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LLiving just down the M1 in Nottingham, I've taken many a trip to the Peak District National Park. It's a massive place, with too many beautiful walks to comment on - so I shall comment on the best I've come across so far - The Roaches. This fabulous ridge walk is rarely busied by families with pushchairs and suchlike, making it peaceful and nicely uncrowded, even in high season. There's a good, challenging climb up to the start of the classic walk (park just outside the Roaches Tearooms), after which you follow the ridge along , down and across some lower level ground to some woodland, where you'll eventually come across Ludd's Church (which isn't actually a building - it's a section of forest where some very dramatic rock creates cavern, where supposedly Wyclif Ludd preached anti-establishment views in secret to an avid group of followers). There's a great tearooms near the start of the walk, so if you're doing a circular walk, I can definitely recommend a re-fuel there at the end! The views from the conservatory at the back are to DIE for and the homemade cakes and hot, homecooked meals are fab! Just what you need after a hearty walk (see roachestearooms.co.uk for further info - I'd recommend parking near there too, so you can collapse in the car after your immense cream tea!). Just an observation about the Peak District in general though - leave early and always plan for the drive to take you 1/3 or more longer than you'd think from the map. There are a lot of winding roads, quite a bit of farm traffic slowing things down, and quite a few 30 zones through the pretty villages, so leave early, relax and enjoy the quaint pace of life without worrying about the time passing!
I've had my Magimix Le Glacier for about 5 years now (originally a gift), and use it about once a month. I've got mixed feelings about it. The instruction manual which comes with the machine is appalling (I actually wrote an entire essay on it for my 'Technical Writing' module at uni!) and clearly hasn't been translated particularly effectively, so there are lots of unclear messages. A few good recipes at the back, however in some instances, they've misprinted quantities - could be disastrous! Hopefully by now they will have reviewed this document! Nevertheless, in terms of functionality, this is a sound piece of kit. It's not fancy, and it does what it says on the tin - however, I do think the parts (the paddle and the electronic lid part) feel quite plasticky and insubstantial. The button bit has come off mine, although it still works. I also find it's quite difficult to get the lid to 'lock in' properly - but as I said, it still does the job in the end, so not a major problem. The tub itself is quite compact, so it's not a problem to keep in the freezer all the time, so it's ready for you when you need it. I do find that when the machine churns, as the icecream thickens, the paddle sometimes gets stuck and the comes off its fixing. Again, I think this is because it's not particularly sturdily built. The icecream also hardens more around the metal lining of the vessel, which I suppose must be common to all machines, although again, I think a closer fitting, stronger paddle would prevent this to some degree. Overall, I'd say this icecream maker is a good little piece of kit if you don't make icecream often (as I believe it's one of the cheaper models), but if you're a hardcore iccream fan, I'd pay a bit more and get a better quality of machine.
I've had three electric toothbrushes in my time - one was a battery powered one from tesco which I threw away because it lost its mojo, one was a Philips one (had to stop using because they discontinued the heads!) and this one. It's definitely the best. The brush features a timer, so it pulses three times when you've been brushing for the recommended amount of time, and when fully charged, it has a good, strong action on it, whizzing very fast without being too aggressive on your gums. It gives a really good clean, but I find you do have to charge it between every use to get maximum performance from it, and if left to wear down, it does run out of juice quite quckly - within about 4 days (so don't forget your charger when you go on holiday!). The brush has a number of head options - some for whitening, some for more sensitive teeth, some interdental. We use the whitening ones, which have a bit of extra brush on the end to help you reach your wisdom teeth more effectively. They're really good, if sometimes a little 'large' feeling for little mouths! I also like the way that the brush heads have a special feature whereby the coloured bristles start to fade when it's time to change them - good for us as we always forget, even though you're supposed to change them every three months.
Overall, a super toothbrush that leaves your mouth feeling lovely and sparkly clean!
Batchelor's Slimasoups come in a number of flavours, but this (and the broccoli and cauliflower) is definitely my favourite. Bathchelors soups definitely beat their supermarket own-brands in terms of consistency when mixed up with hot water - the tesco ones I've found to be way to gelatinous, and the sainsbury's ones don't seem to dissolve properly, so I always opt for this brand even though it's a bit more expensive. I love the chicken noodle and vegetable one because you get lots of nice pasta bits in it (wait a few minutes for them to get properly soft though), as well as bits of sweetcorn and carrot. These are a great mid-morning filler, easy to make in the office, and for under 60 calories, they keep me going until lunch without wanting biscuits (less filling for double the calories!). I also like the quickness factor - they're an instant warmer in the winter, and if you drop bits of ryvita into them, you get a nice soup and carb hit for under 100 calories! I quite often mix a tiny drop of milk into them too, just to add an extra bit of creaminess (and cool them down when I'm too impatient to wait!)
