to take a bike on the train.
Overall, I was very happy with the train service in Italy. As with any European country, buying and using tickets works a little differently than in Britain and this can sometimes be confusing. But you get used to it quite quickly, and there are usually plenty of multilingual staff around that you can ask for help if you're unsure. I was not impressed by their lack of provisions for wheelchair users, but as I'm not one of those people, this didn't affect my experience and I was very happy with the service.
I've had this toaster for a couple of years now and I'm quite happy with it. I probably chose it because it was the most stylish looking toaster in that price range. It certainly does look good in my kitchen. It has a brushed satin finish and Blue Led indicator lights for the different settings. It's smaller than most toasters so doesn't take up too much room. Despite being very light, it seems to be good quality and hasn't damaged despite moving house a few times.
The browning control has 6 different settings depending on how brown you like your toast. I find that it toasts bread well but it doesn't usually toast evenly on both sides of bread. There's not enough difference to bother me though, and I think most people wouldn't really notice.
There are three buttons on the front of the toaster. Cancel, frozen and reheat. The frozen bread setting is on most toasters now. It means you don't need to change the browning setting you usually have for your toast, and it just adds on the extra amount of time frozen bread needs. I like this as it means I don't end up accidentally burning my toast from turning it up too high. The reheat setting gives a burst of high temperature to cold toast that you just need to warm up - as long as it's not buttered yet!
If you're toasting smaller pieces of bread, bagels or crumpets, you can use the high lift function to push them up higher so you can get them out. There's also a crumb tray that attaches to the bottom of the toaster which you can remove to empty it of crumbs. I've found that this keeps the worktop space around my toaster clean and free of crumbs. I don't have to empty it very often - only very occasionally.
The cable is a good length, about half a meter, which is all you need for a toaster.
The toast slots are the kind that squeeze inwards to hold the bread while it's toasting. I've always liked toasters that do this, but it's not always good for crumpets, especially really thick ones because they can get a bit stuck to the wires. I've never had a big problem getting anything out of this toaster though. Bread never gets stuck in it. The slots have been designed to take thick pieces of bread as well as thinner pieces and they're a good size.
The speed of the toaster is great. It takes less than half a minute to toast two slices of bread. I've had toasters that take three times that.
The only thing the toaster isn't well designed for is fitting tall slices of bread. They stick out at the top so some of it doesn't get toasted at all. Of course you can always just flip it around half way through but that's hassle and it's not going to be even. It would be the perfect toaster if they just made it big enough for taller slices.
Cleaning the toaster is easy. The crumb tray is handy and very occasionally I tip the toast upside down to get the crumbs that are stuck in the toaster itself out. The exterior is made of a material that's easy to wipe any dirt off. The bottom doesn't have any bits that mould clings too, like some appliances. It doesn't have the best grip on my kitchen worktop though. If that's something that bothers you, then this might not be the best choice, but I really don't mind if a toaster doesn't grip surfaces very well.
Figuring out how to use the toaster is really easy. It doesn't have any complicated functions and the buttons have little pictures next to them that are self explanatory. This is a good two slice toaster that's lasted me well so far.
I've been using the Tesco delivery service for a few months now. I don't use them all the time, but there was a period when I didn't have a car when it was very useful! You can order not only food, but pretty much anything else they sell in your local Tesco shop.
Before you can make your first order you have to sign up on their website, which is quite straight forward. It's worth looking around for codes because you can almost always get £10 off your first online order if you spend over £50 pounds. Just do a search on google.
At the beginning of your shop you choose when you want your goods to be delivered. Each time slot is two hours and the groceries could be delivered anytime during those two hours. The prices of delivery vary depending on the time, between £3 and £6. Tuesday and Wednesday evenings are always cheaper so I always book my slot then. It's good to order a couple of days in advance or there won't be any slots left, but you can get a delivery the next day most of the time (depending on the time of year and where you live).
Shopping is very straightforward. There's a bar along the top of the page with drop down menus so that you can select the type of food you're looking for, for example if you're looking for Bananas, it will be under "fresh food", then "fresh fruit" in the menu. It's really easy to find what you want because everything in each category is alphabetised. Once you click on the type of product you want, a page will load showing you what you can get. So clicking banana shows me the three types of banana they sell - fairtrade, loose and fun-size. The range of groceries will vary depending on where you live and what they sell at your local Tesco store.
Once you decide on something you want, you just click an "Add" button and it gets added to your basket. If you know what product you want but can't find it there is also a search box you can use.
The great thing is that you can see all the ingredients of each product very easily online. For each product you can see the full ingredients list and nutrition information if that's available. It will also tell you if a product is vegetarian. Some products show the instructions on how to cook them. All this is great if you have allergies or just if you want to know what's in your food. Next to the price of a product you can also see how much it is per 100g or each exactly like you would on the price in the store.
As you shop, you can always see your basket on the right hand side of the screen. It's much easier to see and compare offers online. It's also made very clear when an offer will end, and they often put offers up before they've even begun so that you can order things in advance. You can also view all the special offers that Tesco have at the time on one section of the website, or you can view by type of offer such as "half price" or "multibuy".