BMI Baby are probably the best of the no-frills airlines. We've taken many flight with them from East Midlands airport in Nottingham, and we've always found them to be superior to Easyjet in a number one ways. One is that if you ask for a glass of water, they bring you one - for free - without fuss or question. I was absolutely appalled to be told on an easyjet flight that I wasn't able to have a free glass of water unless it was for medication or because I was feeling ill. Apparently, if I wanted water, I had to pay £1. Not good. BMI, however, are always most obliging on this score. I also find BMI's prices quite reasonable, and they also beat ryanair and easyjet on the cost of carrying hold luggage. In every way, the BMI brand just doesn't seem as tatty as the other cheap airlines. The service we've received from staff at all levels has always been really good, they always look smart and we do find that when you're in a situation where flights get delayed on a large scale (e.g. due to snow at Geneva airport, back in December), Easyjet will struggle to manage the situation, where as BMI seem to get people quickly, quietly and efficiently onto the next possible plane. I suppose it's the benefit of being a smaller company. Also, you don't feel you're being 'sold to' as much on board. I hate being constantly told over a piercing tannoy that I can buy revolting food or tacky merchandise for "just £5", and I don't really care if they're selling raffle tickets, or that they've got special hire car rates. Just fly me there, tell me to look out of the window at pretty things, and that'll do!
BMI also send reminder emails when they're having a sale or whatever, which I find particularly useful, especially as my boyfriend and I often take last-minute trips to the Netherlands.
Overall, a cracking airline, and I'd recommend it to anyone!
Rosemary Conley is the non-threatening, motherly role model that most overweight women need to inspire them and help them to lose weight without feeling inadequate or disgusting. Her clubs are fab, and her magazine is packed with lovely recipes (all devised by a proper chef, not just made up by the mag editors!), lots of inspiring success stories, psychological analysis features, problem pages and fashion for all figures. It's just great to read about other people who are on the same plan as you are, and take up their tips and suggestions on what to eat, ways to feel full for longer, ways to get over those 'plateau' phases, etc. I also love the menu planners, where they plan out all your meals for a whole 7 days and give you a shopping list to help you when you're at the supermarket. It's a great way to get back onto a 'kickstart' again after a holiday or something - which is often a dieter's greatest danger zone (when you just want to prolong the fun and avoid getting back to reality!). Rosemary herself also writes a regular feature for the back 2 pages of the magazine, giving a lot of sage, honest advice and wisdom. I like the fact that she is an understanding, empathetic person - but she's tough on you when needs be. I can imagine that the people who attend her class are very successful!
Location Location Location has been on TV for a fair few years now, and it's never lost its appeal with me. I find it so interesting seeing what you money buys you all over the country, and basically getting the opportunity to snoop inside wealthy people's homes (and a lot of them are rather rich, let's face it!). The presenters, Phil Spencer ad Kirstey Allsopp have a great repartee between them, and the banter really helps to give the show personality and direction. in recent series', they've also become more candid in their opinions of their clients, who are sometimes - let's face it - incredibly picky, elitist and downright spoiled! 'Location' is as much an interesting insight into other couples, their relationships and how they make their decisions and interact with each other. It's rather a comfort to know that me and my other half aren't like some of them! This show gets repeated on More4 quite a bit - often in a Sunday afternoon 'marathon' - perfect for lazy/hungover days when you can't be bothered to peel yourself off the sofa! It's aspirational too - we can all dream that one day, we too will somehow be able to afford an £800,000 house in the Cotswolds...I certainly do! Seeing other making decisions and weighing up the relative benefits of location, price, condition, etc against each other have also really helped us to better inform ourselves in our own house-buying decisions. It's also a good education in what to look for and how to negotiate when speaking to Estate Agents. Especially interesting now that we're in turbulent times in the property market.