One of the things I love about shopping with Tesco online is that after the first time you've used the service, they save all the things you've bought before in "favourites". Everyone has staples that they buy every week, so this makes it all a thousand times faster. If you have a clubcard and use it in a Tesco store, the things you buy there get saved in your favourites online too!
The deliveries themselves have been very good. The delivery men are always friendly. You can choose to get your groceries delivered with or without bags. Everything comes in crates which the delivery person will bring into your house, and which you will then empty. They then take the crates back to their van. If you have a problem with lifting the bags, or with moving things in a hurry, I'm sure the delivery men would be happy to help - you just need to let them know. I've only ever experienced a delivery coming late once, and the driver called me ahead of time to tell me he would be late. He was only about 15 minutes after the time slot had ended.
Most importantly the groceries I have received have always been in good condition. It looks like they always select the best and freshest fruits and vegetables they can find. If you think something's not good enough, you can tell the delivery person and they will take it back and refund you. Sometimes some of the products you ordered won't be in stock, so they will bring a substitute. For example, you may have selected organic carrots but if it's not available they might bring non-organic carrots instead. You then get to decide if you want the replacement or not. If a substitution is more expensive, you still pay the same price as what you ordered in the first place, but if it's cheaper they take the money off your bill. You can select on the website whether or not you want products to be substituted for something else if not in stock. In an average order (of about £50 worth of stuff) there's usually one or two things out of stock, but it's the same if you were shopping in store.
If you're one for caring for the environment deliveries are better than driving to the shop in your car. Much more efficient. The delivery people also take away any used plastic bags you want to be recycled. Of course shopping at a supermarket is never that eco friendly anyway. If you really want to make a difference, start getting a veg box: there are some great ones around, and it can sometimes work out cheaper (and fresher). Not that I have any complaints about the freshness of Tesco products I've received in deliveries (though in store is a different story).
It's easy to claim clubcard points online and if you sign up to the newsletter they often send through offers for extra points when you order online.
The only complaint that I have is that when there is a product that I'm not happy with, I never notice it until the delivery person has gone. For example, last time I ordered, I received a packet of courgettes that were so tiny, they were at least half the size than usual. If I'd have noticed them before he left I'd have told the delivery man I didn't want them. I'm sure I could have called Tesco to complain but with such a small thing, who's going to go through all that effort. It's not very often that there's something I'm not happy with but you have to be very with it if you're going to notice something before they leave, as the delivery people do try to do everything as quick as possible. I understand why, but I do feel the service is sometimes a little too rushed. So this is why I've only given it 4 stars and not 5. Apart from that, service has been excellent.
The Yamaha P-70 is a piano not a keyboard. I've had mine for a couple of years and it's been good for what I wanted it for. I think the line has been discontinued but they're still sold in quite a lot of places. I've been playing piano for about 15 years and though I'm not anywhere near professional level, I've played a range of different pianos.
The sound quality is really amazing for a digital piano, especially one around this price range. It sounds so much like the real thing. There are two different piano sounds that you can select, and then there are also harpsichord, organ, vibraphone, violins and a couple others. I like the sounds they've selected and that it isn't overloaded with cheesy unrealistic sounds. The speakers on the piano are great, even on full volume I haven't experienced any fuzziness. Every single note sounds clear. The piano also has a headphone jack which is really useful when you need to play quietly without disturbing anyone. Mine didn't come with headphones though so it's an extra you have to buy if you feel you need them.
I actually like the look of the piano. Mine is silver but you can get it in black too. Some people prefer the look of an upright piano and this doesn't imitate a real piano like some digital pianos do. I like it, and the design allows for the piano to be very portable. The piano is full length, like a real piano. It seems to be made of a hard wearing material and though mine's been moved around a lot without a case, I haven't noticed any damage.
The only complaint I have is the keys. The keys are good in that they replicate the feel of an acoustic piano, and it doesn't feel any different playing this than it does on an upright. They are fully weighted. However they do make a lot of noise, like the keys on a keyboard when they come back up after you've pressed them down. It's what you'd expect from this kind of piano and it's not that noisy, but I do find it annoying because I know that sound is there, I seem to tune in on it whenever I'm playing. It's less noticeable if you're playing on full volume. However, if you're going to use it in recordings, for example, I wouldn't recommend it. This is where it loses the one star!
The piano comes with a little sustain pedal that plugs in at the back. It works like a pedal on a real piano. It's never going to work quite as well, but it's nice to have a sustain pedal as some digital pianos just have a button for sustain on the piano, which doesn't simulate playing an acoustic piano at all.
There are 50 piano classics preset on the piano. Some people find these useful for practicing and they range from beginner to more advanced pieces. I can't say I've used them for practice but I have occasionally listened to them. It's a bit like having a few CDs of nice piano music.
You can buy this piano with or without a stand, depending on where you get it from and how much you want to pay. I didn't buy it with a stand as I already had one of my own. The stand that Yamaha has to go with the piano though would fit it better and it's been designed to match.
According to Yamaha this piano weighs 13kg, which is lighter than a lot of full size digital pianos. This makes it easier to carry. I'm able to carry it on my own just and I'm not particularly strong. If you're going to be moving it around a lot, Yamaha sell a case especially for the piano.