We went to Morzine (staying in the neighbouring Les Gets) for just 2 nights and 2 days of skiing in the period between Christmas and New Year 2008. As a resort, Morzine has quite a young, busy feel - quite expensive and clearly catering for the foreign market. I preferred Les Gets because it just had a nicer, quainter feel to it, with more interesting shops and restuarants. We were extremely lucky to get accommodation for a short stay at that time of year, when usually you'll only be able to book a minimum of 7 nights. We stayed at 'Hotel a la Bonne Franquette' in Les Gets, which was about 2 mins walk from the chairlift and extremely accommodating. Run by a lovely lady and her mother, we were made to feel really welcome, treated with real friendliness and served a very hearty meal for breakfast and dinner. Nothing of michelin star quality, but good solid French fayre, served promptly and with a smile. I wouldn't stay there for a long break (need a sauna!), but for the two nights it was perfectly adequate and allowed us to get up and onto the slopes in no time, withouth queuing (the gondola in Les Gets got very busy - far too many queues!). The skiing in Morzine and Les gets was perfect for families and beginners, but for intermediates like us, it wasn't really challenging enough and despite some nice wide blues, the kiddies and slow adults did get in your way...Having said that, it was the first tijme I'd skiied in France and the first time I've ever tried tartiflette (WOW!), so worth every minute. And the weather was AWESOME! Sun, sun and more sun. Not great for powder monkies like my boyfriend though.
What could be better than a hob nob? They are the ultimate British biscuit (aside from jaffa cakes of course!), and the chocolate-covered ones are delicious. The chocolate is nice and smooth, and the melting point doesn't seem too low, so you can give them a good dunk (best in a mug of cocoa) and you don't lose half the topping with it! I also find these biscuits really good for making cheesecake bases, especially if you mix them with grape nuts for added crunch, as the chocolate dissolves into the melted butter, and creates a kind of chocolatey 'glue' which holds the base together (and makes it ultra yummy, of course!). I do think a hob nob is a nice option when you're on a diet too, as it feels like a real treat, yet there's only 92 calories per biscuit. Far better to have one biscuit and savour it fully than loads of unsatisfying low-fat options, I believe. You can make your treat go further too, by crumbling it onto low-fat yoghurts, light vanilla ice cream or putting it in the freezer for an hour, then breaking into bits and sucking like sweets! The other advantage is that these biscuits contain oats, which are actually relatively good for you in terms of fibre content, so it's not just sugar and fat! And the fat that IS in a hobnob isn't the 'bad' hydrogenated variety - I think McVities stopped adding that a few years ago now. So, I think I've just justified this delight sufficiently to go and have one!
I much prefer Philadelphia Light to the Extra Light, because it's got a much smoother, less powdery texture. For me, the Extra Light just takes the whole 'low fat' thing a bit TOO far - and as a 'professional' dieter, I can pretty much guarantee that you don't always have to exclude fat from your diet in an extreme way to lose weight. The key thing with Philly light is to make sure you know your portion size - 30g is about 50 cals, and you get quite a bit for that. It's definitely enough to cover 2 pieces of toast. not slathered on, but a decent amount. I love having this cheese on sesame ryvita, as the flavours complement each other really well, plus it makes a really quick, cheap dinner if you fry up an onion, garlic and loads of mushroom, add a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, and then mix in the philadephia and some peas and cherry tomatoes, then stir into pasta or cous cous. I've also done this with bulgar wheat, and it was LOVELY because the grains soaked up all the nice cheesy tastiness! Yummy! I've also customised this philadelphia (makes it go further too), by adding herbs from my garden, crushed garlic and sometimes jalepenos or finely chopped celery and mint. It works brilliantly as a dip too, for raw veggies at a party, and it's actually a lot less fattening than alternatives such as hummus (even the reduced-fat versions!) and soured cream.
This is also thick enough to use in cheesecakes, but do compensate by adding a little gelatine if your recipe asks for full-fat soft cheese, as the 'Light' version is just slightly less thick when 'set'.
Muller light yoghurts are the dieter's dream! They're 'free' on Slimming World (meaning you can eat them unlimited) and if you're following a traditional calorie-controlled diet, most of them are under 100 cals, making them a great dessert or sweet treat that doesn't break your resolve. This mandarin flavour is really nice- sweet, with a good orangey flavour, and nice and smooth (there are very small 'bits', but you can't really feel them in your mouth).
In fact, there's more to Mullerlight that just yoghurt too! i like to pour mine into lolly moulds and freeze them (50 cals each, as one pot usually does two moulds), and you can even heat the banana/custard ones very gently in the microwave and add chopped banana, to make a very healthy winter pudding! They can be mixed with Quark, gelatine, a bit of artificial sweetener (to taste) and chopped fruit, and then poured onto the top of a low-fat biscuit base and chilled to make a super-healthy cheesecake! The mandarin ones are the best for freezing, along with the cranberry and raspberry ones, although I wouldn't recommend it for toffee or vanilla. They just end up going a bit hard and tasting somewhat insipid.
Yummy yum yum! They're a bargain at Tesco too, by the way, as they're usually on offer at 4 for £1. So that's 8 puddings if you freeze them into icelollies, at under 13p each!
I've been a loyal T mobile customer for about 6 years now, and still haven't been enticed to change networks by anyone. I always receive really good coverage everywhere i go in the Uk (even shetland! The most remote part of Britain!), and I've never yet had a mistake with my billing or any kind of untoward occurence with charging. In fact, once they sent me a text after bank Holiday admitting that they'd charged me for a cal when they shouldn't have (I was none the wiser) apologising and refunding my credit! I think that's really honest, as I'd never have noticed otherwise. I've changed price plans a couple of time, but have stayed with UFix, because I pay only £15 per month for it, and get 300 mins and 30 texts. Doesn't sound like much, but it does me fine (and it doesn't 'let' you go over your allocated 'free' minutes, unless you actually physically top up), and at £15 hardly any other mobile providers can beat it. I think 3G do - but then again, I've heard their network coverage isn't great, and that their customer service call centre is based abroad and that the people manning it are quite unhelpful and even rude! Quite the contrary with T mobile - you always get through to someone relatively quickly, and by the sounds of it, they're in the UK. I've not yet spoken to a customer service person who wasn't helpful and did everything they could to resolve my query first time.
I also get nice little loyalty offers from T mobile from time to time - for example, a couple of years ago, they sent me a letter saying I could choose between an extra £5 per month worth of free texts, or just get £5 taken off my bill every month - for a whole year! i thought that was pretty cool - they didn't need to do that, but it kept me with them.
They're also really good about upgrading your phone every year too, and will send everything out free of charge.
Peroni is definitely my favourite bottled beer - if only it were available on tap at more places in the UK!! I just really love the smoothness of Peroni - it's got a really nice, rounded flavour, without any of that wierd, slightly bitter aftertaste you get with some premium lagers. I suppose i also helps that this is the beer I've drunk on many a very happy skiing holiday in Italy, so it reminds me of the lovely feeling of eating a big stonking pizza on the slopes with a cool refreshing beer to wash it down! The only issue I have with Peroni is the price - it does seem quite expensive, but then again you do get what you pay for. I always make sure when it's on offer I stock up. Nice mild flavour, so in terms of combining this drink with food, I'd say it's not just great with italian - also does a grand job cutting through the lively spice of a Thai curry!
Such is the power of coca cola as a brand that supermarket own-brands have a job to compete - but I honestly do think that Tesco's diet coke is better than 'the real thing'. Not just because it's half the price, but because it tastes better - it's got a fuller flavour and the fizz last for ages! You can leave a can of this open in the fridge overnight, and it'll still be fizzy the next day, which is quite a feat! It's obviously good for us serial dieters too, as I think there's only about one calorie per can. It's a nice, refreshing drink too, especially with a slice of lemon and loads of ice on a hot day! I often mix this with booze too, as the extra-fizziness means that even with the still spirit in it, it still keeps its fizz really well. Good old tesco!
Olay isn't the sexiest brand out there, and I suppose because it's been about forever (and I can always remember my nan using it!), it does have a certain old-fashionedness about it...but I really do think it's good value for money for a dependable, good quality brand that really does do what it says on the tin. Olay don't seem to bang on excessively about nanoscience rubbish - it's quite clearly a brand that's grounded in the real world! This particular cream is really good, because it's got a nice, thick texture, and it feels like it really absorbs into your skin overnight as I alwaus get up in the morning with very plump, soft feeling skin. It's also good because you get a decent amount of the cream in the pots, and a little goes a long way. The scent is your classic Olay smell, which can get a bit boring, but it's no bells and whistles stuff, as I said.